Monthly Archives: April 2010

Tennis sizzles this summer

Johnny Arcilla is in Cebu. He’s the No.1 tennis player of our nation’s 7,107 islands. PJ Tierro, the No. 2 player and Johnny’s nemesis, is 6-foot-1 tall. He’s also in town. The duo are joined by several others from Manila, all holding either Babolat or Wilson or Prince or Head racquets, all swinging volleys, firing aces, spinning backhands. They’re here for the Mayor Jonas Cortes Men’s Open tournament which started yesterday and continues until Sunday at the Mandaue Tennis Complex (beside the Sports Complex).

It’s Wimbledon in Cebu. For this is a major. Rarely do we witness top-class tennis action and so, if you’re a fan of Roger or Rafa or Roddick, watch the closest international-caliber games you can at the Mandaue Reclamation.

Thanks to Atty. Lito Pascual (a huge tennis buff who plays each morning and is the city’s top sports official), Jun Saberon (the organizer) and, of course, Mayor Jonas Cortes, for this French Open-like event (both have similar clay-court surfaces). A big Congratulations-In-Advance also goes to Jess Lagman, the father of Jacob (one of RP’s top junior netters), who is the Regional Vice-President of the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta) in Cebu.

Games start 8 in the morning and last until the early evening. Please drop-by and watch. That’s today until Sunday.

LHUILLIER. Next month, from May 23 to 30, another huge spectacle will tennis-smash Cebu. It’s the 3rd Cebuana Lhuillier Men’s Open and expect Johnny and PJ plus even more of RP’s best to participate. This event will be, like it’s been the past two years, at the Baseline Recreation Center’s twin courts.

What’s new about the Lhuillier Games are the club-level, age-category events that will transpire before the Men’s Open. There will be categories for the 35-, 40-, and 45-years-and-older. This, I’m sure, will excite Cebuano players. Watch for this and join!

AGE-GROUP. Apart from these twin Professional Men’s events, there are at least six consecutive junior tournaments this summer in Cebu.

The Head-Smart Age Group event kicked it off in Lapu-Lapu City last week. This was followed by another Head-Smart netfest at the Cebu Country Club. These will be followed, starting today, by the Palawan Pawnshop Junior event, the Prince Age-Group, the 15th Gullas Cup and the Milo Tennis Eliminations. Six contests, one-after-the-other.

Archery targets the bullseye in Cebu

Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe, lands in our cinema screens this May 14. But, prior to the movie’s blockbuster arrival, we can all watch real-life, in-the-flesh Robin Hoods in action.

It’s called the 1st Cebu Archery Open and, from Thursday until Sunday, we’ll all be witnesses to this skillful art of propelling arrows with the use of bows.

Archery, as we’ve seen in archaic movies, has been around forever. The earliest use of a bow, according to Wikipedia, dates back to 10,000 B.C. Fast forward to Robin Hood, who’s become the poster boy and heroic figure shooting a bow-and-arrow.

Here in Cebu this weekend, thousands of arrows will stab the Mandaue skyline as the tournament unravels at the Aboitiz Sports Field.

How big is this contest? It’s the largest of its kind in Cebu.. in the province.. in Region VII.. in the entire country. “Yes, it looks like the biggest event in Archery ever… in the Philippines. We did not expect it to get so big, but it shows a high level of interest plus the drawing power of Cebu.”

Who spoke those words? Gordon Alan P. Joseph. Known to everyone as Dondi, he’s the president of the Cebu Archery Club. Dondi is influential and prominent in our land. Apart from being the owner (and wine connoisseur) of Darras + Bowler and the CEO of Philinsure, he’s often on these newspaper pages as the president of the Cebu Business Club. (As to his looks, according to my wife Jasmin, he resembles Pete Sampras.)

Dondi started archery with his son in 2004. Does his studying in La Salle, there from elementary until college, influence his passion for archery (thanks to the La Salle Green Archers)? “Of course that had an effect! The interest was always there,” said Dondi, a former president of the local alumni chapter of De La Salle University.

Of archery in Cebu, “We incorporated four years ago and just kind of chugged along till Dondon Sombrio became the mainstay of the Philippine Compound Bow Team,” he said. “The archers have been quietly practicing in the open space of Holiday Gym & Spa in Banilad, who kindly lent us the space. Dondon called a meeting earlier this year on his idea to set up a tournament and get it accredited by the National Archery Assoc. of the Phils. as one of its qualification events for the RP team. Our intention was that this would be ‘practice’ for a full blown international tournament next year. We planned on 100 archers.”

One hundred participants? That figure has ballooned to 175 archers and the event has become the biggest in the Philippines. “We have participants from Tagbilaran, UP Los Banos, Liloan, Mandaue, Dapitan, Bacolod, Cordilleras, Manila, CDO, Dumaguete, Mandaue, Talisay, Cebu City,” said Joanna Fajardo-Salazar, who’s one of the key organizers.

“Archery is one of the top eight sports that the POC and the PSC are focusing on to develop medal winners,” adds Dondi. “Archery is important to the Philippines and if you are committed and good enough, it is one of the best ways to be an RP athlete. Can this sport give our nation its first-ever Olympic gold medal? “It can be, provided we can set-up the right range facilities,” said Dondi. “The Cebu Archery Club is working on this. We want to develop top Filipino archers.”

Dondon Sombrio is the spirit behind this tournament, says Dondi. A member of the RP Team, Dondon is the tournament director. And, to provide “celebrity status” to the event, “Actor, businessman and archer Marvin Agustin will be competing,” said Dondon, whose event is backed by San Miguel Beer, Gandiva, ScubaWorld, Simon Enterprises, Philpacific Insurance Brokers, SunStar Daily, RCTV, Boysen Paints, Metro Ayala, Islands Souvenirs, D+B Wines, Laserwriter, Aboitiz Land, Mr. Builders Construction, Benedicto College, Aboitiz Sports Field and Maya Restaurant.

