What to expect from the SEA Games 2019 opening ceremonies

Amanda T. Lago
A musical showcase, beautiful costumes, traffic getting to the venue...and we still don't know what's happening to the cauldron

SEA GAMES 2019. The opening ceremonies will be held on November 30 at the Philippine Arena. Photo by Geo Yusooncho

MANILA, Philippines – The Southeast Asian Games (SEA) Games 2019 have been punctuated by a series of unfortunate events thus far – but the opening ceremony is poised to be one of the things that’s going to go right. Filipinos are, if anything, great entertainers after all.

Held at the Philippine Arena on November 30, the opening ceremonies includes a line-up of some of the country’s most talented performers – from the famous Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, to singers like Lani Misalucha, Aicelle Santos, KZ Tandingan, and Apl.de.ap.

At the same time, behind the scenes, are veteran playwright Floy Quintos as creative director, working with National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab. Production is being handled by US-based company Fivecurrents, with audio and video support from Video Sonic and Stage Craft International.

With entertainment experts both on stage and backstage, the opening ceremonies may be among the SEA Games 2019’s highlights – just don’t bet too much on the so-called “Kaldero ng Diyos” playing much of a part in the spectacle.

Here’s what you can expect from the show:

A musical extravanganza

With some of the country’s most talented performers on stage, the opening ceremonies is sure to be, if anything, a musical extravaganza.

No less than Lani Misalucha will be leading the singing of the Philippine National Anthem, after which follows a 4-part production involving song and dance numbers, set against backdrops inspired by Philippine textiles.

FOLK DANCE. The Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group perform the Singkil, a Maranao traditional folk dance. Photo by Geo Yusooncho

Dancers from the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group and dance troupes from various colleges and universities across the country will be performing a range of dances – from traditional Filipino folk (from regions north to south) to modern hiphop. Choreography was done by Huling El Bimbo director and choreographer Dexter Santos, along with veteran dancer and choreographer Cherry Villanueva.

At the same time, the musical performers will be singing and rapping everything from pop ballads, slow kundimans, to a Francis M medley, and of course, the 2019 SEA Games theme song, “We Win as One,” which was originally sung by Lea Salonga.

Musical artists performing include Christian Bautista, Aicelle Santos, Jed Madela, Elmo Magalona, KZ Tandingan, Iñigo Pascual, The TNT Boys, Ana Fegi, Robert Seña, and Apl.de.ap. Behind the scenes are musical arrangers Nikko Rivera and Jimmy Antiporda, music producer Eloisa Matias. 

Costumes and a set you can see from anywhere in the 55,000-seater arena

Even in a massive arena, the costumes of the performers – designed by Eric Pineda, Mitoy Sta. Ana, and Maxi Cinco – stand out, so that even those in seats further away from the stage can appreciate them. 

The show starts off with dancers wearing more traditional Filipino clothing such as the intricate wanes and lufid from the highlands, to the elaborate baro’t sayas and barong Tagalogs, to the shimmering ensembles representing Southern Mindanao.

As the show progresses, more contemporary Filipino fashion is showcased – incuding a remixed barong-inspired jacket that Apl wears when he emerges on stage.

At the same time, props and set pieces add more dimension to the stage, while the backdrop changes to highlight Philippine textiles. 

Athletes and beauty queens in a Santacruzan-style parade

As exciting as the performers are, the opening ceremonies are still, of course, about the athletes – and they will be introduced at the start of the show in a Santacruzan-style parade with 11 Filipina beauty queens as muses of each competing country.

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach will be the Philippines’ muse, while Miss World 2013 Megan Young will be Indonesia’s muse. Other beauty queens who will be part of the parade are Karen Ibasco, Lara Quigaman, Cynthia Thomalla, and Sophia Senoron.

MUSE. Megan Young is among the 11 Philippine beauty queens chosen as muses for each of the competing countries. Photo by Geo Yusooncho

The ‘surprise’ lighting of the infamous cauldron

The lighting of the controversial P50-million cauldron probably won’t be the highlight of the show. It will, after all, be taking place in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, some 90 kilometers away from the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The distance between the cauldron – the lighting of which is meant to be a crucial part of the opening rites – and the opening ceremonies has left many perplexed.

Even at a dress rehearsal for the show on November 26, it was not apparent how the symbolic lighting would be witnessed by an audience in a different venue. Our best guess is that it will be broadcast on the screens at the Philippine Arena – though the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) remain tight-lipped about how the lighting of the cauldron will take place, echoing chair Alan Peter Cayetano, saying “let it be a surprise.”

An hour-and-a-half show, with a long wait time

If everything runs smoothly, it’ll be a quick show, clocking in at an hour and a half. But organizers recommend that those who are watching the show arrive as early as 5 pm (the show starts at 7 pm) because of the traffic from the amount of people – including VIPs – arriving. It is, after all, a 55,000-seater venue, so massive queues are to be expected.

About the venue…

Since the opening ceremonies will be held in Bocaue, Bulacan, some 30 kilometers away from Manila, planning transportation ahead is key

PHISGOC will be providing 10 P2P buses from various pick-up points, namely: SM MOA Arena, Ayala Cloverleaf, Trinoma, and SM City Clark. Those with tickets to the opening ceremonies can ride the PHISGOC buses for free, but because there are only 10 buses, expect those to be packed.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) are also providing P2P buses to the venue, departing from Trinoma Mall and the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX). Fare from Trinoma is P100, and the fare from PITX is P150.

Also, the venue is colder than your usual movie theater, so make sure to bring something warm.

Tickets to the SEA Games opening ceremony are available via SM Tickets, with prices ranging from P1,000 for General Admission Side tickets, to P12,000 for Patron seats. – Rappler.com

Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.