Monthly Archives: April 2012

Q & A with Jesse Bernad

Jesse with Ken Griffey, Jr.

Last Feb. 28 to March 12, the sportsman whose name is synonymous to Cebu baseball/softball left for America on a dream-come-true visit. He was one of a dozen Filipinos who flew to Scottsdale, Arizona for a U.S. State Department-sponsored sojourn. Here are Jesse’s own words …

1.    When did you leave/arrive? The Philippine Baseball and Softball Coaches delegation left for Scottsdale Arizona on Feb 28 and came back Mar 12, 2012.

2.    How many were you from the Phils? 12 of you and you were the only one from Cebu?   There were 12 coaches that were chosen among dozens of applicants coming from all over the Philippines. 6 men and 6 ladies. 3 from Mindanao(Davao, Cotabato, Zambo Norte), 3 from Visayas (Cebu, Bacolod, Talisay NegOcc) and 6 from Luzon (Ilocos, Bulacan, Smokey Mountain, Las Pinas, Valenzuela and Batangas). Yes, i was the only 1 from Cebu.

3.    What was the objective of your trip? The US Embassy saw the potential of the sport of Baseball and Softball in the Philippines. Hence, they wanted Coaches with existing programs to be appropriately trained in the US to improve the quality of their players.

4.    Was this the first time the US government did this?  Yes, this was the first time of its kind. The US state department has a program called Sports United and they invite Sports Ambassadors to visit the US and experience/observe how they run the different sports programs. Our group had been the 16th group. There were other groups from other countries before us who represented other sports like basketball, tennis, golf, etc.

5.    Details of the trip… Our host gave us a full schedule wherein we were able to observe firsthand how Americans ran their baseball program at different levels of play starting from Little League, High School, College and the Pros. Initially, we were sent to a baseball bootcamp where former Major League Players turned coaches Ken Huckaby and Clay Bellinger thought us the basics of coaching. We then got to visit a couple of Little League Programs one of which was Chandler and worked with their kids applying what we learned in the bootcamp. We also visited some High School programs like Dessert Vista and interacted with their coaches and players and discussed their program and how it works. University of Arizona was the only college program we saw but it was the best – what an amazing sports program and facility they have. State of the art gym, locker rooms, equipment room and fields. Lastly, we got to visit 3 Major League Spring Training facilities – San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants. They toured us around their facilities and saw firsthand their practice sessions. We got to meet and interact with some MLB coaches and players.

6.    Where did you stay? Who did you meet? we stayed at the Radisson Fort Mcdowell Resort in Scottsdale which is just a few miles away from most baseball Spring Training facilities in the Pheonix area. Coach Ken Huckaby and Clay Bellinger were excellent coaches with lots of Major League experience. Unfortunately, former MLB player Ken Griffey, Sr. – the father of MLB superstar Ken Griffey Jr (who visited Cebu last year) couldnt make it to our clinic due to his busy schedule. We had a very intimate meeting with the Legendary Softball Coach Mike Candrea of University of Arizona and Team USA, who brought 8 NCAA championships to UA and 2 Olympic Gold Medals for Team USA. He gave us a 30-minute inspirational talk – which is very rare for a guy of his stature – and another 30 minutes of Q&A. We got to meet 3-time All-American softball player Alicia Hollowell as she toured us around UA Softball field and practice area. Coach Dave Lopez of UA Baseball team was also very open in sharing his knowledge of the game. During our MLB visits, we met most of the players and talked to some most notably Fil-American San Diego starting shortstop Jason Bartlett and outfielder Carlos Quention, San Francisco Giants Batting Coach Bam-bam Muelens, etc.

7.    What were the most significant moments? The most significant moment was being at the field at the SF Giants Spring Training Stadium while the players were having batting and fielding practices and getting to see all the players and superstars. We then got to see them play against the Colorado Rockies and we were 2 rows behind their dugout. So we were very close to all the players and even heard them talk. Another Fil-American Tim Lincecum was the starting pitcher for the Giants. As a baseball fan getting to experience all this, is the ultimate high.

