Monthly Archives: August 2011

Aboitiz Invitational goes International

Montito Garcia, the most celebrated amateur golfer of our island and the current president of the Cebu Country Club, had this to say in our phone conversation yesterday: “The Aboitiz Invitational is the biggest ever golf tournament that CCC has hosted. In terms of prize money (about P2,500,000), in the number of international players that are joining (80 golfers from the Asian Development Tour and 40 from the Philippine Golf Tour)… we’ve never experienced anything like this before.”

True. How about the golf course? Its condition given that rains have engulfed our island? “Cebu Country Club is ready,” Montito said. “Although there’s been too much rain the past weeks, that’s the beauty of golf. Everybody plays in the same conditions. And, with the high caliber of these international players, you can put them in a carabao course and they’ll still excel.”

Today, the celebration begins. It’s the Pro-Am Day of the Aboitiz Invitational 2011, when three amateurs mix with one professional in one flight. It’s a chance for an Atty. Jovi Neri to be in the same flight with pro Robert Pactolerin. Completing their foursome are Jovi’s dad, Atty. Julius Neri, and Mark Dy.

Today is an opportunity for Cebuanos to spend hours on the course with a pro; an occasion for the professional to do a relaxed practice round around CCC. Tomorrow, the combat begins. It’s the start of the four-day tournament. Will our top local, Artemio Murakami, make our nation proud by winning the Cebu leg?

Last week, Murakami was ranked No. 3 in the ADT money list. This ranking is important. The top three earners will get automatic spots in the Asian Tour. The bad news is, after last weekend’s Ballantine’s Taiwan Championship, Murakami has slipped to a No. 5 ranking. If he wins—or does well—starting tomorrow until Saturday here in Cebu, he can regain that Top 3 spot. But it will be tough. There are 126 players expected to join. A total of 19 countries are represented.

What makes this event so huge is this: The very first Philippine stop of the Asian Development Tour (ADT) is not in Manila. It’s not in Tagaytay. It’s not in Wack Wack or Valley Golf or Riviera. It’s in the City of Cebu. The 2011 schedule started last February in Bangladesh. Then it moved to various courses around Malaysia and Chinese Taipei. It’s 7th stop? On our Philippine archipelago?

The par-70 golf course located in Banilad. Par 70? Isn’t the CCC a Par 72 course? Yes and Yes. “The Par 70 will only be for the Aboitiz Invitational,” answered marathoner Frederic Chiongbian, the CCC golf chairman. “Two par 5 holes, number 7 and number 11, will be played as par 4’s during the tournament. After, the course will retain its par 72 rating.”

Starting last April, a lot of work has been done to improve the course. “We’re slowly re-doing some areas of the course (e.g. tee mounds, drainage, tree pruning, bunkers),” added Chiongbian.

To comply with ADT standards, the course is now more difficult: the fairways, narrower; the roughs, tougher; the greens, faster.

All credit goes to the Aboitiz family, whose Aboitiz Equity Ventures headquarters sits right beside Cebu Country Club. No doubt, this is one of the year’s most illustrious of sporting events.

In an email he sent me two nights ago, Basti Lacson, the lead advocate of this event representing Aboitiz, acknowledges the importance of the partnership between ADT, the PGT, sponsor ICTSI and Aboitiz Equity Ventures.

Basti also named four Pinoys—Murakami, Elmer Salvador, Juvic Pagunsan and Miguel Tabuena—as contenders to win the $11,000 first prize.

As to the general public? Let’s watch! “The course is open for the public to watch, starting tomorrow until Saturday, Sept. 3,” said Basti Lacson.

Added Montito Garcia: “We are not charging anything. This is a great opportunity to see some of the best in Asia. And, who knows, a few of these stars will next join the European and U.S. Tours and become Top 10 world-ranked players. It’s our chance to watch them. Right here in Cebu.”

Q & A with Jonathan “Atan” Guardo

The former Cebu City Sports Commission Chairman plays golf, tennis and airsoft. He kayaks, mountain-bikes, and has climbed the peaks of Mr. Talinis and Mt. Makiling. He has gone sky-diving five times. Triathlon, twice. The Australian Open tennis? He saw Agassi in 2004. But all these games pale in comparison to the passion Atan feels for running. Here’s my latest interview with Mr. Guardo….

Running on the road or running for office? “When you run a marathon the first time, it’s one of the most difficult experiences in your life. You’ll endure all kinds of pain and misery. And when you’re just a few kilometers away from the finish line, you’ll hit the wall. You have consumed all your energy and you can barely walk. You’ll entertain all negative thoughts. You go standstill. You want to give up. I’ve hit the wall several times but, thank God, somehow I am able to breakthrough. I’ve done several marathons and every time I hit the wall, I’ve managed to figure out a way.

“In politics, I’ve hit the wall twice. I can’t seem to break through. It’s something I’m still trying to figure out.”

