Monthly Archives: October 2010

Good luck, Manny! And, goodbye

Exactly 14 mornings from today, Filipinos will congregate. We’ll devour 3,654,985 lechons. We’ll gulp barrels and truckloads and pitchers of San Mig Light. We’ll hold reunions with neighbors and barkadas. We’ll gather around our Samsung flat screen TV sets or troop to the SM City Cinemas—all with clenched-fists, ready to stand and scream, “Yes! I’m proud to be Filipino!”

Dear readers… That’s the good news. Here’s the bad: Let’s savor the moment. This is Manny’s last fight.

Is it? Yes, I believe so. Had he lost in Congress last May 10 like he did in his first round of politics against the “heavyweight” Darlene Antonino-Custodio, he’d fight more fights. Had he not annihilated everybody in sight and climbed the Mt. Everest of Boxing—and be declared the sport’s No.1—he’d fight more. And is he not turning 32 years old this Dec. 17?

Yes he is. Here’s one more yes: Manny is retiring on Nov. 14. What more is there for him to accomplish? He’s now a Congressman—and a Senator come 2013. He’ll win his eighth weight division—a feat so outlandish that I don’t think any human being has done it before. He has four children—possibly more—named Jimuel, Michael, Princess and Queen Elizabeth. He is King; the most famous Pinoy in this planet of 6.7 billion inhabitants—more popular than P-Noy, GMA, Lea S., and, yes, Charice. In world rankings, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, we’re ranked 134th out of 178 countries—a black-eye of an embarrassment—yet Pacman soars as our lone Philippine Eagle. He’s today’s Jose Rizal.

Manny has billions. No exaggeration there. Granted that, for each fight, he grosses $15,000,000—even if his net pay check is half or $7.5 million—that’s still P350,000,000. For one 12-round fight that he often reduces to seven rounds and 21 minutes of punching. Manny has all the money you and I will ever need—for a dozen lifetimes.

Why fight more? What’s the incentive? None. Why do you think Manny’s training for this fight is his worst? That’s because his mind, his heart, his lungs, and even his feet are elsewhere. “He has a foot problem,” said Freddie Roach in an Associated Press story. “And that’s because he wears dress shoes too much.” That’s laughable. But true. And dangerous for our man. That’s what politics does. It corrupts even the feet.

“I know his mind is off the fight,” added Roach. “I know his mind is somewhere else, and that’s because of politics. If there are no more challenges out there after this fight, this could be it… He loves his other job, and he might be done with this one.” This “other job,” of course, is basketball. The dribbling called politics.

If, indeed, come two Sundays from now, we’ll see The End of The Manny Pacquiao True Story Movie, it will be sad. We’d have lost our inspiration. We’d have more traffic on fight-day mornings. (The good news: the 10:45 a.m. Redemptorist Church mass will once again be filled with churchgoers.)

Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao’s life story is better than any movie Steven Spielberg or Marilou Diaz-Abaya can concoct. It’s more unbelievable than James Bond’s—with more savory “girls escapades.” His dropping out of high school and leaving home at the age of 14 because Nanay Dionisia, who had five other children, could not support Manny. His rough beginnings as a construction worker and kargador. His start as a professional boxer at the age of 16 (height: 4-foot-11) and weighing only 106 pounds. His knockout losses against Rustico Torrecampo in 1996 and Medgoen Singrurat in 1999. His defining moment when he stunned Marco Antonio Barrera. His Phil Jackson-like coach in Freddie Roach. His winning his last 12 fights up until today—against sure-Hall of Famers like Morales, De La Hoya, Marquez…

Manny has done more in his 31 years of breathing air than we can ever achieve in 31 lifetimes. Will he win come Nov. 13? On his attempt for a 13th straight victory? Won’t this “13” be “Unlucky 13” for PacMan? In his last stand, one will be the last man standing. He’s Filipino.

Many Manny photos

With POC Chairman Monico Puentevella (blue barong) and, to the right, Raffy Osumo

Team PACQUIAO vs. SAC (Sportswriters Association of Cebu)

Handing Manny the Lifetime Achievement Award during the Cebu Sports Awards

In one of our several basketball games, that’s me (#9) guarding Manny

With Michael Aldeguer (center) and (from left) Jun Migallen, John, Manny, Atty. Jingo Quijano and Raffy Osumo

At the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug

With Gerry Peñalosa and Jingo Quijano at the Marriot

With Noel Villaflor, Girlie Garces of SMC, Jingo and Raffy

At the Cebu Coliseum weeks before fighting Marco Antonio Barrera

With Noel, Jonas Panerio of CDN, and POC Chairman Monico

Michael Aldeguer: ‘AJ Banal in toughest fight’

Gary Valenciano and Martin Nievera are performing tomorrow at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino. Yes, we are proud that they’re Pinoy, but, no, they’re not in “Pinoy Pride.” That’s this Saturday. And, instead of a duet, it’s a duel. It’s the duel between AJ Banal and Luis Perez. It’s the concert of boxers: there’s U.S.-based welterweight Mark Melligen, the undefeated Jason Pagara, Larry “Bon Jovi” Canillas, and the popular Jun Intor.

First, let’s talk about Melligen. “Mark has always been talented, even in his amateur days as a member of the RP team when he won silver in the SEA Games,” said ALA Promotions president Michael Aldeguer. “In 2007, he came to ALA and was part of the program. We felt that he had to be in the U.S. to maximize his potential because of his weight division.

Thanks to the help of Las Vegas-based Tony Martin, Melligen trained at Mayweather’s gym. “He had the chance to spar with Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Marcus Maidana and Devon Alexander,” said Aldeguer. “Mark learned a lot from Floyd who has become his good friend. When he came back, his game was in a different level. Learning from one of the best is a whole new experience for Mark; he patterns his counter-punching style and calculated approach to Mayweather’s.”

