By Alexander Villafania
DAPITAN CITY, METRO MANILA – More than the spectacle of watching a week-long sporting event, the Palarong Pambansa is rather a celebration of the abilities of the country’s youthful athletes.
Children and young adults (14 to 18 years old) give their best in their chosen sport and in this year’s games 10,000 of them are competing in 17 games.
Participants from all the country’s regions joined a parade during the opening of the Palaro at the spanking new stadium Rizal Memorial State University in Dapitan City.
Despite being drenched by the heavy rains during the opening last May 8, the young athletes, their coaches, teachers and even family members pushed on to join the parade.
They presented themselves to the organizing committee of the Palaro, led by Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Palaro 2011 Executive Chairman Romeo Jalosjos.
Luistro told the athletes that their participation to the games proved that they were among the best in their respective regions and that their skills as athletes must also be used for the betterment of the country.
“You have a responsibility not just to yourselves as athletes but also to your country. You must be proud of who you are and carry on amid any challenges,” Luistro said.
Later during the presentation of the athletes, Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay made his entrance, garbed in traditional Muslim garb. Just like Luistro, Binay also espoused greatness among the young athletes, telling them that personal excellence is the hallmark of a country’s own development.
Binay also encouraged responsibility of athletes to the environment, which is incidentally one of the new banners that this year’s Palaro is also carrying. “Show to the world that the young Filipino athlete is not just excellent in sports but also keen in protecting the environment.”
After the parade, hundreds of students from Dapitan City’s high schools gave a 15-minute long interpretative dance, followed by another 15-minute long fireworks display.
The following day, May 9 was the start of the games. Most of the games were held in Dapitan City though a few of the sporting event were hosted in nearby Dipolog City. The games will end on May 14.
Among the sporting events include basketball, badminton, swimming, baseball, football, chess, sipa, tennis, volleyball, table tennis, boxing, arnis, taekwondo, gymnastics, athletics, and sepak takraw.
DepEd Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs and Officer-in-Charge of the School Sports Development Program Tonisito Umali said the Palaro has always been the source of the country’s best sports celebrities, many of whom have gone to win in international sporting events.
“We aim to inspire more young people to enter sports so that they can develop the skills, mentality and attitude to excel in everything that they do,” Umali said.
Among the Palaro “graduates” that have become famous include swimmers Erick Buhain and Akiko Thomson, basketball stars Marlou Aquino and Samboy Lim, runner Elma Muros-Posadas, long jump champion Maristella Torres, among others.
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