Monthly Archives: November 2010

For PHL, an “F” in the Asian Games

I love watching concerts. From Don Moen to Duran Duran  to Dionne Warwick (ha-ha, just kidding on the last one; I’m not as old as my mom!), I’ve seen plenty. There’s one concert I strongly endorse you attend. It’s Monday next week (Dec. 6) and it’s called The GIFT OF LIFE Chorale Concert and Benefit Gala. Featuring four university choirs—from USC, UC, SWU and UV—the audience will be serenaded with Christmas carols and Cebuano favorites. Best of all, all proceeds will go to a most-worthy cause: to help “blue babies” (children with congenital heart diseases). Organized by the illustrious Rotary Club of Cebu and headed by President Joe Soberano, the ticket costs only P1,000 per person—with free dinner. Please watch. Listen to beautiful voices. Give the gift of life. That’s Dec. 6 at the Waterfront. See you there!

ASIAN GAMES. Our continent is the world’s biggest and most populated. We are about four billion-strong comprising 60 percent of the earth’s people. For two weeks ending last weekend, our continent staged the once-every-four-years sporting meet called the Asian Games. How did our Philippines do? If you ask our three gold medalists — Dennis Orcollo of billiards, Rey Saludar of boxing, and Biboy Rivera of bowling — the answer is obvious: Gold is the most precious metal… and medal.

But, as a whole, “PHL” failed. Of the 476 events representing 42 sports, we achieved a 3-4-9 score-sheet. That’s three golds, four silvers and nine bronzes for 16 medals. Given that we sent 188 athletes, that’s an impoverished finish. We scored an “F” or failure. This is worse than the Doha, Qatar Games of 2006 when we scored 4-6-9. This pales in comparison to Busan, South Korea in 2002 when we won 3-7-16. We are getting worse.

The reason? As we progress slowly, our Asian neighbors are sprinting rapidly. Take the Chinese. They’re not only dominating the Asian Games (scoring 199 gold medals, the most-ever by a country) but even topping the Olympics, besting the Americans in total medals won. Of course, their population reaches 1.33 billion. Still, they surge while we languish.

What’s most pathetic is this: we never saw TV footages of the Asian Games. The least our local networks could have done was air the Opening and Closing ceremonies—plus games of the Pinoys. There was none. We lost in China. We lost at home.

ROGER BEATS RAFA. This 2010, Mr. Nadal won three of the four Grand Slam titles: the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Mr. Federer did not win any. But, at the finale event of this season, he sought revenge. Roger defeated the world’s No.1 in this year’s last official big-time ATP match: the championship of the ATP World Tour Finals.

What does this mean? Plenty. One, it means Roger—who was trailing 14-7 in their head-to-head prior to last Sunday’s match—will gain confidence. This means RF is not bygone, past-his-prime. It means heading into 2011, he still has the game to win—going undefeated in this round-robin format event. Two, this reaffirms the dominance of both R & R. They have combined to win 21 of the last 23 majors—a fantastic statistic. This rivalry will continue.

The sad part? Like the Games of Asia, there was no Star Sports or Balls Channel TV showing. Not in this event; not the entire year with Masters Series tournaments. This was a missed opportunity for all tennis lovers.

UC VS. ATENEO. Today is an important day for collegiate basketball. It’s Cebu against Manila. It’s Junemar Fajardo, the 6-foot-10 giant from Pinamungajan, who will lead the University of Cebu Webmasters against the Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles.

On paper, it’s a mismatch. Ateneo is seasoned and is the three-time defending UAAP champions. They’re playing on home soil, in Manila. Their cheerers and blue pompoms are aplenty. But, as the cliche goes, “the ball is round.” Anything can happen in the semifinal of the Phil. Collegiate Champions League. If UC upsets ADMU, it will be historic; a win for the taga-probinsya.

Money, Money, Manny

The odds of winning P650,000,000 in last night’s 6/55 Grand Lotto are one in 29 million. If that sounds near-impossible, consider this: The odds of a Manny Pacquiao living in our midst is one in 6.77 billion. That’s because, of our planet’s entire population, there is only one Manny Pacquiao. There is only one human being—a Pinoy—who is the universe’s “Pound-for-Pound No.1.” This means that—as far-fetched as it sounds—you are more likely to win the 6/55 Grand Lotto than to produce the next Manny Pacquiao. Our Pambansang Kamao is the rarest of finds in our Milky Way Galaxy.

Speaking of money, did you hear that the No.1 individual taxpayer in our nation today is not Lucio Tan. He’s not a Zobel or an Aboitiz or another Manny (Pangilinan) who heads Smart and Meralco and PLDT. He’s the former construction boy from General Santos City who is today’s Congressman from Sarangani. Last April and for the year 2008, Manny Pacquiao paid a whopping P125 million in taxes. He was the BIR’s No.1 pound-for-pound individual taxpayer, handily beating Willie Revillame (P58.6M), Piolo Pascual (P55.8M) and even San Miguel Corporation’s Danding Cojuangco, who contributed a measly P18.98 million.

In his latest fight against Antonio Margarito, the 31-year-old Pacquiao—whose first paycheck as a 16-year-old boxer was a few hundred pesos—earned, for those 36 minutes on the Texas ring, a total of $15,000,000 guaranteed purse plus $5,000,000 because of the 1.15 million Pay-Per-View (PPV) buys in the United States. Based on simple arithmetic, that’s $555,555 per minute. Translated to pesos, that’s P880,000,000 or P24,444,444 per minute.