When I asked if he purposely chose this weekend to nearly-match the Robin Hood film, Dondi replied, “Hahahaha! Purely coincidental but great nonetheless!”

In Hong Kong, what’s kicking is football

Each time I visit a foreign land, apart from snapping an estimated 585 photos, tasting eccentric local delicacies and absorbing each waking minute of the strange territory, I do one more act: I read the local newspaper.

While in Hong Kong for over a week until yesterday, I read two dailies: the South China Morning Post (which dates back to 1903 and should be Hong Kong’s top journal) and The Standard.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) is huge. While our Sun.Star is suitably-sized for a metropolis like Cebu and, in comparison, both the Phil. Daily Inquirer and Phil. Star are bigger because they’re national, the SCMP is giant-sized. It covers stories not just of the seven-million-strong Hong Kong residents, but of China’s 1.324-billion population. It’s XL-size for a XXXL nation.

You need not ask which section I devour the most. The front page, obviously, I scan first, but within a minute of browsing, I flip the gray pages open to find the back, sports section. What did I uncover in Hong Kong? Plenty. One: that sports is aplenty. On Sundays, they devote a whopping eight pages to everything about the NBA playoffs, Rafa Nadal, the New York Yankees, etc.

Horse racing? Ah, of course. Last Wednesday, they devoted 12 pages (yes, one dozen!) to a sport I’d rather term as “gambling”… RACING. But, above all, one sport outkicks everybody else: Soccer. Maybe because the World Cup is just 46 days away or because Hong Kong was under British rule (and aren’t they a football-crazy people) for about 156 years. Hong Kong is Soccer Crazy.

Scanning yesterday’s South China Morning Post, the headline read: Ronaldo confident Real will win league title. “The Portuguese forward,” it read, “signed from Manchester United last summer, has been overshadowed in recent weeks by the sparkling form of Barca’s Leo Messi, but he feels that it will be Real who will come out on top in the fight for the title.”

Below the all-football-page was Soccer on TV Today which showed the full schedules of the world’s most popular sport. Another article was about David Beckham and how he reigns as world’s highest-earning footballer, pocketing US$40 million per year, mainly from sponsors like Giorgio Armani, Motorola and Adidas. The No. 2 top-earner is Cristiano Ronaldo at $30 million/year… “Ronaldo, the 2008 Fifa Player of the Year, became the highest-paid soccer player in the world in June when Real Madrid bought the 25-year-old winger from Manchester United for $130 million.”

With my compatriots—their columnists—I read two: Alvin Sallay and Jason Dasey (both of whom are terrific, as expected of a paper with this high-quality). Their columns? About football, of course.

From last Friday’s SCMP was the story on Mario Balotelli. In the article, I’ll be special: Balotelli, the 19-year-old Inter Milan sensation was quoted as saying, “Psychologically I am as I was before. I’m ready to become the best in the world.” Wow, what bravado from the teenager.

Forbes ranks United richest team in world was another piece that said, “English champions Manchester United have been ranked the most valuable sports team by Forbes magazine for the sixth year in a row.” How much was ManU valued? A whopping $1.8 billion. The second placer is the Dallas Cowboys (remember where Manny Pacquiao last fought, in their stadium?) with $1.65B followed by the New York Yankees at $1.5B.

Finally, from last week, a feature on North Korea and how, after 44 years, it’s going back to the World Cup. “In less than two months’ time, it is hard to imagine the footballers from the one of the world’s most closed nations being granted any greater freedom when they turn up in South Africa for the World Cup,” said one paragraph. The passion for the sport in North Korea is unparalleled, a status which owes much to the success of the team that represented the country at the 1966 old Cup finals.”
Soccer in Hong Kong, I’ve learned, is their sports counterpart of the Peking Duck.

Rugged and revered, Rugby tackles Cebu

Football is the world’s most popular sport. That we know. And, in 49 days’ time, we’ll be witnesses to the World Cup in South Africa, the single biggest event (more than the Olympics) on this planet.

Rugby? Ever heard of it? Sure you have. Maybe you’ve seen those muscular, rugged Spartans jumping on each other in ESPN. That’s rugby. As defined by, Rugby is “a form of football, played between two teams… that differs from soccer in freedom to carry the ball, block with the hands and arms, and tackle, and is characterized chiefly by continuous action and prohibition against the use of substitute players.”

That’s rugby. Worldwide, it’s huge. In fact, the Rugby World Cup (also held every four years) is, based on estimates, the world’s third largest sporting tournament, behind only soccer’s World Cup and the Olympic Games.

In Cebu? Yes it’s gaining a loyal following. Thanks to Damien Allison, a friend whom I’ve known the past year and who’s the team captain of our local squad, the Cebu Low Flying Dragons.

Damien, who’s British but has resided in Cebu the past five years (13 total in the Philippines), talked about his sport in our land. “Cebuanos definitely have a future in rugby,” he said. “The Cebu Dragons were founded fewer than five years ago. Since then, 13 players have gone on to represent the Philippine Men’s National team. Cebu’s ladies team, the Pink Dragons, are the reigning National Champions and a number of players are expected to be selected for the Philippine National Ladies team for the Asian Championships in China later this year. Many Philippine National team players will be on show this Saturday representing Cebu and Manila. The sport continues to grow, especially with the recent announcement that Rugby 7s has been included as an Olympic Sport.”

