LAGUNA — “Welcome to the Great Province of Laguna!” declared Gov. Jeorge “E.R.” Ejercito Estregan.
“Laguna, the ‘Resort Captial,’ ‘Detroit,’ and ‘Silicon Valley’ of the Phils., the Land of Enchanting Wonders and Refreshing Waters and your host province for the biggest, grandest and most extravagant Palarong Pambansa in history!” said the Laguna governor in the Games’ official brochure.
“The National Athletic Meet… serves as a fulfillment of our aspirations of becoming the Sports Development Capital of the Phils,” he added. “Sports is not just a game; sports is a way of life. For seven months, we have painstakingly worked round-the-clock to prepare for the country’s most important sporting event. We have exerted our fullest effort in rehabilitating our 19-hectare Laguna Sports Complex, redeveloped at a cost of almost P1 billion.. we have constructed our very own Athletes Village, the first of its kind in the country.. we have also constructed the tallest Jose Rizal bronze monument on earth, standing at 26 feet symbolizing our national hero’s expertise in fencing which we built to inspire our sportsmen. We have established the first Laguna Sports Development Academy..”
CENTRAL VISAYAS. Our delegation stayed at the Unson National High School in Pagsanjan — about seven kms. from the sports complex. Although we did not stay in the school, we visited plenty of times. The school provided ample of classrooms for our CVIRAA athletes. At the center sat a covered gym that served as both dining and meeting area. Last Thursday night was fun. It was the Pasalamat Night and all athletes were required to climb the stage and dance. The best performers? The swimmers. While others simply wore their blue-and-yellow CVIRAA jackets, the swimmers were led by an athlete wearing only trunks and a cap and goggles who, standing at the front, led his delegation to swimming dance moves… backstroke dance strokes, breast-dance moves. The event was a welcome laugh-filled few hours for the battle-weary players.
DEPED. You’ve got to give a big hand to the DepEd teachers. It’s a major feat organizing these Games. Imagine an event bringing together 12,000 athletes — plus thousands more of officials, coaches, parents and spectators. Special kudos to all the officials who take care of the athletes. Arranging for the boat transfers, Yokohama Bus transport, food, daily 5 a.m. mass schedules at Unson, uniforms, P1,000 allowances per athlete, the safety of every delegation member, the recording of the results — all these take sleepless nights and all-day-long hard-working days. Well done, teachers!
RESULT. Our CV delegation could not match the outstanding results of the other regions. I’m not sure with the previous Palaro Games but this is what I heard: the host province decides on the points system. Here in Laguna, it’s the Olympic version. This means that one event equals one gold. A major sport like football receives only one Gold — just like the 10-second-quick 100-meter-dash. This is the Olympic scoring. Obviously, this favors regions that have powerhouse Athletics and Swimming competitors — not the strength of CV as we’re noted to be strong in ball games. (Other scoring formats, like the Milo National Little Olympics, allocate bigger points for sports like basketball, volleyball, etc.)
NIGHT. The 19-hectare Laguna Sports Complex — a site that would make Cebu envious — is not only well-designed because dozens of sporting events are housed under one venue, it’s also an entertainment and tourism showcase. Upon entering the venue lies a boulevard that’s lined, left and right, with all-things-Laguna. Every town and city is represented. Waterfalls are replicated. Giant shoes are displayed. Thousands of people are buying souvenirs, eating, taking photos, cheering. There’s a large stage with every-night concerts. Fireworks erupt almost nightly. It’s a festive sports arena.
FALLS. Our best non-sports trek? Yesterday, when we braved the rapids and swam underneath the Pagsanjan falls. This has to rank as one of the country’s best excursions.