Of course, Manny doesn’t take home all this money. I’m sure he pays a heavyweight-size tax amount to the IRS of America. The same in our country that’s newly-called (from the previous “RP”)… “PHL.” He pays Freddie Roach possibly a million bucks. There’s Top Rank’s Bob Arum’s share. There’s Alex Ariza, Buboy Fernandez, Atty. Jing Jacal, his two dozen staff who include boys who open the door for him and who wash his laundry. There’s the chartered airplane ride from L.A. to Dallas and back, the congressmen he’s invited to cheer for their classmate and, of course, his lucky charm, Chavit Singson—whose body sticks to Manny like a magnet when the HBO cameras are on. These are expenses. These are expensive.

And so, to be conservative, let’s assume MP takes home half. That’s still $10 million. Though no longer exceeding the lotto prize, that’s still nearly half-a-billion pesos. Is Manny Pacquiao our first Filipino billionaire sportsman? Absolutely. He’s passed that borderline some time ago. How about multi-billionaire? That sounds better.

Consider these numbers compiled by Abac Cordero of The Philippine Star. In his article last November 26 entitled “Pacman’s take: At least $20M – Arum,” here are some figures…

Manny has averaged “double-digit millions” in his last five fights. But prior to that, in his breakthrough fight against Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003, he “only” earned $500,000. Against the other top names like Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez and David Diaz, he averaged between $750,000 to $3 million. That’s more money than 99 percent of our population will ever see. But those numbers are insignificant compared to Manny’s last five fights. Here are his double-digit scores: Oscar de la Hoya: $15,000,000. Ricky Hatton: $13,000,000. Miguel Cotto: $13,000,000. Joshua Clottey: $12,000,000. Antonio Margarito: $20,000,000. From these five contests alone, Manny’s revenue was $73,000,000. Sliced in half, that’s $36.5 million or P1.6 billion. All earned by one man. All in five bouts. All in a short span of 23 months from December 2008 to November 2010. One billion six hundred million pesos.

Imagine if Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. agrees to the mid-2011 Fight Of The New Century? Manny’s money can climb to P3 billion. With all that cash, who needs the 6/55?

Cebu Marathon’s FrontRunner Clinic tomorrow

To the thousands of Cebuanos into this latest sports craze, I suggest you attend the lecture. It’s free. It’s to be delivered by two experts. It’s timely for those preparing for the Cebu City Marathon on Jan. 9, 2011. It’s informative. It’s tomorrow. Yes, that’s Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Active Zone of the Ayala Center Cebu.

Jonel Mendoza is the first speaker. The owner/editor-in-chief of FrontRunner Magazine, Jonel is a runner. He is not, however, your ordinary 3K leisurely jogger. He’s an ultra-marathon man who’s finished the 102-kilometer Bataan Death March twice. Jonel is also the organizer of the 50K (read below) from Mt. Manunggal to Cebu City. His lecture tomorrow: “How To Train Properly For A Marathon.” Perfect for everyone joining the 21K or 42K this Sinulog.

Enrico Tocol I have yet to meet. But his credentials—like Jonel, he finished the 102K Bataan Run two times—are impressive. He’s a professional coach of Gold’s Gym in Makati City. His subject matter tomorrow: “Strength Training and Conditioning For Runners.” Expect a well-built, muscular man for this topic on muscle development.

Don’t miss it: “I Am A FrontRunner” Running Clinic from 6 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Ayala Center. See you there!

ULTRA. In running, there are 3Ks, 10Ks and 42Ks. Anything beyond that? It’s called the Ultramarathon and two mornings from now, it will both be joyous and painful for the runners. First, the suffering: it’s the 1st Cebu 50K Ultramarathon from Balamban to the Cebu Provincial Capitol. How agonizing can it get: steep climbs that torture your lungs and downhill slopes that will stab the knees. To the 185 ultramarathoners that include Dr. Vic Verallo, Max Limpag, Roy and Dr. Rosan Trani, Steve Ferraren, Jun Remo and more—good luck and enjoy… the pain.

On Sunday, it’s the 5th Seminary Fund Run. This is memorable for me. It was this 5K distance that was my first-ever—back in 2007. Those interested can still register at Toby’s SM.

TENNIS. The “fifth Grand Slam,” it’s called. Official name: the ATP World Tour Finals. It’s when the top eight men’s players smash lobs and volley winners in London. That’s terrific. What’s bad is this: no TV coverage for us, the Filipino tennis fans. This 2010, we had the four majors of tennis shown live—but none of the ATP Masters Series events. Sayang. In London, with Roger Federer 2-0 thus far in the round-robin games and Rafa Nadal 1-0, are we about to witness another monumental No.2 vs. No.1 finale? We hope so.

ASIAN GAMES. It happens only once every four years but, given its no-show, it feels as if it doesn’t exist. The Asian Games, now held in Guangzhou, China, started last week. Has it? I didn’t know. I didn’t hear. This is another case of sayang. Held in-between the Olympics, this is the mightiest sporting event of our continent of nearly 4,000,000,000 people. The Asian Games is supposed to be HUGE. “Supposed to be,” because there’s no TV coverage. Why? I don’t know why. But shouldn’t we get to watch our Filipino athletes? Cheer for them in Cebu while they’re in China? But we can’t? This is outrageous.

LEBACLE? The Miami Heat were booed during their embarrassing 93-77 loss to the Indiana Pacers. What happened? Where are The Three Kings—Bosh, LeBron, Dwayne? Their record is a dismal 8-6. NBA champs? How about NBA chumps! Maybe what’s needed is a Miami change: Pat Riley as head coach.

