Monthly Archives: January 2010

Volleying? No one better than Jun San Juan

At the Casino Español de Cebu, if you conduct a survey among the tennis players and ask, “Who’s your top doubles player?” one name will surface among the top in the list. His name: Antonino San Juan, Jr., who first dribbled with basketball then spiked the volleyball before swinging at that tennis ball. Today, he’s a Class-A netter whose volleys up at the tennis net are skillful and precise.

The favorite word he memorizes? “Volley.” Because apart from using it often in this game of Justine Henin and Andy Murray, he also happens to be, just starting last month, Cebu’s highest-ranking official of the sport with the same first name: Volley.

Jun San Juan recently took over from Glenn Soco, who’s busy on the campaign trail as a Vice Governor candidate, the title of President of the Cebu Volleyball Association. “CEVA was started in the year 2000 by Glenn Soco,” answered Jun, in our exchange of emails. “I was one of the board of directors. In 2004, I rose to become the Vice President.” Today, Mr. San Juan heads one of the most dynamic of sporting bodies in Cebu. Thanks to him and Glenn and CEVA, their accomplishments the past 10 years have been exceptional.

“First, CEVA hosted two international events,” said Jun, when I asked for a list of their projects. “The World Men’s Volleyball and the Asia Youth Girls in 2004 participated in by 11 Asian nations, China, South Korea, Australia, Philippines, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan.” An even more popular project is the GUV Cup. Started in 2005, this partnership of CEVA and Gov. Gwen Garcia and the provincial government is now touted to be “the biggest and most prestigious volleyball tournament in the country with 47 participating municipalities and five component cities.” There’s more: The Nestea Beach Volley at Parkmall last year and the First Beach Volleyball in San Remegio, 2008-2009. The annual workshops and attestation of referees and coaches, said Jun, has also produced nine national referees from Cebu. Finally, through the GUV Cup, a national-caliber player was recognized: Jusabelle Brillo.

Yet, despite being the top honcho of CEVA, the interesting story is that Jun San Juan is not even the most famous volleyball personality in his family. His wife, Marichu Jao San Juan, is that person. “Chu” is one of the two Jao twins (together with Marilou Ramirez) who became national volleyball heroes during their athletic days. Cebu Hall of Fame? Yes, Marichu is a member of the exclusive club. The Milo National Little Olympics last October? Yes, it was Chu who lit the torch to spark the beginning of those games.

Jun and Chu

“I used to be a basketball player,” said Jun, when I asked how he started. “But when I saw the twins train and play in the national team in Manila, there was a change of heart and I immediately fell in love with volleyball.” Heart? Fell in love? I’m sure Jun was referring to Chu. After his shift from the orange basketball to the white volleyball in college, Jun became a member of the Mapua volleyball varsity team. Soon after, he was team captain for two years and, he says, “I was later drafted to play for the NCR selection in the Palarong Pambansa in Tuguegarao and was a candidate for the national team in 1981.”

As to CEVA’s plans for the year? They have plenty: 1) Beach Volleyball (Holy Week in Bantayan Island). 2) We will be conducting clinics by district level in the summer. 3) Coaches and Referees Seminar and Workshop at the Capitol Social Hall in August to be conducted by an international referee from Manila. 4) GUV Cup tournament from Sept. to Dec. 5) Planning stage on hosting a Beach Volleyball event in Parkmall. 6) Renovate the existing beach court in Parkmall & change the sand. 7) Planning stage on hosting an international tournament before the end of the year. With Jun and CEVA volleying, 2010 will be a smash.

Near-death tragedy turns into blessing for Z

“Gorres is okay,” said Michael Aldeguer, the president of ALA Promotions, when we spoke yesterday. “He just has a problem with the left side of his face. It’s not paralyzed but it’s not functioning normal yet. But you can talk to him. His mind is sharp and he communicates well. He remembers everything. He has no memory loss. He even makes jokes. But Z is still having a hard time walking. He can walk only for several meters. I talked to him five days ago and we were discussing when he’s coming home. He misses his kids a lot. I asked if he wanted to come home now and he said, ‘Sir, not yet. I don’t want my kids to see me like this.’”

The long-awaited return of our Cebuano hero? It’s late February or early March.

“Miracle,” added Michael. “It was a miracle. I was there all the time. It was one of the most severe cases they ever had, said the doctors. I couldn’t forget this because I slept at the hospital when all this happened. And you know that the doctors opened him up without delay. It was scary. It came to a point when the doctor told me, ‘We did what we had to do. But we’re not sure if he can make it.’ In fact, not many do make it. To me, I couldn’t imagine what would have happened.

