Monthly Archives: May 2012

Chester’s bold analysis: Spurs will cool the Heat

Few people love basketball as much as Chester Cokaliong. The CEO of Cokaliong Shipping owns a full-court at the uppermost floor of his Reclamation Area building. He’s Cebu’s undisputed 3-point king. Trophies? He has more hardware than Shewak’s.

“The NBA Championship is being played right now,” said Chester. “Whoever wins the Western Conference Finals between the Spurs and the Thunder will win the title.”

That’s fearless. That’s bold. Miami Heat? LeBron, Dwayne and, when he’s back, the third member of the Avengers… Bosh? Aren’t they the favorites? Since last season? And more so, this 2012? Not with Chester, who monitors the games nightly from his home via the NBA Premium HD channel on SkyCable.

“Without Chris Bosh of Miami, the Spurs will prevail. There’s no center. And even if Bosh is back, he won’t be in tiptop condition. He’ll have a hard time with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.”

Chester predicts that, granted that both San Antonio and Miami meet in the Finals, it will be a 4-2 score for the Spurs without Bosh; with him, it will go to Game 7 with the win for SA.

“The Spurs have home-court advantage,” he said. “That’s a big factor.” Another reason why Chester is confident: “Miami doesn’t have a deep bench. They even narrowly escaped Indiana.”

With the 36-year-old Duncan, Chester is all praises for NBA’s Coach of the Year, Gregg Popovich. “He rests Duncan so he can play in the last six minutes. He doesn’t overtire him. He doesn’t want him injured.”

LAKERS. Last February 20 was a special day for Chester. It was his birthday. It was also his Silver Wedding Anniversary with his wife, Anna Lynne. How did they celebrate this twin milestone?

“We went to watch the L.A. Lakers versus Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center. Before that, we spent several nights on a Bahamas Cruise and arrived in Miami. Then, Feb. 20, we flew to Los Angeles and watched the game. Lakers went on to win it after an excellent first quarter. The next day, we flew back to Cebu.”

It wasn’t Chester’s first-ever time to watch the NBA. Years back, he saw the Lakers play the Phoenix Suns. But that was at the old Forum stadium. Now, he’s all-praises for the new arena.

“Grabe ka gwapo ang Staples Center,” he said.

You mean it can compare to our Cebu Coliseum? I joked.

“Ma-uwaw ta (We’d be embarrassed). No comparison.”

In Chester’s visit to the Staples Center, he noticed that most of the spectators were non-L.A. residents. “The jerseys ran out. We wanted to buy. Kobe. Griffin. They all ran out. They have this huge sports center inside the Staples Center selling Lakers and Clippers apparel. They have smaller stalls exclusive per team. You can even get made-to-order jerseys and pick them up the in the next game. But they were all sold out.”

CEBU ARENA. Chester mentioned the need for Cebu to have a new stadium. “We need an arena. It doesn’t have to be like the Staples Center. But we need a new one.”

Combining his basketball passion and his business acumen, maybe Chester can spearhead the building of this new Megadome? “I spent time computing the cost and there’s no way you can recover the investment. You cannot even pay the bank. So that’s the big problem,” he said.

We talked about the recently-opened Mall of Asia Arena, owned by SM. Maybe that will rise at the SRP when our own MOA rises.

3-POINTERS. Chester is known as the best 3-point shooter of our island. His idol: Larry Bird. “Nobody today can compare to Bird. Remember him winning those three-point contests wearing an NBA jacket? The present crop is not very good. They’ll also pale in comparison even to Reggie Miller. Look at Ray Allen. He’s playing very bad. He’s not even hitting his free throws. In the regular season, he shot 92 percent. Now, in the playoffs, it’s down to 65 percent. Free throws!”

As to his favorite players, Chester cites Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker of the Spurs. But his all-time favorite—like everybody else’s—is Michael Jordan.

Manny’s 3 Ps: “Pahaway, Practice, Pangadji”

Wakee Salud took my phone call yesterday. Like we do in almost every Manny Pacquiao fight, I call him two weeks prior to fight night.

