Monthly Archives: May 2011

A visit to the Seoul of Asia

SEOUL, KOREA–I arrived in this mega-city of 10 million people last Sunday night. Considered one of the Top 10 global cities in the Global Cities Index, with brands like Hyundai, Kia, Samsung, and LG calling this home, Seoul is high-tech. Internet speed? “They have 10 times the speed, the fastest in the world,” said Boni Belen, one of my companions in this trip. “While ours in Cebu, for example, is 2 MBPS, theirs is 20 MBPS. But, their pricing is four times cheaper!”

Yet, for all the prosperity and technological advancement of Seoul, me and my 14 companions were met with puzzled looks when we turned on our mobile phones upon arrival at the Incheon airport. Our phones don’t work here! Or, at least, our SIM cards are useless. This is unusual. In almost every nation I’ve been to, the moment you switch on your phone, telecom companies swarm your message boxes, asking you to pick their network. Not here. It appears to be a closed cellular network — and you’ve got to rent phones and use their system. Weird. Not Wired.

One more thing: there’s no French Open. Ouch. I’m here from Sunday until Wednesday late evening and will miss the every-night excitement that’s now playing in Paris. We’re checked-in at the Pacific Hotel and while the cable TV offers more than 50 channels, none include what this tennis fanatic yearns for. Two channels broadcast the UFC. They showed the Monaco Grand Prix. There’s a Golf HD channel. Korean baseball, of course. There’s CNN. They even replayed the Champions League finale won by Lionel Messi. But no Parisian red clay.

Seoul is the soul of Asia. That’s what they say. I’m here as part of a 15-man delegation of businessmen that’s headed by Dr. Bernardo Villegas, one of the country’s top economists. Dr. Villegas heads the Univ. of Asia and the Pacific in Manila. He heads our Business Mission delegation to Korea.

From Manila, there’s Jesus Zulueta, Gerry Abello, Jimmy Ortigas and several more. From Cebu, we are five: my dad Bunny, Joe Soberano, Dondi Joseph, Boni Belen and myself. We are to meet Korean business leaders and exchange notes (and calling cards) with the hope of conducting future business. In the field of tourism and English education, we know that hundreds of millions of them (OK, that’s an exaggeration; about 12,000 will study ESL in Cebu this 2011. So much for business-talk…

Now, food talk. Our first dinner — it was 10:30 P.M. (they’re one hour ahead compared to PHL) here last Sunday; temperature: 18 C — was funny not because of the spicy octopus that we ate but because of our bill. There were eight of us who dined in a cozy Korean restaurant and, would you believe, our bill was 175,000! Yes. No kidding. But that’s 175,000 Korean Won. No, it’s not One Peso is to One Korean Won — that would be a dinner more expensive than Pres. GMA’s in New York. But it’s P1 = 25 Won. So the dinner wasn’t extravagant; about P7,000. But imagine the shock of hearing 175,000!

Now, on to my game… Sports is major, major league in this land. Back in 1988, the Summer Olympics was held in Seoul. It was only the second time (apart from Japan in 1964) that an Asian nation has hosted the Games. (Beijing followed in 08-08-08.)

Cebu? The Philippines? Next to host the Olympics? Ha-ha-ha. Another joke. The 2002 FIFA World Cup was another giant event that the Koreans hosted (together with Japan). Brazil won the title, beating Germany, 2-0, but the real winner was South Korea, who reached the semi-finals out of 32 teams. My guess is that football, especially after that 2002 World Cup, is the most popular game in this nation of 50,000,000. Their version of the Azkals have millions of fanatics as rabid as our own.

Taekwondo is their national sport. In Korean, “tae” is defined as to “strike using foot,” “kwon” means to “strike using the fist,” and “do” is a “method or art.” The art of kicking and punching. That’s taekwondo; and this Olympic sport is rated by many as the world’s most popular martial art.

Boom-Boom: The Ray Mancini of Cebu

Rey Bautista woke up at 5 in the morning last Friday. He stretched, got dressed, laced his running shoes, and stepped out of the Nasipit, Talamban location of the Antonio Lopez Aldeguer Gymnasium. It was 6 a.m. After two hours of slow-jogging, he returned to the ALA dugout, where he’s slept and resided for over nine years now.

Wala ko ma-hadlok (I’m not scared),” said the boxer known as “Boom Boom.” The “hadlok,” or scare, refers to Heriberto Cuate Ruiz. Out of the 32 men that Bautista has faced on the square-shaped stage, B-B-B has won 30 fights (23 by knockout) — and he’s lost only twice, to Daniel Ponce de Leon and to Ruiz.

I am not a boxer. I do not know the dizzying effect of a right hook, a stabbing left wallop or a jaw-breaking uppercut. Bautista experienced those. In his Nov. 22, 2008 loss to Ruiz — via unanimous decision with the judges’ scorecards of 80-70, 78-72 and 77-73 — our Boholano was castigated by the Mexicano.

Yet…. Wala ko ma hadlok. That’s the confident statement of Bautista, with just 13 evenings to go before his Part II encounter vs. Ruiz.

“I am focused now. I am in great condition,” said Boom-Boom. “In our first fight, wala ko sa sakto na huna-huna (I was not in the proper frame of mind). The main reason was because of my painful hand. Timing lang gyud to.”

That left hand injury was diagnosed as “a rotten bone” on his wrist. Bautista had surgery following that fight and, according to reports, had that rotten wrist bone replaced from another bone from his hip. It took one year before Bautista fought again. That fight was in 2008. The rehab, in 2009. We’re 2011. Time elapses. Wrist wounds heal.

