Monthly Archives: December 2009

YES!

I love magazines. Time. Reader’s Digest. Fortune. Runner’s World. Newsweek. Men’s Health. Tennis. Outside. These are some I digest each month. My favorite? Wired. It’s a monthly for all things technie and gadgetry. Yesterday, I read another type. It’s glossy, gossipy, and is littered with 200 photos plus dozens of stories that are provocative and tantalizing.

YES! Yes, that’s the name. And, chances are, if you follow Kris Aquino or John Lloyd Cruz, you have a copy of YES! Well, I bought one. Not my wife Jasmin or mom Allen… but me. Buying YES! Yes.

The cover? JINKEE IN HER $2.3M HOME IN LOS ANGELES! What’s inside? Plenty. Full spreads of Pacquiao’s four-bedroom home in L.A. are on display. The living room. The master’s bedroom. The kitchen. The guest room where Mommy Dionisia sleeps. The rooms of the Pacquaio boys (Michael Stephen and Jimwell) and girls (Princess and Queenie) are all showcased in YES! The P100,000,000 house has a floor area of 4,500 sq. meters and sits on a 6,750-sq.m. property in the upscale neighborhood of Hancock Park.

Is the magazine worth buying? Absolutely. It illustrates plenty on our boxing hero: MP singing songs at the Mandalay Bay hours after his win over Miguel Cotto, him getting ready to file his certificate of candidacy for Congressman, MP showing off his newest tattoo on his left hand…. Will spare you further details. Get the Jan. 2010 issue!

Wapakman

While YES! is, I’m sure, a major hit in the newsstands, the movie that I expected to be a blockbuster has turned out to be a disaster.

On the first day of the two-week-long Metro Manila Film Festival, nine movies were shown. Guess which movie came in first? Not Wapakman. It didn’t even score No. 3 or 5 or 7. It grossed P750,000 on its first day—for the last place among nine movies. Ha-ha-ha. What a comedy. And a debacle. While movies like “Ang Panday” and “Ang Darling Kong Aswang” and “Shake” each grossed over P16 million on those first 24 hours, Pacquiao’s much-hyped movie could not earn over one million. It was knocked out.

In the Phil. Daily Inquirer article “Pacman flick knocked out on first day” by Bayani San Diego Jr. last Dec. 26, the noted director Jose Javier Reyes was asked why the fiasco with the movie starring our most popular countryman.

“Filipinos adore him as a prizefighter… as an athlete, but apparently not as an actor, singer… not even as a politician,” he said. “People will stop their lives to watch him fight in the ring, but it seems they will not go out of their way to watch him goof around in a movie. He is a real-life hero; not a superhero.”

Perfectly-said. This movie disaster is not Pacman’s first. Two years ago in “Anak ng Kumander,” it was another flop. That movie—with Ara Mina (remember her?)—grossed a measly P2 million. And while we all thought that Manny’s alleged romance with co-star Krista Ranillo will lure moviegoers to the movie, “now we know,” as MP himself would say. Now we know the answer is No. “There is a disconnect, publicity-wise. That’s possible,” said Reyes. “But in Pinoy macho society, there’s nothing too scandalous, shocking or salacious about the gossip regarding Manny and Krista anyway.”

Hearing it straight from Manny himself, he was quoted in an earlier interview as saying, “Sana panoorin ng mga intrigero ang pelikula namin. Sayang naman ’yong intriga pag hindi kumita ang pelikula? (I hope the intrigue-mongers watch our movie. What’s the use of the intrigues if our movie doesn’t make money?)”

Ha-ha. Funny. Still, blockbuster or not, I hope to watch the movie soon!

Kobe vs. LeBron: Who’s better?

My brother Charlie, his wife Mitzi Tan, and her entire family, are now in Los Angeles. They’re spending Christmas there. While that may be a terrific experience (earlier, they spent “White Christmas” for a few days in Winnipeg, Canada with it’s -14 degree weather), my younger brother isn’t all-too-happy. The reason: He could not get tickets to watch the most-awaited game of the entire NBA regular season.

LA vs. Cleveland. West against East. The Lakers opposite The Cavs. The 7-foot-1 Shaq standing tall versus the 7-foot-tall Pau Gasol. And, of course, LeBron James face-to-face with Kobe Bryant.

Sure, there are plenty of rivalries. Manny vs. Money (sayang!). Rafa vs. Roger. In Manila, there’s Ateneo vs. La Salle. In the past, there were these mano-a-mano fights: Ali-Frazier, Magic-Bird, Nicklaus-Palmer, Chamberlain-Russell, Yankees-Red Sox.

Today, if there’s one rivalry I’d like to see evolve it’s the one I saw yesterday morning in Sky Cable’s Channel 12 (RPN). One wore a white jersey with gold trimmings; the other had a Superman-like vest that was dark blue in color. The arena? Staples Center. The movie? “NBA Christmas Special.”

