Monthly Archives: September 2007

Federer vs. Sampras: What a dream match

“How can a dream come true if you don’t dream?”

Among all the sayings and mottos that I know, that’s one of my favorites. Isn’t it true? If you want something so bad, if you long to achieve that seemingly-impossible feat—how can you reach it if, to start with, you don’t dream?

Dreams are essential. Without dreams, Neil Armstrong wouldn’t have stepped on the moon. Lea Salonga would not be singing in Broadway. Bill Gates would be a bespectacled professor instead of the world’s only $59 billion man. And Martin Luther King, Jr. wouldn’t have ignited such passion among Americans and delivered one of history’s all-time great speeches, “I Have A Dream.”

My dreams? Plenty. Add a brother or sister to my eight-year-old daughter Jana. Build our business. Run the 42-km. marathon. Watch the Beijing Olympics. Build a 12-court Cebu Tennis Center.

These dreams—though I’m confident all will be realized—take time. Months. Maybe years. But there’s one dream that’s happening soon. To be exact, November 22, 2007.

Pete Sampras vs. Roger Federer.

Continue reading Federer vs. Sampras: What a dream match

Executives don’t sleep, they run

Cebu Executive Runners Club members

I woke up at 4:20 a.m. Drank coffee, changed into a sleeveless shirt, tied my shoelaces and left at 4:45. When I arrived at Sug-angan Restaurant along J. Llorente St., I met five men. At 5 in the morning two days ago—last Sunday—while the whole Cebu snuggled in bed, these five runners dripped with sweat that flowed down their cheeks.

Dr. Vic Verallo had ran 12 kms. They started pounding the asphalt at 3 a.m. Can you believe that? Jess Taburada was with Dr. Vic, so were Serge Amora and Joven Vilasor. Meyrick Jacalan, like me, just arrived.

Tired? Were they panting? Did their knees look wobbly? No. They had just warmed-up. After 12,000 meters. At 5 a.m.

We ran. We circled Fuente Osmeña, jogged along B. Rodriguez, turned right to V. Rama, down Banawa and stopped after the Labangon intersection. We bought water then ran back. Upon reaching Arcenas Estate, we turned left then toured the compound. Next, we headed back to Osmeña Boulevard, finishing with a 300-meter sprint before we reached Medalle Building. My watch read “1:11.” We had finished at over an hour and ran over 10 kms.

Tired? Panting? Wobbly legs? Not these runners. Continue reading Executives don’t sleep, they run

The man called Pacman

Last Friday, I sat eight feet away from Manny Pacquaio. It was his last training session here in Cebu and—together with my dad Bunny, fellow columnist Atty. Jingo Quijano, and The Freeman sports editor Manny Villaruel—we watched Pacman spar for 10 rounds at the Rex “Wakee” Salud Gym. After sparring, he stretched, did skipping rope, toyed with the speed bag, and laid on the floor to do crunches.

Is he in shape? In excellent shape. At the end of over three training hours that would land you and I in Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital, Manny didn’t frown or drop his shoulders—he smiled, danced, sang.

ARA MINA. Yes. She’ll sing the National Anthem at Pacquiao’s October 6 fight. Questions have flourished: Has the boxer fallen in love with the sexy starlet? Did he ask her to sing to inspire him that night? Or is this a ploy to help promote their upcoming movie, “Anak ng Kumander,” which included, from what I’ve read, a kissing scene which took all of nine takes? Whatever the reason, our only request is this: Ara Mina, please don’t do a Christian Bautista.

On the greens, the winner is Green

Last Thursday, the La Salle basketball squad beat Ateneo, 70-69, for the No.2 spot in the UAAP Championships. That was basketball. At the Araneta Coliseum.

Golf? In Cebu? For the past five years, Ateneo has trounced La Salle. Ever since the Ateneo-La Salle Golf Classic was established—never mind the golf course colored all-green—Green has lost to Blue.

Not anymore. Not this year. Not when I hear fellow Lasallians say, “Nobody beats us six in a row!” Continue reading On the greens, the winner is Green

Green archer hits eagle, who falls, turns blue

It wasn’t the NBA Finals. It wasn’t Manny Pacquaio vs. Marco Antonio Barrera. It wasn’t Tiger Woods or Roger Federer collecting trophy No. 3,805. It wasn’t even the Joey de Venecia expose against the First Gentleman.