That’s terrific news. But here’s an even better announcement: Two days from now, this Saturday (April 24), a major event is happening nearby. At the Cebu International School (CIS) grounds in Talamban, over 100 rugby players will fly into Cebu to compete in a major tournament: the 2010 ML Kwarta Padala Cebu 10s Rugby Festival.

“This Saturday,” said Damien, “we start at 9 a.m. with the final concluded by 4 p.m. There will be plenty of fast, full contact action.”

Full contact action. If you’ve watched rugby on TV, yes, that’s what we see: brawny men, without padding or helmets, sprinting to the end goal-line, tackling and blocking.

Who are expected to join this weekend? The 2009 winners, the Manila Nomads. So will the contingent from Hong Kong, the Tequila Mockingbirds, who will be fielding two teams. From Manila, there are two squads: the Alabang Eagles and the all-Japanese (and aptly-named) Manila Hapons. From Cebu, we have the Gustavian Cebu Dragons, Overgaard-CALT Low Flying Dragons and PimeSoft-PrimeLine Komodo Dragons.

“Entrance is free,” said Damien, whose Cebu Dragons team is supported by ML Kwarta Padala, Overgaard, The Gustavian, Calt Asia, PrimeSoft, PrimeLine, Rudy Project, POW Designs, Radical Ads, Philinsure, The Sports Exchange. “Food and drink will be available on sale throughout the day, catered by the Gustavian. Rugby always generates a fantastic atmosphere and is a brilliant spectacle, especially for those who have not seen the sport before. Support your local rugby club and witness some bone-jarring hits, ferocious tackling and plenty of lightning fast scores.”

This Saturday’s festivities actually begin tomorrow. “The ML Kwarta Padala Cebu 10s will start at the official Meet & Greet on Friday from 7 p.m.” he said. “The party will be at the Sports Exchange Bar & Grill on the top floor of Mango Square Mall. Free parking is available on the top deck. The Awards Ceremony will be held on the Saturday after the final from 5 p.m. at the Tap Room Pub in The Gustavian Banilad. There will be a beach party going on with curry buffet dinner and DJs playing into the night. All spectators are welcome to join and meet the players at both venues.”

Mark Garcia reviews the NBA Playoffs

He putts on the Cebu Country Club golf course and swings a tennis forehand but ask Mark Garcia which game he loves most and his reply will echo as loudly as the slogan… I Love This Game!

The NBA. And, yes, after five months, we’ve reached the Final 16 (of the total 30) as the playoffs started last Saturday. “I think the Cavs and the Lakers will meet in the finals with Cleveland winning,” said Mark. “The Cavs have loaded up their team with Shaq and Jamison. They also have a deeper bench. The Lakers also have been banged up this year, which is a concern. The advantage of the Lakers is their experience being defending champs and that they have the best closer, Kobe. But I think that this is going to be Cleveland’s year.”

Mark Garcia has, like millions of us worldwide, followed the NBA for decades. But what few of us have experienced is watching an NBA game. Live. Mark’s done that five times. “The first one was Game 2 of the 1992 playoffs between Detroit and New York in Madison Square Garden. Detroit had Isiah, Dumars, Rodman, Laimbeer (The Bad Boys); Knicks had Ewing, Mark Jackson, Kenny Walker and were coached by Pat Riley.”

In 1996, Mark saw three games. On one occasion, together with his cousin Chris Aldeguer and best friend Quinito Moras, he saw Chicago vs. the Clippers in LA. “The Bulls lineup were composed of Jordan, Pippen, Rodman.. and MJ scored 40 points. That was the game when he closed his eyes for one free throw,” he said. “We were six rows from the court and Jack Nicholson was across us.”

Mark Garcia (right) with Chris Aldeguer

(All photos by Mark G.)

Last year, Mark watched the pre-season game in Las Vegas between the Lakers and Kings and saw top rookie, Tyreke Evans, plus, said Mark, “Kobe who played 30 minutes and put on a show with three dunks.”

KB24? Yes. “My favorite players are Kobe and Lebron. Kobe because of his work ethic and will to win attitude like Jordan. He’s also worked hard to make himself the best clutch shooter. He came into the league as a pure scorer but learned how to play the team game (like Jordan).

“LeBron came as the most hyped NBA player but he exceeded all expectations. Like Kobe, LeBron has gotten better every year. His jump shot and defense have improved every season. LeBron’s understanding of the game at a very young age is amazing. Plus, both have great charisma.”

But who, among the two, is No.1? “Last year, Kobe and LeBron were about the same level,” he said. “Both of them were dominant offensive players and made the all defensive first team. This year has been different. LeBron has been amazing in almost every category and will surely win his second straight MVP with the second place far behind. LeBron is the better player now and will be for many years.”

Cleveland will win, assures Mark. “I love the Lakers but I think the Cavs’ defeat last year against Orlando will be enough to motivate LeBron and Co. It’s like the Lakers when they lost to the Celtics during the ‘07-’08 finals.”

How about the Boston Celtics? “I think this is going to be their last run at a championship with the Big 3 (Garnett, Pierce and Allen). If healthy, they might be able to get to the conference finals because of their experience but I don’t see them going to the finals. They haven’t played consistently.”

For the best first round playoff match-ups, Mark lists three:  Celtics vs. Heat (“A good one since the Heat closed the season on a high note winning 12 of their last 13 games), Dallas vs. San antonio, and Denver vs. Utah.

As to which teams might surprise us, “I think Dallas has a chance since they have an experienced lineup with Kidd and Dirk. They also pulled off the best trade this season with Butler and Haywood. San Antonio, now healthy, can also do well. Orlando has also gained experience from last year’s finals plus they have Vince Carter.”

