Palaro 2019: NCR bags 15th overall title in a row, but competition tighter

Karl Cedrick Basco, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 04 2019 11:27 PM | Updated as of May 05 2019 09:46 AM

NCR No. 1 again, despite worst performance in decade

The NU-backed NCR boys volleyball team huddles after winning the Palarong Pambansa 2019 in Davao City. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

DAVAO CITY—The reign of the Big City extended to its 15th straight year. Compared to other years, though, this recent one isn’t as convincing.

The National Capital Region on Saturday claimed the overall title in the Palarong Pambansa, despite collecting its lowest number of gold medals in the past 10 years and losing the elementary championship. 

The NCR Jammers amassed 86 titles, to go with 71 silver and 56 bronze medals. However, these numbers are lower than their average from the past 9 editions of Palaro. 

The team averaged 110.1 gold medals since 2012 and reached the 100-gold mark 5 times out of the past 7 years, including in the Palaro held in Ilocos Sur last year.

The Jammers also surrendered their elementary division title to Calabarzon, after settling for only 19 golds this year; team Southern Tagalog topped the division with 29, the first time the NCR slid to second since 2010, based on the Department of Education’s website. 

“Siguro may kaunting pagkukulang lang kasi hindi namin masyadong napaghandaan. Ngayong taon, bumbaba yung aming elementary dahil maiksi ang preparations kasi medyo na-delay ’yung aming NCR Palaro,” assistant athletic manager of NCR Dr. Crisanto Ecija told ABS-CBN News.

Dr. Wilfredo Cabral, DepEd-NCR regional director, said he credits an aggressive approach to cultivating talent to another successful Palaro.

“Our secret is that [our training is] more of development. All those who have potential in a particular sport is given the opportunity to be developed. Second, even the parents, they send their children outside of the country for exposure,” he said.

Calabarzon trailed the NCR in the overall rankings with a 66-49-73 gold-silver-bronze medal haul, an improvement from last year’s 55-50-73 showing. 

“I think because of our long practice also and of our target is really to improve our performance. We compare our performance this year from our last year’s performance. We found out that we really improved especially in elementary level,” Carlito Rocafort, Region IV-A DepEd assistant regional director, said during the closing ceremonies at UP Sports Complex.

Rocafort added that his team’s feat in the elementary level sends a message that the NCR can be beaten.

“Our target is to surpass what our achievement last year,” Rocafort explained. “Ang message po nito ay hindi ibig sabihin na tayo sa mga regions outside NCR ay hindi puwedeng tayo ay manalo. Lahat may chance manalo sa Palaro.”
Meanwhile, Western Visayas placed third again with its best showing in recent memory, according to Victor de Gracia Jr., assistant regional director. The Region VI athletes harvested 49 gold medals aside from 40 silver and 58 bronze medals. 

De Gracia said his contingent is satisfied with the hosting of Davao City and his team’s performance, stressing that this is their best Palaro so far. 

“We are improving this year. This is the best showing. Swerte kami dito sa Davao,” the official said in jest. 

NCR’s dominance due to ‘piracy’ of athletes? 

Veruel Verdadero of National Capital Region, formerly of Calabarzon, runs the 400-meter relay during the Palarong Pambansa in Davao City on May 2, 2019. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

As another Palaro concluded and the NCR hoisted another trophy, the Big City team’s recruitment in the provinces raised some eyebrows. 

According to Cabral, the credit should go to the stakeholders in the region such as athletes and schools, shrugging off criticism. 

“Lahat ng mga atleta natin merong sariling pagpupursige and our schools, likewise. Even the division supervisors. It is a concerted effort of all stakeholders. Even the LGU support is evident,” he said after NCR won double gold in volleyball.

The NCR official clarified that his delegates came mostly from public schools. He said private schools usually represent the NCR in team sports. “The distribution of the athletes is 60-40 or 70-30 most of the times. Mas marami pa rin ang public school students,” Cabral said.

He also acknowledged that his team has complete facilities for all sports being contested in Palaro, but the use of venues are not free.

“There are facilities but we are also paying for that. I didn’t think that can be considered as biggest factor [on winning the overall title],” Cabral added.

Officials from Calabarzon and Western Visayas acknowledged that top players from the provinces gave the NCR added boost. 

“Marami kaming athletes na nasa secondary na nila at kalaban na namin. It’s the choice of the athlete kasi naman binigyan ng magandang offer, so why not? Kami naman magde-develop na lang ng bagong athletes,” De Gracia said. 

The two also attributed the Big City’s advantage in facilities and well-trained coaches, which gives student-athletes better training and preparations for the annual Games. 

Rocafort downplayed the piracy issue, clearing that it was still the decision of the student from the provinces if they transfer to a Manila school. 

“I think it is the decision naman ng mga players at mga magulang nila. If kinukuha sila, of course everyone’s dream is to study in Manila lalo na ’pag galing ka sa province,” Rocafort said. “Siguro dahil din doon nagcha-champion sila (pirating of athletes). Pero makikita rin natin mga players nila na taga-NCR talaga, nag-e-excel talaga.”

