The biggest losers in the opening ceremonies of the Southeast Asian Games were the yellows. At every step of the way, they wanted our sponsorship of the games to fail. The target was not really House Speaker Allan Cayetano. He was collateral damage. The target was President Duterte. Surely, the yellows thought that if the Games were to fail, it is PRRD himself who will take the flak.
After all, it was he who decided that we should sponsor the 30th Southeast Asian games.
But the yellows lost miserably. Despite earlier fake news about Muslims allegedly being fed with pork and some teams having had to sleep on the floor because they arrived hours before check-in time, the opening ceremonies were a huge success. It proved that once we Filipinos put our heart in any undertaking, we can excel. In fact, the opening ceremonies were not only world-class; it could rival any opening ceremonies even in the history of the Olympics.
Of course, it was first and foremost the Filipino talents. Starting with Lani Misalucha’s rendition of the national anthem to Robert Seña’s solo, and Christian Bautista’s kundiman, the Filipino talents took center stage and proved once and for all that we are probably the best performers in the whole world. My personal favorites were the Filipino rap and rock songs, which had accompanying dance numbers, from the UP Pep Squad and, possibly, the Philippine Ballet Company (I could be wrong here).
There, too, were the background videos showcasing the best of Filipino fabrics and tapestries. Quite frankly, I did not expect that Philippine weaves could be so visually pleasing. They were and kudos to whoever thought of using them as background.
But the real reason why the opening was a huge success was us, the Filipinos who were in the jam-packed Philippine Arena, and those who were glued to the ceremonies on their television sets. To those of us who had the good fortune of being physically present in the arena, it was a surge of nationalism shared with the hundreds of thousands who witnessed the event. It was a moment to be truly proud to be a Filipino. And it was not just because of the spectacular show. It was a sense of being one with a nation which, despite natural calamities, political bickering and a host of other challenges, could stand up heads high up proud that we can be the very best at whatever it is that we want to succeed in.
While I understand why some of us objected to the song “Manila,” in reality, Manila meant the entire Philippine nation. The city referred to was the capital city, but the visuals in the lyrics of the song, the jeepneys and the beautiful women, referred to what every Filipino sees and experiences in their everyday lives. It was hair-rising to see our athletes march onstage promising a great finish in these games knowing that they have had to deal with lack of funding and terrible facilities to prepare for it. But in the end, despite material deficiencies, they will do their best and bring home the gold because, for each and everyone of our athletes, it is their small way of making our country proud.
And to us bystanders, we could only cheer our athletes knowing that their individual stories are the combined stories of our people. From an athlete whose only means to eat was by joining the national team, another athlete who escaped domestic violence at home by joining the national team, to those whose only means of obtaining an education is through the measly allowance that we give them. We cheered because despite differences in dialect and home provinces, we have a shared experience of having to live in the country with the most natural disasters, in a country where politics has become both a pastime and the biggest business, in a country where many of our youth can only achieve their dreams by preparing for that elusive gold. And yes, we cheered whenever the President waived at the crowd because he is also our sovereign, the personification of our country and people. It was quite obvious that with the applause that the President got, he remains truly well-loved by an overwhelming number of Filipinos, with the exception of course of the crabs among us in yellow.
So, what ultimately is the lesson that we learned from the opening ceremonies? For the yellows, it should serve as a stern warning. While perhaps it is their duty in a democracy to fiscalize, they should cease messing around with what is truly important to our people. Yes, we have traffic. Yes, we have poverty. Yes, we still have a problem with corruption. But despite all odds, Filipinos know the many reasons why they should still be proud of being Filipinos and no amount of mud thrown their way will dampen their pride in being Filipinos. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Go for the gold! Let us win as one! To the yellows — manigas na lang kayong lahat!