Bladimir Hernandez. That’s Melligen’s opponent. Who is this Mexican nicknamed “The Blade?” “He’s a knockout artist with a record of 18 wins and 16 KOs with 14 of his opponents not going past the third round. He also has six first-round KOs,” said Mr. Aldeguer. “When we informed the Top Rank executives about Bladimir Hernandez as Mark’s opponent on Oct. 30, they showed concern and sent us as a video. If you look at Hernandez’s credentials, he’s dangerous–and Mark knows that.”

The main bout, of course, stars Alex John Banal. “AJ has worked so hard on his conditioning which will play a major role in his quest to be a world champion,” said Aldeguer. “We enhanced his training by hiring a conditioning coach in Pio Solon, who specializes on scientific conditioning. Even though ALA had a conditioning program, we felt that it was best to inject the new scientific method to improve on stamina. However, no matter what you do in training, it’s the athlete’s state of mind and mental toughness that are most important. We believe that it comes with age and experience.

Now 21 years old, Banal has matured. “He has learned much from that devastating loss two years ago,” said Aldeguer. “I always believe that everything happens for a reason. To be great, you need to go through adversities. Even Manny Pacquiao went through two knockout losses. I believe Banal is ready. That’s why we’ve risked getting two-time world champion Luiz Perez, who has a menacing record of 27 wins, 17 KOs with only four losses (and those were mostly against world champs such as Joseph Agbeko, the fighter who gave Vic Darchinyan his second loss, and Ricardo Cordoba).”

This Banal-Perez clash will be the Bukidnon-native’s most formidable clash since Concepcion. Originally scheduled in Dubai, Banal wanted Cebuanos to see him redeem himself. “AJ once told me, ‘The loss (to Concepcion) is devastating because I’ve let my supporters down.’” said Aldeguer. “Now he wants to make up for it. Beating Perez is his ticket to stardom and a chance to fight for a world title. AJ is the highest-ranking Filipino with the four organizations: WBO # 2, WBA # 4, IBF # 3, WBC #13.”

As to the difference between ALA’s stars named Bazooka and Boom-Boom? “Rey ‘Boom Boom’ Bautista’s fighting style is very different from that of AJ ‘Bazooka’ Banal’s,” answered Aldeguer. “Boom Boom comes to attack with a volume of punches but Banal, for a lot of boxing experts, is the complete package. He can box. He can brawl. He has good hand speed and excellent footwork. He is versatile and can adopt to any style which confuses opponents.”

Will Alex John confuse Luis? Melligen pulverize Hernandez? Will they bring pride to Pinoys? Two nights from now, let’s watch “Pinoy Pride.”

Prediction: Lakers vs. Heat in the ‘11 Finals

In a poll of eight experts, the question was asked: “Which teams will reach the NBA Finals?”

In the Western Conference, all eight critics answered in the same manner: L.A. Lakers. It’s hard to argue against their unanimous decision. The KB24-led squad from California are the two-time defending champs. Defeating the Boston Celtics last season four games to three, they captured their 16th NBA championship—on the 50th anniversary of their relocation to Los Angeles. And so, the Lakers are a sure bet to reach The Finals.

The Eastern Conference winners? One expert said “Orlando Magic” while another answered, “Boston Celtics.” But, six of the eight experts asked by NBA.com supplied the same response: Miami Heat.

Los Angeles vs. Miami. Think about it. Wow. Won’t this ending be a Wow-moment? A highlight for basketball? For the world? Imagine a Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James ending? No, make that The King named Kobe versus The Three Kings, LeBron/Wade/Bosh. In fact, just days ago, the Heat acquired Jerry Stackhouse. So make that Kobe vs. The Fab Four of Miami.

Lakers – Heat. I hope this happens. I’m sure, for excitement’s sake, plenty want to see this climax. It’s good for our heart. Our heartbeats pumping faster because of this fever and frenzy is good for our health.

How awaited is this finale? I “goggled” the words, “lakers vs heat nba final” and, guess what, a total of 6,590,000 results showed up. That’s plenty. That’s the interest in America’s two most famous ball clubs.

If this NBA conclusion happens, what a bonanza. What a golden possibility for this league to strike gold in the TV ratings: the Team In Gold versus the Team Who Wants Gold.

With the Lakers, we know what to expect. Kobe is Barack Obama. He’s the leader. He’s the man who’ll step up on the free throw line with 3.4 seconds left in Game 7 and shoot both free throws for the victory. We know that. We expect that.

The Lakers will win. The question is, Can the Heat burn and cook and scorch L.A.? And ignite their Fab Four to steal the NBA ring on their first try? We don’t know. “The Big Three of Miami are expected to dominate but can they play with chemistry?” said the story, “Lakers vs. Heat: NBA Finals Preview?” in Extrasportsnews.com. “Can they share the ball and win each game? In the previous year, the Big Three averages more than 20 shots each but here in Miami they can’t do that anymore, they have to play as a team. All of them has to sacrifice their stats. On the other hand, the Lakers are still, I believe, the favorite because they have proven that they can play ball.”

It all begins tomorrow. At 7:30 a.m., Philippine-time, the NBA season begins with the most-awaited of first games: Miami vs. Boston. Another… Wow! Last year’s Eastern Conference champion versus its strongest tormentor.

