BOCAUE, Bulacan - Let the Games begin.
The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Committee (PHISGOC) delivered on its promise to stage a Southeast Asian Games opening ceremonies to remember on Saturday.
Some of the country's brightest stars converged in the curtain-raiser that featured performances celebrating Filipino roots and culture to the delight of an electric crowd at the Philippine Arena here.
Black Eyed Peas' Apl.de.ap, who has Filipino roots and was born in Pampanga, headlined the pool of artists who gave the fans their money's worth as he performed one of the band's hit songs, "Bebot," which is about Filipino pride.
Apl.de.ap joined the Philippines' bests - such as Lani Misalucha, Anna Fegi, Jed Madela, Christian Bautista, and KZ Tandjngan - in singing this year's theme song, "We Win As One" to cap off the event.
Other artists who serenaded the crowd were Inigo Pascual, Elmo Magalona, and the TNT Boys.
As the aforementioned artists sang with passion, Senator Manny Pacquiao and world champion female boxer Neshty Petecio lighting the controversial cauldron over at the New Clark City was shown on the LED screen inside the arena in a pre-taped segment. According to PHISGOC, Pacquiao was unavailable to perform the ceremony live as he had to fly home to Gen. Santos City to attend to pressing matters.
Saturday's festivities made up for the logistical issues, controversial P55-million cauldron, among others, that marred the early days of the conclave among the best athletes from the 11 participating nations.
The month of May is over 180 days away but the visitors enjoyed the "Santacruzan" feel with the country's beauty queens leading the way in the parade of athletes.
During the parade, spectators showed signature Filipino hospitality as they welcomed the delegates with cheers and warm applause as they marched towards their respective seats.
The home crowd saved their loudest cheers for the Philippine contingent accompanied by 2016 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, giving the Filipino athletes a standing ovation.
As the Philippine delegation entered, fans sang and danced to the tune of Hotdog's hit "Manila" with President Rodrigo Duterte seemingly enjoying the show from his seat in the VIP section. In a symbolic event in between performances, Philippine sports legends Lydia de Vega-Mercado, Akiko Thomson-Guevarra, Eric Buhain, Alvin Patrimonio, Bong Coo, Efren "Bata" Reyes, Onyok Velasco and Paeng Nepumoceno carried the SEA Games federation flag.
Phisgoc chair and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who has taken all the heat for the mishaps in the days leading up to the opener, spoke briefly.
"We look at these young people and we see our own future. In them we see passion, sacrifice, discipline, teamwork, and respect: Everything we need to build a better world," Cayetano said.
"With the unwavering support of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, we are now putting in the best and biggest SEA Games in history," said Philippine Olympic Committee chair Abraham Tolentino.