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Gigantic Philippine Arena ready for elaborate SEAG opening ceremony

BOCAUE - The stage is set for an elaborate opening ceremony that will kick off the 2019 Southeast Asian Games this November 30 at the Philippine Arena here.

The 55,000-seater mammoth venue is expected to host the thousands of athletes, foreign dignitaries, and spectators for the ceremony which will kick off at 7 p.m.

According to the organizers of the event, led by a consortium of US-based FiveCurrent and Filipino companies Video Sonic and Stage Craft International, Inc., the show will last for about 90 minutes overall.

The ceremony, which will the first indoor variant in the 60-year meet, will showcase Filipino culture and its various belief systems, namely: indigenous, Hispanic, folk, and contemporary street and pop culture.

The stage, which is made up of the stage with a 15x38m LED screen mimicking bamboo in the background.

There will be four major performance clusters highlighting the said belief systems.

Numerous talents from the Philippine entertainment industry have teamed up to make the opening a worthwhile experience for the viewers inside and on television.

Palanca awardee Floy Quintos teamed up with famed composer Ryan Cayabyab, and were mainly responsible for the acts, which will include some of the established and rising stars.

Joining them as creative directors is Libby Hyland of 5Currents Production. She has had previous experience with events similar in nature, including the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

"I've been around the world with a lot of different ceremonies and I think, you know, I can honestly say this is the highlight of my career. You have such a deep and rich and beautiful culture," Hyland told reporters Thursday afternoon.

Headlining the Filipino participants for the event are Lani Misalucha, Christian Bautista, Aicelle Santos, Jed Madela, Elmo Magalona, KZ Tandingan, Iñigo Pascual, the TNT Boys, Ana Fegi, Robert Seña, and apl.de.ap, among others.

It will be a blast from the past as well as the singers will be belting out past hits by Francis Magalona, Hotdog, and the theme song "We Win As One," composed by Cayabyab himself.

Furthermore, they will be aided by hundreds of members of folk dance company Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, comprised of college students scattered across Metro Manila, where they will perform various dance numbers reflecting the themes of several ethnic groups in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Eleven Filipina beauty titlists, headed by Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and Miss World 2013 Megan Young, will escort the 11 participating countries, much like the traditional Santa Cruzan, complete with ornate bamboo arches.

As previously announced, Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz (weightlifting), world champions Nesthy Petecio and Eumir Marcial (boxing), EJ Obiena (pole vault), Margie Didal (skateboarding), and Kiyomi Watanabe (judo) will likewise be the flagbearers.

The performers will also be wearing elaborate costumes reflecting their cultural assignments, designed by Eric Pineda. The costumes of the beauty queens, meanwhile, are made of indigenous materals found from different parts of the archipelago.

"We have a tendency to think of a sports activity as purely about sports. But what we really like to show here is that you'll see glad you let us know, you know, it really permeates into far more than just sports. It's in our DNA," explained Quintos, also the show's creative director.

Gates will open at 3:30 p.m., before a lockdown will take place at 5 p.m. to accommodate the arrival of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Visitors are also urged to bring things on the minimum or place it in a clear bag to avoid untoward incidents.

Regarding the lighting of the controversial cauldron at New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, the organizers remained mum on how will they integrate the lighting 90 kilometers away with the ceremonies.

"Sen. Manny Pacquiao will light up the cauldron, but there will be another surprise. As Libby [Hyland], said, you have to watch the show to know what the surprise is," said PHISGOC Director for Ceremonies and Cultural Events Mike Aguilar.