Monthly Archives: March 2012

Rico Navarro’s Cebu Youth Basketball League

Rico (left) with Chito Loyzaga (center), who recently announced his resignation from the Phil. Sports Commission

Because he is a fellow sportswriter, a member of The Freeman’s pool of columnists, it would be awkward for him to receive an award given by an organization that he’s part of. Thus, the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC) did not honor its fellow member, Rico Navarro. It would have been self-serving. And Rico is too nice and honorable a person—plus, he’s our perennial emcee—to insist on getting recognized during the 30th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards. But what Rico has done the past five years deserves plenty of applause and credit.

CYBL. Spelled in long words, it’s the Cebu Youth Basketball League. It started as a vision and dream of Rico back in 2007. He posed the question, “Why are there very few basketball tournaments for the youth?”

He asked. He dared. He dreamed. Best of all, he acted. With a glaring “loophole” in Cebu’s youth basketball scene, he started CYBL. Rico explains the rationale: “CYBL is a youth-based basketball league that seeks to provide a platform for grassroots development in Cebu basketball. We work hand in hand with schools for the total and holistic development of their student-athletes. Our dream is to be able to have CYBL products present in all the major school-based leagues in the country.”

Lofty. Grassroots-based. Far-looking project. Rico, who now heads the entire sports program of the Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu, added: “Back in 2007, basketball activity for boys 16 and under in Cebu was limited. We needed a solid year-round program of activities for 16, 13 & 10 Under boys.”

And so, in 2007, CYBL started. Like any start-up, it began small. Only four teams joined in one age-group division, 12-years-and-under. That was called a Prelude.

Then, in CYBL 1 in 2008, those four teams tripled to 12. “What started as friendly games turned into a full-blown tournament,” said Rico. There were two groups: 16 and 13 Under. The champions? USC North (U13) and USC South (U16).

Word spread. Players huddled. Coaches scrambled. In 2009, more children dribbled and shot-blocked and rebounded than ever before. From four to 12… CYBL ballooned to 26 teams and three age groups (16, 13 and 10). The winners: USC North (U10), USC South (U13), UC (U16).

In 2010, the tournament was named ML Kwarta Padala Cup 2010 and the same number (26) of teams participated in the February to March event. Last year, 35 teams joined. The champions? 16 Under – USJR; 13 Under – SHS Ateneo de Cebu; and 10 Under – USC North.

What has the CYBL achieved? “The Fruits,” Rico calls them, he enumerates nine:

1) CYBL has become an important developmental venue for players.

2) Cebu (SHS-Ateneo de Cebu) won the 2010 & 2011 Milo BEST national championship (Passerelle division).

3) Cebu won both the Passerelle & SBP divisions of the 2010 Milo BEST Visayas Championships (a first for Cebu).

4) Cebu won three straight NBTC national championships: UV in 2010, SHS-AdC in 2011 & 2012.

5) All of NBTC’s players have played in the CYBL.

6) To-date: 6-8 CYBL products are now with UAAP or NCAA high school teams.

7) CESAFI’s Juniors teams are filled with CYBL players

8) CYBL products to play in Manila this SY 2012-2013.

9) Henry Asilum made it to the Philippine Youth Under 16 Team.

Wow. These are impressive achievements. In a short few years, what existed only in the mind of one passionate sportsman has evolved into a big-time, we-must-join-the-CYBL program.

How about for 2012? A new corporate sponsor has emerged, ThreeSixty Pharmacy—whose aggressiveness in their expansion and all-out thrust to help out in sports (running and basketball) we’ve all been amazed at.

This 2012, the ThreeSixty Pharmacy Cup has added a fourth age category: 19 and Under. Prior to CYBL 2012, Rico stated four goals: a) CYBL will become THE basketball activity for 16, 13 & 10 Under age groups of Cebu; b) Add an Under 19 age group; c) CYBL will become the developmental league of the CESAFI and, (d) CYBL will “complete” the basketball programs of Cebu schools or school “networks.”

Talisay City is fast becoming a sports hub

This weekend—March 23 to 25—is one of the year’s busiest in sports.

Last night, we had the Alex John Banal vs. Raul Hidalgo quarrel. Held at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Lahug, that was the 13th edition of Pinoy Pride. Coming off the embarrassing Boom-Boom and Gernaro Garcia debacle, I’m sure the ALA Promotions team couldn’t wait for this Saturday night. A successful, full-packed crowd will erase the Tagbilaran nightmare.

At the same time yesterday evening, if you crossed the Marcelo Fernan Bridge and headed for the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City, you’d enter a boisterous crowd. It’s the Commissioner’s Cup tip-off between Talk ‘N Text and Rain or Shine. What makes this exciting is this: it’s no exhibition contest—but a crucial, bearing PBA game that happens prior to the playoffs. That’s boxing and basketball. Cebu vs. Mexico. Jimmy Alapag vs. Gabe Norwood.