BOB. Said Mr. Arum on the global power of Manny Pacquiao: “That’s one of the achievements we can take credit for — taking a non-American and crossing him over. Can we do more? Yeah. Nobody would have dreamed that you could take a fighter from the Phils. and make him into an iconic American star and we’ve been able to do that.”

M & M. Manny beat Morales. He beat Miguel. He defeated Margarito. Who are Manny’s challengers in 2011? Either of these men: Marquez… Mosley… Martinez… Mayweather. Haven’t you noticed a pattern? Regardless of enemy in an “M & M,” Manny will earn lots of M: money.

Basketball’s best is found in Milo BEST

From Sun.Star Cebu, Nov. 22

Typing the word “Best” in the online thesaurus elicits several synonyms: “Ace,” “Outstanding,” “Foremost,” “First,” “Champion,” and “Cool.” These words are perfect for the event held in Cebu last weekend: the 2010 Milo BEST SBP/Passerelle Twin Tournaments.

“SBP and Passerelle. Have you heard of these words before?” asked Rico Navarro, one of the top organizers of this event, last week in his popular sports column at The Freeman. “SBP stands for Small Basketeers Philippines while the term Passerelle is used for an age group of young teen-agers. Where are these terms used? In a more commonly known basketball tournament called Milo BEST…

“Milo is the chocolate energy drink that we’ve grown up with while BEST stands for the Basketball Efficiency Scientific Training Center. Although these are two distinct entities, Milo and BEST have had one of the longest-running partnerships in organizing two major activities: basketball clinics and an age group tournament with a nationwide reach.”

How long has the Milo BEST tournament been going on? Since 1985–or for 25 years now. That’s a long time.

“What do the UAAP Finals Jrs. MVP, NCAA MVP, UAAP Most Improved Player, the PBA MVP and the NCAA Juniors Coach of the Year have in common?” Mr. Navarro further asked in another story. “Kiefer Ravena, Baser Amer, Emman Monfort, James Yap and Britt Reroma.”

Rico is right. Is there a better youth basketball program than Milo’s BEST? None. Is there any other Philippine company today that invests more millions in grassroots sports than Nestle and Milo? None.

Last Sunday morning, I visited the USC Main gym. It was hot. Hotter than Cebu Coliseum. Did the hostilities contribute to the heated atmosphere inside the gym? Absolutely. Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu represented the Visayas. The opponents came from Manila: the Xavier School of San Juan. It was an all-Jesuit battle. Even former president Joseph Estrada was inside the gym the whole of Saturday. His son — wearing No. 8 with the all-caps “EJERCITO” — played for Xavier. But what a lopsided game last Sunday for the championship–in favor of Cebu. The score: 102-53.

The green-colored USC gym was painted blue. A couple of hundred Ateneo spectators — parents, schoolmates, friends — cheered for their blue team. Xavier School — color gold — was no match in the gold-medal game of the Passerelle division.
Last weekend, when eight schools representing four regions battled inside the USC gym, was the start of the Milo BEST. It was the finale, the national finals.

Rico Navarro explained it best in his column last Sunday entitled, “Best”…

Read Rico’s full article here

“One of the most interesting developments of the Milo-backed BEST tournament has been how it has become an annual must-have activity for schools with basketball programs across the country. More importantly, it has now become the necessary steps of development for today’s basketball players. Most of today’s collegiate players trace their roots to having played in the SBP Passerelle tournaments when they were younger.

“It has become a tradition for many schools to launch their programs with SBP activities composed of clinics and tournaments. Nine to ten-year-old kids start to play more for fun, then eventually get more serious once they turn 11 to 12 years old. As they get to be really better from a technical and skills level, the competition also gets tougher along the way into the Passerelle division which features players between 12 to 15 years old.”

Back to the USC gym last Sunday: Seated beside me was Nestle assistant VP Pat Goc-ong. He beamed with pride. A former national weightlifting champion (who was USJ-R’s varsity star in college), Pat oversees all of Nestle’s sports programs. Seated together with Brando of the Cebu City Sports Center, we talked of Milo sports — their marathons, summer clinics, BEST programs. The conclusion: no company is better than the best. Go ask Ovaltine.

Doubles partners Ed Hayco and Harry Radaza

Our Central Visayas – Region VII has never before been Palaro national champions. Our country, the Philippines, though an Olympic participant for 86 years, has never before won a gold medal.

These will change. For Edward Hayco is a dreamer. Restless, enthusiastic, forever-smiling and optimistic, he always has a vision. This is rooted in his DNA. He loves to foresee the unforeseen, to visualize the unrealized.

His latest dream? His major goals as chairman of the Cebu City Sports Commission? Two impossible-for-the-ordinary-man-but-possible-for-Ed-Hayco objectives: Palaro champions by 2013. An Olympic gold by 2020.

Does Mr. Hayco hold a 20/20 vision of the future that ordinary Cebuanos can’t see? Yes he does. And he’s proven it. With Dancesport Team Cebu City, in a short nine years, the four-letter brand called “CEBU” has become world-famous because of dance. True, the dancing inmates of Gov. Gwen Garcia have popularized Cebu — thanks to YouTube’s millions of hits. And so that’s a major, major boost to Cebu dance.

But Ed Hayco has done more: From an obscure, for-mature-ladies-only activity called Ballroom-dancing (complete with DIs in all-black attire and gelled-back hair), he has transformed our definition of Dancesport.

Today, over 30,000 girls, gentlemen, boys, and ladies boogie, strut, cha-cha, and move to “Mambo No. 5” — thanks to dancesport. To top it all, we own a Guinness world record. From these success stories, Ed Hayco has climbed out of his one-sport-only shell to become the leading choreographer of all of Cebu sports.

