Philippine spirits buoyed by Tabal golden breakthrough as SEA Games begins in earnest
The Philippine delegation during the traditional marchpast of competing nations. Jerome Ascano

KUALA LUMPUR - The 29th Southeast Asian Games formally opened on Saturday night with the Philippine delegation's spirits buoyed by a gold medal from marathoner Mary Joy Tabal earlier in the day.

Members of the Philippine contingent joined the rest of the nations in the grand rites at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium wearing simple jerseys and big smiles on their faces after Mary Joy Tabal's breakthrough victory in the women's marathon.

"One down, 49 to go," said sports officials on Saturday, referring to medal predictions of 50 made by chef de mission Cynthia Carrion prior to the Games.

[See Marathon queen Tabal savors redemption after controversy-filled SEAG buildup]

Tabal, who became the first Filipina marathoner to win the SEA Games gold medal, later joined the rest of the contingent in the rites adorned by dance and song numbers elaborately prepared by the hosts.

Malaysia also paid tribute to its sports history by honoring its top athletes.

The competition begins in earnest on Sunday with entries in archery, rugby, and wushu aiming to add to the gold medal coffers of the Philippines.

The Gilas Pilipinas men's basketball team and Perlas Pilipinas women's basketball squad open their respective campaigns while boxing begins its quest for gold with three matches on tap.

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