All eyes on this game—and on the entire season—will fall on LBJ. “James has absorbed more criticism over the last five months than he’d heard in his previous seven NBA years,” said Ian Thomsen of SI.com in “Countdown: 2010-11 season guide.” Thomsen added, “But how bad is all of this news in reality? Put it this way: What happens if James leads Miami to the championship this year? The answer is that the negatives all flutter away.”

True. If Miami wins, LeBron won’t be acclaimed The Hero—but his feat will be near heroic. A brand-new cast of characters win on their first attempt! The hatred towards LeBron will be forgotten. Do we still remember Kobe’s rape case? How he was castigated? That’s forgotten. But Mr. James has to win. Now. “It’s going to be easy to forgive LeBron because he has committed nothing worse than crimes of arrogance, and for those he has been roughed up and humbled. The punishment has been served, and if he wins I guarantee you he’ll have majority opinion on his side again,” added Thomsen.

The NBA’s slogan is “Where Amazing Happens.” Amazing begins in tomorrow’s Game 1 and, if we’re lucky, concludes with a Kobe vs. LeBron face-to-face.

Don’t you adore this sport? I Love This Game.

Hi, I’m John–and I’m an addict!

Each day, I sniff. I get a high. My nerves grow edgy, my body weakens and I feel low, low, low—if I don’t inhale this drug. It has permeated my system. I can’t get rid of it. My red blood cells have been infiltrated; my mind, brainwashed.

I am an addict. I choose to be. For years and hours and decades now, I’ve hidden it, exposed it, written about it, fantasized. Yes. This addiction I fantasize about. Each day. And, like any craving, it started small. When I was small. It grew. Like addictions do. It enveloped my anatomy. At first, I resisted, No!—but then, like all enslavements, it was too irresistible. The lure pulled me. And, the more I inhaled, the more sweat my body exhaled.

I am an addict. We are all addicts. Maniacs, we are, of something. Cigarettes. Coffee. Cars. Cocaine. Coke. Computers. Chocolates. Chatting. We are submissive to something. We crave. This is part of being human. This is normal. Addiction is normal. Yet, the sad reality is, most addictions are bad. They’re damaging and vicious. They suck us into a dark and deep hole that, unlike the Chilean heroes, we can’t climb out of. Most addictions are these. Drugs. Sex. Food. The habit of visiting Waterfront Hotel’s second floor to sit on a high stool and wave your P10,000 goodbye—that’s a habit. Bad.

I am an addict. But this habit I covet is the same one plenty lust after: like those who visit Waterfront Hotel’s basement floor to sit on a high stool called the stationary bike, pay P10,000 for four months—that’s a habit. Good. I am addicted to anything that moves me. Literally. Pedaling. Cutting through the invisible air to traverse from the banner called START to another signage called FINISH—that’s my addiction. And I’m not alone. Thousands, too, are addicts.

Take this latest fanaticism. Every Sunday at dawn, while thousands used to party on Saturday nights and snore hours later, now everybody’s up and running. This stimulant everybody’s perspiring. It’s an addiction.

This obsession is good. It’s an addiction that should be made an addition: Husband invites wife to dance who invites best friend Carol to badminton who invites daughter Steph to taekwondo who invites classmate Rhea to triathlon who invites dad Mike to swim who invites officemate Paolo to triathlon. That’s addition. That’s addiction.

I am a maniac. And I love it. I feel weak when I can’t perform this obsession. Daily, I do it. Writing this piece? Prior to almost every story I type, before my mind can execute, my body needs to excrete liquid. It’s called sweat. And it’s this exercise of the body that flexes my brain to release “creative juices.” Addiction is a juice. It powers the body. From a lethargic, shoulders-drooping, fatigued state, I’m erect and raring to march—thanks to this fascination to perspire.

I am an addict. If I awaken at 3:20 in the morning and can’t go back to sleep, that’s because I didn’t get enough addiction. From sweating. For here’s what I’ve concluded: A good night’s sleep is achieved when I’m most tired—from heavy dosage of exertion during daytime. Formula for sweet dreams: exercise = better sleep.

I am an addict. I hope you, too, become one. Like breathing unconsciously or bathing each morning or digesting rice every breakfast, noon, and night—habits we perform by instinct—do include another type of good-habit to your daily repertoire. Sweat. Yes. Be addicted. Tell yourself, like I’ve brainwashed myself for decades, this: I am weak when I don’t run. Or bike. Or lift weights. Or dribble the basketball and shoot. Or badminton smash. Or tennis volley. Or grass-walk and par-putt in CCC. Do anything to weaken your body for 40 minutes daily—then you’ll be strengthened. But do it daily. Like an addict. For you’re no addict if you skip sessions and inhale only every Sunday, right? Inhale sports. Let’s all be addicts.

The first 77 days of Edward Hayco

Ed (2nd from right) with Mars Alison, Mike Limpag, Girlie Garces, Hidelito Pascual and John P.

He is always dancing his feet, go-go-go, a man of action, restless, on the move. Just-turned-50, Ed Hayco started his stint as Cebu City Sports Commission chief last August 5—less than P-Noy’s recent 100 Days speech—yet he’s achieved plenty. In text messages, e-mail, and phone conversations the past 44 hours, here’s Chairman Ed….

Your projects and goals? “We’ve started free boxing clinics, now on its 8th week. From six kids it has grown to almost a hundred. Boxing is under Commissioner Lorenzo Chao Sy. He personally oversees and trains the kids. The kids overwhelm you with their raw talent and enthusiasm. You can see in their eyes the excitement and the energy that awes you to no end.