8.    Full Access? we had access to places where other fans were not allowed to go to like stadium clubhouse, locker rooms, dugout, mess hall, gum, etc. Since the US State Department was the one who arrange our visit, there was a PR person who was assigned to us fulltime to take us around, explain their organization and introduce people to us.

9.    What lessons did you learn from the trip? oh so much! we all learned the right way how to ran a program. To be competitive, it is not enough to practice once or twice a week. You need to let the players do the drills over and over again for them to make the right split-second decisions during games. Four 2-hour practices a week and 1 game should be the minimum. We were also taught how players and coaches carry themselves during practices and games. We learned how to apply the different types of coaching in the 4 disciplines of the game – fielding, hitting, throwing and base-running.  We were taught new drill variations and methods using unique but inexpensive equipment. And lastly, the sequence on how you run practices starting from warming-up up to cooling down.

10.    Does softball/baseball have a bright future in Cebu? Phils? Oh yes, baseball and softball has a very bright future in Cebu and the Philippines. It just has to start somewhere. I learned that there is no quick fix to the sport. We need to start from the very bottom which is to teach very young kids (6-8 years old) the proper way to play. These kids will grow up learning the sport and when they reach the age of 11-12, they will be very competitive already. So it will take a few years. I just came from Clark Freeport 2 wks ago and saw how teams from other parts of the country playing excellent baseball and softball already. I was amazed how well they play. Cebu has to start opening up to the sport especially the private schools. Ateneo, La Salle, UST, UP and other private schools in Manila all have good baseball/softball programs and offer scholarships. Most of Cebu’s private schools don’t have a baseball or softball programs. I am still trying hard to convince the different school administrators to adopt baseball and softball as an alternative sport to students.

11.    What specific programs/steps will you undertake (coming from the trip)? I will be working hand in hand with the Cebu City Sports Commission with their grassroots program in the barangays as a volunteer so i can teach them what i learned in the US. I will personally continue promoting the sport in private schools and work hard to make them realize how great the sport is and be part of future tournaments. I am working with some Manila-base partners on bringing manila teams and even International teams to Cebu to compete against our local teams sometime 2012-2013

Fastball summer program…. Fastball is starting its 2012-2013 Baseball and Softball program with a Summer Camp for kids ages 5-16 y.o. starting on Monday, April 30 to May 18, 2012 at the Aboitiz Sports Field in Subangdaku. Practices will be from 4-6pm daily, Mondays thru Fridays. For more details, pls contact Coach Jesse Bernad, 0917 3222284, jessebernad@yahoo.com of FB Jesse Bernad.

King of Clay beats the King of Tennis

I’ve never been to Monte Carlo. But my wife Jasmin and her whole Mendez family did, back in 1993. Says Jasmin: “Monaco is one of the most picturesque locations in the world. You’re standing up on a hill, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, gazing at multi-million dollar yachts and Lamborghinis. It’s Europe’s rich-and-famous playground.”

One man who calls Monte Carlo his playground stands 6-foot-1, weighs 188 lbs. and is tennis’ version of The Gladiator: Rafael Nadal.

Isn’t he the world’s happiest person today? He is. After losing to Novak Djokovic the last seven times, all finals, he won last Sunday on the red clay of Monte Carlo, 6-3, 6-1. Vamos, Rafa!

“Nobody beats Rafa eight times in a row!” as if he was to scream to the world. Now, Frank Malilong, the lefty lawyer, can exhale a huge sigh of relief. His idol won. Same with Manny Sainz, Bob Lozada, Noy and Amale Jopson, Fabby Borromeo, Ernie Delco and millions of other Rafa-natics!

“Monte Carlo is the most beautiful Masters 1000 tournament for me,” Nadal said. “To start the clay-court season winning here is an amazing feeling. To beat Novak in a final after losing a few is an important result for me. It was important to break this series and to do it here – it’s perfect.”

Rafa’s eighth victory in one event is not only amazing—it’s outrageous. It’s not fantastic; it’s irrational. Monte Carlo is a Masters 1000 tournament—one of Earth’s biggest in tennis. Starting 2005, he’s won every single match.

“To have eight victories, you must be lucky, you have to have no injuries, perfect conditions for eight years in a row. That’s the first thing,” said Nadal. “And you have to be playing almost perfect to win eight titles in a row, especially in a Masters. The best in the world always play – you have to win against the best.”

