BANTAY, Ilocos Sur—The 61st edition of the Palarong Pambansa returned to the Ilocos region after more than four decades with more than 15,000 athletes and officials converging for the country’s multispirt grassroots sports competitions initiated by the Department of Education (DepEd).
Just like in other editions of the Palaro, the sun’s heat was as overwhelming as the enthusiasm of the student-athletes to showcase their budding athletic skills with Ilocos Sur Gov. Ryan Luis Singson welcoming all delegations from the country’s 17 regions and promising a games they would cherish.
“We will make sure we won’t disappoint people for choosing us [as hosts],” Singson told last Sunday’s opening ceremony at the President Elpidio Quirino Stadium.
The hosts put their best foot forward in making a spectacle of an opening ceremony marked by an aerial show complete with daredevil skydivers and hot air balloons.
Filipino sports greats Paeng Nepomuceno of bowling, Efren “Bata” Reyes of billiards, Mansueto Velasco of boxing, Elma Muros-Posadas of athletics and Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting graced the ceremony to provide inspiration to the student-athletes who will vie in Olympic-style competitions that start to peak today.
National Capital Region (NCR) is expected to defend the overall title it held for the last 13 years, although the Big City athletes expect tough competitions from Calabarzon and Western Visayas, runners-up last year in San Jose de Buenavista, Antique.
NCR was runaway winner with 98 gold medals last year. with Calabarzon placing a far second with 41 golds and Western Visayas with 38.
Action begins at sunrise at the Quirino oval with the finals in the 3,000 meters (secondary boys and girls), javelin throw (secondary boys and girls), shot put (elementary girls) and triple jump (elementary boys).
The first gold medal has yet to be won on Ilocos soil but as early as Sunday, the DepEd, headed by Secretary Leonor M. Briones, has awarded 2019 hosting rights to Davao City. President Duterte’s home city beat other Mindanao bidders Zamboanga City, Misamis Occidental and General Santos City.