Palaro champions three years from now? A Cebuano Olympic gold medalist 10 years from now? If there’s one man and one city who can do it, it’s Ed and Cebu.

LAPU-LAPU. Not to be outdone is Ed Hayco’s “twin brother” in Lapu-Lapu City, the new head of their city sports, Harry Don Radaza. Elected as councilor last May, he heads Lapu-Lapu sports.

Like Ed, Councilor Radaza is a visionary with a track record. A lifelong sports buff whom I’ve known since high school, Harry popularized the sport of Flag Football a few years ago. Because of his all-out excitement, Harry convinced hundreds of Cebuanos to join.

Now, from just one sport — flag football — he has become (like Ed) a leader of a much larger pool: all of Lapu-Lapu City’s sports programs.

Harry’s vision? It’s 20/20: to make Lapu-Lapu City the sports tourism hub of the nation. Much like what Camarines Sur is today — the leading province in terms of visitors because of water sports — Harry envisions to best Camsur. And isn’t Lapu-Lapu geographically-perfect? With its blue skies, blue waters, and dozens of resorts including two of Asia’s best (according to Conde Nast), Plantation Bay and Shangri-La?

This March 4 to 6, 2011 is Lapu-Lapu City’s “coming out” party. It’s their Olympics. Their grand welcome to the world saying, “Welcome to Cebu!”

It’s the Davis Cup tie between the Philippines and Japan. Can it get any bigger than this? Nation versus nation, intruders versus the Mactan island where Lapu-Lapu slaughtered Magellan?

Harry plans an international triathlon event towards the end of 2011. That’s good news to Tenggoy Colmenares, Lohriz Echavez and Tyrone Tan. Plus, you’ve probably heard of Hoops Dome, the 7,000-seater facility just meters after the Mactan Bridge. Why, it’s a beauty. When I visited last month, I couldn’t believe this fully-airconditioned gymnasium complete with NBA-like electronic scoreboards was in Cebu. You have got to see it to believe it.

Kudos to the city named after our first Filipino hero.

COMPETE? With Cebu City pursuing an ambitious agenda and Lapu-Lapu City attempting the same, does this mean a rivalry? No. The world of sports is vast. Our Cebu population is in the millions. Nationwide counting our OFW heroes, we’re 92 million-strong — or the 12th most populous nation on this planet. And that’s only within our country code-named “PH.” The more Olympic medals, triathlons, Sports Institutes and Davis Cup events — the better. Cebu wins.

Is Pacquiao the greatest? Depends who you ask

If it’s Bob Arum, the answer is Yes. The 78-year-old promoter who’s collaborated with Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and “The Greatest” himself, Muhammad Ali, said: “I look at Manny as being the best that I’ve ever seen, including Ali. Ali was a great fighter and had great, great attributes and it’s really unfair to compare a big guy like Ali with a little guy like Pacquiao. But when you look at the skill sets, Pacquiao is faster. Now you could say he is a little guy so he should be faster but Ali essentially had just the right hand. His left hand could jab and everything but it wasn’t power punching.”

What differentiates Pacman from the rest? “His left and right hand hit with equal power and that is what destroys his opponents,” said Arum. “They train to fight a left-handed guy and they watch out for his left hand but before they know it, they are getting pummeled by the right hand.”

Arum is correct. But he’s also biased. As MP’s publicist-negotiator-marketer rolled into one, he will trumpet his client’s achievements.

Michael Rosenthal of the “The Ring Blog” ( has a more objective analysis. Two days after MP’s victory, Rosenthal penned the article, “Let’s hold off on declaring Pacquiao the best ever.”

Don’t get carried away, Rosenthal explains. Sure, Pacquiao is a first-ballot Hall of Famer but to name him the best-ever? Not so fast…

“Let’s say we anoint Pacquiao the No. 1 fighter ever or place him in the Top 10,” said Rosenthal. “And then he loses a one-sided decision to Mayweather, which is a possibility if they ever meet. What do we say then? Oops?”

Valid point. Though we know Manny will beat Money, it is a worthy argument. “That’s why it might be best to call Pacquiao one of the better of all time and wait until his career is over before assessing him further,” added Rosenthal.

Here’s another opinion-maker: Bill Gallo. This guy’s a legend. At 87 years old, he’s seen more gloves than Mr. Arum. He’s also a legendary writer, having been inducted into the Intl. Boxing Hall of Fame.

“Just who is this guy, Manny Pacquiao?” asked Gallo in his piece, “In thorough beating of Antonio Margarito, Manny Pacquiao cements himself as one of best boxers ever.”

Gallo continues: “He’s every little guy’s hero in this world of bullies, because he has this habit of beating the hell out of bigger guys. That’s who he is…

“This is one hell of a fighter, the likes of which I haven’t seen since Willie Pep and Sugar Ray Robinson. Yes, those two whom I’ve always regarded as the best ever.”

Finally, Gallo concludes by saying, “I’m going to wind this up by asking myself this question: Okay, Mr. Boxing Man, are you telling me this Philippine Dynamo is the best you have ever seen?

“Yes, in a very long time. And he might just be the man who will eventually put boxing back in the upper deck of sports. Believe me, this kid who aspires to be big in Philippine politics, with his perpetual smile and special brand of punching ability, is indeed the goods.”

