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Beauty queens, Baybayin script, and Bamboo forest

Thinking of skipping the SEA Games opening ceremony? Don’t.



‘It will be respectful and inclusive of the performance traditions that bind us to other nations and culture of the South East Asian region.’

Libby Hyland and Floy Quintos

Libby Hyland and Floy Quintos

The opening ceremony of the 30th edition of the South East Asian Games (SEA Games) on Nov. 30 at the Philippine Arena should not be missed as it is a spectacular showcase of the enduring aspects of Philippine traditional and contemporary culture.

Sea Games Opening Ceremonies Creative Director Floy Quintos said so at a recent press conference wherein he bared the master plan for the historic occasion.

“We will highlight not just traditional performative aspects of our culture but also the visual elements of textile and weaving, Baybayin script, street art,” he said. “It will be respectful and inclusive of the performance traditions that bind us to other nations and culture of the South East Asian region.”

The stage will have a backdrop of a “Bamboo Forest” projected on led screen. This was chosen as Fivecurrents Creative Director Libby Hyland pointed out that bamboo is indigenous to the country. She noted that it is a “strong” and “flexible” material, which they will showcase in artistic way.

The panel is the “largest and elegant” installation they ever did, she added, measuring 18 meters tall and 28 meters wide.

Lani Misalucha will sing an acapella version of the Philippine National Anthem, followed by a performance of National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab’s “Kyrie Eleison.”

Floy noted that although the track is primarily a hymn used in the Catholic Liturgy, it will be chanted in the style consistent with many Philippines indigenous oral traditions.

“The haunting chant is heard as the Sarimanok bird of Maranao mythology,” he explained.

Dance Rehearsal

Dance Rehearsal

While the song plays, the Sarimanok dance begins. It is a series of performed rituals that explore how strength, agility, physical prowess and competition have long been ingrained in the traditional cultures of the Philippine archipelago. The suite covers the culture of animist people of the Northern Cordillera and Highland Mindanao, the Islamic cultures of Mindanao, and the Pre-Hispanic Bisayan cultures.

The country’s premiere folk dance company, the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, is also contributing their skills together with hundreds of students from at least 12 different schools and colleges in Metro Manila. They will be dancing in elaborately choreographed production numbers with sets and costumes made by topnotch Filipino visual artists and designers.

The Parade of Athletes will be in “fiesta mode.” Each contingent will have a muse and they are Filipina titleholders or beauty queens headed by Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach. The other beauties are Miss World 2013 Megan Young (Indonesia), Miss Intercontinental 2018 Karen Gallman (Brunei Darussalam), Miss Multinational 2018 Sophia Senoron (Cambodia), Miss Eco International 2018 Cynthia Thomalla (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), Miss International 2006 Precious Lara Quigaman (Malaysia), Miss Earth 2017 Karen Ibasco (Myanmar), Miss Earth 2014 Jamie Herrell (Singapore), Miss Earth 2015 Angelia Ong (Thailand), Miss Asia Pacific International 2018 Sharifa Akeel (Vietnam) and Miss Tourism International 2017 Jannie Loudette Alipo-on (Timor-Leste). Their gowns are designed by Eric Pineda and these pay homage to natural materials like bamboo, capiz, shells, abaca fiber, etc.

The entrance of the host country’s team, all in Francis Libiran creations, will be to the tune of Hotdog’s iconic pop hit “Manila.”

Dance Rehearsal

Singers Aicelle Santos and Christian Bautista will serenade the attendees with their version of “Minamahal Kita,” to showcase the traditional courtship of Filipino. As they sing against a starlit backdrop, a nipa hut is carried to center stage by villagers, which they said is a simple but resonant piece of scenery to reflect the Pinoy’s “bayanihan” spirit. The traditional practice sees an entire community coming together to help neighbor move their hut (house) to a different location.

There will also be an homage to Francis Magalona. His best-loved songs will be performed by Iñigo Pascual (“Man From Manila”), Elmo Magalona (“Mga Kababayan Ko”), and KZ Tandingan (“Tayo’y Mga Pinoy”). As they sing, 100 hip-hop dancers will come out and perform – members of UPeepz, VPeepz, and the Far Eastern University Pep Squad.

The backdrop will have Baybayin calligraphic renderings by Leo Emmanuel Castro reinterpreted in street style, street art. These depict Filipino children’s street games created by street artist and muralist Mar Rios aka Ang Gerilya, and modern tattoo patterns based on Kalinga warrior status tattoos.

The only solo performance is by international star who will sing his hit “Bebot.”

SEA Games 2019 Creative Team

SEA Games 2019 Creative Team

The ceremony will close with 11 Filipino singers performing Ryan’s “We Win As One”—the credo of the games—first interpreted by Lea Salonga. The singers are Robert Seña, Aicelle, TNT Boys, Anna Fegi, Jed Madela, Iñigo, Elmo, apl, KZ, Christian, and Lani representing each of the participating nations.

The 30th SEA Games Opening Ceremonies is touted to be the biggest sports-related television special in Asia this year, as it will be broadcast live and nonstop in the Philippines and several countries in the region, including China and Japan. SEA Games 2019 organizers have found strong allies in Video Sonic and Stage Craft who are veterans in staging concerts and grand productions, and in FiveCurrents which has won 14 Emmy Awards and produced Olympic ceremonies such as the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and London 2012 Summer Olympics.

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