‘Biggest’ Palaro expected as festivities fire off in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY — A new batch of future national team players will be known starting on Sunday when the 2016 Palarong Pambansa gets going at the sprawling Bicol University Sports Complex here.

Now on its 59th edition, the week-long multi-sporting spectacle will feature the country’s finest student-athletes from high school and elementary ranks battling for supremacy in 17 regular sports and four demonstration events across 26 venues located in Legazpi City, the province’s capital, Camalig, Guinobatan and Sto.Domingo.

At least 14,000 delegates, coming from 18 regional athletic associations led by perennial overall champion National Capital Region, have already been accounted for in time for the colorful opening ceremonies at the Bicol Sports and Tourism Complex.

Negros Island Region, composed of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental, will vie for the overall crown as one region for the first time in Palaro.

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Albay Governor Joey Salceda is confident that they can sustain—or even surpass—the past success achieved by previous Palaro hosts, with Legazpi City hosting the annual meet for the second time—its first since 1952.

“This will be the biggest Palaro because of the geo-centricity of Albay. Compared to other provinces, Albay is probably the most central and the most accessible,” said Salceda.

At stake for this year’s Palaro is a total of 610 medals in the secondary division and 485 in the elementary.

More than winning gold medals, this year’s protagonists are also eager to shatter old records. In last year’s Palaro edition in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, a total of 17 new records were achieved, 15 of them coming in swimming and two in athletics.

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NCR sensation Maurice Sacho Ilustre shone the brightest among the swimmers last year as he dominated the 100m- and 200m-butterfly and 200m- and 800-m freestyle events in record-breaking fashion.

Martin James Esteban, the proud Balitucan National High School alumnus, tallied 15.01-meter in the secondary boys’ triple jump, shattering the previous best record of 14.44m made by Mark Harry Diones.

Tapped as regular sports are archery, arnis, aquatics, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, chess, football, gymnastics, sepak takraw, softball, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis and volleyball.

Billiards, futsal, wrestling and wushu are considered as demonstration games. — By Jerome Lagunzad

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