Marathons finished? Fifteen: Hong Kong. Quezon City. Singapore. Cebu City. Kuala Lumpur. Milo 2010. Camsur. Sta Clarita, Los Angeles. San Antonio, Texas. Quezon City. Cebu Ultra 50K. Cebu City. Kawasan Falls. Milo. Aboitiz. (Fastest time: Sta. Clarita, L.A.: 5:05)

Why run? “I started in 2000 when running wasn’t as popular. The reason is because I want to keep fit. I used to have high blood pressure and elevated levels of blood sugar. But because of running, I am able to keep my doctor away. I used to weigh 175 lbs. but now I’m down to 150. Running is also a way of socializing. I look forward to the weekend runs, especially the big events, coz thats one way of hanging out with friends. It’s also bonding time with your family.”

Best experience? “I love to travel and when you incorporate that with joining a marathon, it’s a blast. I remember watching the Pacquiao-Margarito fight in Dallas, Texas last November. The fight ended at 12 midnight and I had to immediately drive 500 kms. down to San Antonio. I arrived at the hotel at 5:30 am (you definitely drive fast on freeways), changed clothes and went straight to the starting area to catch the 630am gun time. I wasn’t tired at all because there were thousands of people who joined the San Antonio Rock n Roll marathon. To have the energy and be able to finish that marathon was very special. Probably I still had that adrenaline celebrating Manny’s victory.”

On pain: “Probably because I don’t really train as hard (I only do 15K, the longest for a marathon; I get bored training), that’s why I experience pain and fatigue usually from 30K to 35K. But as I gained more experience, I realized that pain is all mental. If you let pain and fatigue defeat you, you’ll certainly crawl to the finish line.”

On barefoot running: “Last Sunday, I ran the 21K barefoot for the first time. I only had two 5K barefoot runs before. Running the 21k on barefoot was painful, with all those blisters on your toes. But I just had to mentally erase the suffering and it turned to be one of my most enjoyable runs ever. This weekend, I’m going to Panglao, Bohol for my next 21k barefoot run. I feel stronger and have better endurance. I am seriously thinking of giving away all my running shoes. I want to join the 100k ultra run from Bogo to Cebu City this november… barefoot! That would be special.”

On traveling: “Last November, I did four marathons in four weeks. Sta Clarita (LA), San Antonio, Cebu Ultra and Quezon City. The last few weeks, I did Kawasan, Milo, Aboitiz and the 21K University Run. I love joining big events. I love running with so many people. I love racing, even though I’m slow. I love going to different places. While running, I try to enjoy watching the scenic routes. The   Santa Clarita, Hong Kong, Cebu City and Kawasan marathons had beautiful routes. The people along the routes in LA, Kawasan and Camsur were friendly.”

Who do you admire? “Cebuano runners like Rening Ylaya and Raul Cepeda, who are still running in their 70s and 80s. If I can continue running marathons year-in, year-out, until I get to that age, who knows how many marathons I can finish? Hopefully, my Arthro supplement will continue to power my knees!”

Advice? “Enjoy and have fun. I’ve seen some who quit running; probably they got burned out. Sayang. They probably overtrained. Don’t get too consumed on the PR (Personal Record). Running should be fun and enjoyable. It should be a way of life. The feeling of excitement I have every time I pin the race number on my jersey every Saturday evening is still the same feeling I have the very first time I ran. It’s addictive!”

Rudy Labares, 66

One of the best ever in Philippine golf quietly passed away Tuesday last week. Only 66 years old, Rudolfo “Rudy” Labares succumbed to liver cancer.

I requested Atty. Jovi Neri, the former Cebu Country Club club champion and a dear friend of the Cebuano ace, to write a story about the man who called CCC his home. Here’s Atty. Neri’s full piece:

“Rudy Labares was voted one of the top 10 all-time greatest Filipino golfers in a poll conducted five years ago and rightfully so. Locally, in the 1980s, he set a Philippine Tour record of 7 wins in one season, which at that time surpassed Frankie Minoza’s 6 wins.

“Another record he still owns is the tournament record in relation to par in the Philippine Open where he shot 16-under par in Villamor Golf Club in his 1984 win. At age 46, he was the oldest player in the modern era to win the Philippine Tour order of merit crown in 1991.

“His international achievements are legendary. He led the Philippines to its best-ever finish of 2nd place in the World Cup of Golf in 1977, finished second to the Seve Ballesteros-led Spain. He also finished second in the individual honors to all-time great Gary Player – one of only five players to win all four professional majors.

“Labares’ most cherished win was the Rolex Masters Singapore, which at that time was one of the majors in the Asian Tour. Since he was the Order of Merit leader in the local tour even in his 40’s, he was chosen twice to the Philippine team to play in the Dunhill Cup in the home of golf in St. Andrews Scotland.