It was better. La Salle versus Ateneo. Game 3. Araneta Coliseum. Last Tuesday at 3 p.m.

I arrived at Hola España minutes into the First Quarter. As I entered, Cisco Jarque smiled. Ed Gonzales sat beside him. Bobby Martinez was at the center. Brothers Chito and Mark Cusi offered me a seat while Ryan Yu sat to the left. Gerry Malixi wore green.

Green. If you weren’t green last Tuesday, you were an outcast. You had no place to sit, stand, squat, or breathe inside Hola España, the cozy resto-bar along the Ma. Luisa Estate Park road painted one color. Continue reading Green archer hits eagle, who falls, turns blue

It’s baaack! La Salle versus Ateneo

Is there a rivalry that can rival this rivalry? Is there a school that abhors the other as much? Is there an institution that grimaces at the mention of the other’s name? Is there a title other than the UAAP basketball crown that both teams lust for and hunger after more than any other?The two-letter answer? NO.

The four-letter initials of these two teams? ADMU. DLSU.

The first school is color blue. Founded in 1859, it’s main campus resides in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, and it’s basketball squad is called “Blue Eagles.” Among it’s alumni is someone you and I know: Jose Rizal. And, with it’s Level IV accreditation (the highest possible) from PAASCU, it is one of only two universities in the Philippines to receive such an honor.

The other university? It’s color green. Founded in 1911, it has 18 campuses scattered around the archipelago and it draws inspiration from the life of its founder, Saint John Baptist de La Salle. On the basketball floor, the team is called “Green Archers.”

Ateneo De Manila University. De La Salle University.

From their nicknames alone—Eagles and Archers—one can conclude that these two are the fiercest of rivals. Think about it: An eagle flies. An archer shoots whatever flies. Continue reading It’s baaack! La Salle versus Ateneo

Gerry Malixi

One of the funniest guys you’ll meet is my good friend Gerry Malixi. With the above photo, here’s the text of the e-mail he sent me last week: “I was VERY BUSY yesterday but since this guy people call “PACMAN” practically begged to have his photo taken with me, I had to oblige.”

Gerry’s funny. He’s also a big sports fanatic. Here’s a full-length article I wrote about Gerry last April 6, 2006 entitled “Like Son, Like Father.”

Gerry Malixi plays basketball. He plays volleyball. He plays badminton. He lifts weights, swims and, on a square ring wrapped with rope, he boxes. He watches tennis on ESPN and marvels at James Blake and this guy named Roger. Next week, he’ll troop to the Mandaue Coliseum to watch Dennis Rodman and the NBA All-Stars. And on July 2 at the Araneta Coliseum, he’ll scream for Manny Pacquiao to cook a Mexican taco called Oscar Larios.

I know many sports men, sports aficionados, sports lovers. But few match the passion and fanaticism of Gerry Malixi. Continue reading Gerry Malixi

In the War of Stars, ‘Darth Federer’ slays ‘Choke-ovic’

He wore black. From his hair to his headband, to his shorts, T-shirt, wristbands, and down to his shoes and socks, he wore the only color your eyes can see when it’s brownout and your watch reads 1:38 a.m. As soon as he entered the Arthur Ashe Stadium, you know what music the organizers of the 2007 U.S. Open played?

The theme song of Darth Vader. How fitting. You know Darth Vader: He’s dark. Black. Towering. Tall. Frightening. Ruthless. He carries a stick to capture and torture and slay his enemies.

Same with D’ Federer. All-black, he stands 6-foot-1 tall, scares human beings who stand across the tennis net, he’s ruthless on that rectangle and, doesn’t he carry a light saber called Wilson K-Factor which he swings to slay enemies?

Darth Federer.

He’s been labeled many names before—Federer Express, Swiss Master, Sir Roger, The Fed—but nothing I like more than this new moniker.

Continue reading In the War of Stars, ‘Darth Federer’ slays ‘Choke-ovic’

This just in: small Henin stands tall

She is short. In this planet inhabited by the 6-foot-2 Maria Sharapova, the 6-foot-1 ½ Venus Williams, and the 6-foot-1 starlet named Ana Ivanovic, she stands petite. She’s only 5-foot-5. To us Filipinos, that’s tall. But to women’s tennis, that’s small. Add to that her physique. She looks frail, thin, flat-chested and, even if she flexes hard those leg muscles, they’d still be thinner than Serena Williams’… arm!

