Monthly Archives: September 2012

Gullas: UV ‘overconfident and complacent’

The University of the Visayas is the Michael Phelps of the CESAFI collegiate basketball league. Since the Cebu School Athletic Foundation, Inc. started a dozen years ago, they have won not thrice or five or seven times but 9 of the last 11 years. UV stood for the University of Victory. Not anymore. Not the past two years. Not two nights ago.

“We were overconfident and complacent,” said UV team manager Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, the grandson of Rep. Eddie Gullas. It’s good to hear honest and brutally-frank words from no less than the school owner. Samsam added: “We beat them twice in the eliminations and the semis as well and went undefeated until game 1.”

Compyansa? “Maybe the boys thought it would be easy,” said Samsam. “Hopefully that first game was a wake up call for my players. I hope they will step up for game 2.”

UV forgot that the Southwestern University (SWU) were the runners-up last season. UV also forgot that, last year, it was the venom unleashed by the Cobras that defeated them in the semifinals.

Last year, despite losing the first two games of the CESAFI final to UC, the Aznar-owned team won the next two. I watched Game 5 last year. SWU was minutes away from winning the CESAFI title until a 6-foot-10 giant named Junmar Fajardo and his Webmasters pulled the ball away and held it for good. UC won, 3-2.

“All I want for our bigs to do is to neutralize their bigs,” said Samsam, ahead of Game 2. “I believe the key for us to win is our guard play. If Abad, Mercader and Calo can step up their games for the rest of the series, we will come out victorious.”

UV has to win today’s 5:30 P.M. game at the Cebu Coliseum. If not, SWU will have three chances out of three to win the trophy.

As I’ve said last year, kudos to Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba, the head coach, who took over the SWU team only last season. Thus far, they were the 2011 runners-up and, just two games to go, a possible 2012 champion.

INTERNET. I could not find the time to be at the Cebu Coliseum last Tuesday for Game 1. But I watched the game. Live. How was that possible?

SunStar Sports. If you log-in the website,  http://specials.sunstar.com.ph/sports/,  you’ll be able to watch – in real-time — the game. For free. When I started watching two nights ago, it was the end of the 3rd quarter. SWU led UV 55-50. At that time, there were 50 current users and a total of 124 views.

You will see the SunStar logo at the upper-left and a USTREAM logo on the right. At the lower-right portion of the website, real-time comments are published for all to see and be updated. This is awesome. A UV or SWU follower can be anywhere around the world and watch the game “live.”

SINGAPORE F1. I have two corrections to make. In my last column, I wrote about the Grand Prix night race. Some thought I was in Singapore. Sorry but I watched the race like many of you did… fronting a TV.

One mistake: I mentioned that the Pit Stop, where the cars zoom in and out in as fast as 3.1 seconds, is where they change tires and refuel. It turns out that starting 2010, refueling is not part of the routine. Thanks to Ivi Sumergido and Kerrwin Sanchez for pointing this out.

CCC LADIES. Congratulations to the Cebu Country Club ladies team for winning the Founders Division title in the Sept. 18 to 21 event in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo called the PAL Ladies Interclub.

Hannah Wong, a perennial CCC champion, sent these details: “Our team won Champion in the Founders Division by 30 points despite being just 3 up going to the 3rd day over Alabang. Our leading scorer, Lois Kaye “LK” Go, also won1st runner-up in Flight A and she also won the “Highest Point Scored Award.”

The CCC team: Lalay Lava – Captain; Mercy Bejar; Ryoko Nagai (mother of Gen); Hannah Jayne Wong -ex-jungolfer; Stephanie Marie Abigail “Abby” Olea – ex-jungolfer; Alyeska Yunam -jungolfer; Lois Kaye “LK” Go – jungolfer; Junia Louise Gabasa -jungolfer. Scores are available at palladiesinterclub.com.

Singapore F1 is a heart-racing race

Last Sunday night, I watched the Singapore Grand Prix on TV. Red lights blinked. Skid marks inked the road. Tires squeaked. Katy Perry covered her ears.