Mark’s final words: “This year’s Playoffs will be great since there’s no clear-cut favorite. Whichever team gets hot in the next month could win, like Miami in 2006. A lot of the playoff seedings were determined on the last day of the regular season which shows how close the teams were.”

Comments on the Palarong Pambansa

Four (4) responses I received yesterday from the Palaro article….

Joy Augustus Young, BOPK vice mayor candidate for Cebu City and the main proponent of the 1994 Palaro Games in Cebu City: “As long as somebody else is interested to bid and host the Palaro, we will never bid. We will offer to give the opportunity to others who have not yet hosted. That’s our policy and the reason why…”

Graeme Mackinnon, Cebu Hall of Fame awardee, now residing in Australia: “Good morning John. Interesting article. Does the renovation of the sports center complex track also include the football field as well. Hopefully if it does they will do it correctly this time with underground drainage as well as a the proper foundation that will give the grass a chance to grow correctly. Of course with the heavy traffic that the ground gets it will always suffer. Is the football ground still used for the cadet training or has playing soldiers been scrapped.

“Any way you would expect that if the Palaro was to be held in Cebu football would be played at the Aboitiz fields. Incidentally John in all the number of Palaro’s has any city hosted on multiple occasions? Let’s hope that this promise of the long overdue renovation of the rubberized track is not a vote catcher (why am I so skeptical of political promises) and that it will indeed push through.

“On another note, TV ads are beginning to appear here now for Roland Garros which trumpets the beginning of the European Grand Slams (French and Wimbledon). At this early stage picking a winner is like trying to pick the winning numbers of the Lotto. There are just too many combinations. Nobody is dominating at the moment which would through up a first choice favorite for the title. Even among the women’s I think it will a choice of many with Kim and Serena most probably the frontrunners.

“It all means that the Slams are going to be throwing up “unexpected” results maybe in some instances in the very early rounds. Are you salivating at the prospect John? It is going to be very interesting. Too bad the games here are televised so late LIVE. Oh well I can always catch up with the re-plays during the daylight hours. Catch you later mate. Graeme”

John Henry Osmeña, former Senator of the Philippines: “PALARO will come to Cebu City when I am Mayor. We will build a new Cebu City Sports Center at the SRP with both track oval and basketball coliseum, athlete’s accommodations, sports academy and a parking facility for both buses and cars. Cebu City will be a sports MECA. PBA will play here twice monthly.”

Atty. Mike Yu, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) – Cebu City chapter: “Hi John. The purpose of holding Palaro alternatively Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and not in the same province is to expand the exposure of sports nationwide. Other provinces need also modern facilities in the hope that it will sustain the sports program in that locality after the Palaro. Just like in Cebu City after the Palaro in 1994, I have not seen any upward surge in sports involvement. Not in my time from 1983 to 1985. Let us support the national program the Palaro was intended for. Our city has grown. Perhaps we can host our own premiere sport to rival the Palaro… the Cebu City Games which can be held a week after Palaro so that the players are still in peak form. Start toying with this idea.

“We should not forget the purpose. Palaro is the grassroots sports program. A program followed from other countries. It starts from the Unit Meet, the winners advance to the Provincial Meet, then advance to the Regional Level. The best of the best fight it out in the Palarong Pambansa, the national meet. The best of the Palaro are recruited by Gintong Alay to represent our country in international competition. It’s simple… daghan lang buaya!”

When will Cebu City host the Palaro?

The last time our city organized the “National Games,” as the Palarong Pambansa are called, the president was Fidel V. Ramos, our track oval at the Abellana grounds was brand-new and named the Cebu City Sports Center, and Alvin Garcia and Tommy Osmeña were best friends as vice mayor and mayor.

That was 1994. Since then, cities like Naga, Iloilo, Lingayen, Bacolod, Tacloban, Puerto Princesa and, just concluded yesterday, Tarlac, among others, have hosted one of the largest sports meets of the Philippines.

In fact, when I researched the history of The Palaro, which was restarted in 1974 after a brief hiatus during Martial Law (it was previously named the Bureau of Public Schools-Interscholastic Athletics Association or BPISAA Games), a total of 27 Palarong Pambansa hostings were organized and, lo and behold, Cebu City hosted it only once. Yes. This Queen City of the South, the land preferred by athletes and officials because of our Cebuano hospitality, our showmanship (“Pit Senyor!”), our SM City mall and Ayala Center restaurants, our location at the center of the archipelago—yes, despite all these advantages, we’ve only hosted one Palaro the past 27 times.

Unbelievable. Preposterous. Sure, there are dozens of other cities spanning Batanes to Tawi-Tawi that can host these every-summer-Games, but, if a survey were to be conducted with the question, posed to competitors and sports leaders nationwide, “Which city would you want to go to next?” I bet the query would yield an answer that has four letters.

For Cebu has proven itself. Just look at the Milo Little Olympics. Last year, the first-ever nationwide competition (it used to be divided among the Luz-Vis-Min regions) were held at our backyard. Guess what? We electrified the 1,223 participants. During the Opening and Closing Ceremonies—thanks in large part to the overall architect, Ricky Ballesteros—fireworks brightened the black night ceiling, Dancesport Team Cebu City shakers and movers enthralled the audiences, the venues were well-manicured and prepared—everybody was impressed. At the event’s conclusion, my ears opened wide to listen to the comments from our NCR and Mindanao neighbors and, if a rating were to be made, we scored an A+.

For we are Cebu. And when Cebuanos host, we host not a mediocre, so-so banquet but an awe-inspiring party. For here’s the shortcut for the name Cebu: Celebration.

The Palarong Pambansa? The event that’s called The Olympics for the elementary and high school students? Why, I ask, after 27 stagings, have we hosted it only once and, in the past 15 years, have we not hosted any?

