Monthly Archives: January 2011

BOOM!

Photos by Dondi Joseph

Yep. BOOM. He’s back! Mr. Bautista was impressive. Though I thought he lost that first round, he quarreled in the second 180 seconds and, in the third, his relentlessness stabbed the liver of Alejandro Barrera. On his knees, praying for a reprieve, facing a Boholano warrior, the cousin of Marco Antonio Barrera quit. He couldn’t stand it. He could not stand. Period.

Jason Pagara, only 19, took just 173 seconds before a first-round knockout–just like when Manny Pacquiao flattened Ricky Hatton–when Billy Sumba of Indonesia fell unconscious. Doctors, including top heart surgeon Peter Mancao, climbed the stage. Sumba trembled. His eyes, dazed. An oxygen mask was attached. In minutes, he finally stood. But the man who stood tallest and who toured the seats inside the Waterfront Cebu ballroom as cameras flashed with his flashy smile: Jason Pagara. He’s a talent.

Congratulations to Michael and his dad, Antonio Lopez Aldeguer, for staging another jampacked and thrilling ALA event. Looking forward to another mega-contest this March or April.

ROTARY. Of the hundreds/thousands who watched last Saturday were 14 of my closest friends. We meet every Tuesday night. Last weekend, instead of our usual gathering at the Cebu Country Club, we decided to see blood, sweat, red gloves and KOs.

Jimmy Lao. Maxwell Espina. Ray Patuasi. Benjie Cimafranca. Toto Cupin. Carl Supe. Wilton Uykingtian. Johnny Siao. Dondi Joseph and his son Morgan. Ronnie Medalle. Nonito Narvasa. Camilo Ceniza. Philip Tan. These top Cebuano businessmen are my fellow members of the Rotary Club of Cebu West. In the guise of watching boxing, they sat salivating at three scantily-clad round card girls “imported” by ABS-CBN from Manila. No one blinked. These men sat frozen like statues as the models paraded.(Ha-ha. That’s a semi-joke.) It was the group’s first live boxing watch and, with those boom-boom-bastic girls, I bet it won’t be the last.

No joke, Novak Djokovic rises Down Under

With his beauteous girlfriend Ana Ivanovic seated in his box, Novak Djokovic, the new No.1 player in the world, is sure to win the career Grand Slam this 2011. (I’m joking. But, seriously, don’t you think a Novak-Ana off-court relationship makes a perfect pair?)

The truth is this: Nobody–not even a healthy Rafael Nadal–could have beaten the Serbian superstar at the recent Australian Open. He beat Thomas Berdych in three sets. He dismantled Roger Federer the same. He obliterated Andy Murray last Sunday.

Poor Murray. I cheered for him. So did millions in England and Scotland and, I suspect, millions more (than Novak) worldwide. It was Andy’s third Grand Slam final try and he’d have been the first from Great Britain in 75 years (since Fred Perry) to win a major.

Queen Elizabeth II will have to wait. Because this week, Serbia and it’s 7.5 million people are drinking vodka. Djokovic won for his nation their first-ever Davis Cup last December. Add the Oz Open to his trophy collection.

And so now, from the usual R & R rivalry, it’s The Big Three. Like Bosh-Wade-James in Miami, it’s the trio of Novak-Roger-Rafa in tennis. To me, the question isn’t “Will Novak become No.1?” It’s this: When? My guess is… soon. But, not too soon. Let’s not forget, the clay court season is near and we know who dominates. Last year, Nadal won his French Open title No. 5 on clay. Like you call your house your home, Rafa’s home sits on that clay court.

Still, when Rafa, 24, will be decapitated with his myriad of injuries, and when Roger, 29, will want to play with his twin daughters, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, more than Slazengers, then the 23-year-old Djokovic will reign in Tennisdom.

Today, his crosscourt forehand is stunning; his down-the-line backhand–the ATP Tour’s best–is offensive; his serve is miles-per-hour faster; his defense (did you see those lob retrievals?) is breathtaking; and, best of all, his wife-to-be Ana Ivanovic is the prettiest woman on tennis shoes. (Ha-Ha. Mike Limpag and Maria Sharapova will disagree.)

Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

In life, like tennis, the best service wins

This 2011 is my 25th anniversary. It all started in 1986. Our family relocated from The City of Smiles to the Queen City of the South. From a basketball-loving Bacolod resident, my sports focus transformed into tennis in Cebu. Since then, I’ve had a stadium-full of memories of tennis: Shaking Pete Sampras’ hand with Roger Federer beside him in Kuala Lumpur. Reaching the No.5 juniors ranking, nationwide. Being conferred the Sportsman of the Year award in 1999 for uplifting the sport. Snapping photos of Rafa Nadal’s Olympic gold victory in Beijing. There are hundreds more… But, above all else, the reason why Tennis–to me and to millions–is so loved and revered is because of this: You can play the sport.