Next is the excellent critique by Kenneth Ragpala of Filipino Boxing Journal. In “Pacquiao’s spot in boxing’s history: A contemplation,” Ragpala writes, “How history will place Pacquiao in the annals of the sport remains totally subjective. He may be greater than the legendary names who have proven their worth. Or not. Maybe he is the best ever, who knows?  The truth, however, remains untainted. Pacquiao is definitely the best in his era.

“In the words of the highly respected boxing correspondent Scoop Malinowski, ‘it’s impossible to rank the great fighters. Impossible. You just have to pick a whole group and put them all in that utmost echelon.’

The conclusion? No doubt Manny belongs in the “Best Ever” debate. As to his ranking—No. 7? 3? or 1?—only the evaluator can assess. Because as Freddie Roach himself said, “It’s so hard to compare eras. We could argue all night long. Why not leave it at this: Manny Pacquiao is the best of his era.”

And the greatest when he KOs Floyd?

The merciful heart of Manny’s killer instinct

Of boxing’s 17 weight-class divisions, Manny Pacquiao has won eight. What’s next? A clash against Wladimir Klitschko, all of 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds? Maybe that one-foot height advantage and 100-pound weight difference will finally matter!

MP possesses everything. He endures a brutal training regimen. That’s called hard-work. He owns an insatiable appetite for digesting pain—absorbing wooden sticks that flagellate his torso and crunching 10,000 sit-ups. He has focus. Humility. He’s devoted to God, kneeling down for prayer upon climbing the Dallas stage and repeatedly making the sign of the cross as if to pray, “Forgive me, Father, as I punch this—” Bang-bang-bang-bang!

Because if there’s one new quality we’ve learned about Pacman—the world saw it on display last weekend. We know Pacquiao’s killer instinct. His impulse to jump on the half-naked man and paint his white face red. He throws six punches in the wink of his opponent’s brown eyes. He is more offensive than Mike Tyson; scores more points than Kobe Bryant. Yet, for all of this “Mexicutioner” style and how he delights in slaughtering enemies—for all of his lion’s heart—we saw a different heart from Manny. His heart of compassion.

For what would have happened had our Filipino lacerated and slashed the Mexican in the last six minutes? The Tornado would have twisted, curled, warped. His fractured eye socket—which needed immediate surgery—might have led to worse: Brain injury? A mind that will forever be sleeping in a Tijuana hospital bed? A debilitated and paralyzed body? Who knows?

MANNY KNOWS. Because in the midst of the flurry of his punches, Pacman paused. He said, “PRRT! Ref, time out!” In those moments, Manny transformed from boxer to U.N. Goodwill Ambassador. Manny stopped, asked the referee, “Look at his eyes, look at his cuts,” and, in the post-fight press-conference, admitted what boxers rarely, if ever, say, “I didn’t want to hurt him anymore.”

Bobby Nalzaro said it perfectly yesterday: Manny had pity. For MP to have the sense in the middle of war to disarm himself, to hide the bullets, to assess his enemy’s damage, and to grant clemency to Margarito… why, that’s heroic.

It showed us his true character. It showed the world how a Filipino can fight—yet not be cannibalistic. It showed concern and sympathy—words never, ever used in the sweat shops of boxing. It’s called heart. A heart with two faces: that of a fighter and that of a humane person.

Thinking back on the historical magnitude of Manny Pacquiao’s achievement—and our good fortune to have witnessed it—we can’t clap or cheer enough on his first 10 rounds of boxing. His skill. His footwork. His Gen.San-bred granite chin. His power. His speed.

But, to me, the new Pacquiao was defined in those last two rounds. The face of Tony Margarito was brutalized and disfigured—and Manny could have killed him. Yet, he danced away. For Manny is no killer—only his instinct is. What compassion from a Filipino.

Predictions? Comments? Here are 21…

Haide Acuña: “Manny Pacquiao is a hero because he shows both kids and grown-ups that despite poverty, anyone can succeed in life through hard-work, persistence, humility and faith.”

Efren Belarmino: “Manny by KO in 7. Margarito will get tired.”

Chester Cokaliong: “Will this be MP’s last fight? No, because of the big money he’s getting in every fight. And he would want to fight Mayweather, knocking the lights out of the big mouth to cement his legacy.”

Iko Gomos: “Pacman by KO. But I hope that it will be in the later rounds para dili bitin. He’s too fast and he throws bombs from everywhere and in any stance.”

Atan Guardo: “I’m in Dallas now. From LAX to Dallas airport this morning, be it white, black, Latino, everybody tells me they’re rooting for Manny. You can feel his energy. It’s Manny by decision.”

Edward Hayco: “Manny’s strongest weapon is his Humility.”

Margaux Herrera: “His simplicity and boy-next-door charisma despite being a world-renowned athlete. His religious beliefs and convictions are admirable and reflective of Filipinos.”

Jack Jakosalem: “Unbelievable speed and accuracy. Punching power of a middleweight. Can take the strongest punches from a full welterweight opponent. The endurance to go 12 rounds with the same superb performance as the first round. And the best smile in boxing!”

Noy Jopson: “Size or speed? Size of Margarito will be a big factor as Manny will have bigger surface area to target. All that mass will be hard to cover-up and ultimately Manny’s speed will overwhelm the Mexican. He will get hit from so many angles en route to our Pambansang Kamao’s record-setting 8th weight-class title!”

Dave Karamihan: “If this were sex, size is important…”

Basti Lacson: “The only worshipping the world will be doing today is for Pacquiao, the World Overlord of Pain. He will end Margarito’s stint as punching bag on the 7th by sending him to the floor.”

Melanie Lim: “Manny is a hero because he has given hope to many and because he has proven that if you work at your craft, you can attain success.”