“Against Spain, he was pitted against two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal. Against USA, he played Chip Beck, who was only the second player even in PGA Tour history to card a 59.

“Labares was a soft-spoken individual who quietly went about his business with little fanfare. This may be the reason why, in spite of his achievements in a career where he competed against the likes of Celestino Tugot… then Ben Arda… then Frankie Minoza… and even against some of the current crop of pros still active like Carito Villaroman and Cassius Casas, he has relatively slipped under the radar when the all-time greats of the Philippines are mentioned. But his accomplishments on the golf course are right up there, and even better, than some who are more highly-regarded or oft-mentioned.

“Throughout his career, Labares has always called Cebu Country Club his home and never permanently settled outside Cebu. He has always practiced and worked on his game in Cebu. It is for this reason, he should be easily regarded as one of the best Cebuano professional athletes of all-time.”

Thanks to Jovi for the mini-biography on Labares. A full-length chronicle will be published soon in Jovi’s column with the Inquirer Monthly Golf magazine.

NIMROD. Another golf devotee I contacted was Nimrod Quiñones, the Managing Editor of The Freeman. I owe Nimrod a lot. He was the person who invited me to write a sports column. This was in 1994.

Nimrod interviewed Mr. Labares last month. In his Full Point column for The Freeman dated July 14 and titled “A chat with a living legend,” Nimrod wrote: “I had the chance to talk with the living legend yesterday at the Cebu Country Club in connection with Full Point: The Cebu Sports Show, which airs over Wealth TV Channel 28 on SkyCable and Destiny Cable.”

Added Nimrod: “(Rudy) started as a ball boy at the age of 10 and five years later became a caddie. In another five years, Labares, who spent a lot of time honing his skills, was already competing and winning tournaments. One thing that struck me during our interview was when he said that he used to practice from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Many of us can’t even spend an hour on the driving range and hope to finish playing as fast as we could, but not Rudy.”

The Rudy Labares TV interview will be aired possibly later this week, said Nimrod. I’m sure this will be a stirring and poignant interview. Let’s watch it.

Petron slams TNT’s Grand Slam

The Japanese poet Kenji Mijazawa once wrote: “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” Figuratively, this was true for Talk N Text as Petron “burned them with their fuel.”

What a PBA finale! The drama started in Game One. The Talk N Text Tropang Texters, winners of the first two PBA conference finals, aimed to win the third and final leg. This victory would have given them a rare ‘Grand Slam.’ In the 36-year history of the oldest professional basketball league in Asia—the PBA—only Crispa, San Miguel, and Alaska have achieved a Grand Slam.

Talk N Text attempted. In Game 1, they won—and lost! Leading by a score of 84-75 with 5:11 left, the Texters also led by one point with three seconds left. But two-time MVP Danny Ildefonso calmly sank a 12-footer to win that crucial Game 1 for Petron. Score: 89-88.

Since that game two weeks ago, the PBA Governors Cup Finals has been a yo-yo, roller-coaster-ride-like series. TNT tied the contest, 1-all. They led 2-1. They trailed 2-3. Then, they equalized at 3-all.

Last Sunday, I watched Game 7. When I switched on the TV set, Petron led at the end of the first quarter, 28-17. They would not relinquish that lead. Even with Jimmy Alapag, the league MVP, dribbling the ball as point guard, the Tropang Texters trailed all the way. Even with MVP—that’s Manny V. Pangilinan—cheering from the bleachers, it wasn’t to be. Even with Monico Puentevella, the POC chairman, seated beside Mr. Pangilinan, history was not meant to be celebrated two nights ago.

Petron, fueled by a blaze, put a brake on TNT. Petron won Game 7, 85-73.

No loss is painless but this was excruciatingly painful for Talk N Text for several reasons. One, the rare Grand Slam bid was crushed. Two, they were expected to win. In the semifinal round, reports say that TNT purposely lost in one game to avoid a Final showdown with the Barangay Ginebra Kings. “Pinagbigyan nila kami at nagkamali sila,” said Ato Agustin, Petron’s head coach. Third, Petron had plenty of injured players: Jay Washington, Lordy Tugade, Rookie of the Year Rabeh Al-Hussaini, and Joseph Yeo.

The pressure, possibly, was too much for the Texters. Trailing in the 4th quarter but with plenty of time left, they hurriedly threw 3-point desperation shots. They were jittery, intimidated, startled. They panicked. I guess this was to be expected: when a year-long Grand Slam bid trickles down to the last few minutes, one plays petrified.

Petron? Petrified? No. The Blaze Boosters were relaxed and loose. They played to win—while TNT played not to lose. Petron’s import, Anthony Grundy, was dazzling. He top-scored with 26 points (after scoring just five in Game 6). But the best player was Mark Magsumbol. I mean… Arwind Santos, who looks like Mark Magsumbol. He scored 16 points. To top that, he rebounded 16 times! Imagine… 16 rebounds in one game. With 37 seconds left in the game, he even slammed the ball with two hands. That slam extinguished the Grand Slam dreams of TNT and MVP.