There are dozens of games shown on ESPN or Balls TV that we follow: The UFC. NBA. Baseball. European football. The X-Games. These are terrific sports. But many of them we’re unable to play. Or, we cannot play until the late years of our lives.

Tennis is a game you and I can play. It’s not difficult. It’s a recreational activity that 77-year-olds can enjoy. It’s a game a seven-year-old girl can learn. It’s a lifelong sport. Also, tennis is both social and one-dimensional. At dozens of clubs from Pardo to Suson to Mandaue to Casino Español, players congregate. Doubles pairings abound. People slice backhands at Baseline. Rep. Eddie Gullas plays doubles with today’s birthday celebrant, Mark Yang, at the Cebu Country Club.

Friends laugh, joke, swing racquets, smash, drink San Mig Light, lose P250, hit drop shots… all with friends… all on the same rectangle played on by the Federers and the Nadals. Tennis is social. It’s individual. This afternoon starting 4:30, it‘s the Australian Open final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. That’s one-on-one. Nobody (no coaches or girlfriends) is allowed on court except the Serb and the Scot. That’s like boxing–except Pacman listens to Freddie Roach after every 180 seconds.

Not in tennis. Once inside that court, you’re alone. Nobody else you can blame–or applaud, if, like Djokovic, you’ll win tonight–but yourself. See the beauty of this contrast?

Which brings me two more contrasting points. One, “the good news.” No bigger tennis event in Cebu has happened in our existence. The “Japan vs. Philippines” Davis Cup is a must-watch activity. Slated from March 4 to 6 at the Plantation Bay, tickets are now available at Nike Stadium in SM City and Planet Sports in Ayala Center.

As a player, organizer, and lifelong aficionado, this is the best tennis news I’ve heard. This is good. Now, the bad: Our lack of a tennis center. I hope Congressman Tommy Osmeña is reading this. Or, when he arrives from Japan, Mayor Mike Rama. Or any other top official who cares about sports.

Let’s build that CEBU TENNIS CENTER. Manila has dozens, including our “national headquarters,” the Rizal Memorial. Cagayan de Oro has one. Same with Subic.

Cebu? Can I laugh? Or cry? The biggest venue we had, the Cebu Tennis Club, was “confiscated” by the Provincial Capitol (OK, we lost the court case) over a decade ago. That club housed five courts. Just two months ago, the Sancase Tennis Club and its four courts were “sequestered” by the priests of San Carlos. Now, we’re down to Country Club’s three rectangles. Plus, Consolacion’s three hard-courts plus three-clay courts. Other than that, we have one court here, two there…

A 10-court complex complete with a Centre Court is what Cebu needs. Yesterday. Tomorrow, we hope to see it. Why not at the SRP? Yes, why not? Lapu-Lapu City, thanks to the energetic Harry Radaza, envisions a Sports Tourism hub in Mactan. With the backing of Mayor Paz Radaza, a complex might rise in the island where Magellan was killed. Gov. Gwen Garcia might help. How about a “joint complex” of volleyball and tennis courts? The two sports have nearly identical court dimensions.

My point is this: Let’s build this. For, like tennis, we remind our dear public officials… “He who serves best wins.”

Watch ‘Boom Boom Pow’ this Saturday

With the exception of Manny Pacquiao, no other athletes I’ve written about more on this box than Rafa and Roger. In Melbourne for the Australian Open, both, thus far, are en route to another No.1 vs. No.2 showdown. This rivalry bests any other in tennis history. There have been plenty: Sampras-Agassi, Graf-Seles, McEnroe-Borg, Evert-Navratilova. But none compare to R & R. Consider this most unbelievable of statistics: 21 of the last 23 Grand Slam singles champions have been either Federer or Nadal. This is wonderful news for fans of both–but awful for the rest of the ATP Tour.

Roger, of course, is the defending champion of Australia. He’s the Wizard of Oz. He’s appeared in 22 career Grand Slam finals–and won 16. Rafa? He’s aiming for the ‘Rafa Slam.‘ Having won the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2010, if he wins this Sunday at the Rod Laver Arena, that’s four straight majors. Roger hasn’t done that. The last man is R. Laver himself, who accomplished the feat in 1969.

BOOM-BOOM. I’m watching this Saturday. So will over a dozen of my fellow members from the Rotary Club of Cebu West, many of whom are first-time, live-boxing watchers. It’s Rey Bautista–possibly the most famous Filipino on boxing gloves next to Pacquiao and Donaire. His opponent this Jan. 29 at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino? He’s a Barrera. And, in Mexico, this family name carries a lineage of champions.

Boom-Boom (center) in this Sept. 2007 photo with (from left) John Pages, Edito Villamor, Jingo Quijano and Jun Migallen

Boom-Boom is exciting to watch because, as his name implies, he boxes to the tune of will.i.am’s hit song, Boom Boom Pow. He’s offensive. He’s self-assured and domineering.