Stephanie Medalle: “His free spirited English reflects the pure confidence that no matter what, he will get the job done!”

Jay-Jay Neri: “MP’s last? I don’t think so because Pacquiao needs to beat Mayweather before he retires—making him the greatest of all time in my book.”

Anton Perdices: “Pacman on the 7th because of his power and speed.”

Harry Radaza: “MP by TKO, 9th or earlier. I don’t buy the smokescreen that he’s not in top form and is distracted. It’s all to sell tickets. He’s too smart and too good not to prepare. There’s only one reason Pacman wins – heart! I am organizing a live telecast at the Lapu-Lapu Sports Complex at only P100 with a unique twist: live round girls to parade around the venue between rounds!”

Mayor Mike Rama. “Pacquiao has an eagle’s eye in terms of focus. He has the heart and valor. He will have Margarito kneeling down by the 5th round.”

Jerry Roa: “He’s a hero because of the way he conducts his business. He fights with a singular purpose… to make people get their money’s worth. This marginally-schooled man’s business ethics can put many a businessman’s practices to shame.”

Cleo Santos: “Manny continues to bring honor and pride to the Phils. which gained us better respect from other nations. Also, he is a living example amongst the youth that dreams can truly happen as long as you put your heart into it.”

Joe Soberano: “He is the only world champion in 8 diff. weight classes (including the super welterweight class which I, along with many, predict his easy win over Margarito). He has even transcended boxing with his numerous achievements, fame, fortune. And he has been an inspiring, revolutionary force to millions of Filipinos who hope to emulate Manny’s success in overcoming the odds.”

Wilton Uykingtian: “Manny is a good, generous, humble and God-fearing person. That’s why he was gifted with boxing power (and lots of girls, hehe). He’s the greatest Filipino boxer.”

CVIRAA in Dumaguete

DUMAGUETE—Since Sunday, I’ve been here in the “City of Gentle People.” True enough, from the hotel staff in Bethel to the waiters in Mamia’s and Sans Rival to the ordinary folks, people here in the Negros Oriental capital city are gentler and kinder.

I’m here for the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association (CVIRAA) sports meet. My daughter Jana, a Grade 6 student of Bright Academy, qualified to represent Cebu City in this weeklong event involving 5,000 athletes. Jana played tennis and won her three matches (8-0, 8-0, 8-6) and, win or lose in today’s Championship Game, will represent Region VII for the Palarong Pambansa in Dapitan City this April.

Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young was here for the Opening. At breakfast last Monday, we talked about the rehabilitation of our Cebu City Sports Center track oval—which will be repaired immediately after the Sinulog. Joy and I toured the Dumaguete rubberized track—built four years ago. It looks good. Surrounded by bleachers all around, it looks more massive—with better air quality and an open-air feel—than our CCSC. But, what troubled our vice mayor were the small patches of leaking water that sprinkled around the oval. We met their sports head at the track oval and VM Joy gave specific advice on their drainage system—the cause of the problem.

Freddie R. Nostradamus: Manny by KO, 8 or 9

Only three mornings remain before the world’s most anticipated boxing event. Isn’t this exciting? The wait? The hype? The agony of hearing about Manny Pacquiao’s distractions in Baguio and Manila and, two weeks prior to fight day, all these “problems” fading away as Freddie Roach predicts a knockout victory? And yes, isn’t Mr. Roach always correct? Remember his prediction of a Round 2 KO against Hatton—he got that one right. That’s because Freddie Roach is a psychic. He also tells the truth. He doesn’t do this talking to intimidate enemies—this isn’t “trash talking.” It’s The Master having supreme confidence in The Student. What’s the latest prognosis of Freddie, the modern-day Nostradamus?

“Well you know, he’s got a reach advantage, and he’s tall, and he’s going to be a lot bigger, of course, but size doesn’t win fights—skill does. We out-skill him in every aspect—speed, timing, and I have no fears whatsoever,” said Roach in an exclusive interview with Jenna J of On The Ropes Boxing Radio Show in the article written by Geoffrey Ciani.

“I think it’s going to be an easy fight if Manny fights the right fight. The only problem I have is that some people say that Manny can’t bang with the big guys and that he’s not strong enough and Manny wants to prove that he is big enough. So somewhere in the fight he will go on the ropes and he will bang with him. We’re prepared for that, but the thing is I would rather see him outbox him. Knowing Manny Pacquiao, he’s going to try to bang with him and he’ll be successful because again, we’re ready for it. The thing is, I think the best way to fight Margarito is to outbox him, but again, we’ll do whatever it takes.”

Roach was asked about the weight differential between the Filipino and the Mexican. “You know what, Pacquiao weighed 147 pounds yesterday after a workout,” said Roach in this Nov. 9 interview. “He’s going to go into the ring at 149 pounds, his prime fighting weight. If he Pacquiao comes in a little heavier, like at 152-153, he’s a little slow and a little more sluggish. I know my fighter’s prime fighting weight, and again, we’ll be about 149 pounds and Margarito will be by fight time 160 to 165. Again, I’m not worried about the size of this guy. Speed and skills are going to win this fight, and Pacquiao outweighs him in those departments easily.”

As to Roach’s final words during the interview, he said, “Well Margarito is a little bit of a slow starter. We’re going to start quickly on him and we’re going to overwhelm him with combinations and speed. I think we’ll break Margarito down and I think we’ll knock him out in about eight or nine rounds and I think he just won’t handle Manny’s speed. The speed is going to be way too much for him.”

Read the entire piece here.

Japan, beware of Lapu-Lapu’s sword!

