By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

IT was mission accomplished for the Philippines in the 30th Southeast Asian Games after it formally claimed the overall championship at the end of competitions on Wednesday.

When the smoke cleared after the two-week battle in different sports disciplines, Team Philippines collared 149 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze for a total of 387 medals to win the overall championship since 2005 and earn its second top finish in the history of the Games.

The 149 gold medals were four better than the previous SEA Games medal tally scored by Malaysia in 2017 and easily eclipsed the Philippine record of 112 in 2005 when the country also hosted the biennial regional sporting meet.

Finishing second was Vietnam with 98 gold, 85 silver and 104 medals, followed by Thailand (92-103-123), Indonesia (72-84-111), Malaysia (55-58-72) and Singapore (53-46-68).

Rounding out the field were Myanmar (4-18-51), Cambodia (4-6-36), Brunei (2-5-6), Laos (1-5-28) and Timor Leste (0-1-5).

Among the last to give the Philippines golds were men’s and women’s basketball, billiards and kickboxing.

Gilas Pilipinas reasserted the country’s dominance in the sport, bagging the gold for the 13th straight time and 18th out of 20 tries in the Games.

The all-Philippine Basketball Association squad defeated Thailand in the gold-medal game, 115-81, on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

June Mar Fajardo led Gilas with 17 points and 13 rebounds with Christian Standhardinger adding 16 and 11 boards.

Guard Chris Ross had eight points and eight assists in a game that saw Gilas making a ferocious run in the third quarter to pull away, from which the Thais could not recover from.

After the match, Gilas coach Tim Cone said they were happy to win the gold but cautioned that the teams in the region have elevated their game, hence, the need for Philippine basketball to continue to evolve and improve.

“Southeast Asia is catching up and we have to bring our best players each time. We have to put in the needed basketball program moving forward,” said Mr. Cone on post-gold medal win.

Earlier in the day, the women’s team also bagged the gold medal, its first-ever in the SEA Games.

The Gilas women defeated Thailand, 91-71, in making the golden breakthrough.

Jack Animam paced the women’s squad with 21 points, followed by Janine Pontenjos with 16, Kelly Hayes and Ani Castillo with 11 each, and Afril Bernardino 10.

“I’m happy for the girls for what they have achieved. Hopefully their efforts will not go unnoticed and help the women’s game grow further,” said national team coach Pat Aquino.

In billiards, the duo of Rubilen Amit and Chezka Centeno won in the women’s 9-ball doubles on Tuesday at the Manila Hotel Tent.

Misses Amit and Centeno dominated Indonesia’s Fathrah Masum and Nony Andilah, 7-0, in the finals to claim another gold medal for the country’s billiards team.

It was a golden double for both Misses Amit and Centeno, with the former also winning the women’s 9-ball singles event and the latter bagging the women’s 10-ball singles title.

Also victorious was kickboxer and mixed martial arts professional Gina Iniong, who topped the women’s -55kg light kick division with a 3-0 victory over Thailand’s Apichaya Minkhwan on Tuesday at the Cuneta Astrodome.

“Our efforts and sacrifices did not go to waste. I’m so happy because this was my first time to compete for the country in kickboxing,” said Ms. Iniong.

It was the second gold for the sport of kickboxing, which made its Games debut this year.

The last event for the SEA Games was men’s beach handball on Wednesday where the Philippines finished with a bronze medal.

Meanwhile, Team Philippines is set to meet President Rodrigo R. Duterte after its successful SEA Games campaign.

Set for Dec. 18 in Malacañang, athletes will be honored and given their incentives.

Republic Act 10699 provides for cash incentives for winners of the SEA Games to receive P300,000, P150,000 and P60,000, respectively, for gold, silver and bronze finishes.

The President is expected to give out additional incentives of P250,000 for gold, P150,000 for silver and P100,000 for bronze medalists.

The Philippine Olympic Committee also committed additional P300,000 for gold medals won.

“We were all hoping and praying for this, but it is still a sweet surprise now that it is actually happening. I am so proud of our athletes. All of them deserve our respect and love,” said Philippine Sports Commission chairman and SEA Games chef de mission William Ramirez in a statement.

The 30th SEA Games was formally to close later yesterday with a closing ceremony at the Athletics Stadium in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.

Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee chairman and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano was to lead the ceremony to start at 6 p.m. and see special awards handed out.

The ceremony would also see the Philippines turning over the hosting duties to Vietnam which will welcome athletes in the region in 2021.