Wakee is Manny’s closest buddy. Their friendship began in 2005 after Manny’s loss to Erik Morales. Then, Wakee invited him to Lapu-Lapu City for a promotion. When Manny trained in Cebu for Marco Antonio Barrera back in 2007, where was his second home? The Rex “Wakee” Salud Gym in Labangon.

Since 2005, Wakee has been Manny’s good luck charm, with a 15-fight winning streak. “Every fight since we became close, I’ve watched in person,” he said.

“I’m leaving for Las Vegas on June 6,” said Wakee.

Anybody else from Cebu who’s going? I asked. “Tommy, Margot and, I think, Del Mar,” he said.

I queried Wakee about Timothy Ray Bradley, Jr. The 28-year-old Californian is undefeated in 28 fights. The “Desert Storm,” as he’s nicknamed, stands 5-foot-6 and is the current WBO Light Welterweight champ.

“No chance for Bradley,” he said. “Easy fight for Manny.”

Prediction? “Knockout gyud!” he added. Not that Bradley is a patsy. It’s just that, according to Wakee, his best friend is at a completely different level today.

“Si Manny, wala na gyud mag….. kuwan-kuwan,” said Wakee, stressing on the last word whose meaning is loaded with sinister connotations. Translated in English: He’s no longer fooling around. He’s all boxing business.

Wakee considers this 2012 as Manny’s best training ever. But, I asked, doesn’t he and MP’s team always say the same thing? Doesn’t Freddie Roach always brag—to mentally scare the enemy—that Manny’s condition is the best he’s ever seen? Doesn’t this happen every pre-fight?

No, says Wakee.     This time, it’s real. He saw Manny in Baguio a few weeks ago like he’s seen him in the “City of Pines” in every previous training session. Now, it’s different.

In Manny’s last two fights, Wakee admits that MP was unimpressive. Though he handily defeated Shane Mosley, the verdict on his showing was poor. Unlike the Manny of old who would destroy and annihilate, he was hesitant and unsure. He had cramps. The same with their Trilogy versus Juan Manuel Marquez. We thought Manny lost. Lahi gyud ang karaan na Manny, we all agreed.

“I watched Manny train in Baguio in those two previous fights and kibawo na ko daan (I already knew),” said Wakee. “Manny wasn’t at his best. He’d stay up very late at night. He’d skip his runs and footwork exercises. He kept on going back to Manila. That’s why I wasn’t surprised with Manny’s subpar performance in those last two fights.”

Now? “The best gyud karon ang condition ni Manny,” he said.

Wakee enumerated three reasons. The 3 P’s I call them: Pahaway. Practice. Pangadji.

Rest. Relentless Training. Prayer.

“Manny is very well rested in his training now,” said Wakee, who last saw MP at the Manila airport prior to his departure for the Wild Card Gym. “Unlike before when he’d stay up late and had too many distractions. Also, sakto gyud sa practice and training.”

Finally, the last and most essential P: prayer. “Dako gyud na usab kay (There are a lot of changes with) Manny. He keeps on reading the Bible. Everyday, he would have Bible studies. He would not be comfortable if a day passes that he doesn’t read the Bible.”

When I asked Wakee if his buddy invited him to join their Bible-reading sessions, he let out a long and hearty laugh. “Manny keeps on convincing me,” said Wakee. “Jinkee even sent me a Bible. And even Jinkee’s sisters have all become regular Bible readers.”

I told Wakee that I believe this will be Manny’s last fight. “No, no. Dili pa (not yet),” he said. “If he won’t fight Mayweather next, then I think Manny will have three more fights.”

Floyd? “Dayon gyud na (It will push through). Manny has already agreed to all his demands. Drug testing. And many others. The only problem is the money, the sharing. For me, the best solution is 40-40. They’re guaranteed 40 percent each with the winner receiving the balance. Winner gets 60 percent; loser, 40 percent. Fair, di ba?”

I agree. But first… next Sunday.