Why was this Petron team no lightweight compared to the heavyweight, TNT? It’s because this team’s DNA is spelled S-A-N  M-I-G-U-E-L. Yes. Starting only this season, San Miguel Beer relinquished its name (for the first time in PBA history) and gave way to the fuel company they own.

Good move. And so, while this was a “first” for the rookie Petron, this was also the 19th championship of the team owned by Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr. You can also conclude that, in a battle between sports titans (MVP v. Boss Danding), the older, more experienced sportsman won.

Ato Agustin is the happiest Filipino today. He scored one of the league’s all-time biggest upsets—and did it as a rookie PBA coach.

Above all, the biggest winners are the basketball fans. I, myself, admit to not watching closely the PBA. But with this series, I followed. It was a contrast in coaches, team owners, imports; an intriguing Grand Slam Quest versus Underdog’s Upset Try contest. In the end, between gasoline or SMS, fuel wins.

The good and the bad of the Aboitiz race

I joined the Aboitiz Race to Reduce Challenge two mornings ago. It was a good race. Good—but not great. I’ll explain why.

The Good? Including a full marathon. Apart from the Three-Sixty Pharmacy Kawasan Falls Marathon (organized by Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III) and the Cebu Marathon (held every second Sunday of January), the Aboitiz 42K is only the third full marathon distance in Cebu. This is advantageous to us. As more people run, the target post moves farther away. After joining an initial 5K, the next goal is a 10K… then 21K… then more…

The 42K is the ultimate distance (although 100K ultra-marathoners like Joel Garganera, Haide Acuña and Bro. Carlo Bacalla will disagree with that).

The bad? Aboitiz’s timing. While the Kawasan Falls Marathon announced their 42K distance many months ago, Aboitiz decided only recently. The Kawasan Falls Marathon was held last July 23; Aboitiz, last Sunday. Back-to-back 42Ks in three weeks is ridiculous. This “temptation” invites injury. There ought to be spacing in organizing 42Ks.

More good points… Seeing the CEO himself, Erramon “Monchu” Aboitiz, at the finish line. I’ve said this last year and I’ll write it again: How many of the big-named industry chieftains are willing to disrupt their Sunday 5 a.m. sleep to cheer-on the runners? Monchu, whom I spoke to last Sunday, is one of them. He stands out.

Other good marks include: the printing of a two-page advertisement yesterday, enlisting all the finishers with their finishing times. Thanks to Sebastian “Basti” Lacson, the Chief Reputation Officer of Aboitiz, for this idea (which, if I’m not mistaken, Basti got from a sporting event in Spain). This is admirable.

The high-quality Race Bib is tiptop. The use of timing chips—including the 5K—is exemplary. The offering of a lowered registration fee for a non-singlet—this is wise. “The Race to Reduce” tagline is put to use here.

The weather. Although it poured heavily past 9 a.m., at least for the 3K to 21K participants, the early-morning weather was perfect. Like last year, it rained at 2 a.m.—hours before the start.

The route for the 10K was desirable. It was flat. The orderly finish line area—complete with clocks for each category—was commendable. So were all the freebies at the finish (Gatorade plus bread, banana, candies and a hard-boiled egg).

THE BAD? With my 10K category, very minimal. I arrived at 4:45 a.m., a quarter-of-an-hour early. The first person to pat me on the back? My mom, Allen. I did not know she also registered the same 10,000-meter distance. Looking slim and fit, I have an embarrassing admission to make: I was once mistaken as the husband of my mom! Ouch. I hope this is a testament to her looking young instead to my “mature” looks.

While strolling about the race area 10 minutes before the published 5 a.m. race time, my mom and I were shocked when people started running. No countdown. No starting gun. No announcement. It was the start! And nobody knew. Plus, it was 10 minutes in advance. (I later saw Gerry Malixi; he arrived at the CICC at 4:55—only to see that everyone had left! He joined but was disappointed.)

But that was minor. The major, major BAD was the lack of water for the 42K. I spoke to many friends and they echoed the same complaint: on the second half of the 42K (that’s 21 kms. to go) there was no water! This is a cardinal sin in races.

Safety, above all, is important; but next is hydration—the availability of water. Runners had to resort to stopping-by carenderias to drink. (I had this same experience at the Quezon City Marathon two years ago and it’s the worst. Imaging the pain of running for 4 to 6 hours… aggravated by a super dry throat.)

Worse, at the finish line, 5-gallon containers full of water were stockpiled. Some finishers even sat on them! As to why these were not hurriedly dispatched, I don’t know.

This is a pity because this was an A-1 race organized by an A+ company. If only the word “Reduce” did not refer to water.