At exactly 8:00 P.M., Singapore was pitch-dark but the 5-kilometer race track — along the main streets of Singapore — was lighted as day. The giant Ferris wheel (Singapore Flyer), named the world’s largest, rotated. The Durian building called the Esplanade was painted blue. The Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino, one of this planet’s glitziest, stood on three legs.

What a night. What a weekend. What a party. What a race. Lewis Hamilton started at the No.1 spot. The Englishman was expected to win. It’s difficult to manuever and overtake in Singapore’s twisted route. Yet, sadly for the McLaren star and the boyfriend of Nicole Scherzinger, he aborted the race. His engine failed midway.

Jenson Button? The “adopted Cebuano” and speedy triathlete (he ranked 3rd in his 30-34 age bracket at the recent Cobra Ironman 70.3 race in Mactan) was pushing his Mercedes engine to the extreme limit. With Jessica Michibata waiting and clapping at the finish line, he would finish… Not first… but second. Not bad.

Sebastian Vettel, the 2010 and 2011 world champion and the defending champion in Singapore, proved that he’s aiming for that three-peat. He capitalized on Hamilton’s misfortune to win last Sunday.

Formula One is scary. The margin for error is infinitesimal. Traveling at speeds close to 300 kilometers per hour, the low-flying cars zoom and dash. They sail. Propelled by jetplane-like engines, they don’t drift — they fly.

In this sport, the cliché, “Every second counts,” doesn’t apply. What’s applicable is this: “Every millisecond counts.”

If you watched the race, then you witnessed the crash of Michael Schumacher. Trailing Jean-Eric Vergne right before a turn, he stepped-on the brakes — but they didn’t work. He smashed the rear of Vergne. Ouch. Metal flew.

Lewis Hamilton? Luoy kaayo. As hard as he tried, he failed. Or, rather, he had “equipment failure” as his gearbox conked-out. At Lap 23, smoke billowed from his rear as the TV announcer explained, “That’s the sound of the gearbox eating itself up!” Oh no. From 299-kph to zero.

To me, the most amazing part of this speedy race is when they stop – at the Pit Stop. Can you believe that, in 3.1 seconds, they manage to change all four tires? Yep, all in 3.1 seconds!

The winner in Singapore last weekend? Sure, Vettel was sprinkled wet with champagne. But the champion is… guess who… Singapore.

An estimated 40,000 tourists flew to The Lion City last week and generated about S$150 million in tourism revenue (in pesos, that’s close to P5 billion — just for one event).

In all, Singapore forecasts that, by 2015, a total of 17 million tourists will flock annually to their tiny island. (This is a staggering number as our Philippine tourists only number 4 million per year. This means that Singapore, with a population of only 5 million, generates four times as many tourists.)

Why do so many go to the Singapore F1? It’s not only because of the race. Well, sure, damaging your eardrums as the engines roar and watching these matchboxes zoom-by in a millisecond is fun. But the real reason: it’s an entire weekend of partying.

Katy Perry. Maroon 5. Bananarama. Jay Chou (Jay who?). The Pretenders. They headline a list of artists who trooped to the island. Imagine this: right after watching the race conclude at exactly 10 P.M. last Sunday, thousands hopped over to the next open lot to watch, by 11 P.M., the concert of Katy Perry. That’s back-to-back entertainment. That’s called partying.

If you log-in Facebook, you’ll see plenty of friends (this includes my brother Charlie and his wife Mitzi) who flew last Friday for a mix of Formula 1 and their world-famous drink, Singapore Sling. I call their whole trip: Sleepless in Singapore.

‘Mind more important than talent’

Yuan, IronKids first place

Sport is physical. In basketball, you pass, dribble and alley-hoop. In badminton, you lob, smash, serve. Running involves jumping forward, left leg after right leg, repeated 1,111 times. In gymnastics, it’s a different set of twisting: arms bent backwards as the neck curls and legs spread into a split.

