Among the Filipino sports legends who joined the parade were champion swimmers Joseph Eric Buhain and Gillian Akiko Thomson; bowling stars Olivia “Bong” Coo and Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno; sprint queen Lydia de Vega-Mercado, cage great Alvin “The Captain” Patrimonio, Olympic boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco Jr., and cue master Efren “Bata” Reyes.

Thousands of spectators gathered at the Philippine Arena on November 30, 2019 to mark the beginning of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) graced by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Brunei Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah. Filipinos at the venue and those who watched the televised ceremonies at home were in awe as they watched 90-minute Opening Ceremonies produced by the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) through its Ceremonies and Cultural Events Division.

It was a showcase of world-class Filipino talent from singers to dancers; from budding athletes to world champs, all gathered under one roof. Lani Misalucha gave an acapella interpretation of the Philippine National Anthem “Lupang Hinirang;” to welcome participants and guests, Robert Seña sung “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika;” Aicelle Santos and Christian Bautista rendered a duet of “Minamahal Kita.”

Filipino culture was visible everywhere from the use of the ancient writing script of the Philippines baybayin all throughout the production segments, to the nipa hut with bayanihan theme housing the street dancers as revealed during the performance, and hospitality of the Filipina beauty queen-muses for each of the 11 participating nations of Southeast Asia. Lara Quigaman (Miss International 2006) served as muse for Malaysia; Megan Young (Miss World 2013) for Indonesia; Jamie Herrel (Miss Earth 2014) for Singapore; Pia Wurtzbach (Miss Universe 2015) for the Philippines; Angelia Ong (Miss Earth 2015) for Thailand; Karen Ibasco (Miss Earth 2017) for Myanmar; Jannie Alipoon (Miss Tourism 2017) for Timor-Leste; Sharifa Akeel (Miss Asia Pacific 2018) for Vietnam; Cynthia Thomalia (Miss Eco-Tourism 2018) for Laos; Sophia Senoron (Miss Multinational 2018) for Cambodia; and Karen Gallman (Miss Intercontinental 2018) for Brunei Darussalam.

The appearance of Philippine athletes carrying the SEAG federation flag was undoubtedly one of the crowd’s favorite parts. Their parade was received by the enthusiastic audience with thunderous claps and deafening roar. Among the Filipino sports legends who joined the parade were champion swimmers Joseph Eric Buhain and Gillian Akiko Thomson; bowling stars Olivia “Bong” Coo and Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno; sprint queen Lydia de Vega-Mercado, cage great Alvin “The Captain” Patrimonio, Olympic boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco Jr., and cue master Efren “Bata” Reyes.

President Duterte himself formally opened the biennial meet. “I declare open the Southeast Asian Games for the 30th time, celebrating the games of the Southeast Asia. Mabuhay kayong lahat!” he said. Torchbearers Filipino boxing legend Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao and Filipina boxer Nesthy Petecio lit up the cauldron capping the ceremonies.

Satisfied viewers heaped praises on the 2019 SEAG production team that include creative director Floy Quintos, Palanca Award-winning writer; musician Ryan Cayabyab, National Artist for Music; Director for Ceremonies and Cultural Events of PHISGOC Mike Aguilar; FiveCurrents president and producer Scott Givens and creative director Libby Hyland; Simon Francis, director; Nikko Rivera and Jimmy Antiporda, musical arrangers; Eloisa Matias, music producer; Maxi Cinco, Mitoy Sta. Ana, and Eric Pineda, costume designers; Dexter Santos and Cherry Villanueva, choreographers; and Alou Almaden, Opening and Closing Ceremonies manager.

Overall, the 30th SEAG 2019 Opening Ceremonies made Filipinos proud. (AJC/LMO)

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