One of the notable players that changed colors was the adjudged “fastest junior in the Philippines” Veruel Verdadero, who was formerly a Palarong Pambansa champion in sprints representing the Calabarzon region. 

He carried the banner of the NCR this year, as he moved to Jose Rizal University from Dasmariñas city.

“ ’Yung ibang coach nagbibigay ng malaking offer para pumunta doon. ’Yung mga probinsya rin, gusto nila makatulong sa pamilya nila. Tsaka makapag-aral ng maayos kasi maganda schools sa Manila,” Verdadero said.

Big City tankers, gymnasts lift NCR to overall title

Charmi Desiray Flores of the National Capital Region wins a gold and a silver in two events in the elementary girls rhythmic gymnastics during the Palarong Pambansa 2019 in Davao City, Davao Del Sur on May 2, 2019. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

The NCR banked on its swimming team, which pocketed almost half of its overall gold-medal haul at 35. This was aside from its 18 silvers and 11 bronzes in the pool. The region also dominated the gymnastics competition with a 19-22-8 medal production.

Combining just the two sports, NCR got 54 gold medals in two medal-rich events, enough to overtake Western Visayas’ gold medal total in 21 sports. 

Team Metro Manila also flexed its muscles in the ball games, capturing the titles in basketball and volleyball secondary level. 

Its girls squad defended the title for a sixth year in a row, defeating Ilocos Region, while the NU-backed boys downed Central Luzon for third consecutive title. 

The region also leaned on NU volleyball teams, with the boys sweeping Western Visayas to clinch top spot. The girls secured a second straight gold medal after completing a comeback against Region VI. 

The NCR escaped Western Visayas in five thrilling sets 22-25, 25-9, 23-25, 25-17, 15-6, through the help of MVP Alyssa Solomon who towed the team in the last two frames. 

On the other hand, Calabarzon flaunted its speed and strength on the track as its athletes took home 14 gold, 7 silver and 16 bronze medals. Five of their top-podium finishes came from elementary girls. 

Region IV-A also ruled the table-tennis competitions, claiming 8 gold of the 12 medals available. Kaye Denise Encarnacion grabbed the gold in the secondary girls singles event. 

Meanwhile, Western Visayas leaned on its athletics team, which finished with an 18-11-10, gold-silver-bronze haul. Its taekwondo athletes also produced 5 gold.

32 records broken in 3 sports

Xiandi Chua of the NCR broke 3 secondary girls swimming events during the Palarong Pambansa 2019 in Davao City on May 1, 2019. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

This year’s Palaro saw records shattered in swimming, track and field, and archery. Of 18 new records, best times were reset 13 times by NCR swimming team.

Leading the way was Xiandi Chua, a Grade 12 student of Immaculate Conception Academy in San Juan City who set 5 new records. She tallied new times on 200 meter breaststroke, 200 meter individual medley, 4 x 100 medley relay, 200 meter freestyle, and in 4 x 100 freestyle relay.

Southern Tagalog’s tracksters erased old records, too, with Gennah Malapit holding the new mark in javelin throw elementary girls. Region IV-A’s 4 x 400 meter relay team in secondary boys, led by 400-meter run and hurdles champion Alhryan Labita, also had a record-breaking performance.

Jason Emmanuel Feliciano of Dagupan City also etched his name in the record books, setting new numbers in the 70 meters and the single FITA categories in secondary boys archery. 

Mindanao tops contact sports

Aaron Jude Bado of Region 10 won gold in the secondary boys boxing during the Palarong Pambansa in Davao City on May 3, 2019. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Mindanao, which has seen a fair share of acclaimed professional boxers, further enhanced that reputation in this Palaro as a hotbed of young fighters. Northern Mindanao harvested 4 of the 10 gold medals at stake in boxing. Soccsksargen, Manny Pacquiao’s home region, picked up 5 silver medals.

“Focus ang mga bata sa Region XII [sa boxing]. Talagang gusto nila makasali sa national team. Gusto rin kasi nilang maging professional boxer someday,” Soccsksargen boxing coach Marlon Fortaleza quipped.

Region XII ruled the arnis competitions with 15 gold besides 9 silvers and a bronze, 11 of which came from the girls division. 

Caraga, on the other hand, grabbed 8 first-place finishes in wrestling, with its boys and girls division claiming 4 each. 

Soccsksargen was the most improved region, moving from 7th last year to 4th overall in the medal standings this year. Central Luzon also ranked better this year, clinching 6th place from 8th in 2018. 

Cordillera Administrative Region slid to 10th place from 5th last year, after winning just 14 gold medals here compared to 25 in Vigan. Host Davao Region, which had aimed for a top-5 finish, tallied 13 gold medals but dropped to 11th place from 9th in the last edition.

The next Palarong Pambansa will be hosted by the Mimaropa region, with Occidental Mindoro winning the bid. 

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