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THE HOST city Puerto Princesa showed just a glimpse of what to expect two weeks from now as colorful pageantry, songs and dances ushered yesterday\'s opening of the 2008 MIMAROPA Regional Meet before a huge crowd at the newly-refurbished 16-hectare Ramon V. Mitra Jr. Sports Complex in Barangay Sta. Monica here.

It was not the glittering fireworks, which highlighted the opening rites, that caught the crowd’s interests but the distinct show of solidarity and unity through sports among DepEd officials all-over the region.

More so, even political leaders in the region came in full force in a rare display of teamwork and support to the staging of the competition in the ecotourism capital in the country.

And while he inspired some 3,500 athletes from 7 District Units to aspire for a much higher goal, Department of Education Undersecretary Franklin Sunga urged local government officials to stop the practice of giving monetary rewards to any medalists, saying it would just encourage cheating.

Sunga, who represented DepEd secretary Jesli Lapus, said that the problem of cheating, which spoiled the 2006 edition of the Palaro in Naga City, is already a thing of the past.

“There was no more such problem of cheating reported last year in Koronadal City because of our imposition of the new strict screening method,\" said Sunga.

He cited the importance of inculcating to all students the value of sportsmanship, honesty, teamwork and discipline as among the important tools of basic education that the constitution mandated to all institutions.

“I urged all athletes to play in the spirit of sportsmanship and honesty. To the winners, be humble in your victory, while to the losers be gentle in your defeat,” Sunga asked the young and promising athletes.

Mayor Edward Hagedorn in his brief remarks, even noticed the cooperation of mother nature to the regional meet, citing the heavy downpour for the past three days at least removed fears of extreme heat exhaustion that carved sad memories during the 2007 edition in Koronadal City, South Cotabato last year.

“This is one thing that we have to be thankful to our God,” the five-termer environmental advocate local chief executive said.

Hagedorn expressed his vision for the “City of Forest,” when he stressed that aside from environment, his other love is sports.

At the end of the speeches by some officials, which lasted for a total of five hours, Dr. Luisa B. Yu, DepEd OIC for Region IV-B finally declared the games open.

The formal declaration at least signalled the start of hostilities in 14 events in the elementary level competition and 17 for the econdary level.

Apart from host Puerto Princesa City, other units competing in the 5-day regional meet, which will select the best athletes, who will see action in the 2008 Palarong Pambansa are Palawan Province, Marinduque, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Romblon and Calapan City.

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