The 26th SAC-SMC All-Cebu Sports Awards

Seated (from left): Donnie Nietes, Edito Villamor, John Pages, Dennis Cañete, Chad Cañares; standing: Rey Bautista, Z Gorres, AJ Banal and Michael Domingo

Gerry Peñalosa. Donnie Nietes. Niño Ramirez. Eric Llanto. The UV Green Lancers. Maritess Bitbit. Sally Mae Siso. Niño Surban. Antonio Gabica. Kelly Williams.

You know these names. You’ve read about them before. Seen them on TV. Watched them at the Cebu Coliseum or on the MTB track. They’re some of the dozens of awardees that were hailed as 2007 Cebu sports heroes.

Last night at 7 p.m., we all booked a huge function room, invited these top sports personalities, feted them with the best delicacies from the Laguna Garden Cebu, and paid a tribute to their achievements. Like we do each year. For the past 26 years.

Jointly organized by the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC) and the San Miguel Corporation (SMC), who else graced the occasion? Two famous sports figures: Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and a ballplayer who used to play for the University of Cebu and suited for the then-Cebu Gems: Don-Don Hontiveros.

PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez

I always look forward to the All-Cebu Sports Awards. My first attendance to this affair was when, as a junior tennis player, I received a citation. I recall Tony Aldeguer going up the stage and receiving one of his too-many-to-count ‘Sportsman of the Year’ awards. I next remember Michel Lhuillier, possibly the year after, receiving the same honor. This was 20 years ago. The venue? You’ll laugh—and reminisce: The Magellan Hotel.

In the past two decades, the All-Cebu Sports Awards has hopped venues: to the Grand Convention Center, Baseline Restaurant, Grand Hotel, Rajah Park Hotel, Casino Español de Cebu, and even held a few at the rooftop restaurant of the San Miguel Corporation.

Last night, who did we award as ‘Athlete of the Year?’

When our group of sportswriters met for lunch over a month ago to decide, this award was easy to pick. Because while many athletes excelled, only two turned boxing world champions in 2007: Donnie Nietes and Gerry Peñalosa. Last Sept. 30 right here at the Waterfront Lahug, if you recall, Nietes beat Thai Pornsawan Kratingdaenggym via 12-round unanimous decision to snatch the WBO minimumweight championship—handing the famed ALA Boxing Gym its first world title. And, last August 11, Penalosa stopped Jhonny Gonzalez in the 7th round to snatch the latter’s WBO bantamweight title during the World Cup of Boxing.

The Sportsman of the Year? Ricky Ballesteros. More popularly known as the Executive Director of the Sinulog Foundation, Ricky is well-known in sports circles: He is the manager of the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC). He wins badminton tournaments. Excels in ballroom dancing. And, when the Milo Little Olympics first started in Cebu, it was Ricky (together with then Cebu City Councilor Joy Augustus Young) who organized this major sortie.

Ricky Ballesteros and John Pages at a Rotary function last year

But probably Ricky’s biggest accomplishment is the Milo Marathon. Consider these record-breaking numbers, which 22 other cities nationwide could not beat: In 2004, 17,000 runners joined the Milo run. In 2005, 19,000 runners. In ’06, 20,526. And last year, 20,150. All thanks, in a big part, to Ricky.

Another awardee is non-Filipino. “Among the awardees tonight will be German Manfred Schuwerk,” wrote The Freeman Managing Editor, Nimrod Quiñones, in his column yesterday. “(Manfred) is one of those people who have been doing much to promote football in this part of the world.”

The Presidential Awardee? Felix Tiukinhoy. “The Cebu Schools Athletic Association (CESAFI) enjoyed tremendous success last year and this is mainly due to the effort of its commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy, under whose leadership resulted in record turn-out of spectators in CESAFI basketball games,” read the SAC story on Mr. Tiukinhoy.

Felix Tiukinhoy (far right) with (from left) Niño Ramirez, Jay Ramirez, Butch Ramirez and (standing) Lou Ramirez

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