“The free taekwondo classes under Commissioner Tony del Prado started last Saturday and had 30 kids. Tony oversees the training and the response was very positive. These programs were promoted in a grassroots approach. The enthusiasm of the kids was overwhelming. They want the training daily. But we need to take things slowly as the volunteer program might just be too sudden. You have to take note it took Dancesport years to create the culture of volunteerism and dedication the team possesses today. The free boxing and taekwondo sessions are at the Sports Institute–the former San Nicholas Sports Complex–every Sat. from 2 to 4 p.m.

“We also started the barangay Wellness Program with Aerobics now on its fourth weekend at the I. T. Park every Saturday at 6 a.m. This is chaired by Emi Alfonso and Ema together with Brgy. Capt. Ramil of Apas. Hopefully we can duplicate this with other barangays soon since this program is sponsored by Bgry. Councilor Dong-dong and the Brgy. Councilors League Cebu Chapter. We need to train more aerobic teachers as well.

“A monthly chess competition is planned… A barangay fun run will be up and running in a month, chaired by Tony del Prado. There will be fun runs along barangay areas (hills and trails)—not main thoroughfares.

“We also plan to focus on specific sports in certain areas; like Sepak Takraw is strong in Inayawan, boxing in San Nicholas, Pasil, Duljo area. We’re not sure which program will take root. But if it does, the Institute of Sports should institutionalize the programs so it will be continuing for the next 10 years.

“We started the used-sports gears donation program, a brainchild of Comm. Nimrod Quiñones. Right now we have three boxes of rubber shoes donated by Cambridge and other schools. Some people donated their time like Dr. Tony San Juan who offered three hours a week to train our athletes regarding sports medicine and body mechanics.”

“We finished our Strategic Planning last August which is our road map for the next three years (short term) and 10 years, long term. Namely: 1) Value-laden sports program, chaired by Comm. Rengelle Pelayo. 2) Talent and Coach Identification program, chaired by Nimrod Quiñones. 3) Palaro 2013 championship, chaired by Comm. Ryan Aznar. 4) Link public-private sectors, coaches and patrons, chaired by Lorenzo Chao Sy. 5) Athlete prioritization to bring the gold, chaired by Tony del Prado. 6) Emerging sports and sports tourism chaired by Comm. Brian Lim. 7) Cebu Sports Museum, chaired by John Pages. 8) Sports Institute.

That’s plenty. How does managing Dancesport compare to running the CCSC? “Gosh! It’s a gigantic whale of a difference. That’s why I was very hesitant about the role I have to play in the CCSC. I’m asked to duplicate what we did in dancesport.

“We only have three years to work on 17 sports. The CCSC’s role is to be the catalyst. To make the athletes believe they can. As what Mayor Mike said, ‘Together we can make it happen.’

“I know I’ll be consumed by challenges. But hey, life begins at 50. I’ll try to do just baby steps. One small step at a time. If we make a difference in the lives of others, no matter how small, the Sports Commission would have done its job.”

Despite the distractions, is MP still Mr. Destruction?

Nobody possesses more self-confidence than our modern day version of Jose Rizal. Like the hit 1982 videogame by Atari that gobbles up wafers, Pacman is a hit—and he gobbles up opponents as if munching on Mexican burritos. Plenty of Mexicans he has gobbled: Velasquez, Solis, Morales, Barrera, Marquez, Larios and, yes, on the morning of the 14th of Nov., another enchilada named Antonio.

We have so much belief in Manny Pacquiao winning that odds-makers tag him a “minus-525” favorite. This means that a $525 bet on MP will earn you only $100. That’s a staggering number—considering these numbers: Pacman stands 5’ 6” while the Tijuana Tornada is nearly 6-feet-tall. Well, that lopsided betting figure is justified because, in his last 12 fights, Manny has won one dozen. The world of boxing has grown to expect Manny NEVER TO LOSE. To us, he’s not Superman—he’s up, up, and away…..

Still, I’m anxious. So, I’m sure, are you. With all these media reports that have bombarded us the past 14 days, it’s hard not to feel nervous. “MANNY SKIPS MORNING RUN BECAUSE OF BASKETBALL,” reads one headline. “FOOT INJURY!” screams another. “PACQUIAO BETTER STEP UP,” announces Bob Arum, fully aware of the marvelous shape of his other ward, Margarito.

What’s worse, instead of being imprisoned in his Baguio prison camp, the laagan that he is, Manny often escapes The City of Pines to head down to The City of Entertainment. Almost every Saturday night, he’s in Metro Manila.

For this is who Manny is: He likes games. He loves playing games. He relishes teasing us. While we’re troubled with his training, he’s training, all right—practicing the guitar and doing voice lessons to prepare for his after-fight concert in Dallas, Texas. Pacquiao is forever a risk-taker. A man on the edge.

What I’m most concerned of are two-fold. First, I haven’t heard much from Freddie Roach. Usually, a month or so prior to The Fight, this planet’s most celebrated trainer boasts, “Manny will knock him out in 7!” And, true enough, Freddie is Nostradamus—he’s correct. Sadly, he’s silent this time. Sure, Freddie said, Manny will toy with Antonio. But wasn’t that years ago? I mean, two months back? Before he saw the fitness level of his prized treasure? Before he realized that, “Hey, Manny’s taking it TOO EASY this time, he’s too overconfident, he’s not in perfect shape with just three-plus weeks to go.” And so first, I’d like to hear from Freddie. I’d like for him to reassure us. Thus far, we haven’t heard much. This isn’t good.

Two: the distractions. I know, I know. Manny, while called Mr. Destruction, is also Mr. Distraction. Most superstars love distractions—it’s how the Kobe Bryants and Lady Gagas and Pacquiaos orbit Earth. But, don’t you think this time, Manny has one too many? No, I’m not talking about Krista Ranillo and filming TV sitcoms and the alleged gambling midnight sessions of the past.