64 days to go before the London Olympics

Back in July of 2005, I was fortunate to have been in Singapore when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) convened in the Lion City to decide on the host for the 2012 Olympic Games. As we now know, Moscow, Paris, Madrid and New York lost to one city who’ll host the Games from July 27 to August 12.

London. Yes. Is there a place more cosmopolitan, diverse and sports-crazy? Exactly 64 days from today, London will become the only city in history to host the Olympics thrice (they also did in 1908 and 1948).

Wanting to get a first-hand look at the Olympics, I asked a long-time resident for his thoughts…

Jack Biantan was SunStar Cebu’s former Sports Editor. A giant both in size and in his love for sports, Jack has resided in London for 11 years now.

“Everyone here is excited,” said Jack, in our e-mail exchange last week. “But not the entire London has benefitted from this Olympics. Only the West part of London where the Olympic Village and the infrastructures are.

“Our only concern in North London specially we Tottenham Hotspurs fans is the Olympic stadium. Shall we get the stadium after the Olympics or shall we remain in the congested White Heart Lane stadium.

“As you can see John, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspurs are contesting in courts right now on who will be right full tenants in the Olympic stadium. The London Olympics organising committee has given the rights to West Ham because of the Hammers proposal to keep the track oval after the games.

“Tottenham however want to get rid of the oval and convert the entire stadium into a football specific stadium just like what Manchester City FC did to the Manchester stadium after the Commonwealth games fews years back. The Hammers have all the advantage also because West Ham is based only very near to the stadium while the Spurs are based some kilometres away.

“But in my opinion the Spurs are just using the Olympic stadium as leverage to their negotiations with the Haringey council (Tottenham is located in the Haringey borough) for the extension of the White Heart Lane stadium. The Spurs management has brought all the properties around their stadium and are waiting for their permit to construct to be approved. The Spurs stadium has only 36,000 capacity and I have been waiting for the past 11 years to get a season ticket. They are planning to extend the stadium to 60,000 once the council approves the permit.

“The London Olympic committee is also facing another problem in court as Leyton Orient FC the club nearest to the Olympic stadium has also sued and claimed their own right to the tenancy to the stadium. The games have not even started yet but the battle in courts have already been busy.”

Jack planned to watch the games in person but was appalled by the exorbitant ticket prices. “The tickets are astronomical for ordinary salaried people like us OFWs from the Philippines,” said Jack. “I have a daughter in college in Cebu and a six-year-old son who is in an Opus Dei School in CDO. I also have to pay high rental to the flat I rent here.”

Based on my internet research, a ticket to, say, an Olympic basketball game can cost anywhere from 40 Pounds (about P2,700) to, in the Final game, a whopping 425 Pounds (P29,000). Tennis in Wimbledon? The final can be as expensive as 225 pounds (P15,000).

Worse, the tickets are not only expensive—they’re also nearly impossible to get. “Most are sold out and been snatched by the black market peddlers,” said Jack, driving the prices further upwards.

“I planned to buy tickets for boxing where there is only one Filipino athlete competing. But since he is alone, and the odds for him to win a medal is very slim, I might as well stay at home and watch TV,” said Jack.

Joking, he adds: “Unless we are lucky to win the ticket lottery the Olympic committee has organised, then we would be more excited.”

This has not stopped Jack, though, from visiting a few sites. He’s toured the outside area of the Olympic Stadium and has explored the Westfield Mall in Stratford City.

The London Games will be the 30th Olympics. And since Roman Numerals are often used, you know what these games will be? The triple-X Games. Or the Games of the XXX Olympiad.

When the battle starts on July 27, an estimated 10,000-plus athletes representing 204 countries will compete. There are only 26 sports but a total of 302 events.

Like us here in Cebu, Mr. Biantan will be watching the flat screen.

“BBC is covering the games for free so we would just contend ourselves in watching the games on TV,” he said. “Our only problem is that the BBC coverage will be concentrated only to British athletes. But the Filipino community is excited to watch Olympic basketball games live this time because there is a British team competing in it. Unlike the previous games where only the finals were aired.”

