Events in men's football actually started on November 20th, prior to the opening ceremony. Water polo events began on November 21st, womens' football on November 23rd, sailing on November 26th, and tennis on November 26th.
The first gold medal of the games was awarded to Singapore on November 25th when their water polo team came out undefeated during the round-robin tournament round. The Philippine team took the silver medal in that event, and Malaysia brought home the bronze.
The Games were also considered a valuable opportunity for athletes to gain competition experience and preparation for the upcoming Asian Games and Olympic Games. It was purposely created to strengthen friendship, solidarity and understanding among neighboring countries in the region.
This was the third SEA Games to be hosted by the Philippines. The last two times the Philippines hosted the games were in 1981 (see 1981 Southeast Asian Games), and again in 1991 (see 1991 Southeast Asian Games). Although the majority of events took place in/around Manila, logistical hurdles required the unusual step of spreading-out the events across the country; to ten other cities. This arrangement was not seen favorably by the participating countries who anticipated travel and accommodation issues to arise; a worry which was confirmed soon after their arrival.
(Host nation highlighted.)
Gilas (Elegance) is a Philippine Eagle. It is one of the world's largest eagles; distinct for its majestic plumage on its head. The eagle is a symbol of elegance, strength and pride. It captured the winning spirit of the athletes. Gilas was inspired by the Filipino words Maliksi (agile), Malakas (strong), Matalino (smart), Mataas (high), and Matalas (sharp).
Originally, the mascot was supposed to be a Philippine tarsier until the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PhilSOC) changed it to the Philippine eagle.
The logo was designed by Filipino freelance graphic designer Joel Manalastas.
The official hymn was "We're All Just One." The hymn was composed by singer-composer Jose Mari Chan and lyricist Rene Nieva. It was sung by nine-year-old Julia Abueva, granddaughter of Philippine national artist Napoleon Abueva, and University of the Philippines President Dr. Emerlinda R. Roman. She was accompanied by the San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Ryan Cayabyab.
The opening ceremonies of the games were held at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila; the first time a park was utilized instead of a stadium. By doing so, it brought down costs, alleviating the need to spend millions of pesos just to upgrade existing facilities. It also aided in accommodating the large audience. Despite the games was not held on multi-sports stadium, the games considered as the most successful and beautiful ceremonies in the history of SEA Games, beating recent games edition including 2007 Southeast Asian Games in Thailand.
200,000 spectators gathered at the park to witness the three-hour ceremony officiated by the Philippine President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Starting with a parade of the Philippine flag carried by members of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines and Girl Scouts of the Philippines (from Sienna College of Quezon City), it was followed by the Philippines's best athletes, as well as some SEA Games alumni. After the national anthem of the Philippines was sung, a colorful cultural dance was presented by the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company.
The carrying of the SEA Games Federation Flag was led by alumni athlete Eric Buhain, sprint queen Elma Muros-Posadas, and badminton player Weena Lim. The athletes and officials from the participating countries then marched in alphabetical order starting with the contingent from Brunei Darussalam, and ending with the 740-strong Philippine contingent. Following tradition, the host country entered the arena last.
Cebu City and other satellite venues opened the Games two days earlier with pomp and pageantry. The opening ceremonies in Cebu served as a pre-cursor to the formal opening ceremonies in Manila.
In an unexpected move, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Philippines’ largest Islamic separatist group, sent representatives to attend the opening ceremonies as spectators; a “goodwill measure.”
The closing ceremonies of the Games were held at the Quirino Grandstand on December 5th, marking the end of the successful event. The Philippines, for the first time in the history of the Games, emerged as the champions after 28 years of fluctuating performances and medal tallying.
The Philippines passed on the SEA Games Federation Flag, as a sign of the completion of its hosting job, to the next host country, Thailand. Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister, Suwat Liptapanlop, was present to receive the flag. The Thai Olympic Committee will make the 24th edition of the games the most spectacular sporting event in its history, as the opening date also commemorates the 80th birth anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thai dancers graced the stage to provide spectators with a glimpse of what the athletes would expect in Nakhon Ratchasima. It was an amazing performance, featuring "Amazing Thailand" as the background.
The closing ceremony ended with a bang. The "One Big Heart" rally rushed the stage with all of the athletes participating. It was one big party. Tribal dancers were everywhere. Confetti showered the crowds. Lights danced to the rhythm of drums, and DJs spun records - adding music and chanting to the background. The celebration ended with a spectacular fireworks display as all of the athletes danced to the tune of unity and prosperity; probably the greatest, and the most beautiful, closing ceremony in the history of the Games.
¹ - not an official Olympic Sport
² - sport played only in the SEA Games
³ - not a traditional Olympic nor SEA Games Sport and introduced only by the host country.
° - a former official Olympic Sport, not applied in previous host countries and was introduced only by the host country.
Metro Manila served as the main hub of the Games, though several events also took place in Bacolod City, Cebu City, Los Baños and Canlubang in Laguna, Tagaytay City in Cavite province, Angeles City in Pampanga, and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Zambales.