I asked Boom Boom about his nickname. “It was Sir ALA (Tony Aldeguer) who came up with that name,” he said. “My style, said Sir ALA, resembled that of the original Boom Boom — the one with the same first name as me, Ray Mancini. And so I was nicknamed “Boom Boom.”

Rey was only 17 then. He’ll turn 25 eight days after the June 11 fight… on June 19. What birthday gift will you reward yourself if you win? I asked. Boom Boom chuckled. Because as serious as Rey Bautista has been in training, off the boxing court, he is relaxed, even funny.

I’ve experienced this first-hand. The past few months, we’ve been together on several occasions. As president of the Rotary Club of Cebu West, I invited the entire top-notch stable of ALA Gym fighters to our Tuesday night meeting. This was last December.

Surrounded by Donnie Nietes, Mark Melligen, AJ Banal, Z Gorres, Jason Pagara, Milan Melindo, and Rocky Fuentes — an All-Star cast from the A-team of Aldeguer, one man stood out as the most popular. He’s from Candijay, Bohol and stands over 5-foot-6.

Boom Boom, in the Q & A portion of that Rotary night, laughed a lot. He’s a joker. And, later that evening, he showed his being a ladies man by cozying up with our club assistant, Ms. Emma Gallos.

A month or so later, Boom-Boom joined our meeting again. Afterwards, we partook of yoghurt ice cream at John Young’s yoghurt bar. Justin Uy was there. So was Johnny Siao. We stayed up past 10:30 p.m.

Then, during the Davis Cup tennis weekend last March, there was an open-to-the-public sparring session at Parkmall. Boom-Boom shook hands with the tennis team. Then, in one unscripted but unforgettable moment, the two famous men — Boom Boom and Cecil Mamiit of tennis — stood at the center and, with similar heights and muscular builds, stared eyeball-to-eyeball, as if all-set to fight. Laughing ensued. It was fun. Boom Boom, as intense as he is when the fight nears, has fun. He’s funny.

With Cecil Mamiit

With Johnny Arcilla

Let’s all pray that, two Saturdays from today, when the jampacked Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino gets a rousing entrance parade — with matching “Boom Boom Pow” loud music in the speakers — that Bautista will entertain the Cebuanos via a KO win.

Dallas vs. Miami: Let The Finals begin

With 3-1 leads in a Best of Seven series, the Mavericks and the Heat are 95.9 percent assured of victory. Yet, like the twin, shocking defeats of the M. Lhuillier squad last Friday and Saturday against the Cebu Landmasters/RDAK team, this we know: Basketball is unpredictable. The ball is neither flat nor perfect — it’s round. The bounce, odd. The loser can rebound and win.

But, as Roberto Duran once famously said, “No mas.” With Nowitzki and Bosh and Kidd and Wade and Mark Cuban as the Mavs owner and LeBron as the two-time MVP, I doubt that Chicago and Oklahoma can each win three of the next three games.

(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

So, the stage is ready. The world awaits. The Heat is on. The Mavs? They move… to the Finals. You know my pick. Ever since LBJ announced in “The Decision” last July 8, 2010 that he’d combine forces — like Thor joining Spider-Man and Iron Man in a Marvel Comics triumvirate — the unanimous decision on the 2011 NBA champions is obvious.

I pick the Heat. Dwayne Wade having an off-night? Like he did yesterday? When he missed a dunk in the early minutes, did not score in the 3rd and 4th quarters, and shot only 5-of-16 with 14 points? No problemo. LeBron scores 35 points. Chris Bosh adds 22. They escape from near-defeat in Game 4 to force an OT and win, 101-93, leading the Eastern Conference Finals, 3 to 1.

Mr. Bosh? He’s Mr. Boss in Game 3. Attempting only 18 times, he made 34 points. The Heat have too many options, too many Pacquiaos in baggy shorts, two MVPs, they’re too damn good. They’re the Navy SEALS of the NBA. They’re the elite force – the best of the best. Like the SEALS who killed Osama Bin Laden carrying night vision apparatus, M16/M4, grenade launchers, pistols and other gadgetry that Karlon Rama can better explain, the Miami Heat has multiple weapons.

Free throws? They made 24 of their last 24 in Game 4. Plus, there’s The Big Two to add to The Big Three… Udonis Haslem (with nine rebounds yesterday) and Mike Miller (same nine rebounds plus 12 crucial points). “These are some of the things we anticipated coming into the season,” said Erik Spoelstra, the Fil-Am coach of the Heat. “Now when it counts, (Haslem and Miller) have both been able to contribute.”

Wade-Bosh-LeBron-Haslem-Miller. These five weaken and make the opponents helpless — like the Bulls, who owned the best regular season record of 62 wins and have the honor of calling their own, Derrick Rose, as the league Most Valuable Player. “That lineup that we talked about this summer is something we always envisioned,” said LeBron. “And it’s coming together at the right time.”

Dallas Mavericks? In the Finals, they won’t own home-court advantage. Both the Bulls and the Heat own better regular season records — thus, the 2-3-2 home-and-away format will not favor the Western Conference winners.

Still, wrote Matt Regaw in a gutsy piece entitled “Dallas Mavericks Should Be the Favorites To Win NBA Title,” he argues for this team that humiliated — not just “defeated” — the L.A. Lakers.

“The Mavericks have been road warriors in the playoffs,” said Regaw in his May 24 story from the website Bleacher Report. “They are not intimidated by the opposing fans and that was never more evident, than in the last game against the Thunder. The Thunder have one of the rowdiest crowds in the league, and when faced with a 15-point deficit with less than five minutes to play, the Mavericks showed unnerving composure.”

The Mavs, he argues, have won at least once on the road in each series — plus, twice in L.A. and Oklahoma. So this negates the “home-court advantage” philosophy.