Sport = Muscles. But when I asked proud mom to triathletes Justin and Yuan Chiongbian for the most important attribute in an athlete, her reply surprised me: “Mental strength is, for me, the most important trait of an athlete. Talent is only 2nd.”

Wow. This wasn’t the first time I heard this quotation from Millette, who is the only Cebuana to join the Boston Marathon, finishing the world’s most prestigious footrace in 2011. “The marathon is 90 percent mental,” said Millette, in a speech a few years back.

Justin Chiongbian (from Facebook)

Via email, I interviewed Millette. Her boys, Justin and Yuan, having competed in one of the world’s fastest growing sports — triathlon — only last March, have won their respective age-groups. They’ll compete in Singapore next weekend.

How important are the parents? I asked the wife of Frederic Chiongbian. How do you motivate your kids?

Millette’s answer: “Justin and Yuan have become aware of our active lifestyle since they were tots. This parental and environmental influence to train, compete and the love of sports is the foundation.

“An invitation to a Tri clinic in Plantation Bay Resort and the recruit by TRAP brought on to these boys the competitiveness and the more serious matters to their attention. I saw no reason not to support this because of their expressed commitment.

“Since both train together, each other’s presence and performance is each other’s stimulus and motivating factor. Both are intrinsically motivated.

“Rewards and prizes are not emphasized to catalyze them to attain goals. Rather, the small increments of success in the track, pool or race splits is what motivates both the most. ‘Only the fastest wins!’ is a favorite phrase for both.”

The aforementioned lines are important. They reveal several lessons. One, if the parents are active and competitive… then, possibly, so will the children. Two, “sibling harmony” instead of “sibling rivalry.”

Aged 13 (Justin) and 11 (Yuan), it’s good that they’re two years apart — which means they don’t compete against each other. They practice together, pushing each other to swim, bike, run faster.

And, the words I relish best… “rewards and prizes are not emphasized… to attain goals.” Dear parents: This is essential.

TIPS. I asked Millette for parenting tips. She offered plenty…

ON TRAINING: A. Be consistent & regular on training schedules afforded and allowed. Journal in the progress of your athlete. (So if one’s sked can warrant a 4x weekly swim, 3x weekly run and bike then these should be done week per week).

B. Be sensitive to the mental, psychological & emotional demands of the athlete. (If your athlete often cries when training, openly talk about it and get to the root of his emotions. Mental strength is for me the most important trait of an athlete, talent is only 2nd).

C. Carefully study and consider the demands of the race event the athlete will be competing in. If your athlete is a newbie in the sport, joining smaller but well-organized events gives your athlete a positive experience. On the other hand, too big an event can overwhelm your athlete–getting lost and getting confused with signs on the course and changing kits rules may leave your athlete undesirous to join another race.

D. Suggest to help manage the student-athlete’s time. One has to understand the downtime of the sport. Training hard can leave your athlete too exhausted to do schoolwork. (Manage your athlete’s time by prioritizing studies–tackle home works before training time, study everyday and be ready for unscheduled exams, never wait for deadlines.)

E. Be knowledgeable on the sport in general. Read about the sport as much as you can.

ON NUTRITION: Healthy, natural or unprocessed and, enough.

ON RECOVERY: 7-10hrs of sleep and living in a clean, peaceful yet jovial atmosphere.

Justin and Yuan Chiongbian

Next Saturday, on Sept. 29, after the dust from this weekend’s Formula One race has settled, one prominent Cebuano family will fly to the Lion City to join an event: The Singapore Triathlon 2012 National Championships. Justin and Yuan Chiongbian, two of the country’s most promising young triathletes, will compete in Singapore.

Justin, 13, and Yuan, 11, won 2nd and 1st place, respectively, at last month’s Alaska Ironkids event at Shangri-La.

