The pencak silat team lost its long-time patron and president, the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, but it has not abandoned hopes for a gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games and certainly not its mission to propagate the Muslim sport outside the confines of Muslim Mindanao.
The pencak silat association appears to be like a sultanate where the president takes charge for an indefinite period of time, replaced only when he dies or is incapacitated.
The association still awaits the selection of a new president, which is likely the wife of the former president, a claimant sultan on the Sultanate of Sulu who revived the clan’s claim to North Borneo until his death last October.
Despite a vacuum in the leadership, life goes on for the pencak silat body, which has managed to maintain a national pool of 18 members from whom four were picked to compete in the 27th SEA Games starting today.
Jayrashley Kiram, grandson of the late Sultan of Sulu, gained a slot to fight in the Class H (80-85kg) following his bronze medal finish in the Asian Championships.
Jul-Omar Abdulhakim (Class B 40-55kg) and Clyde Joy Baria (Class F 70-75 kg) used their silver medal finish in a qualifying tournament in Myanmar in June as their ticket to the SEA Games while Nerlyn Huinda (Class C 55-60 kg) gained an automatic berth with her bronze medal finish in the 2011 Indonesia Games.
“Many had not qualified, but they will have their chances in the next SEA Games,” said coach Ronald Perena, at 36 the most senior national team member.
Perena won the bronze medal in the 2010 World Championships and the bronze in the 2011 SEAG, making him qualified as a PSC “elite athlete” entitled to a P25,000 allowance a month.
However, he himself was also denied a slot because the organizers limited participation to this year’s pencak silat competitions to players 35 years and below.
Besides, Myanmar, knowing it doesn’t have a China man’s chance of winning a medal in the sport already heavily contested by Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, reduced the number of events to 15 categories – nine for men and six for women.
Despite having to crack a field as tough as nail, the local pencak silat team is buoyant in its medal chances, thanks to a 21-day training in Indonesia where they sparred with world champions.
To the pencak silat team of the late Jamalul Kiram III, medal chances could be anything from bronze to gold, last won in the 2005 Manila Games by warrior named Marniel Dimia.