When I started this series of articles on the Southeast Asian Games, the 30th edition of which the country is hosting late this year, in this column last Sunday, the intention was to, likewise, review the exploits of our athletes in this biennial conclave since out admission to the SEA Games Federation fold in 1977, like those of, would you believe, now Senate President Tito Sotto in bowling, Josie Guerrero in archery, Erlinda Lavandia in athletics, Rey Fortaleza in boxing, Jaime Sebastian in weightlifting and many others who won our first gold medals that year. I, however, have to abruptly conclude the series due to the Times’ policy a series that started in a column should end, too, in a column.
Besides, I was invited by our WBA welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao to cover his training and actual fight with Keith Thurman on July 20 in Las Vegas. So, para naman hindi mabitin kayong aming mambabasa, including our Dr. Dante Ang, The Times’ Chairman Emeritus, who asked me to do the SEA Games series by way of paying tribute to our heroes and heroines, to wait muna till Manny shall have won the fight when I will be resuming the SEA Games series. Sorry po.
In 1975, Thailand hosted anew the VIII Southeast Asian Peninsular Games. It was the third time that country held the what is now known as the Southeast Asian Games.
Only four countries took part in — Burma, Malaysia, Singapore and the host. Political problems prevented Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to send their delegations, casting doubts on their ability to participate in future meets.
In view of this, plus the prohibitive cost of staging the Games, Malaysia initiated a move to invite other countries within the Southeast Asian hemisphere to join the Games. To back up its proposal, Malaysia volunteered to host the Ninth Games two years later in 1977 provided Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines were invited to be members of the Federation.
On February 5, 1977, the three countries were officially accepted as member of the SEAGF. Present during the occasion were Ferry Sonnerville of Indonesia and Col. Nereo Andolong of the Philippines. Thus, the once every-two-year congregation was re-Christened the Southeast Asian Games.
It was agreed, too, that emblem of the Games and its sequential numbering would be retained for the purpose of perpetuating and recognizing the aims, aspirations and contributions of of the founding fathers of the Federation.
When the Malaysians staged the Ninth Games and the athletes celebrated the occasion a new dimension was added to the Games.
That if Thailand was responsible for the birth of the SEAP Games, then Malaysia must be credited for the formation and establishment of the SEA Games. And the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma were instrumental in assuring that the SEA Games are here to stay.
The Indonesians, for one, immediately flexed their erstwhile hidden muscles by cutting short the Thais’ previous six overall championship dominance of their neighbors, three of them in straight fashions from 1971 to 1975 to seize control in 1977.
The Thais, likewise, emerged the general champions , in 1959,1965 and 1967. They relinquished the overall title to the Burmese inn 1961 and 1969. There were no Games held in 1963, the year Cambodia was chosen as host but failed due disagreement with the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) that resulted in the cancellation of the Games.
As expected, the Games were held at the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur where the Indonesians first showed their athletic might, returning home with a superior gold medal winning 62 out of a total 190 disputed.
The Philippines and Burma, both new members, were at the bottom of the standings with the Filipinos managing only 14 gold medals, 21 silver and 28 bronze in seventh place and the Burmese only settling for a lone bronze medal with zero gold and silver in eighth and last place.
Indonesia continued its dominating show defending as overall champ in 1979 in their home grounds, 1981 in Manila and 1983 in Singapore.
The Philippines, meanwhile, climbed to fourth from seventh in 1979, third in 1981, and second, its highest in 1983, third in 1985 and 1987, fifth in 1989 before claiming second position anew in 1991 during the I6th Games in 1991, dubbed as the “Manila Miracle of ’91.
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