For outside the NBA Play-offs, there is no bigger game—make that “games,” because there were a total of five—than the ones held every Dec. 25th. With the LA-Cleveland hoopla that I saw on TV, what I found most interesting was Shaq against his “best friend,” Kobe. In one instance in the third quarter, KB drove down the lane and rammed straight into the leviathan. But no foul was called! And Kobe was mad. What a sight to see them both.

LeBron vs. Kobe? Mr. Bryant scored more points (35 versus James’ 26) but one man’s output is less significant than the team’s score. At the final buzzer, the Cavs upset the Lakers, 102-87. But even more upset were the LA fans (the audience included Hollywood stars like Sylvester Stallone, Danny DeVito, Snoop Dogg, Anna Kournikova) who threw yellow foam hands to the court—including one water bottle (reminds us of the Old Cebu Coliseum days, right?).

Back to the one-one-one debate: Do I favor LeBron over Kobe? Yes I do. Because while I don’t dislike both jersey numbers 23 and 24, I favor LeBron more. Maybe because he’s less “hambog.” Maybe because LBJ’s quieter and less expressive than the “It’s me! Me! Me!” Kobe.

What do the experts think? Who’s better?

Kurt Helin, in his blog Forum Blue & Gold, says, “If you love basketball, you can (and should) love them both. Kobe and LeBron are different players with different styles. LeBron is just a freak of nature, blessed like no other and he is just tapping into that. Kobe is more polished, someone who loves the work of perfecting his game… I love to watch them both for those reasons, for LeBron’s bull-like drives to the basket, for Kobe’s amazing balance on the pull-up jumper.”

Josh Tucker of the Silver Screen and Roll blog writes: “LeBron James is the MVP; Kobe Bryant is the better player. Both are lockdown defenders, fantastic passers, capable of scoring or facilitating and excellent leaders of their teams. The primary differences lie in each player’s individual offensive repertoires, and the key here is the versatility, polish, and completeness of each player’s game.

“LeBron James is a player with one primary, ultra-developed offensive skill: his ability to get to the hoop for layups and dunks… Kobe Bryant doesn’t have a single dominant skill that far outweighs all others, like LeBron does. Instead, he has the most complete, versatile, and polished skill set in the NBA… Simply put, the difference between the two boils down to unprecedented raw athleticism versus unequaled, finely honed skill.”

Henry Abbott, in TrueHoop, comments, “LeBron James’ biggest advantage over Kobe Bryant is his size. That height and weight—with that agility, speed, leadership, and skill—is a combination we have really never seen before. It is why he blows away just about every statistical analysis.”

To me, this White Christmas, I’m dreaming of an NBA final: Cavs vs Lakers.

Al S. Mendoza’s middle name is Sports

He loves golf. He loves basketball. He loves boxing. He loves chess. He loves tennis. Name a sport and Al S. Mendoza almost surely loves that game. For that’s the secret I learned from one of the gurus of sports-writing; from the man who’s won not one or two—but three—Palanca Awards, the “Pulitzer Prize” of Philippine journalism.

What have I learned from Al? That love of sport equals success in sports-writing. For if you don’t love what you do—sports—then how can you write well about the game?

Al Mendoza loves sports. This I found out last weekend. For three days and two nights and upon the invitation of Mike Limpag, our sports editor and fellow columnist (on the occasion of the baptism of Mike’s son, Nico), the highly-respected writer was here in Cebu with his wife Sol, herself a Palanca awardee.

Last Saturday night, we drank brandy and San Mig Light at the Bistro Ecila at the Ayala Terraces. With us were sportswriters: Atty. Jingo Quijano, Nimrod Quiñones and his son Nico, Edri Aznar, Bobby Motus, Mike and myself. Jun Migallen and Atty. Cheking Seares also shared a beer with Al at Giligan’s. Then, two days ago, Al and his fellow writers of sport met again—at the baptism of Nico and, at the reception after, in Mooon Cafe.

Al Mendoza (2nd from left) with John P., Nico Quiñones, Nimrod Quiñones, Mike Limpag, Atty. Jingo Quijano, Edri Aznar and Bobby Motus

Edri, John, Mike, Jun Migallen, Atty. Cheking Seares and ASM

What a story-teller Al Mendoza is. And what stories he told…

His most interesting interview? “Bobby Fischer.” Al told the story when Fischer was in Manila and the sports columnist wanted to interview him. He was told to report to Fischer’s hotel room… at 4 a.m.! And so, the dutiful writer that he was, Al knocked on Fischer’s room at that appointed time. When Al and a fellow Manila sportswriter sat near Fischer, the chess great asked, “What are you doing here?” When, finally, the interview began, it was the most outlandish of dialogues: Al asking questions while Fischer was in bed, eating mangoes while answering questions. At four in the morning.

Al has been to the grandest of sporting events: the Olympics. Not once, but two times, in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and, in the year, 2000, in Sydney, Australia.

Tennis? Sure. “My wife and I,” said Al, “played tennis together. We started the game a long time ago.” His favorite interview? “That was with Bjorn Borg when he came to Manila,” said Mr. Mendoza. But his love affair with the sport of racquets and nets and drop volleys disappeared when he tried the game of woods and divots and putts.

