By: Malaya

NAY PYI TAW. – Doing their part for their countrymen affected by the recent tragedies back home.

That will be the additional motivation firing up Filipino athletes in the 27th Southeast Asian Games formally kicking off on Wednesday at the Wunna Theikdi Stadium here.

“We won’t go here without that in mind,” said chef de mission Col. Jeff Tamayo Sunday, referring to the recent disasters, both natural and man-made, that recently struck different parts of the country.

“’Yung mga naapektuhan ng mga nangyari sa Zamboanga, followed by the earthquake and Yolanda in the Visayas, they need something to cheer them up and we would like to do our part toward that end,” added the soft tennis association president.

“We would like that, help raise their spirits even if for only some brief moments, and at the same time do our share in these competitions as Filipinos and as part of the Southeast Asian family.”

Local athletes will have plenty of chances in the latest edition of the biennial meet that runs up to Dec. 22 and spread out in Myanmar’s other main cities of Mandalay, Yangon and Ngwesaung Beach.

Filipinos bets are entered in 26 of the 35 disciplines being disputed here with a 210-athlete strong delegation. Despite the absence of some traditional medal-rich sports like fencing, softball and dancesports, delegation officials are confident the country’s flag-bearers will still do comparatively good.

With a delegation of 512 athletes the Philippines won 36 gold, 56 silver and 77 bronze medals two years ago in Indonesia and wound up sixth overall.

Tamayo said a 30-gold target has been set, but whether that could be reached or surpassed is another matter.

“Our athletes are here because they passed the criteria, their current performance compared to the previous SEA Games, their performances in 2012 and 2013 or individual ones compared to the previous SEA Games,” Tamayo pointed out. “Whether they live up to our expectations is up to them.”

“If each of our NSAs win one gold, then we will already have 26 gold medals,” said Philippine Olympic Committee treasurer and wushu federation chief Julian Camacho. “Kung mayroong more than one ang ipapanalo, we could go over 30. Then let’s see where those may take us.”

Filipino hopes for gold are pinned most on such sports as boxing, billiards and snooker, wrestling, wushu, judo, karatedo, chess and athletics.

Although the men’s duilian team of Daniel Parantac and John Keithley Chan in the taolu could only bag the silver after losing by a mere .02 point to the host team, Jessie Aligaga, Dembert Arcita, Francisco Solis, Divine Wally and Evita Elise Zamorain advanced in the sanda class.

Boxing also fanned expectations with four women assuring themselves of a bronze each, with Nesthy Petecio perhaps taking it a step farther when she takes on a Thai opponent in the 57kg division semifinals Monday. Also in the semis are Josie Gabuco (48kg), Mariccris Igam (51kg) and Irish Magno (54kg).

Dennis Galvan also aims to advance later Sunday in the 64kg class. Should he prevail, he joins teammates Junel Cantancio (60kg) and Mark Anthony Barriga (49kg) in the next round. Drawing opening day byes were Rey Saludar (52kg), Mario Fernandez (56kg) and Wilfredo Lopez (75kg).

Wrestling and pencak silat kick off Monday with the other sports set to start in the next few days and go full-blast.

Margarito Angana (55kg) and Noel Norada (60kg) see action in Greco-Roman’s featured matches with their respective opponents to be determined after the draw earlier in the day.

Except for cross-country cyclist March McQuinn Aleonar who is suffering from a bum stomach and the rowing team finding one of their oars’ handles broken during transit, the other advance members of the Philippine contingent are already here, gearing up for action.