Palaro opening ceremonies festive, bright

LINGAYEN, Philippines - Palarong Pambansa has officially begun.

While the first games of the prestigious nationwide sporting event started Sunday, May 6, the opening ceremonies did not take place until the morning of Monday, May 7, to await the presence of President Benigno Aquino III.

Bright colors flooded the Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center as each of the 17 regions paraded their uniforms. Athletes and coaches waved flags, flowers recycled from plastic bottles, caps and fans as they smiled to the cheering crowd under the blistering Pangasinan sun.

President's message

Aquino opened the games by attempting to speak in Pangasinense, the local dialect, which enamored the audience. He congratulated the athletes, sports officials and coaches present for their participation in the event.

Aquino, who flew from Manila via a chopper a few hours earlier, also pledged support for the development of sports in the nation, and said the Department of Education had allocated over 200 million pesos for the games to ensure smooth competition and proper equipment for the athletes.

The President also cited the 2011-2016 Philippine Sports Roadmap of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) including the "focus sports policy" worth almost 200 million pesos, which aims to develop boxing, taekwondo, athletics, swimming, wushu, archery, wrestling, bowling, weightlifting and billiards.

Sport development, Aquino emphasized, would also encompass those who need it most -- inmates, persons with disabilities and the youth.

He hailed Palaro for having produced world champions for over 60 years, and praised the athletes present.

"Mabuting halimbawa kayo sa mga kapwa ninyo kabataan (You are a good example to your fellow youth)," he told the participants. "Nawa’y maging bukal kayo ng inspirasyon sa iba pa ninyong mga kababayan (May you be a source of inspiration for others your age)."

'CDO, Iligan rising up'

While every region had a unique offering contributing to the celebratory atmosphere, Region 10 stood out and made the parade extra memorable.

The region of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, two cities hard-hit by tropical storm Sendong in December, used the ceremonies to thank the nation for their help in recovery efforts.

Region 10 entered the stadium carrying orange and white balloons and a banner that read: "Maraming salamat po. Tulong sa mga bikitima ng Sendong. CDO and Iligan rising up (Thank you very much for your help of the Sendong victims)."

Many athletes from the region had lost loved ones but have found a way to somehow make it to Palarong Pambansa to represent their region.

Because of the day-late opening ceremonies, schedules for Sunday, May 6 have been switched with Monday, May 7 schedules. Only some sports will have events in the afternoon of May 7 including basketball, football, arnis, tennis and rhythmic gymnastics. -

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