Cebu’s golf ace Irina Gabasa joins Vanderbilt U

(Photo by Manny Marcelo)

Back in 1873, one of America’s richest men, Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad and shipping magnate, decided to build a school. He named it Vanderbilt University. Today, it ranks as one of the best in the United States.

Irina Gabasa is going to Vanderbilt. On full scholarship. Thanks to golf.

Only 16 years old, Irina won the Philippine Amateur Golf Championship last year. Because of that heavyweight victory, the petite junior golfer who trains at the Alta Vista Golf & Country Club impressed a field of international coaches.
She received emails. Phone calls were logged. The A-list of American coaches wanted to know: Who is this golf phenomenon and where is she from, Cebu City, Phils?

At 11 P.M. tonight, Ms. Gabasa, together with her parents, Deo and Rowena, head for the Mactan airport, ready to fly to the land of Barack Obama.

“I’m excited and nervous,” said Irina, dark-tanned from all the sun exposure yet whose smile and pretty face forever radiate. “College will definitely be a new experience.”

She finished pre-school, elementary and high school at Bright Academy. I’m proud to say that my mom, Allen, founded and continues to run the school and that our family owns it.

Before choosing Vanderbilt, Irina was toured all over the mainland and courted by many of the top schools. Among those who offered scholarships were Univ. of Miami, Pepperdine Univ., Univ. of Georgia, Texas Christian University, Baylor Univ., Coastal Carolina, and Southern Methodist Univ.

But, after months of studying, visiting and, above all, praying, Team Gabasa picked the Nashville, Tennessee campus whose student population is 12,714.

“I chose Vanderbilt University because of its balance in Sports and Education,” said Irina, via email, two nights ago. “Not only is it a top 20 NCAA Division 1 golf team but it’s also part of the 20 best Universities in the U.S. Others call Vanderbilt the Ivy League of the South. Also, because of the coaches. They are great and can help me grow into a better golfer and person.”

As good timing for Irina’s choice, Vanderbilt will be hosting the National Championships this year in their home club.

Upon arrival this Wednesday at Vanderbilt, Irina will be welcomed like a sports star. She receives a full scholarship that includes free board and lodging, tuition, books, equipment. “Even our golf shoes are customized,” said Irina. “Via the website, they asked me to pick the designs and colors that I wanted.”

The Vanderbilt Women’s Golf team is composed of seven players. Five are returnees and only two are freshmen; Irina is the only one from Asia.

When did Irina begin to play this game of Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa? “I started at the age of seven,” she said. “My dad introduced me to the sport. I started playing competitively at the age of nine. I’ve never really had a constant coach aside from my dad. Whenever I have a coach, my dad is always there to implement whatever I learned.”

You can say “Like Father, Like Daughter.”

Irina with her parents, Deo and Rowena, and Mike Limpag, sports editor of SunStar Cebu

This 2011, she is ranked the # 17 junior in the whole of the United States. Wow!

Just two months ago, in a tour of the U.S. that was billed for Irina as a “college audition,” she joined the 30th Bubba Conlee National Junior Tournament, one of the most prestigious in the Mid-South.

Calmly, Irina birdied three of the final nine holes to finish with a 3-under 69. Her 54-hole total: 4-under 212. Irina won by two shots.

“It was a great achievement,” she said. “Through that victory, I was given the opportunity to play in AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) Invitational tournaments. This included the Rolex Tournament of Champions, Ping Invitational and The Thunderbird International Junior Championship.”

A Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC)-SMC Cebu Sports Awards major awardee from 2008 to 2011, Irina Gabasa is leaving Cebu tonight to conquer America tomorrow.

In a sport where six of the world’s Top 10 women golfers are Asian, who knows… the words “Filipina” and “from Cebu” might reach the leader-board.

Good luck, Irina!

Alan Choachuy: Big winner after losing 92 lbs.

One of the most famous bodies in all of Cebu is that of Alan Choachuy, all of 217 lbs. If you think that’s heavy and obese, consider this: Three months ago, he weighed 309 lbs. But, after eight weeks inside “The Biggest Loser Pinoy Edition,” he lost 62 lbs. Then, after getting ousted from the camp, he arrived in Cebu even more determined: he lost another 30 lbs.

Alan lost 92 lbs. in 10 weeks. “My goal is to weigh 180 lbs.,” he proclaimed.

The Biggest Loser contest? “I joined for fun,” he said. “How often can a fat guy like me get an opportunity to get into reality TV that has a good purpose: To be healthy!”

During the auditions, Alan, who turned 40 last February, was one of the last to enlist, lining up “very late in the afternoon while others lined up at dawn.”