The answer, I realized, is elementary. It’s our Sports Center. It’s rotten. It’s oval surface, which used to be called rubber, is now soft clay. It’s decomposing, it’s soft, it has formed corrugated snake lines, it’s crumbling. (In one incident not long ago, a spectator during the Sinulog couldn’t stand up after her pants got glued to the ground’s rubbery surface.)

Ka uwaw. That’s sad. For, like hosting visitors at home, how can we invite guests over if our house is broken? Not for long. Thanks to the P40,000,000 that has been allocated by the city, the oval will finally—after it was built in time for the 1994 Palaro Games—be fixed.

When? Supposedly, now. But, because of the ban on construction projects nearing the elections, our officials have scheduled it after May 10. Which means one beautiful realization: By year’s end, we should have a new Cebu City Sports Center.

Next year’s Palarong Pambansa hosting?     Ha-ha. That’s too soon. Two years from now? Yes. That’s perfect. London hosts the Olympics. Cebu, the 2012 Palaro.

Taekwondo: the Sport with a Kick!

First published in July 2007….

Kenn Toledo teaching the youngsters

Ask any Korean you’ll meet at SM or Ayala to translate the word “Taekwondo,” and this is what he’ll say: “Tae” means to destroy with the foot; “Kwon” is to strike or smash with the hand; and “Do” means art, or way of life. Thus, the full translation reads: “the way of the foot and the fist.”

Taekwondo is one of the most popular martial arts in the world. But why learn the sport? I posed this question to one man. He’s the Team Cebu City taekwondo director. He’s the regional chairperson of the Philippine Taekwondo Association. He’s Tony del Prado.

“Taekwondo is both a sport and a martial arts,” said Tony. “You get to exercise and at the same time know how to defend yourself. The sport was on the upswing after it was admitted into the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as a demonstration sport. It’s also among the safest martial arts. The protective gears from head to foot are impressive. The way the taekwondo jins deliver the kicks are amazing. A demo presentation, even if done by our locals, never ceases to electrify the crowd.”

Tony’s first exposure to the sport was during his college days at the Ateneo. Then, he marveled at his taekwondo-kicking dorm-mates who were fit and disciplined. “In 1994 when my son Anton was five years old,” added Tony, “I brought him to Baseline Center and enrolled him. There was a bully in school and I thought that he should know how to protect himself. Early on I wanted him to fight his own battles.”

Tony del Prado (second from right) with Team Cebu

True. Isn’t this why many enroll in martial arts? For self-defense?

But taekwondo is much more than just defense. It’s now one of the more popular Olympic events. And it’s a sport where the Philippines—never a gold medal winner—has a crack at gold.

“We have a good chance in the Olympics,” said Tony. “The national pool is training in Korea to prepare for the Olympic qualifying. Our athletes are world class and this was proven during the Asian Games. Although the Koreans are still the best, we have a big chance since countries are only allowed to send a maximum of 4 players for the 8 Olympic categories. This means that Koreans can only compete in 4 of the 8 categories. This also holds true for strong teams like Iran, China and Spain.”

Taekwondo in Cebu? It’s kicking. Just three weeks ago in Bacolod City, the Cebu delegation won second overall in the Visayas Taekwondo Championships. Of Cebu’s 40 jins, 33 came home as medal winners: 11 gold, six silver, and 16 bronze medals.

Future plans? “We have focused on equipping the instructors and officials. Fair competition was at the top of my list. By doing this we were able to elevate professionalism among practitioners in our region. The instructors’ course we conducted two years ago had a significant impact on our growth. It opened their eyes to the modern way of teaching. It was a paradigm shift for most.

“For instance, in children nine years old and below, teaching is mostly done in a ‘play and learn situation’ because you cannot be militaristic towards kids. The reforms resulted in the sport’s unprecedented growth this year. People who quit or were inactive are coming back and training to be instructors.”

Matt Michael, 7, with his yellow belt

Why the taekwondo success?

“Not being a taekwondo practitioner, I initially had difficulty when I assumed the chairmanship position. Although a disadvantage, I made it work for me since I have no club or chapter and therefore have no vested interest. I don’t know of any other region that has a non-taekwondo guy as its chairman.

“I wouldn’t be successful if not for my management committee members: Kenneth Toledo of Bright Academy, Avenger Alob of SHS-Jesuit, William Ylanan and the senior blackbelts like Larry Elpa, Danny Yap and Rene Brojan.”

Kenneth Toledo (left), the regional chief of referees in Cebu

As individual a sport as taekwondo is, it’s rare to have a leader like Tony del Prado who credits not himself—but his team.

Future Olympic gold medalists? Why not!

Kenneth Toledo’s story

Taekwondo here in Cebu started in 1982, during that time my dad Julius Toledo was one of the pioneer students. Every time he went to training, I always tag along with him and eventually learned few basic moves then. After two years of watching from the sidelines, I officially enrolled in Taekwondo last April 2, 1984 at the age of 9 yrs. Old. Since then I’ve learned to love the sport and trained hard that one day I’ll make it to the National Team.
In August 1, 1987 I finally got my 1st dan black belt and a week after joined my first tournament the 9th National Taekwondo Championship in Manila. I was still under the grade school division and made a very impressive tournament debut winning all four matches convincingly and emerge the Best Player of our team. It was also then that my dream of making it to the National Team came true when GrandMaster Sung Chon Hong ( Head of Philippine Taekwondo ) offered me a slot to be me a member of the first ever Gradeschool National Team.

