The Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games

By: - Online Sports Editor / @CFColinaINQ
/ 12:51 PM August 14, 2017

Flag bearers from the 11 ASEAN countries march during the opening ceremony of the biennial Southeast Asian Games in Singapore’s National Stadium on June 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN

For the last decade, the Philippines has been on a steady decline in the Southeast Asian Games.

Once a frontrunner in the region’s biennial sporting meet, the Philippines has never finished higher than fifth place since topping the SEA Games in 2001 in Manila.


READ: Athletes hurt most by SEA Games debacle

But the Philippines hasn’t always been in the bottom half of the 11-nation competition, where medals for at least 30 different team and individual sports are being disputed.


When the country started sending athletes to the SEA Games in 1977, when this multi-sport event had just changed its name from Southeast Asian Peninsular Games, it immediately finished third in the medal race in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia behind Indonesia and Thailand.

It was a golden age for sports for the Filipinos. From that year until 2003, the Philippines only failed to crack the top three in the medal race five out of the next 13 editions of the biggest sporting event in the region.

Firework explose over the Quirino Grand Stand during the closing ceremony of the 23rd South East Asian Games in Manila, 05 December 2005. The Philippines won the overall title of the 23rd South East Asian Games with 113 gold medals. AFP PHOTO/PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL

When Manila hosted the SEA Games in 2005—a first since 1991—the Philippines got the chance to field in the biggest delegation yet with over 700 athletes and that yielded the country’s best finish ever at no. 1 with a 113-84-94 gold-silver-bronze medal haul.

That, though, turned out to be the last the sport-loving Filipinos would taste the podium in the medal standings.

READ: No stopping PH sports’ decline in SEA Games

What followed was a disheartening stretch in the history of Philippine Sports.

Despite sending 620 athletes to Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand in the 2007 edition of the regional games, the Philippines shockingly dropped from first to sixth in a dismal showing with a 41-91-96 medal tally.


Since then, the size of the Philippine delegation has fluctuated from as low as 148 to as big as 512 athletes but the results remained disappointing.

Athletes from the Philippines parade waving their national flag during the opening ceremony of the 25th Southeast Asian Games at the national stadium in Vientiane on December 9, 2009.  AFP PHOTO/Bay ISMOYO

It didn’t get any better for the country in 2009 in Vientiane, Laos. With just 153 Filipino athletes competing in 25 sports, they only garnered 38 gold, 35 silver and 51 bronze medals to wind up fifth overall.

READ: Filipinos bungle SEA Games mission

In contrast, the Filipino delegation ballooned to 512 two years after in Jakarta, Indonesia but botched the goal to fare better and instead settled for sixth place with only 36 golds, 56 silvers and 77 bronzes.

Philippines athletes parade during the opening ceremony of the 26th Southeast Asian Games in Palembang, Sumatra province on November 11, 2011. AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN

Another lean PH delegation was sent to Naypyitaw, Myanmar in 2013 after Philippine sports officials  were irked by the host country’s cherry-picking of sports to be played–dropping main stream events and including obscure sports.

READ: Philippines competes in Myanmar games despite row

Unsurprisingly, the Philippines wound up sixth among 11 nations with 29 gold, 36 silver and 66 bronze medals.

The country’s place in the medal standings remained unchanged in the 2015 Singapore SEA Games despite packing a relatively-large group composed of 472 Filipino athletes.

SEA Games

The Philippine delegation led by flag bearer Alyssa Valdez parade during the Opening Ceremony of the 28th SEA Games held at the Singapore National Stadium. INQUIRER PHOTO/RAFFY LERMA

It was a frustrating showing for the Filipinos, who only managed 29 gold, 36 silver, 66 bronze medals to fall far behind fifth placer Indonesia (47-61-74 G-S-B) in the medal count.

READ: 28th SEA Games Singapore 2015 final Medal Tally

This year’s Philippine team to Malaysia is hoping to finally change that.

There will be 493 Filipino athletes who will be giving it all in the hopes of giving the country an improved standing in Kuala Lumpur, which is hosting the event for the sixth time.

A representative for each sport for the 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur. Photo by Marc Reyes/INQUIRER

The Philippines has committed athletes to 37 sports with a target of at least 50 gold medals—which hasn’t been done since 2005. The country’s best medal haul in the last 10 years is at 41 in 2007.

READ: PH ‘tired of being at the bottom’ in SEA Games

It may remain a tall order to find a place at the top, but the Filipinos are fed up of being on the outside looking in in the competition they once dominated and that may be enough motivation to finally end the slump in the SEA Games.

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TAGS: 2017 SEA Games, Philippines in the SEA Games, SEA Games, SEA Games History, sports history
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