I asked Jack, who’s resided in the United Kingdom capital since 2001, if he plans to reside there for good and he says no.

“Once our mortgage in CDO is finished in five years time and my daughter finishes her college education I will be back in the Philippines to take care of my young son. That, if I stay healthy during those times. I am getting old now John and I want to enjoy my life a little bit before I go to another world. Life here is hard and there is too much stress. I had a great time in Cebu when I was there. I lost my hair and gotten sick of diabetes in 11 years of stay here.”

Finally, I asked the football aficionado if he meets with other Cebuanos. His reply: All the time! “Most of my colleagues in the hospital where I work are Filipinos, so I still have not perfected my British accent because we often speak Ilonggo, Cebuano or Tagalog.”

Good to hear that London Jack is still Bisaya.

Gandionco for golf, Gullas for tennis

Dwayne Wade and LeBron James combined for 70 points yesterday. After Miami Heat lost their last two games against the Indiana Pacers, it was time to panic. Had they lost Game 4, they’d be down 1-3—an embarrassment and scary scenario for the NBA’s “Avengers.”

But LeBron didn’t panic. He pulled down 18 rebounds, dished-out 9 assists and scored 40. Dwayne? He had 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 30 points. Now, the series is tied two games apiece and it’s a two-out-of-three contest. It’s back to home-court advantage for Miami. If they win Game 5—which we expect them to—they’ll go on to win the series and, in my analysis, win the entire NBA championship.

Game 4 was the most crucial game this year for Miami.  LeBron and Wade, minus Chris Bosh, prevailed.

In the other Eastern side, expect Boston to prevail and meet Miami. The West? San Antonio has humiliated the LA Clippers, 4-0. They’ll rest and await… the Oklahoma City Thunder. Again, that Game 4 was most crucial for the LA Lakers and Oklahoma. Had Kobe escaped to tie it for 2-all, it would be a toss-up. Now, the Lakers are down 1-3. They’ll be out soon.

GIO. He hails from Cebu and he’s the best junior golfer in the country today.

Angelo Jose “Gio” Gandionco, only 16, has been a perennial winner the past month. His recent accomplishments: Montecillo Junior Golf Championship, finished first; Junior World Qualifying, finished first; Philippine Amateur, semifinalist; Frankie Miñoza Tournament in Del Monte, finished first; Frankie Miñoza, Alta Vista, finished first; Philippine Junior Open, finished first.

Gio started golf at the age of four. His dad, Opep, who leads Julie’s Bakeshop as the CEO, used Little Tikes plastic golf clubs for Gio. By the age of seven, he joined tournaments. At first, Gio mixed football and golf as Springdale’s striker. But, by age 11, he focused on the game of his favorite player, Rory McIlroy.

“The past few weeks have been the best,” said Gio, in an e-mail last Sunday night. “I have playing tournament after tournament, week after week.” Week after week, win after win…

“Golf is extreme hard work,” said Gio. “It takes time and hours to fix your golf swing and it takes years to master and gain experience. Of course, golf is fun for me, playing tournament golf and just playing around with friends makes me love the game so much.”

What made him sweep all these giant events this summer? His decision to skip joining tournaments last November and December so he can focus fixing his swing.

As to the added pressure of winning, Gio shrugs that off. “Every victory made me more confident. It made me realize my potential. It does add a little extra pressure to maintain my winning streak but if I just focus on my game, it won’t bother me.”

Gio will leave for the U.S. on June 14 to join several prestigious junior golf events, among them the 95th Western Junior Golf Championship in Florida and the Callaway Junior World Championship in Torey Pines, San Diego. Then, he’s back here by mid-July and will represent the country in one of Asia’s biggest events: the Lion Cuty Cup. Then, by September, he returns to America for his much-awaited college scholarship in Santa Clara University.

GULLAS CUP. One of the most anticipated of tennis tournaments started yesterday at the Cebu International Tennis Centre, Inc. (CITCI) in Consolacion.

