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MANILA — At least in some aspects, the opening ceremonies of the Southeast Asian Games lived up to the hype of being comparable to the Super Bowl halftime show.

In a special production on Saturday night, a good dose of cultural and nostalgic feels entertained a good-sized crowd at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Following the singing of the national anthem by Asia’s Nightingale Lani Misalucha, a cultural dance number opened the festivities.

Afterward, in a Santacruzan-like manner, in which beauty queens like Karen Ibasco, Jaime Herrell, Angelia Ong, Megan Young, and Pia Wurtzbach led the way, the athletes representing all the 11 national teams in this year’s SEA Games made their entry to the Philippine Arena stage.

However, when the Philippine delegation entered the fray, the song “Manila” by Hotdog suddenly played on the background, and even President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa could not help but dance as well.

Robert Seña serenaded the crowd with “Kay Ganda ng Pilipinas”, a tweak on Hajji Alejandro’s “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika”.

After Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee chairman Alan Cayetano and Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham ‘Bambol’ Tolentino gave their speeches, Duterte, who sat beside Brunei monarch King Hassanal Bolkiah, declared the games open.

“I declare to open the Southeast Games for the 30th time, celebrating the Games of Southeast Asia. Mabuhay kayong lahat!” the President officially declared to the delight of the crowd.

Philippine sports legends, former sprinter Lydia De Vega-Mercado, swimmers Akiko Thompson-Guevarra and Eric Buhain, former basketball star Alvin Patimonio, bowlers Bong Coo and Paeng Nepomuceno, billiards star Efren Bata Reyes, and Olympic boxing silver medalist Onyok Velasco carried the official SEA Games flag to the stage.

Blu Girl Francesca Altamonte then led the oath of sportsmanship for athletes, while esports official Darren Vitug did the oath for the officials.

Aicelle Santos and Christian Bautista later came in with their rendition of Ruben Tagalog’s “Minamahal Kita”.

Afterward, Iñigo Pascual and Elmo Magalona paid tribute to Original Pinoy Music rap legend Francis Magalona with their own take on his songs “Mga Kababayan” and “Man from Manila”.

Elmo Magalona even performed like his father as the younger Magalona entered the stage with a costume similar to what the older Magalona wore when he performs “Mga Kababayan”.

KZ Tandingan performed “Tayo’y Mga Pinoy”, while rap music star Apl De Ap performed his timeless hit “Bebot”.

Bautista, Seña, Pascual, Magalona, Tandingan, Santos, Misalucha, and Apl De Ap returned to the stage alongside Anna Fegi, Jed Madela, and the TNT Boys in the finale of the program, a rendition of the official theme song of the SEA Games “We Win As One”.

Meanwhile, in a literal and figurative passing of the torch, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao joined hands with women’s champ Nesthy Petecio in lighting the cauldron at the New Clark City Athletic Stadium in Capas to formalize the start of the games.

Around 8,750 athletes from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Vietnam will compete in 530 events from record 56 sports during the biggest 10-day sports completion in Southeast Asia region. (PNA)

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