by Kristel Satumbaga
VIGAN, Ilocos Sur — Legendary trackster Lydia de Vega-Mercado leads a virtual Who’s Who in Philippine sports who are scheduled to grace the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Palarong Pambansa today at the President Elpidio Quirino Stadium here.
De Vega-Mercado, Asia’s fastest woman in the 1980s, will be joined by four-time world cup bowling champion Paeng Nepomuceno, 1996 Atlanta Olympics boxing silver winner Onyok Velasco, 2016 Rio Games weightlifting silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz, Asia’s first Grandmaster Eugene Torre, multi-awarded swimmer Eric Buhain and long jump queen Elma Muros-Posadas.
De Vega will be presented with the Palarong Pambansa Lifetime Achievement Award.
The presence of these personalities further strengthens the importance of the multisport event to inspire elementary and high school student-athletes as most of them are products of the Palarong Pambansa.
President Rodrigo Duterte has also confirmed his attendance to stress the significance of sports to the youth.
Opening ceremonies start at 12:30 p.m. with a parade, followed by entertainment highlights such as skydiving and hot-air balloon shows, field demonstrations and a street-dancing showdown.
Meanwhile, a total of 397 gold medals are at stake in the 21 regular sports of the weeklong event wth athletics offering the most number with 66. Sixty golds are at stake in swimming, followed by arnis (46) and taekwondo (44).
One medal per category is also at stake in demonstration sports of aerobic gymnastics, dancesports and pencak silat, while 88 gold medals will be awarded to champions in special games in athletics, bocce, goalball and swimming.