If I would be a delegate Filipino athlete in the SEA Games, I’d be remorseful.

Not because I did not win gold, but because of the negative criticisms draw from the recent sports event, even those from fellow countrymen.

Many reacted that the Philippines has a weakening sports development program. That our athletes our not trained well, are not given the due support and that we are being left behind by our neighboring countries went it comes to sports.

In the conclusion of the 26 Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia, the country only placed sixth overall with a 36-55-76 tally.

Though the country had a strong finish yesterday with two Filipinos providing the gold in wushu and in lawn tennis, the Philippines bid farewell with a 34 short of the projected 70 gold medals of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

This outcome, according to PSC chair Richie Garcia, was not expected. He said before the biennial Games opened that he’s positive that we’ll bag 70 gold medals.

However, as the result shows, we failed.

The looming plight on SEA Games and the sports scene

Originally known as the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games or SEAP Games, SEA Games welcomes delegates from neighbouring Southeast Asia peninsula.

With its pioneer member countries such like Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Laos, South Vietnam and Cambodia, the sports event was agreed to be held yearly.

It was only on its 8th year that SEA Games opened its doors to three other countries which included the Philippines.

The last time the Philippine reigned victorious was when it hosted the event in 2005.

Aside from those two successful campaigns, the Philippines suffered many setbacks in the more than three decades.

Not to add the manipulation of host countries when it comes to game events.

In the SEA Games alone, one would notice that host countries introduce other sports and is free to drop others except some core sports.

In 2001, Malaysia introduced petanque while Vietnam added fin swimming and shuttlecock in 2003.Thailand also gave way to sepak takraw which they mainly dominates. Even the Philippines introduced arnis, a demonstration sport, in 2005 with 6 sets of medals and it won 3 gold medals. Indonesia also introduced for the first time the Bridge, Kenpō, Paragliding, Vovinam and Wall climbing. This host’s freedom made them maximize their medals by introducing sports with their advantages and dropping some which they can be defeated by others.

This time, the host country has the prerogative to include certain sports.

In this event, The Indonesia SEA Games Organizing Committee (INASOC) certainly abused that benefit. Games like one-cushion carom in billiards, speed skating and even bridge were included apparently to add to the hosts’ gold medal haul.

In addition to that, our own athletes in the SEA Games were also treated with hostility, which probably affected their performance.

It was reported that upon their arrival at the athletes’ village in Palembang, our teams were told that quartering was for six to a room. To add to their uncomfortable condition, it is stressing to find out that six people having to share one bathroom. They were also affected by the transportation conditions in Palembang and Jakarta.

Columnist Bill Velasco, who was also with Team Pilipinas in Jakarta, said our teams had to leave extra early for the venues because of a two-hour traffic jam. Only big groups may also accommodate buses in Palembang and all other mini-vans, who were broken-down and without even air-conditioning, were used for athletes and officials. He also noted that our delegation waited for four hours before entering the main stadium at the opening ceremonies.

Velasco said however that instead of objecting, the team chose to be more diplomatic about the matter.

Tracing back the roots

While it is somehow true that host countries dominates, participating countries’ plight on being winless in international sports events may also be traced back to its grassroots.

For a country with millions of Filipinos, it is unbelievable for a country to be at the lower level of a biennial meet.

But if one would ask the state of the Philippine sports, he should only look around for public sports facilities and this will give him the answer.

The Philippine sports is badly damaged.

But aside from the fact that public training facilities for athletes need repair and improvement, it is also our government, some of our country’s sports official for that matter, who came short of providing enough support to the athletes.

It is already a known fact that some of the country’s sports officials cannot go along with each other. A certain sport, for example, is ruled by many groups opposing for supremacy and rightfulness. This leaves our athletes not well trained and neglected.

There is also the sorry plight of our national athletes who earn praise when they win. Some of our national teams in the Philippines have to fend for themselves, spending their personal funds in order to participate globally to represent the country, since there is no sustenance from the government.This is especially true for the less popular sports such as like soccer, baseball, archery, and softball.

Addressing the plight

In sports development concerns in the country, it is important to advance the current national sports program, not only by the efforts of national teams and associations, but also by a eminent campaign encouraging as many Filipinos to broaden the public’s exposure of sports. This is vital in a country where the knowledge of sports often encompasses only to the more popular sports. That of basketball, volleyball and boxing.

It should involve persons who are in the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), the Department of Interior and Local Governance (DILG) and the Department of Education (DepEd).

In the case of the SEA Games, we could also throw support behind some new sports that are far from being recognized.

Lastly, we could put protests on record when we see discrepancies in judgingtema events. It is important that other countries will hear our voice, because form that, we’ll earn respect and credibility.

photo from Philstar.com

Sports can unite us. Thus, this can foster nationalism.

Let us also keep in mind that sports is also a learning experience. We stand, we fall sometimes, we go for the kill, we lose, we vie for power, for excellence and for the prestige. But other than these experiences, the more important thing is that, in every move we do, we learn. And from that, we know what to do next time.

Now, if I were to be an athlete, yes, I’d be remorseful, yet, I’d still keep my head held high for my own countrymen to see. Not because of the fact the 26th SEA Games was not meant for our country this time, but because I know I still have the Philippine pride in me that can never be taken away. That of a pride that only a Filipino can have the willpower to fight against the odds, the volition to win a battle, and even the acceptance of a defeat.