This morning? It’s one of the most anticipated of road-running races this 2012: the Globe Run For Home. Did you know that Globe Telecom cancelled their annual Manila event to hold it right here, this morning? Yes. That’s 5,000-plus runners that will flood the streets from CICC to the SRP. That’s running.

Chess? Sure. Over the weekend is the 1st Cebu Age Group Challenge—a preliminary event whose winners will proceed to the Visayas championships in Kalibo, Aklan. After the world-record activity that involved over 43,000 children, this event signals a continuation of the sport of chess. Good move.

In football, there’s a pause in the competition for the 14th Aboitiz Cup to give way to the school where many of the Aboitizes studied at: Cebu International School. The event is the CIS Friendship Cup and, with children as young as four years old participating, a total of 108 teams are represented. That’s football. (And we’re not even talking about the contest, as written by Mike Limpag yesterday, called the “CFA Elections.”)

Tennis? There “was” supposed to have been a mega-event. At the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, today would have been the Cebu vs. Sarawak tennis challenge called the Lapu-Lapu Cup. Sarawak is one of the major cities of Malaysia and two of their country’s top juniors—coming from Sarawak—were supposed to be in Cebu this weekend. But last week, one of their players got sick. And you need two for doubles, right? Jacob Lagman, our Cebu No.1, was ready. So was Johnny Arcilla. And, for doubles, the tandem of RJ Abarquez and Kennex Abadia. Plantation Bay’s Efren Belarmino prepared his clay-surfaced tennis court. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Which brings us to… Talisay. After last weekend’s XTERRA in Liloan, the show continues this morning for the 1st Talisay Triathlon Race. Over 100 swimmers-bikers-runners are participating in this race that features a 1-km. swim, a 30K bike ride and a 7.5K run. If my little research is correct, the bike route will take the cyclists inside the SRP. Interesting because the SRP is also closed for the Globe Run. The two events are not expected to merge, though, because one will occupy the Cebu City side and the other will, of course, pass through their own boundary.

Talisay is becoming a sporting destination. This is good. As we know, the Gullas family is comprised of sports fanatics. From Eddigul to Dodong to Didi to Jiji to Samsam to Johnvic, the Gullases are all sports lovers. They play basketball, tennis, golf, badminton—name a sport and they like it, play it, support it.

Which brings me back to Talisay. Much like the cities of Cebu and Lapu-Lapu (and now, Liloan, with the XTERRA), the city of Talisay is getting sports-crazy. Apart from this morning’s triathlon, there’s the 5th Governor’s Cup Horse Show and Competition this weekend. The country’s best cowboys are in town.

What’s more, there’s the Takas sa Talisay All-Women Beach Volleyball Invitational. One city, one weekend, three sports.

XTERRA experience 2: MTB and trail run

(Photo by Reynan Opada)

MTB stands for mountain-bike. It’s that vehicle on two rugged tires with a flat handlebar that we used to maneuver the treacherous landscape of Liloan during the XTERRA last Sunday.

After my “waterloo” (the water, open-sea swim) was done, it was off to the 35-km. MTB ride. I loved it. You’re outdoors. You climb rocks and descend on slippery sand. You pedal amidst thick grass and brake once a giant boulder glares at you. After my 14:39 swim time, my bike ride was 2 hours, 44 minutes. Not fast; conservative. Early on my first of two loops, my three CO2 bottles fell. Had I gotten a flat tire… Oh, no.

(Photo by Icky Salazar)

Thank, God, that didn’t happen. The one occurrence that I also avoided did not transpire: meeting an accident. With such a technical and scary bike route—the architect of whom was Architect Miguel Flores—not getting battered or wounded was the goal. Another “Thank you, Lord” moment, I only fell once with a minor hip bruise.

If you’re a MTB’er and didn’t join XTERRA, you ought to drive to Liloan soon and try the experience. We passed a small opening in-between two bahay-kubos after ascending a steep climb. We descended (I walked) the famous Bagacay Point Lighthouse that’s now, according to Gov. Gwen Garcia, been renamed “graveyard” instead of “parola.”

Porter Marina? Beautiful. We entered the enclave surrounded by yachts and pedaled to the tip where we circled the gazebo. The Gatorade station awaited us. Guess who I saw there? A Cebuano whom I admire the most, Dr. Wyben Briones. He helped with his team from the All-terrain Medical Relief Org (AMRO).

(Photo by Dr. Wyben Briones)

The cheerers? I’ve joined numerous marathons and I’ve never witnessed as many loud voices—especially children—than four mornings ago. Because you bike on narrow paths, the residents troop out to watch and cheer. In the schools that we passed, the elementary girls and boys shouted, “YOU CAN DO IT!” Well-orchestrated by Mayor Duke, the Liloan residents provided extra boost to fuel our tired legs.

Not only were the spectators nice but the pros were, too. Before Ben Allen zoomed past me, he signaled, “Will pass through the right!” As he—and the other pros—would zip through, they never failed to say, “Thank you” after the pass. Amazing. This is the beauty of this sport. You not only get to compete right beside the world’s elite—but they’re courteous and respectful.