“Among all sports, I love golf,” he said, “I also consider it the most difficult game in the world.” Since Al has swung the golf iron for over two decades now, he hasn’t stopped, playing almost daily at one point in his golf career. Now, he finds time to play once or twice a week.

“My lowest handicap was 11,” he said. “And I’ve had the privilege of traveling around the world to watch golf.” He’s met Tiger Woods—not in the past decade—but when TW was still an amateur playing the junior tournaments in Florida. “I also met and have spoken to, many times, with Tiger’s dad, Eldrick.”

Al Mendoza is not only a golfer, a golf fanatic, and a golf writer, he’s also a golf rulesman. Which means that he’s an expert at the hundreds of details on the game. Which sport, I asked, is more difficult: tennis or golf? “It has to be golf,” he said, “because it’s a game of inches. One tiny fraction makes a major difference.” How about the mental aspect of golf? “That’s 99 percent of the game!”

We also talked about Rey Pages, my uncle who played for the Crispa Redmanizers. That rivalry—Crispa vs. the Toyota Tamaraws—Al considers as the best ever tug-of-ever in RP sports.

Al first started with the Manila Bulletin in 1974. That’s 35 years ago. In between, he wrote for the Phil. Daily Inquirer—where his stardom rose. It was also during that stint when he wrote the expose of the overage Zamboanga City baseball players—who, in 1992, “won” the Little League World Series.

Today, his column appears in eight Sun.Star newspapers nationwide. What an honor it is for me and Atty. Quijano to call ourselves neighbors of Al Mendoza.

RF not only aced 2000-2009, he’s best-ever

The coming week or so will not only be the last 11 days of December, they will also be the remaining moments of 2009 and–even more significant–the last 11 days of the past 120 months of this decade. Starting with the year 2000, here we are, less than two weeks away from the end of the decade—the first 10 years of the new millennium. And so, we celebrate. We highlight the outstanding achievements of the past 10 years.

To me, few can surpass the triumphs of this Swiss who can fluently speak German, English and French. Today, he stands 6-foot-1—and stands as the player who has the tallest of rankings: No.1. For he has amassed just about every laurel there is in tennis.

Grand Slam singles titles? He’s collected 15. Previously, the record-holder was Pete Sampras, who totaled 14—a number that plenty (including myself) thought was unlikely to be surpassed. Yet barely a few years had passed after Sampras’ retirement had his close buddy winning all the slams on this planet.

“What he’s done over the past five years has never, ever been done,” said Sampras, “and probably will never, ever happen again.”

That’s true, Pete. For here are the numbers… Wimbledon? Roger won six: from 2003 to 2007 and, last July, in 2009. US Open? Federer has five wins in New York, from 2004 to 2008. Australian Open? He’s grabbed three—in 2004, 2006 and 2007. French Open? Ahh. This is special. For this tournament, because of it’s slow red clay surface, is often dubbed “the most backbreaking event in tennis.” Last May, while Rafael Nadal lost early in Paris, RF collected his most precious memento ever in Roland Garros.

That’s 15 majors. More than Sampras. More than Bjorn Borg. More than anyone else who’s ever carried a tennis racquet. More than Tiger Woods. The man adjudged by the Associated Press as the “Athlete of the Decade” (and Disgrace of the Year?) has 14 major titles. Well, shouldn’t the Athlete of the Decade prize instead have gone to RF instead of TW? That’s another story—and article. But this fact is true: Thus far, Roger beats Tiger with 15 vs. 14. Plus, isn’t Tiger taking an indefinite leave while Roger, at age 28, is still at his peak?

More statistics to cement RF’s status as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) in tennis? He stayed at the No.1 spot for 237 consecutive weeks, a record. He’s reached 22 straight Grand Slam semi-finals, a record. He’s been in 21 Grand Slam singles finals—and 17 of the last 18, a record. Is there any other record that he has yet to break?

“What he’s done is arguably as great of an achievement as anybody can ever have in any sport,” said Andre Agassi, “and I think tennis is one of the most brutal forms of sport. I think it’s physical, and there’s so many components to come together to make a tennis player, from balance to power to grace to fitness to concentration.”

Well-said, Andre. For Roger’s successes go beyond just piling up victories. It’s his manner of play. His effortless motion. His grace. His movement that sees him floating. His serve. His forehand. His volleys. Every aspect of his game is A+.

“It’s amazing what sort of shots he can come with, from impossible positions,” said Rod Laver. “It’s a great feeling of being able to watch the talent that he has, and the opponents that he beats comfortably.”

From a personal standpoint, I consider myself lucky. Twice, I had a chance to watch Federer in person. In August of last year, I saw him win the Olympic gold medal in men’s doubles.

And, in Kuala Lumpur back in 2007, and accompanied by several from Cebu that included two of Roger’s most passionate of fans, Michelle So and Chinggay Utzurrum, we watched Federer vs. Sampras.

