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Arnisadores make triumphant return

Elmer N. Manuel @tribunephl_lmer



CRISAMUEL Delfin leads the Philippines’ medal harvest in arnis. ROMAN PROSPERO @tribunephl_RRP

The Philippines made an amazing comeback in arnis when it snared 14 of the 20 gold medals in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

It was a feat that surpassed all expectations — even the earlier projection of Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (PEKAF) president and Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri.

In fact, the Zubiri was so elated that he promised his entire team a grand reward: A trip to Hong Kong Disneyland before Christmas.

Zubiri made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon after the country closed out the arnis competitions with a bang, saying that he recognizes the hard work it has done prior and during the biennial meet.

The Philippine arnisadores’ feat was the most gold medals won by any federation so far in this edition of the SEA Games. They also clinched four silver and two bronze medals.

“Aside for the incentives from the Philippine Olympic Committee, the Philippine Sports Commission and President Duterte, I will also give a cash gift to the team,” Zubiri said.

“I am also taking everyone — the whole team, Team A and Team B — who performed on opening night, as well as the coaches and staff. I am taking them all to Hong Kong for a well-deserved break.”

Zubiri said that he would bring the team to Disneyland, noting that he wants his wards to be kids again – including himself.

“I will bring them to Disneyland, we’ll all have fun. What’s important is that they get all the training out of their minds first,” Zubiri said.

It was the first time arnis was played in the SEA Games since 2005, where the Philippines and Vietnam won three gold medals.

This time, however, the host made sure it wins the event in runaway fashion.

Vietnam was at far second with four gold medals while Cambodia and Myanmar split the two remaining out of the 20 gold medals at stake.

The success of the Filipino arnisadores made Zubiri more convinced that arnis should finally become a regular sport in the SEA Games calendar.

The senator said he’s now in constant talks with representatives of Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, which hosts the next SEA Games in 2021, to support him in lobbying for arnis’ inclusion in the biennial meet.

“We’re hoping that Vietnam will host us. According to the coach, they’re in agreement with sports officials to have arnis as one of the games,” Zubiri said.

“I was happy and emotional because that’s a big step to be a regular game in the SEA Games.”

Arnis was also front and center for all Filipinos to witness, and with that, the national arnisadores have only encouraged their kababayans to try out their national martial art.

“I’m so proud of our boys and girls. We did very well,” Zubiri said.

“They made our sport so popular and such a unifying force.”

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