ANGELES CITY - A near sweep of all events in the padded stick competition highlighted a flattering day two for the Philippine arnis contingent in the 30th Southeast Asian Games Monday here in Pampanga.
The Philippines was able to capture seven golds and a silver, with the women's team clearing all four divisions to improve from an opening day performance that saw them cop one gold and two bronzes.
Sheena del Monte kickstarted that impressive run by punishing Vietnam's Thi Huong Nguyen in the women's bantamweight division (50 kg) final before Jedah Mae Soriano followed it up with a dominating performance of her own in the featherweight (50-55 kg) final against Myanmar's Maw Maw Oo.
"We're really happy because we were able to score a grand slam in this event," del Monte said in Filipino. "We really trained hard for this."
In the lightweight (55-60 kg) final, Ross Monville took care of business against Myanmar's Moe Moe Aye to set the stage for a strong finish by Abegail Abad, who dispatched Vietnam's Thi Cuc Nguyen in the welterweight (60 kg and above) championship.
"It's still shocking. It hasn't really sank in yet since it's all overwhelming," Abad described. "It's really great the national anthem play for us after a win. It feels fantastic."
Before their sweep, Jesfer Huquire delivered the first gold of the day after besting Vietnam's Cong Quoc Van in a tight three-round affair in the men's bantamweight division (55 kg and below). Elmer Manlapas also cruised past his Vietnamese opponent, Duc Tri Nguyen, in the men's featherweight (55-60 kg) title match.
"This is really an unforgettable experience. I hope the youth also aspire, work hard, and stay eager to stay on track of their goals, whatever their standing in life may be," Manlapas said in Filipino.
In the lightweight division (60-65 kg) final, Billy Valenzuela snagged the country's lone silver of the day after falling short against Camboadia's Mengly Long.
"As an athlete, I give full respect to the judges' decision. What's done is done. It's still a silver. Moving forward, we'll keep going for the future of the Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation," said Valenzuela. "And what I want to do is to train hard, play smart and enjoy life."
Vietnam found itself pitted against the Philippines once more in the welterweight division (65 kg and above), but Carloyd Tejada did just enough to stave off an upset bid from Thanh Tung Vong by bucking a slow start, dominating the second round and overhauling a third round deficit for a comeback win and the gold.
"The pressure in South Korea, where I last played, was huge, but it's more difficult playing in front of a home crowd," Tejada remarked. "I just took this as a challenge to keep going."
The Philippines now has 12 golds, two silvers and two bronzes for show in the sport, which is making a return after a 14-year hiatus.
"We did very, very well. I'm so proud of these guys and girls. They made our sports so popular and such a unifying force," said arnis federation chairman Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Four more medals could be earned on December 3, where competitors in the traditional and non-traditional categories of the open weapon event will try to make a great impression on the final day.