Point # 3: “The entire Mavericks team is covered with skilled veterans that are groomed to handle pressure situations. Nowitzki is a point-producing scoring machine… Jason Kidd leads the team at the point and distributes the ball with ease… Jason Terry is a spark plug…”

Good points, Matt. But, sorry. In three weeks, we’ll be applauding the first time ring-bearers, James and Bosh.

Joe Soberano leads the Cebu Landmasters

ROTARY: RC Cebu President Joe Soberano (third from left) during the turn-over ceremony of the Gift of Life Project of Rotary; (from left) Jun Ferreros, Romy Dy Pico, Dr. Potenciano Larrazabal, Jr, John Pages, Dr. Peter Mancao and Oscar Tuason

Last weekend, no Cebuano was happier than the president of the Rotary Club of Cebu and the CEO of Cebu Landmasters…. Jose Soberano. His basketball team, Cebu Landmasters/RDAK, beat a squad that’s invincible, M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala — not once but two times in the SMC Liga Pilipinas Conference V.

In last Friday’s elimination game, Soberano’s team, which bannered Mandaue City, bested Lhuillier, 78-68. Then, 24 hours later, in the finals, they duplicated the feat against the reigning national champs, 66-49.

“That was a rare feat,” said Soberano. “Nobody can just blow-out the winningest basketball ball-club of the country (outside of the PBA) for two consecutive games. It was unbelievable but it did happen which proved the maxim that the ball is indeed round. I wish we can win more often and I am sure that the great Lhuillier team will not take this sitting down.”

Ever gracious and humble in both victory and defeat, Joe Soberano deserves a Cebu Coliseum-packed thunderous applause.

Milo and Gullas: Tennis

Starting this Thursday, the Milo Age-Group Tennis event will begin in Laray, Consolacion. With eight courts and organized by Ken Salimbangon and Nestor Toledo (Cebu International Tennis Center, Inc.), the event will run from May 26 to 29 with nine categories: 10 unisex, and 12, 14, 16 and 18 — boys and girls. To register, contact Jovy Mamawal at 0916-4708286.

The 16th Gullas Tennis Cup, one of the biggest in VisMin, follows. From May 30 until June 3, this Group 2-sanctioned tournament will be held in three locations: Cebu Country Club, Casino Español and Baseline.

I met Dodong Gullas at his office last Thursday. Looking trim and forever-smiling and humble, Mr. Gullas is a lifelong tennis fan. We talked about Roland Garros, a stop that Mr. Gullas has visited.

More on the Gullas Cup: Apart from singles, a doubles category will be offered. To all interested, registration forms are available at the Cebu Country Club tennis court. Or you may call Sandy at 416-1122 local 100.

RunCheck

Last Sunday, there were two road-running races: The Run for Japan and the One Thousand Cranes Run (organized by Three Sixty Pharmacy). While both races were held during the same time and for the same purpose (to help our disaster-stricken neighbor, Japan), the two were different.

Run for Japan was lambasted by Cebu. Few marshals, few participants, few water stops — such events and organizers should be banned.

The Three Sixty Pharmacy-sponsored run? It was excellent. I joined the 15K held two mornings ago and, in every intersection, marshals were ready, waving flags; water stations were abundant; the start/finish area — at the Asiatown I.T. Park — was festive. Bananas, cold drinks, even kamote — these were offered for free. Kudos to Kenneth Casquejo and Annie Neric and to RunCheck, Cebu’s best in race-organizing.

Roland Garros

The French Open has started. The only Grand Slam event whose surface (clay-court) is similar to most of our tennis rectangles here in Cebu, this two-week-long sports meet in romantic Paris will be a business meeting between Novak and Nadal.

For with Rafa, he doesn’t call Roland Garros “my second home;” it’s his personal house. It’s where he lives. Out of the six years that he’s set foot on the red dirt, he’s won five trophies. That’s 38 of 39 matches won. He is so good, so unbeatable, so assured of victory that I declare… The 2011 winner is…

Djokovic!!! No joke. If the two meet next Sunday, I’d place my bet on the Serb. Why? Because, if he reaches the final, Djokovic will automatically become world No. 1. With that added confidence-booster (plus he’s beaten Nadal in the last four finals), he’ll win his first French crown.

If…. Yes. If… Novak does not succumb to the pressure. He’s 37-0 this 2011. “I’m really not trying to think about the run that I have,” he said. “Or I’m not trying to think about when this run will end, because that will mean that I’m thinking about losing.”

Eric Deen wins his 5th Cebu Country Club title

Eric with his dad, Danny

The golf champion from 1997 to 1999 and, again, in 2004, it’s been many summers since he last won the Club Championship trophy of the Cebu Country Club.

Yesterday, playing another former titlist — Jovi Neri, who won the 2001 edition — he finally won again after playing 18 holes in the morning and 17 holes in the afternoon.

“That was tiresome!” said Eric Deen, seconds after receiving a congratulatory hug from his family members that included his dad (and former club champion) Atty. Danny Deen, and his sisters Jackie Lotzof and Vanessa Deen.

Jackie, Danny, Eric, Vanessa and James

It was Eric’s fifth Men’s Club Championship victory. Dating back to 1965 when Luis Ugarte won one of Cebu’s most revered of amateur golf titles, Eric’s Victory No. 5 elevates him to second in the all-time winners list: he and Carl Almario have five apiece while Montito Garcia — the new CCC president — has eight trophies.

Yesterday afternoon, thanks to Charlie Michael, who helped drive the golf cart, I was able to watch the back nine starting with Hole No. 13. At that point, Eric was leading 1-up and, after Jovi landed in the sand trap after his second shot, it was Eric who won that hole and led, 2-up, with five holes to go.

