GOLDEN SMILE. Philippines’ bet Dexter Bolambao displays the gold medal he won in the arnis competition of the 30th Southeast Asian Games on December 2, 2019. The host country dominated the Filipino sport, winning 14 of the 20 gold medals at stake. (Phisgoc photo)

MANILA – If and when the Philippines is officially declared overall champion in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, there’s no denying that the country’s arnis martial artists deserve huge credit for the feat.

The Filipinos completed an impressive return when it grabbed 14 out of the 20 gold medals at stake in arnis, which is making a comeback to the SEA Games since it was last played in 2005, also in Manila.

The host country did miss out on quite a few opportunities when it also settled for six silvers and two bronzes, but overall, it did better than expected, since arnis officials initially predicted a 12-gold haul.

Still, it was undoubtedly arnis’ performance which keyed the Philippines’ early surge three days into the competition.

As of this posting, the Filipinos are well ahead of the pack with 54 gold medals, which had surpassed its measly 24-gold haul overall in Kuala Lumpur two years ago.

It was Dexter Bolambao who started it all when he topped the men's bantamweight division. His rousing victory immediately opened the floodgates for more wins, as teammates Mike Bañares, Niño Mark Talledo, Villardo Cunamay, and Jezebel Morcillo all delivered golden performances on Day 1 of the competition.

Day 2 proved to be the most productive for the arnis, as Abegail Abad, Jedah Mae Soriano, Sheena del Monte, Carloyd Tejada, Elmer Manlapas and Jesfer Huquire joined the gold rush.

On Day 3, Crisamuel Delfin and Mary Allin Aldeguer capped arnis’ onslaught by topping the anyo open weapon non-traditional event in both the men and women’s side.

Also worth mentioning are the efforts of silver medalists Jude Oliver Marie Rodriguez, Mark David Puzon, Ryssa Jezel Sanchez, Billy Joel Valenzuela and bronze medalists Erlin Mae Busacay and Eza Rai Yalong.

The 14-gold haul had definitely made Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, president of the Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation, extremely proud, so much so that he promised to treat the players and the coaches to a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland, a well-deserved reward for a job well done. (PR)