(Photo by Astrid Concepcion)

RUN. Since I joined the Lite, my run was 5K. After three hours of swimming and biking, the body gets weary. Still, not to have drowned nor gotten injured (yes!), the run was extra fun. I clocked 38 minutes. We zigzagged through off-road ground and hopped towards the beach. We ran beside the Liloan shoreline and, upon reaching the tip, had to wade through knee-deep waters for over 100 meters. I thought this was a swim-bike-run triathlon… Are they adding a swim as the 4th and final obstacle? Ha-ha.

(Photo by Icky Salazar)

After 3 hours and 36 minutes, with Jasmin, Jana and my mom Allen waiting at the finish, I crossed that line with arms raised high. Yes!

NOTE: I got a phone call past 4 P.M. when I reached home. It was Caecent Magsumbol of The Freeman. Did I hear the news? she asked. Oh, no. Not a terrible accident on a participant, I thought. I was in 2nd place! No way, I said. No way. In my 40 – 44 age bracket (Lite), I placed No. 2 behind Jun Barcenas. Wow, hard to believe! (Before you get too excited: excluding Goyo Larrazabal, who didn’t show up, we were only seven in the age group. Still, the trophy looks good!)

BEN ALLEN STORY. Two days before race day, Ralph Sios-e and I visited Amara for a practice swim. As we finished changing and were about to leave, a man approached us. Can I hitch a ride? he asked. He was alone and had no vehicle ride back to the city. Sure, we said. We didn’t know him but he needed help. But just as we were packing our things, Jacs Jacalan drove by. He, Tenggoy Colmenares and Jomer Lim were ready to go… and so he rode with them instead.

At the Carbo-loading Party the night after, Jacs tells me: remember that guy who rode with us? His name is Ben Allen. He was Xterra champion in Guam the week before. Simple, ordinary-looking fellow but he beat all the top-rated elite pros. We saw Ben later that night at CICC and, like he was when we first met him, he was relaxed and had none of that “celebrity air” found in others. It turns out, Ben was a P.E. teacher in Australia and had no sponsors. He joined and needed to win to earn enough money to compete!

The next morning, Ben Allen obliterated the field—winning in 2:30. His is an example of this adage: Nice guys finish first.

XTERRA experience: Surviving the swim…

(Photos by Dr. Wyben Briones)

Let me begin with the party. Saturday night at the CICC. Gov. Gwen Garcia knows how to celebrate and make the Welcome Dinner… XTERRA-special. As dozens of foreign triathletes arrived, they were accorded the famous “Cebuano hospitality.”

Dancers wowed the audience. Actors Richard Guttierez and Jericho Rosales added glitter to the ballroom. Pasta overflowed. I got to meet the energetic drive behind Liloan, Mayor Duke Frasco. Then, organizer Fred Uytengsu, Jr. beamed with pride as he proclaimed, “I’m happy to bring XTERRA to my hometown of Cebu!”

XTERRA is one of the few events where more participants come from out-of-town than from Cebu. And, judging from their faces that night, the visitors were awed: nowhere are they accorded as dazzling a Welcome Party as in Cebu.

RACE DAY. I woke up at 3:50 A.M. After drinking coffee and munching on chicken sandwich, I donned my one-piece Speedo suit—my solitary attire that morning.

At 5:15, Jasmin, Jana and I were off. As soon as we entered Amara, the usually-serene subdivision reverberated with energy. “Boom-Boom Pow” pulsated from the speakers. Colorful tents littered the marina. Parking was full. I met Gianluca and Matteo Giudicelli and wished them good luck.

It was body-marking time. And no less than Boying Rodriguez, the man responsible for bringing Xterra to our shores, marked “425” on my left arm and right leg.

Kisses and hugs between triathletes and family members ensued. Birthday boy Rio de la Cruz’s hair further electrified the crowd. Photos, ready for FB, were snapped. Gov. Gwen arrived. Eddie and Annabelle Guttierez were next. It was panic time. By 6:40, nobody but the participants would be allowed inside the starting area.

Tenggoy Colmenares helped strap three GU gels in my bike. We took a 5-minute warm-up swim to acclimatize our bodies. Then, as a remote-controlled helicopter circled the marina and the emcee Jaime Garchitorena counted down, “3… 2… 1!” the siren blared as the triathletes were off…

SWIM. Luckily, the sea was calm; but the splashes and bumping of bodies were choppy. They would encircle the rectangle (buoys) twice to complete 1.5 kms.

Our group? About 60 of us—XTERRA Lite competitors—waited for an hour. (My mom Allen sneaked in to give his son a hug!) Then, as swimmer after swimmer emerged, it was our turn.

At 8 A.M., we swam. I had always been anxious about open-sea swimming. An athlete on land, I was not accustomed to the dangers of the ocean. I reminded myself: relax. Yet, I couldn’t relax. Swimming near the rope and buoys, that was where the most traffic was located. Bad move. I had to stop, tread, pedal again. I got kicked. I kicked. Had to overtake; was overtaken. All you could visualize were bubbles and splashes. The sand underneath was 10, 15 feet deep!

