There were dancers, costumes, and music at the official opening of the games in Manila's Quirino Grandstand. A parade of colorful national delegations filled the street that runs through the playing field.
Athletes from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus the new nation of East Timor, are participating. They will compete in more than 40 sports and games, ranging from baseball, wrestling and judo, to billiards and chess.
This is the third time the Philippines has hosted the event, which takes place every two years. Jose Cojuangco, President of the Philippines Olympic Committee, says the games send an important message.
"There can be unity, there can be friendship and brotherhood in sports," he said. "While there might be economic conflicts and political conflicts, but when it comes to sports but when it comes to sports it can be held and it can improve the relationships between people through sports."
Thousands of police and other security forces are deployed to provide security for the games, a fact of life in today's world. Although the authorities reported no specific threats, there are periodic clashes between the military and communist rebels in the Philippines, and several Muslim militant groups are also active.
Rodolfo Tor, who is in charge of security for the games, says preparations have been extensive.
"We are employing a system in which we have close contacts with the athletes, strict cordoning of the area, and a wide coverage of intelligence monitoring prior to the conduct of the game," said Mr. Tor.
Most events are being held in Manila, but Negros Island, Subic Bay and Central Cebu are also venues for competition. The games run through December 5.