How did he lose 62 lbs. in two months? “In the camp, I did cardio elliptical, stationary bike, running, boxing, spinning and strength training. But the most effective was the Metabolic workout by Coach Jim Saret; it’s a short intense workout that hits 70% of your max heart rate. Ex: the basic 10 jumping jacks, 10 squats, 10 push ups, 10 lunges but repeat as many as you can in 4 minutes and as fast as you can. Sounds simple but as you get to your second set you start to see stars. Haha! Increase number of minutes as you get stronger and faster or carry dumbbells etc.; it not only helps you lose weight, it helps you get fitter and stronger faster.”

When Alan left The Biggest Loser last July 25, he continued his fitness program. In fact, just last Monday morning, as I drove up to Ma. Luisa Park, I saw one man pedaling the mountain-bike. He was alone. He climbed the subdivision’s steepest part.

It was the ABS-CBN star. “That was a 1.5-hour bike ride,” he said. “I started at our house in Mandaue then went to Maria Luisa. I did three laps; it takes 10-12 minutes uphill to the main intersection then back downhill on the right side where a red Ferrari and yellow Porsche are parked. I chose Ma. Luisa because it’s a short but very steep uphill.” (On biking, years before he joined the TV show, Mr. Choachuy was popular among Cebuano bikers because of Big Al’s, a series of MTB events he sponsored from 2005 to 2007.)

With The Biggest Loser, Alan was highly-respected. “It was a great experience in the Camp, especially when I was treated like leader not only for the Blue team but for the entire group. Never in my life did I think that 16 people from different parts of the country would give me so much respect. And to think I am from Cebu.”

His motivation? “My wife, Caroline, and my kids, Carmichael, Carlisle, and Alana,” said Alan. “I want to grow old with my wife and don’t want to burden my children in the future because of my unhealthy lifestyle.”

He adds: “I also thank my dad, Alexander Choachuy Sr., where I learned my leadership characteristics. I have not thanked him enough and now I have chance to thank him and my Mom.”
On the quest for healthy living, Alan is not finished. When he e-mailed me his schedule, I thought it was Noy Jopson’s Camsur 70.3 Training Regimen.

Alan’s daily routine: Early mornings, he runs and bikes for up to 2.5 hours. In the afternoon, he’s at Fitness First for another 2.5-hours of strength-training, metabolic, and core exercises. “I work out between 3-5 hours a day,” he said. “My journey has not ended and have no plans to stop. Plan to run half-marathon in Sept. and maybe a full marathon in 2012. Also, planning on going back to triathlon, and soon, the Ironman; it’s easier to lose weight if you are preparing for an event.”

A full-time architect who, together with his associate, Archt. Peter Bordador (a Cebu Hall of Famer in football), works to change our perspective of homes and buildings, it was his own life outlook that was changed by The Biggest Loser.

“Not only am I healthy now but it gave me a new perspective in life. I learned that it is never too late to make a change… that before you change others, you should look yourself in the mirror.”

The Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc.

Metro Manila has two dominant collegiate leagues: the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The UAAP started in 1938; the NCAA, even earlier, in 1924. At the UAAP, the schools include UP, UE, UST, NU, Ateneo, La Salle, FEU and Adamson. In the NCAA, the list has San Sebastian, PCU, Letran, Arellano, Mapua, San Beda and JRU. (Why the two leagues won’t merge so that the champion is the true winner of collegiate sports, I don’t know.)

Here in Cebu, we only have one league. Previously, it was named CAAA. Those letters stood for Cebu Amateur Athletics Association. But, starting 11 years ago, a new group was formed. Today, all the big-named universities join the CESAFI.

In basketball, last year was the most memorable. For the first time, a school not named University of the Visayas was crowned the champion. For the first nine years of CESAFI, the school owned by Dodong and Eddie Gullas won the grand prize.

But last year, the University of Cebu, captained by founder Gus Go, snatched the title away from UV. “We’ve been trying to win all these years,” said Atty. Go to me last October. “But we always could not win in basketball. Finally, we made it!”

In the high school (juniors) division, last season was just as monumental. After losing by 151 points in one game the previous year (score: 178-23), the Cebu Eastern College Baby Dragons spewed fire on the opponents. Last October 10 (that’s the date 10-10-10), CEC achieved the unachievable by pocketing the championship, thanks to their alumni led by the Cebu Province “Garbo sa Sugbu” awardee Chester Cokaliong. That’s last season.

What’s new starting today, when the 2011-2012 season begins at 12 noon with a mass? “The new president of CESAFI is Fr. Enrico Peter Silab, OAR,” said CESAFI commissioner Felix “Boy” Tiukinhoy. “He is the president of USJR. He will be serving for one term.”

Today’s Opening will be different: instead of just basketball players parading the Cebu Coliseum, the players from the different sports will join.

“The reason for just one opening is to save on cost for gym expenses and costumes for the Palabas,” said Tiukinhoy. “The Palabas for the schools will be ‘free for all’ dance numbers so that the school can choose their numbers and costumes at affordable costs.”

