Filipinos dominate SEA Games dancesport competition

CLARK - An electric Philippine contingent dazzled under bright lights and in front of a roaring home crowd by capping off a dominant dancesports showcase in the 30th Southeast Asian Games with 10 golds and three silvers in 14 events Sunday at the Royce Hotel here in Pampanga.

The pair of Mark Jayson Gayon and Mary Joy Renigen gave the Philippines its first taste of gold in the competition by topping the Waltz category before snagging two more medals of their own by narrowly edging Singapore in Foxtrot for first place and by finishing behind Vietnam in Quickstep.

"Last week, my knees were shaking already. We didn't sleep a lot because we were thinking of this competition. It's really different performing in front of a home crowd," Gayon told ESPN5.com.

"Even if we tried to relax and be ready, we were subconsciously dancing and practicing in our sleep. The pressure was intense," laughed Renigen.

A three-gold romp later followed courtesy of Ana Manalo Nualla and Sean Mischa Aranar, who cleared opponents in the Tango and Viennese Waltz categories before delivering stirring performances in a clean sweep of the Standard Five Dance category.

"We just focused. That's why it hasn't sunk in yet. We didn't let our emotions overwhelm us," said Aranar. "It was a huge event and there were a lot of emotions that could be felt so we anticipated that already by thinking that we had to focus on our routines and nothing else," Nualla added.

In the Latin dances, the couple of Wilbert Aunzo and Pearl Caneda rolled to three consecutive golds by overcoming other tandems in Samba, Cha-Cha and Rumba in powerful performances. This also marks a successful return by Aunzo, who tore his ACL and sat out for a year before being cleared 6 months before the regional meet.

"It feels like a dream," Aunzo shared. "We didn't expect that we'd have this kind of support on stage with other countries competing against us."

"The key to success is to love the process and embrace the pain," Caneda remarked.

Michael Angelo Marquez and Stephanie Sabalo added to the Philippine tally with a silver finish behind Vietnam in Jive and with two more golds in an impressive Paso Doble performance and in a tightly-contested affair against second-placer Vietnam in the Latin Five Dances.

"In our sports, it's more subjective. It's not a definite point system. The results are mysterious and it really depended on the judges, their mood for a certain night or what. We just wanted to prove that dancesports could really haul in a lot of golds," said Marquez.

In the break-dancing competition, Debbie Mahinay was also able to earn a silver medal after placing behind Indonesia in the girls' event.

This marks a successful return to the ballroom floor for the Philippines, which is hosting the return of the sport after its 12-year absence from the biennial meet.