From left to right: Mariano Masano, Nikki Oliva, Alex Colet, Joy Rodgers, Dustin Mella, and Ra Agtarap. Photo from Facebook.

With the Philippines dominating the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, Filipinos could not be more proud of their homeland. 

Concluding the biennial event with 149 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze titles, the nation won the conference’s overall champion plum after 14 years– all thanks to homegrown athletes who surpassed daunting obstacles for a shot at glory. 

Several University of the Philippines (UP) students and alumni played a pivotal role in this historic run. 

Gold rush with the Maroons

Kumite gold medalist Jamie Lim and former UPVST  Joy Rodgers. Photo from Facebook

One of the gold medalists is College of Science summa cum laude graduate Jamie Lim, who won the Women’s Individual Above-61 kilogram (kg) Kumite division. 

UP’s Sonny Montalvo continued the national Karate confederation’s winning streak with a Men’s Under-55 kg Kumite silver. 

In step with many local athletes, ex-UP varsity swimmer Joy Rodgers made Philippine history by putting up a cool 33.09 seconds during the Women’s 50 meters (m) breaststroke course. The momentous feat *came up short for a shot of gold. 

Earning her second SEA Games trophy in the 2019 triathlon mixed relay race, Sports Science graduate Claire Adorna reigned supreme as well. She scored her first victory in 2015 when she claimed the individual triathlon crown. 

In a similar sport, CHK alum and duathlon queen Monica Torres lived up to high expectations and clutched two awards. The women’s duathlon victor connected with iska Pawie Fornea and other participants to nab the Mixed Team Relay second runner-up medal. 

Diliman-based pitcher Vladimir Eguia was another vital addition to the SEA Games as he and other ballplayers took the men’s baseball finals. 

Completing the top dog roster is Dustin Mella, who is no stranger to dominating the Recognized Male Team Poomsae competition as he uncorked a four-peat championship this year.  On top of the pivotal achievement, the 2014 UPTVT captain also placed second during the Recognized Mixed Pair segment of the martial art. 

His fellow ex-skipper Nikki Oliva went on a silver streak of her own in the Poomsae Freestyle Individual Female and Freestyle Mixed Team section.

Exiting a different division with flying colors, UP Track and Field Team’s Mariano Masano became the Athletics 1500-m dash’s first runner-up with a time of four minutes, eight seconds and 27 milliseconds. 

Ines Templo produced a silver during the Women’s Underwater Hockey 4×4 and 6×6 round, where Mary Bridget Josef only joined the latter. This was achieved under the headship of UP-based co-captains Chari Ongyango and Nadja Buenafe. 

On the other hand, 54-year old Men’s Underwater Hockey skipper and UPD product Alex Colet successfully motivated isko Ram Jorge into the Men’s 4×4 finals of the event.

Paying homage to another sport, former UP Lady Woodpusher Catherine Pereña Secopito placed first runner-up in the Women’s Chess Team Problem Solving conference. 

Similar to his schoolmates, UAAP Season 78-80 UP Fighting Maroons captain Andrew Harris made State U proud after reaching the men’s beach handball semifinals. He has UP professor and national handball coach Jana Franquelli to thank for convincing him to seek a new athletic path and lead her squad. 

Maroon tanker Ra Agtarap joined Franquelli’s lineup as well.  

By the same token, Short Track Speed Skating Captain Anna Cruz had a positive impact on teammate Marc Gonzales, who snatched bronze in the Men’s 1000-m race of the sport. 

Men’s Ice Hockey second runner-up titlist and College of Human Kinetics (CHK) graduate Miguel Relampagos also landed a podium finish. 

Women’s Water Polo third placers Bea Grabador and Christine Hipol added to the pool of wins. UP Varsity Swim Team dealt a hand in shaping the two into the athletes they are today. 

*Uniformly paving a semifinals run, iska karatekas Ricca and Nadene Torres concluded the female team Kata competition strong. 

Completing the victor’s circle is Jayvee Ferrer and Carl Dave Aseneta, who nabbed a bronze in the Men’s Under-100 kg Judo and the -90 kg section of the martial art, respectively. Both are members of the UP Men’s Judo Team. 

Leading the path towards triumph

Former UPTVT member and National Team Coach Rani Ortega and UP alumnus Patrick Aquino. Photo from Facebook.

Like Lim and Montalvo, retired UP Taekwondo Varsity Team (UPTVT) phenom Rani Ortega contributed to the Philippines’ martial arts medals haul.  Unlike the two karatekas, she stayed at the sidelines, steering her players into four championships and four bridesmaids finishes. 

Ortega would not have been able to do this would the help of assistant mentor Edrick Galing, another UPTVT product. 

CHK professor and national dancesport lead instructor Alberto Dimarucut also empowered local athletes by helping them bag 10 golds and two silvers from the Cha-cha-cha, Waltz and Tango competition, among many others. 

UP alumnus Patrick Aquino replicated his colleagues’ successes by imparting a winning culture on the Gilas Pilipinas Women, as he led the cagers to a historic victory after a 42-year drought.  

Hauling in more hoops titles, Gilas Men’s 3×3 lineup Head Coach and former Fighting Maroon Ronnie Magsanoc guided his squad to a crown, while fellow State U graduate Moriah Gingerich was his assistant mentor. 

Likewise, CHK’s Jamel Pangandaman orchestrated an Obstacle Course Racing competition sweep that saw his athletes earn six golds. 

He even shaped a winner in UP’s Mhik Tejares, who secured the Women’s Individual 100-m x 10 Obstacle silver trophy. 

*National triathlon coach Ani De Leon-Brown comparably brought out the best in her delegates. Three of them reigned supreme while two became finalists in the triathlon event.

Hailing from the same academic institution, RP Blu Boys Pitching Coach Ronilon Pagkaliwagan created first-runner ups out of his players as well. 

Playing with passion 

UP Track and Field Team (UPTFT) members Marisol Amarga and Jomar Udtohan. Photo from Facebook.

Apart from the *38 State U-based players and coaches, *15 other iskos and iskas graced the multinational meet. 

Azkals Amani Aguinaldo, Marco Casambre and JB Borlongan hustled with heart during the football elimination round but were two goals short of experiencing the playoffs. 

UPTFT’s Marisol Amarga and Jomar Udtohan correspondingly donned their state’s flag with pride. Amarga ran the athletics 800-m track while Udtohan finished the sport’s 4×100 and 4×400 relay race. 

Meanwhile, national footballer Eloiza Fagsao showed her Pinoy spirit through her love of the game.

Netball delegates Sae-Ann Gallegos and Nana Espina had a time of their lives playing for the Philippines as well.

Local floorball participants Ralph Andrew Ramos, Luis Manila III, Sarah Samonte, Jestine Mariano and Candy Pellejera revitalized the conference in their own way too.

On the other hand, gamers Jia Dee and Justin Santos brought a different type of enthusiasm to the Hearthstone and Starcraft II contest, respectively. 

Men’s shooting competition bet Binggy Lopez also left the SEA Games winless but undeniably represented his country well through his unparalleled skills.

Despite similarly bowing out of the quarterfinals, Tennis player Khim Iglupas exited the tournament with her head held high.

No matter the outcome, these phenomenal athletes have exhibited honor and excellence by sacrificing their blood, sweat and tears to be a part of history. 

Some may have walked away empty-handed, but their efforts were not made in vain as they gave pride to the Philippines and the UP community.


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