Mentally, I told myself to target one buoy at a time. The finish was still far and if you think too far ahead, more pressure sets in. One white buoy at a time.

I struggled. It wasn’t until halfway through our 500-meter distance when the swimmers had spread out that I felt more comfortable. Still, the heart rate was 100 percent max and all you can tell yourself was, “Let’s get this over with!”

Finally, after what seemed like 30 minutes (I finished with an actual time of 14:39; that includes the transition time from swim to bike), I reached the shore. Thank you, Lord! (Compare my swim time to former Olympiad Guy Concepcion – the winner of our Lite swim leg who finished under six minutes!)

I had always told myself that after the swim, my race was done—I can completely enjoy myself. Which was true…

(These photos by Nimrod Quiñones)

BIKE. I love mountain-biking. Given Cebu’s mountainous terrain, it’s one of the most exhilarating activities. And that’s how my 35-km. ride transpired. I loved it. Many times I’d whisper, “Thank you, Lord!” for the fresh air and mountains.

In the first 17.5-K loop, I biked with Matteo Giudicelli and his group. It was good. Why? Everybody knows Matteo. And so, with hundreds of spectators lining the inner, narrow roads of Liloan, they all cheered us on!

One funny moment: a spectator shouted, pointing at me from afar, “Naa si Richard Guttierez! Si Richard!” Then, realizing I was not, “Ay, dili man diay si Richard!”

My goal was not to get injured or have a flat tire. The scary part? I lost my three CO2 bottles—to help fix a flat tire. (More on the bike and run this Thursday.)

Extra! XTERRA! Cebu hosts the off-road TRI

As one of the hundreds of participants of this weekend’s Vaseline Men XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon Series, here are some points…

RACE PACKS. Within the first hour when the race kits were released last Friday, I made sure to visit the Holiday Spa. After paying P3,800 to register, you’re expected to receive plenty of freebies. True enough, this international event did not disappoint. A race cap, running belt, two GU gels, a temporary tattoo, plus a pair of 2XU compression socks were inside the bag. T-shirt? Not yet. Those will be given at the finish line. Courtesy of the mayor, Titay’s rosquillos and goodies were part of the giveaways.

The one that interested me most was the wrist I.D. After they give you the pack (Igi Maximo and I got our kits together), they put a neon-colored (yellow) race band on your wrist that can’t be removed (unless you cut it off after the event). Unlike race bibs for running that are easily transferrable, the non-removable wristband ensures that nobody else but “John Pages” uses my kit. Wise! Also, you get to sleep and dine with your race band for a couple of nights – adding to the excitement.

IRONMAN. Arland Macasieb is often described as the country’s Ironman. The first Filipino to cross the finish line at the 2011 Ironman 70.3, Arland has won gold in numerous events. Two nights ago at Justin Uy’s J Centre Mall, Arland gave a talk on triathlon. What sets Arland apart from any other triathlete-teacher is that he’s armed with a degree in Exercise Physiology. This means he speaks not only from first-hand experience but also with scientific backing. Given his packed schedule, it was commendable for Arland to share his time with the Cebuanos. Kudos to organizers Jerome Mil, Benjoe Gimenez and Great Adventures and Concepts @ Work.

THE BRICK. Tonight is the grand opening of the business of a top sportsman. Noy Jopson is formally opening his multi-sport business that caters to runners, bikers, swimmers. Visit The Brick at the lower level (beside Tablea) of J Centre Mall.

GOV. GWEN. Volleyball, horse-back riding, and airsoft have been supported, among others, by Gov. Gwen Garcia and the Provincial Government. Add “triathlon” to the list this 2012 as the governor supports XTERRA and Ironman 70.3. Last night at the CICC, after our race briefing at 6 P.M., she hosted a carbo-loading party for the participants.

SWIM. On a personal note… I’ve been biking since I was eight years old. I’ve been running since my elementary school-days. So biking and running come naturally. Swimming? No, no. It’s the one obstacle that has disallowed me from joining the Ironman 70.3. Thanks to the Lite version of the XTERRA (swim is only 500 meters instead of 1.5 kms.), I’m joining the race — as you read this today.

Fear? Sure. Last month, I accompanied Jacs Jacalan, Tenggoy Colmenares and Joseph Miller for a dip in Shangri-La. Bad timing for me that day, the waves were tall. No problem for my triathlete-companions, but major concern for me. I struggled. Held on the buoys and rope every five meters. It was excruciating; a far negative experience compared to the enjoyable mountain-biking or running.

But you know what I realized? Patience. While I’ve been running and biking for three decades now, my swimming habit only started two months ago. So I shouldn’t be overly optimistic—or put myself down if I can’t swim like a fish. This morning, I’ve lowered my expectations: will swim slow and easy. I’ll hold on the buoys and rope as often as my mind says so. It doesn’t matter if I finish late. What matters is I relieve the unnecessary pressure on myself. Relax. That’s another reminder.