In all these eight years—take a deep breath on this ludicrous statistic—Nadal has lost only six sets. He lost zero sets this 2012. And won $603,000 to increase his career total to $48 million. No, our ‘Man… Pac is still richer, but $48M translates to over P2 billion pesos. Wow. And this excludes Nike’s dollar payments.

On the significance of last weekend, Peter Bodo, my favorite tennis scribe, wrote this: “This is also a record 20th Masters title for Nadal, and perhaps most significantly if not most glamorously, his first tournament win of any kind in 10 months—since he won the French Open in early June last year…

“This overwhelming win may has enabled Nadal to hit that reset button for which he’s been groping for so long now, going all the way back nearly a full year to Madrid, where Djokovic pulled a nasty surprise on the then-No. 1. He pummeled him on clay, a feat that by then many had consigned to the realm of the impossible.”

More? Here’s one more: April is Rafa’s lucky month. On this month, he’s won 72 straight matches on clay. King of Clay? Yes. But, also: King of April.

Still, the King of Tennis isn’t him. It’s still the Serbian 6-foot-2 (Novak) who leads the world rankings with 13,270 points. Rafa only has 9,715 while R. Federer trails with 8,880. At No. 4, A. Murray lurks with 7,860.

I’ve had the chance, twice, to watch Mr. Nadal in person. The first was in 2007 when, together with Dr. Ronald Anthony Medalle and his beauteous wife Stephanie, I sat with Jasmin inside the Malawati Stadium in Kualu Lumpur, Malaysia. Rafa played an exhibition match against Richard Gasquet. That was a most memorable trip (two days after, it was Sampras-Federer) that included a bus ride from KL to Singapore.

Jasmin and I again saw Rafa during the Olympics. We witnessed him fall to the Beijing floor after championship point to claim an Olympic gold medal.

Why is this fierce, Gladiator-like warrior so likable? Because he’s both: humble and soft-spoken with the killer instincts of a Navy Seal. As buotan as he is during interviews and off-court, he has the complete opposite, I-will-do-everything-to-beat-you attitude when he’s inside that tennis rectangle. I can’t wait for May 17, the French Open.

Track oval reopens as PRISAA opens

FR. VIC UY. When I spoke to him yesterday morning, he sounded buoyant and enthusiastic. Fr. Vic Uy, SVD, is a familiar name and face to Cebuanos. For many years prior to his transfer to Bohol, he was a senior official of the University of San Carlos. He also headed the local chapter of the Phil. Sports Commission.

Today, Fr. Vic is the national president of the PRISAA. And, today, the national PRISAA Games unfold right here in Cebu City.

“We’re all ready,” said Fr. Vic. “All the physical preparations are set. And we’ve very lucky. The PRISAA is the first event that will use the new track oval of the Cebu City Sports Center.”

An estimated 6,000 athletes and officials were expected to arrive this weekend. Unfortunately, some teams backed out—including the strongest contingent, from the NCR.

“They could not decide which teams to send… the UAAP or the NCAA champions. Sayang that NCR couldn’t join us,” said Fr. Vic. But with or without Manila, the Cebu games continue.

Today’s activities begin with an activity that Fr. Vic cherishes the most: Holy mass. “We start this 2 P.M. at the Sto. Rosario Church,” he said. “The parade follows at 3:30 and the opening before 5 P.M.”

Back to the CCSC track oval—isn’t the reopening a perfect timing this weekend?

If you recall, it was 18 years ago when the CCSC was built. That was in 1994. Now, we’re April 2012. While we previously criticized our city government for taking too long on the CCSC rehabilitation (the oval has a targeted lifespan of 10 years; so it became “obsolete” in 2004)), we welcome this good news and say, “Finally!”

Who worked hardest for this latest repair? We give credit where credit is due: Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young. It was he, back in 1994 and heading the city’s Committee on Sports, who pushed for the construction of CCSC.

Fast forward to two years ago, after Joy assumed his position as the city’s No. 2, he convened a team to deliberate on the reconstruction. Together with Ricky Ballesteros, Dr. Danny Villadolid, Nimrod Quiñones and a few others, I was part of the Technical Working Group (TWG) team tasked to study the various options and bidders.