“But something good is happening with the unfortunate case of Z. Because we met Frank Slaughter, who is a retired fighter and he’s with a nonprofit boxing organization. He’s talking to the Nevada authorities with the hope that a new state bill will raise the insurance amount of $50,000. That amount is too small.”

The total bill for Z? Just with the University Medical Center (UMC) hospital?

It’s 550,000. Pesos? I asked Mike. “Dollars,” he said. That’s $550,000 or over P26,000,000. “And that’s just for the UMC hospital. That excludes the expenses for the rehab in the U.S. and the rehab when Z’s back to Cebu which might take between six months to one year,” said Michael.

“Good thing plenty are helping. There’s Frank Slaughter, there’s Dr. Ben Calderon, Tony Martin and his wife, Yvonne, and so many more. A group from the U.S. has also launched a website that accepts donations for Z. This site is www.ZGorres.info. We will also soon, here in the Philippines, provide everyone with Z’s account number so donations can be sent straight to their family’s account.”

“Also, Manny Pacquiao has communicated with us and is looking at a mid-February target for a benefit dinner,” he said. “According to interviews, Manny hopes to raise $500,000 in that charity dinner for Z. That would be a great, great help. Right now, with the $550,000 amount, we’re working with Top Rank to pay that off… they have the means. We’re also talking with the insurance companies. We have to come up with something. What’s good is this incident has caused massive awareness, especially in Nevada, where they hold fights every week.”

Mr. Aldeguer then e-mailed me an article published in the state’s top newspaper, Las Vegas Review-Journal, with a full-length story on Z’s catastrophe and his problem with paying the medical bills.

“People have taken notice. The UMC Hospital CEO has spoken. Same with the Nevada State chairman. Boxing promoters make a lot of money and they have to ensure that boxers are well taken-cared of. Many people only see the good side of boxing… but it’s a brutal sport,” said Mike.

“This is our quest now. To help push for this bill. This will be good for the sport. This will be good for the boxers. Because what happened to Z will happen again.

“Even around Asia, where there are plenty of irresponsible fighters, there is awareness now after the scare with Z. Some fighters from Thailand or Indonesia get involved in mismatches. These are very scary. Now, some boxing commissions are getting stricter; they’re reviewing thoroughly the sanctioning of fights. They’re also ensuring that fighters are medically-prepared before they fight. This is the good that has come out of the bad. God has a purpose for Z.”

Visit ZGorres.info.

Before Pistol Pete and Federer Express, there was The Rocket

The year was 1999. That was 11 long years ago. Yet, when I look back at that singular moment–at those few precious seconds–when I got to shake the hand and pose for a photo with an all-time tennis great, the flashback rouses my face to smile.

It was the U.S. Open. Not your ordinary tournament, it was the rowdiest and largest Grand Slam event on this planet. My dad Bunny and I watched the full two weeks, each night and day absorbing an overload of forehands and backhands. On the first evening–on August 23, 1999–we trooped to the Louis Armstrong Stadium for the Opening Ceremony. We were energized. This was New York City. Then, minutes before the start, a small commotion startled the audience.

He entered. “He” happens to be the only player in mankind to have won all four Grand Slam titles (in Australia, France and the U.S., plus Wimbledon) in the same year… twice.

Wearing a green coat-and-tie with a red necklace strap hanging on his neck, his blonde hair was disheveled and his white cheeks glowed pink. Acting quickly, I climbed the steps then waited for that precise opening when I approached from the side, introduced myself as Filipino, then asked for that one-click-I’ll-never-forget-this moment as my dad snapped the photo.

No, he’s not Roger ‘Federer Express’ nor is he ‘Pistol Pete’ Sampras. He’s not Agassi or Becker or Borg or McEnroe. In fact, if you’ve followed tennis as I have–starting the 1980s–his name might not be all-too-famous. But if you know the game’s history, you know him. Even better, if you watch today’s Australian Open, then you’ve seen his name plastered on the TV screen.

Rodney George Laver. Nicknamed “The Rocket” because of his explosive style and named after his hometown of Rockhampton, Queensland, he’s the reason why that August ’99 moment I’ll always cherish. For Rod Laver stood–figuratively–tallest among the giants of the sport when, in fact, he’s only 5-foot-8 1/2 tall. In this era of Juan Martin del Potro (6’6”) and Ivo Karlovic (6’10”), he’s minuscule. Add to the equation his weight (145 lbs.) then you have a “pocket-sized” player. Yet, he’s a rocket. For, in his prime, he possessed a game as complete as Federer’s today.