I’m talking about sessions in the House of Representatives. Months before his hardcore training started, Manny focused not on his physical body but on his mental capacity. He studied RP’s laws, lobbied for Sarangani’s 500,000 constituents, campaigned for Villar then shuffled footwork to align with Aquino—he’s now one of our 278 congressman.

Isn’t this good? CongressManny? It may be bad. For boxing. For us. It may have taken away that “edge.” Surely, it has dragged Rep. Pacquiao inside the political arena for hours and weeks and lessened his time inside the boxing arena. Don’t you think, while training, his mind often wanders to his obligations? Political?

Manny is Manny. Many are unlike Manny. He can juggle 149 thoughts per millisecond. He can strum a guitar, negotiate a P222 million deal for MP Building No. 5 in Gen. Santos City, kiss his children, shoot a left-handed 3-point shot, high-five Mark Wahlberg, meet Pres. Noynoy anytime he wishes—all within an hour.

But can he win 26 days from now? Abangan.

Rory Jon Sepulveda pedals off the court

Of all his passions—as lawyer for Gov. Gwen Garcia, consultant of the Provincial Capitol, arch-critic of Rep. Tommy Osmeña—the one activity Atty. Jong Sepulveda enjoys the most is non-argumentative: Riding that pedal-driven, two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle.

“I love everything about cycling,” he told me. “Its history; the cutting edge technology of the bikes; the sights and places the bike takes you along; the pain and hardships of training and racing; the rewards of a relatively good health; and, of course, the camaraderie between, and among, your cyclist-friends.

His biking craze started early, in elementary, when Jong used to bike to school. “Quite a long time ago and we called our bikes then ‘semi-racers’,” he said. “As a form of exercise, I started in 2001 with mountain-biking. Tried road in 2005 and then joined races.” Thus far, he’s participated in dozens, including the Terry Larrazabal Bike Festivals in Ormoc and Subic, and the 3-stagings of Kia Ironlegs in Bohol.

How often does Gov. Gwen’s confidante bike Cebu City’s streets? “Everyday… weather, schedule, wife permitting,” he said. “This translates to at least 3x a week.”

For the past five years, “Jong,” as his buddies call him, has been involved with CC. “We call ourselves Cebu Cycling, a non-formal (unincorporated) association of cycling buddies that hang-out at Willy’s in Busay. The name Cebu Cycling was taken from the Yahoo group forum created by Noel Ting.

With over a hundred CC “roadies” (using road bikes) and over 3,700 members in their website (www.cebucyling.com), the core group includes JV Araneta, Miguel Flores, Jose Ontanillas, Jerome Rodriguez, Cesar Salazar, Frank Gatdula, Geoffrey Lariosa, Francis Lim, John Gayatin, Tony Codina, Art and Tyre Lambo, Raldy Vios, Brett Harrington, Noel Ting and Jong Sepulveda. They’re called the CC VIPs.

“The main objective of CC is to promote cycling – as a sport and lifestyle – here in Cebu,” he said. “As of the recent past, it is only CC that is consistently organizing road bike racing here. For lack, however, of institutional sponsors, our races are mostly small budgeted (but well attended).”

CC-organized races? Plenty. Enumerates Atty. Sepulveda: “Tour ni Frank” (a 2-stage race every Jan. sponsored by Frank Gatdula, who flies in from Stockton, California); “Danao-Lugo-Danao” challenge, held at least twice a year; “Naga-Uling-Toledo” road race; and “Greenhouse Race to the Sky.” CC also supports special events like Nob Clarke’s 10-mile Time Trial races, Al Figer’s “Tour ni Figer” and Andot Rubi’s “Copa de Cebu.”

An upcoming big event is next week. “For the first time,” he said, “we’re joining the Tour of Matabungkay this Oct. 22 to 24 at Matabungkay, Lian, Batangas.” The cyclists include… Team A (Cebu Cycling): JV Araneta, Jose Ontanillas, Mike Flores, Raldy Vios, Francis Lim, Brett Harrington, Tony Codina, Ronnie Adlawan, and myself.  Team B (Team Cebu Cycling – HBC; the team out to win) has Ernie Hortaleza, Jerome Rodriguez, John Gayatin, Philip Sainz, Art Lambo, Tyre Lambo, Ramon Espinosa, Ned Revilla, and Mirko Valentin.

As to his sport’s popularity: “Cycling, specially road cycling, remains a marginal sport here. Hate to admit, but Cebu’s rapid development makes cycling in our terribly busy roads a not-so-interesting proposition. Besides, bike lanes suffer extremely low priority in our cash-starved governments. Be that as it may, due to the increased popularity of triathlon  — we have seen more athletes taking up road cycling lately. As to popularity between two sister disciplines – mtbiking and road cycling – the former has way more adherents. Cebu is more conducive to mtbiking with its abundant mountain roads, trails and paths.”

Finally, he added, “The moment I throw my legs over my bike for a ride or race… I am at peace with myself and the world. Only the homicidal behavior of some drivers can sometimes disturb that peace—but, the more I ride, the more I’ve learned to ignore them.”

Gus Go: ‘Triple Treat’ for University of Cebu

Minutes after I sent him a text message, my mobile phone rang.

“John,” he said, “hi it’s Gus Go.”

“Attorney Go, congratulations!” I replied.

The founder and president of one of the largest educational institutions in the Philippines was on his way to his office at 3:45 yesterday afternoon.

“The players are waiting for me,” he said.

The Players, of course, are The Champions. For the first time in the 10-year history of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (Cesafi), a school other than the University of the Visayas (UV) has emerged as titleholders.

