A crack contingent of 150 foreign bets battles a local field made up of the comebacking Paulo Valdez when the Philippine International Bowling Open (PIO) got under way yesterday at the Coronado Lanes at StarMall EDSA.
No less than Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Ricky Vargas was on hand to formally open the kegfest that will have a total of 400 players vying for honors.
The event, put up by the Philippine Bowling Federation (PBF), is actually a pre-Southeast Asian Games tournament, an opportunity for the Filipino players to gauge their skills, according to Vargas, who called on them to shine.
In the SEAG late this year, nine gold medals will be contested in singles, doubles, masters and four-strong team for men and women and mixed doubles.
Backed by Pagcor, the Philippine Sports Commission, Cafe Puro, Boysen Paints, Prima Pasta, the Linden Suites and MVP Sports Foundation, the PIO will also have the likes of Kenneth Chua, Frederick Go, Raul Miranda, Merwin Tan, Kenzo Umali, Kayle Abad, Patrick Nuqui and Enzo Hernandez as members of the men’s squad while Liza del Rosario, Alexis Sy, Dyan Coronacion, Lara Posadas, Rachel Leon and Bea Hernandez will beef up the women’s.
Vargas hailed the PBF, under the leadership of Steve Robles for coming up with a prestigious tournament like the PIO, something he says is an indication that the sport is stepping up.
“I congratulate the PBF and our bowling heroes for bringing the sport for what it is today,’’ said Vargas.
“During my younger years, bowling was the number one sport that brought glory to this country. When our bowlers compete against the best of Southeast Asia in the SEA Games, this will be our shining glory. Let’s cheer them to win the gold (medal),’’ added Vargas.
To get ready for the SEAG, slated Nov. 30-Dec. 11, the national team will be evaluated once more after two key events this month in Singapore and Hong Kong next month.
To get ready for the PIO, the Filipino players trained in Arlington, Texas, thanks to the generous P8-million support of Sen. Tito Sotto, also a famed player during his day and the PBF chairman.
PBF secretary general Bong Coo said that nine foreign countries are represented in the PIO.
For his parting shot, Vargas again reiterated his call for unity among sports leaders.
“I want to unite everybody. I want to heal the wounds,” he added.