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!

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