A commitment had been made and whatever the cost, it had to be kept. Thus was what the decision to push through with the hosting of the 30th episode of the Southeast Asian Games meant. There is war in Mindanao. In the Muslim City of Marawi. Until when it will last and whatever the outcome will be won’t matter.
The flame of unity and solidarity that has been burning for the past 58 years, first when it was still known as the Southeast Asia Peninsular Games, will continue to provide the light in all sporting arenas of the 11-nation conclave never to be extinguished by any form of calamity, natural of man made.
Saving the Games from going into temporary hibernation is in itself a victory for the Philippines which in agreeing to be the site of the Games’ 30th coming, thus, becoming the only fifth country to come to the rescue when he Games were threatened of extinction is, in itself, already a victory.
Malaysia wet into the Games’ rich history as the first to volunteer to celebrate the Games out of its turn when, in 1965, Laos begged off due to financial constraints. Two years later in 1967, Thailand followed Malaysia’s face-saving gesture in lieu of Cambodia, also due to financial woes.
Vietnam, likewise, was unable to host the biennial competitions in1969 and Malaysia, for the second time, saved the Games. Brunei was to hold the 1983 edition under the traditional rotation basis but couldn’t due to its preparations for its coming Independence Day celebration. Singapore did the honor.
And it’s the Philippines’ turn to play the role as savior when the SEA Games Federation offered the hosting in place, again, of Brunei. Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco accepted the offer without any inkling that war will erupt in Marawi.
The war broke out and D30, perhaps having no one to give him advice but his factotums in the Palace by the Pasig river, withdrew the government’s support he had earlier given to Cojuangco advancing the war as reason, saying further that the funding to be spent in hosting could well be used for the rehabilitation of Marawi.
Came former senator now Secretary of Foreign Affairs Allan Peter Cayetano whom Cojuangco and Philippine Sports Commission chair William “Butch” Ramirez approached to intercede in the hope of saving the hosting and the Game Itself.
Last Friday, two days before the opening ceremony of he 29th edition of the biennial meet in Kuala Lumpur, the Philippines took it first victory without athletes having to flex their muscles.
Members of the Southeast Asian Games Federation Council, all representing the 11-nation conclave were one in congratulating and profusely thanking Cojuangco following the POC president’s announcement that the country, after all, is honoring its commitment to hold the Games this shore for he fourth time.
“As I have said when Sec. Cayetano announced President’s change of heart, that is victory already for the Philippines, “ Cojuangco told The Manila Times in a long distance telephone interview Saturday, a day after the council meeting. “A victory for Philippine sports, Philippine for diplomacy and international public relations.”
“Kung anuman ang mga masasamang istoryang lumalabas tungkol sa ating bansa dahil sa mga negatibong nangyayari sa atin, nabura lahat ‘yun. Naramdaman ko ‘yun with the way they grip my hands congratulating me. Some even gave me a hug,” he exclaimed.
“Lalong lumakas at gumanda ang relasyon natin, not only in the Southeast Asian nations, but the entire International Olympic Committee family,” he added. “Matagal ka na sa sports at alam mo na naman na kapag may problema at nakatulong ka na maresolba ito, napakalaking bagay noon. Napakalaki ang magiging pagtingin sa iyo ng lahat ng bansa.”
“Kaya nga malaki ang pasasalamat ko kay Sec. Cayetano at kay Presidente Rodrigo Duterte mismo sa tulong nila na mapanatili ng Pilipinas at ng sambayanang Pilipino ang paggalang at paniniwala sa ating kakayahang harapin ang anumang problemang ating kinakaharap at mapatagumpayan ang mga iyon,” he stressed.
Cojuangco, likewise, said The SEAGF Council welcome the idea of holding the Games outside of Metro Manila, possible, Central Luzon (Subic in Zambales, Clark in Pampanga and Bocaue in Bulacan) instead of Mindanao, which he had earlier broached.
“The Council, in sum, was very appreciative to our decision to push through with our hosting, the POC top honcho noted. “Other members offered to lend us their hands to whatever problems we expect to encounter. Of course, ‘yung iba naman sabi kayang-kaya natin,” Cojuangco said.