2019 November 30: Not only did the ceremonial Opening of the 30th Southeast Asian Games show the power of a cultural splendour, but it invited absolutely everyone to come out and help celebrate the unity, sportsmanship, and spirit of oneness.

The Philippine Arena (photo credits to Eris Cruz/FWH)

The iconic Philippine Arena, an exceptional venue with a seating capacity of 55,000, hosted 11 countries, each with delegates of athletes, sports enthusiasts, and notable personalities. It brimmed with zest and energy for almost two-hour-program of exuberance and pride towards the Philippines’ history and cultural diversity.

The Philippine Arena has the most extensive indoor access to a huge attendance in the opening ceremony of the 30th Southeast Asian Games. It was inaugurated in July 2014, in time for the INC’s 100th anniversary.

(photo credits/ Eris Cruz, FWH)

The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) chairperson and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano thanked President Duterte for his vision of making the SEA Games happen in the Philippines within a preparation time of 18 months.

He also showed his appreciation to the Filipino people for being “passionate…ready to make sacrifices, believers of teamwork.”

House Speaker Cayetano also thanked Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) Executive Minister Brother Eduardo V. Manalo during his speech.

Atty. GP Santos and INC’s General Auditor Jun Santos, of Maligaya Development Corp– the firm managing the Phil Arena, were in attendance to welcome the Philippine President in the Philippine Arena, and congratulate him for his vision of a successful SEA Games. 

The Pride in Every Filipino

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham Tolentino, with pride in his voice, declared “a defining moment of the Philippines as we showcase the best that the Philippines can offer, to show the world a new face of the Philippines.”

One of the highlights of the SEA Games opening was the simultaneous event of lighting of the cauldron at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, by Filipino Manny Pacquaio, regarded by many boxing historians as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time; and Nesthy Petecio, a Filipina amateur featherweight boxer at the World Women’s Boxing Championship the simultaneous lighting of the cauldron by Filipino boxing champions Manny Pacquaio and Nesty Petecio at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.

Sighted beside the Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who both appreciated with pride the parade of about 8,750 athletes from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vietnam, and the Philippines. 

The opening day was a moment of great pride for the Filipinos and a moment of promise.

The Southeast Asian Games Federation flag carried by the former gold medalists, victors, and world record holders, signify the honour of the countries’ participation in the Southeast Asian Games and its 30 years of wowing us. (Eris Cruz/FWH)

President Duterte declared the games open in announcing, “I declare open the Southeast Asian Games for the 30th time, celebrating the games of Southeast Asia. Mabuhay kayong lahat!”

Floy Quintos, a Palanca-award winning playwright, provided an insight into the compelling choreographed musical presentation for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, the day before the Opening.

Embedded in each of the performers’ moves is the cohesive message of unity. In his post, Mr. Quintos said, he “avoided using special effects and stage wizardry for attention –instead doubling down on highlighting the resiliency of Filipinos through highly-energetic, joyous choreography.” 

The performance featured a robust thematic thread of inclusivity –from elaborate warrior dances to the many struggles of the Philippines’ marginalized groups. 

The much-celebrated cultural show presents four periodic stages: indigenous, Hispanic, folk and contemporary street and pop culture. The first three represent a series of warrior dances that trace the vigour, physicality and skill that is in the DNA of every great Filipino athlete.  Thus, the opening suite, “Ugat ng ating Lakas (The Roots of our Strength), is a series of “Power” dances from the Bagobo, the Kalinga, the Maguindanao and the pre-Hispanic Visayans.   (photo: Eric Cruz)

The dance choices for “We Win as One” pay homage to the most marginalized and neglected of our Indigenous peoples: the Lumad of highland Mindanao, the Maranao and their great ruined city of Marawi, the Kalinga who fought for their ancestral lands.

The LED series on the stage showcased an artful, traditional textile patterns, the delicate curve of a decorated bamboo arch, and the sassy depictions of grimy street children playing classic and traditional games. (Eris Cruz/FWH)

It was brilliant. Genius visuals.

The show was a spectacle. 

The power of its spectacle rendered our nation’s history of its 7,641 islands of cultural diversity, thus, begging the depth and substance of cohesion that goes beyond the political.

History has just unfolded before our eyes. 

For the Filipinos-at-heart who watched on TV, on Live FB, and any digital platform, the experience was full of “pride and joy,” “world-class,” “goosebumps” that they were “thrilled beyond belief.”

Report by: Noemie Cruz and Marites de Jesus/ FWH