Eric and Jovi, from Holes 14 to 17, were both steady. They parred each hole. The crucial moment came in Hole # 14 when, after his tee shot, Eric drove left and landed far from the green. He was under a shade of trees. But, the ultra-relaxed player that he is (you’d never know, from watching, that he was in the final of a major tournament), Eric punched his second shot as the ball flew, hit a few branch leaves, then safely landed on the green. Par.

This 2011 (though the CCC Club championship, oddly, is called the 2010 edition), Eric Deen had no par. He was unbeatable. In his first round, he bested Macky Michael (my best friend on the tennis court), 5 and 4. In Round 2, he beat Jon Joseph Alvarez, 4 and 2. Then, in probably the most thrilling of all the week’s encounters, Mark Dy led Eric Deen in the semi-finals one-up with two holes to play. Sadly for Mark, he bogeyed the final two holes and lost, 1-up. At 4:30 p.m. yesterday on Hole # 17, Eric received a resounding applause when he won 2 and 1 against Jovi.

Bayani Garcia, Vicky Moraza and The Champ

In the Class B division, Evans Tumaliwan won after beating Kiddy Limchao, Jr., 1-up. In the Class C category (perfect because of the way his family name sounds), it was champion Andrew Si. He beat Henry Dy. In the Class D, it was Naotsugu Isobe besting Rhoudie Tiu. The CCC Senior champion was Koichi Horii. And, on the opposite end, the Women’s Champion was Abby Olea.

Brian Lim leads the Cebu Sports Festival

Novak Djokovic has beaten Rafael Nadal four straight times. All, in the finals. And, during the last two times, on a surface that Rafa calls his territory: the clay-court. What’s happening? Where’s R & R? Are we seeing a new No. 1?

Since Djokovic won the Davis Cup for Serbia last December, he’s been tennis’ Michael Phelphs on the Olympic pool. Unbeatable. But, interestingly, he’s still world No. 2. This showdown between Rafa and Novak will culminate in the most enticing of venues: the French Open. Imagine a final between the Spaniard and the Serb, with the top-ranking as trophy?

“I’m amazed with way I’m playing,” said Djokovic. “I was able to perform maybe my best play on clay and I beat the number one in the world on clay.”

As to Rafa, he was asked if he was still the best on clay: “I was,” he said. “There is one player who is better than me, one who is winning everything but I am trying. I shall be working to improve my level but it is the truth, what he is doing is amazing.”

BULLS. With Boston out and Los Angeles embarrassed with an 0-4 demolition, the new Celtics-Lakers rivalry is called “Miami vs. Chicago.” Yesterday, with the 6-foot-8 LeBron James targeting to dwarf the 6-foot-3 Derrick Rose, it was the team of Michael Jordan that won. Today’s MVP beat yesterday’s MVP.

Bulls, 1. Heat, sub-zero. This should have been the NBA Final. This is the NBA Final. For the two protagonists at the opposite, Western hemisphere — Dallas and Oklahoma — are nobodies. At least, compared to the East side.

Chicago, with an MJ pedigree that includes the boast, “Barack Obama’s City,” and Miami, “The Cruise Capital of the World,” are the stars of the NBA playoffs. All eyeballs will be on both red-colored jerseys.

AZKALS. I just received an email from Wilma Entera of Ayala Center that the Azkals Football Team will be in Cebu for a mall tour on May 30. To the thousands who’ve longed to see the athletes who’ve achieved movie-star-like popularity, remember that date: two Mondays from now.

BRIAN. The owner of Rose Pharmacy and Pyroworks – and a commissioner of the Cebu City Sports Commission — I asked Brian Lim about last weekend.

“The start of the 2nd Cebu Sports Fest was a blast,” he said. “We had more sports participating in this year’s opening weekend with skydivers opening the Sundown Run, softball/baseball, ultimate Frisbee, rock climbing…”

While only 10 sports were offered in 2010, this year has over 25. Explained Brian on the unique offerings at the SRP: “Kiteboarding with the PHL team, wake-boarding with Asia’s top pros, an airsoft military simulation unlike the traditional CQB (Close Quarter Battle), Stand Up Paddle, Duathlon, Sky Diving accuracy jump, Live Human Chess match, as well as Zumba, Yoga, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu demos.”

Long-term goal? “Through Cebu Fest, Cebu will become a top sports tourist destination known around the world for its great sporting atmosphere, accessibility with an international airport and a highly-urbanized setting with hospitable locals. Just like Sinulog which attracts millions of tourists, the economic impact of such an event outweighs the investment.

“Places like Boracay, Siargao and Camsur have some sports that attract a good influx of tourists. In Cebu Fest, we are hitting over 25 different stones in one time by attracting several groups. That’s more than double the amount of organizations participating and we’re only on our second year. What more in 3 to 5 years or if we have a stadium built in the very heart of Cebu?”

MOM. Mother’s Day was the other Sunday. So, this is a belated greeting. Only, it’s not. Today, May 17, is an important day. To Maria Elena “Allen” Zaldarriaga — the person who reared me in her womb, watched all my games as a child and was the noisiest cheerleader; the beautiful woman who was once — embarrassingly for me — mistaken as my wife because of her youthful looks; and one of the most passionate and expressive people that I know — Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom Allen (far right)

The S in SRP can stand for Sports

I just arrived from an eight-day trip to Dipolog and Dapitan. My daughter Jana joined the Palarong Pambansa for the first time, won four of her five singles matches and helped our Region VII win a tennis bronze.

