SAN JOSE, Antique: No less than President Rodrigo Duterte will be the special guest of the opening rites of the 2017 Palarong Pambansa here. And the capital of this province is ready to give him the warm welcome.
Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao turned nostalgic in a news conference on Saturday that kicked off the annual sportsfest, which officially starts on Sunday at the Binirayan Sports Complex where more than 12,000 athletes and officials will participate in the traditional parade of 18 regions.
“It’s such a surprise not only for me but also for the Antiqueños that the President is coming. In the last 10 years, no president has stepped in to our soil even when we were hit by Typhoon Yolanda. It tells us that a small province like Antique is part of this nation. This is what democracy is all about,” said Cadiao.
Antique has earmarked P50 million for the staging of the weeklong event with the Department of Education (DepEd) shouldering the bulk of the expenses. The Philippine Sports Commission also donated P10 million to the province.
“The economic drive transformed this sleepy province into a machine. People are energized. With that, we are planning to put up sports clinics not only for months but for the whole year,” said Cadiao.
Joining Cadiao were Education Secretary Leonor Briones and Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali, who both vouched for the readiness of the province to host the meet for elementary and high school students.
“This is a national endeavor. And it has produced national heroes and became part of our national teams,” said Briones, mentioning the likes of Lydia de Vega, Eric Buhain, Elma Muros and Dyan Castillejo.
“And in the point of view of DepEd, in terms of the senior high school programs, sports is one of the strands in our K to 12 program. And we noticed out of 1.5 million students enrolled in K to 12, only 3,175 were enrolled in that track. And it’s not enough so we hope that with this Palaro more learners will be encouraged to go to sports as a profession or even as a livelihood,” she added.
The games are ready to roll except for minor kinks like repainting, Umali said upon inspection of the billeting and the venues.
Muros, the long jump queen of Philippine athletics, will light the cauldron and will be awarded the Palarong Pambansa Lifetime Achievement Award during the opening parade that starts at 11 in the morning.
Muros will be given P50,000 and a trophy.
This year’s theme is “Palarong Pambansa: Converges Youth Power, Builds Sustainable Future.”
Games in football and gymnastics started on Saturday while action will go full-blast on Monday.
Host province Antique has laid out an elaborate opening ceremony, mixing culture and technology to showcase the beauty and grandeur of the Antiqueños and their community.
The games’ elementary division has 15 events – arnis, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, chess, football, gymnastics, sepak takraw, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, and volleyball.
The secondary division has 21 events – archery, arnis, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, chess, football, gymnastics, sepak takraw, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, volleyball, billiard, futsal, wrestling, and wushu.
The demonstration sports are pencak silat, aerobic gymnastics, and dance sports, while the para games will be composed of goal ball, bocce, athletics, and swimming.
Highlights of this year’s Palaro, where 925 gold medals are up for grabs, include:
• conversion of former demonstration sports like futsal, wushu, wrestling and billiards into regular sports to be included in the tally that determines the overall champion for games;
• dance sports and aero gymnastics as part of the demonstration sports category; and
• awarding for the first time of the “Palarong Pambansa Parangal” to a Palaro alumnus or alumna who can inspire young athletes to excel in the field of sports.
The Palaro widens the base for talent identification, selection, recruitment, training and exposure of elementary pupils and secondary students for international competitions. It also provides a database that will help improve school sports development programs.
Congress has set aside P350 million for DepEd to hold school-based sports competitions that include division, regional meets and the Palaro.