MANILA, November 25, 2005 
(STAR) The national flags of the 11 competing countries were raised yesterday, officially accounting for all the participants in the 23rd Philippine Southeast Asian Games.

First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, the chef de mission of Team Philippines, led sports and local officials during the traditional program–held just in front of the Rizal monument at the Luneta –serving as one of the highlights of the biennial meet.

"We welcome all of you. It’s a great honor for the Philippines to host the SEA Games and all its participants," said Arroyo in his speech.

The raising of the flags of each of the SEA countries is a traditional ceremony signifying their participation in the sports conclave. It likewise symbolizes the welcome gesture from the host country.

"This means that everything is ready and in place," said Philsoc protocol chief Gen. (ret) Mario Tanchangco.

All the chef de missions, their assistants, ambassadors, dignitaries and athletes were present during the short parade that preceded the flag- raising rites.

A communication blunder apparently caused members of the RP traditional boat race team to join the ceremony.

But local sport officials were duly represented in the affair led by Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Philsoc) chief executive officer (CEO) Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William "Butch" Ramirez and International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative to the Philippines Frank Elizalde.

Also present were Cojuangco’s wife, former Tarlac Governor Tingting Cojuangco and charming daughter international model and fashion icon China.

A coffee table book about the history of Malacañang and Filipino arts and culture stuffed inside a tampipi–a locally-made bag made from coconut leaves–were given by Arroyo as token gifts to all chef de missions from Brunei, Cambodia, Timor Leste, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam.

LRT, MRT offer free rides on opening of SEA Games The Philippine Star 11/27/2005

As its contribution to the 23rd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Manila, railway systems in Metro Manila will be offering free rides to the public from noon up to closing time today.

Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) Administrator Melquiades Robles and Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) General Manager Roberto Lastimoso said ferrying commuters to the venue of the opening ceremony in Manila was their way of supporting Filipino athletes competing in the Games.

Fares are waived for the LRT 1, which runs from the Baclaran station in Parañaque City to Monumento station in Caloocan City; LRT 2, which runs from Santolan station in Pasig City to Recto station in Manila; and MRT-3, which runs from Taft Avenue station in Pasay City to North Avenue station in Quezon City.

The LRT is the fastest form of mass transport on Taft Avenue while the MRT is the fastest on EDSA. Their fares are also considered as the least expensive among public transport systems in the country. — Sandy Araneta

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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