What did I learn from the excursion? Many. For one, I realized, upon landing in Mactan and crossing the Marcelo B. Fernan Bridge and gazing at Cebu’s mountainous and water-surrounded terrain… that the best city in the Philippines is our own. Manila is busy, polluted, hectic; Dapitan and Dipolog, at the opposite end, offer too relaxed a lifestyle.

Second: I’ve realized the importance of the Palaro. Started in 1948, it is a must-program for our sports-hungry nation. Before the elementary and high school students get to participate in the Palaro, they’ve got to pass through a rigorous process. In our case, there’s the Cebu City Olympics (city meet), then the CVIRAA (Central Visayas meet). Only the best — from the tens of thousands of participants — get to compete each summer. The Palaro is essential. That’s why it should be kept as a yearly expedition.

Third lesson: Cebu — the capital of the Visayas and Mindanao; the leader of our archipelago in many disciplines — needs to think long-term. In Dapitan and Dipolog, though Jasmin and I joined our daughter for over a week, we hardly had time to visit the other sporting events. The reason? The venues were spread out. Sayang.

Which brings me to our South Road Properties. Can we incorporate sports in the SRP? We can. We should. As you read this, the Cebu Sports Festival is on-going at the SRP (it started yesterday) and it features 26 events that encompass the “air, land and sea.” (Think NAVY Seals in sports.) There’s rock-climbing, Moto-cross, the Sundown Run, ultimate frisbee, softball and baseball, kite surfing, rugby, taekwondo… There’s even Zumba fitness and wake-boarding. (Kudos to Edward Hayco, the leader of the Cebu City Sports Commission, and the main driver of this spectacle, Brian Lim.)

The Cebu Sports Fest, held in the SRP, is terrific. But, more than this 9-day long (May 14 to 22) event, we need the SRP for a more grand undertaking.

Mayor Mike Rama and Congressman Tommy Osmeña must agree on allocating space for sports in the reclamation project. The SRP is 300 hectares in area. That’s a lot of green-land. For now, we know that Filinvest has purchased 10.6 hectares and engaged in a joint venture with Cebu City for another 40. That’s 50.6 hectares for Filinvest.

SM? Led by SM Prime Holdings President Hans Sy, the retail giant purchased 304,100 square meters (or 30.4 hectares) for P2.7 billion. They made a down-payment of P406 million last year and, the balance, payable in six years. That’s a total of 80 hectares by the Filinvest and SM groups. Which leaves about 220 hectares as open space.

My suggestion? Allocate 10 hectares for sports. (That’s only 3 percent of the SRP.) The dream? To host the Asian Games in 20 years.

Held every four years, the Asiad started in 1951 and will be 60 years this year. The first Games were held in New Delhi, India. In 1954, the second Asian Games were organized. Guess who hosted? Manila.

Since then, Bangkok has hosted four times, and mega-cities like Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul have also played hosts. The Philippines? Wala na gyud. Can the City of Cebu — assisted by Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, and, of course, Metro Manila — host the games, possibly in 2031? Why not! If we’ve done the ASEAN Summit here in 2007, the SEA Games co-hosting in 2005, and regularly host international CEOs at the Shangri-La, we can host a giant tournament.

But we need the SRP. Without earmarking a sports zone, we cannot host. Or, even if we do play hosts, even to smaller contests like the Palaro, we’ll suffer the same fate as Dapitan. The SRP — imagine a wide-open, all-in-one arena where football fields sprout, baseball diamonds glitter, tennis courts smash, and the swimming pool splashes — is perfect. Cebu, like it always does, must take the lead.

Palarong Pambansa

DIPOLOG CITY—It’s called The National Games. In local lingo, Palarong Pambansa. Founded in 1948, it is a yearly sporting event, held each summer at a different city or province, that allows the country’s best elementary and high school students to compete. This 2011, the venue is … “Romeo Jalosjos City.” That’s Dapitan.

How is the Palaro, so far? Having arrived here last Friday afternoon — that’s six long days ago — my reply is both perplexing and unusual: I Don’t Know. Funny as it sounds, because my daughter Jana is competing in the elementary girls tennis category (their team won bronze two days ago and, thus far, she’s won all her three singles matches), we’ve been stuck in one rectangular-shaped venue: the tennis court.

With my daughter Jana and Roland So and his daughter Camille

Jana is joining her first Palaro. We are lucky to be residing in the comfortable guest house of the Montaño family, my mom’s relatives — just a kilometer away from the venue that is the Mibang Tennis Center in Dipolog City. That’s good.

The bad? As I said, we’ve hardly watched the other games. That’s because most of the venues are spread out. The elementary boys football games are in far-flung Barcelona. If you think that’s in Spain, no, that’s way too far away — but it’s still quite a distance: about half an hour or so from Dipolog. Swimming? It’s at the newly-build Sports Complex. For tennis, there are four categories: boys/girls, elementary/high school. All divisions, would you believe, are scattered in four separate venues. This means we have yet to watch the Region VII teammates of Jana. Sad.

One night here three days ago, we found Mike and Betty Veloso in a seaside restaurant in Dapitan. They looked exhausted. Residing in Dipolog, each day they had to shuttle to Dapitan for the practice sessions of their son Sabin… then proceed to Barcelona for their 7 a.m. game.

But we’re not complaining. This is sports. This is the Palaro. This isn’t the Olympics. In fact, even in the most prestigious spectacle of this planet, the Olympic Games, the venues are scattered. (One exception might be next year in London; they’ve tried to contain the venues in nearby areas to ease the mobility for both athletes and spectators.)

Why is the Palaro in Dapitan and Dipolog this 2011? Why was it in San Jose, Tarlac last year? And in Tacloban, Leyte the year before? Why not in mega-cities like Davao or Bacolod or Manila? Valid question. Why was Cebu City’s last hosting in 1994? That was 17 summers ago. Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young, who helped build the Cebu City Sports Center, provided me the answer months back: To give an opportunity for smaller cities/provinces to build new facilities.

