LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 6 (PNA)— Almost 8,000 athletes from various public elementary and high schools in the Bicol region, who represent 13 school divisions in the six provinces and seven cities of the region, are competing in today’s elimination round for the 22 events of Palarong Bicol 2017, being held in various venues in Legazpi City and will run until February 10.
During formal opening ceremonies on Sunday, the contingents from school divisions in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Masbate, Sorsogon and Catanduanes and the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco, Iriga, Naga, Ligao, Masbate and Sorsogon formed a rainbow of colors that carpeted the Albay Sports Complex at the Bicol University (BU) compound here, which was also the site of last year’s Palarong Pambansa.
According to Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal and Department of Education (DepEd) in Bicol officials, there are 7,800 athletes, coaches and school representatives who arrived in this city for this year’s Palarong Bicol.
“There are around 12,000 visitors if you include the families of the visiting athletes,” said Rosal. Albay sent the most number of delegates while Catanduanes had the least number of delegates.
They are competing for top spots in events that include basketball, volleyball, tennis, table tennis, badminton, athletics, archery, chess, billiards, football/soccer, arnis, sepak takraw, swimming, volleyball, boxing, taekwondo, futsal, wrestling and wushu.
Noriel Rodejo, tournament manager for the table tennis event/secondary schools and a participant in the regional and national Palaro games since 1991, said wrestling and wushu used to be demonstration sports in the regional Palaro but this year the two sports events are now “regular sports events” in the games.
He said the table tennis event being held at the Event Center of the Liberty Commercial Center, each of the 12 teams or school divisions (the Catanduanes Division did not send a delegation) are represented by 16 athletes.
“Each team has eight athletes (four girls and four boys) in the elementary level and another 8 athletes (four girls and four boys) in the high school level,” said Rodejo.
He said including their coaches and chaperones (for the girls), there are 312 participants in the table tennis event that will have its quarterfinals on Tuesday, and the semifinals and championship rounds in the succeeding days.
During the kick-off ceremonies rites on Sunday, the 12,000 delegates to Palarong Bicol 2017 were given a warm welcome at the BU grounds here with the majestic Mayon Volcano and as a backdrop.
At the oval grounds of the university, the young athletes and sports officials, who were attired in a sea of red, green and blue tops matched with white jogging pants and jackets, beamed as the afternoon sun glowed.
A Holy Mass at St. Gregory Cathedral in Albay district and a parade that originated at Penaranda Park, also in the vicinity of the cathedral, to the university compound, preceeded the opening ceremonies that started at 3 p.m.
The host city paraded mascots representing the famous heroes of the Ibalong epic--Bantong, Handyong and Baltog while the drum and lyre groups of various schools in Legazpi City and the Philippine National Police-Bicol band struck jubilant rhythms as the banner of the Palarong Bicol was unfurled in the air.
Mayor John Bongat of Naga City, Palarong Bicol 2016 host, turned over the Palarong Bicol banner to Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, who was in a red, white and blue outfit that defined the Legazpi City delegation as the games’ host for this year.
Rosal urged fellow local officials to invest in their athletes who may someday become Olympic gold medalists.
He said it will be a fun week for the city, which will be sharing some facilities like the BU Oval, that were used in last year’s Palarong Pambansa.
“We want to share them with our fellow Bicolanos, especially our young athletes, so they can experience national standard facilities,” he said.
DepEd Assistant Regional Director Tolentino Aquino and Engineer Ronald Asis hoisted the Palarong Bicol banner while the Legazpi City flag was unfurled by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Legazpi.
An intermission number was rendered by the Oro Site High School Ibalong Dancers.
Philippine Asian female powerlifting champion and Legazpi City born Ma. Betina Bordeos did the honor of carrying the Palarong Bicol Torch 2017, and lighting of the friendship urn, which were followed by the release of friendship doves.
Palarong Pambansa winner Krista Alexie Gojar recited the “oath of sportsmanship and amateurism” while Al P. Pelgone, Palarong Bicol deputy secretary general, led the oath of officiating officials.
DepEd-Bicol Director Ramon Fiel Abcede declared the formal opening of the Palarong Bicol 2017 that was followed by a unity dance and fireworks display.
Helping him welcome the various contingents were School Division Superintendent for Legazpi City Cecille Bernadette P. Rivera, Bicol University President Arnulfo M. Mascarinas, Albay second district Rep. Joey Salceda and Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara. (PNA) FPV/GVR/CBD