Manila, Philippines, April 18, 2022: Tokyo Olympian Ernest “EJ” Obiena will carry the flag of the Philippines in the opening ceremony of the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hanoi on May 12.
The 27-year-old Asian Athletics Championships and SEA Games pole vault champion, who finished 11th on his Olympic debut at Tokyo last summer, announced the news on his Facebook page while thanking the Philippines’ first Olympic Games gold medallist, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, for providing inspiration in his career.
“It is my pride and honor to be carrying our 🇵🇭 flag in the opening ceremony of the upcoming SEA games in Hanoi,” he wrote.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the sports governing bodies of the Philippines for giving me a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“Thank you @officialpatafa (Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association) for your blessing to do this. Thank you @olympic.ph (Philippine Olympic Committee) for your nomination and thank you @phil.sportscommission (Philippine Sports Commission) for your support. I am not just representing athletes but over 100 million proud Filipinos.
“Maraming salamat po ate @hidilyndiaz (thank you very much older sister Hidilyn Diaz) for guiding me and enabling me to have this opportunity. I am blessed to have such a humble role model to look up to.”
Obiena had been in dispute with PATAFA over an accounting issue but announced closure to the five-month case on April 15.
“I would like to be back and focus on training and competing for the country with my teammates in PATAFA and its officials. We now eye with 100% focus the upcoming SEA Games. We will do our very best to represent Philippines 🇵🇭!!! Thank you all for your support,” he wrote from his training base in Italy.