The theme for 2011? “Reviving Ecology through Sports and Academic Excellence.”

Another addition is the choice of a Mr. CESAFI. While the previous opening acts had a Ms. CESAFI (I’ve had the privilege of being a judge on two occasions), today is the first time a collegiate male student will win the prize. “The winner for the college Mr. and Ms. CESAFI,” said Tiukinhoy, “will be the CESAFI candidates for the PRISAA.”

In basketball, seven college teams will join: UC, SWU, USC, UV, USJ-R, CIT and USP-F. In high school, there are nine: CEC, CIT, UV, DBTC, USC, UC, SHS-ADC, USJ-R and USP-F.

All games will be held at the Cebu Coliseum. The schedule? Every Tuesday and Thursday, the first of two games begin at 5:15 P.M. On Saturdays and Sundays, the first of four games start at 1 P.M.

Tickets are inexpensive: General Admission is P20 while the most expensive, Lower Box, is P60. Best of all: students with IDs get 50% off.

Today, the first game pits CEC against UV. Then, for college, it’s USJ-R against the defending champs, UC.

What else is new? Boy Cabahug, who led UV to nine straight trophies as the head coach, will be missed. He was abruptly discharged after his school’s first-ever loss. Taking over is Felix Belano. Also new but forever-known as the most famous coach of Vis-Min is Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba. The Cebu City Councilor will mentor the team that’s acknowledged as this year’s most intimidating: SWU.

My prediction? Nobody taller will reign than the remaining Twin Tower of Cebu. No, he’s not Greg Slaughter—that 7-footer has since shifted from UV green to Ateneo blue.

Our Dirk Nowitzki? Junmar Fajardo, 6’10”.

The Cup of Davis returns to the City of Lapu-Lapu

Cecil Mamiit and Treat Huey

Tennis, like boxing, is one on one. When Rafa plays Roger, it’s like Pacquiao-Marquez. No other person, except that referee, is inside that court or boxing ring. Mano-a-mano. That’s boxing. Like the game Djokovic plays.

But Davis Cup is different. It’s team against team. It’s country versus nation. Coaches are allowed. It’s one’s national anthem pitted against another’s national flag.

This September, it’s back. D.C. RETURNS. After a six-month hiatus when our players with the same Filipino blood named Huey and Mamiit battled against the Japanese warriors, DC volleys back.

This time, it’s Philippines versus Chinese-Taipei. The date: Sept. 16, 17 and 18. That’s a weekend of sunny skies, 123-mph ace serves, Plantation Bay bikini-clad sexy girls, and, yes, hopefully, a victory lap for Team PHL.

Mayor Paz Radaza ought to be applauded. Same with Councilor Harry Radaza. This auntie-and-nephew tandem has, in just 13 months since they’ve been together in public office in this political term… they’ve overthrown CamSur as our sports capital. Davis Cup last March. Davis Cup next month. Manny Pacquiao inside the Hoops Dome, serenading the Cebuanos—for free! AJ Banal and Michael Domingo, besting their visitors, also at the Hoops Dome. Tri Lapu-Lapu 113 in December. Sports and Tourism are one in this city made famous by our first Filipino hero, Datu Lapu Lapu.

Randy Villanueva, the Vice-President of the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta) and the administrator for the Davis Cup, himself deserves an ovation. Though residing in Manila throughout his young life, his family hails from Cebu. That’s why he’s bringing DC to Sugbu.

Without Randy’s push, this event—which started in 1900 as a friendly between the U.S. and Britain and is now the largest team sport on earth—will not be held here.

Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, led by “The best General in Cebu,” according to Nimrod Quiñones of The Freeman (that’s General Manager Efren Belarmino), is once again hosting the Davis Cup.

Ken Salimbangon, the founder of the Cebu International Tennis Centre, and Jess Lagman, the Regional VP for Philta, are key organizers next month.

What’s new when we encounter the Taiwanese?

First, the ticket prices: only P200/day or P500 for the weekend. That’s inexpensive.

Two: It’s desperation time. What I mean is this: This DC tie is crucial because it’s the last stop for the Group 1 teams. If we lose, we get downgraded to Group 2. If we beat the Taiwanese, we stay in the upper bracket.

Why is Group 1 important? If this were a ladder, this is the last hurdle prior to the vaunted World Group, where the top 16 nations in the world compete. The likes of Nadal and Djokovic? Yes, of course, Spain and Serbia are in the World Group.

Japan? The nation that defeated us five months ago? They’re playing India next month to enter the World Group. In a draw of lots, they could have faced a country like Switzerland. And we know the Swiss No.1, right?

