MANILA (UPDATE)—A grand opening ceremony that ties together Filipino culture with modern visual effects is set to mark the official start of the Southeast Asian Games at Philippine Arena on Saturday night, tournament organizers said on the eve of the occasion.
Spectators can expect a world-class performance that will highlight homegrown talent, craftsmanship and values while delivering a message of unity and inclusivity among Southeast Asian countries, said Palanca-award winning playwright Floy Quintos, who directed the opening 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," Quintos said in a Facebook post.
"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," he said.
The Black Eyed Peas' apl.de.ap and Lani Misalucha will be among the performers in the event welcoming more than 5,500 athletes to the Games this year, the country's fourth hosting.
The ceremonies will be held at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
Filipino Olympians Hidilyn Diaz, EJ Obiena, and gymnast Carlos Yulo along with skateboarder Margielyn Didal are also expected to play special roles in the ceremony.
With 530 sporting events held in 6 provinces and mega cities, the 2019 SEA Games is expected to be the largest in the biennial event's history. It will feature 10 new events, including esports, skateboarding and kurash.
Free tickets will be given to students from schools close to the opening venue.
President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered to open non-ticketed SEA Games competition events to the public, such as lawn ball, golf, squash, floor ball, and shooting.
Those who paid for tickets to these events will not get a refund but will be given premium seats, Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) chair and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said.
However, free admission is not possible in sold-out events like basketball, volleyball and football.
Meanwhile, transportation officials designated several point-to-point buses to ferry passengers from Quezon City to the Philippine Arena in Bulacan for a P100 fee.
The last P2P bus was expected to leave Trinoma at 4 p.m., according to Metro Manila Development Authority spokesperson Celine Pialago.
Passengers bound for the Philippine Arena also converged at the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX), where more P2P buses headed to the SEA Games opening ceremonies were stationed
The MMDA earlier appealed to motorists to avoid plying EDSA's northbound lane on Saturday to ease congestion in the main thoroughfare leading to the venue in Bulacan.
"Kung puwede po ilibre natin as much as possible 'yung northbound ng EDSA. Kung hindi naman importante, kung gusto niyong mag-mall, go ahead of the block time para hindi sasabay sa convoy [ng athletes]," said MMDA's EDSA traffic chief Bong Nebrija.
At about 3 p.m., the Philippine Arena opened its gates to spectators, most of them either carrying flags or donning shirts emblazoned with the countries they are rooting for.
'WE'LL DO OUR BEST'
Tournament officials acknowledged that several issues - including volunteer deployment and transportation for foreign media - have yet to be ironed out.
"Problems always come up, whether little or small," PHISGOC Chief Operating Officer Ramon Suzara said.
"We are still of course trying to support any problems by the national committee. As long as it is within the game's guidelines, we will do our best," he said.
Contingency plans are in place in case the onslaught of incoming Typhoon Kammuri affects several outdoor events, he said.
The 30th SEA Games opening ceremonies will be aired on ABS-CBN Channel 2.
— With reports from Bianca Dava, Dyan Castillejo and Trisha Mostoles, ABS-CBN News
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.