However after a month training with the team, I had to drop out coz they wanted me to pursue my high school studies in Manila which I objected. I Went back to Cebu and continued my training under my dad. Joined several regional level tournaments which I dominated almost every division I competed. In 1989, went back to manila to join the 11th National Taekwondo Championships and sweep all 3 matches in KO victories and again got the Best Player award for team Cebu.

In 1992 I then moved up to the Juniors division and joined the 14th National Taekwondo Championships in Manila. I was the team Junior Bantam weight player and again won all my 4 matches lop-sided in which earned me the Best Player award and this time also a slot at the Junior National Team. But just like my 1st experience, I had to drop out after few months with the same reason that they wanted me to continue and finish my college in manila.

Few months after, I went to US and continued my Taekwondo training under Grand Master Richard Chun in New York. After working out for one day in the new gym, GrandMaster Chun saw my advance skills in the sport and never hesitated to offer me a job to be one of his instructors and to train his students for competitions. I accepted his offer and after 2 months of rigid training I competed in the 1993 New York Open Taekwondo Championships. I was competing in the Men’s fly wt division where most of the fighters are very fast with their kicks and tall. Despite facing tough opponents from different states I still manage to land a Bronze medal in my division.

In 1994, Cebu hosted the National Palarong Pambansa which also set the birth of the Cebu City Sports Center. Taekwondo also debuted in that same year and I was representing Region VII in the Bantam Weight Division. It was a field of very strong competitors from different regions since it was the pioneer edition but I still manage to grab a Bronze Medal. Actually I could have easily won the Gold medal if not due to the controversial decision during my semi-final match against Region I.

I felt the decision was so biased which cost me the slot in the championship round. With my lost at the semi-final round I was then drop to the loser bracket to fight for the bronze medal where I face the title favorite NCR player. I told myself that beating the NCR opponent will just prove one thing that I truly deserve the Gold medal and yes I did won the match convincingly. In 1997 I went back to US and this time trained and teached under Grand Master Mark Williams in New Jersey. That same year I also competed in the New Jersey Grand Prix Taekwondo Championships and won Bronze medal in the Men’s Fly weigh division.

Few months after I went back to the Philippines and joined the Philippine National Games held in Cebu. Top Taekwondo jins all over the Philippines we’re present in that tournament. The Cebu taekwondo best fighters also joined that prestigious event but with very strong competition, all of them failed to get a single medal except for myself. I consider that tournament to be one of the toughest competition I’ve ever joined with over 2,000 elite fighters all over the country vying for the Gold medal. I was then in the Senior Fly weight division with over 60 strong tkd jins clashing for the top 3 spot. I face a very strong opponent from Zamboanga on my opening match and won in points 4-1.

After an hour, I was back in the court for my 2nd elimination match against NCR player who was also currently in the National Training pool, it was a close match but I still won 4-2 points. However during that match I injured my left foot after landing a strong kick to my opponents elbow.  My left foot was all swollen right after the match that I needed to use anesthetic spray to temporarily relieve the pain since I have more fights to do. Then came in my 3rd elimination match facing opponent from Mindanao and again winning the match 3-0. My 4th match was now in the quarter-final match facing another tough opponent from NCR and beating him 5-2 in points. My pain in my left foot which was injured in the 2nd match was getting worst that even the anesthetic spray couldn’t stop it from aching already. In my 5th match of the day, semi-final round against Philippine Navy team I couldn’t execute my kicks well anymore due to my injured foot but manage to hang on til the end of the bout. It was still a close match but loosing it 3-2 in points. I settled for a Bronze medal after 5 hard fought match in one day.

In 2000, I was back in US and opened a school together with my close buddy Master Nathan Delgado. In the next 4 years I spend most of my life in US training and teaching in our school in Dumont, NJ. I was also training together with some current and former members of the US Taekwondo National Team. It was during this time that I was yearly competing in the New Jersey State Taekwondo Championships where I got Bronze medal in 2001 & 2002 and the Big East Taekwondo Championships where I was the 3 time Bantam weight champion from 2001, 2002 & 2003. The Big East event was a bigger one since it was a tournament composed of 4 states ( Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut ).

Taekwondo is fun, safe: Kenn Toledo

According to Wikipedia, taekwondo is a Korean martial art and the national sport of South Korea. In Korean, tae means “to strike or break with foot”; kwon means “to strike or break with fist”; and do means “way,” “method,” or “art.” Thus, taekwondo may be loosely translated as “the way of the foot and fist” or “the way of kicking and punching.”

An Olympic sport since 2000, taekwondo is the world’s most popular martial art in terms of the number of practitioners. Here in Cebu, it is just as celebrated.

Kenneth Toledo, who has a 4th Dan Black Belt, is one of the prominent instructors in Cebu. Starting at the age of nine, he has kicked, sparred and punched for 26 years now, many of those sessions in New Jersey, where he became the U.S. Bantamweight champion in the Big East (Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut) from 2001 to 2003.

This summer in Cebu, the Kenn Taekwondo Training Center is underway with four venues: Rivergate Mall, St. Benedict Learning Center, Bright Academy and Southhills Intl. School.

“I encourage children to go into Taekwondo because it’s fun,” said Kenneth. “Children also learn self-defense. Plus, it’s good exercise since most of the kids now are spending much time playing computer games. By enrolling them in taekwondo, they will balance their activities from just sitting down for hours facing the computer to jumping into an active sport.

“One of the advantages of Taekwondo is that you can learn this sport at a young age (even four yrs. old). It is one of the safest of Martial Arts. Taekwondo is clean and safe because we have specific rules in competition which focuses on the safety of every competitor. You can see five-year-olds having fun and not getting hurt at all. In other martial arts, you don’t see young kids in competition due to the rough type of arts they’re performing.”