Mayor Teresa Alegado graced the opening. A total of 196 entries, many players coming from areas not in Cebu, are joining this five-day-long event which offers 9 age-group categories (from 10-and-under to 18-and-under).

Thanks to the Gullas brothers, Dodong and Eddie, both tennis players, this event has thrived and continued after 17 years.

Insights from Davao City

Jana, our daughter, emerged as Girls 14 champion of the Milo Junior Tennis Cup – Mindanao leg. She played four opponents at the Ecoland Tennis Courts. The first two were easy wins but the last two were hard-fought. In the semis, she played 5-foot-6 Cotabato City-based Ivana Caballero. Score: 6-3, 6-2. In the finals, she beat Palaro medalist and one of Mindanao’s best, Sharyl de los Santos, from Gen. Santos City, 6-2, 6-2. She’ll go on to the Milo National Finals in November.

PEOPLE’S PARK. We stayed at the Royal Mandaya Hotel in downtown Davao. Apart from the central location, what I liked best was being meters away from an exercise haven: People’s Park. It’s an open-to-the-public-for-free venue where aerobics and Zumba classes are conducted and where Davaoeños converge to sweat. They have a 400-meter oval where hundreds run. The bad part? The surface is not rubberized, asphalt or anapog—but rectangular-shaped cement bricks. Sure, the bricks look good in red and gray but the uneven surface is scary. Still, what an ideal site for exercisers. Though much smaller, it reminds me of Victoria Park in Hong Kong. Our very own Plaza Independencia would be a fitting comparison.

DOME. The largest venue for indoor sports here is Almendras Gym. How “large?” Unfortunately, it seats 3,000. That’s small. While riding a taxicab, the driver mentioned that over a decade ago, Davao City built a P300 million, 15,000-seater Artica Dome—only for the nearly-finished project to be mothballed because of politics. Sayang. It reminds me of our own Megadome. Had that project (of then Gov. Pabling Garcia) materialized, imagine the positive impact for sports? All these contrast with the brand-new Mall of Asia Arena in Manila. That’s a gym that will rival NBA stadiums. For Cebu, our only bet is for SM to build the same complex at the SRP.

TAXI. In our few days stay in Davao, you know what we applaud the most? The taxi drivers. We rode about a dozen times and, each time with no miss, the drivers were courteous, helpful and knowledgeable. They were impromptu tourist guides. They gave suggestions on where to go (sightseeing? durian? restaurants?) and, best of all, they were honest. Compared to Manila’s taxi drivers who’d often say, “Bago palang ako dito, saan tayo da-daan?” (I’m new here, where do we pass?)—where they’d circle and pass the farthest routes to extract the most pesos—in Davao, the drivers are honest. We found out that, each year, they have a rigid seminar that includes instructions on being good Davao “tourist guides.” They’re good. Well done.

EDEN AND EAGLE. We made sure to include quick visits to Eden Nature Park and the Phil. Eagle Park—both must-see places. Beautiful. I wish Cebu had a similar Eden: 80 hectares filled with 100,000 pine trees, birds, organic fruits, the zip line and obstacle course. It’s a camping ground located 3,000 feet above sea level. The Eagle Park? Wow. The world’s second largest eagles, Davao hosts these endangered species at a lush, giant trees-laden spot up in the hills.

Funny analysis: the Philippine eagles are monogamous animals (they only mate with one other pair). A little farther from where all the eagles were located was a spot with monkeys. One “King Monkey,” they called him, had all the girl-monkeys. They’d approach him and mate with him. We commented: This represents Manny Pacquiao. Before, he was a king monkey; now, this Bible-loving man is a Philippine eagle.

CROCODILE PARK. Yesterday, thanks to Jasmin’s cousin, Peter Junsay, and his daughter Audrie, we spent an hour gazing at some of the largest reptiles on earth. Jana and I even held by hand a three-foot-long crocodile!