But here’s my “mistake.” The day before their exhibition match, in a meet-and-greet session with Malaysia’s elite, I sneaked my way on stage to be near Roger and Pete. But given only a few seconds and the choice to shake one player’s hand, I turned to Pete. Now the Greatest Ever, I should have picked Roger.

Happy 31st birthday, Manny

Today, we greet an ordinary man turned extraordinary superman. He started poor. Dirt poor. Because, literally, it was dirt and ashes and sand and gravel that he carried and shoveled when he first worked in construction as a teenager. He could barely feed himself then. One meal a day. Two meals a day. Very often, unlike some of us who have the luxury of gorging on three unlimited platefuls per 24 hours plus cups of coffee and slices of toasted bread in between, he could not afford the same. Yet, it was this same bedrock, this same painful and gritty upbringing that fabricated his mettle.

Today, long after he climbed past the mountain called poverty and millions of minutes after he’d spent sweating inside the boxing gym to pound on punching bags and skip on skipping ropes, he has become our warrior. Our Philippine eagle.

If Sweden had a Bjorn Borg in the 1970s to catapult tennis to smashing heights, if U.S.A. had Jesse Owens in the 1930s to embarrass Adolf Hitler, if Brazil had Pele in the 1960s to proclaim that they owned the most powerful football kick on earth—we have our own version.

He looks like us. Has a mustache like many of us. He’s not tall. He eats tinolang manok. He speaks Bisaya, converses in Tagalog. He’s brown-skinned, black-haired, just like us.

Yet, unlike us, he has become the lone sunlight amidst the Philippine darkness. In this land where corruption is ingrained in the ladders of government, where natural calamities like Ondoy and Pepeng have destroyed our habitat, where our sports delegation to an international meet like the SEA Games is not one but two squads—as if there existed two different Philippines—he soars alone as our Philippine eagle.

He has inspired us. He has made the forgotten name “Filipino” into a much-talked about word when we visit Europe or America or Australia. For, in those continents, when we say we’re from the Philippines, they smile, shake our hand and not say, “Oh, you’re from the same country as Gloria Arroyo!” They say… “You come from the land of today’s Bruce Lee.”

Think about this Filipino. Boxers, we know, are no cowards. For who coward will allow himself to get stabbed by an uppercut or to bleed from the nostrils? But this Filipino boxer is much more than a boxer. Because, unlike some who evade the most robust of opponents, he’s undaunted by whoever famous name stands before him.

De La Hoya? Marquez? Cotto? Barrera? Hatton? Morales? All these fighters, almost surely, will land in the Hall of Fame. And our Filipino was never intimidated to face the finest of the best. Unlike Money, The Weather-Weather.

Money? The Cash? The Gen-San native has lots. While, when he started fighting, the prize money amounted to only hundreds of pesos, now it’s in the hundreds of thousands. No, millions. Computed in pesos, billions. And just as Bob Arum is almost never wrong, our birthday celebrant today will receive, in his coming fight, the biggest prize money in all of boxing. More than Ali. More than ODLH. More than Hagler or Hearns or Evander or Sugar Ray L.

But, to me, what distinguishes our countryman more than any other is his passion for life. Be it singing in front of thousands at the Mall of Asia concert grounds or singing while his ears are bloodied and his face swollen hours after he TKO’d Miguel Cotto, this we know of him: he enjoys life.

He loves cock-fighting. He loves to place a gamble in casinos. He plays basketball as often as he wants—like he did against us Cebuano sportswriters two years ago in a series of every-Sunday games. In those games, he drives down the lane and attempts a Michael Jordan-like leap. Never mind if this endangers millions of dollars if he injures his ankle or knee.

He’s an actor. He’s Wapakman. He’s a billiards marksman. He’s a darts marksman. Congressman?

Above all, we see a man who relishes each second of each hour of each week of his life. God bless our Philippine eagle.

Tiger Woods not as wise as Manny Pacquiao?

This is damaging. The most savory, intriguing and luscious topic of today has wreaked havoc on golf’s First Family, on the sport of woods and irons, on the entire sports hemisphere. The repercussions travel farther than Tiger Woods’ 340-yard drive. For here was a human being unlike any on earth. He was dubbed “Mr. Perfect.” He amassed a billion-dollar fortune—the first in sports history. His 10-letter name—Tiger Woods—wasn’t a first name coupled with a family name; it’s a global brand—much like Coke or Google or Apple.

Tiger Woods owned everything… plus, plus, plus. A beautiful smile. A skin color that broke racial barriers. A swing that was emulated by 77-year-olds and 7-year-olds. Plus, he had an indestructible mind. A mental strength that was stronger than any bicep or tricep muscle. Sadly, it was this same strength—his mind—that caused him to blunder.

To me, as shocking as all this was, here’s something more perplexing: How the wisest athlete on earth bungled on his response. Because, I ask, would it not have been better to have seen Tiger himself hold a three-minute press-conference explaining, in his own voice and with a humble and sorry heart, what happened? Not to elaborate on details. Not to answer questions in a never-ending Q & A session. Not to say he slept with three dozen or 69 bargirls—but to explain, in simple yet contrite words, his transgressions and sorrowfulness.