I know plenty of devotees will watch. My hope is that the non-boxing enthusiast will parade to the Waterfront this Saturday, too. Live, watching-with-your-bare-eyes boxing is so much different–and thrilling–than viewing from your TV set. Try it out this weekend.

DAVIS CUP. Harry Don Radaza, the councilor and city council sports and tourism head of Lapu-Lapu City, has news for all: This Friday, tickets to the Philippines vs. Japan tennis event called Davis Cup will finally be for sale. Planet Sports in Ayala Center’s Active Zone and (hopefully, given the permission) Nike Stadium at the SM City will be the official ticket outlets.

PBA. In a contest between the Danding Cojuangco-owned San Miguel Beer and the Manny V. Pangilinan-owned Talk N Text, the winner in Game One was the Tropang Texters of MVP. That game was in Victorias City. Game Two–tomorrow–is back in Metro Manila at the Cuneta Astrodome. Expect this best-of-seven series to be a see-saw battle.

NFL. Far, far away from our 7,107 islands, the top story in American sports was the National Football League. Just two nights ago, two teams emerged winners and will face each other in Super Bowl XLV. It’s the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Green Bay Packers. The Super Bowl–the single most important day in U.S. sports–will be on Feb. 6 at the venue where Manny Pacquiao won twice: the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Like I’ve done in the past, I’ll definitely be late for work that Monday morning (Feb. 7 here) to watch.

M & M. If there’s Rafa-Roger, there’s a version in boxing. When will Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. finally silence his blabbering mouth to fight Manny Pacquiao? In another twist to the numerous curves and turns in this spiraling story, Floyd said he’ll fight Manny.

“I want to talk to my fans,” he said, in an online video reportedly made last weekend. “Okay, I got y’all… I’m never gonna let my fans down. Not me. That’s the reason why I’m 41-0.”

Ever the braggart, he continued… “Don’t worry we’re gonna beat Poochie-iao’s ass. Stop asking the same question. ‘When are you gonna fight Poochie-iao?’ I’m gonna fight the Pacman. Do me a favor… I’m gonna fight the Pacman when he is off the power pellets.”

Here he goes again, calling our Pinoy champ names. Again, he accuses MP of taking ‘power pellets.’ Like you, I can’t wait when Manny will finally extinguish his foul mouth via a boom-boom knockout.

Xterra and Davis Cup: Marching towards March

By now, you’ve heard that the Davis Cup tennis event will be held in Cebu. The Davis Cup is one of sport’s longest-running tournaments. It started in 1900. It encompasses 137 nations joining.

Here in Cebu, from March 4 to 6, we will host the DC tie between the Philippines and Japan. The venue, befitting this world-class battle, is a world-class facility: the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City.

There will be five matches during this first weekend of March. On Friday (March 4), it’s the first two singles matches. Cecil Mamiit and Treat Huey will separately clash with Japan’s Nos. 1 and 2. Most-likely, the Japanese will be led by Tatsuma Ito, Go Soeda, Takao Suzuki and Toshihide Matsui. On Saturday, it’s the lone doubles match. On Sunday, it’s the reverse singles: the final two matches. All games will be best-of-five sets.

For tennis and for Cebu, this is gigantic. Tennis players will surely troop to Plantation Bay to gaze, to clap, to sing, “Pinoy Ako, Pinoy,” and to yell, “GO, PILIPINAS!” Non-tennis fans? Why, it will be the same: the boisterous atmosphere, the momentous occasion, the PHL flags hoisted fronting the JPN flags–this is an encounter never to be missed. That’s tennis. That’s Davis Cup.

Well, here’s even more significant news for Cebuanos. On this same first-weekend-of-March, this won’t be the only international-brand event.

XTERRA. The “X” stands for the cousin of the “X-Games.” Because when we think of “X” and “X-Games,” we think of this word: XTREME. We also think of these: adventure, risk, thrill. That’s Xterra. By definition, Xterra is “the world’s leading off-road triathlon series… with 60 races around the world.”

It’s triathlon. But, with mud, with off-road paths, with rocky terrain–all mixed as part of the ingredients for a wild and wet triathlon. Xterra is brought to the Philippines by Fred Uytengsu. We all know Mr. Uytengsu: he’s the businessman/sportsman owner of the Alaska Aces PBA team. He also brought to our nation (and Camarines Sur) the Ironman 70.3.

XTERRA Philippines website

For the first time in the Philippines, he’s taking Xterra to our shores. Not in Manila; but right here in Cebu. On March 6, 2011. Yes, I repeat: the same weekend as the Davis Cup. No doubt, this will be the grandest morning in sports for Cebu. Possibly, ever. Two international brands. Two world-caliber events. Both on the same 3-6-11.