“Few champions have been as devastating and dominant as Laver was as amateur and pro during the 1960s,” wrote Bud Collins. “An incessant attacker, he was nevertheless a complete player who glowed in backcourt ad at the net. Laver’s 5-foot-8 1/2, 145 pound body seemed to dangle from a massive left arm that belonged to a gorilla, an arm with which he bludgeoned the ball and was able to impart ferocious topspin. Although others had used topspin, Laver may have inspired a wave of heavy-hitting topspin practitioners of the 1970s such as Bjorn Bord and Guillermo Villas. The stroke became basic after Laver.”

Why this R. Laver piece today? Because when you click on Star Sports today, his name is forever etched in Melbourne. The reason? While Wimbledon, for example, has their famous “Centre Court,” the Oz Open’s main stadium is named after it’s greatest… the “Rod Laver Arena.”

For “Rod Laver” is the synonym of “Grand Slam,” which means winning the four majors in the same year. Take Federer: though he’s won all four majors, he did not achieve this feat in the same calendar year. Only four others have accomplished the real Grand Slam, and each achieved it only once: Don Budge (1938), Maureen Connolly Brinker (1953), Margaret Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (1988). The Rocket did this twice, in 1962 and 1969.

As the BBC commentator Dan Maskell put it, he was “technically faultless, from his richly varied serve to his feather-light touch on drop volleys plus a backhand drive carrying destructive topspin when needed or controlling slice when the situation demanded it.”

Sounds like Federer, right? Yes. But with a difference: Laver is left-handed. Which means he has the all-around, no-weaknesses armada of Roger plus the lefty serves and lefty topspin style of Rafael Nadal. Imagine morphing these two to form one? That’s Rod Laver.

An Aussie speaks about the Australian Open

Graeme (center, seated) during his visit to Cebu last October with (from left) Noel Villaflor, Caecent and Mark Magsumbol; (standing) John P, Manny Villaruel, Calvin Cordova, Nimrod Quiñones, Mike Limpag and Raffy Osumo

Graeme Mackinnon lived in Cebu for 13 years. He was conferred the Cebu Hall of Fame award for bolstering the sport of football. But the Australian’s “first love?” The game he first played when he was only six years old? Tennis. And so I asked Graeme, now relaxing at home in Bateau Bay, a 100-km. drive from Sydney, to comment on the year’s first Grand Slam tennis event…

Who is your favorite Aussie player of all time? “There have been so many great Aussie players through the years although that list is definitely diminishing for whatever reason. My favorite would have to be “Rocket” Rod Laver. His four Grand Slams in the same year 1962 and 1969 set him apart from so many great players. He had finesse and guile and his touch was exquisite.”

How do you find Nadal’s pink/orange attire? “The fashion police should be out in force and just give Rafa a mirror. It is a shocker.”

Who do you find the prettiest? “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My favorite for the beauty stakes is Elena Dementieva. There are many lovely Russian players but Elena always looks feminine. The outfits she wears always look so good on her. But my favorite female player is Justine Henin.”

On the noise: “The grunt and shriek debate continues although with Mike Limpag’s “flame” (Sharapova) extinguished, it will be markedly decibels quieter. When I watched Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin play in the Queensland several weeks ago, I thought then that there was something wrong with the audio. Both of these girls played at the highest quality without grunting and shrieking. What a pleasure it was to watch and hear the noise of the racquet actually hitting the ball.”

What’s the favorite Australian chant? “Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi”

What are the ticket prices? “Depending on the day a day or night session a ticket will cost between $60 (P2,500) for the first few days before it starts to spiral upwards (some may say out of control) before peaking at $290 (P12,200) for the men’s or women’s final.”

A Roger-Rafa finale? “We can expect another Roger-Rafa final because they are the two most consistent players and their meetings are legendary. But will they play in the final? There are probably four who could make the final and it would not be a surprise. Roger, Rafa, Andy Murray (away from the expectation of Wimbledon), Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro’s my choice against either Roger or Rafa.”

Why is Australia a tennis-loving country? Did this start during the era of Laver and Rosewall? “No it happened well before them. In fact the Australasian Lawn Tennis Association was formed in 1904. We won the first of our 27 Davis Cup crowns in 1907. It also marked the year that Norman Brookes became the first of 12 Australians to win Wimbledon. Tennis has been around in Australia for a long time. Laver and Rosewall are just part of the legacy of those humble beginnings.”

