THE last 11 days will go down among the most memorable in the annals of Philippine sports - 149 gold medals spread over 44 sports - and 387 medals overall - add up to the Filipinos' first overall championship since 2005 and their biggest gold harvest since the competition start in 1977.
Along the way, there were great moments that made this special occasion an iconic one. As the 2019 Games come to a close, let's relive those unforgettable golden moments.
'Rambo' opens the floodgates in Day One
The first day of competitions set the tone for the epic finish as the athletes hit the ground running, winning 22 golds in Day One. The Philippine campaign began with a gold from triathlon’s John Chicano and the floodgates soon opened. Dancesports produced 10 gold medals, arnis captured five out of its 14, and Agatha Wong won one of her two to highlight a torrid start that got Team Philippines on the road to history.
Yulo lives up to the billing
Coming off a stint in the world championship where he won gold in the floor exercise, Yulo attracted interest from local fans who packed the newly-refurbished Rizal Memorial Coliseum just to see him compete. He didn’t disappoint.
Competing in the venue a stone's throw away from his home in Leveriza Street in Manila, Yulo collected a gold medal riht in the first day in the individual all-around, and won another one in his pet floor exercise. Yulo also came up with silvers in the other events in men’s artistic gymnastics to emerge as the most bemedalled Filipino athlete in the SEA Games.
Pinoy boxers in seventh heaven
The Philippine boxing team finally came to life by winning seven gold medals in the SEA Games. Eumir Marcial led the charge with a knockout win over Nguyen Manh Cuong of Vietnam in just 71 seconds. Also winning gold medals were Carlo Paalam, Rogen Ladon, Charly Suarez, and James Palicte, and women boxers world champion Nesthy Petecio and Asian champion Josie Gabuco, completing the impressive showing of Team Philippines in the ring.
Men’s volleyball team hits new heights
The Philippine men’s volleyball team targeted a podium finish in the biennial meet, but not a lot of people believed it could happen.
Inspired by the double-barreled threat of Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas got all the way to the gold-medal match after a sensational win over 2017 champion Thailand, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15, before a raucous crowd at the Philsports Arena. The Philippines lost in straight sets to Indonesia, 25-21, 27-25, 25-17 in the final, but the silver glittered like gold for the Pinoy spikers after reaching the finals for the first time in 42 years.
PH remains four-midable in basketball
The Philippines won all four basketball gold medals, two from an all-PBA team that bannered not just the regular basketball event but also in 3x3 in its SEA Games debut. Coached by 21-time PBA champion Tim Cone, Gilas Pilipinas dominated the opposition and the gold-medal match was no exception as it beat Thailand, 115-81, while its 3x3 counterparts of CJ Perez, Mo Tautuaa, Chris Newsome, and Jason Perkins also came away with the gold.
But most of the headlines in basketball came from the women’s side after it swept the two events in the sport. Afril Bernardino, Jack Animam, Janine Pontejos, and Clare Castro ruled the 3x3 event before leading the 5-on-5 team to the gold.
Hidilyn Diaz's uplifting experience
Hidilyn Diaz has delivered a silver medal in the 2016 Olympics, and a gold in the 2018 Asian Games, but she has never won gold in SEA Games, until this year when she copped the mint in the women’s 55 kilogram category.
Diaz lifted a total of 211 kilograms after going 91 in the snatch and 120 in the clean and jerk to wrest the gold in front of home fans. She sparked the Philippine weightlifting team’s output of two gold, three silver, and two bronze medals, with the other gold coming from Kristel Macrohon.
Heroic deed for surfer
A Filipino surfer made the headlines but outside the realms of competition. Roger Casugay rescued a competitor while in the middle of one of his heats in San Juan, La Union, even it meant giving up a big lead and an almost certain win. A photo of the rescue that saw Casugay with Indonesian surfer Arip Nurhidayat later on went viral and drew praise from no less than Indonesia President Joko Widodo.The La Union native won the gold in the same event two days later.
This one’s for you, dad
Jamie Lim added to karate’s coffers when she won the kumite -61kg division, joining Junna Tsukii. The win capped a memorable year for Lim, who graduated summa cum laude in her Mathematics course at University of the Philippines. The SEA Games champion offered her gold medal to dad Samboy Lim, the former PBA star who suffered a cardiac arrest in 2014 that left him paralyzed.
Dry spell ends for Philippine swimming
The Philippines ended a SEA Games gold medal drought in swimming when James Deiparine won the men’s 100-meter breaststroke in one minute, 1.46 seconds. The gold ended a 10-year wait for the Philippines, which last won in swimming gold in 2009 when it captured four golds from Miguel Molina, Daniel Coakley, and Ryan Arabejo.
Athletics savors resurgence
Entering the SEA Games, Philippine athletics officials were expecting six gold medals from the squad. But the team performed even better than and came away with 11. A few records were broken with Olympic pole vaulter EJ Obiena, female pole vaulter Natalie Uy, and 200-meter runner Kristina Knott notching new Games records. Eric Cray, Clinton Bautista, Melvin Calano, Aries Toledo, Christine Hallasgo, Sarah Dequinan, and the 4x100-meter mixed relay also grabbed gold medals.