Pencak bet strikes gold team Philippine roars before today’s opening rites

HANOI, May 12 ------ Mary Francine Padios of pencak silat broke the ice for Team Philippines in the 31st Southeast Asian Games yesterday, winning the gold medal in this vibrant Vietnamese capital while her father lay in a coma back home. The 18-year-old Padios struck before noon when her fellow athletes fished for medals in different venues, and tried to give the Filipinos the needed push in their bid to retain the overall crown in this 11-nation meet.

The formal opening ceremony takes place tonight at the 40,000-seat My Dinh National Stadium, which was built in 2003 as Vietnam first hosted this biennial event and emerged overall champion. And as the 215-strong Philippine delegation, which flew in under cover of darkness just past midnight of Tuesday, tried to settle in, Padios, with a heavy heart, delivered the news of the day.

She said it was for her father. “Sobrang halaga po nito para sa akin. Marami pong nakasalalay dito dahil sa sitwasyon ng father ko,” said Padios, whose father, Jerome, remained in critical condition from a vehicular accident last December. “Bago po mag-Christmas nangyari kaya mabigat sa akin. Pero yun po ang nagdadala sa akin. Hindi ko po siya makausap dahil comatose siya. Nasa Iloilo Medical City siya ngayon,” said Padios. “Pero nakausap ko ang mother ko. Masaya siya. Nung silver pa lang ako, umiiyak na daw siya,” added the pencak athlete, who stands to receive P300,000 from the government for her golden feat. Padios said the money will be spent for her father’s needs.

Malacañang congratulated Padios for her feat. “The Palace congratulates Mary Francine Padios for bringing pride and glory to the country by winning the first gold medal for the Philippines in Vietnam,” said presidential spokesman Martin Andanar in a statement.

Princess Jacel Kirm, Philippine Pencak Silat Association president, said she knew Padios, a silver medalist in the 2019 Manila edition of the SEA Games, would strike gold this time. “Kasi sobra ang dedication and motivation ng batang ito,” she said of Padios, who won the country’s first gold with a score of 9.960, better than the 9.945 of Arum Sari of Indonesia, the 2019 gold medalist.

Elsewhere, Filipino athletes bagged three silver and four bronze medals and, with Padios gold, stood in fourth place as of 4 p.m. yesterday behind Vietnam (7-5-7), Malaysia (6-1-5) and Indonesia (3-4-0). Singapore was in fifth (1-3-3) and mighty Thailand lurking (1-2-5). The Filipinos are hard-pressed to match or even come close to their historic haul of 149 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze medals on home soil in 2019, just months before the start of the pandemic, which pushed Vietnam’s hosting from its original date of Nov. 21 to Dec. 2, 2021.

Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting, two-time world champion Caloy Yulo of gymnastics, Olympic medalists Nethy Petecio and Eumir Marcial of boxing, the star-studded Gilas basketball team, the eye-catching women’s volleyball squad as well as teen tennis sensation Alex Eala will spearhead the Philippine campaign.

Tokyo Olympics rower Cris Nievarez and partner CJ Jasmin bagged the silver in the men’s lightweight double sculls while Helen Aclopan added another silver in kurash (women’s 48kg). The other silver for Team Philippines came in beach handball following a 14-12, 18-12 (8-10) defeat at the hands of the host team.

Those snaring bronze medals were Jefferson Loon, James Mayagma and Rick Ortega in pencak’s men’s seni regu; Joanie Delgaco, Amelyn Pagulayan, Josephine Qua and Kristine Paraon in rowing’s women’s quadruple sculls; George Baclagon in kurash (men’s 90kg); and Charlie Cuelino, also in kurash, a traditional martial art.

As the day passed, kurash won a couple more silvers courtesy of Sydney Sy in women’s +87kg and Charmea Quelino in women’s 52kg, and another bronze through Al Llamas in men’s -60kg, raising the squad’s production to 0-3-3. In 2019, kurash had a 1-2-5 haul.