How did the brothers first try Tri? (As a backgrounder, both parents are sports devotees: dad Frederic is a finisher of the Singapore and Hong Kong marathons, plus an avid golfer; mom Millette is a fast and famous runner, joining last year’s Boston Marathon.)

Millette answered: “Tri came when both seriously began to compete in their chosen sports – Justin was into running since 6 and Yuan into swimming since 3. Looking long term, the reason is because of the higher incidence of overuse injuries specializing in a sport. Also, a multi-sport athlete has a stronger cardio capacity and has a better proportioned physique. We took awhile to decide to get them into road biking because of road conditions and safety.”

In their first triathlon race, exactly six months ago–last March 18–at the 1st Talisay Age Group Triathlon, guess what ranking the Chiongbian siblings got? First place and first place.

Yuan Chiongbian (from Facebook)

Then, in March 31 at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa for the National Age Group Triathlon (NAGT), it was here when the Philippine Tri coach, Melvin Fausto, saw with his own eyes the potential of the brothers.

“Coach Melvin immediately phoned TRAP that he has got recruits from Cebu and said he’s never seen anyone who runs as stable like Justin. Yuan on the other hand is naturally talented and fast. Although coach Melvin said that there are a lot of talents in the 13-15 age category nationwide,” said Millette.

At Plantation Bay, Yuan won first and Justin, second place (in their respective age-group categories).

Next, in Alabang last April for the Century Tuna NAGT, Yuan once again won first and Justin, in his category, 4th place. The following month for the first international race in Subic, the Chiongbian brothers both placed a respectable 10th place.

All these culminated with the August 4, 2012 race in Mactan that was the biggest sporting event Cebu has hosted: the Cobra Energy Drink Ironman 70.3. Yuan: first; Justin: second.

Triathlon is tough. It’s not only cycling or running or swimming but all three. It’s time-consuming. It’s exhausting, physically and mentally.

How, I asked, do your kids cope with the strenuous training? How do you “push” and motivate them?

Millette’s reply: “Through principles of Graduality, Overcompensation; Knowledge on healthy food and the discipline to rest and recover. Both take naps in school after lunch when necessary…

“The ‘pushing’ part is when the boys have to sleep at a certain time to meet their nightly or mid-day sleep quota. I am also there if they needed to be spirited with my presence or my high-fives. A magic phrase I yell that works effectively when they’re getting tired is ‘happy thoughts’.

“Although the basic core to achieve the balance I believe is that when an athlete wants it, there is no need to push it. What develops then is the product, passion and when an athlete becomes passionate, the athlete attains success.

“Justin and Yuan are both at a point wherein their ambitious drive is what pushes them every training time. They’re connectedly focus.. checking their splits in the track, pool or on the trainer. In addition, I also believe that sport knowledge and, to be thoroughly acquainted and be experienced with training/racing, perpetuates the holistic success cycle of an athlete.

“Further, the emotional, mental and psychological strengths should be developed to keep the athlete balanced and in harmonious order with the physiological aspect. Discipline and character are the values inherent to success according to Fr. Manny.”

Happy Malaysia Day!

KOTA KINABALU–The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, are here. They arrived at 7:50 P.M. last Friday from Kuala Lumpur. Their place of stay in KK? Of course, the Shangri-La beach resort in Tanjung Aru.

Yesterday, they were scheduled to fly via helicopter to Sabah’s Danum Valley, one of the world’s oldest rainforests (130 millions years old). The royal couple is expected to stroll across the famous 300-meter long, 27-meter high Canopy Walk in Danum Valley. Says David Jr (blog.malaysia-asia.my) of Danum Valley: “The forest reserve is also one of the most pristine where it caters to a vast reserve of lush tropical lowland forest rich in Sabah’s unique flora and fauna. The area has also been recognized as one of the world’s most complex ecosystems catering to all kinds of flora and fauna.”

Today is also special in this “Truly Asia” country because it’s Malaysia Day. It was on Sept. 16, 1963 — 49 years ago — when, according to Wikipedia, the date “marked the joining together of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore to form Malaysia.”

