Palarong Pambansa

The Palarong Pambansa is our National Games. It’s that annual congregation of “the best of the best” in the elementary and high school divisions. Over 10,000 girls and boys representing 18 regions gather to compete in over 20 sports disciplines that range from archery to baseball to sepak takraw to taekwondo.

The Palaro started in 1948. Minus a few years when it was cancelled (in 1972, for example, during Martial Law), this year will be the 60th edition. It will be held three weeks from today (from April 23 to 29) in the Province of Antique.

I recall the two times that my daughter Jana Marie joined. She had to undergo a series of tennis contests to qualify: the unit meet, the district meet, the city meet, the provincial meet, the CVIRAA (regionals), until finally you join the nationals (Palaro). It’s rigorous. In her final year of elementary, we went to Dipolog City and, a few years later in high school, it was the 2014 Palaro hosted by Laguna.

The entire week is a sports carnival: You arise at 5 a.m., compete at 10, watch the 100-meter sprinters in the track oval; you play again at 3 p.m. then converge with thousands of others to mingle, buy souvenirs and eat local delicacies. It’s our Olympics — for elementary and high school athletes.

Why this talk of the Palaro? First, because this is a first for Antique. “We are so happy that after 60 years, Palarong Pambansa will be held in our province,” said Eric Otayde, representing Antique. “It is our chance to show the whole country the best things Antique could offer.”

Second reason: I was born in Iloilo and my wife’s mom, Malu Gayanilo Mendez, comes from Guimbal, a nearby 67 kms. from the main site in San Jose, and she speaks fluent Kinaray-a.

Now, as happy as I am that the venue is in Panay, I’m also anxious for the the municipality of San Jose, the capital of Antique. I’m concerned for San Jose not simply because they’re not as large as, say, Bacolod (the city which has hosted the most Palaro games at five times) or Tacloban (a three-time host), or because it’s Antique’s first — I’m troubled by their lack of preparation time to organize such a massive endeavor.

Given that the Palaro will invite over 10,000 athletes, plus thousands more of coaches, officials, and parents, do you know how much time they were given to prepare?

Five months only! They were told last November 18 and given only five short months to get ready for the nation’s largest sports meet. That’s incredible. More next week..

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