Feted with a mixture of English and Tagalog songs by Aiza Seguerra during a send-off party the other night, Filipino athletes bound for the Southeast Asian Games which unfolds next week were urged by sports leaders to do their best for flag and country.
“When you go out there, don’t forget, we are Filipinos. We are sportsmen, you have full of guts to win the competition,” Philippine Olympic Committee president Peping Cojuangco told the hundreds of athletes who started to leave in batches for Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez also urged the athletes to do the country proud, adding competing in the regional showpiece “is not only about the gold medal or only about the score”.
“It’s not only about the gold. It’s not only about the score. It’s the way you fight, and you fight there, you bring every Filipino in the boxing ring or in the track oval. That’s the spirit of the Filipino,” said Ramirez, whose office bankrolled the Team Philippines’ participation in the 10-nation, 12-day regional athletic showpiece.
In the gathering graced by basketball stars Kiefer Ravena and Kobe Paras as well as bowling great and national coach Paeng Nepomuceno, Ramirez also mentioned a list of Filipino legends who he said could serve as inspiration when they wage battles in Kuala Lumpur.
In his brief remarks, Ramirez said the athletes are “heart and soul of the country”.
Meantime, gymnastics president Cynthia Carrion, who is also the Philippine contingent’s chief of mission, told Reuben Terrado of Spin.Ph that the team is capable of winning 50 gold medals that she earlier predicted, something that is too tough to achieve to many observers.
“I believe we can do better than what we did two years ago in Singapore,” said Carrion.
Taekwondo star Kirstie Elaine Alora will be the team’s flag bearer during the traditional marchpast of athletes, one of the highlights of the opening ceremonies scheduled on the night of August 19 at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in the heart of the Malaysian capital.
The Asian champion taekwondo athlete, along with former world billiards champion Rubilen Amit and Olympian boxer Charly Suarez, are among the high-profile athletes in a contingent of 726 who are highly expected to carry the fight for the Philippines.
The Philippines finished only sixth overall two years ago in Singapore with only 29 gold medals as it continued to absorb one embarrassment after another in this regional meet it won in 2005 in Manila.