“Isang bansa, isang laro. Lahat ay magaling, lahat ay may bahagi na ipagtataya para sa isa’t isa (One country, one game. You are all excellent, and you contribute to each other’s success).”
This was Marikina City Mayor Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro’s message to the athletes during the opening ceremony of the 63rd “Palarong Pambansa” or National Games 2023 on Monday, July 31, at the Marikina Sports Center (MSC).
It was the Palarong Pambansa’s formal reopening after it was stalled for three years by the Covid-19 pandemic, with Teodoro describing it as a “meaningful, important, and historic” event.
Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro (Screenshot Marikina PIO / MANILA BULLETIN)
“Sa kabila ng malakas na pag-ulan nitong mga nakaraang araw, tulad ng mga pagsubok sa ating bansa, tayo ay narito parin na may pag-asa, may kalakasan para sa isang maunlad at matatag na bansa (Despite the strong rains these past few days, like the struggle that our country faces, we are still here full of hope and strength for the progress and stability of our country),” he said.
The mayor stressed the essence of strength, cooperation, unity, and solidarity between the athletes, regardless of their differences as varied members of 17 regions in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
(Screenshot Marikina PIO / MANILA BULLETIN)
“Maglalaro’t magkakasama hindi para makipagpaligsahan sa isa’t isa. Hindi para tukuyin kung sino ang mas magaling o sino ang may higit na kakayahan. Kasama rito ang lahat para magkasama para makabuo, magkaisa. Ito ay pagkakataon na maglaro nang sama-sama (We will play together, not to compete with each other, nor determine who is better or more skilled. We are all included in this program as it creates an opportunity for all athletes to join and share their love of sports),” Teodoro said.
“Sa pagpapalakas at pagpapatayag ng bansa, nais natin ang isang national sports program na sustainable at para sa kabataang Pilipino. Kaya ninanais ng Pambansang Palaro na ito ang Batang malakas sa kaisipan at katawan, at para sa bansa na matatag (To strengthen our country, we call for a national sports program that is sustainable and for all young Filipinos. That is why this Palarong Pambansa aims for the youth to be strong in mind and body, and for a firm country),” he added.
Around 7,200 athletes, coaches, assistant coaches, and trainers are participating in the games this year, according to Francis Cesar Bringas, assistant secretary for operations of the Department of Education (DepEd). Including the members of the committees of each delegation, the number of overall Palaro players, guests, and personnel is around 11,000 to 12,000.
The MSC, which has an overall capacity of around 30,000, was packed with supporters, sports personnel, committee members, delegation staff, and Marikina residents since the local government opened the program to the public for free.
Serving as guest of honor in the ceremony was President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who was introduced by Vice President Sara Duterte, who also serves as the secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd).
(Photo taken by Khriscielle Yalao / MANILA BULLETIN)
Among the Metro Manila mayors who graced the ceremony were Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora, Malabon City Mayor Jeannie Sandoval, and Pasay City Mayor Emi-Calixto Rubiano.
Other officials from the Philippine Sports Commission, other national governments, along with different provinces and regions also came to Marikina to support their teams and join in the celebrations.
(Noel Pabalate / MANILA BULLETIN)
Prior to the program proper, a parade of athletes was held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Delegations from the country’s 17 regions marched from the Marikina River Park to the MSC, braving the rains and inclement weather.
Each delegation wore color-coordinated raincoats and umbrellas as they walked the streets. Some groups utilized the umbrellas in their choreography until they reached the MSC oval. The parade included marching bans, live bands, colorful performances of regional dances and festivals, along with marching groups from local scouts and police.
(Noel Pabalate / MANILA BULLETIN)
Marikeños eagerly spectated the parade on the streets and nearby establishments to support and cheer on the athletes.
In a post-program press conference, Assistant Secretary Bringas congratulated the city government of Marikina for the success of the Palaro’s opening.
“Despite the rain, we were able to get through this. The Marikina City and the DepEd has delivered its promise for a beautiful opening program today,” she said.
In case it rained, Bringas explained that “plan B” involved prepositioning the athletes under the Eastern grandstand of the MSC when they entered the sports center after the parade. This was done when the downpour was particularly heavy from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. When the skies cleared and the rain stopped, the athletes were directed to line up at the center field of the oval track for the program proper, in time for the arrival of President Marcos.
Noting that the athletes were exposed to rain for hours during the parade, even though majority of the players wore protective gear, Bringas said their treatment is well-covered by the city.
“In the delegation billeting schools, the city has stationed a medical team there, and even the delegations themselves brought their own medical teams. If there are going to be hospitalizations, the city has covered hospitalization fees in the 10 public and private hospitals in the city of Marikina,” she said.
The program concluded with a fireworks showcase at the MSC.