We’ve been in Malaysia since Sept. 4 when we arrived in Kuching, Sarawak. After seven days there, we transferred to our present base, Kota Kinabalu (KK). Finally, we head back home tomorrow.

My daughter Jana is here joining dozens of other top tennis players from all over Asia for twin tournaments in Kuching and KK called the Asian Tennis Federation (ATF) 14-and-under Championships.

Thus far, Jana has played 10 matches in nine days. She played four singles matches in Kuching (won three, lost one) and another four in KK (also won three, lost one). She ranked 9th out of 18 players in Kuching and, here in KK, she’ll also be No. 9-ranked (out of 24 players) if she wins her final match today. With doubles, she won once and lost once to reach the quarterfinals with Khim Iglupas. Good results for Jana’s first-ever international stint.

FUN. Tennis is not easy. Unlike team sports where, if your team loses, you have your teammates to commiserate with, in tennis, it’s one-on-one. A coach is not even allowed to sit beside you. Thus, there’s no one to blame but yourself if you lose. This is tough. It’s especially tough on 13-year-olds.

And so, to lessen the stress of competition, organizers have come up with gimmicks. One is the Fellowship Night. The Kuching event held theirs on Day Two. It was at the Top Spot Seafood rooftop where the participants, instead of wearing tennis attire, wore jeans and normal (not tennis) shoes.

Last Thursday night here in KK, all the children, parents and coaches boarded two buses and were ferried to the Kampung Nelayan Seafood Market Restaurant. It’s a for-tourists site that’s surrounded by a lake. At the front was a stage where a cultural/variety show was performed. Some players tried the “singkil” dance while photos were snapped. We ate crabs and fresh shrimps; the dessert was gelatin poured in a buko shell. Food and smiles were plenty.

Throughout this trip, my wife Jasmin and I have been reminding Jana: Isn’t sports amazing? Fun? Fulfilling? You get to travel. You get to visit new cities. You get to join an important event. And, most of all–and this is what we stress upon her, more than the winning and losing–you get to meet new friends. After this week, she has teenage friends from Chennai, Shanghai, Penang, Jakarta, Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. And these are not ordinary friends–these are the same girls and boys you’ve spent hours and hours with on-court, everyone sweating, burning under the noontime Malaysian sun, sprinting for backhands and volleys.

For me, personally, this trip is extra special because it’s a long-time wish that I’m watching unfold. I started tennis at the “late” age of 14 and, though I ranked No. 5 nationally in the juniors, I did not have enough time to compete internationally.

To cheer for my 13-year-old daughter during Malaysia Day is a dream come true. To all parents, I wish the same experience for you. Get your children into sports.

KK is OK

Kota Kinabalu, MALAYSIA—There are plenty of Pinoys here. Minutes after we arrived last Monday, we visited KK’s famous beach, Tanjung Aru. The girl we ordered sate barbeque from? She’s from Talisay, Cebu. Our taxi driver? His name is Abdul. He studied in Zamboanga. Their famous souvenir spot? It’s called “Filipino Village.” Almost everyone here can speak a few lines of Tagalog. And, if you study the map, Kota Kinabalu is much nearer Palawan and Zamboanga than it is to Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.

KK is a resort city. You notice plenty of tourists strolling by the waterfront. Shangri-La Resort operates two spots here: the Rasa Ria and the Tanjung Aru. Our very own Lapu-Lapu City in Mactan can pattern itself from KK. This place has wide-open roads (lots of cyclists here), it’s generally clean and, like Singapore, is forest-like: millions of trees sprout and grow. The Philippines? If we want to be “Truly Asia” like Malaysia, we ought to plant more plants.

KK is famous for two outdoor adventures: island-hopping and mountain-climbing. White-sand beaches on small islands are found nearby. And, if you prefer the hilltops, the must-do activity is climbing Mount Kinabalu, listed as the 20th most prominent peak in the world at 13,435 feet. (The famous Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon is held every October.)