VM Joy spearheaded our weekly meetings. We scrutinized the various presentations. We deliberated on the cons and pros of each surface. Finally…. it’s done.

Yesterday, I also called Ricky Ballesteros, the manager of our CCSC, and, like Fr. Vic, he was upbeat and excited.

“The oval looks great!” boasted Ricky. “The workmanship is excellent. We had a former Olympian who came over to inspect the grounds and, compared to the likes of Cagayan de Oro and Baguio, this one is excellent.”

Ricky is used to working under intense, maximum pressure. As the head of the Sinulog festivities, each January, he is subjected to excessive tension and stress. Like the CCSC reopening, they finished it right on schedule.

“The line markings were just completed yesterday, right on schedule,” said Ricky. “We had everything programmed to finish on time and we did it.”

Ricky was impressed with the work ethic of the Malaysians, who supervised the construction of the new red rubberized track oval. “They’d work under the extreme sun, no stop. We’re also blessed with good weather and no rain so there was nonstop construction. I, personally, watched their work and asked the help of Danny Villadolid and our other coaches. We’re all set for the PRISAA opening.”

Today is a proud day for Cebu sports.

PRISAA in Cebu

From this Sunday until next Saturday (April 22 – 28), our island will be hosting one of the largest sporting events of 2012: the PRISAA National Collegiate Games. PRISAA stands for the Private Schools Athletics Association and our PRISAA Region 7 (Cebu, Bohol and Dumaguete) will be welcoming collegiate athletes from all over the country.

Fr. Vicente Uy, SVD is one of the most humble, friendly and sports-loving people I know. He’s also one of the most senior officials of the SVD (Univ. of San Carlos). But more than his lofty credentials in the academe, he’s the national president of the PRISAA.

That’s a mighty job. But Fr. Vic, whom I’ve played tennis with on several occasions, has sports dribbling inside his heart—and so he’s most capable.

How big is the National PRISAA event next week? Consider this: Delegates from Regions 1 up to 13, from CAR, CARAGA, ARRM, NCR and the host Region 7 will be competing.

Each regional team has over 320 participants (270 athletes and 50 coaches/officials). If we multiply that with the 17 regions and add the 200 officiating personnel, we’ve got over 6,000 participants landing in Cebu next week. Wow. This is huge.

Events? Plenty. There’s baseball, basketball, beach volleyball, football, softball, volleyball, athletics, badminton, boxing, chess, dancesport, karatedo, lawn tennis, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo and cultural competitions such as vocal solo and Miss Mutya.

The last time Cebu hosted the PRISAA? Ten years ago. It’s about time. Plus, very timely, the newly-refurbished Cebu City Sports Center will open its doors and rubberized track oval to welcome the visitors.

J vs. J in Cebuana Lhuillier Men’s Open

Make yourself available starting 3 P.M. today. It’s the quarterfinal round of the Cebuana Lhuillier Men’s Tennis Open. Happening only once every 12 months, this is a rare treat for Cebuanos—right at the heart of the city, at Baseline.

Eight players remain and, thus far, there are no upsets. This is surprising. Usually, one or two “seeded” (meaning: ranked) players are “upset” by lower-ranked journeymen. Not this April.

Who remain? Of course, the ones first-named Johnny and PJ and Onyok and Rolando. If you follow Philippine tennis, these guys are familiar names… Arcilla, Tierro, Anasta and Ruel.

The match to watch today? It starts at 4 P.M. It’s the No.1 seed and long-time top-ranked Pinoy netter, Johnny Arcilla, versus the youngest rising star of our archipelago: Jurence Mendoza.

J vs. J. That’s Johnny The Experienced against Jurence The Future. Johnny, of course, we know as super. He’s the defending champ. He was in Lapu-Lapu City when we played the Davis Cup twice in 2011. Jurence? Only 16 years young, he reached the finals last year of the grandest tournament in this nation: the Phil. Columbian Association (PCA) Open. En route, he defeated the former No.1 PJ Tierro.

