World class production marks seag opening rites


A truly exceptional world-class production.

With no less than President Rodrigo Duterte in attendance, fans at the closely-guarded 50,000-seat Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan and millions more around the region through television witnessed the lavish and spectacular inaugural rites of the 2019 SEA Games last Saturday night.

“It (the opening ceremony) will be awesome,” described Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee chief operating officer Ramon “Tats”Suzara of what would be in store for those who would watch the program.

The night’s colorful tableau reflecting the country’s rich cultural heritage surpassed all expectations, a huge credit to the collaboration among noted American live-content group Fivecurrents, multi-awarded playwright and creative director Floy Quintos and musician par excellence, National Artist Ryan Cayabyab.

Fivecurrents is the same production group responsible for conceptualizing and producing numerous successful opening ceremonies, including the 2012 London Olympic Games and the 18th Asian Games held in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia last year.

After the arrival of the President, who sat beside Brunei monarch King Hassanal Bolkiah, prominent singer Lani Misalucha, dubbed “Asia’s Nightingale,” sang the national anthem.

The abundantly visual and vibrant visual feast featured, among others, a bevy of beauty queens led by former 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, who was the muse of Team Philippines, and ex-2013 Miss World Megan Young, who also got the same role for the Indonesian national team.

The gowns of the beauties were designed by well-known couturiers Michael Cinco, Mitoy Sta Maria and Eric Pineda

Donning colorful native costumes, the Santacruzan-style parade of teams from the 11 participating nations was well-applauded by the appreciative gallery, with Team Philippines understandably getting one of the loudest ovations as they entered the arena.

To the tune of the popular Hotdog eighties song “Manila,” the PH contingent’s athletes and officials entered the arena wearing their smart Barong Tagalogs and ternos were designed Francis Libiran, whose features a red-and-blue collar and the sun’s rays of the national flag embroidered into the cloth of the parade uniforms.

As announced, leading the way for the PH national team and carrying the country’s colors were pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, skateboarder Margielyn Arda Didal, judoka Kiyomi Watanabe and boxer Eumir Marcial.

Also given a tribute were local sports legends such as four-time World Cup champion bowler Paeng Nepomuceno, multi-titled kegler Olivia “Bong” Coo and former Asian sprint queen Lydia de Vega, who were given the honor of carrying the SEAG Federation flag during the occasion.

They were joined by SEA Games swimming standouts Eric Buhain, Akiko Thomson Guevarra, 1996 Atlanta Olympic boxing silver medalist Mansueto ‘Onyok” Velasco, four-time PBA MVA Alvin Patrimonio, and cue Efren “Bata” Reyes, who got biggest applause from the crowd.

After several speeches, including that of PHISGOC chairman and Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano, President Duterte officially declared: “I declare the open the Southeast Games for the 30th time, celebrating the Games of Southeast Asia. Mabuhay kayong lahat!”

What followed was several production numbers featuring a star-studded cast, among them renowned musician and composer Apl de Ap of the famed hip-hop band the Black Eyed Peas, KC Tandingan, Christian Bautista and Aicelle Santos, among others.

One of the best-kept secrets of the opening ceremony, using modern technology, boxing icon Sen. Manny Pacquiao and amateur boxer Nesthy Petecio lit the SEA Games cauldron directly at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, which was beamed to the Philippine Arena, much delight of the gallery gathered there.

As the unforgettable occasion wound down to its glittering end, the attention now shifts to the athletes, who are all expected to go all out for pride and glory for their respective countries.

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