Not in his website. In person. Never mind if his face was swollen (from the golf iron club that his wife, Elin, whacked on his forehead during that fateful night?), his personal admission would have been essential. Wasn’t this what Kobe Bryant did? The same with Michael Jordan? Did they not speak to us on TV and apologize to their families and to their fans? Too bad TW did not consult his buddies, KB and MJ.

For here’s what happened the past 20 days. Because of the “no-news” from TW, bad news erupted. Bloggers gossiped. Tabloids buzzed. Columnists babbled. This controversy has been transformed into one of 2009’s most sensational of stories.

Or maybe Tiger should have copied our very own, Manny Pacquiao. Days before his victory over Miguel Cotto and, worse, hours after he annihilated the Puerto Rican, weren’t we all, instead of celebrating Pacman’s victory, talking tsismis about Krista Ranillo? Absolutely. It was an intriguing and tempting story. And didn’t we all see, on TV, how Jinkee cried during the victory mass and wouldn’t even kiss his seven-time world champion husband? The non-stop tsismis began. So much so that when Manny and Jinkee flew back to Manila from Los Angeles, weren’t we all-too-curious on their marriage? Divorce! we shouted.

But Manny is smart. Never mind if his alleged tryst with KR was untrue or true, the minute the Pacquiaos stepped off the plane, they smiled. They held hands. They hugged. At the Mall of Asia concert, they appeared on stage as if on a honeymoon, holding hands, kissing on the lips.

What happened after that? The rumors disappeared as fast as Manny’s left hook. Of course, all thanks to Jinkee who appeared unaffected by all the scandalous talks. But MP did his part: He did not hide. He did not evade.

Not Tiger. For each day that he recluses himself at home, it’s an extra 24 hours for the billions worldwide to chastise him and inflict gossip on him that will forever tarnish and impair his brand-name.

Appear on Oprah? That’s probably a good move. Although I’m not sure if he’s willing to tell-all—because, based on the fascinating stories these women have poured out in public, their illicit affairs have been wild and spectacular. Still, the point is clear: Tiger should face the world with his own face.

Jack Jakosalem is running the Cebu Marathon

Yes, he’s running! No, not in the elections (he’s on his third term) and no, not the 42K distance (he’s still aiming for that first 5K!), but Councilor Sylvan “Jack” Jakosalem is helping run the upcoming Cebu City Marathon. Thanks to his assistance as the chairman of two city council committees—on Professional Games, Amusement and Sports, and on Transportation—he has helped the organizers tackle the two most fundamental components of organizing road races: Safety and Cash.

Jack organized a series of meetings at his office in the Cebu City Hall and, once, at Bo’s Coffee in BTC, between the CITOM chief, Arnel Tancinco, and CITOM’s Traffic Group head, SP04 Ricardo Hapitan, and the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC), represented by Jesse Taborada, Meyrick “Jacs” Jacalan and myself.

Our topic? Road Safety. You see, unlike in Manila where the roads are four-lanes-wide on each side and they’ve got the open space of a Fort Bonifacio to organize races, here in Cebu, our roads are narrow. They’re scary. Many an occasion I’ve had a vehicle, zooming at 80-kph, flying beside me at arm-length’s distance. It’s risky and treacherous.

What if a car kills a runner? I’m sure this will grab headline front-page news. And this near-miss, vehicles-in-close-range scenario is happening every Sunday during each run here in Cebu. As I said, this is perilous.

Good thing Councilor Jakosalem and CITOM head Arnel Tancinco agreed to our request for the closure of one-half of the road of the entire Cebu City Marathon route. This means that, while running, for example, along Osmeña Blvd., the full side of the road beside Cebu Doctor’s Hospital down to Fuente Osmeña down to Cebu Normal Univ. will be closed until 9:30 a.m. How about the South Road Properties, where the 42K participants will run 19 kms.? The entire SRP will be closed until 9 a.m. This is unprecedented. And necessary. For road safety is priority No.1.

The Cebu City government is also contributing P300,000. This amount will be channeled to the bulk of the expenses—the prize money. That’s why, this early, we’ve received feedback that Kenyan runners, possibly numbering 10 or so, will be in Cebu to aim for the 42K first prize of P50,000.

Another priority for the Jan. 10, 2010 marathon? Water. As one who ran three marathons—Hong Kong, Singapore and Quezon City—the importance of hydration is paramount. Last October when Cebuanos joined the Quezon City Intl. Marathon, they ran out of water! Believe me, when you’re salivating in Km. 34 and can’t find something to sip, it’s infuriating! Thanks to Summit Drinking Water—plus it’s counterpart in the sports-drink division, 100Plus—we hope never to run out of water.

Also, last Monday, we held a press-conference which included top officials from two major companies.

Jerry Yntig, the director for external affairs and public relations of Globe Telecom, was accompanied by Trina Poca, whose top position is Trade Marketing Manager for Vis-Min. Globe Telecom, a Presentor to our marathon, is giving away free mobile phones to the winners.