SM AND ABREEZA. The 1st Davao Sports Expo was found at the brand-new Annex of SM City. Booths were filled with various exhibits: martial arts, trekking, football… plus a mountain-biking event that’s scheduled today. Finally, Ayala’s mall called Abreeza is a beauty. Just opened 12 months ago, it has plenty of shops (Gap, Italliani’s, Tretorn, Ellesse) not found in Cebu.

Marko and Jovi on CCC’s Club Championships

Moments after the winning putt, Eric Deen is congratulated by Montito Garcia

Whenever I need help with golf, I turn to two friends who are not only Class-A golfers but also skillful writers: Marko Sarmiento and Atty. Jovi Neri.

Last Saturday, I missed watching Eric Deen sink that birdie putt on the 37th hole to win the Club Championships of the Cebu Country Club. Thanks to Marko and Jovi, here’s an excellent report of last week…

“To no surprise, the top seeds after qualifying were LJ Go and Gio Gandionco, respectively,” wrote Marko. “They both shot a 2 day aggregate score of 2 under par (140). No one was surprised since the two have been playing well all year. They were our heroes of the PAL Interclub in Feb.”

Jovi concurred: “Lj and Gio are not just among the country’s top juniors but among the top five Filipino amateur golfers today.” But, guess what? For the first time, the top two seeds lost.

“Ever since CCC expanded the qualifying to be 16 players 11 years ago,” said Jovi, “this was the first time ever that a #1 seed lost to #16. I was also fortunate to beat the #2 seed Gio even though I was #15. In match play anything can happen, and it isn’t always the better man that wins, but the one having the better game.”

Marko Sarmiento, the 16th seed, upset LJ Go, 3 and 1, while Jovi beat Gio, 3 and 2. Said Marko: “It was my most satisfying win since beating Gene Aznar to reach the finals back in 2001. Lj didn’t play his best but still put up a tough match as I played near perfect golf. Jovi and I both struggled in qualifying, but the beauty of match play is anything can happen.”

Jovi credits the depth of talent in his club where, on any sunny day, anyone can beat anyone. He added that while the “young ones” were the stars in CCC’s PAL Interclub win, it was the “once young” who emerged winners last week.

In the quarterfinals, Jovi and Marko lost. “The high was short-lived,” said Marko. “I lost to Kiyofumi Takahashi 1 down and Jovi lost to Gen Nagai 2 down. Kiyo then lost to Eric in the semifinals and Gen lost to Mon.”

The finals? Last Saturday between eight-time winner Montito Garcia (1991 to 1995, 2003, 2007 and 2009) versus five-time champ Eric Deen (1997 to ’99, 2004 and last year).

Here’s Marko’s summary: “When you reach the final, it’s more a battle of attrition than anything. It’s a 36-hole match with no golf carts allowed. Leading to the finals you play 5 out 7 days. Under the summer heat, it gets exhausting. The level of play goes down because of fatigue and in match play you match up directly against your opponent. If your opponent double bogeys, all you have to do is bogey.

“Mon told me that he was around 2 or 3 over after the first 18 holes which left him 3 up. Eric got off to a shaky first 9 but didn’t leave himself too far back. On the 2nd 18, fatigue was getting the better of them. Pars and bogeys were winning holes. Eric cut Mon’s lead to 1 after 27 holes.

“In the back 9, Eric seemed rejuvenated while Mon started to fade. Mon relied on his hot putting all week but couldn’t get one to drop in the final 9 holes. Eric built a 2 up lead with 2 holes to go.

“Closing a match is always the hardest part of match play, similar to holding on to your serve to win a match in tennis. Eric bogeyed the last 2 holes vs Mon’s pars to send the match to sudden death.

“After 8 hours of golf, they were back to even and headed for the 1st hole. Both hit perfect drives and good second shots. Mon left himself a 12-footer for birdie while Eric had a 7-footer. Mon putted first and barely missed but Eric made no mistake and birdied to win!

“The first birdie between either of them from the last 18 holes of play. Pretty amazing considering the number of birdies that were made leading up to the final.”

