NAY PYI TAW – The Philippines formally closed its campaign in the 27th Southeast Asian Games at seventh place, its worst finish since it started competing in 1977.
With only 29 gold, 34 silver and 37 bronze medals to show, the Philippines bowed to powerhouse Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and even Myanmar at the conclusion of the 11-day tourney Sunday in this sprawling Burmese capital.
Prior to this, the Filipinos' most humbling finish was sixth – first in 2007 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand and second in 2011 in Palembang, Indonesia. However, it fared well in the gold-medal department, winning 41 and 36 gold medals in the 2007 and 2011 editions, respectively.
The last time the Philippines logged less than 30 gold medals was in the 1999 Brunei Games where it won only 20 out of the 490 gold medals in 21 sports to finish at fifth spot.
It also won only 24 gold medals in the 1979 Jakarta SEA Games to end at fourth place.
The Philippines won the title in its last hosting in 2005, scooping 113 gold, 84 silver and 94 bronze medals. It also finished second in 1991 in Manila and 1983 in Singapore.
Actually, the Philippines started on the wrong foot in this year's biennial meet.
Months before the tournament, organizers scratched Olympic sports like gymnastics, lawn tennis, and bowling, replacing them with indegenous games like vovinam, kempo, and chinlone.
And when the competition formally took off, the Burmese claimed gold medals in all fronts, especially in subjective sports like boxing, muay, taekwondo, judo, and wushu.
In fact, the Philippines easily lost six gold medals to the Burmese in subjective sports and another one in swimming after Jasmine Alkhaldi's victory was nullified by Singaporean technical officials, setting the tone for a disastrous campaign.
Then, everything went downhill for the Filipino athletes, and coming up with their worst finish ever seemed inevitable.