Joy Polloso, the division head of the Ayala Center Cebu, was also with us. Apart from the newly-opened Active Zone of Ayala Center being a major part of the marathon—the registration area is there—here’s another announcement that will delight all participants: Come Jan. 8, the Active Zone will be formally launched to the public. And, during that same night will be the pre-race party and carbo-loading dinner for the runners. All to be held in Ayala Center Cebu. This is terrific news. For, in my recollection, never has there been a race in Cebu that included a pre-race party. More details to follow…

Here’s one more information about the name “Ayala:” we hope Fernando Zobel Ayala himself—a marathoner who finished the New York City 42K—will join us that weekend.

Final update: Practice run inside the SRP on Dec. 20. For details—and to view the designs of the singlet and 42K finisher’s medal—visit the website…

This 2009, Rafa Nadal smashes and drops shots

What a rollercoaster season for the Spanish superstar. First, he began in perfect form: At the Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam event, Rafael Nadal reached the semifinals not having lost a set. Meeting his fellow Spaniard/lefty Fernando Verdasco, they engaged not in a tennis game but in a bloody slugfest of boxing: a five-setter that concluded as the longest match in Oz Open history at 5 hours, 14 minutes. Nadal won. In the finals against—nobody, nobody but…—Roger Federer, it was another classic battle. Rafa prevailed in five sets and was crowned the Australian Open victor. He was superb, impeccable, splendid.

Then………… Bang! The collapse started. At the tournament where he has never lost, on the red clay of the French Open, Rafa was the four-time defending champion. Until he met Robin Soderling in the fourth round—and was beaten. On that May 31 afternoon, Nadal did not only lose the match, he lost much more: his confidence. His topspin. His knees. Suffering from tendinitis, he later withdrew from the most prestigious tennis party on earth, Wimbledon.

Nadal rested for two months. But the damage was done. He was vulnerable. He was no longer Rafa The Invincible. When he returned in August, he promptly lost to Juan Martin Del Potro. Worse, he surrendered the No. 2 ranking (a spot he had held since July 2005) to Andy Murray. Next, at the US Open, once more RN was obliterated by the 6-foot-6 Argentine named Del Potro, 2-6, 2-6, 2-6.

Bad. But here’s worse: At the year-ending ATP World Tour Finals, Nadal played three round-robin matches. His score: 0-3. Not a single match did he win. In fact, RN did not win a single set! Even worst than worse—if there’s ever such a term—Nadal lost his last four matches and lost his last eight sets of tennis.

Here in this former Spanish land called Cebu, plenty of Nadal fans were, I’m sure, perplexed and troubled. The likes of Bobby Aboitiz, Ernie Delco, Manny Sainz, Bobby Lozada, Frank Malilong, Fr. Joy Danao and Fabby Borromeo—to name seven of Rafa’s supporters in our city—were worried and asking, “Will Nadal ever rise again?”

For didn’t Rafa win the 2008 Olympic gold medal? Wimbledon last year? And the world No.1 ranking? And now, he’s wobbled, stumbled, and faltered? Can he recover? Or has the all-too-physical game of Spain’s muscleman finally damaged his body? Can he retain the No.1 crown and ward off not only Federer but the likes of Murray, Djokovic, Del Potro, Tsonga?

Relax, relax. Nadal, lest we forget, is so much younger than me and, mostly likely, you. He’s only 23. So he’ll recuperate. He’ll reconfigure his game for his body to take less beating. He’ll win the US Open. He won’t disappear.

Proof of his resurgence happened over the weekend. At the Davis Cup, Nadal won the crucial first game against the Czech Republic player, Tomas Berdych, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2. And, in the finale match, he won again. With those wins, it brought his DC record to an extraordinary 14-1. (No thanks to lousy cable TV coverage, we didn’t see those matches.) By week’s end, Nadal and Team España captured the Davis Cup.

Was that significant? To Rafa? Absolutely. Because looking back at his story, in 2004, RN’s tennis career was launched when, as an 18-year-old, he beat Andy Roddick in the Davis Cup final against USA. Since then, he has zoomed to the top. The following year, Rafa won the French Open and jumped from a ranking of 51 to world No. 2 by the end of 2005.

Davis Cup recharges Nadal. And, my guess is, never mind his painful defeats in Roland Garros and the US Open and his exit from Wimbledon—plus the shocking divorce of his parents, Sebastian and Ana Maria, in the middle of the year—all these painful memories have been erased after he raised the Davis Cup trophy.

Because with Nadal, it’s mental. It’s hard to find a tougher, more tenacious and first-class and paramount athlete than Rafa. Except one….

Tiger Woods? Ha-ha. That’s before last week.

Money vs. Manny: Isn’t 03-13-10 too soon?

Four short months. If the March 13 “Super Fight Of The Century” pushes through between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr., it will only be exactly 120 days between fights for our Filipino champ. Is that enough time for Manny to recover and recharge before inflicting Money’s first-ever defeat?

