Exactly a year ago, I had the opportunity to direct the awarding ceremonies of Wushu and Outdoor Tennis events during the 30th SEAGames held in Manila. These competitions were held at the World Trade Center and Rizal Memorial Complex in Pasay City.
The country’s hosting was plagued with controversy even before it officially started: feeding Muslim delegates with pork, unprepared media center, corruption-filled construction of the cauldron, athletes with no proper accommodation, all of which were eventually debunked as fake news.
Entrance fee for all events was free so many locals were able to watch the games. Witnessing how Filipinos cheer for our athletes was a source of pride – uniting a seemingly divided nation as medals were racked up day by day, exceeding goals and expectations.
During the first day of Wushu, Agatha Wong successfully defended her title, bringing in the Philippines’ second gold. I was told by Wushu’s National Director that in case we would get the first gold for the country, we had to mount a full awarding ceremonies. After her win, spirits were high and the Pinoys were on a roll.
Mishaps were unavoidable. On our first awarding, the pole that held the winners’ flags were stuck and the ceremony had to be put on hold for two hours. The assigned staff put a wrongly printed Brunei flag during one of the afternoon’s rites. Taking notes from the lessons of the first day, everything went well the days after.
The highlight of my stint was mounting the surprise marriage proposal of Ruben Gonzales, men’s double Silver medalist for Tennis, to his girlfriend, former race car driver Michelle Bumgarner.