Sadly, our group here can neither island-hop nor climb mountains. We’re stuck facing a rectangular surface called the tennis court — here together with some of the top Asian juniors for the 3rd Sabah/Malaysia Asian Tennis Federation (ATF) 14-and-Under Championships.

Before tennis-talk, we’ve had the chance to visit a few other spots: The Sabah Museum. Paying 15 Ringgit each (one ringgit is equivalent to PhP13.50), Jasmin, Jana and I visited a mostly-empty museum. At the entrance, the skeletal remains of a giant whale greeted us. They also have centuries-old ceramic figures, art works and stuffed animals – not the most thrilling sight for 13-year-old Jana.

We entered their largest mall, Suria Sabah. Slightly smaller than Ayala Center, it’s stocked with famous branded shops: Starbucks, KFC, Kenny Rogers, Coach, Rip Curl. But, shocking to see, hardly anyone was there. The mall is a year old and plenty of stalls are still vacant. Asking the taxi driver why few people roamed the mall, he said that locals found the goods expensive. And guess who owns the mall? “KK’s governor and the chief minister,” said the driver. Here, politics and business mix!

We’re staying at the Likas Square Condotel. For a reasonable P3,000/night, our hotel unit has a huge balcony, a sala and dining area, kitchen facilities, and three air-conditioned rooms with two T/Bs. Six of us are sharing the space: three players (Jana, Iggy and Khim) and three parents (Lourdes Pantino, Jasmin and I).

Likas Square Condotel is not near the city (15 minutes away) but it’s only an 8-minute walk away from the Likas Sports Complex, which houses 11 tennis courts. The Likas Sports Complex is KK’s version of Manila’s Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. We jogged on their rubberized track oval. (Sports editor Mike Limpag will love this: the grass on their soccer field is pristine green and ready for play!)

The 3rd Sabah/Malaysia Under-14 Tennis Championships started yesterday. This event has attracted players from many nations: India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, Iran, China, Singapore, Thailand, Chinese-Taipei, Korea and, of course, Malaysia.

From the Philippines, we have four entries: Jana Pages, Iggy Pantino, Khim Iglupas and Eric “Jed” Olivarez, Jr., who won last week’s singles and doubles boys’ competition in Kuching.

Yesterday, Jana won her first singles match yesterday, besting Malaysia’s Aznor Cristina Azri, 6-1, 6-0. Khim beat Nadhila Astuti, 6-2, 6-1, and Iggy Pantino won over Naufai Kamaruzzam of Malaysia, 6-1, 6-2. In doubles, Jana and Khim defeated last week’s semifinalists, the Chinese pair of Ma and Lu, 6-2, 6-3. Today, the battle in Malaysia continues…

Kuching is done; Next stop: KK

Photo from itfsarawak.com

Kuching, MALAYSIA–The City of Kuching is much like Cebu, only smaller. Their biggest mall here is called The Spring. But, compared to our SM City or Ayala Center, theirs offers less tenants and food stops.

We’ve been here since Tuesday. After five days of smashes and drop volleys, the 8th Sarawak Asian Tennis Federation (ATF) Under-14 (Years Old) Tennis Championships finally ends today.

How did Team Philippines do? In the Boys 14 category, Jed Olivarez of Manila will play Daisuke Sumizawa of Japan in the best-of-three final this morning. The 13-year-old Olivarez, the nephew of Philta president (and Congressman) Edwin Olivarez, faced a tough semifinal match yesterday. He was down a match point but prevailed, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.

Iggy Pantino, our very own from Cebu, also did well. Against much taller 14-year-olds, the 11-year-old USC student won three matches and lost two.

Girls? Our best showing was the runner-up finish in the Doubles of Rafa Villanueva and Khym Iglupas, who held two match points in the 3rd set super-tiebreak before losing to an Indian pairing.