Our first Filipino hero was not Emilio Aguinaldo or Jose Rizal or Manny Pacquiao. He was a Cebuano. On the morning of April 27, 1521, right here along the shores of Mactan, a tribal chieftain, armed only with primitive swords and crooked spears, bloodied and massacred Ferdinand Magellan. Lapu-Lapu won. Cebu won. The Filipinos stood victorious. This was 489 years ago.

Can we repeat the same next year? From March 4 to 6? When another group of invaders will land in Lapu-Lapu City, ready to fight with their wristbands, forehand grips and swords? Yes. This event promises to be one the biggest spectacles in Cebu in 2011. For this clash is not between two PBA teams or Palaro players or our Region VII against NCR.

It’s nation versus country. It’s us, Filipinos, against them. It’s the Davis Cup.

What is DC and who is Mr. Davis? This event using modern day swords—tennis racquets—is one of the world’s most prestigious of tournaments. Starting in 1900 when Great Britain played the U.S., the founder was Dwight Davis, an American tennis champion. But that’s not the believe-it-or-not fact about Davis. Here it is: From 1929 to 1932, he served as Governor General of the Philippines. He led our nation for three years under the U.S. presidency of Calvin Coolidge. And so Davis—and his Cup—have a special meaning for us, Filipinos.

Today, over 134 nations join. Two of these nations will clash at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa four months from today. Japan. Philippines. This is a first. The first time that the Davis Cup—since we joined in 1926—will be held outside Manila. The privileged name who will play hosts? Cebu. The city? Named after our first hero, Lapu-Lapu.

This is fantastic. A Friday-to-Sunday, March 4 to 6, 2011 event that will pit our best against Japan’s top netters. We have Cecil Mamiit. He’s in town today. I picked him up at the airport yesterday and, together with Randy Villanueva, the Philippine Tennis Association Vice-President and Davis Cup Administrator, we drove to Plantation Bay. We climbed Marco Polo Hotel and gazed at the view. Cecil practiced with Jacob Lagman.

I first watched Cecil at the 1999 U.S. Open. Next, I saw him win the gold medal for our nation in the 2005 South East Asian Games in Manila. The theme song then was “Pinoy Ako.” He’s tenacious, fast and, like Michael Chang, never gives up. Once ranked world # 72, Cecil will be joined by another Fil-Am, Treat Huey, plus Johnny Arcilla.

Can we beat Japan? No, we have not defeated them in 15 years—the last time was when Joseph Lizardo and Robert Angelo beat the Shuzo Matsuoko-led team, 3-2. We’ve lost to Japan the last three times, including last March in a 5-0 drubbing in Osaka.

But, yes, we can beat Japan. In our recent losses, several matches have gone five sets. That’s close. And, let’s remember, when Japan last defeated us, the surface was a fast indoor court—not Cecil’s favorite.

In Lapu-Lapu City this March, it will be a slow clay-court without roofing so we can cook the Japanese alive on the tennis rectangle. History? We’ve played 26 times, with Japan winning 17. But, on the two occasions when the surface was clay—guess who won? Pinoys. Plus, there’s the crowd factor. In Davis Cup, the host nation has the advantage of a screaming, rowdy and ear-splitting audience. Mo syagit ta ug kusog!

Harry Radaza is to be thanked for this event. The new Councilor of Lapu-Lapu City is the chairman of his city’s sports and tourism committees. He’s also the chairman of the organizing group of this Davis Cup tie. His support—and, of course, that of Mayor Paz Radaza—are essential.

There’s Efren Belarmino of Plantation Bay. As Nimrod Quiñones put it in The Freeman yesterday, Efren is one of his “favorite generals” in Mactan. That’s because Efren is the general manager of Plantation Bay. The five-star luxury resort will build a brand-new clay-court and will host the Philippine players and officials.

So, fellow Cebuanos, this March… it’s Game, Set, and Match.

Marko Sarmiento, handicap 3, averages 290

Tiger Woods is Marko Sarmiento. Both have one trait in common. No, Marko is obedient while Tiger is, well, naughty—so it’s not that. They’re similar in another way: The way they obliterate that golf ball off the tee mound; each averaging 290 yards!

I asked Marko how he does it. “I guess being a skinny Asian kid in a U.S. university had something to do with it,” he said. “I didn’t want to be the shortest hitter on our team!”

Marko Sarmiento was my schoolmate at CIS. We’re both April 9 born. But that’s where the similarities end because, on the golf course, Marko—who’s played the past 20 years since he was 12—is possibly Cebu’s longest hitter.

“I come from a family of golfers from both the Garcias and Sarmientos,” he said. “Actually, we’re a big sporting family. Our conversations are always about sports! Golf is a great social sport. You’re on the course for 4 hours and we get to play with all sorts of people with different skill levels. You can’t do this with any other sport. The personalities you meet add to the game. Why is this game special? It’s the most difficult sport to master. The player with the least mistakes wins! There’s always something to work on.”

Marko’s passion for golf took him to study the game in college. “I went to Methodist Univ. in North Carolina,” he said. “I majored in Business Administration – Professional Golf Management. It’s a unique program and 10 years ago only a handful of schools offered this. Now, around 20 U.S. universities have it, including Arizona State, North Carolina State and UNLV. This course offers both a bachelor’s degree in business with the option of pursuing a profession in the golf industry. I’m lucky that my parents gave me the chance to study what I wanted to do at that time. My dad was the most excited!”

Speaking of his dad, Efren—who, to me, owns the most genuine and biggest of smiles in town—the father-and-son duo play twice weekly at the Cebu Country Club. “I also play with my brother Arlo, Jovi Neri, Kiyofumi Takahashi and my uncle Montito,” said Marko.