Take Dapitan. Lobbied by Rep. Jalosjos — whom everybody here I interviewed adores and calls a “great leader” — the brand-new Dapitan sports stadium costs P250 million. We visited last Monday. The maroon-colored oval looks stunning. The high-rise bleachers, covered by a giant roof that opens like the wing of a bird, sits back-to-back: one side of the bleachers faces the track oval while the other side overlooks the Olympic-size swimming pool. Clever.

Nimrod Quiñones wrote an excellent piece in The Freeman yesterday on the possibility of a once-every-two years (biennial) Palarong Pambansa — instead of yearly. This makes sense. It’s less expensive. But, I’m sure, plenty will complain: the athletes. This will rob them of a giant tournament to anticipate each May.

My suggestion? To save on cost (remember: a new stadium, like Dapitan’s, cost P250,000,000), why not alternate the hosting between an industrialized city and a smaller one. Next year, I overheard, the Games might be in Albay. Why not Cebu City the year after? Then a smaller one (possibly Dumaguete) in 2014. Then another bigger site, say Cagayan de Oro, in 2015. This would lessen the infrastructure cost but continue the habit of the every-summer Palaro.

For this, I can’t wait – and it’s about time: Palarong Pambansa, Cebu City, 2013. Let’s go for this, Mayor Mike?

Mosley, mostly scared, is just like Money

DIPOLOG CITY–Jasmin, Jana and I, our trio family of Js, are here in the Sardines Capital of the Philippines because Jana, our 12-year-old only child, is representing Region VII in the 54th Palarong Pambansa. She’s playing elementary tennis.

PacMan last Sunday? Yes, we watched. Together with the Cebu tennis team, a dozen of us gathered inside the guest house of the Montaño family–the relatives of my mom and the owners of the famed Montaño Spanish Sardines. Like tens of thousands of other gatherings nationwide, we huddled as one Filipino family to rejoice in the victory of The Great One.

Jana Pages and Janel Dihiansan

Yes. While Jose Rizal, our undisputed national hero, is celebrating his 150th year in nearby Dapitan City, we, too, are celebrating our 21st Century hero who sports the haircut of Jose Rizal (or is it Bruce Lee? or Justin Bieber?).

The fight, as we all agree, was boring. We had gotten used to MP wounding and inflicting blood and swollen eyeballs on Oscar and Margarito and Ricky and Diaz. Two days ago, it was ala Clottey. “He ran and ran,” said Manny. “He felt my power but did not want to stand with me. He wanted to get through 12 rounds. I thought he would fight toe to toe for at least five rounds, and then test our power and stamina. What am I going to do if my opponent does not want to go toe to toe? I’m disappointed for the fans.”

At the very end of the career of this nearly 40-year-old man was a strategy: to preserve his “I’ve-never-been-KOed-before” resume. After the third round, when Manny pummeled him with a left swing, this “Please, Manny, please, no knockout” plea was reinforced. Mosley backpedaled. He avoided Manny like Tommy and Mike would avoid each other. (Mosley landed only 82 of 260 punches; worse than Clottey’s 108 of 399 punches against MP.)

Pacquiao, himself, was unimpressive. He was too conservative. He wanted to win — not, as Bobby Inoferio would term it, by “Hattonizing” Mosley, but — via points. He was not the Mike Tyson we know. Maybe he was fearful of Mosley’s right fist. Maybe he had cramps. (But, seriously, cramps in the fourth round?) Whatever the reason, he wasn’t Thor Manny, whose left arm is a hammer. Some speculate it was overtraining. If we look back at this training camp of MP, it was, as Ariza and Roach would say, “the best training we’ve had.” One extra week was added to the schedule. There were zero distractions. No Krista Ranillo. No Ara Mina. No swimming pool training sessions. No gambling at the Waterfront Hotel’s private room.

Rep. Pacquiao, the now-good boy, wasn’t used to this. He was too clean, too focused. He was even too nice. (Can MP get a little nastier, at least on the ring? Just kidding.) Maybe Manny always needs pre-fight distractions? Ever the multi-tasker, maybe he needs more TV sitcom tapings, more Manila weekend night-outs. Maybe he needs to train, like he did for Barrera in 2007, complete with every-Sunday basketball sessions against our sportswriters group… here in Cebu.

On the more serious note, I like the analysis of CITOM Chairman Jack Jakosalem, a good friend of MP and an astute fan who never fails to watch (and record, in 1080p HD video) all the local boxing gigs. “I know many were disappointed,” said Jack. “But you have to remember that Mosley and Pacman are two of the most experienced boxers. They know that there’s no room for error. They could not be too aggressive because both have great speed and power. Pacquiao realized this when he saw Mosley knock Margarito out in nine rounds while it took him all 12 to get a UD. Mosley saw it when Pacquiao stopped Cotto in the 12th round while he lost to Cotto. At least we are now convinced that Pacquiao is better than Mayweather. Both fought Mosley and Mayweather didn’t dominate even close to the way Pacquiao did.”

I agree. So, I’m sure, do you. Manny vs. Money will end up with our own besting that loud mouth. However scared Floyd is, I am confident that 2012 — an Olympic year — is that moment when M & M will battle. I’ll go and watch the show. I hope Floyd shows up, too.