I think so. I hope so. Because while Manny had six months of rest before facing Miguel Cotto and five months between Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, he’ll have less recovery time against Money. Still, I believe that’s sufficient.

For here’s what Manny’s schedule will look like: This December, he’ll relax and recuperate. He’ll finish shooting “Wapakman” and, come Christmas, he’ll be merry and, on New Year’s, he’ll be happy. Then, when the clock strikes “2010,” he’ll focus on boxing.

Bob Arum has targeted New York and the date, Jan. 11, for the formal introduction of Manny vs. Money. “It’s one press conference, in the Big Apple, and that is it,” said Arum. So, my guess is, after that NYC visit, Manny returns to Manila, drives up to Baguio City and begins training. In all, he’ll have eight weeks. And, hasn’t Manny repeatedly trained, in his own words, for “no more, no less than eight weeks?”

True. And eight weeks prior to the super fight is Jan. 17. That’s over a month from now. By then, Manny’s injured right eardrum should have healed.

His candidacy for Congressman? Oh. We almost forgot that. But Manny hasn’t. And my guess is he’ll fly to Sarangani on Sundays. But here’s the good news: Manny hardly needs to campaign. No, I’m not saying Manny’s a shoo-in to win. But who doesn’t know him in Sarangani? Who doesn’t idolize the hero? And so, for January and February, he’ll run and run… for boxing. Then, after March 13—with two months left—he’ll run and run… for public office.

Perfect, right? Manny beats Money, earns P2,000,000,000.00, retires from boxing, and wins the elections as Congressman Pacquiao? Knowing how astute and brilliant Manny is, this is the story line he’s dreaming of: A happy ending for boxing, a new beginning in politics.

What does Freddie Roach think? “We’re happy it could be happening, but I’m surprised it’s happened so quick,” he said. “We will have to start training right after New Year’s Day so that we get our customary 10 weeks in. I guess we will have a month in the Phils. followed by the remainder at my (Wild Card) gym. I really like it when Manny stays so active, when there is not much down time. He stays sharp and that is good.

“We see flaws in Mayweather. Sure, he is great defensively but we see some flaws which we can exploit. Whether it’s those shoulder rolls or anything else, defense does not win fights completely. We know what we can do against Mayweather. I know Manny can’t be hurt by Mayweather… Manny can walk right through anything Mayweather throws.

“I do think it helps that the election campaign goes on after this key fight. We can have as good if not a better training camp than we had for the last fight.”

Want another analysis? Here’s one of the best, courtesy of boxing trainer Nazim Richardson: “From Floyd’s perspective: the minute you start talking about how small Pacquiao is, you’re beat. I told Shane, ‘If you fight him, if anybody in the camp calls you bigger than Pacquiao, I’ll put them out of the camp.’

“Because that’s just media s#!&. Every time they mention Pacquiao they mention he started at 106 lbs. Well, hot damn, all of us at one time were under 25lbs! I got up to be over 300 lbs, but one time I was under 25 lbs. Why do they talk like that, ‘You know he started his career at 106.’

“But they keep bringing it up and I told them the same thing; the greatest trick the devil ever did was convince the world he didn’t exist. The greatest trick that Pacquiao ever did was convince you all that he was a small man! And he’s going to keep beating the s@%! out of people who keep thinking he’s a small man. At 147 lbs., Pacquiao is a small man like Mike Tyson was a small heavyweight!”

RUNNR in Cebu

www.runnr.com.ph

If you’re a runner, I suggest you visit one store this weekend: RUNNR. Yes. A runner inside Runnr. No, I did not misspell the word. RUNNR, the newest addition to Ayala Center Cebu’s mix of sporting goods outlets, is spelled uniquely as… Runnr.

Located across TimeZone and Sbarro, inside you will find Hammer energy gels, Newton shoes, FuelBelts, New Balance insoles, Polar watches—in short, all things running. By Runnr. Best of all, they have an equipment that’s computerized and is the only one of its kind in the Visayas and Mindanao: the Professional Gait Analysis System. Called “Footworx: The Science of Running,” you are asked to run barefoot on a treadmill (yes, running inside the store!) while high-speed video cameras capture your stride. The purpose? Your foot type is scientifically determined. The end result? You’ll be able to purchase the shoe type that’s perfect for your unique feet.

The best news about this Gait Analysis? RUNNR offers this for free! No gimmicks where you need to purchase P500 worth of items before you step on the treadmill. No. You enter RUNNR and can try it for free.

Toby Claudio, the owner of the sporting goods conglomerate whose store name is derived from his first name—“Toby’s”—was the man who, recognizing the popularity of running, conceptualized the new store and opened it in Boni High Street in Fort Bonifacio last June. And, just last Saturday, Toby opened his second branch in, where else, our own Cebu City.

Running Clinic Part 3 this Saturday, Dec. 5

During the months of September and October, our group—the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC)—organized two gatherings for Cebuanos. The purpose: to impart techniques and instruction on the hottest sport to literally land on our streets today… Running.

