A glittering opening to the 30th Southeast Asian Games was witnessed at Philippine Arena on Saturday in an elaborate ceremony officially kicking off a 2-week showcase of athletic prowess in the region.
Members of the Philippine contingent, accompanied by Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, walked onto center stage to the upbeat sound of "Manila" by Hotdog, an entrance that got the hometown supporters, including President Rodrigo Duterte, on their feet and grooving to the beat.
Duterte was joined by the Sultan of Brunei, Haji Hassanal Bolkiah at the ceremony, the first SEA Games launched at an indoor venue.
“I declare open the Southeast Asian Games for the 30th time, celebrating the Games of Southeast Asian nations. Mabuhay kayong lahat,” the President said.
The entertainment was world-class, led by a performance by the Black Eyed Peas' Apl.de.Ap and internationally renowned singer Lani Misalucha, who sang "Lupang Hinirang."
It also included a flashy dance demonstration depicting various indigenous cultures fused into one "power" production.
"The opening suite, 'Ugat ng Ating Lakas' (The Roots of Our Strength) is a series of power dances from the Bagobo, the Kalinga, the Maguindanao and the pre- hispanic Bisayans," award-winning filmmaker Floy Quintos, who directed the opening, said in a Facebook post Friday.
"I won't give the rest of the show away. But I can say that God, the humorous, all-seeing Bathala of the Filipinos, will be in the details."
To conclude the opening, boxing world champion Manny Pacquiao and amateur boxing world champion Nesthy Petecio were shown lighting the cauldron at New Clark City, before colorful fireworks lit the surroundings at the Arena.
But the event's centerpiece is about the more than 5,000 athletes from 11 countries competing in more than 300 events in 56 sports over 15 days, including the past week.
The traditional parade of athletes is a much-anticipated portion of the opening, with Team Philippines — led by 2020 Olympic pole-vaulter EJ Obiena and Asian Games champion Margielyn Didal — entering the arena donning classy Francis Libiran national outfit.
In a tribute to their athletic excellence and playing a part in giving pride to the country in international competition, Filipino sports legends were called up to carry the SEA Games Federation flag.
The eight sports icons were basketball player Alvin Patrimonio, billiards player Efren Reyes, boxer Mansueto Velasco, sprinter Lydia de Vega, bowlers Bong Coo and Paeng Nepomuceno, and swimmers Eric Buhain and Akiko Thomson.
"The Philippines took the challenge of hosting this event not only to showcase the culture and hospitality of the Filipinos but also to contribute in the strengthening of our friendship with our neighbors in the region," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
"May this occasion therefore push the athletes and their support staff to generate into friendly competitive action their trainings and preparations, and realize the true value of sports even as they experience it through cooperation, understanding and solidarity."
This is the fourth time the country has hosted the regional competition, and first since 2005.
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