Money, Manny, Money

ABBA, the Swedish pop group that sold over 375 million records, had a No. 1 song called “Money, Money, Money.” Released in 1976 — two years before another No. 1, Manny Pacquiao, was born — the lyrics read: Money, money, money / Must be funny / In the rich man’s world / Money, money, money / Always sunny / In the rich man’s world… / A man like that is hard to find… / So I must leave, I’ll have to go / To Las Vegas or Monaco

Sounds like it depicts a man named Manny with plenty of money in Vegas, right? Right. Because if you research on the Top 10 highest-earners in sports, you’ll find the following men on the list: Tiger Woods (# 1, $100 million), Kobe Bryant (2, $45M), Michael Jordan (3, $45M), Kimi Raikkonen (4, $45M), David Beckham (5, $42M), LeBron James (6, $40M), Phil Mickelson (8, $40M), Lionel Messi (9, $39M) and at No. 10, Alex Rodriguez, who earned $39 million.

If you look closely at the names, it’s missing one. You, of course, know this one. He’s number one in boxing. Rated # 7 in earnings for 2010, Manny’s money is estimated at $40,000,000. Translated to our currency, that’s P1.72 billion. Yes, no mistaken multiplication. Manny earned P1,720,000,000 in a 12-month period (from mid-2009 to mid-2010), mainly for just two fights, against Joshua Clottey and Miguel Cotto.

Two weeks ago, I read “PACMAN,” his biography. Gary Andrew Poole, the author, narrates of how poor Manny was (one meal a day, no place to sleep upon arrival in Manila, skeleton-thin in build and malnourished). In the book, MP’s story is even more unbelievable than, say, the flying powers of Superman or the hammer-wielding strength of Thor.

The past few years, each time Pacman enters the boxing ring, he’s guaranteed $15 million. That’s over six hundred million pesos. Per fight. Per maximum of 12 rounds. Per maximum of 36 minutes. In what has to be one of the most incredible “earnings-per-second” of any man in our planet’s history, against Ricky Hatton, our Pinoy boxer scored a KO victory in 2:59 of Round 2. Computing the $12 million that Mr. Pacquiao earned, that equates to $2 million earned per minute! Imagine that: Manny’s money is two million dollars per 60 seconds.

Compared to other athletes, they’re all KO’ed by Manny’s earning power. Take Rafael Nadal. In winning last year’s U.S. Open (the world’s richest tennis event), he brought home to Mallorca, Spain the amount of $1.7 million. Nadal had to beat seven opponents in two weeks to earn that money. (Manny earned the same, against Hatton, in less than a minute.) Or, shifting from sports to showbiz, how about comparing MP to, for example, a movie star like Will Smith. Last year, he was estimated to have earned a whopping $29 million. That’s plenty of green bucks for the Men In Black actor. Still, it’s much less compared to our Pinoy boxer who also doubles, unfortunately, as a money-losing movie actor.

MAY 8. This morning, Philippine time, as traffic stops, church pews are emptied, burglary ceases, mothers are celebrated, and everybody’s Filipino eyeballs fixated on the TV screens, Manny will feast on Las Vegas money. Guaranteed $20 million, plus-plus-plus the revenues from PPV and many more +++s, Rep. Pacquiao, to no surprise, has been declared by our congress as our nation’s “richest Congressman.” He declared more than a billion pesos net worth.

Imagine if, after beating Mosley this morning, he returns to Las Vegas in October then obliterates Juan Manuel Marquez, taking home another briefcase of cash amounting to $25M, then, next year, if the Fight of the Century happens, he adds $50,000,000 to his pocketbook and blemishes Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s record? No Hollywood movie — even the L.A. Lakers’ unbelievable 0-3 record to Dallas Mavericks — can beat his true-to-life story.

Manny’s many definitions of ‘MP’

I’ve had the rare opportunity, back in September of ‘007, to witness Manny Pacquiao train. It was at the Rex “Wakee” Salud Gym in Labangon and, thanks to Philboxing’s co-administrator Salven Lagumbay (who, coincidentally, is celebrating his birthday today), I watched MP up-close. Twice.

“Manny Pacquiao had just finished 10 rounds of sparring,” I wrote four years ago. “Tired? Did he look fatigued? No. How about recharged? Or pumped-up? For one-and-a-half hours, I observed Manny. After sparring, Manny stepped down the ring then proceeded to pummel the double-end bag. He stared at the round leather that hung from the ceiling, encircled it, threw quick jabs, moved his head left, ducked, stepped back, forward.”

MP. Those initials don’t just spell out the initials of the most famous Pinoy, they also translate to many words. Maximum Pain. That’s one. For no boxer — and possibly athlete — is willing to drip more sweat, digest more punishment, and smile more while relishing all the affliction, than MP.

Gordon Marino of The Wall Street Journal, yesterday, wrote a stellar piece, “The Fight of the Physical Outlier.” I quote some portions…

“Pacquiao does 2,000 repetitions each day of situps and other punishing abdominal exercises,” said Marino. “He rounds out these exercises by, among other things, fast hill runs, interval training, zipping around cones to improve footwork and even, when no fight is coming up, playing basketball.”

MP’s resting heart rate is 42. That’s absurdly low. “Some endurance athletes, like Olympic cross-country skiers,” said Mr. Marino, “have lower resting pulse rates—somewhere around 38, Ariza says—but they also train at high altitude, something Pacquiao doesn’t. ‘Manny is on the level of the most conditioned athletes in the world,’ the trainer says. ‘He’s a phenomenon. I wish we could do in-depth tests, but he doesn’t like anything invasive.’”

This MP spells Mankind’s Phenomenon. MP is so gifted and driven that boxers often try to emulate his training. They can’t. In my two visits to the RWS Gym, I interviewed boxers and trainers. They all recited the same Quotable Quote: “Many follow Manny’s intense training. They all get sick!”