XTERRA Philippines will be held in Liloan. The start/finish area will be at Amara, the premier subdivision owned by the Ayalas (Cebu Holdings, Inc.). The swim is 1.5K, followed by a 35K mountain-bike around the rough off-roads of Liloan. Then, a 10K run–using trail running shoes–in an out-and-back course. All to start and finish in Amara. Liloan Mayor Duke Frasco–a runner whom I’ve seen join several of our Cebu 10Ks–is embracing this event fully. Same with Gov. Gwen Garcia, the mother-in-law of Duke, who is set to formally announce this contest soon. Danao City sports chief Boying Rodriguez, an institution in cycling and triathlon in our island, is one of the lead organizers.

Conflict? Will “DC” and “X” be in direct combat? No and Yes. First, the venues. They’re separate. Tennis is in Lapu-Lapu City while Triathlon is in Liloan.

The crowd? Again, no clash. The brand-new tennis clay-court built by Plantation Bay will have bleachers to seat 1,500 spectators. Xterra? From what I learned, only 200 participants are expected to join. That’s because the entry fees are expensive. Possibly, the fees are $150/person or $180/relay team. (Yes, relay teams — separate swimmer, biker, runner — are welcome.)

The only minor “tug-of-war” between these two? For us, the media. Who’ll grab the headlines? Will there be enough manpower to cover both? Imagine the odds of two mega-sporting-brands happening on exactly the same year, same month, same weekend?

Well, it is. And it’s great for Sugbu. Are you and I not lucky to be living here? For, as Jay Aldeguer and his Islands Souvenirs would proclaim…  I (heart) CEBU.

The Heat is hot while Miami is cold

They have lost four straight. That’s sad. Bad? Good? That’s unexpected. After a disturbing 9-8 start, the Miami Heat went on a rampage. They won 21 of 22. Dwayne Wade would score 40+ points. Twice. LeBron James scored 38. Chris Bosh twisted the “h” to become Chris Boss. On our recent Feast of the Three Kings, they transformed into modern-day kings — Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior.

The Heat was blazing and fiery. Now? It’s winter in the States. They’re frozen. They lost to the Clippers, Nuggets, Bulls and, yesterday, to the Hawks. What happened? Why the erratic behavior? Why the relapse? The backslide? Here’s why:

One, the NBA is ultra-competitive. You can’t win every ballgame. Yesterday is different from tonight is different from this Saturday. Your past means nothing tomorrow. “Teams are always trying to get better,” said LeBron.

Two, injuries. Chris Bosh is out. We don’t know when he’ll come back. LeBron, prior to the Atlanta game, was unsure to play hours before tip-off. He played. He scored 34 and pulled down 10 rebounds plus contributed seven assists.

Three, timing. In sports, it’s all about “the right timing.” Once you’re off by a few centimeters, you miss. Perfection is compulsory. Said LeBron: “I had a week off and that is what happens sometimes. We had everything going and when you have a few injuries it takes the chemistry out, it takes the rhythm out of a team.”

Four, its called “birth pains.” This team is new. “So far this season,” said Heat coach Erick Spoelstra, “when we have tweaked things and gone a bit unconventional, it has thrown us. Unfortunately, we have to go through some pain right now.” Pain is inevitable. To win that NBA crown, pain is a must. Pain — passing through extreme heat and pressure for the Heat — is mandatory. Losing, too, is a must. As long as–and this is what’s most important—they lose today and not during the playoffs.

Defending his team and his city, Greg Cote, in “Don’t read too much into Miami Heat’s losing streak,” published this article in The Miami Herald… “What a ride, though, and every minute of it subjected to insane scrutiny, everything magnified, animated like The LeBrons.

“Remember that 9-8 start? Oh the calamity! The Big Three couldn’t play together! Pat Riley must swoop in and replace coach Erik Spoelstra! ESPN hadn’t been this sated in years.

“Then came the unreal winning, the 21-1 run. Which never gets the same attention, of course. I guess because when LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh win … is that even news?

“Now, calamity again? Four losses in a row, for God’s sake! And injuries to LeBron (back in the lineup Tuesday) and Bosh (sitting out) assuring those in doubt that these guys might perform like superhumans but in fact are mortal.”

Ha-ha-ha. Good point, Greg. The conclusion to this roller-coaster ride? This. Is. Good. This win-yesterday, lose-today, don’t-know-about-tomorrow scenario is good. For the fans. For those who hate LeBron. For those who love him. For those who abhor the Cleveland Cavaliers backstabber, they’re clapping and jumping and screaming, “Good for you, traitor!” For those who glorify LBJ, they’d say, “Relax…..” This team, they argue, is undergoing puberty. It won’t mature for months.

All this can be summed up by this observation from FOXSportsFlorida.com writer Chris Perkins who, in “Hard to tell if Heat are elite,” wrote… “You watch the Miami Heat and you wonder: ‘Do they have enough to beat Boston, San Antonio or the Lakers in a best-of-seven series?’

“At best, the answer comes back as: ‘Maybe.’ That was the answer during the 12-game winning streak in December, and that’s the answer during the four-game losing streak the Heat carry after Tuesday’s 93-89 overtime loss against Atlanta.”

