Will the Filipino fervor reignite in 2021?
There won’t be need for a new unifying anthem like “We Win As One.”
The resounding success in the 30th Southeast Asian Games is a triumph for every Filipino, young and old, rich or poor, who all swooned and swayed, cheered and prayed, near or far, and became part of national campaign and celebration in various venues, like New Clark City and the Philippine Arena.
The Philippines, as one, ruled the Southeast Asian Games in full glory. Filipino athletes turned the two weeks of competitions into a victory fiesta. Competitions came to a close with the Philippines scoring a record harvest of medals to rule the biennial regional sports supremacy race, with a lot to spare.
It was an overwhelming dominance, touching and historic, so that ecstatic countrymen were left to wonder how the magic and magnificence happened.
The Philippines, in hosting of the 2019 Games, actually limped off the staring block, no thanks to pre-Games booboos and hassles. But the moving success at home this year should go down as the most astounding feat by a host nation.
Said Philippine Sports Commission Chair Butch Ramirez, Philippine chef de mission: “We all worked hard for this. The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), the national sports associations, the national organizing committee, the government and private sector, and the Filipino people all came together to show to all they have the whole nation behind them.”
The Games work force and volunteers were singled out.
The best was however reserved for the national athletes. all 1,084 of them, who finished with 149, gold, 171 silver, 121 bronze medals.
It was indeed a magical leap for the Philippines, which was pitiful sixth in Kuala Lumpur two years ago.
The Philippines, after a couple of hostings in 1981 and 1991, finally captured the overall championship here at home in 2005. Unfortunately, the Philippines slipped inexorably to sixth in Thailand 2007.
The 2019 Manila Magic did not come easy due to political wrangling and in-fighting. But it cannot be denied the change and leadership shakeup in the national Olympic committee also worked wonders.
The secret could also be in the master plan.
“It took us one year to prepare, study and implement the plan,” bared POC president Abraham Tolentino, tireless workhorse.
What’s not easy to explain is the national fervor that burned through the Games.
There has been nothing like it before, a gripping fever similar to the ones that spread spontaneously during papal visits.
Of course, there will be big expectations when the Philippines defends the overall championship two years from now.
How to keep the competitive fervor burning away from the support and cheers of the home crowd could be a problem. There will be a question on how to stay unified and heroic away from home.
Meanwhile, there will be no rest for the country’s Olympic hopes, like gymnast Carlos Yulo and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz.
No need to stress how winning the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal in next year’s Tokyo Olympics would surely help ignite national fervor for Filipino athletes in Vietnam 2021.
But, as what happened this year, that would require another magnificence and magic.
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