Two mornings ago, I had a practice swim with top triathlete Ralph Sios-e at Amara. The waters were semi-rough. They weren’t as smooth as a lake. (We even saw a foot-long sea snake!) Still, being an ignorant, non-swimmer, this I realized: you float on open sea water. Little effort is needed to stay afloat. Said Ralph: “It will take more energy to drown that to float.”

Mayor Duke Frasco: ‘Liloan, sports hub’

While Lapu-Lapu City organized the Davis Cup tennis “Battle Of Mactan” and Mandaue City played hosts to PBA games, Dennis Rodman, horse-back riding contests and Cebu City has Guinness World Records in dancesport and chess, another Cebu locality is carving its name in sports: Liloan.

“I think Liloan is prime to be the sports tourism capitol of Cebu,” said Liloan Mayor Vincent Franco “Duke” Frasco. “We have the beaches for water sports and possibly, wake-boarding; bike trails for the mountain-bike enthusiasts, and trail runs for international and huge events, like XTERRA Championships.”

Mayor Duke is right. If we talk of “outdoor and adventure sports,” no city or municipality in Cebu today boasts of capturing that niche or segment.

Water sports? Check. Wake-boarding? Check. This was popularized nationwide by Camarines Sur but, with the loss of the Ironman 70.3 from Camsur, how about Cebu—maybe in Liloan’s Silot Bay—building a wake-boarding facility? Mountain-biking? Check. Twice, I’ve trekked the MTB route of Xterra and it’s challenging and beautiful. Above the hills near Amara, you have the encompassing view of the sea and the mountains. Trail running? Check. The Columbia Trail Run, held last month in Liloan, has received laudable reviews. I saw a video produced by one of the participants, Dr. James Guardiario, and the Trail Run in Liloan was breathtaking.

“Lilo-an has the complete package,” said race organizer Ralph Pilapil. “It’s coastal and it is also near a mountain, which has a very scenic view.” I agree. “Liloan Sports” has the potential to be a huge tourism booster because the man at the helm of this 1st class municipality is, himself, a first-class athlete.

I spoke to Duke two days ago and he’s an avid sportsman. He plays golf and is a fan of Rory Mcilroy. He lifts weights thrice weekly. His favorite? Running. “I’ve finished two 21Ks,” said the mayor. “The Cebu Marathon and the Operation Smile Run.” The 42K? Sure. Liloan’s mayor has enlisted himself in the online lottery for this November’s New York City Marathon. “Last year, I also joined the lottery but did not make it. I hope to enter this time and finish my first full marathon.”

Duke ran for public office as mayor in 2007 but he’s been running on the road since 1998, in high school. “I love to run. It’s not only a great way to stay fit and keep healthy,” he said, “but it helps me relieve tension and stress acquired from a demanding schedule and job.” Running helps the mayor run Liloan.

With this weekend and the XTERRA Championships, Mayor Duke is not only busy with all the preparations—he’s also busy preparing, physically. “Like last year’s XTERRA, I’m joining the Relay. Our team, Abante Liloan, will have Keith Ocampo as swimmer and my cousin, Aljew Frasco, as the biker. I’ll do the 10K run. My target is to finish the run in 53 minutes. Last year, our team placed 3rd. Let’s see this Sunday…”

XTERRA is lucky to be held amidst the rugged terrain of Liloan. Being the off-road version of the triathlon, Liloan’s clear waters plus rocky and tough landscape are a perfect mix. Liloan, obviously, is also fortunate for having been chosen by Fred Uytengsu, Jr., race director Guy Concepcion and their Sunrise Events team for this international meet.

“XTERRA is as big to Liloan and to me as it is to the individual participants coming from all over the world,” said the mayor. “It’s an opportunity for us to showcase our beautiful town and the hospitality of our people.”

Plus, of course, it helps that the major backer not only of XTERRA but also of the bigger triathlon event, the Cobra Ironman 70.3 (this August 5), happens to be the Provincial Government, headed by Gov. Gwen Garcia—the mother-in-law of Mayor Duke Frasco.

With all these, Liloan will succeed in sports. It’s going the “XTERRA-mile.”

50K Women’s Ultra

WOMEN’S ULTRA. Each year, the date “March 8” is celebrated worldwide as the International Women’s Day. Very fitting that, just two days after last Thursday, on March 10, the women ran. A total of 181 women joined the 50K Ultra-marathon that started at 10 P.M. and finished at sunrise on Sunday.

To Merlita Arias Dunkin, whom we awarded the weekend before in the 30th Cebu Sports Awards, congratulations for being No.1, clocking 5:28. Who says women are weaker? Now, these ladies have beaten most of the long-distance male runners.

“Running has reinforced discipline,” said Joy Polloso, who started running only a couple of years ago but now has several marathon medals hanging in her closet. She finished the 50K in a very respectable 7:44.

