Time to shine
On this day, the 30th Southeast Asian Games or SEA Games opens with what promises to be a glittering, dazzling ceremony. Expected to attend are some 8,750 athletes and team officials from 11 participating countries, along with other sports functionaries and support staff, the general public and the rest of the world who, through TV and social media, will be welcomed not just to the days of heated competition (some events have already begun), but also to the Philippines and, it is hoped, the best the country has to offer.
To be sure, hiccups and headaches have accompanied the preparations and the early stages of the event. Both mainstream and social media have been rife with reports of neglected delegations (inadvertent, said the organizers), inadequate preparations, poor accommodations and unfinished venues. The day will and should come for a proper reckoning, including holding those responsible for the inefficiencies and botched preparations, not to mention the possible graft and corruption involved, to account. But not today.
Today, we must train the limelight on the men and women competing in the name of their countries, giving their all, testing the very limits of their strength, stamina and resolve. Today, we must pay tribute to all the athletes who, in the following days, will gather in any of the 44 venues, risking injury, overcoming nerves and fighting off fatigue for their flag and countrymen. Today, we cheer everyone on, even if understandably our loudest yells and most impassioned pleas will be directed at and for our own Filipino athletes.
Many of our athletes have endured personal poverty, separation from their families, neglect by sports officials and politicians, frustration and defeat—to find themselves in their proving grounds. They share with many of their competitors the same personal history of herculean physical and mental struggle. And when the competitions are over, they will bond over their shared experiences and indelible memories.
Medals will be won, titles will be bestowed or snatched away, records will be broken or established, and national pride will be burnished with every win, every accomplishment, every step (or leap, jump, lap, twirl and turn) forward. But there is one metric that every participant in the Games cherishes more than any other—one’s personal best. This is the measure that matters most. This is why many sports men and women persist in competing even if they know there are better and more formidable opponents in their events. Achieving and surpassing one’s personal best, overcoming one’s physical limits and psychological shackles, prevailing against self-doubt and fear—these are worth more than medals.
Medals do matter. And we will know, as the SEA Games winds down, which country has prevailed over the others in our neighborhood. As the host country, the Philippines enjoys a natural home court advantage. One cannot discount the sheer presence of supporters and boosters, their voices and yells from the stands immeasurable in their power to raise morale and revive faltering spirits. But as the hosts, we also owe the other teams a show of encouragement and appreciation, the sense of sportsmanship that wishes even those on the other side not just luck or fortune, but also stamina and the will to prevail. Great games, after all, those that gain immortality and a place in the history books, can only be had with great opponents.
So, too, as hosts, we can show our visiting athletes and the different delegations proof of that celebrated Filipino hospitality—especially to make up for the initial inconveniences some of them may have experienced. It augurs well that government agencies and private entities have stepped in to help however and whenever they can—from lending private tour buses to ferry athletes and supporters, to liaising with hotels and tour operators to improve accommodations.
So can we as private individuals do our share. Our SEA Games visitors will be out and about for the duration of the games (and who knows, maybe even after), checking out the malls, food places, happening spots and interesting places, presenting an opportunity for ordinary Filipinos to do their share of making our guests feel welcome, cheering them on and building goodwill between neighbors. Not everyone can be accommodated in the competition venues, but there are many ways to display our sense of inclusivity and openness. Bang the drum, lay out the feast, bring out the vaunted Filipino warmth and charm, and let’s put on the best show in town. Philippines, it’s time to shine.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.