The 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) successfully kicked off on November 30 in a grand opening ceremony showcasing world-class Filipino entertainment.
The SEA Games Opening show held at the jam-packed Philippines Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan was divided into several segments.
Asia’s Nightingale Lani Misalucha set the atmosphere of the ceremony with her powerful rendition of the Philippine National Anthem, the Lupang Hinirang while wearing a white beaded Filipiniana terno. The opening suite immediately followed Misalucha’s number.
As playwright Floy Quintos promised in his social media post, the opening repertoire consisted of war dances from the tribes of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao which he referred to as “Ugat ng Ating Lakas/ The Roots of our Strength”.
A dancer dressed in a Sarimanok costume took the center stage and started the celebration. The Sarimanok, a legendary bird adorned with colorful feathers, is highly regarded in Maranao culture as a symbol of good fortune.
Groups of male dancers dressed like the Bagobo tribe from Mindanao then occupied the stage with each performer holding two shields in their arms and mimicking the movements of the Philippine hawk-eagle in a dance called “lawin-lawin”, a rite-of-passage dance usually performed by the sons of datus, of bagani, from the noble clan.
The Bagobos made way for the Kalinga warriors performing the “takiling” to celebrate the bountiful harvest and headhunt victory.
Filipino martial arts were also presented as a tribute to the Pintados, the pre-hispanic Visayan warriors, followed by the “Sagayan”, a war dance performed for special and important occasions in Maguindanao and the Maranao community.
These dances epitomize what Quintos said were the “vigour, physicality and skill that is in the DNA of every great Filipino athlete.”
The opening tapestry of indigenous culture was marked by the 4 ensembles of sophisticated and colorful Maranao bamboo dance, Singkil, a royalty dance among the Maranao featuring the characters of Princess Gandingan and Prince Bantugan derived from the epic Darangen.
Quintos added that the choices of dances and music put on stage were not just a “cultural showcase” but also a “reminder of the enduring nobility of the marginalized and their current struggle for survival”.
The playwright and director had said he wanted the opening segment to pay homage to the “Lumad” of highland Mindanao, the Maranao and their great ruined city of Marawi, the Kalinga who fought for their ancestral lands”.
The next segment represented the Philippines’ Filipino-Spanish heritage. The dancers were dressed in Maria Clara and Barong while performing the “Jota Manileña”, a dance originated in Manila but was inspired from the Castillian jota.
This segment heralded the entrance of the Southeast Asian athletes led by Pinay beauty queens as muses of each participating country. The Filipinas led each team in a Santacruzan parade using “Singkaban” arches with wheels.
From the lively mood, the Philippine Arena switched into a more festive atmosphere when the Philippine delegation made its entrance to the tune of ‘Manila’, the 1970’s anthem of the Pinoy band Hotdog.
The Philippines’ new champion sports stars, namely, pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, weightlifter Eumir Felix Marcial, skater Margielyn Didal, martial artists Meggie Ochoa and Kiyomi Watanabe, carried the Philippine flag to lead the delegation.
The athletes wore their Francis Libiran-designed barong with embroidered sun on the left shoulder and collars bearing the colors of the Philippine flag. The athletes and spectators danced to the beat while waving flags and displaying their Filipino pride.
Filipino sports legends Lydia De Vega-Mercado, Akiko Thomson-Guevarra, Eric Buhain, Alvin Patrimonio, Bong Coo, Efren “Bata” Reyes, Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, and Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno were given a spot as they carried the SEA Games Federation Flag before it was raised inside the arena.
The celebration continued with the country’s finest singes serenading the crowd. Musical theater actor Robert Seña welcomed the foreign athletes and delegates with a modified and English version of “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika” turned into “Kay Ganda ng Pilipinas”.
Asia’s Romantic Ballader Christian Bautista and international musical theater actress Aicelle Santos also excited the audience with their rendition of the kundiman “Minamahal Kita” as the symbol of the “Pinoy bayanihan spirit” – a group of villagers carrying a bahay kubo (nipa hut) on their shoulders to move it to a different location – was being showcased in the background.
The bahay kubo set the stage for the high-energy rap performances of Iñigo Pascual, Elmo Magalona, and KZ Tandingan singing the late Francis Magalona’s songs, “Mga Kababayan Ko”, “Man from Manila”, and “Tayo’y Mga Pinoy” as the Ancient Baybayin script and images of children playing the “laro ng lahi” were shown on the giant LED screen in the background.
International music sensation Apl.de.Ap of Black Eyed Peas performed his hit song “Bebot” which made the spectators dance on their feet and chant “sige” on cue.
The parol, a Christmas lantern using capiz shells, was shown to highlight the big industry of Pampanga in Central Luzon.
The group of world-class singers were joined by Anna Fegi, WCOPA Grand Champion Jed Madela, and the TNT boys in singing the 30th SEA Games theme, “We Win As One” composed by National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab and originally recorded by Lea Salonga.
The Filipino entertainment showcase was capped by the SEA Games Torch lighting ceremony held at the New Clark City in Tarlac led by Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and rising boxing superstar Nesthy Petecio.
The SEA Games Opening Ceremony gave Pinoy watchers an overwhelming feeling of nationalistic pride as the Philippines showcased its best assets in the fields of entertainment and sports together on one stage.
With additional reports from the Good News Pilipinas Team.
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