How good is Jurence? In the first round two days ago, he played our local favorite Roy Tabotabo. The score was 6-0 in the first set. As narrated to me by Atty. Frank Malilong when we met yesterday afternoon: In the second set, had not a friend of Roy’s jokingly shouted to Jurence to give our man a chance, he’d probably have done the same love-set. Final score: 6-0, 6-1. Against Roy Tabotabo. Yesterday, against Antonio Sagansay, he demolished him the same: 6-1, 6-2. J & J: watch it this afternoon in Baseline.

DOUBLES. All singles matches begin at 3 P.M. Right after the quarterfinal games, the men’s doubles follow. These will be played at night. Why this late schedule? To accommodate us—the crowd—and our busy, working-day schedules. This 3 to 8 P.M. time slot is perfect.

PRO-AM. Beginning tomorrow, there’s a side event where a Pro is paired with an Amateur. I’m joining. My partner? Juvan Divinagracia. No, we haven’t met yet but we’ll be together with seven other pairs in this interesting category. Last year’s champions? Jun Toledo and Jean Henri Lhuillier. Others who are joining this year include Fabby Borromeo, Johnny Bohol, Dodo Laza, Mikel Ugarte, Jaime Quiñones…

MOA’s Arena

I was in Manila over the weekend. Attending the 32nd national anniversary of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP), the 4,000+ attendees crowded the SMX.

What else did I see at SM’s Mall of Asia? A giant, glass-covered dome that will soon be one of the most hi-tech and applauded of coliseums in this continent.

Mall of Asia Arena gleamed and sparkled when lighted by the summer sun. Workers installed roof beams. Maintenance staff wiped the see-through walls. Construction is at full speed.

The reason? Barely a month is left before the long-awaited “We’re Open!” sign is hung from the entrance. On May 19, the 16,000-seating-capacity gymnasium will open. Two nights later, on May 21, it’s the concert of the concert queen herself, Lady Gaga.

Sports? Ahhh. NBA exhibition games? Check. Nadal-Djokovic? Double-check (meaning, we’re hopeful!). UAAP and NCAA games? Check.

This sports arena is long-overdue in Manila. The Smart Araneta Coliseum is 52 years old. That’s grandfather-age. It’s time for a world-caliber venue for sports and concerts.

According to details I obtained via Google, the venue… “boasts of floorings by Robbins Inc., Spalding basketball goals, Daktronics scoreboard—similar to what the NBA is using—and LED ribbon boards surrounding the 3rd and 5th floors. There are press rooms… and four dugouts. Another feature is the Corporate Suites—private rooms with their own restroom, mini bar, sofas and a private gallery with cinema seats. Occupants will be entitled to a season pass for all the shows.”

They have 31 of these Suites for rent. How much? They offer one- to 5-year leases between P9 to P12 million. Wow.

Cebuana Lhuillier Men’s Open: Game on!

Like Mike Limpag, I’m excited about this week. It’s the 5th edition of the Cebuana Lhuillier Men’s Open at the aptly-tennis-named Baseline courts.

Johnny Arcilla will be the man expected to win. But he’ll face plenty of local competition—including from Cebu players led by Jacob Lagman and RJ Abarquez.

The main draw starts today. Hopefully! Why? Because last night, I received a phone call from tournament organizer April Toledo. The top 16 players were scheduled to leave Manila at 10 A.M. yesterday. When April called me at 6 P.M., the wearied players were still in the airport!

“Can you help me contact someone from Cebu Pacific?” asked April. I called one of the airline’s senior officials, Agnes Gupalor, and, hopefully, the Top 16 arrived last night. You’ll find out today when you visit Baseline.

I’m most eager to watch a 15-year-old. His name is Jurence Mendoza. In the recent Mitsubishi Lancer junior event, he reached the finals. No easy feat because that tournament is one of Asia’s most prestigious. Also, in last year’s PCA Open, he defeated PJ Tierro to reach the finals (losing to Arcilla).

Last year, Jurence and Jacob Lagman were together here during the Davis Cup. The teenagers will be our future Cecil Mamiits.

CCSC Track Oval to open

Ricky Ballesteros is the man at the helm of the Cebu City Sports Center renovations. Here’s Ricky’s update:

We have finished overlaying the final red rubber last Saturday. Markings started yesterday and will take 3-4 days… Blessing will be on April 22 at 3:30 pm before the opening parade of the national Prisaa… The good thing with the rubber now is that we don’t have to wait for 2 weeks for the curing period. We can use the track the day after we put the rubber; drying only takes 5 minutes.