Maybe. That word is perfect for Miami.

Will this losing episode continue? Maybe. Will it stop? Maybe. Will the Heat win the crown? Maybe. Maybe not.

Australian Open now, Davis Cup tomorrow

Let me join the chorus of hundreds who’ve congratulated Ricky Ballesteros. The executive director of the Sinulog Foundation, Inc., Ricky was the overseer of last Sunday’s biggest festival in the Philippines. Well done, Rick!

Jana, Jasmin and I watched from the upper deck of the Cebu City Sports Center. It was a feast for the eyes and ears. Tribu Himag-ulaw of Placer, Masbate was the best. We also relished the fast-paced presentations of the Talamban Elem. School, Tribu Buyoganon of Leyte, and the Mabolo Elem. School. The Chinese-inspired finale (starring the wushu martial artists)—plus, of course, the Chinese-invented fireworks—were fantastic.

The rain? While we were drenched last Saturday—together with Jourdan Polotan—walking the Osmeña Boulevard route during the procession, it stopped two afternoons ago. Sure, showers sprinkled but it was nowhere near the torrent of sky-water 24 hours earlier.

OZ OPEN. The first Grand Slam tennis event of the year bounced and served yesterday. Will we witness a different champion—named Murray or Djokovic—instead of R & R in Melbourne? Maybe. But, most-likely not.

Yesterday at 5:30 p.m., I watched a few minutes of Star Sports. Justin Henin played Sania Mirza. Among the ladies, can Maria Sharapova win the title? I hope so, but doubt it. Although her last Grand Slam title came at this same  Australian Open—that was three Januarys ago. Since then, the 6-foot-2 Russian-turned-Florida-resident has been busy, off-court: engaged to NBA star Sasha Vujacic and operated-on because of a shoulder injury, her world ranking slipped last year… to a painful 126.

Still, Maria is Maria. Wearing an orange and gray dress in Melbourne, no one is prettier and attracts more attention. Down Under, I hope she rises.

DAVIS CUP. It’s near. The Philippines vs. Japan tennis competition is nearing—it’s this March 4 to 6. The venue is not in Manila but is near you and me: the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa.

Last week, I sat down at Bo’s Coffee with Councilor Harry Radaza, the head for sports and tourism of Lapu-Lapu City. Tickets will soon be out. By “soon,” I mean possibly next week. Prices are as follows: The least-expensive are P500 per day. Next, the “season tickets” at P2,500. These reserved seats include access to all the Friday-to-Sunday matches. Plus, you’ll receive free shirts and caps. Finally, the VIP tickets at P5,000. As expected, these are the exclusive, best seats inside Plantation Bay.

As soon as tickets are for sale, I suggest you not delay your purchase. Only 1,100 total are available. For an event this international and monumental, tickets will fly as fast as Andy Roddick’s 151-mph serve. Consider that plenty from Manila, Bohol, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao are coming. Plus, the Japanese! They, too, will gobble up tickets so they can cheer for their countrymen.

THIRSTY CUP. On to a different Cup… Now on its 8th season, the Thirsty Football Cup will be held from Feb. 4 to 6 at the Cebu City Sports Center. The deadline for registration is tomorrow, Wednesday. Call 0917-6244853 for inquiries.

ED HAYCO. Received this text message from CCSC chief Edward Hayco: “Visit Facebook.. Cebu City Sports Commission. View the CCSC billboard, the dance presentation featuring different sports, and the sports float. What we have achieved is making the athletes and coaches believe in themselves… and in their future! We also created awareness of the purpose of the Sports Institute and the free barangay grassroots sports program.”

Chairman Ed is successful because of his personal approach to sports. Dissecting the term “grassroots,” he himself plants the seeds in San Nicholas (Sports Institute) and many other barangays so that sports can take root and flourish. His success story in dancesport—emulated and featured internationally—Chairman Edward duplicating in other sports.

Like Ricky Ballesteros, he is one of the few selfless heroes of the oldest city in our country.

Australian Open

Yes! Finally, the first grand slam tennis event of 2011 is about to start. Who’ll win? Can Murray and Roddick and Djokovic avert another R & R championship? Will Maria S., who’s nearing marriage, win another Slam? These and more we’ll find out in the next 14 days. For now, here are two of my favorite tennis sites…

Peter Bodo

Steve Tignor

Richie Garcia: Politics has no place in sports

(Sun.Star Cebu photo)

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman holds the title as the highest-ranking sports official of our 7,107 islands. Last Thursday, thanks to Marko Sarmiento, I had a 30-minute, one-on-one chat with PSC Chairman Ricardo R. Garcia at the veranda of the Cebu Country Club. Wearing golf attire and sporting a smile after he carded a 2-over 74 in the Coral Invitational (partnering 8-time CCC champion Montito Garcia), Mr. Garcia revealed these thoughts in our Q & A:

“I started as PSC chairman last July, having been a commissioner in the past for about seven years. The responsibilities now are much, much more. I have a very good Board of Directors. We are a working board. We meet every week. We have no hidden or political agenda. In fact, we are so transparent that we post everything in Facebook. All the board resolutions and check issuances are available for the public to see.

