The country's para swimmers delivered the first pair of gold medals in the 11th ASEAN Para Games on Monday as Ernie Gawilan and Roland Sabido splashed their way to the top of their respective events at the Jatadiri Sports Complex pool in the neighboring city of Semarang.
Cendy Asusano added a third gold after ruling the women's javelin throw F54 at the Manahan Stadium here for a promising start for the Philippine para-athletes, a majority of them competing for the first time since the 2017 edition of the meet held in Malaysia.
A triple gold medalist in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Para Games, Gawilan kicked off the Philippine campaign in ruling the men's 400-meter freestyle S7 in a time of four minutes and 54.87 seconds in the outing sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission.
Sabido and Arnel Aba led a 1-2 finish in the men's 400-meter freestyle S9, with times of 5:09.40 and 5:14.13, respectively.
"Naging maganda po ang swim ko sa unang event. Sana magtuloy-tuloy po ito," said the 31-year-old Gawilan, who won a pair of golds and silvers in the regional meet for para athletes held in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur five years ago.
Gawilan is still scheduled to compete in the 4x100 meter freestyle relays 34 points in the afternoon with Sabido, Aba and Edwin Villanueva, who copped a bronze medal in the men's 400-meter freestyle S8.
"Masaya po ako kasi hindi ko aakalain na makukuha ko yung ginto sa unang bato pa lang," said Asusano, who settled the issue with her heave of 13.72 meters on the first attempt.
Also contributing a bronze medal each for athletics were Joel Balatucan, Daniel Enderes Jr., Armand Dino and Jesebel Tordecilla in the men's shot put F55, men's 5,00-meter T20 race, men's 100-meter T47 race, and women's discus throw F55, respectively.
Overnight, table tennis also made its modest medal contribution with two bronze medals in the men's team Class 4 through Billy Cartera, Racleo Martinez and Darwin Salvacion and men's class 8 doubles courtesy of Jobert Lumanta and Jayson Ocampo.
Counting the silver in men's 3x3 wheelchair basketball last Sunday, the Filipinos now boast an early overall medal tally of three gold, two silver and seven bronze medals.
More medals were expected to come in the afternoon in swimming, track and field and powerlifting, where two-time Asian Para Games silver medalist Achelle Guion is vying in the women's 46-kilogram division.
Among those likewise expected to figure prominently for gold are wheelchair racer Jerrold Mangliwan, who will see action in the men's 100-meter dash T52; and Jeannete Aceveda in the women's discus throw F11-13, plus Angel Otom in the women's 50-meter backstroke S5.
The country's standard-bearers aim to surpass the haul of 20 gold, 20 silver and29 bronze medals, good for fifth overall, of the country in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in 2017.