“For an event that was conceptualized over a few discussions with the small group of ‘elders’ in Ungo and CUC in December, we didn’t have enough time to prepare and yet we were able to generate participants from Singapore, Japan, etc aside from those from Manila, Albay, Davao, Bohol,” said Joy.

Take a bow, ladies!

Hit by few spectators, Charice was a hit

We watch sports to be entertained. Last Sunday, we got entertained by a different type of sport. The athlete? She sported a tattoo.

Charice. In her first solo concert in Cebu, two “negatives” I can mention. First, few people showed up. When the concert started, 60 percent of the Waterfront ballroom was empty. Shocking! But it wasn’t surprising. The organizers hardly marketed the event. I didn’t even know about the event until my sister Cheryl reserved tickets. (Also, I’ve never seen so many scalpers prowling the lobby.) The other “bad” part? Charice’s image. Unlike the sweet and cute teenager that we’ve seen on Oprah and with David Foster, this time she has the “edgy” look: gloves, leather jacket, dyed hair covering her face. (With her change of look/image, she didn’t even sing a single Celine Dion song!)

Still, seated seven rows from the stage and together with 10 other family members, it was an entertainment blast.

Charice opened with David Guetta’s “Without You.” She spoke in perfect Bisaya, “Maayong gabii kaninyong tanan.” Admitting that she was nervous, (“It’s my first time back since I came here for the ‘Little Big Star’ contest,” she said), Charice is a world-class performer. She did renditions from Michael Jackson, Adele, Bruno Mars and she sang Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” The sentimental part was when she recalled the death last year of her father (“I never got to perform in front of him”) and sang Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”

The best part? Of course, when Iyaz appeared on-stage for “Pyramid.” Iyaz then did several solo songs and got the seated audience standing and dancing.

Ending? Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” to which Charice added… “I will always love you… Cebu.” It was a blast. Sayang that few people watched.

XTERRA: the swim-bike-run adventure

www.xterraphil.com

This 2012, the “Year Of The Water Dragon,” Cebu will host two major triathlon events: the Ironman 70.3 in Mactan and the XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon. While the Ironman 70.3 — a major loss for Camarines Sur — is still this August 5, the XTERRA is happening on March 18. That’s seven mornings from today.

What’s XTERRA? It’s off-road. It’s mountain-biking instead of the road bike. It’s a trail run. It’s more adventure than speed. And, best of all, it’s happening here, at one of the most scenic real-estate projects of our island, where the sea and sun beckon for free: the Amara residential community in Liloan.

I’m joining. A mountain-bike fanatic, how can I not? While others travel to distant locations to participate, the Cebuanos are lucky that this event of Fred Uytengsu, Jr. is being organized in his home place of Sugbu.

The XTERRA Lite. That’s the event I’m joining. Unlike the full XTERRA Triathlon with a 1.5-km. swim, a 35K bike and a 10K run, the Lite version only has a 500 meter swim. The bike distance is the same while the run is cut to 5K.

Why the Lite? I have zero background in open-sea swimming. The only time I tried the Tri was a couple of years back in the “Pipti-Pipti” race and Joel Garganera and myself were holding on the buoys and rope (and to our lives!) in the short 300-meter swim. There are 49 of us joining the Lite. For the full version, 171 have confirmed.

This is not all. There’s also the XTERRA Trail Run. This happens this Friday, the day before the triathlon. Only 69 have registered so far and, Cebu being such a huge running haven, I’m surprised that hundreds haven’t enlisted. The Trail Run, with choices of 5K, 10K or 21K, is all-adventure. You’ll climb short hills, jog on grass, step over boulders and bask in the terrain of the country’s newest trail run playground called Liloan. Registration is still open.

Yesterday, thanks to Tyrone Tan, who owns a beautiful, overlooking-the-sea property in Amara, several of us congregated at 6 A.M. to do a simulation run. We swam. (Well, they did; I swam-and-stopped, pausing often to “acclimatize.”) We biked the full two loops. While biking, I high-fived a child/spectator and fell on hard cement. (My butt is still sore as I sit typing this.) We also did a short run. Igi Maximo, Bernard Palermo, Dodong Sulatre, Tenggoy Colmenares, Meyrick Jacalan, Joseph Miller and several more joined. Regan King, Niño Surban and another group also did the bike trek.

Chance favors the prepared

My best friend Dr. Ronald Eullaran’s favorite saying is this: “Chance favors the prepared.” Pause for a moment and think about those four words. Chance favors the prepared.

This is the story of Jeremy Lin. You think he’s a one-shot wonder, someone who was a nobody and, due to a lucky break, was just fortunate to become the world’s newest superstar? No. All his life, Jeremy Lin prepared for that moment. That “Chance,” that one opportunity to shine, was never presented to him before. Before college, he applied to join the best basketball universities in America. UCLA. Stanford. UC, Berkley. He was turned down. He ended up in Harvard. (Not bad!)