“PSC-POC partnership? This is crucial. Today, we are two bodies working as one. The PSC-POC has never been closer. We are one. This was the same during the time of Michael Keon. In the last presidential term, the PSC-POC relationship was the worst. It was like black and white. During the SEA Games, for example, there were two sets of planes that carried both groups. There were two sets of uniforms. It was bad.

“Politics has no place in sports. Although we are all political appointees, our agenda should not be political. We have one goal: to improve Philippine sports.

“Monico Puentevalla, the POC chairman, was my schoolmate in La Salle Bacolod. We’ve been together since grade school. He graduated high school Class ’65; I finished in ’64. I was a varsity player in elementary in football and basketball. Then I moved to Taft for college. I’ve also known Peping Cojuangco. I played for the Luisita golf team. We are a good team and have teamwork.

“On the issue of Palaro: The POC suggests that we, the PSC, run the Palaro. I said, sure, we can do that. But our problem is the organization. Compared to the DepEd, which already has the structure to operate the Palaro, we don’t. The Palaro is grassroots and encompasses the entire country. We may not have the capability to operate the entire program.

“With the Batang Pinoy, we will revive it. This was the project of Monico while he was at the PSC. After Monico left, this program stopped. Now, we are bringing it back. Batang Pinoy is good because it involves, apart from students, the out-of-school youth. We will directly be coordinating with the DILG on this.

“President Noy? Unfortunately, we have never had time to sit down and talk about sports. We have sent him a letter requesting for his time but, as of now, we have yet to meet. It’s okay. I understand that he has so many other priorities at this point.

“Cut red tape. That’s one of my top priorities. Before, many of our suppliers were middlemen. We would be purchasing items at 30 percent more. The reason? These middlemen ‘magpa-utang.’ I said, ‘This is not right.’ The government is losing money. Being a businessman — and not a politician — helps. I look for ways to save. And so, for this year, we are expecting savings of P70 million. For the security guards alone, there used to be 200 guards. Now, it’s 90. Why did we need so many guards? And many of them were “ghost” guards who never even reported. And so, with security alone, we save P2 million per month. With the janitorial services, it’s P1 million per month. On those two services, that’s P36 million in savings per year. On the procurement side, I estimate savings of P20 million. On the overhead, we let go of 40 people. On electricity, we merged offices and cut down on 25 air-conditioning sets. And here’s an interesting item: on newspaper subscriptions, before, they paid P40,000 per month! Everybody had a copy. Now, it’s much less. These savings will go directly — every centavo of it — to the athletes.”

“Another issue that we are fighting is the percentage allocation from the PAGCOR funds. The law states that five percent of PAGCOR’s total revenue should go to the PSC and sports. During Tita Cory’s term, it was this. It was five percent. Then, during President Fidel Ramos’ term, then PSC chairman Philip Juico was asked by Ramos to cut the percentage to 2.5. They had an agreement wherein if the PSC needed additional funding, Ramos would fund it from his discretionary funds as president. And so, this set-up was perfect because Juico requested for plenty of additional funding — which resulted in a total amount much bigger than the original five percent. Philippine sports was well-funded.

“During Erap’s term, this was stopped. Only 2.5 percent of the PAGCOR revenue was allocated — and nothing more. This continued under GMA’s term.

“Now, we are requesting Pres. Noynoy for the full five percent. Right now, our annual budget is around P700 million. Compared to tiny Singapore, with a population of just five million, their budget is (computed in pesos) a big P4.3 billion. That’s six times our figure. And so, if the five percent is granted, at least that will double our budget to P1.4 billion.

Older at 51, Frankie Miñoza grows younger

I like golf. Golf doesn’t like me. The few occasions that I swung an 8-iron, the ball performed either of two reactions: it swerved right for a “hook shot” much like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s or it veered left — a “slice” as sharp as Steffi Graf’s backhand. Once, at Alta Vista with Louie Moro and Macky Michael, I lost 22 balls!

One player who loves golf and the sport loves him in return is Frankie Miñoza. Here’s outstanding news on our Pinoy ace: “Frankie became the first male Filipino to qualify on the PGA Tour,” said Marko Sarmiento, in an email last month. “Although it’s the Champions Tour, it is part of the PGA of America and one of the major tours (PGA, LPGA and Champions) in the U.S. Not only did he qualify, he qualified 2nd and only the top 5 from the final stage get a full exempt status for the 2011 season. That means that he gets to play on all the tournaments!”