She’s Justine Henin. Yet, if you watch her at 7 a.m. (RP time) today over cable TV channel 45, she’ll beat Svetlana Kuznetsova to win the 2007 U.S. Open.

How is this possible? Look at the women today. They’re all giants. Gone were the days of Billie Jean-King, who won a combined 39 Grand Slam titles—despite her 5’4” frame. Or Evonne Goolagong, the 5’6” Australian who moved with such grace and finesse that she looked like a ballerina wearing tennis shoes.

Today, tennis is all about five letters: P-O-W-E-R. Slam that forehand, rip that backhand, ace that serve, smother that volley. Bang, bang, bang. And, to those who’ve followed this sport for decades, you’ll have to agree with me on this: Height is might. And—just like in almost every other sport not named billiards or chess—the taller, the better. Continue reading This just in: small Henin stands tall

Manny Pacquiao is ‘The Gambler’

With my brother Charlie

Although he calls the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino his home here, I haven’t seen Manny pulling the levers of slot machines or sitting on a high stool and rolling the dice to wager on Craps. It’s not that kind of gambling I’m speaking of.

It’s this: Manny loves taking risks. Inside the ring, you know his style. Does he hide behind those two red gloves to cover his mustache? No. Manny pounces. Attacks. He’s aggressive. Assertive. He knocks on the head of his enemy not to kiss him—but to tutor the student on the definition of “K.O.” He swings punches that break ribs and bend jaws. That’s Manny. He sees blood, goes for blood. For the risky shot. He gambles.

Take basketball. For the past two Sundays, I guarded Manny on the wooden parquet floor. Is playing this game of LeBron James, you ask, a gamble? Of course. Think about it: Who, in his right mind, would risk injury and play basketball weeks before a Las Vegas fight that would pay him P150 million?

No one. Except one. Manny.

Far left, that’s Manny with the jump-shot… That’s me (No.9)

Last week, I sat beside Freddie Roach at the lobby of Waterfront. He was alone and I introduced myself. We spoke about our basketball game—and how Manny and I collided and fell to the floor. Continue reading Manny Pacquiao is ‘The Gambler’

30th PAL InterSports biggest, best-ever

Last Saturday at 8 p.m., the Grand Convention Center overflowed. Red, blue, green, white—name a T-shirt color, it was visible. Ilonggo, Tagalog, Cebuano, Chabakano—name a dialect, it was represented. Bowling, basketball, billiards, badminton, golf, tennis—name a sport, it was played.

After 30 years of existence and three days of dripping sweat and pumped fists and friendly handshakes, the 30th PAL InterSports concluded last weekend.

Sev Sarmenta stood as emcee and made us laugh. Bernadette Sembrano, his co-emcee, was pretty in her short, brown hair—and how she charmed the men. Sitti (above photo), the Bossa Nova singer who’s only 20, wore a leg-revealing dress and soothed everyone’s muscle pains with her voice. Philippine Airlines’ top honchos were all in attendance, led by president Jaime Bautista.

Overall champions? Of course, who else but the host club: Los Jefes de Cebu. Out of the six sporting events, we topped almost each one…

In all, this wasn’t only the biggest-ever PAL Intersports in history—but also the best-organized. To Los Jefes de Cebu, hail to the Chiefs!

Chester Cokaliong

After reading his name hundreds of times on these sports pages, I finally got to watch Chester Cokaliong. Right after last Thursday’s Opening Ceremonies at the City Sports Club, our Los Jefes de Cebu basketball team played Iloilo. On the first minute of the very first play, the ball was thrown to a left-hander who stood beyond the three-point line. Within a second after catching it, he released the ball as it sliced through the air. Whoosh! Three-point shot. Aren’t those two synonyms? Chester. Three-Pointer. Yes they are. They even rhyme. At the end of the 40-age-group event, Cebu emerged as champions. And who was the Three-Point Shoot-out and Two-Ball winner? His initials start with the same letter as Champion.