We are now on the finishing touches; fencing and putting of a wider gate… We also transferred the triple long jump to the D section; we have a wider cemented area for volleyball, sepak takraw, martial arts practices… The football field is under rehabilitation, greening will take another 3-6 months.

Cost of rubber track including civil works is P26M; previous track was only 13mm, the new rubber is 15mm thick.. Football field, civil works (fencing and cementing) P7M… After Prisaa, the track will be open to the public except the football field.

Gen, Marko and Jovi on Bubba Watson

(Reuters/Mike Segar)

In Cebu golf, Marko Sarmiento is one of the longest-hitters off the tee. He averages 290 yards and, when the fairways are dry, that number can exceed 340. Just like Bubba Watson. “Yeah we’re both long hitters that aren’t great putters!” said Marko.

Here’s Marko’s assessment of the new champ:

“It’s no secret the key to winning the Masters is great putting. When Tiger won his first green jacket in 1997 he didn’t have a single 3 putt!

“Bubba? He’s one of the worst putters on tour. He’s ranked 154 out of 182 but.. he’s ranked 1st in driving distance (313 yards!) and 2nd in greens in regulation. In other words, he gives himself a lot of chances for birdie because of his superior power which leaves him mostly wedges for a 2nd shot. He’s also known to be able to shape the ball any way imaginable and this has to do with his inability to hit fairways off the tee because of how much club head speed he generates. And because of his creativity, he won the Masters!

“This could not have been more evident with his 2nd shot on the 2nd playoff hole. He had to hook his ball 40 yards with a pitching wedge! Trust me, this isn’t easy to do. Having a Masters champion like Bubba is great for golf. He’s known to be very outspoken, uses a pink Ping driver and cries like a baby on national television every time he wins a tournament. The saying “drive for show and putt for dough” didn’t hold up last week!

“Unlike Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald (the 2nd and 1st ranked players in the world), Bubba (who’s now at number 4 after his win) isn’t as well-rounded. But because of creativity, raw power and a new found confidence, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him challenge them. Go Bubba!

“When Tiger won in Bayhill two weeks before the Masters, he said his swing is still at 70%. He’s been revamping it with new coach Sean Foley and I guess it’s safe to say the remaining 30% showed up in Augusta. I have no doubt that his new swing has the potential to get him back to number 1 in the world but what I do doubt is his health. With four surgeries and a WD in the World Golf Championships earlier in the year because of some soreness, who knows how sturdy that left knee is. He’s only 36 and in golf years that’s still fairly young. If you also consider his incredible work ethic, he may not have enough left in the tank to break Nicklaus’ record of 18 Majors.”

JOVI AND GEN. I also asked help from Atty. Jovi Neri to comment. Here’s Jovi:

“Gen Nagai, CCC’s star rookie in the PAL Interclub, is perhaps the biggest Bubba Watson fan in the entire island of Cebu. Just recently, he even had his driver painted pink.

“Last year, Gen was able to visit the headquarters of Bubba’s equipment sponsor, Ping Golf, in Scottsdale, Arizona, to be fitted for clubs in their special driving range. Of course, the first thing he asked the people there was about Bubba.”

Said Gen Nagai: “They said Bubba always visits there as much as twice a month just to hang out. He is quite friendly and fun. But he is also weird because he tries shots that no other pro would try. For example, he would face the other way and try to hit the ball under the roof, then over the trees, then into the putting green.

“Bubba is also the only Ping-sponsored pro who can hit it over the boundaries of the range which is over 350 yards away. Other Ping pros include Lee Westwood, Louis Oousthuizen, and Mark Wilson.

“They said that while Bubba is known for hitting the ball very long, he has incredible touch and feel, and attempts a lot of shots out of the ordinary using his creativity and imagination.

“Bubba also loves hot colors, with the text of his clubs having colors such as pink.”

Jovi continues… “After hearing Gen’s stories about what the people in Ping said about Bubba and his incredible shots in their facility, it was less of a shock to see his 40-yard hook with a wedge from over 150 yards below and around the trees in the second playoff hole that sealed the victory in the Masters.

“My take on Tiger: two tournaments ago in Bay Hill he just won convincingly. He may have struggled in the Masters but it’s just one tournament. Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald quietly had mediocre performances too but it slipped under the radar because they are not scrutinized as much as Tiger.

“If a Filipino got invited to play the Masters and made the cut, he would probably be hailed as the greatest Filipino golfer of all-time. But if Tiger just makes the cut and fails to contend, people think he is a goner. Tiger is a victim of his greatness.

“Tiger upped the ante during his heydey, and the new breed of players led by McIlroy have risen to the challenge elevating their games to that level. At 36 years old and with new young and fearless competition, Tiger will never dominate like he once did but that doesn’t mean he will not win anymore. Nicklaus won 3 majors after turning 40. The more pressing X-factor would be Tiger’s health.”

Knocking out the old, Pac’s a new Man

Happy Easter! One of our best decisions during the Holy Week was to attend the Triduum Retreat at the Sacred Heart Parish—facilitated by the Xavier School president, Fr. Johnny C. Go, SJ, one of the most articulate, funny and inspiring of speakers. He provoked us. He allowed us to reexamine our past, sinful life. He spoke about forgiveness.

This Holy Week, I also got to read two articles perfectly-timed with Lent.

“Pacquiao steps aside for the true Champ” was written by ABS-CBN’s Dyan Castillejo. The former tennis ace (she was No.1 in the ‘80s) published it on Good Friday, April 6.

“A new Manny Pacquiao” is the second piece and it was penned (last March 31) by Ronnie Nathanielsz of Manila Standard.

These articles talked about Pacman giving a life-sharing during the ABS-CBN Christian Fellowship last week, on March 29.

Umiinom, sugal, bar, babae…” Pacquiao was quoted by Dyan. As you and I know, as good as Manny was inside the boxing ring, he was bad outside. “Dati dasal ako ng dasal,” Manny admitted. “Simba ako every Sunday pero Monday to Saturday lahat ng kalokohan ginagawa ko. Hindi natin maloloko ang Panginoon.”

Now, four months since opening the Bible, he’s sold his fighting cocks and deleted the mobile numbers of his multiple girlfriends; instead, he’s transformed those vices into prayer.

“Manny attributes his spiritual awakening and transformation after truly discovering the author and subject of the Bible, Jesus Christ,” said Dyan. “He said he repented from his sin, rededicated his life to Jesus and went on a quest to learn as much as he could about his Savior and how to get closer to God.

“‘When I first read the Bible, I couldn’t understand it. I wanted a bible study in the morning and in the afternoon. I felt my day wasn’t complete if I didn’t read the Bible,’ he shares.”

Two Bible passages were quoted by Dyan as among Pacman’s favorites:

Joshua 1:8: “Keep this book of the Law always in your lips. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Those same Bible verses I treasure. Why? Because they’re positive and speak of a great future if you follow the Lord.

At that ABS-CBN event, Manny was accompanied by Jinkee and their four children. He was also with Pastor Jeric Soriano and, upon arrival at the TV station, introduced his group as the “Pacquaio Word Worship” team. (Quick question: You think Manny will remain a Catholic? I hope so.)

RONNIE. TV and newspaper personality Ronnie Nathanielsz was also at the same event.

“We were impressed not just with the facility with which he handled the role of a preacher-man,” wrote Ronnie, “but the genuineness with which he reached out to use his own life’s example as a magnet to get people to change their ways and to believe in the word of God and to learn to love Him like never before.

“There was, on Manny’s face, a look of sometimes childlike innocence. In many ways, we felt it was a reflection of his transgressions being washed away by genuine repentance and a new Manny Pacquiao being born again—and we hasten to add —within himself.”

After I read Ronnie’s column, I emailed him. Here’s what he sent back yesterday:

“John: I’m glad you liked the piece I wrote. It was from the heart because I could sense the change within him and his sincerity.

“In the beginning he asked the huge crowd at the ABS-CBN Dolphy Theater whether they had eaten and then responded by saying that ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but  by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

“He repeated the story of his dream where God asked him why he had gone astray and said he had wept in his dream and when he woke up his pillow was soaking wet.

“Manny admitted his many transgressions and said that was the old Manny Pacquiao, this is now the new Manny Pacquiao.”

CYBL: Part 2

Rico Navarro is one of the nine members of the new Board of Directors of the Cebu Football Association (CFA). The other CFA officials include Ricky Dakay, Joey Herrera, Fr. Heinz Kuiueke, Rodney Orale, Raffy Musni, Nimrod Quiñones, Glenn Quisido and Michael Veloso. I heard that the election, held last Saturday, was highly politicized. From the original 25 voting members, the number ballooned to 43. Cheska Geli wrote a story on this two days ago; Mars Alison of CDN did the same. Let’s hope the new CFA Board will be able to fulfill one of the most often-used terms in football clubs (Manchester U., Don Bosco U., Queen City U.).

The word? UNITED. Let’s kick politics out of football.

Back to Rico: will he? I mean, as suggested by Mike Limpag a few weeks ago, will Mr. Navarro become the CFA president? Maybe. Maybe not. But here’s one fact: in sports, this tall, giant of a sportsman has made an impact in Cebu. Not only does Rico lead the athletic program of Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu, he’s helped a lot in basketball.

I wrote about the Cebu Youth Basketball League on Palm Sunday. The CYBL is a brainchild project of Rico and, starting in 2007, it has evolved from four teams to 42 today.

One of the additions to CYBL 2012 was the Under-19 category, which ended last Thursday. “The U19 final was the second down the wire championship game in 2012 but it was hands down the best ever game in CYBL history,” said Rico. “The U10 finals was also a thriller where Job Reyes (Coach Mike’s son) made two free throws with 47 seconds left to lead USC South to a 32-31 win over USC North. We also had an OT thriller in the U16 championship game of 2011 when USJR defeated USC North.”

What happened in the U19 final? Adgers Sportswear was leading University of San Carlos/RDAK by six points, 75-69, with only five seconds left. They celebrated. Victory was theirs. Five seconds to go! A six point lead!

But not so fast. “Michael Rita drilled a double-pump triple with 4.5 seconds left in the game to cut the lead to 75-72,” said Rico. “And after Adgers failed to control the leather to run out the clock, John Saycon made a ‘Hail Mary’ triple from beyond the half-court line. He shot the ball from about 16 meters away from the ring (note that the full court is 28 meters long).”

Swoosh. The ball went in! 75-all. OT. After another flurry of excitement, it was 85-all. Time expired. Double overtime. Then, with only 48.5 seconds left, the score was 91-91. A third OT? No, as Adgers escaped with a 93-92 score to win the ThreeSixty Pharmacy Cup 2012 at the City Sports Club Cebu.

I spoke to Rico the day after the U19 finals and he was ecstatic. He had never witnessed a game as electrifying. More details on CYBL 2012? “The tournament started on Jan. 23 and ended on March 29 (U19 finals). However, the U10 & U13 games ended on Mar. 3, while the U16 finals was on Mar. 10 (to stay clear from the 4th Qtr Exams),” Rico said. Main CYBL venue: SHS-AdC Mango Ave Campus. Satellite venues: Don Bosco, USC South Campus & CEC.

“With our expansion, Medellin Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MSSAA) is now a regular participant in our tournaments, thanks to Vice Mayor Al Lim. They traveled every week to Cebu to play in the CYBL,” he added. “We also initiated CYBL Visayas Goodwill Games in June 2011 when we hosted St. John’s Institute of Bacolod. The faced SHS-AdC, CEC & USC North in a pre-season friendly tournament for the U12 age group. In the works: Ateneo de Davao is coming over in May for a Vismin Goodwill Games. We’ll also invite St. John’s Institute Bacolod, USLS, & Ateneo de Iloilo.”

Looking ahead to 2013, Rico’s group plans to hold a yearly coaches’ seminar with the help of Ateneo de Manila. “Cebu needs this,” he said. “Our coaches are left behind by their colleagues in Manila in terms of professional development (technical know-how, coaching philosophy, people/player management, sports psychology). Also, we need to spread the base to Mandaue & Lapu-Lapu.”