Bayanihan spirit shines in SEA Games opening show

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    THE SEA Games Opening Ceremony held at the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena last Saturday showcased the rich history and culture of our country by way of traditional and contemporary songs and dances as rendered by the top artists of the land.

    As the first opening ceremony of the biennial regional sporting event to be held indoors in its 30-year history, it was a spectacular treat of lights and sounds as promised and the goods were delivered…and more!

    The event started with traditional folk dances of the Philippines depicting the indigenous tribes of the islands from north to south as performed by the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Dance Group and students from various schools and universities and capped by the Maranao’s Singkil.

    The tribute to indigenous peoples was followed by dances from our Hispanic heritage that heralded the entry of the athletes and officials of the 11 participating countries who were led by their muses and flagbearers.

    The muses, all Filipina international beauty queens led by Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and Miss World 2013 Megan Young, were dolled up in Filipiniana costumes of various inspirations created by Eric Pineda, and were framed by festive bamboo arches known as “kayas” from Bulacan.

    The audience cheered as each delegation entered the vast stage framed by LED panels in formation to mimic swaying bamboo branches. Of course, the loudest cheers were reserved for Team Philippines who were all garbed in barongs with sunburst embroidery and blue and red striped collars, especially created by Francis Libiran.

    The entrance of the SEA Games Federation flag, carried by the country’s sports icons – Asia’s fastest woman Lydia de Vega, swimming champs Eric Buhain and Akiko Thompson, cager Alvin Patrimonio, world billiards champ Efren “Bata” Reyes, Olympic silver medalist Onyok Velasco and bowling greats Bong Coo and Paeng Nepomuceno – brought nostalgia to the Philippines’ sports glory days from decades past.

    President Rodrigo Duterte declared the SEA Games open in the presence of Brunei’s Sultan Bolkiah, who graced the historic event in support of his son and niece who are entered in several sports events.

    The country’s world-class talents came in next with Robert Seña belting “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika,” revised by National Artist Ryan Cayabyab to suit the occasion; KZ Tandingan rendering an electric performance of Florante’s “Tayo’y Mga Pinoy,” Elmo Magalona, who proved he is his father Francis M’s rightful heir as he rapped onstage, and apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas was a class all his own.

    The finale theme song “We Win As One” was rendered by Lani Misalucha, Jed Madela, Ana Fegi and Christian Bautista as world boxing champs Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Nesthy Petecio lit the SEA Games flame at the New Clark City Stadium in Capas, Tarlac some 90 kms. away followed by a grand display of fireworks signaling the official start of sporting battles and camaraderie.

    Despite initial snafus and birth pains days before the official start of the Games, even the most stone-hearted dissenters could only agree that the bayanihan spirit can lift the Philippines to prove to the world that we can truly win as one.