Gina Juan

Our Los Jefes de Cebu badminton team stood proud as champions. Meeting stiff resistance from other badminton-fanatic cities, we emerged champions. Thanks to Jordan Tanco, Jomi Tan, Benny Que, Chris Que, Arman Bolo, Ruel Dihiansan, Louie Moro, and (women) Cheiko Saito, Cathy O, Arlene Yu, Jeselle Laranas, Noeme Orellosa and team captain Gina Juan.

Bill Uybengkee

Our bowlers—pardon the pun—bowled over the competition. Really, they did. Led by the husband and wife team (probably the best in the whole country) of Bill (above photo, 2nd from right) and Cynthia Uybengkee, our team composed of Ben Miranda, Ernest Tan, Docdoc Gothong and Sidney Guani won as Team Champion, Team Highest Single and Triple, Highest Men’s Single (Docdoc Gothong scoring 244) and Highest Women’s Single (Cynthia Uybengkee, 180).

Paeng Nepomuceno was a guest. And on Saturday night when he stepped on stage, there was a gasp from the crowd. Paeng is 50 years old but he looks as fit as a 21-year-old bodybuilder. His left arm—the one he used to win four World Cup titles in three decades—was as thick and muscular as any athlete’s leg.

Marichu San Juan at the U.S. Open

She is a very close friend and tennis companion at the Casino Espanol de Cebu. Yesterday, I received this e-mail from Chu San Juan, the wife of my tennis buddy Jun San Juan.

“Hi John! I’m sending you greetings from the Mecca of tennis: the USTA National Tennis Centre in Flushing Meadows, New York.

“I had the opportunity to be at the Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day (Aug. 25) and saw some of my favorite stars. I had photos taken with Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic, Marion Bartoli and Patty Schnyder. In practice, I saw Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Carlos Moya, and Ai Sugiyama. Music sensations rocked the house that day; they included Domican Kat Delo, chart-topping musician Sean Kingston, rising hip-hop star Lil Mama and the talented trio, the Jonas Brothers.

“An exhibition match was played between Andy Roddick, Serena Williams and Roger Federer with a special guest appearance by Tony Hawk and Chris Kattan. I also just received a call from Msgr. Achilles Dakay who jetted in four days ago in New York. I’ll meet him at the Tennis Centre soon with Larry Chan, a tennis buddy, and Nonoy Laurente, who is based here in the U.S.”

With Patty Schnyder

With Marion Bartoli Continue reading Marichu San Juan at the U.S. Open

PAL Intersports soars!

Finally, it’s done. And with Philippine Airlines and Air Philippines as sponsors, the event succeeded with flying colors. The 30th PAL Intersports, composed of 12 teams from all over the Philippines (including squads from Australia and Guam), concluded last night with the Awarding Ceremonies at the Grand Convention Center. It was an unprecedented success. Over 800 executives arrived to compete in six events: golf, tennis, badminton, billiards, bowling and basketball.

Did you know that the PAL Intersports started in Cebu when a group of executives got together to play basketball? From that small group—which included the Aboitizes, Ugartes, Aldeguers, Lhuilliers—it expanded to include teams from out of town. Today, 30 years later, it’s grown into one large, nationwide, smiling, healthy family.

To Los Jefes de Cebu, led by my “neighbor” on this page, Ed Chiongbian, and my dad, Bunny Pages, the tournament chairman, and the rest of the organizing team—a big round of applause to you!

Unbelievable! No U.S. Open TV coverage

I can’t believe there’s no U.S. Open TV coverage. For as far as I can recall—more than 12 years since cable TV was introduced to our living rooms—the U.S. Open has always enthralled our eyes.

Not this week. What happened? I don’t know. Must be the “M” word. No, not Maria Sharapova. Everybody wants to watch Maria. Must be about Money. And Millions. You know how TV networks haggle over money. And, if an event’s price is too exorbitant, then… no coverage. I just hope this coming week—starting with the quarterfinals onwards—we’ll get to see “live” forehands and smashes.

Who’s my bet? Who else but Sir Roger. On clay, there’s Rafa. But on grass and on hard-court, the no.1 is No.1. Can you believe Federer won his fifth straight Wimbledon last July and is gunning for four U.S. Open crowns in a row? Can you believe that if Federer wins in New York, he’ll snatch Grand Slam No.12—a feat that allows him to overtake his two heroes (with 11 apiece), Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg?