After many controversies, the Philippines is being represented by 210 athletes in 26 sports in the 27th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Myanmar.
The contingent’s size (which also has 114 sports officials) is a far cry from the 512 athletes sent by the country during the 2011 Indonesia edition of the biennial meet wherein the nationals finished sixth overall among the eleven competing nations with 36 gold medals, replicating its sixth place ranking in the 2007 Nakhor Ratchasima, Thailand version. With several sports not included in Myanmar (the local Olympic committees of each host country has the option of scrapping events) as well as the new Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) directive of sending participants in sports that has the best chance of winning medals and doing away with the “have-money-can-travel” policy, the nationals now have the arduous task of producing good results despite not having the numbers in their favor.
National Sports Associations (NSAs) that will not have representation in the country formerly known as Burma are the Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (PABA)—for baseball and softball, the Philippine Tennis Association (PHILTA), the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF), the Philippine Football Federation (PFF)—for men’s football, as well as the NSAs for fencing, gymnastics, finswimming, water polo, dragonboat and bowling. These were the sports that were either not included in the medal events in Myanmar or were not selected by the POC to join.
Combined, these sports produced a grand total of 29 medals in Indonesia; nine of which were gold.
Nevertheless, the athletes themselves thrust into the action are out to prove that they can it done against the best of the region. The 210 athletes are divided in the following sports*:
Muay Thai (3)
Pencak Silat (2)
Sepak Takraw (3)
Table Tennis (2)
*There have been additional names added to some sports as of this writing
The POC expects a haul of at least thirty gold medals—which could be good for sixth place anew. Powerhouse regional neighbours Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have traditionally been the most successful in competing for the overall medal haul, however in recent years, Vietnam and Singapore have began making strides to contend against Asean’s “Big 3”. The Philippines last enjoyed success in the final tally in 2005—when the country last hosted.
It remains to be seen if the Philippines can avoid replicating its disastrous twenty gold medal debacle in the 1999 Brunei games.
The high profile sports continue to be basketball—wherein the Philippines has only lost once in its participation history (1989) when its best amateur players were lost to the pro ranks. Despite hosting the games in 2005, the Philippines was still suspended from international competition by the sport’s governing body FIBA due to conflicts within its duly recognized federation, the BAP.
In the 2013 men’s hoops competition, Sinag Pilipinas’s campaign will be spearheaded by Gilas Pilipinas’ naturalized slotman Marcus Douthit, while their distaff counterparts Perlas Pilipinas will still be carrying a bulk of the 2011 squad that came to within an infraction away from the title.
The Billiards contingent will also be among the Filipino’s focal points as two-time world champion Rubilen Amit is rejoined by her buddy—and two event gold medalist in Indonesia—Iris Rañola, representing perhaps the most feared tandem in the sport today. Veteran Dennis Orcollo along with Carlo Biado and Francisco de la Cruz will also be favored in their respective assignments.
As of this writing, Yahoo! Sports Philippines’ Carlo Pamintuan has already reported that eight of the ten members of the boxing squad have already been assured of medals due to fortunate draws. Boxing produced only four gold medals in Indonesia in 2011 and the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines eyes doubling that mark this year. Reigning pinweight queen Josie Gabuco along with veteran Nesthy Petecio found themselves in the semifinals immediately as there were not enough entries in this competition, while Maricris Igam and Iris Magno drew byes. Three of the six male fighters also made it through due to a favorable draw while super lightweight Dennis Galvan was the only one who needed to win a bout to advance, defeating his Cambodian foe on opening day.
The Wushu team will also be a big draw after their show of strength in Beijing in the 2008 Olympics and after winning two golds in Indonesia, a haul that they have already matched after Jessi Aligaga and Denbert Arcita both topped their respective Sanshou weight divisions Monday night.
All eyes, though, will be on the Malditas as they become the lone football entry of the country after the POC thumbed-down the inclusion of the U23 Azkals—much to the chagrin of its legions of followers. The questions still swirl about the ladies’ chances against the best in the region, but I guess all we can do is watch and cheer at this point.
Yahoo! Sports Philippines will be bringing as much news from the forefront as it can muster and I join the nation in celebrating our unbridled support for the 210 souls that will do battle in the trenches for flag and country. Go Team Philippines!
Follow Noel Zarate on Twitter (@NoelZarate) and email firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.