WHAT started as an activity for his physical education class paved the way for a gold medal for Cebuano Dexler Bolambao in the biggest sporting meet in the Southeast Asian region.
The 23-year-old eskrimador has come a long way as he won the gold medal in the arnis event of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games at the Angeles University Foundation gym in Clark, Pampanga on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019.
Bolambao defeated the arnisador from Myanmar via unanimous decision in the final match of the full contact bantamweight division to become the first athlete from Cebu to win a gold medal.
“This is for Cebu,” said Bolambao, who first learned arnis when he was in second year high school in Leyte.
Arnis, a national sport that originated in the Philippines, is included in the curriculum and is taken up in physical education subjects.
“It was in my MAPEH (Music, Arts, PE and Health) subject that I started learning arnis. I enjoyed playing arnis and took it seriously. The next year I was already competing in tournaments,” recalled Bolambao, a resident of Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City.
Bolambao became a scholar because of the sport and completed a degree in BS Mechatronics at the Cebu Technological University.
This is the first time arnis was included in the biennial meet as a regular sport. It was played in the 2005 SEA Games only as a demonstration sport.
Bolambao said the Philippine (PHL) arnis team is aiming for seven to eight gold medals.
It was an overall rousing start for the Philippines and the Cebuano athletes as the duo of Pearl Marie Cañeda and Wilbert Aunzo picked up three gold medals in the dancesport competition, a few minutes after Bolambao ruled the arnis competition.
Cañeda and Aunzo danced their way to a gold medal in the Latin Samba category with a score of 32.450, outdoing Vietnam’s Uyen Nguyen and Truong Nguyen (31.950) and Thailand’s Lerson Shinawat and Patoomsriwiroje Preeyanoot (31.800) at the Royce Hotel in Clark, Pampanga.
The pair won the second gold medal in the Latin Cha Cha with a score of 31.650, beating Thailand and Vietnam anew.
Cañeda and Aunzo did not stop there as they added another gold, this time in the rumba with a total score of 31.950.
The Cebuano dancers got three of the eight gold medals of the PHL team.
Cebuano triathlete Andrew Kim Remolino kicked things off for the Cebuanos, winning a silver medal in the men’s individual triathlon, finishing behind the country’s first gold medalist John Chicano in Subic Bay.
Chicano clocked in 1 hour, 53 minutes and 26 seconds, while Remolino finished in 1:55:03 in the 1.5-kilometer swim, 40K bike and 10K run race.
Ahlul Firman Muhammad of Indonesia settled for third place with a clocking of 1:57:10.
The medals kept coming for the Cebuanos as Niño Surban of Talamban, Cebu City added a silver medal in the mountain bike cross country race to wrap up a productive Day 1 for Cebu athletes.
As of 3:50 p.m. on Sunday, the Philippines was leading the official medal count with 10 gold medals, four silver medals and five bronzes. (RSC)