Notice the drums beating in between points? “Because of our cosmopolitan heritage there is always strong nationalistic support for many of the overseas players. These players in many cases come from countries with a strong football culture and the supporters bring that football support to the tennis.”

Have you watched the games live? “No. And I most probably won’t in the future. With the unbelievable TV coverage that we get LIVE and the line-up of commentators who give such an insight into the players psyche I’m happy to be a couch potato for two weeks. We have around 12 hours of live coverage daily.”

Is tennis your country’s most popular sport? “In national participation, tennis ranks low. The Australian Football League and rugby league are No.1 in winter depending on what state you live. Soccer is No. 2 in all states. In summer, cricket, especially when the national team is playing, is No. 1. Girls netball is getting stronger. Tennis becomes No. 1 for couch potatoes in January when there are so many tournaments played around the country prior to the Open.”

Why is Lleyton Hewitt considered by many as arrogant? “He became famous at a very young age by beating Andre Agassi in 1998 in consecutive lead-up tournaments before the Aussie Open when he was 17 years old. He was the third youngest ever to claim an ATP title. He was the first teenager in ATP history to ever qualify for the year-end Tennis Masters Cup (ATP World Tour Finals). And his record of achievements goes on. Maybe it was a case of too much too soon.”

Federer vs. Laver, both at their peak, who’d win? “I think it is difficult to compare different eras. It most certainly would have been a great game but for no other reason than I am unashamedly biased, I would say Rod Laver.”

If Wimbledon has strawberries-and-cream and the US Open has hotdogs…. what does the Oz Open have? “We have a great tournament unfortunately now attracting publicity for all the wrong reasons. A small ethnic group of troublemakers are trying their hardest to disrupt the passion of the record crowds who are flocking to the tennis every day. Today for instance there were 45 Turkish troublemakers (I wont call them supporters) ejected from the Open because of the trouble they were making with flares and abusive language etc. On Monday it was a group of Croatians.”

How hot is it in Australia now? “We are in the middle of summer and it will get hot. Definitely weather-wise and court-wise the temperature will get hotter as the Open progresses. It will vary from a maximum 23 degrees to a maximum of 32 in the next seven days. On the court it will be much hotter though.”

Many years back, the Australian Open was not at par (in terms of prestige, etc) with the three other Slams. But now, it surely is. What did Tennis Australia do? “Moving the Open to its current location in Melbourne has meant a lot of money was able to be spent on upgrading the facility to its state of the art facility it is today. Previously the hosting of the Open alternated in the different states.”

Is Melbourne like the Cebu of Australia (and Sydney is Manila)? “It depends on where you live. Sydney (my hometown) is Manila and Melbourne Cebu. But I know many from Melbourne and there is definitely that same rivalry as Manila, Cebu so they would tell you Melbourne is Manila.”

Manny is just like his mommy, Dionisia

Last Saturday, I sat inside the grand ballroom of the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino. Beside me were Jasmin, my wife, plus four of our closest friends—doctors Ron Eullaran and Ronnie Medalle with their wives Raycia and Stephanie. We watched Pacquiao. No, it wasn’t Manny—he was readying for his trip to Los Angeles—but a lady named “PacMom.”

She’s like her son. Or rather, the son’s just like the mom. Nanay Dionisia is a superstar. On stage, she’s feisty and popular—just like her favorite son. During the Ai! Ai! Ganda! Mommy Dionisia! show three nights ago, she boogied, strutted, twisted, and whirled like an 18-year-old debutante with her red underwear visible as her blue dress swayed open.

Mommy Dionisia sang “Usahay.” Then, addressing the crowd in Bisaya, she belted out an Imelda Papin song which she confessed was her lullaby tune many years ago to baby Manny. Never mind if her voice was nowhere near the likes of Sinulog performers Pilita Corrales or Dulce, she thrilled us. For on stage was the mother of our planet’s most famous Filipino.

To me, the incredible part was midway through her dance routine when her partner gripped her arm and leg and catapulted Mommy Dionisia’s body around and around—as if she were a carousel floating and gliding on air. She’s 60 years old!

Wow. She wowed us. Now I understand why Manny is “ShowManny.” He’s a showman. Because she is. He’s his mom’s son. She brightens when the spotlight is shone—just like MP. She sings. He does. Her footwork—for a senior citizen—is astonishing, just like his. She’s forever-smiling. She’s full of overconfidence. She delights in standing ovations. Mommy is Manny. Pacquiao is Pacquiao.