Cebu’s university… University of Cebu. It’s been long, long, long wait. Make that nine long years when the Gullas family and Boy Cabahug and the Green Lancers reigned over collegiate basketball.

“Yes, we’ve been trying to win all these years,” said Atty. Go, “but we always could not win in basketball. Finally, we made it.”

The UC Webmasters made history last Tuesday evening, winning the best-of-five championship series, 3-1, when they scored a breathtaking 73-72 victory—thanks to 6-foot-10 Junemar Fajardo’s tough jumper with only 4.0 seconds left.

Atty. Augusto Go wanted to be there in person at the facility he owns—the Cebu Coliseum—to cheer on his team. “It was the birthday of Governor Gwen Garcia and I attended her party. My daughter, Candice, watched the game. She was the one who told me the good news.”

“What makes this victory extra special is because earlier that day, I got news that we got both first and second place in the Naval Architectural national examinations,” he said. “And then, this, the win by one point. It has given me even more excitement.”

The term that Augusto Go coined? “Triple treat! It was a triple treat!”

I reminded Atty. Go that it wasn’t just a one-two-three victory. It was also his birthday last Monday and what a way to celebrate. Yes, he agreed, laughing.

I asked him more about himself—and basketball. Were you formerly a player? “No, I used to play bowling,” he said. “But I watch and follow the NBA and am a big fan of the L.A. Lakers. Although now, with LeBron’s entry to his new team, I’ll be following the Miami Heat.”

Finally, we talked about the twin victories that have never been done before. First, the supremacy of Cebu Eastern College and, two nights after, the triumph of his University of Cebu.

“Mr. Frederick Ong, Jr. won the high school division with CEC while you won the college,” I said.

“Yes, you’re right. And that makes it extra special!” he replied.

As to incentives or gifts he’ll give Junemar Fajardo—the unstoppable giant on the low-post who scored 32 points and the Cesafi season MVP—plus the rest of the Webmasters, he said, “Atty. Estenzo will decide on that. He’ll tell me his recommendation.”

We said goodbye. I, pondering on this extraordinary week; Atty. Go off to meet his players—the champions of Cebu.

Perfect 10-10-10 for Cebu Eastern College

Chester Cokaliong is a hero. But not last year. Not when his alma matter, CEC, suffered the most humiliating of defeats—losing by 151 points against UV and 131 points versus UC—when his Dragons were devoured by Eagles, pounded on by Webmasters, and pierced by Lancers. In 2009, CEC stood for Catastrophic Embarrassing College.

Not today. Not two nights ago inside the Cebu Coliseum when, during the Cesafi high school championship series, the Dragons roared to swallow Sacred Heart School-Ateneo, 3-0.

“The Chinese New Year is still four months away,” wrote Rommel Manlosa yesterday, “but the people at the Cebu Coliseum were treated to a classic dragon dance, traditional money dance and Chinese music.” What a victory! A celebration! Added our sports editor Mike Limpag: “Their campaign is the Story of the Year — from chumps to champs.”

For would you believe, “For 10 years, we did not win a single game. And now, this… we are the champions!!” said Chester Cokaliong, minutes after his Dragons snared the title. Implausible? Preposterous? Unimaginable? These words, in fact, do not describe fully the 360-degree turnaround of just 360 days. “I cannot find the words,” Chester told me, “to explain what we feel right now.”

Sitting beside Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama the entire game last Sunday, I had a front-row view of the miracle. Beside us were CESAFI Commissioner Boy Tiukinhoy, deputy commissioners Danny Duran and Julian Macoy, and another CEC official who deserves just as much praise as Chester: Jefferson Go.

In last Sunday’s third game of the finals, both CEC and SHS-Ateneo wore blue. CEC wore white/blue; Ateneo donned blue with white trimmings. But, it was clear which team would be beaten and turn blue. The CEC Dragons were too strong, too inspired, too good to let a two-zero advantage go to waste. Plus, the high schoolers had an extra incentive: Chester & Co. brought all their parents to watch history’s 10-10-10 victory during Cesafi’s Season 10.

With players hailing from Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao and other parts of Vis-Min, the Dragons were an All-Star cast. There was Nike Montalvo, the Piolo Pascual lookalike who wears, of course, Nike. “He will be in the PBA,” said Mayor Mike Rama of the season MVP. I agree. Montalvo has it all: quickness, 3-pointers, and an acrobatic body like a youthful Michael Jordan. James Neil Sumayang is another. CEC’s center—though not 6-foot-10 like JunMar Fajardo—is agile and nifty. Plus, he’s left-handed; “An advantage,” added our mayor. BJ Zosa, though possessing an awkward release, scores 3-pointers as effortlessly as his master, the 3-point king himself, Mr. Cokaliong.

Plus, of course, CEC chieftain Frederick Ong, Jr., head coach Jerry Jaranilla and team manager Sammy Sia. They assembled a cast of teenagers that will reign over basketball for long. CEC was founded in 1915. With their century mark near, this school will dominate. Plus, there’s a banner hanging inside the Cebu Coliseum: CEC DRAGON’S LAIR. That’s scary. If I’m the other schools, I’d be terrified. It’s like Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon.

Unbelievable to think of the words POWER and DOMINANCE—the Cesafi theme this season—and equate these two with CEC, right? For wasn’t it just a season ago when theirs was the most laughed-at and ridiculed of teams? Imagine losing by 155!

Which brings me back to one word: Pride. It was this humiliation this same October of ‘09 that got CEC to where it is now. And, you know what? This story—the most inconceivable sports moment I’ve witnessed in Cebu—is a learning experience not only for CEC, but a lesson for you and me.

