“Good luck. Do your best and keep the flame of sportsmanship, friendship and the ideals for which the Southeast Asian Games was founded afloat.”
This was the message the country’s sports leaders imparted to the Filipino athletes, officials and members of the Philippine delegation that will carry the country’s colors in the 29th edition of the SEA Games which unfurls its curtains this coming Sunday in Kuala Lumpur.
“Of course, I, for one will be praying for you to bring home the bacon,” Senator and Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao said by way of wishing the athletes vying for honors to themselves and country in the 10-day gathering of the region’s finest and brightest from 11-member nations the best of luck.
“But most importantly, as our country’s ambassador of goodwill, let our tri-colors fly high in all the venues, not only in terms of engaging in battle, but, likewise, in once more showing to all and sundry what our country is and what kind of people Filipinos are in character and values,” the chair of the committee on sports and youth development in the Upper House said.
“Kapag kayo’y nandoon na at makikipagtagisan ng lakas at talino sa mga kalaban, generate lasting memories and bring about closer international relations sa ating mga kalapit bansa,” he said.
“Masuwerte kayo at kayo’y napili para maging kinatawan ng bansa sa isang malaking pagtitipon gaya ng SEA Games,” Pacquiao remarked. “Few activities can beat sports as far as engendering the many things that come in the wake of hard-fought competitions. Take pride when national anthem is played and our flag displayed.”
The Pacman assured the athletes: “Kaming maiiwan dito sa Pilipinas will be following your exploits, praying for your safety. Na kayo, minsan pa ang magiging catalyst of our nation’s unity. Gaya noon na kapag lumalaban ako sa ibang bansa, kasama kayo ng ating mga kababayan na hindi lumalabas ng bahay. Nanonood sa TV, nakikinig sa radyo sa paghihintay ng resulta.”
The message of the only man to win world championships in eight division was echoed by Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Philippine Sports Commission chair William “Butch” Ramirez, International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski and SEA Games Task Force head Tom Carrasco.
“When the Southeast Asian Games was established in Bangkok in 1959, its goal was to encourage a better understanding among nations in the region through the linking of sports, education, art and culture,” Cojuangco recalled. “The SEAF movement evolved from the ideals celebrated by the ancient Greeks in hosting the very first Olympic Games as an expression of the peoples’ values through the display of excellence via harmonious physical, moral, cultural and art.”
“Kung kaya nga ang pagdaraos ng Olympic Games, or even the lower global competitions as the Asian Games and SEA Games ay upang ipakita ang mga katangiang ito ng mga mamamayan sa buong mundo,” the former Tarlac congressman and younger brother of the late President Cory Aquino explained.
Ramirez, on the other hand, exhorted member of the contingent to maintain the “respect and adulation the country and our people have gained in the past. We in the PSC did our best to prepare you for this competition so you can be equipped to give our countrymen reason to celebrate and bring patriotic flavor to the prospects of Philippine sports in years to come.”
“In behalf of President Rodrigo Duterte, I urge you to show our world-renowned Filipino fighting spirit. Our people’s ability to rise from the grave. Our pride to be to be Filipinos,” Ramirez said.
“I am very excited for our Filipino athletes heading to Kuala Lumpur for the SEA Games” Cojuangco-Jaworski, beauteous daughter of the POC president and herself a noted athlete being a gold medallist in the 2002 Asian Games in equestrian, for her part, quipped.
“Every big event like this, is an opportunity for us to bring honor to God, our beloved country and our families. Let’s set our goals high,” she added. “Manalig tayo sa Panginoon at ialay and lahat sa Kanya. Mabuhay ang Atletang Pilipino!”
To motivate the athletes, the wife of basketball superstar Robert “Dudut” Jaworski, son of local cagedom’s living legend Robert “Jawo,” reminded her fellow athletes of the memory of Denmark’s Lis Hartel who overcame, battled and conquered the effect of paralysis to become the first woman to win a silver medal in the dressage event of equestrian during the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki
The SEA Games, or, for that matter, the Asian Games and the Olympic Games, according to Carrasco, who is also the president of the Triathlon Association of the Philippines, is an opportunity for the youths of the world to gather in the “spirit of friendship and learn the importance of values that transcend differences in nationality, geography and culture.”
“It is in these international competitions where athletes show the importance of sports in the nations’ mandate to build a healthy and strong citizenry,” Carrasco emphasized. “The athletes’ stories, their struggles to excel teach us great lessons in human courage and perseverance. This showcasing of human spirit is what makes sports appealing to everyone, not just for all of us who love it.”