The rest of the show? Steph, Raycia and Jasmin enjoyed it the most because of hunks first-named Derek and Jon. How about Ai-Ai? To us, she appeared unrehearsed as she often missed her singing lines and owned a voice that was too ear-piercing. The star of the night? He—or she—was Vice Ganda. He was brilliant, humorous, lively. But what made his hour-long comedic act rotten and distressing was how he’d randomly call up onstage members of the audience and would insult them. One embarrassed man, after over 10 minutes of relentless humiliation, stormed the stage and wacked the comedian’s hand to get back to his seat. Otherwise, the entire program—this type of comedy/celebrity show, a first for Jasmin and I—was fun and funny.

Mayor Tom: We need the Cebu Sports Complex

Good news! Just last Wednesday, Cebu City Mayor Tommy de la Rama Osmeña signed a contract with SM Prime Holdings, Inc. president Hans Sy for the mall giant’s purchase of 30 hectares of land inside the South Road Properties (SRP) for a whopping amount of P2,700,000,000. This is terrific. Including the investment of the Filinvest Land, Inc. (covering 40 hectares), this translates to billions of new revenues for the oldest city in the Philippines.

Expect the SRP, in a few years’ time, to be “The Fort Bonifacio of Cebu City,” the prime real estate location where skyscrapers sprout and 5-star hotels rise and businesses flourish. If you’ve been to the Mall of Asia along Roxas Boulevard in Manila, expect the same colossal SM Mall at our SRP. This is splendid.

But here’s what I hope our mayor doesn’t forget: Sports. Because while SM bought 300,000 sq.m. and Filinivest invested in 400,000, there’s still a lot, lot more open space left in the SRP, which totals 300 hectares. Can a portion be earmarked for sports? I hope so. And I think so.

You see, about three years ago, the mayor gathered all of Cebu City’s top sports leaders to a lunch of prime rib steak at the then newly-opened restaurant of Michel Lhuillier, who was also introduced to us as the Chairman of the Cebu City Sports Commission.

Mayor Tommy spoke about sports. He talked about the SRP. He said, if I recall his words well, that he will apportion a part of the reclaimed land for sports. Of course, he said, business comes first; which means that he’ll have to sell the prime lots before designating the area for sports. That was three years ago.

Today, thanks to SM and Filinvest, money has entered the city’s treasure chest. And so, dear Mayor, after the revelry and the confetti of the 30th Sinulog has settled, I hope you’ll revisit your grand plan for our city: A Cebu City Sports Complex.

For this is Cebu’s shortcoming. We don’t lack of international-caliber dancesport champions or ALA Gym world title-holders or the 7-footer Greg Slaughter and the 6-foot-10 Jun Mar Fajardo in basketball. What we lack is Infrastructure.

Our Cebu City Sports Center (behind the Abellana school), apart from the newly-built track oval at the Sacred School-Jesuit, houses the only rubberized track oval in Metro Cebu. The good news is, 16 years after it was built, the Abellana oval will be resurfaced—thanks to  the mayor’s approval—in a few months’ time.

Our New Cebu Coliseum? Ha-ha. That should have long been named the Old Cebu Coliseum.

Tennis courts? We hardly have a single hard-court where junior winners like Jacob Lagman and Niño and Em-Em Siso can call their practice ground.

Football? Thanks to the Aboitiz family—with their recently-opened Aboitiz Sports Field beside Makro—we now have a giant-sized football pitch.

But this is not enough. We need more. Football fields. Baseball/softball diamond. An athletic field with an international-standard rubberized oval. Tennis courts. An Olympic-size swimming pool with a grandstand. Volleyball courts. Basketball rectangles. And more.

Allocating, for example, 15 hectares—or only five percent of the total land area inside SRP—will be sufficient for this grand vision of a Cebu City Sports Arena.

And why not target for our city to host the South East Asian Games—this time not just a few events (as we did in 2005), but most of the games, including the grand Opening and Closing ceremonies? Or, to set our sights even farther… the Asian Games? Imagine the Asian Games in Cebu?

Yes, it’s possible. I know… this is all long-term. But if we don’t dream and envision the possible, then it remains impossible. And, if there’s a group of Filipinos who can achieve this, it’s us, the Cebuanos. Pit Señor!

No “I” in the words “teamwork” and “marathon”

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from last Sunday, it’s this: Teamwork works. Because as gargantuan the operations were for an event that spanned 42,195 meters in distance involving over 4,258 participants coming from Dumaguete and Australia and Makati and Switzerland and Cagayan de Oro and the U.S. and Bacolod and Slovenia, if a group of men and women bond together and share the same passion, success is achievable.

