After “7.2” and Yolanda, Milo inspires

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I’m typing this while facing one of the most picturesque views that our eyes can survey in Cebu. I’m seated on the balcony of Alta Vista Golf and Country Club gazing at southern Cebu. From this porch, a slice of green earth glistens right below; it’s the elegant Alta Vista golf course. But I’m not here to swing golf putts. Instead, we’re here to observe smashes and volleys. It’s tennis and the 2013 Milo Little Olympics National Finals.

My daughter Jana and her Bright Academy team are representing Team Visayas. Like they did last year in Marikina, we hope they’ll score gold at home. These Milo games energize the youth. They’re contested nationwide. A total of 13  sports are being played with 1,600 athletes (from the 22,000 who competed regionally nationwide) here to compete.

Two nights ago, on a perfect Friday night that showcased clear skies, it was the Opening Ceremony.

Ricky Ballesteros, the indefatigable architect of the Sinulog, is the man spearheading Cebu’s hosting of Milo. Ricky promised a subdued, toned-down Opening. Nope. Instead, it was spectacular. Like it should be. With thousands who landed in Cebu to do sports battle for two days, it’s essential that they be welcomed with a rousing Opening. That’s what Milo and Ricky showed the audience.

On the football field of the Cebu City Sports Center, there sat a giant stage — just like the Sinulog. Three large-size LED screens formed the backdrop. We arrived at 5 p.m. A band of dancers performed upbeat songs. Moments later, two of the top VIPs that the crowd awaited descended: Mayor Mike Rama and Nestle CEO John Miller.

Let the festivities begin! Song numbers were rendered. Dance presentations were flaunted. The entire Abellana sports grounds were covered in one color. It’s the same color of the Boston Celtics: Green. It enveloped our sports complex.

Team Visayas, struck by twin mega-calamaties the past two months, wore the appropriate shirt with these designs: On the front were the words “Signal 4” (typhoon) and on the back was “7.2 Magnitude” (earthquake). It was a reminder both to these shocking events and to the resilience of sports that, despite the distress, the battle on the sports arena will live on.

Mayor Rama not only joined the activity, he literally joined — walking with the Visayan contingent as it made its way from the oval bend to the front stage. The sportsminded mayor, like he often does, greeted the visitors with his “Maayong Gabii” version spoken in multiple dialects. He then talked about the importance of sports, especially during these times of adversity.

Chosen to do the Oath of Sportsmanship was last year’s Most Outstanding Athlete in Tennis: my 15-year-old daughter Jana. After that, Dr. Vivian Ginete, one of the chieftains of DepEd in Region 7, inspired the audience with her speech.

Then, the most thrilling portion happened: after Mario Ceniza, Glen Ramos and Alex Ballesteros dribbled the football to “get the ball rolling,” it was the lighting of the torch — culminating when a footballer lit an “arrow” that zoomed fast and lighted the urn. It was dazzling; our version of the Barcelona Olympics.

Danielle May Ozaraga sang “Power of the Dream.” She emerged from the back of the stage and was slowly lifted by a mechanized small stage. While singing with her beautiful voice, images of the athletes were exhibited in the back. Breathtaking. Goose-bumps inducing. A production that only the likes of Junjet Primor and his gang can concoct. It makes you feel proud to be Cebuano.

But, just moments prior to The End, a silent minute was observed. Fittingly so, Ricky and the Milo organizers showed a montage of photos of the destruction of “7.2 and Yolanda.” Lights were dimmed. Only the three LED screens were illuminated. John Lennon’s song “Imagine” blared on the loudspeakers. Reminiscing on that moment now, I get goosebumps. It was painful yet inspiring.

Then, after a moment’s silence, the finale: Since next year will be Milo’s 50th year in the Phils., songs from the 1960s to the present were rendered.

Through sports, Milo uplifts.

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