After Harvard, he sent his resume to fulfill a lifelong dream: becoming an NBA player. He submitted his credentials to eight NBA squads. All eight said, “Sorry, kid, you’re not good enough.”

Finally, Jeremy did enter the league and joined the Golden State Warriors. He wasn’t golden there; he was a golden bench-warmer — asked to sit down and lay golden eggs on the bench. Next, he got transferred to the New York Knicks where, sleeping in his friend’s couch, he was weeks away from being cut.

Then, the moment he’d been waiting for all his life appeared. Many call it “lucky break.” Some say its “opportunity” or “good fortune” or a “stroke of luck.” It was Jeremy Lin’s chance. A couple of players from the Knicks got injured. Having few options — and in desperation after their team lost 11 of their last 13 games — coach Mike D’Antoni called the forever-sitting Jeremy Lin to play ball.

Game One, he scored 25 points. Game 2, he scored another 28 points. Against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, he shot 38. In Jeremy’s first seven games with NY, they were 7-0. From a win-loss record of 8-15, they climbed to 15-all. In the process, Lin became the NBA’s first-ever player to score at least 20 points and pass for seven or more assists in each of his first five starts. Even Michael Jordan couldn’t achieve that!

Of course, as expected, New York has slipped in their last few games, including a loss yesterday to Dallas. Still, they’re a respectable 18-20 today; having won 10 and lost five since Lin joined.

Lin is the world’s super-hero. Chance? Swerte? Luck? Yes. Of course. Everybody who’s good needs good luck. And, true enough, many who are good are luckier. But remember this: Chance favors the prepared. All his life, Jeremy prepared for the moment. In high school, he averaged 15 points per game. In college at Harvard and while studying the difficult Economics course, he averaged 16 PPG in his senior year.

Jeremy Lin is not surprised at his success — like we all are — because he prepared for it.

What does this tell us, ordinary mortals? Prepare. Whatever it is you want to pursue in life — sports-related or work-related or school-related or any dream that you own in life — be ready. Your opportunity will come. Maybe it hasn’t. It possibly won’t be today, next Friday, or this April. But it will come. And, when it does, be ready.

As inspiration to all of us, here are a few quotations…

“The will to prepare is as important as the will to win.” – Bud Wilkinson

“Don’t go to the fishpond without a net.” ~ Japanese Proverb

“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.” ~ Henry Ford

“Talent alone won’t make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is: ‘Are your ready?’” – Johnny Carson

“Chance favors the prepared mind.” ~ Louis Pasteur

“The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” – Benjamin Disraeli

“Today’s preparation determines tomorrow’s achievement.”

“It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” – Whitney Young

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

Starry, star-filled night in Cebu

Of the year’s 366 nights (yes, that includes Feb. 29), the one evening I enjoy the most happened last Saturday. It was the 30th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards.

As president of the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC), I was fortunate to have stood on-stage and overlooked all of Cebu’s top sports personalities. Including three nights ago, I’ve presided over four Awards Nights: In 2009, we had Manny Pacquiao as guest speaker. Two years ago, it was Antonio Lopez Aldeguer. Last year, the “Year of the Azkals,” we had the “founder” of the Azkals, Dan Palami.

Last Saturday, our guest of honor was Chito Loyzaga, the former PBA superstar and now one of the commissioners of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

With Chito Loyzaga (center) with Rico Navarro

Why was the 30th Cebu Sports Awards special, apart from gathering under one open roof all of our elite athletes? “The reason why Cebu sports is one of the nation’s best,” I explained to Mr. Loyzaga in my Closing Remarks while standing beside him on-stage, “is because of those two gentlemen there seated beside each other.”

I then requested the two to stand and be applauded. Edward Hayco and Harry Radaza. For the first time in a major gathering, the sports leaders of Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu City sat alongside each other, exchanging stories and ideas. Thanks to Ed and Harry, Cebu is a leader in sports.

With Harry and Ed

AWARDING. Nearly 200 athletes were honored. Mary Grace de los Santos and Mary Joy Tabal we could hardly recognize because they wore glittering dresses and high-heels — so different from their sleeveless-shirts and running shoes.

AJ Banal, Milan Melindo and the ALA boys were there. So were Sammy Gello-ani and Leon Panoncillo. The one who looked most stunning? Lorhiz Echavez-Lopez, who wore a sexy, body-hugging dress… and she just gave birth seven days ago!

Also looking pretty were the lady-sportswriters, who all wore dresses. And us, gentlemen, barong-tagalog.

PRESENTATIONS. The University of Cebu (UC) Cheer Dance group opened the event with a performance that included cart-wheels, balancing acts, and up-in-the-air flips.

Carmelli Garrovillo, prior to her receiving her Special Citation trophy, danced. She’s a multi-awarded gymnast. Then, Johnlery Caniga and his Yaw-Yan team did a Mixed Martial Arts demo.

Then, for the finale, Dancesport Team Cebu City re-enacted their “Human Chess Dancers” performance that was part of our Guinness World Record chess attempt.