“Montito,” of course, is Mr. Garcia, the 8-time CCC club champion—a title Marko relishes. “That’s the title I want most. I came in 2nd before so winning it is a must.”

As to the top pro that he applauds? Marko answered: “Chad Collins, who now plays on the US PGA Tour. He was my teammate in college.” Among Filipinos, Marko respects Frankie Miñoza. “I’ve been lucky to know him since he’s good friends with my uncle Montito. He paved the way for the locals and remains one of the best Filipino pros despite turning 50 last year. He’s going to give the US Senior PGA Tour a shot.” The trait Marko admires most about Frankie? “Despite his success, he remains humble.”

While golf is Marko’s passion, his profession is as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of JEG Development Corp., the holdings company of their real estate family business. He’s also a director of their furniture export firm, Detalia Aurora, Inc.

Other sports? Marko plays softball, water sports, basketball. As to his favorite NBA team, be surprised: “I’m a big follower of the San Antonio Spurs. I know not many follow them but I’ve been a fan since the days of David Robinson, Willie Anderson, Terry Cummings, Chuck Person and Antoine Carr. A lot of friends make fun of me because they’re boring… except for Ginobili!”

Here’s another sport he follows: “Three friends and I were at UFC 100 in Vegas in July 2009,” said Marko. “The co-main event was between Brock Lesner v. Frank Mir and George St. Pierre v. Thiago Alves. I’ve been a huge MMA fan for about four years because my good friend, Jon Syjuco, got me into it. The addiction has grown since. We bumped into Dane White (UFC Pres.) in Vegas and he said that UFC is coming to the Phils. soon!”

Back to golf, I asked Marko about driving 300-plus yards. His tip: “Turning the hips is the key to distance while the arms will follow. Too many of us try to swing too hard using brute force, which normally results in paying for all your bets!”

Baseball? Here’s one catch I’ll never forget

The past two mornings, watching Games 3 and 4 of the World Series finale between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers, the sight of curve balls, homeruns and base hits elicited unforgettable memories.

Twice, I watched Major League Baseball. These happened in 1993. Yes, that’s a long 17 years ago. Our entire family had the opportunity to travel in America. We visited Disneyland, gazed at the HOLLYWOOD sign perched on the hilltop, drove to San Diego to survey the Sea World whales, stared in awe of the giant Universal Studios.

Sports? Manny Pacquiao was only 15 then. He wasn’t in Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym yet—so that wasn’t part of our itinerary. In the era of Michael Jordan, no we didn’t watch No. 23—and I can’t recall why not. The sport I forced my family members to attend? Baseball.

I love baseball. In college, it was one of the favorite events. Jesse Bernad—who operates Fastball Batting Cages and who’s a skipper of the sport today—was U.P. Cebu’s top pitcher. And batter. He was the MVP of our college’s MLB-version. My other batch-mates included Jeffrey Pabriaga, Dustin Morada and Neil Ceniza. Softball was fun.

Back to our U.S. trip: We were in Los Angeles and, with my dad Bunny, I watched my first-ever Major League Baseball game. It was the L.A. Dodgers against a rookie team, the Colorado Rockies. That 1993 game was their first-ever meeting. Thanks to Google (while researching for this piece yesterday), I tracked down the date and it’s “May 21, 1993.” The Dodgers won that game, 8-0, and my dad and I watched Mike Piazza hit a homerun.

What an experience. The gigantic Dodger Stadium—today’s third-oldest MLB ballpark—happens to be, according to Wikipedia, the largest baseball park in the world (based on capacity) with 56,000 seats. That’s Baseball Story No. 1.

The second is more dramatic: As our family moved northward to San Francisco, we resided in the home of one of my mom Allen’s relatives. Lo and behold, our relatives’ children—my age—had free tickets to a baseball game. No, it wasn’t the San Francisco Giants—now leading 3-1 against the Rangers and poised to win their sixth World Series title—but it’s neighbor across the island, the Oakland Athletics.

Together with my cousins, my dad, and my brother Randy, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and hopped to the Oakland Coliseum where the Oakland A’s were to meet the defending champions, the Toronto Blue Jays.

The atmosphere was chaotic and loud. With over 30,000 boisterous fans—many shirtless, many with Budweiser beers on-hand, many chewing on hotdogs—it was a thrill. David Cone pitched for the Blue Jays. One of his teammates was Joe Carter—made famous with this “Golden Moment” homerun just months earlier to win the World Series for the Jays.

Mark McGwire, nicknamed “Big Mac,” (and who homered 70 times in 1998), was the most revered A’s player then. (Prior to his admission of performance-enhancing drugs.) Sadly, he was absent that day. But Rickey Henderson—who holds the all-time “stolen bases” record—played for Oakland.

My group sat at the back of the home plate. We had a close look at the batters. Now, here’s my believe-it-or-not moment: It happened in the fourth inning. I don’t recall who was batting but, when the ball struck his wooden bat, it floated on-air and hovered back—towards our direction. One… two… three seconds later… the baseball swooped downwards—right towards us.

Bang! It hit the seat fronting us! I jumped down—as did a few others—everybody scrambling for the ball. We bumped shoulders. Hands jostled. Finally, after the scuffle, my hands gripped the white leather. I clasped it hard. Yes! With hundreds of eyes staring at our direction, I lifted the prized catch onto the California clouds.

It was a moment I’ll forever cherish. A sport I’ll always follow. As George Will once said, “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.”