Teamwork works. So does Selflessness. For, with the organizers behind the marathon—the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC)—these words—“sacrifice” and “help” and “love for the sport” and “passion”—are bywords.

Dr. George Evangelista sacrificed. Dr. Tito Macarasig helped. Dr. Albert Santos, who manned one of the 16 pit stops, served 100Plus drinks to the weary and massaged the legs of limping warrior-runners—all for the love of the sport. That’s teamwork. And teamwork works.

Meyrick Jacalan is the man who deserves the loudest of applauses. He designed the mango-shaped Finisher’s Medal—the envy of all 21K runners (you’ll get that next year!). He designed the 01-10-10 website. He designed the shirt. He helped design the layout at the Asiatown I.T. Park finish—which was described by many as ‘world-class.’ He designed this marathon. Last weekend, not a wink he made to ensure that Cebuanos would be proud of their very own “Ato ni ‘bai!” race. That’s sacrifice. That’s help. That’s passion.

Roy and Rosan Trani? This mighty couple—who have finished three 42Ks—escaped from their Talamban home to check-in at a Lahug hotel. Honeymoon Part 2? Yes, maybe. But here’s the correct answer: They were in charge of the first water stop and so they made sure to stay close, wake up as early as 1 a.m. so they’ll be ready to personally hand out water and cheer on the early-morning risers called Runners.

Another man whose eagerness to help is boundless is Bro. Carlo Bacalla. Helping ensure that the 20-km. stretch inside the SRP was water-loaded and entertainment-filled (they had UC dancers, bombastic music, drum-and-bugle artists), Bro. Carlo teamed up with Steve Ferraren, who was the top man in-charge of the SRP. True enough, when I surveyed the smiling runners at the finish, many considered that part as their most enjoyable stretch of asphalted land. Thanks to Steve. Thanks to Bro. Carlo. Thanks to Jun Remo and Jun Quibranza. Teamwork worked inside the SRP.

Perl Jacalan is credited for soliciting the event sponsors. As the top honcho of ASAP Advertising, she is tops at her field and has endless reserves of energy.

There was Jesse Taborada, one of the most indefatigable people I know, who, as president of CERC, spent hours and weeks and minutes on the race.

Councilor Sylvan Jakosalem? Without him, last Sunday would have been this: The Cebu Dangerous Marathon. The reason? Councilor Jack, with the full support of CITOM head Arnel Tancinco, ordered all roads (half of it) along the route closed. Osmeña Blvd. was half closed. So was Mango Ave. Can you imagine 4,258 bodies on the road without the road closure?

Which brings me to Dr. Vic Verallo. He stood at the middle of Gorordo Ave. where he was stationed and nearly got into a fight with a driver who refused to yield to runners. That’s bravery. That’s passion in action.

Joel Juarez? At 2 a.m., he commanded his team of motorcycle marshals to make one final loop around the route. That’s meticulous planning.

Annie Neric with Jane-Jane Ong, Andrew and Nica Ong? To those who enjoyed the live percussionists and the band and the bananas and the Leona’s bread and the fireworks (which surprised everyone at the 4 a.m. start)—now you know who’s behind those.

There’s Roel Militar, Dr. Raymund Bontol, Ted Tecson, Oscar Lopez, Turning Capote, Barry Marquez, Dr. Alex Junia, Dodong Sulatre, Jon Consunji, Dr. Abraham Manlawe, my wife Jasmin, Raffy Uytiepo, Romy Letigio, Dr. Renald Ramiro and Rudy Tindugan. There’s Kenneth Casquejo, who took on some of the most important responsibilities of last Sunday.

Thanks to these marathoners—not one or two people but everyone, plus the hundreds more who volunteered on the streets—the dream of many has been fulfilled: to run 42,195 meters in Cebu City.

High marathon fever as Active Zone activates

Tomorrow night and Saturday evening will be unlike any other. For the first time in Cebu, a Carbo-loading/Pre-Race Party will inspire all participants joining the Cebu City Marathon. Who are invited? Everyone. All the 3,600 or so participants who have enlisted for this Sunday’s race. The venue? The Terraces of the Ayala Center Cebu. The garden setting will be transformed into a runners’ haven. Marathon films will be broadcasted. Top runners will give pep talks. Tips will be shared. All these plus a pasta meal with a free drink (from your choice of six Ayala Center tenants) for a minimal fee of P150. If you’ve registered for the 01-10-10 race, it’s a must you go!

