Pia on SEA Games triumph: ‘We won as one!’

The greatest takeaway from the country’s successful hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, according to Senator Pia Cayetano, was the opportunity to showcase the skill and ability of Filipino athletes to win as one – not just before their home crowd but to the entire region.

The senator was among the thousands of spectators who flocked to the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, on Wednesday night (December 11) to witness the grand closing ceremony of what has been described as the “biggest” SEA Games to date.

“I cannot be any prouder. If I was an athlete, wala na akong hihingin pa,” the former national volleyball athlete and UAAP champion said.

“I thank the volunteers, the organizers, including my brother, Alan, and his team,” Cayetano said, referring to her younger brother, House Speaker and Philippine SEA Games Organizational Committee (PHISGOC) Chair Alan Peter Cayetano.

“I think they did an amazing job. People from the audience and our guests from other countries were all telling me na pang world-class talaga,” she shared in an ambush interview on the sidelines of the event.

Cayetano stressed that the Philippines’ claiming  of the overall championship was made possible by the government’s readiness to invest in sports development, particularly in building new world-class facilities in New Clark City; refurbishing old ones such as the 84-year-old Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila and the Philsports Arena in Pasig City; and showcasing other areas for sports tourism, including Subic and Clark in Central Luzon, La Union in Northern Luzon, and Biñan City and Tagaytay City in Southern Tagalog, among others.

In addition, she noted that more support was given by the government to Filipino athletes in terms of subsidies, training, exposure, and cash rewards and recognition, particularly from President Rodrigo Duterte himself.

“That’s really what we want: to give our athletes world-class facilities; show the whole world that the Philippines has arrived; and that we can elevate whatever we do to the next highest level,” she said.

Meanwhile, the senator likewise welcomed the positive feedback from the next SEA Games host, Vietnam, whose sports officials were reported to have told media that it would be a challenge for them to duplicate the quality and magnitude of this year’s hosting.

“Sabi naman ni Alan, he’s even willing to go [to Vietnam] and share whatever knowledge he has gained. Though this [hosting] was not easy, and it’s never perfect, we still won as one,” Cayetano stressed.

“Ang pananaw ni Alan dito ay magtulong-tulong tayo. Kanya-kanya tayong strength and we want to help our neighbor and friend [Vietnam] to also have a successful hosting of the 31st SEA Games in 2021,” she concluded. #

Senator Pia S. Cayetano hugs her younger brother, House Speaker and PHISGOC Chair Alan Peter Cayetano, following the closing ceremony on Wednesday night (December 11) that capped the country’s successful staging of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

Pinoy athletes all praises for New Clark City sports facilities


This sums up what two Filipino athletes who won gold in the ongoing Southeast Asian (SEA) Games think about the country’s newly built sports facilities in New Clark City (NCC) in Capas, Tarlac.

Olympics-bound pole vaulter EJ Obiena and long-distance runner Christine Hallasgo were all praises for the sprawling sports complex, which is hosting athletics and swimming events in the biennial games that will run until Wednesday, December 11. It will also be the venue for the closing ceremonies of what has been described as the biggest SEA Games to date.

Inside the complex sits the 14,000-meter Athletics Stadium, which has been given Class 1 Certification by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The NCC sports complex likewise features the 2,000-seating capacity Aquatics Center, which has likewise been certified by the world aquatics governing body, Fédération Internationale De Natation (FINA) as fully compliant with global standards.

Meanwhile, athletes from the 11-nation games are also being given proper accommodations at the 2,100-bed Athletes’ Village.

“Masaya po ako na meron na po tayong [world-class sports facilities] sa Pilipinas kasi malaking tulong po siya sa aming mga atleta,” said women’s marathon gold medalist Hallasgo in a Facebook video posted by former national athlete and now Senator Pia Cayetano.

“Ang mga facilities, lalong lalo na ang [track] oval, ang standard niya ay parang sa ibang bansa. Nakaka-inspire po mag-training kapag ang mga ginagamit namin na equipment ay world-class,” she added.

Men’s pole vault gold medalist and new SEA Games record holder  EJ Obiena also had great things to say about the country’s new sports facilities.

“First time ko pong makakita ng indoor track in Southeast Asia… It’s really a pride and honor to have these facilities in the country,” he said in the same video posted by Cayetano.

Obiena, who is set to represent the country in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has had the opportunity to train with the best coaches in modern sports facilities in Europe.

When asked how well our own facilities compared with the stadiums he trained and competed in abroad, Obiena replied:  “It’s world-class, like the best I’ve seen and played in in Europe. Now I can tell my friends to come and train with me!”

Cayetano, for her part, stressed the importance of sustaining government support for all Filipino athletes beyond this year’s hosting of the SEA Games.

“People forget that you are athletes 365 days a year. All-out support is really required all year round. Now, you have these training grounds available for you throughout the year,” she told Obiena and Hallasgo.