Marko Sarmiento got to experience a moment that all golfers wish they go through: he played in the same foursome with Frankie. In their grouping were Montito Garcia (Marko’s uncle and the Cebu Country Club eight-time club champion), Marko’s dad, Efren, and Marko’s older brother, Arlo.

Montito, Marko, Arlo, Frankie and Efren Sarmiento

Frankie’s score that day at the CCC? A relaxed 6-under 66.

Looking ahead this 2011, Marko’s not sure if Frankie is exempted for the Majors. As to qualifying for the PGA Tour, Marko explained: “He went through a grueling 144 hole qualifier in 2 states. The regional qualifying was held in Seaside, California while the final stage was in Coral Springs, Florida. Q-school is known to be the most stressful event for any professional on any tour because of the uncertainty of their careers if they don’t qualify. After qualifying, Frankie said it is a dream come true. He’s played with all the top pros throughout his career but not on a weekly basis because he was based in Japan and competed mostly in Asia. Now he gets to rub elbows with the likes of Couples, Langer, Watson and Pavin on a day to day basis. How sweet is that??”

Here in Cebu, almost nobody outhits Marko Sarmiento off the tee. Averaging 290+ yards, his ceramic ball disappears into the air. How was Frankie, who turned 51 years of age last Dec. 29, off the mound?

“I played with Frankie a month ago and it was a good time to see the condition of his game, which was fresh from his stint in Q-school (the week after Q-school, he finished 2nd in a European Seniors event in Japan), and you could see that he was still oozing with confidence. His ball striking has always been impeccable, but his distance is what amazed me the most. I didn’t expect him to be as long as he is now, at his age of 51. He was hitting his drives 290 to 300 yards consistently.

“He has always been a long hitter but he credits 10-15 more yards to a new Titleist driver (910D3) that he just started using. He also attributes great putting to his recent success. You can say that his putting has been his achilles heel throughout his career, but when his putter gets hot, he almost always contends. He’s also in great physical shape since he runs on a regular basis. He actually looks more fit now than he did when we has in his late 30’s.”

The 5-foot-10, 160-lb. Frankie was ranked, in 1998, among the top 50 in the world. That was over a dozen years ago. But Marko considers his form today just as outstanding.

“Frankie may not be in the peak of his career like he was in the mid 1990’s when he was in the top 50 of the World Golf Rankings,” wrote Marko, “but you can argue that he isn’t far from it. Golf is the one exception to the rule of sport, and that you can actually get better with age. Many golfers peak in their 40s and don’t be surprised to see a resurgence in Frankie’s career. He’s excited and definitely motivated to turn back the clock and compete with these golfing legends.  I would have to rank Frankie as the best Filipino golfer of all time, hands down. He has the most international wins and has definitely made the most money, and remember… he’s a rookie all over again.”

The 42K: An incredible, life-changing moment

(Photo by Erwin T. Lim)

How to explain the satisfaction — and pain — of running 42,195 meters on foot? Here are a few explanations…

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

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

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

Yes. Emil Zatopek, the Czech runner who won three gold medals at the 1952 Olympic Games (including the marathon, deciding to join the event in the last minute – and in his first-ever 42K distance!) is correct. Running the marathon will change your life. From now on, you can achieve anything. A difficulty or challenge or problem that’s too tough to overcome? Prior to the 42K race, “That’s too hard,” you’d say; after, it’s this proclamation: “I CAN DO IT!”

Triumph. That’s what the marathon is. It’s about the word “impossible” and removing its first two letters. Possible. Yes. After last Sunday, to the one thousand-plus who ran from the Asiatown I.T. Park to the tip of the South Road Properties in Talisay City then back to Lahug…. anything is possible. “A marathon is like life with its ups and downs,” someone once said, “but once you’ve done it you feel that you can do anything.”

Take Raul Cepeda. He’s 77. He’ll celebrate his 78th birthday one week from today, on Jan. 18. This means that he was born in 1933. Two days ago, Raul ran his first marathon. When I saw him running towards the finish line, I almost cried. Here’s a grandfather of many, accomplishing what senior citizens are not supposed to do. Raul is one of the most amazing people I know. And, to top it all, last week I got a call from him saying that he’s in pain, nursing a plantar fasciitis injury. I suggested that, maybe, he not join or do the 21K instead. He braved on. And for that, he has the 42K finisher’s medal to proudly show to his grandchildren.

(Photo by Sydney de los Reyes)

How about Atan Guardo and Joel Garganera? These best friends finished their 12th marathon (yes, no misprint: one dozen) last Sunday. Their first? Exactly 23 months ago. Now, it’s No. 12.

Or SunStar’s very own Michelle So. In the Press Freedom Run two years ago, Michelle hobbled towards the 3K finish line. In CCM 2010, she did the 5K. Last Sunday? She traveled 42,195 meters—the distance from the Provincial Capitol all the way to Carcar.

Same with Joy Polloso, the general manager of Ayala Center. She completed her first two marathons — in Singapore and Cebu — in a span of just one month!

