The decades-long tradition that was interrupted for six years will be re-lived today when newly-installed President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte presides over the send off ceremony for the Rio de Janeiro-bound Filipino athletes competing in the Olympic Games August 5 to 21 in that Brazilian premier City.
President Digong is definitely coming to the 2:30 p.m. ceremony in Malacanan.
“Yeah, the President is coming to personally wish our athletes good luck and boost their morale,” Philippine Sport Commission commissioner Charles Maxey assured last Thursday when he appeared as guest at the SCOOP On Air episode of daily program Tropang Bistag aired over rdio station DZEC.
Maxey said it was special presidential assistant Bong Go who informed PSC Chair Butch Ramirez of President Duterte’s presence in the send off rites.
“President Digong loves our athletes knowing that they, among others, have been serving as our country’s saving grace from the negative publicities we’ve been getting overseas,” Maxey added.
All presidents from President Manuel Quezon down to Gloria Maxcapagal-Arroyo had made it one of their duties to send off and welcome national sports delegations leaving and returning the country to carry the Philippine flag to and from all international competitions as the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games and Olympic Games.
A tradition broken by ex-President Benigno Aquino III in the six years of his administration making him the only Chief of State who failed to do so.
Only six of the 10 Filipino Olympic hopefuls will be on hand though to receive President DU-30’s blessing — Ian Lariba in tabe tennis, Elaine Alora in taekwondo, Miguel Tabuena in golf, Maristella Torres in athletics and Hydeline Diaz and Gregorio Colonia in weightlifting as the four others who have so far earned their tickets are still training overseas in preparation for the Rio joust.
They are marathoner Mary Jay Tabal, boxers Rodel Ladon and Charlie Suarez, hurdler Ericson Cray, who are all in the United States and will fly to Rio from there.
No one from the PSC could be contacted however the whole day yesterday by members of the POC-PSC Media Group whether they can cover the Malacanan proceedings although POC vice president Joey Romasanta told this writer it is most-likely they won’t be allowed.
“TV-5 personnel have been calling us here in the POC asking how they can cover the event since the network is the official carrier of the Games,” Romasanta said. “As in previous occasions it’s the Palace which decides on the matter.”
“Sabi ko na lang, magtiis na muna at least after six years eh makikita na ng ating mga ang ating Pangulo na matagal na nating di nararanasan,” he said rather kiddingly.