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR.  This was awarded to one of the few chess Grandmasters of our nation: Richard Bitoon. As editor Mike Limpag pointed out yesterday, chess is the big winner of the 30th Cebu Sports Awards.

GIRLIE. Without San Miguel Brewery, Inc., represented by Girlie Garces, the event would not have happened. SAC and SMB have been partners all these 30 years. Thanks, Girlie!

HARRY. The speech of the night? It belonged to the man who received the “Sportsman of the Year” trophy: Lapu-Lapu City Councilor Harry Radaza.

I had the chance to work with Harry last year on two projects. Exactly one year ago today, we hosted the first Phils. vs. Japan tennis event of the Davis Cup. Then, in September, another Davis Cup tie: Phils. vs. Chinese-Taipei (Taiwan). Apart from tennis, Harry organized PBA games, multilple road-running events, Pinoy Pride boxing clashes. Plus, of course, there’s the Hoops Dome.

In his acceptance speech last Saturday night, Harry joked the athletes: “My love for sports started when I was seven years old and I won third place in a swimming competition.” The crowd clapped. “We were only three participants!” he added, drawing laughter from the audience.

Harry also delivered the most memorable line when he ended his speech by  saying… “As soon as I wake up in the morning, I read the newspapers. And the section that I read first is the sports section. Why? Because unlike the front pages that talk about people’s failures, you guys, the sportswriters, write about people’s accomplishments.”

Well-said, Harry. And, perfectly-timed today, let me greet you… Happy Birthday!

CCC stands for ‘Country’s Club Champions’

Atty. Jovi Neri calls the Philippine Airlines (PAL) Interclub event that finished last weekend, “The biggest and most prestigious golf team tournament with a 65-year history and around 800 players joining.”

Cebu Country Club emerged victorious last weekend at the Apo Golf Club in Davao City. “Simply put,” explained Neri, “CCC has the best golf team in the country.”

Jovi has been part of the CCC squad since 2003. The past 10 years, they’ve won the Founders’ Division seven times. “We stuck with the same core team while others disbanded because their players turned professional. This moved us up to the Championship Division where we were 2nd last year in our first crack losing to the home team. Finally, this year and on neutral ground, we won.”

As head of the CCC Jungolf program, Neri is all-smiles. “I have received numerous congratulatory texts commending me on a job well done with the junior program because our top scorers were the juniors – Lj Go, Gen Nagai and Gio Gandionco. But I also want to put it on record that I, too, am a player and have a little game myself (hahaha!). Also, guys on the team such as myself, Mark Dy, and Marko Sarmiento come from an older generation of junior golfers and credit should go to the leaders of that era too – Vicky Moraza and Reny Sarmiento.”

Credit, of course, goes to all the team members. These include CCC president Montito Garcia, Eric Deen, Carl Almario and Bayani Garcia.

“The past winners of the PAL Interclub were ‘hired guns,’” said Neri. “Meaning provincial players recruited by Luzon courses to receive monthly allowances and playing privileges on the condition that they will represent their team in the PAL. With our win, we have shown that home-grown players who have a common origin in the junior golf program and have a genuine affiliation with our club rooted from childhood can win. This will not only inspire our team but others as well. Alta Vista and Alabang are among those fielding junior golfers.”

One of the secrets shared by Neri? Let the kids be kids and not give them unnecessary restrictions.

“Two days before we left for Davao, Lj, Gio, and Gen played badminton. During the tournament, we were hosted to a dinner in a house with a spacious lawn and the kids played volleyball and soccer. I don’t subscribe to some who say that other sports are bad for golf. The more active the lifestyle, the more athletic the player… that can only be good for golf. The kids also hit the gym regularly.”

Gio Gandionco, 16, the son of proud parents Opep and Cora, was the final player on the last day. On the 18th hole, he drained a six-foot birdie putt to score an impressive two-over-par 74 (34 points).

“Yes I was a little nervous,” said Gio, who’ll soon move to the U.S. on a college scholarship. “Being the last player has so much pressure, especially on the last hole when everyone is watching your every move. But, I thought, after all the experience I’ve been through, I can handle the pressure. Sinking my birdie putt on the last hole felt great. Even though that putt had not much bearing, I wanted to finish it with a birdie to prove that despite the pressure, I can make it.”

On pressure, Gio adds these tips: “I try to stay calm and breathe. Just take deep breaths, think positive and stay in the present. I try not to think too much and just go over my routine. The only thing in my head is imagining myself hitting the best shot and seeing the ball go where I want it to go.”

Next year? The PAL Interclub will fly back to Cebu. Our last hosting was back in 2001. “This will be a joint exercise with all four clubs – CCC, Club Filipino, Alta Vista and Mactan,” said Neri. “Two clubs will host the seniors event the week before and, the other two, the regular event. We are privileged to have a captain like Montito Garcia who has friends all over, so whenever we travel there are people always inviting us out. Now that we will be hosting it, we look forward to giving back the hospitality. As a team, this win will motivate us to practice earlier and harder than ever.”