How? This feel-good, only-in-Hollywood story explains this truth: Today doesn’t matter. Regardless of your circumstance today, it’s tomorrow that matters. Let not your unfortunate situation pull you down. Let it lift you up. Like a Dragon, let your failure lead to soaring victory. Thanks to CEC’s fall and rise, we’ve learned about life through basketball.

New Balance shirts, RFID timing in the Cebu Marathon

The date is January 9, 2011. That’s the Sunday before the Sinulog. That’s the daybreak when one of the country’s most acclaimed of races will start: the Cebu City Marathon.

While last Sinulog the event was dubbed “01-10-10,” owing the date Jan. 10, 2010, the 2011 edition will be different. Thanks to the creative minds of ASAP Advertising headed by the power couple, Jacs and Perl Jacalan, the CCM will have a new and festive theme: “Race Through The Streets And Colors Of Cebu.”

Yes! It’s the week of the Philippines’ grandest mardi gras. Millions will congregate. Dancers will shuffle their feet. Balikbayans will deluge us. Beer will ooze. Lechons, devoured. Our beloved Sto. Niño, venerated. And, yes, the Cebu Marathon will race along Colon Street, snake beside Magellan’s Cross, meander through the SRP and start and finish at our island’s hub for business, the Asiatown I.T. Park.

Isn’t it perfect? Fitting? And very much… Cebu? Racing through our streets… gazing at the colors… of Cebu.

What’s brand-new with the Cebu Marathon is this package: New Balance T-shirts. While races hand out singlets to participants, this event won’t be any different—but with a difference: the New Balance running jerseys (Made in the U.S.A.) retail for P950 and will be given for free. This means that, regardless of your category, you’re getting more than your money’s worth.

The fees? For the 5K, it’s P500. For the 21K, it’s P600. And for the penultimate and dream-come-true-distance codenamed “42.195” (family-named “Kilometers”), it’s P800.

To add to this new from New Balance, all runners—5K, 21K and 42K—will be using RFID timing chips. Yup, no misprint there: while the 5,000-meter participants never previously used timing devices—“They’re just joining the fun run!” the 21K runners will brag—this time, even 5Kers wear the chip.

With New Balance, it will be a running T-shirt, not sleeveless. But here’s the “catch:” there are only 4,500 available. Wow, that’s plenty! True. For every-Sunday races, yes, 4,500 sounds unreachable. But, this isn’t your ordinary race.

Powered by Globe—who has the topmost billing among the few big-named sponsors—the 01-10-10 marathon had over 4,000 participants. That was nine months ago—before the running boom in Cebu and Manila boomed and boomeranged.

And so here’s a suggestion: The registration formally begins tomorrow, Friday. I suggest you sprint (wearing your New Balance!) to the Active Zone of the Ayala Center Cebu and register. This way, you’ll surely be among the first 4,500 to register. Our CCM booth will open from 12 noon until 8 p.m. daily.

Ayala Center Cebu, of course, will be a major, major, major partner of this spectacle. The Race Expo, slated the week before Jan. 9, will be held at the Active Zone. (The shirts won’t be available for pickup when you register—but will be ready and brand-new-smelling during the Expo.) Plus, there will be a Pre-Race and Carbo-loading Party on Jan. 7—or two nights before race day. For those who attended last January’s party at The Terraces of Ayala Center, it was invigorating to see runners mingling pre-race tips with fellow runners just hours before the sweat and pain.

The Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC), headed by Jess Taborada—a seven-time marathoner who recently completed the Camsur Intl. Marathon—is behind the CCM. The Cebu City government—like last year—is an essential co-organizer, closing down Osmeña Blvd., the SRP and other thoroughfares to ensure that the No.1 goal of a race is achieved. That’s called safety.

And so, the starting gun is cocked, the banners getting printed, the Sinulog drumbeat practiced—all that’s needed is for you to fasten your shoelaces and get your pumping heartbeat to say yes to this once-in-a-lifetime, I-can-finish-a-marathon moment.

Ms. Joy Polloso, Ayala Center Cebu’s Division Head…. do we register you as the very first participant for the 42K?

Like you, I can’t wait! Good luck.

Cebu City Olympics tennis

My daughter Jana joined the Cebu City Olympics elementary tennis event last weekend. She won both her matches, 8-0, and will represent the city in next month’s CVIRAA in Dumaguete. That’s good news. The sad part: the incompetence of the tournament manager, Carmelita “Mely” Bala. Imagine this: for an event that includes boys and girls in the elementary and high school divisions, she only had one tennis court as venue. Yes, just one court. And so the result was this: Players arrived before 7:30 a.m. only to wait for hours and hours before playing. It was a pitiful sight at the Cebu Technological University watching the children and parents waiting. Why not choose a bigger venue? With two or three courts? In fact, it turned out a second venue (USC) was available—but left unused. Calling on DepEd P.E. head Nenita Pardenilla and DepEd Sports Committee chief Ricky Ballesteros: please make sure to change the tournament manager next time!

Pink October

One of the busiest people on this planet this month is Me’Anne Alcordo Solomon. A breast cancer survivor, we call each other, as she does her close friends, “breast friend.” Me’Anne is dynamism in action. She is the past president of the Rotary Club of Cebu Fuente and has done hundreds of projects, through Rotary, to help the needy. But her strongest passion is embedded in this fight against cancer. She co-organized with Dr. Peter Mancao the 4th Pink Oct. Run and is personally involved with dozens of projects this month. Will write more about the Pink October…

Were UC, UV favored over SWU? We seek a reply

I saw Ryan Aznar at the Ayala Center last Sunday. The sports manager of Southwestern University (and a commissioner of the Cebu City Sports Commission), Ryan was angry. Last week, his SWU men’s basketball team stunned the nine-time champions, UV, in an upset. It was the CESAFI collegiate semi-finals. As the schedule showed, SWU’s next game was against the loser of UC vs. USC—which turned out to be USC. And so, sporting a confident 1-0 record, they prepared—mentally and tactically—against USC. They aimed to go 2-0 in the round robin semi-finals. But, no—the day before their bout, they were informed (not through a formal letter—but via a text message from, of all people, the USC coach) that the schedule was changed. Instead, they’ll be playing UC. What! Ryan cried foul. “The schedules were finalized in September,” he told me, “and they tell us the day before that there’s a schedule change? This is unfair!”