There are hundreds more of similar inspiring stories–many recounted in Facebook postings and photos. In all… What a celebration. What a sense of fulfillment. What a festive moment during this Sinulog.

As to the hot weather last Sunday morning? That’s another one of those unexplainable moments. The entire week last week until Saturday night, it was gloomy. Rainy. It drizzled. Same with the whole of yesterday, right? It rained. But on the solitary morning of last Sunday, it was all sunny and hot… Many runners got burned. Explains marathon guru Hal Higdon: “The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals.” How to explain the slow roasting at the SRP? Only God can do that but, to me, it meant two things: One, it reemphasizes the difficulty and torment of the 42K and, two, it makes the agonizing victory all the more gratifying.    Finally, to all those still grimacing with aches and sore muscles, consider this…

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

See you at the starting line of CCM 2012!

Best marathon tip: ‘Run Your Own Race’

Having joined 42K races in Hong Kong, Quezon City and Singapore, the single most important suggestion that I can impart to the thousands joining this Sunday’s Cebu City Marathon can be summed up in those four simple words above.

Each of us is different. Some are slim, long-legged, fast — like Mendel Lopez. Most of us are not. This means that only a rare few, for example, can run a “sub-4 marathon” like Steve Ferraren and Dr. Yong Larrazabal. Most of us can try — but most-likely, we won’t achieve that speedy target in our lifetime. Run Your Own Race.

Never mind if others are faster. Don’t mind those who, in the first 750 meters, sprint as if a salivating Doberman were chasing them. If you’re running the 42.195 km. distance, the race is long. Don’t rush. Slow down. Walk. Drink in each water stop. Relax. You’re not Haile Gebrselassie. You’re you. So run your own race.

You know your body. You know how long you’ve trained. If your training has been less than planned, stop. Trot. Jog. This marathon — as long as you don’t take eight hours or so — is not strict with the curfew. So pace yourself. The slower you are in the first half, the better. The reserved energy you keep will be utilized towards the finish. Our body is like a battery. Deplete it quickly and you’ll lose power towards the end — when you need it most.

Don’t mind the others. Don’t be envious of those who overtake you. A heavyweight whistling past you? Let him go. Believe me, you’ll breeze past him later. Because — unless you’re Mary Grace de los Santos — the race is not about speed… it’s about crossing that finish line. Run. Your. Own. Race.

REMINDERS….

Parking. It’s best to park at the Waterfront Hotel. There’s ample room there. You get to warm-up (walk) heading to the starting area at the Asiatown I.T. Park. You’re also assured of parking space — given that the I.T. Park open spaces are limited.

Go Early. The 42K runners start 4 a.m. Be there before 3:30 a.m. You want to be relaxed — not in a last-minute rush — before the starting gun fires. The 21K participants begin at 5:10 a.m. Show up at 4:30. For the 5K, it’s 5:30. Arrive before 5 a.m.

Onsite Registrants. Only today and tomorrow, those who have yet to register can do so at the Active Zone of Ayala Center.

Change Category. Here’s an important message: If you’re planning to run a different category from the one you’ve registered, sorry but you cannot. For example, you got injured in training and want to run 21K instead of your registered 42K. You cannot. You won’t be allowed to enter the 21K starting area. The solution? Visit Active Zone today and change your category. This entails a fee — but, at least, you can still join.

Pasta Party. That’s tomorrow, Friday, starting 6 p.m. at The Terraces of Ayala Center. Be there. Listen to inspiring stories. Be updated of the final notices. Mingle with your fellow runners. Pasta meals are available at P150/meal.

Photos. One new addition to this year’s CCM are the professional photos. Needs and Solutions, a company specializing in beautiful pictures, will set-up 10 photo stations: at the Start/Finish, JY Square, U.P., Capitol, Magellan’s Cross, the Tunnel, Fort San Pedro, and several points along the SRP. You can then purchase your photos via online. Smile!

Traffic. To the Cebuano public, come Sunday morning, you will feel inconvenienced. Your movement will slow down. This is understandable because the city government is closing half of all roads along the route: including Osmeña Blvd., Gen. Maxilom., Gorordo, Salinas… plus the full closure for 12 hours of the SRP and the SRP Tunnel from 10 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday. We ask for your patience.

Finally… To the runners: I will end in the same way I started: Don’t mind the others. Many will be faster… let them go. Stay within your practiced speed. Stay calm. Enjoy, as the slogan reads, “The Sights and Sounds of Cebu.” Run Your Own Race.

CCM Press Conference

According to CITOM Chairman Jack Jakosalem, “CCM” can also stand for “Cebu City Mayor.” In attendance during our lunch press briefing was the mayor himself, Mike Rama.

Cebu City Councilor Edgar Labella, CITOM Chairman Jack Jakosalem, Mayor Mike Rama, Jesse Taborada, Jacs Jacalan and John Pages