Footnote from Atty. Neri: “The teenager who reached the furthest was 15-year Gen Nagai, who made the semis but lost to Montito. The next day, he joined Casino Español’s Copa De Golf and shot a personal best 7-under par 65 with 8 birdies against 1 bogey! His gross score was good enough to beat the net scores of everyone!”

Harry watches Game 4, Clippers-Grizzlies

Cebu’s reigning SAC-SMB Sportsman of the Year awardee is also one of the pillars behind the Hoops Dome in Mactan. Two days ago, he was inside another dome.

Councilor Harry Don Radaza of Lapu-Lapu City is in the U.S. with his wife Mayann and son Zach. They watched the L.A. Clippers battle the Memphis Grizzlies.

“Game 4 was one of the best games I’ve seen live,” said Harry. “Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combined for 57 points. Even before getting to Staples Center, just looking for a parking spot, you feel the craziness in the streets. Everything within half a kilometer of Staples Center was decorated with Red and White, the Clippers’ colors. They also gave everyone free red Clippers shirts.”

Harry is not an NBA neophyte. While residing in America prior to Mactan, he watched plenty.

“Back when I was living in Sacramento (1990-1992) I watched a lot of Sacramento Kings (during the time of Mitch Ritchmond). And when I was studying in Saint Mary’s College in the Bay Area I saw Golden State Warriors games (during the time of Latrell Sprewell, Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullen). I remember watching several with Chris Aldeguer.”

Blake Griffin amazed Harry the most. “He had several monster dunks. It seems EVERY time Blake gets the ball on the run, the crowd is on its feet gasping for that big dunk which never fails to energize the whole stadium. His pure vertical leaps get the crowd going. Although for him to have a good career, he needs to develop more post-up moves and a consistent mid-range jumper. Right now, he’s just relying on his hops. It’s smart not to be one-dimensional and predictable.”

On Chris Paul, Harry sat applauding at how well he distributed the ball and “took over in OT when Blake fouled out. Now that’s a point guard!”

Playoff tickets are difficult to secure. Harry bought theirs from eBay (paying $190 for a $150 ticket); sitting 25 rows from the court—excellent seats for the price. As they sat down, Harry laughed, saying: “My 7-yr-old son Zach commented that he likes the Hoops Dome better because he gets to sit in the middle courtside seats! LOL!”

What surprised Harry the most was how the Clippers fans hate the Lakers fans, and vice versa. “Any sign of the yellow Lakers at the Clippers game and you would get verbally abused by the fans!” he said.

Harry has seen Michael Jordan play. One future legend that he wants to watch this month: Kobe. “After OKC made it and the Lakers up, I’m trying to rearrange my itinerary to catch at least one game of Lakers/OKC.  Kevin Durant looks like the prototype for the future of NBA players: tall, mobile, shoots the ball and drives to the hoop.”

Between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Lakers, Radaza expects the former to win. His Finals prediction? “Miami vs. OKC! Two explosive teams hungry for the championship. Although Miami might have the edge in defense.”

When I queried him for his top NBA picks, he rattled off three superstars.

First, Ricky Rubio. Of the Minnesota Timberwolves point guard, Harry said… “amazing pin point passes. He makes everyone around him better. Probably the closest to Pete Maravich.”

No. 2 on his list is Derrick Rose (“amazing work ethic and very quiet and humble. He just shows up to simply play.”)

Finally, of course, everybody’s hero: Jeremy Lin. “He is your typical underdog personified. He toiled so hard at the end of the bench hopping from one team to another just waiting for that one chance. Reminds me of my favorite quote, ‘It is better to be prepared and NOT have the opportunity than to have the opportunity and NOT be prepared.’ He proved that anything is possible.”

Rubio, Rose, Lin. The weird thing about them? Said Harry: “They all went down with knee injuries!”

Back to Cebu, the councilor added: “I went there as a fan, but I couldn’t help seeing several things which we might be able to bring back to Lapu Lapu City in terms of how organized they were, the safety and security, the atmosphere, etc.”

