By Jelly Musico

MANILA – Team Philippines clinched the ’30th Southeast Asian Games’ overall championship, described by a top local sports official as a “sweet surprise”.

The host country was actually unthreatened at the top of the medal tally from the start to the finish of the 10-day biennial meet, duplicating its first overall title in 2005.

The Philippines garnered a total of 383 medals – 149 golds, 116 silvers and 118 bronzes, surpassing the 112 gold, 85 silver and 92 bronze medals it won in the 2005 Manila meet.

The Gilas Pilipinas, as expected, secured the country’s 18th basketball title in 20 finals appearances via sweep while the women’s team captured its first ever title with both squads beating rivals from Thailand. The Filipino cagers also swept both the men’s and women’s 3×3 basketball golds.

In men’s volleyball, the Filipino spikers succumbed to Indonesia in three straight sets, but still emerged proud as they played in their first finals appearance in 42 years.

Other gold winners for the Philippines on the final day of competitions were the billiards tandem of Rubelin Amit and Centeno (9-ball pool doubles), men’s soft tennis team, shooting trap team, Caviar Napoleon Acampado (esports), jiujitsu artists Annie Ramirez (62kg) and Adrian Guggenheim (77kg) and Gina Iniong and Jean Claude Saclag, who ruled the kickboxing’s 55kg kick light and 63.5kg low events, respectively.

Eric Shauwn Cray (400m hurdles) and Aries Toledo (decathlon) also snatched two more golds to bring the country’s total athletics golds to 11, with eight silvers and eight bronzes at the New Clark City Athletics Stadium in Capas, Tarlac.

After athletics, Arnis was the next top medal contributor for Team Philippines, winning 14 golds, 4 silvers and 2 bronzes, followed by dance sports with 10 golds and two silvers and taekwondo with 8 golds, 9 silvers and 4 bronzes.

The Philippines regained the dominance in boxing with a total of 7 golds, with 3 silvers and 2 bronzes while skateboarding, led by Asian Games gold medalist Margielyn Didal, pocketed 6 golds, 4 silvers and a bronze, while the obstacle course obtained 6 golds, 3 silvers and one bronze.

James Deiparine awarded the Philippines with its first gold medal in swimming in 10 years after ruling the 100-metre breaststroke in record fashion.

Aside from Didal, other top athletes who lived up to expectations are world gymnast champion Carlos Edriel Yulo, who finally won not one but two golds and five silvers in the SEA Games.

Olympic-bound EJ Obiena also came out with a record-breaking victory in the pole vault while Olympian Hidilyn Diaz pulled off a golden weightlifting performance.

The Games’ closing ceremony was held at the newly built New Clark City Athletics Stadium in Tarlac.

Vietnam is the next host of the SEA Games. (PNA)