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2014 Palarong Pambansa kicks off

The 2014 “Palarong Pambansa” or National Games formally kicked off today, May 5 with Department of Education (DepEd) officials leading the biggest annual sporting event for youth from various parts of the county.

The opening ceremony, held at the Laguna Sports Complex in Sta. Cruz, welcomed at least 11,200 student-athletes and 1,200 technical officials from 80 provinces in the country’s 17 regions. Laguna Governor Jorge “ER” Ejercito Estregan along with Education Secretary Armin Luistro and other DepEd officials led the opening ceremonies. Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Joel Villanueva and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada served as keynote speakers for the formal kick off of this year’s Palaro.

Palarong Pambansa, Manila Bulletin

Brothers Jeric and Jeron Teng and Sochi Olympic Skater Michael Martinez led the torch relay during opening ceremonies of the 2014 Palarong Pambansa. Photo by Tony Pionilla

Scheduled from May 4 to 10, the 2014 Palaro is the 57th staging of the National Games and will feature athletes from 17 regions competing in 20 different events. Swimmer Enchong Dee, Olympian figure skater Michael Martinez, and basketball players Jeron at Jeric Teng joined the opening ceremonies and relays. Saranggani Congressman Manny Pacquiao, who is expected to lead the torch relay, was not able to attend the opening ceremony.

This is the first time that the province of Laguna hosted the Palaro. Among the highlights of the opening rites is the unveiling of a 26-foot-tall monument of National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal depicted as an eskrima swordsman or “eskrimador” at the sports complex. Estregan said that this “statue will be the tallest Rizal monument and the first depicting Rizal as a sportsman.”

The event was made special by the participation of those who were affected by super typhoon Yolanda.

“We have survived. Thank you for your help,” said the banners carried by student-athletes, along with their respective coaches and other school officials during the opening parade of the 2014 Palarong Pambansa.

Despite the devastation caused by the “Yolanda” last November, Region 8 was able to send a full delegation for this year’s Palaro.

Earlier, Luistro reminded 2014 delegates and officials to adhere to “clean, green, and eco-friendly” tradition of the Palaro. He directed all Palaro officials, athletes and school administrators to promote environmentally-sound practices which optimize the utilization of resources while protecting the environment during the week-long Palaro. “Every staging of the Palaro should be an occasion to bring out the spirit of cooperation, discipline and a deep sense of responsibility to oneself and to the environment,” he said.

Luistro also reminded organizers of the Palaro to “be sensitive to cultural and religious needs of the participants.” Palaro officials, he added, “should pay more attention to the needs” of the participants during the National Games. Among the details discussed during the previous meetings he led include the logistical requirements for regional delegates such as food and billeting quarters. “I am reminding everyone to be sensitive to cultural and religious needs as this is a national event,” he said.

Coaches and chaperones were also urged to strictly adhere to DepEd’s Child Protection Policy. “From the time they leave your province, through Palaro, and until they return they are under our care – make sure that an adult is always present to supervise them,” Luistro said. “Any decision regional officials make must take into consideration the welfare of the students, especially the younger ones,” he added.

The Palarong Pambansa is an annual event showcasing and promoting sportsmanship of Filipino learners. In May 2013, President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act No. 10588 or Palarong Pambansa Law institutionalizing the said event. DepEd said that “this year’s Palaro is the first Palarong Pambansa” under RA 10588.