PHILIPPINE Olympic Committee president Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco sees the 2013 Southeast Asian Games as an opportunity to show the Filipinos’ ability to rise from adversity and uplift the spirits of the nation in the wake of calamities.
Speaking before Team Philippines during the send-off party on Wednesday night, Cojuangco challenged the athletes to put up a respectable showing to serve as an inspiration for the Filipino people in the wake of an earthquake and super typhoon that hit the country.
“Let’s show what kind of people the Filipinos are. Doble ngayon ang pinaglalaban natin, ang sarili natin at mga kababayan natin na naghihirap sa Visayas,” said Cojuangco in his speech during the send-off held at his residence in Dasmarinas Village, Makati City.
"The whole world is looking at Filipinos because of the calamity in the Visayas region … We now have a chance to do something about it, to uplift their spirits and show the world that we Filipinos, when we get into something, despite of all the handicaps and problems, we are still one and all for the Philippines."
At least half of the 210 athletes that will compete in the SEA Games attended the send-off party that began with a Mass and ended with a dinner and program to motivate the athletes in their quest for a gold medal.
Aside from Cojuangco, also in attendance were Philippine Sports Commission chairman Ritchie Garcia, chief of mission Jeff Tamayo, and several sports officials.
A lean team will be going to Myanmar after several events were scrapped by the organizers, a perceived move to dislodge the Philippines from sixth place - its position in 2011 when the country won 36 gold medals.
Although Philippine sports officials had protested the organizers’ move by sending a lean team, Cojuangco said he still expects the athletes to fight it out and bring honor to the country.
“Sa Myanmar, labing-anim agad ang tinaggal. Ibig sabihin, maski kailan pa, takot sila sa Pilipinas. Ang Pilipino, maski papaano, lumalaban,” said Cojuangco.
The POC chief declined to give his projection for the SEA Games. “Hinihingi ko lang na makita natin kung anong klaseng Pilipino tayo. When we compete, we compete with a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and determination. ‘Yung medalya, darating din ‘yun,” he said.