This Saturday is Part III. It will be different, fresh, outstanding. That’s because two professionals will be here. Not to join a Sunday 6 a.m race or to suroy-suroy in Tops or to swim at Shangri-La’s pool—they’re here to lecture. To teach. To impart their know-how.

Coach Jim Saret I’ve known for a long time. Back in the mid-80s, we played junior tennis together in the hard-courts of the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center in Manila. Having pursued a full-time career in sports—he studied Sports Medicine in America—Jimbo will be in Cebu to discuss several topics: (1) running and training techniques; (2) the necessary preparations to take up running as a sport; (3) tips for different levels or runners: starting out, beginners, advanced, marathoners, and (4) how to determine readiness: when to move from 3K to 5K to 10K to 21K and 42K.

Coach Julius Giron will accompany Mr. Saret. This time, he will talk specifics: the benefits of using a heart rate monitor, the advantages of using compression wear outfits, and the differences between forefoot and midfoot running.

Again—and I reiterate—this is the first time that experts from Manila will land in Cebu to conduct this seminar. Thanks to RUNNR (who’s bringing the specialists here) and, of course, to the host of the event, Ayala Center Cebu.

So, don’t miss this! Best of all… it’s FOR FREE.

That’s this Saturday (Dec. 5) from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at the Active Zone, Ayala Center Cebu. To reserve seats, I suggest you sprint for the telephone now and register ASAP. Call Marlin at 232-8518/19. Early registrants will be given priority seating. See you there!

Michel Lhuillier opens up on life, basketball

He is the owner of the most dazzling and victorious basketball organization outside of the PBA. The team that carries his name, “M. Lhuillier,” has won just about every single regional tournament among our 7,107 islands. Yet, for all the trophies the M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Niños has accumulated, Michel Lhuillier himself he has not watched—in person, live—an M. Lhuillier ballgame in a long time.

“It’s been four or five years since I’ve seen my team play,” he said. “I get nervous. And I don’t want to die of a heart attack!” We laughed.

Michel Lhuillier, the business tycoon who owns the most extensive fleet of pawnshops in the nation, sounded overjoyed when we spoke yesterday. He has reason to be. In the 2009 Smart-Liga Pilipinas Super Leg Conference 3, his team won a record 21 games—undefeated—including an 89-54 annihilation job on the Misamis Oriental Meteors in the championship game last Sunday at the Cebu Coliseum.

“We feel very good. Fantastic,” said Lhuillier, who is also the chairman of the Cebu City Sports Commission. “We worked hard for it. If feels good when you prepare and work hard and win. I congratulate our team. It was a team effort and it was not an easy thing to do.”

Lhuillier credited his players, the Cebuanos, his support staff and, above all, one person. “Coach Yayoy. Councilor Yayoy. Businessman Yayoy. I don’t know what to call him anymore,” said Lhuillier. “He’s been with me for more than 23 years. What can I say about him? I believe in him. He’s good. He’s outstanding. He has a knack for it. He feels for it. He’s so involved in the game and some misunderstand it when he reprimands players. He loves the game. He also knows all about the NBA and the PBA. In terms of scouting, he knows what positions to shop for when the team has weaknesses.”

Do the players ask for your advice? I queried. “Me? They call me ‘Mr. Bonus.’ Because, after the team wins, the players expect a bonus!”  Again, we laughed.

How about the future of the M. Lhuillier outfit? Unbeatable in the Liga Conference 3, is it true that, having conquered the regional basketball scene all over the nation, it’s time to try the PBA?

“It’s getting to be difficult now. I don’t know of many teams who want to play with us anymore. That’s why we’ve got to play the PBA teams in exhibition games. And, of course, they’re much taller and bigger and their salaries, heavier,” he said. “I’ve been offered to put up a PBA team. But it’s not for my business. It’s too expensive. You need P100 milion to maintain a team. Now, they’re offering me P40 to P50 million for a PBA franchise. With those amounts, I have better use of my money. I’d rather have a strong enough team that can play once-in-a-while with the PBA.

“The PBA is definitely a money game. I’ve spoken to Manny Pangilinan about this. It’s how much you have. It’s a money game. You buy the players. The one who spends the most, wins.”

His favorite sports? “I love basketball. But basketball was not for me. I’m not tall. I only played in the Intramurals. But I’ve always loved basketball. In La Salle, where I studied, I tried-out and came in only as the 20th player. I never made the cut. Instead, I became the ballboy. Also, the one who gives the orange juice and towels to the players. That’s why I told myself, ‘When I have enough money, I’ll put up my own team!’

“In La Salle, you have to join sports. I made the soccer team. But the sport I enjoyed the most, because of the self-discipline, was track-and-field. I aimed to be the best in college. My event was the 400 meters. I trained for 12 years and aimed to be No. 1. But, in the end, I only came in No. 3. Never mind if I trained so hard. This, compared to a guy named Nacho who barely trained but came in No. 1. Well, he had the physique of an athlete.

“But I kept on striving. I keep on trying and trying. Up until today. I’ve had defeats but, because of determination, I’ve had more victories than defeats in life. It’s by trying and trying that I get to succeed.”