Next up? “After the Lakers/OKC series will be Pacquiao/Bradley in Vegas!”

Swimming with the Gentle Giants

BUTANDING. Like the thousands of you who’ve done an expedition to Oslob to dance with the whale sharks, we did the same last Monday. What a super experience!

Our group of 25 arrived in Brgy. Tan-awan, Oslob past 6 A.M. We each paid P500 and listened to a short briefing. After awaiting our turn, we boarded three bancas that transported us about 150 meters from the shoreline.

With our masks, snorkels and life-vests on, we jumped. The water was 30 to 40 feet deep. Within a few minutes, we sighted a giant creature gliding. It coasted like a Boeing 747. Unbelievable sight! I’ve never seen such a huge living thing (the whale shark is the largest fish species in the world).

Then, it disappeared. For nearly 10 minutes, with the current strong, we waited. No giant. Oh no, we thought. Maybe that was it.

But then, Jourdan Polotan shouted. Shark attack! It floated and slithered. Over 20 feet long with gray/blue colors and white spots scattered around its humongous frame, the butanding drifted. Its heavy body swayed. All our scary eyes sat frozen and transfixed.

It stood up! Yes, another shark, over 25 feet long, stood vertical with its tail nearly touching the bottom floor and its mouth open to devour the baby shrimps (“uyap”).

In our 30 minutes on water, we saw three or four whale sharks. Once, I was so near touching one (maybe two meters away) until a boatman called for me to stay farther. At another time, my mom Allen was aboard the small banca when another whale shark emerged. I shouted for her dive and look. Instead, it was the large fish who lurked near, as if to say, “Hi there, Tita Allen!”

In all—like all who’ve swam in Oslob—it’s a memory to treasure for life. I’ve had a chance to visit aquariums from San Diego to Singapore—but never to swim with these jumbo fishes.

TIPS. For those planning to visit for the first time, here are some suggestions:

Go now! This is No. 1. Why? We can’t control these giants. What if, next month, they decide to have a Board of Sharks Meeting and say, “Let’s transfer to Leyte or Camiguin.” Go now. And be there early: 5:30 A.M.

Visit on a weekday. We camped in Bojloon on Sunday and, early Monday, we traversed to Oslob. Sure, hundreds of people still lined up… but not thousands. Mondays to Thursdays are best.

Go with friends and family. Our group from the BCBP included: Jourdan and Jingle Polotan; Benjie, Connie, Bea and Bienco Cimafranca; Albert, Lynn Rose, Krisha and Chleo Nuñez; Docks, Reshel, Patricia and Krista Rodriguez; Francis, Michelle, Micco and Micaela Palmares; Jack and Malu Mendez; my wife Jasmin, daughter Jana and mom Allen Z.

Stay at Granda Resort. Yes, this is an endorsement: the exclusive resort in Boljoon is only 25 minutes from the site. The breathtaking property sits at the corner of a cove and the famous Baluarte (tower) resides within their property. And, guess what: it’s owned by Stu and Anne Gould, the parents of Chad Gould, the member of the PHL Azkals. Said Mrs. Gould: “Chad, Phil and James (Younghusband) would come here twice a year!”

Wear a rash guard. My only complaint (not anyone’s fault) was the sporadic jellyfish stings that now scatter around my body. Apart from shorts and the life vest, my bare skin was exposed to the tiny jellyfish. No, they’re not visible and plenty—but they’ll sting. Cover your body. (On the lifevest: if you can bring your own, better; the ones we borrowed were not snug-fit and would float up to our necks.)

Bring your own mask and snorkel. Or borrow from a friend and sterilize. It’s more hygienic. Also, bring an underwater camera. If not, they have one for rent at P500.

Eat a little before heading for the water. This will give you enough energy to visit another must-see site after: Oslob Waterfalls.

Finally, to the Oslob officials and the DOT: you have the country’s best tourist attraction! Continue the orderly system; impose further strict measures. Invest the millions you’ll generate back to improvements. Maybe have a glass-bottom boat?