It is. Why was the schedule changed? Was it to accommodate the giants named UV and UC, so the two won’t have to meet early? At poor SWU’s expense? If true, this is unjust. And I believed the CESAFI was managed professionally, not like a “liga-liga” where rules, midway, can be altered?

Felix Tiukinhoy has some explaining to do. This issue is at the heart of sports—and why we play sports. It’s called fair play. It’s called “not playing favorites.” I hope Cebu’s David Stern, as I called Boy Tiukinhoy, writes to explain his side.

Ryder Cup

Wally Liu, the president of Primary Structures Corp., is a good friend and fellow member of the Rotary Club of Cebu West. Wally and I talked about sports—as we always do—last Friday. The topic? Tennis and golf, Roger/Rafa and another R: the Ryder Cup. A Federer fan, Wally said, “The difference between R & R and golf is this: In tennis, you’re just watching two players on TV while in golf, for example with the Ryder Cup, it’s 24 of the best from America and Europe—and they’re all playing simultaneously.”

Wally is correct. There’s Tiger, there’s Lee Westwood, there’s Padraig, Phil and Bubba Watson, there are the Molinari brothers, there’s 21-year-old Roy McIlroy draining a 12-foot birdie. “It’s all of these superstars,” said Wally, “on the same course playing at the same time.”

Ateneo scores a three-peat as FEU turns blue

Jourdan Andrew Dunque Polotan is the president of the Ateneo Alumni Association, Cebu Chapter. The color of his blood is not red or pink — it’s blue. Back in 1987, he finished his B.S. Management (Honors Program) along Katipunan Avenue on 100 percent scholarship. He considers those ADMU years as “one of the best times to be in university.” Why? Jourdan narrates: “1983 – Ninoy was assassinated. 1983 – ‘85 Protest Movement. ‘86 People Power. ‘87 Constitutional Commission. 1987: first of our back-to-back victories in the UAAP.”

Last Thursday, “Brother,” as I call Jourdan — one of my best friends from the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP) — was out gallivanting in Manila. Inside the cavernous Araneta Coliseum, he cheered for Team Blue to slaughter the Green Squad. Yes, blue was Ateneo but, no, green wasn’t the usual green, La Salle. It was FEU and the game three days ago was Game 2 of the UAAP Final.

“I arrived in the Big Dome at least two hours before,” said Jourdan. “Cubao was a sea of blue. And most anyone you met in blue would smile at you, as if we were all long time friends. You just gravitated to the restos and coffee shops teeming with Blue Eagle fans — they came in all sizes, shapes and ages. Teachers, students, administration, Jesuits… A nod, a smile, it was great to be part of one big family. You were bound to bump into someone you knew.”

It was Mr. Polotan’s first UAAP Finals live game to watch. “The tickets were always very, very hard to get,” he said. “I asked a friend for a ticket or two. ‘Best efforts’ lang daw. Even before Game 1, I asked to buy tickets to Game 2. I knew Game 2 would be hard fought — the winner of Game 1 would like to finish it there, and the loser would like to extend the series. Three days… two… one day before the game, still no ticket.

“The day before the game, I flew in to Manila for a business meeting. I told my friend that nag leap of faith na lang ko. I was in Manila already. He asked for a few more hours. A few hours passed, and I got a text to call his office. Viola! I had one ticket in the Patron Section at the original price of P300.

“On the morning of game day, I had one more meeting then I rushed to Ateneo to pay and pick-up my ticket. On the way, I called one of my professors and asked him out to lunch. Of course, he said yes. Him and his wife, dear friends of mine, treated me to a Japanese lunch just across campus. Sa resto pa lang, you saw families all decked out in blue talking about the game to come. Coach Sandy (one of the assistant coaches) walked in. We said, “Hi coach.” He approached our table, shook hands and we wished him and the team luck. “Tapusin natin ito, coach,” I said. You could see in his face they were ready.

“The noise in the Big Dome was loud. The drums were so loud that you could feel your chest pounding. I sat between two total strangers, both in blue, but it was as if we knew each other a long time. We shared notes about the players and team strategy. We agreed on one thing: it seemed like our team’s strategy was to take out FEU players one by one thru foul trouble. True enough… There were ‘graduates.’”

Jourdan, a sports buff and muscular left-hander like Nadal who adores Federer, saw—from Cebu—Jack Huang and his sons. He also saw a few batch mates… “one of the more famous ones — SC spokesman/administrator Midas Marquez.” He added: “Chito Loyzaga was in the row in front of me. When we won, we were high-fiving.”

Finally, I asked why coach Norman Black, of all his victories, would call this championship–especially Game 2’s 65-62 win—Ateneo’s “sweetest victory.” Jourdan explained: “No super stars. You can say we had ONE HELL OF A TEAM. Can you imagine — not one Blue Eagle was in the Mythical 5? It means no one stood out as a superstar. Everyone was a superstar, a clutch player. You never knew who would step up and carry the team on a particular game. That is why it was so sweet. Our opponents just did not know who to pounce on.”