Theoretically, had we beaten the Japanese and drew the Swiss… Roger Federer could be visiting Plantation Bay next month! (Imagine the excitement of British Honorary Consul Moya Jackson…)

But back to reality: It’s the Taiwanese next month. Is this team strong? Yes. If Yen-Hsun Lu arrives at the MCIAA next month, we’re in trouble. Ranked 67 in the world, he is Asia’s No. 1. At Wimbledon last year, Lu reached the quarterfinals (the first Asian to do so in 15 years) and defeated the strongest server on earth, Andy Roddick. Their 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 9-7 match took 4 hours and 36 minutes.

I’ve watched Lu. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jasmin and I saw him play Andy Murray in the first round. After Murray lost the first set, we moved to another court, thinking Murray would recover. We were wrong. Lu won, 7-6, 6-4. So, bad news if Lu arrives. His teammates? Also good: Tsung-Hua Yang, a former junior No.1, who is ranked No. 250. There’s Ti Chen, world no. 331. These guys are good—but beatable.

See you next month!

Boxer? No, this Tyson is a joker

Three nights ago, inside the Hoops Dome of Lapu-Lapu City, there transpired a circus. The clown was a Canadian. Shirtless, bald-headed, and wearing the attire that all clowns wear (gold tennis shorts with yellow socks and yellow Nike hi-cuts), he was the comedian. Opposite him was a serious, all-business-like A.J. Banal.

Tyson Cave, now nicknamed ‘The Caveman,’ acted, well, like a caveman. He bent low, hunched forward, gritted his teeth, hopping side to side. Hailing from Halifax, Canada, the 29-year-old promised to entertain the crowd and to dispatch of Banal. He achieved the former; he failed miserably in the latter.

Sport is entertainment. It’s fun; it’s a show. We watch sports to evoke our emotions, to get titillated; possibly, angered. The Prince of Hali, as Tyson was formerly called prior to his new “Caveman” moniker, was entertaining.

Together with Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza and Councilor Harry Radaza, I sat at the front row. We were right behind the corner of the ALA Gym boxers. The Hoops Dome (with tickets priced as low as P100) was nearly 100 percent full.

Cave taunted Banal. He laughed at him; cried when a low blow was delivered. Once, when the comic fell to the ground and had his eyes locked on Banal’s ALA Gym coaches, he spewed invectives.

In Round One, Tyson lifted AJ and catapulted him to the ground. In Round Two, he did the same. Was this wrestling? The UFC? His tactic—from the day he arrived Monday last week—was obvious: to outrage, to mock, to distract, to puzzle Banal so that the 22-year-old from Ermita couldn’t enact his Mactan game plan.

Both fighters weighing-in at 117.75 lbs., it was Cave whose ego was overweight. Only 20 minutes left prior to his bout, he was still walking about, high-fiving the Hoops Dome crowd.

Tyson’s a prankster; not a boxer. Inside the ring, he shuffled his feet, showing off his footwork, as if to dance Footloose. His body splashed with tattoos all over, he leaned forward fronting Banal, with no defenses to cover his face, always tormenting and provoking.

Once, he got punched near the buttocks by AJ. He complained to the referee. Then, he did the most absurd act I’ve seen a supposedly world-class boxer do: he turned his butt facing AJ, slapped it as if to say, “Spank me here, baby!”

Crazy. Entertaining? Yes. Boxing? No. Dirty tactics? Oh, he had plenty. He’d throw low blows against AJ. He hugged AJ, lifted him up, then carried him down to the floor. Binuang.

In the end, when Banal suffered a deep cut above his right eye that elicited an outflow of red fluid, the fight was stopped with 28 seconds left in Round 8.

Banal won via unanimous decision. Did he deserve it? Absolutely. It was one-sided. But, what was Tyson Cave’s reaction, when interviewed by writer Monty Mosher of The Chronicle Herald of Canada?

“‘This s—t has got to stop in boxing,’ he said. ‘I came all over the way over here. I promoted this fight. I could have got a world title shot if I won this. They stole this from me.’”

This guy has gone bonkers. Added Cave’s father: “‘Tyson outpunched the guy and out-boxed the guy,’ said Robert Cave, Tyson’s father and manager. ‘And they gave him the decision. I can’t believe it. It was no head butt, it was a punch. They aren’t going to let that boy get beat, that’s what it is,’ he added. ‘This guy was sucking wind. He couldn’t handle Tyson’s speed, his punches.’”

With AJ, it was a pity to see blood dripping off his cheeks and chest starting the 4th round. From that time on, he was a one-eyed fighter. He winced. His sight was restricted. Had there been no three-centimeter cut, he’d have KO’d the laughingstock enemy.

In the end, the crowd booed. Fans never want to see a fight stopped. When Tyson walked towards his dugout, he was heckled. I saw someone throw a plastic bottle at him.

Still, as non-boxing a fight as that was, it achieved a purpose: Compared to a few spiritless fights in the past, this one was humorous, insane, wild, entertaining—a circus unlike anything Cebuanos had seen before.