Discipline. Yes, that’s one of the teachings of the sport. “I always emphasize discipline during my orientation and remind them that I’m not teaching them Taekwondo to bully other people or use it in a bad way,” said Kenn. “They must have self control all the time. I’m also imparting the Tenets of Taekwondo: Self Confidence, Modesty, Indomitable Spirit, Perseverance and Etiquette.”

Kenneth, who’s also into running (he finished the 42K Hong Kong Marathon last February), wants to help train the youth because that’s how he started.

“Taekwondo here in Cebu started in 1982, during that time my dad Julius Toledo was one of the pioneer students,” he said. “Every time he went to training, I would always tag along. After two years of watching from the sidelines, I enrolled on April 2, 1984 at the age of 9. Since then I’ve loved the sport and trained hard that one day I’ll make it to the National Team.

“In August 1, 1987, I got my 1st dan black belt. The week after, I joined my first tournament: the 9th National Taekwondo Championships in Manila. I was in the grade school division and made an impressive debut, winning all four matches to emerge as the Best Player. It was then that my dream of making it to the National Team came true when GrandMaster Sung Chon Hong (Head of Philippine Taekwondo) offered me a slot to be me a member of the first ever Grade School National Team.”

This summer, Kenn has various offerings. “Not everyone who enrolls in Taekwondo aims to compete or become an elite athlete,” he said. “Some kids enroll for fun, for self-defense, for exercise. With these reasons, I employ different approaches. I want people to know that Taekwondo is a sport for everybody, not only for kids. Adults even 50 yrs. old can enroll in Taekwondo.

To learn the world’s most popular martial art, contact Kenn at 316-3498, 0917-6225366 or

Vote for Mike

Hi everyone! Would like to ask that you visit this website,, and scroll down to find the article of Sun.Star Cebu’s sports editor, Mike Limpag. He’s joining a contest with the winner (Mike’s a football fanatic!) going to South Africa for the World Cup.You just need to click the thumbs up sign beside Mike’s name for the vote to count. Let’s all help Mike…


Millette Chiongbian earns a ticket to Boston

If golf has The Masters and tennis has Wimbledon, running has The Boston Marathon. It is the oldest (next week is the 114th edition) and most prestigious of all 42K races.

From Cebu, no female runner has ever joined Boston. The reason? The qualifying time (based on one’s age) is ultra-tough.

Millette Chiongbian is the first! A lifelong fitness buff, she started running less than three years ago. Qualifying for Boston? This was Millette’s dream two Decembers ago when she joined the Singapore Marathon. Sadly, she missed the 3:45 cutoff time by three minutes!

Then, last March 21 at the Los Angeles Marathon in California, Millette, never one to give up, made a second attempt. Her time? 3:43:06!

Here’s Millette’s story…. “Yes, I did it!  And I am truly happy indeed. 2008 Singapore Marathon was a trying one for me. Equipment failure and premature cramping on the 12th K were directions toward a disastrous event. Still I crossed the finish line at 3:48 which was three minutes shy from my goal. But the kicker was when I was posted DQ. I remember to have called you immediately while Frederic and Chris analyzed the DQ stats. I shrank in my unexpected omissions of a runner.

“March 18 2009. Orthopedist’s prognosis of a total hip replacement extricated me from the Singapore Marathon’s DQ queasiness. Despite my doctor’s “It will take a miracle to reverse the necrosis on the femur head,”  the possibility of running on metals didn’t thwart my devotion to carry on the Boston pipe dream.

“Sidelined from running between March-July 2009 was the most human part I and Fredric ever came close to a “shortcoming.”  In truth, miracles happen. Being pain-free by November 2009 caused me to browse AIMS.

“LA is home to my mother’s family. Chris (Aldeguer) expressed a good opinion on the variables of the race venue as well. I formally got into the standards of training on November 2009. Training with Coach Bert Banzon is never casual. Every key workout had to be an abstract component to the Goal. I train with Coach Pio Solon for strength and conditioning whose goal was to get me pain-free and strong in meeting the rigors of training and racing. To reason, I find this science a binding force. At times, my necrotic hip would be on drama enough to stagnate the progression of training.

“I ran 6-7 times weekly and apexed at 120+ kms./week just weeks prior to March 21’s race. I made it a point to join half-marathon races to get coordinated with the training paces of my marathon program. And these races were:  QCIM 10/20/09 PR 1:45 12th women overall, 1st age group divsion; Cebu City Marathon 1-10-10 PR 1:43:54 4th women overall; Condura 2/07/10 PR1:45 (21.800km); Century Tuna leg1 PR 1:43 8th women overall. These progressive best times validate the specificity of my run and strength programs.

“The 2010 LA Marathon was timed using both bib number and the B-Tag Timing System. The B-Tag is attached to the backside of the race bib and this timing uses the ChronoTrack Timing System which allows anyone to track runners’ splits on the route.

“Justin, my 11-yr. old son and I arrived LA in the late afternoon of March 17 and so we hit a couple of morning runs to test the bloody cold air of 5’C. (Justin clocked 25:23 on the 5K event of the LA Marathon and placed 9th in the 14 and below division.)

“Advised by the organizers to be at Dodger Stadium at 5:20 a.m., it was then between 10-12’C at that time. Bright lights, Jumbotrons and thousands of runners filled up the stadium seats. I felt like I was going to a baseball game. After warming up concisely I then headed towards the sub 4 hr. corral. Pace per mile signs were hung along the sides of corrals. It wasn’t as chilly as I expected it to be despite being overcast but I still had my mitts on and another top layer. Several runners were layered up in what looked like trash bags?