“I commit to you that I will continue to work with our decision-makers to find more ways to support our country’s athletes. Personally, that would also be a dream come true for me,” added Cayetano, who herself is a former national volleyball player.

The senator is among the authors and co-sponsors of Senate Bill No. 1086 or the ‘Philippine High School for Sports (PHSS) Act,’ which seeks to establish a national academy for sports in the country that can train talented young athletes in their respective sports while still allowing them to pursue other educational tracks.

“We need to insist that sports is a priority [and] send a strong message to decision-makers, including my fellow legislators, [to] support our athletes and put in the funding… I hope that our fellow Filipinos also rally behind this initiative because I am such a believer of sports changing lives,” Cayetano stressed. #

SEA Games women’s marathon gold medalist Christine Hallasgo: “Masaya po ako na meron na tayong [world-class sports facilities] sa Pilipinas… malaking tulong po siya sa aming mga atleta.”
With SEA Games pole vault gold medalist EJ Obiena and his father and coach, Emerson Obiena, a former national athlete who also won medals for the Philippines in pole vault.

Pia: “We should persevere to build a nation of champions”

Sen. Pia Cayetano’s statement on gov’t funding for the 30th SEA Games

My brother Alan Peter Cayetano, who is currently the Speaker of the House, took on the job as Chair of the organizing committee of the Southeast Asian Games when he was still DFA Secretary. He did not have to, but he did it because he believed that our athletes should have a chance to shine in our own country and the SEA Games.

Last Tuesday, he voluntarily appeared before the Senate, something which any Speaker of the House has never done before. He set aside protocol because he believed it was more important to shed light on the credibility of the SEA Games preparation. Thus, his appearance as a resource person during the Senate’s deliberation of the budget of the Philippine Sports Commission in connection with the SEA Games.

He explained how the government, through the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), took on the task of building a world-class Sports Stadium that is now in New Clark City. It has a competition track oval with all the bleachers around it. Outside the stadium there is a warm-up track and inside the stadium is another short track for the final warm-up.

This Sports Stadium has been the training ground of the men’s triathlon and the national track and field team.

When we first brought the national track team there, I ran with them. Some of them were crying and saying that they never dreamed of seeing something like this ever built for them. The Rizal Memorial Stadium is 84 years old!

There is also the internationally certified Aquatics Center, with a main competition 10-lane, 50-meter pool; a 50-meter, 8-lane warm-up pool; and a dive pool.

All of these are requirements to get a Class 1 certification.  This means we can now host events here for our athletes as qualifiers for the big  international events.

Apart from having world-class sports facilities, the New Clark City has also been the home of our triathletes for the past months. The Athletes’ Village located in the NCC are like spartan hotels.

In the Senate, we are in the process of passing a law creating the Philippine High School for Sports that will also be housed in the New Clark City.

This entire complex is designed by Budji Royal. The cauldron, which is something other countries have also put up, is an artistic creation of National Artist Francisco Mañosa. It is cheaper than the cauldrons made by Singapore and Malaysia, the last two SEA Games hosts. In fact, as Speaker Alan mentioned, we are spending much less than these two countries did for the hosting of the events.

Also, it bears pointing out that as a responsible member of the world community, we host and participate in many international events such as the hosting of the 2015 APEC and the ASEAN’s 50th anniversary in 2017.  Both cost billions of pesos. Yet it was clear to us that there were tangible and intangible benefits that our country could derive from such events.

The SEA Games will deliver as much and more. Fifty (50) years hence, our athletes and young people will continue to enjoy these  facilities.

When  it comes to the training budget, that is different from the construction and hosting. That is the lookout of Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the various National Sports Associations (NSA). They receive funding from the national government and PAGCOR. There are also contributions from the private sector, which is common in many countries.

As a former national athlete,  I know that it is not cheap to train! Aside from training with good coaches and training facilities, our elite athletes need nutritious food supplements, strength and conditioning coaches, sports psychologists, nutritionists, physical therapists, and more! And we cannot sacrifice our athletes’ training/living needs.

I have my own issues with PSC and some NSAs on the funding of athletes’ training, but I have unceasingly pushed and intervened for athletes over the years and remain committed to doing this, including grassroots programs I’ve done throughout the years through my Gabriel’s Symphony Foundation and Pinay in Action initiatives.

As Speaker of the House, Alan also wants to spread grassroots programs and construct more sports facilities all over the country.

We will make this happen. Just like a champion is not made overnight, we will persevere and build a nation of champions.#

Senator and triathlete Pia Cayetano trains with members of the Philippine national triathlon pool at the Athletics Stadium in New Clark City.
Senator Pia Cayetano trains with members of the national heptathlon team at the indoor warm-up track of the New Clark City Athletics Stadium.