OF TREES AND FOREST
By FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT MANNY VILLAR
The opening ceremonies of the Southeast Asian Games was a spectacular display of Filipino culture, excellence and unity. Just like many of our countrymen, I felt so proud watching the dazzling performances that showcased our traditions and showed to the world what we are as a people.
I commend the decision to showcase our traditional games and dances in the opening ceremonies. Some of our young Filipinos might have already forgotten our heritage. Cheers to the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group and those wonderful student performers from various colleges and universities who entertained us and the whole world with a variety of folk dances including the Tinikling. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such beautiful rendition of the traditional Filipino dance.
Despite the many criticisms that organizers endured as the 30th edition of the regional games opened, I commend them for a job well done, especially the performers who wowed us and the athletes who inspired us.
I particularly appreciated the portion where the stalwarts of Filipino sports—Lydia de Vega, Efren “Bata” Reyes, Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno, Akiko Thomson, Eric Buhain, Alvin Patrimonio, Bong Coo, and Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco—carried the SEA Games Federation Flag. This was a splendid decision because it was a recognition of the contributions of these icons to Philippine sports. We all watched them fight for the flag in the past and it was nice to see them getting the adulation they deserve.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared the Games open and could not help himself dance to the tune of “Manila” as our Filipino athletes entered the stadium. Moments like these rekindle our pride in being a Filipino. Despite the challenges we face, Filipinos have the ability to showcase their excellence, and it was on full display during the opening ceremonies.
There have been some disappointing moments prior to the opening. Logistical nightmares that seemed to have started us on the wrong foot. It also revealed a negative side in some of us who use these mishaps as political ammunition. But the President has already apologized. ” I’m really apologizing for the country… they (other nations) should know while they are still here that the government is not happy,” the President said in an interview.
Let us not allow these gaps and political partisanship to ruin our opportunity to showcase Filipino excellence
in all its forms. There will be many opportunities to point fingers after the Games. Even the President has assured the nation that they will conduct a thorough investigation.
What is important now is that we help each other ensure the success of these Games. This is a monumental
undertaking with a total of 56 sports and 513 events. If there are problems, instead of crucifying the organizers let us ask how we can help. And more importantly, let us support our Filipino athletes in their quest to bring glory to the nation.
Let us now focus on the games. Let us go to the venues and cheer on our athletes. I applaud the decision of the President to open the games and the closing ceremonies free to the public. This should allow more of our countrymen to enjoy the SEA Games.
Let us not forget what the SEA Games are all about—building camaraderie, celebrating excellence and forging friendships. These athletes have dedicated a great portion of their lives to become outstanding in their field. They are the best of the best in our region, many of them even the world. We are lucky to have the opportunity to host their talents here in our country. Let us show them what Filipino hospitality is really all about.