Saturday night? It’s the formal launching of the first-ever Sports Hub in our city. If you’ve visited the Ayala Center over the holidays, you’ve probably trekked inside the area previously known as the Food and Entertainment Center. Today, it’s been renamed. From a location for partying, eating and drinking, it’s now a one-stop, one-place, one-destination headquarters for all things sports and adventure. There’s Nike. Mizuno. Adidas. R.O.X. There’s Puma. There’s plenty more. This Saturday, the Active Zone will be an activity center that will buzz.

RACE PACKETS. Updates… the distribution of the race kits is in full force. Yesterday, many of the 2,000 who registered for the 5K picked up their singlets. Today, the 21K and 42K runners can start claiming theirs.

NUMBERS. How many have registered for the Cebu Marathon? For the 42K marathon: 500. For the half-marathon: 750. For the 5K, that’s 2,300. The total is nearly 3,600. This Sunday morning at the Asiatown I.T. Park, considering these numbers, what a sight it will be to see thousands sweating.

5K STARTING TIME. Here’s an important announcement for all joining the 5K Run. While the organizers previously announced a 6 a.m. starting time, this schedule has been moved earlier by 30 minutes. The reason is this: because of the large turnout of over 2,000 runners in the 5K category—plus the latest update that Kenyan elite runners are joining the 21K and 42K—we’ll have to move the schedule to avoid a major traffic situation. Thus, for all 5K runners, please take note of these times: Assembly time: 5 a.m. Starting time: 5:30 a.m. For the 42K and 21K runners, the schedules are virtually unchanged: The 42K: Assembly time is 3:30 a.m. Starting time is 4 a.m. The 21K: Assembly time is 4:30 a.m. Starting time is 5:10 a.m.

PARKING. Another area of concern is the parking. Because while the Asiatown I.T. Park is huge, it will have difficulty accommodating all vehicles. Our solution: We’ve arranged for participants to park in the vacant lots inside the I.T. Park. But here’s an important reminder: Come early! And be ready to walk (consider it a warm-up!) far from the starting line (which is right across The Walk).

TRAFFIC. For the rest of the Cebuano public who are not joining the marathon, we make one request: Your patience. From 4 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., half of the route of the entire marathon will be closed (passing through prominent roads like Osmeña Blvd., Escario St., Gen. Maxilom Ave., Gorordo, Juan Luna). This means, for the vehicle-driving public that morning… traffic. We ask for your patience.

PIT SENYOR. What’s different with this marathon is this word: Volunteerism. Consider that over 500 volunteers—led by the members of the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC)—will serve as marshals along the route. Alongside 300 policemen, they’ll man the intersections, serve water, offer first-aid and serve the runners. This marathon would not be possible if not for the selfless volunteers.

A total of 16 water stations will be spread out along the route. What’s unique about this race is because almost every station will provide entertainment. And so, dancers will dance, drummers will beat, giant speakers will blast noisy music to enliven the marathoners. In all, a festive marathon. Perfect because isn’t this the season for Asia’s biggest-ever festival called the Sinulog?

Quotations to inspire our marathoners

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” – Emil Zatopek

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” – Oprah Winfrey

“The marathon can humble you.” – Bill Rogers

“We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves. The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, ‘You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.’ The human spirit is indomitable.” – Roger Bannister

“Anyone can run 20 miles. It’s the next six that count.” – Barry Magee

“To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who’s never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind.”? – Jerome Drayton

“Running is one of the best solutions to a clear mind.” – Sasha Azevedo

“The marathon’s about being in contention over the last 10K. That’s when it’s about what you have in your core. You have run all the strength, all the superficial fitness out of yourself, and it really comes down to what’s left inside you. To be able to draw deep and pull something out of yourself is one of the most tremendous things about the marathon.” – Rob de Castella

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”? – Jesse Owens

“I’m never going to run this again.” -?Grete Waitz after winning her first of nine New York City marathons

“A marathon is like life with its ups and downs, but once you’ve done it you feel that you can do anything.” -?Unknown

“Life is short. Running makes it seem longer.” – ?Baron Hansen

“People ask why I run. I say, “If you have to ask, you will never understand”. It is something only those select few know. Those who put themselves through pain, but know, deep down, how good it really feels.” -?Erin Leonard

“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.”? – Frank Shorter

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” – Unknown

“The will to win means nothing if you haven’t the will to prepare.”? – Juma Ikangaa