“At 7:24, the gun went off for the wheelers followed by the hand cycles, elite women and the last, elite men and the full field where I was at. Keeping a visual on the Clif Bar 3:40 pacer most of the time, I still ran my own race. The balloons would re-appear often. I found the 3:40 pacer aggressive on the descents. The start was off to a climb for 800m. It was akin to the Century Tuna leg 1 course with spiky undulations all the way to km 37 then a downward slope to the finish line at Santa Monica Pier which records this route to be a fast course.

“I was in control. I had full clarity and was focused but i didn’t spare myself to notice and appreciate the entertainment along the course which was spiced up with live band entertainment centers, city block parties, cheer alleys and thousands of volunteers. Mile markers with race clocks, hydration and medical stations by California Hospital Medical abound along the course. Two pain relief zones past mile 18 and at the finish line were apparent, too.

“I was hopeful that events will be favorable until my knee caps howled at km 28. Tipping the doubt scale on the recognition of perceptual cramping cues, I wasn’t free from doubt at all for we all know the real marathon is on the last 10K. To accept a greater effort by pacing up, by hydrating more and dissociating myself were the tricks that freed me from the cramp.

“The 38th-K downward slope marked an easement and I recognized that I could “have it” at this decent time. Giving a thumbs up to strangers calling out my name was just a rush. I rushed and flung towards the blue arch and the race clocks were all at a blur as I passed. I’m in! 3:43:06 Then I was cloaked with a mylar blanket, I was medalled which had the icons of LA (you should see it, John) and fed. It was a rocking party at the finish line! It was one great moment. What was sweet was narrating this to my dear ones who prayed as i came into the finish line.”

To MILLETTE, who’ll be running the 2011 Boston Marathon…. CONGRATULATIONS!

Mile after Millette after Mile

I wrote this article last Dec. 2, 2008…..

Mrs. Chiongbian is one of Cebu’s top female executive runners. The podium? After the race? Where the winners are accorded medals? She’s climbed on top of those—aplenty. She’s done the 2006 Sinulog Marathon, where she ranked 8th. At last year’s Milo Half-Marathon, she placed 5th and outran one of RP’s most famous long-distance runners, Senator Pia Cayetano. This 2008 edition of Milo? She bettered herself, placing 3rd.

But among the many trophies that adorn Millette Chiongbian’s home at Maria Luisa, nothing compares to the training she’s devoted on an event that will race five days from today: the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon.

For nearly 12 months, Millette has spent her early mornings and late afternoons running, covering over 100 kms. per week. Imagine that: nearly 500 kms. of running per month! I bet—for comparison’s sake—that 9 out of 10 people on earth will not hit 500 kms. of combined running their entire life.

“Running is simple,” Millette answers when I ask, Why run? “Running renews me, it humbles me. Running is unpredictable. Running outscores the mental and physical challenges.”

What a Reader’s Digest quotable quote. To a fellow runner like myself, those words are genuine, profound, honest.

A fitness extremist who’s done cross-training sports for 22 years, badminton for six and triathlon for 24 months, Millette is comparably new to running. Although she did leisure jogs before, she only entered serious running last June 2007—about 1 ½ years ago. But since she’s started—given the athletic zealot that she is—Millette has run mile after kilometer after mile. In fact, on one occasion relayed to me by Chris Aldeguer, a fellow runner who’ll compete at the Las Vegas Marathon this same Sunday, Millette did the most inconceivable of acts: She ran on a treadmill…. for five hours! Oh yes, she had to stop—but only for a few seconds because the poor treadmill had to restart after Millette’s non-stop poundings. In all, she ran a full marathon (42-K) on that rotating belt of a machine.

Incredible? That’s a synonym for Millette.

Excluding that “Treadmill Marathon,” she’s done one full 42-K: the 2006 Sinulog Marathon. “It was one of my best runs!” she said. “News broke that a 42k was organized… I immediately decided to join because the previous full marathon held here was 13 yrs ago. I was ecstatic! I couldn’t let that pass.”

The other astonishing fact about that run was that Millette finished it only five months after giving birth to her youngest child, Savvi. Was Millette labored by her lack of preparation? Her reply: “I remember to have smiled thru the course. It was fun!”

This Sunday’s 2008 Singapore Marathon? Billed as one of Asia’s biggest road races (50,000 pairs of sneakers will compete in the 10-K, 21-K and 42-K distances), when I asked Millette for her expectations, she replied, through e-mail: “I have prepared for this for about a year… I believe am at my strongest. Will definitely run this race faster than my 1st,” referring to the ’06 Sinulog Marathon when she clocked four hours, 40 minutes.

Given her six-days-a-week training program with one of Cebu’s top coaches, Elberto Banzon, Millette is expected to perform well—and possibly emerge as the fastest runner among our 28-person Cebu delegation. If all conditions are right, Millette’s ultimate goal would be to clock 3 hours, 45 minutes and qualify for the most prestigious race on earth, the Boston Marathon.

Yet, while running stands at the top-most of Millette’s priorities, it is not No.1. Her family is tops: Frederic, her husband, is also running Singapore for his first 42-K; children Justin, Yuan and Savvi—the two older siblings have joined 3-K races and won medals while Savvi, only two years old, I saw running around Chris Aldeguer’s beach house like it were a track oval. Call the Chiongbians “Cebu’s Running Family.”

For, with Millette, running is simple. Fun. Easy.

Just don’t ask that treadmill who suffered a five-hour hammering.

Millette Photos

Photos from 2008…

MIllette (in purple) with family and friends

Millette (left) after the Run for your Heart race

Frederic with his niece, Kim Tan

Running In The Family: Frederic and Millette with their children (from left) Yuan, Justin and Savvi (and niece Kim at the back)