CHEF DE MISSION Ramon Fernandez (left) joined the winning weightlifters group in Vietnam SEA Games. Gold medalist Vanessa Sarno (far right) — PSC

HANOI — True to his word as the last man standing, national team chef de mission (CDM) Ramon Fernandez stayed behind to represent the Philippine delegation on Monday for the closing rites of the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian (SEA) Games at the My Dinh National Stadium. With most of PH team members bound for or already at home, Mr. Fernandez was to be joined by his deputies Carl Sambrano and Pear Managuelod of rollersports and muay thai, respectively, at the affair to be closed by Vietnam Sports, Culture and Tourism Minister Nguyen Van Hung. Also joining the event was Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, who was to extinguish the Games Flame,  as the curtain wrung down on the 31st edition of the biennial sports showcase held in the Vietnamese capital and neighboring provinces.

The SEA Games Federation flag will likewise be lowered and handed over to the representative of Cambodia, which will host the 32nd SEA Games in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh in May 2023.

The regional meet was supposed to be held last November but was delayed for six months due to the spike in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases that swept the region. Sorely affected by the virus crisis was the build-up of the country’s campaigners, who fought an uphill but gallant battle in winding up fourth overall in the medal standings with 52 gold, 70 silver and 105 bronze medals, according to Mr. Fernandez.

As expected, Vietnam ran away with overall honors (205-125-116), Thailand was a distant second (92-103-136) and Indonesia third (69-91-81). “We finished fourth place among 11 brother-countries in the region. This is our best finish since 1983 (in the Singapore SEA Games when we placed second to Indonesia) in a SEA Games event outside the Philippines,” Mr. Fernandez claimed.  “As chef de mission, I am truly very proud of this feat! Just as I thank my Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) family headed by Chairman William Ramirez for their all-out support,” the PSC commissioner added.

“To Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham Tolentino, maraming salamat po for giving me the honor to head the delegation. To my deputy CDMs Pearl Managuelod and Carl Sambrano and to everyone who contributed one way or the other, daghang salamat,” Mr. Fernandez said. “This was an enlightening and educational experience for yours truly. We fought as one and won as one! Mabuhay ang atletang Pilipino!” he exclaimed.

As one of his last functions as the head of the Philippine delegation, the PSC official attended the final CDM meeting the previous day where Cambodian CDM Soksival Nhan thanked the Vietnamese organizers for their warm hospitality in the running of the Games. “Nhan extended his personal invitation in welcoming all of the other 10 participating countries to the 32nd SEA Games in Phnom Pehn next year,” Mr. Fernandez said, adding that he would stay until on Tuesday to see that all the PH team members are safely on their way back home before boarding his own flight back to Manila.