MP = Marvelous Pugilist. Simply, MP trains too hard, too intensely, too much. Haven’t we read of Alex Ariza and Freddie Roach asking their pupil to slow down and relax? Wow. How many athletes have been told the same? I can’t remember any other.

“Manny will go 15 rounds hitting the pads with me, and do exercises in the 60-second intervals between rounds,” says Roach. ‘It’s crazy.’”

“On days when we have heavy sparring, we like to cut out the morning run,” Ariza says. “Manny knows this and he’ll plead, ‘Please don’t stop me from running today.'”

While 98.7 percent of us often ask for stoppage to excruciating physical torture, it’s the opposite for MP. “Other differences that make Pacquiao stand out are the intensity and tempo at which he trains and fights, and his ability to ignore pain,” wrote Gordon Marino. “Most boxers are constantly trying to decide when to expend energy and when to take a round off. Pacquiao likes to know that he has enough training in the bank to allow him to bring the most intense heat possible and to punch almost continuously.”

Muscle Power. That’s MP. Shawn Porter, his sparring-mate, explains: “Sure, Manny is fast and hits hard, but the thing that is special with him is his intensity. It is electric in there. He is always pushing the pace.”

Ariza, quoted by Marino, likens Pacquiao to a military person (Navy SEAL?) who has the ability to extinguish pain during heavy exertion. Said Ariza: “Manny is definitely one of them. When Manny was a kid, he would run five miles a day in flip flops. Try that for a while and it will not only toughen your feet up, it will increase your pain tolerance.”

Digesting all this penance, Manny, who is set to earn P600,000,000 this Sunday, is also this MP: Mega-billionaire Pinoy.

Finally, our MP hope… Mosley, Pildi.

Is Shane Mosley boxing’s Randy Couture?

Last Saturday night in Canada, Randy Couture, three years shy of his golden birthday, got pounded in the jaw by Lyoto Machida’s flying kick; his head snapped at the ferocity of the impact as he tumbled on the Octagon floor.

Randy Couture is a Hall of Famer. He’s one of the–if not THE–most famous mixed-martial artist on earth. He’s revered. Yet, he is antique. Compared to Machida, who’s 15 years younger, Couture was primitive. Like S. S. Mosley?

With five days left before Manny Pacquiao battles another elderly, are we to expect the same quick finish? We hope so, of course. But this might be unrealistic. In an article in The Phil. Star last April 19, my favorite scribe, Quinito Henson, outlined reasons why Shane Mosley is not an easy prey.

Why Mosley is Dangerous,” Henson’s column title, he enumerated 14 bullet points on the strength of the Californian. I’ll cite a few.

“He has one-punch knockout power in either hand, particularly the right,” said Quinito in Reason # 1. “In boxing, all it takes is a single connection and the fight could be over. Mosley boasts a knockout rate of 85 percent or 39 KOs of 46 wins, compared to Pacquiao’s 73 percent or 38 KOs of 52 wins.”

An 85 percent knockout rate is remarkable. As hard as MP has trained for this Sunday — possibly the best training he’s ever done — he’s got to be careful of Mosley’s right blow.

“He’s the only fighter to defeat the legendary Oscar de la Hoya twice,” said Quinito. These wins were in 2000 and 2003, back when ODLH was still in his prime.

“He’s the ‘longest’ fighter ever to battle Pacquiao with a startling 74-inch wingspan,” said Quinito. “That translates to a massive seven-inch reach advantage for Mosley. Two Pacquiao victims, Margarito and De la Hoya, both measure 73 inches in wingspan.”

Another reason, cited Mr. Henson: “He’s comfortable fighting in the 147-pound division. Mosley has weighed over 142 pounds for 22 bouts since 1999. Pacquiao has fought in only four fights weighing over 142 since 2008. Pacquiao scaled 142 pounds for De la Hoya, 144 for Miguel Cotto, 145 3/4 for Joshua Clottey and 144 1/2 for Margarito. Mosley will likely weigh five to 10 pounds more than Pacquiao when they square off. The edge in heft may be an advantage or a disadvantage for Mosley.”

Maybe because of “over-training” (Freddie Roach has advised his pupil to slow down), the Sarangani congressman weighs reportedly less now than while preparing for his past fights. We hope this does not translate to him weighing, on fight night, 10 or more lbs. lighter than Mosley.

“He has experience on his side,” added Quinito. Sugar Shane has fought in 53 fights that totaled 376 rounds. He’s joined 19 world title fights. Manny? He’s done 329 rounds, 57 bouts and 16 world title bouts. “Mosley racked up a record of 38-0, with 35 KOs, before tasting his first defeat nine years after turning pro. Pacquiao raced to an 11-0 record, with only three KOs, before suffering his initial setback to Torrecampo in 1996,” said Quinito.

Mosley defeated Antonio Margarito. So did Pacquiao. But, while Manny went 12 rounds with the Tijuana Tornada, Mr. Mosley finished the Mexican-American via a 9th round TKO.

Finally, in what to me is a crucial point, Quinito adds: “He fights like Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao had difficulty against the Mexican in two bouts. Marquez, a technician, counter-punched and repeatedly found an opening for his right hand down the middle, into the heart of Pacquiao’s defense. Mosley will try to do the same on May 7.”

These Mosley advantages don’t mean he’s the favorite. Far from it. As we know, the odds are this: Your P70,000 bet on Manny will win you only P10,000. And vice versa for Mosley: bet P100 on him and you’ll win P700.

Still, as what we’ve seen mid-April when underdogs Orlando Salido and Victor Ortiz upset Juan Manuel Lopez and Andre Berto, there are no guarantees in boxing. Let’s just hope that, at a prehistoric age of 39, Mosley will do a Couture and end up in the same place come fight’s end. On the floor.