“I run because it’s my passion, and not just a sport. Every time I walk out the door, I know why I’m going where I’m going and I’m already focused on that special place where I find my peace and solitude. Running, to me, is more than just a physical exercise… it’s a consistent reward for victory!” – Sasha Azevedo

“The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama. It has competition. It has camaraderie. It has heroism. Every jogger can’t dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon.” – Fred Lebow

“If you feel bad at 10 miles, you’re in trouble. If you feel bad at 20 miles, you’re normal. If you don’t feel bad at 26 miles, you’re abnormal.” – Rob de Castella

“Running helps me stay on an even keel and in an optimistic frame of mind.” – Bill Clinton

“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.” – John Hanc

“The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals.” – Hal Higdon

“Good things come slow – especially in distance running.” – Bill Dellinger

“The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.” – Jacqueline Gareau

“Marathoning is just another form of insanity.” – John J. Kelly

“I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.” – Mike Fanelli

Cebu City Marathon updates and rules

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! To all runners joining the first—and biggest—race this 2010, here are a few pointers….

GOOD & BAD NEWS. First, the bad… Registration for the 21K and 42K categories ended last Dec. 31. The good news? Those wanting to join the 5K Fun Run can still register at the Active Zone of the Ayala Center Cebu. For a fee of P250 (with a free singlet… and a chance to win prizes like Timex watches, Runnr shirts and R.O.X. gift certificates), you ought to join! Deadline is this Tuesday, January 5.

RACE PACKS. Starting Wednesday, the 5K participants can start claiming their race packets—which includes the singlet, the race number, the route map. But—and this is important—only the 5K participants can claim their packs starting Wed.

For the 42K and 21K registrants, the race packets will be available for pick-up starting Thursday, January 7.

The claiming of the race packets for all categories—5K, 21K and 42K—will run until Friday, Jan. 8. (For out-of-town participants, they can get their packets on Sat., Jan. 9.)

HOORAY! Two nights before the Jan. 10 race will be the Carbo-Loading and Pre-Race Party. Open to all participants (and family members), the venue is the breathtaking garden scene at The Terraces of the Ayala Center Cebu. A total of six establishments from Ayala Center will offer runners a myriad of “carbo” meals: spaghetti, lasagna and other pasta delicacies at a reasonable price of only P150 per meal.

If you’re a Cebu Marathon participant… it’s a must that you go!! Final tips and techniques will be shared. Updates will be relayed. A topnotch DJ will blast music over the loudspeakers. Best of all, it’s a chance for all excited runners to bond, swap stories, smile, relax and laugh before the… ahem… “painful” 42K marathon experience (ha-ha).

See you there! That’s this Friday at 6 p.m.

RULES. When participants receive their race packs, a detailed set of rules will be there. In particular—for the 21K and 42K runners—here are the essential reminders…
1)    Race numbers must be worn during the entire race.
2)    The ChampionChip timing device must be tied to your shoelaces. (Instructions found in the race packet.) No chip, no time.
3)    IMPORTANT: No wheeled vehicles are allowed along the course! Bikes, motorcycles, cars, etc. will be removed by race personnel. The reason for this is simple: Safety. We want to provide runners with as wide a space as possible to run without having to step aside because of a speeding car.
Here’s my suggestion: If you want someone to bring you 100Plus energy drinks or chocolate bars, ask them to meet you at certain points along the route. I repeat: Cars and other types of vehicles are NOT ALLOWED inside the cordoned area.
4)    The route will be closed to vehicular traffic (half of the road exclusive for the runners) from 4 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. After 9:30 a.m., runners may still continue the race but the road will be open to traffic.
5)    Only registered participants (with race numbers) are allowed inside the cordoned area. Anyone who’s not registered will be asked to step outside.
6)    The South Road Properties (SRP) will be closed to all vehicular traffic from 12 midnight to 9 a.m. on Jan. 10. (Nobody is allowed entry inside the SRP during this time except the race officials.)
7)    There is a 7-hour cutoff time for the 42K runners.

These rules are for the 21K and 42K runners. For the 5K participants, it will mean less restrictions—given that the ChampionChip will not be used and 7-hour cutoff time will not be (obviously) applicable.

WATER & FIRST AID STATIONS. Summit Drinking Water will be provided at the start/finish area and every 2 kms. along the course. Medical aid will be available at certain points along the route and at the finish line.

BAGGAGE AREA. Baggage deposit service is available at the Asiatown I.T. Park (start area is across The Walk) starting 3:30 a.m.