Dato Patrick Liew (center) with the doubles finalists including Khym Iglupas and Rafa Villanueva (left)

My daughter Jana did well. Despite losing in the first round against the 3rd seed (Kaaviya Balasubram of India), she won her next three matches. First, against Kuala Lumpur-based Tara Afzalirad of Iran. Their score: 6-1, 6-0. Two days ago, she faced one of Kuching’s top Under-14 players (Kristin Leong) and beat her, 6-1, 6-1. Then, yesterday, under the scorching heat of Malaysia, she beat the Beijing-based Chinese player, Lu Hui Ting, 6-1, 6-2.

Three wins. One loss. Good result for Jana. This is her first international tournament. And while before she’d say she had beaten or lost to someone from Cagayan de Oro or Davao or Bacolod, this time, she can say this: She lost to a player from India and beat others from Iran, Malaysia and China.

What a terrific experience for a 13-year-old. As parents, Jasmin and I are so proud of Jana. And we wish the same fulfillment for all parents who convince their children to do sports.

This is the beauty of sports. You get to compete. You get to travel. You get to meet different people from various nations.

TENNIS CENTRE. The venue? It’s the sprawling Sarawak Lawn Tennis Association courts. It has 12 hard-courts near the center of town and they plan to build five more. In the whole of Malaysia, it appears that Kuching is the tennis capital. They have the U14 Asian Championships plus several more ITF events throughout the year.

The Tennis Centre employs three full-time coaches, all Cebuanos: Ariel Logroño, Brian Kintanar and Francis Largo. Not too long ago, Janji Soquiño was here (he’s now in Singapore). So was Adonis Lominoque.

Tennis is not the only sport in this complex. There are basketball courts, futsal and volleyball grounds, skate-boarding facilities and a soon-to-be-finished mountain-biking facility with lights. Kudos to the man behind the sports and tennis center: the SLTA president, Dato Patrick Liew.

REGATTA. Next week is an even bigger sporting event: the Sarawak Regatta, which begins on Sept. 14. How long has this event been going on?

It started in 1872. Yes, no misprint there: This is a 140 year-old event. The website, sarawakregatta.com, offers plenty of information on next week’s race: there are competitions for 7 paddlers (Balok Boat), for 15, 20 and 30 paddlers. Reads the website: “The day programme include races for traditional longboats, dragon boats and other activities, like the running of totolizers, climbing greasing poles, catching ducks and ‘pillow fights.’ Racing boats from outstations made it a grand affair and also a great occasion for families from outside the State Capital to visit Kuching town.”

What’s unique about this event is that it’s not only open to professional rowers but also to tourists. Anybody can participate in this sports festival.

Sayang. Would have joined the longboat competition that streams across the Sarawak River. Will report on Tuesday from our next stop: Kota Kinabalu.

Jana and Rafa

Tennis in Kuching, Malaysia

Kuching, MALAYSIA—Jasmin, Jana and I are in the island of Borneo. If you visit Google Maps, you’ll notice that this huge land mass is close to Palawan—but it doesn’t belong to the Philippines; instead, Borneo is subdivided by three nations: Indonesia to the south, tiny Brunei in the middle, and Malaysia on the northeast.

Kuching City is the capital of the State of Sarawak in Malaysia. Comparing the geographies of the two, Kuching has a bigger land area (431 sq. kms.) versus Cebu City’s 315. Population-wise, we’re about even with one million residents.

We arrived in Kuching two afternoons ago, flying via Tiger Airways from Singapore. My daughter Jana, who’s 13, is joining the Asian Tennis Federation (ATF) Under-14 Championships.

In her first match yesterday, she faced the tournament’s 3rd seed, a seasoned player from India, Kaaviya Balasubramaniam, who’s ranked 27th in Asia based on the ATF points.

In the first set, Jana raced to a 4-2 lead before her opponent won 5 of the next 6 games. In Set Two, it was another close fight before Kaaviya won the match, 7-5, 6-4.

The match was both hotly-contested and hot. Hotly-contested because the exchanges and games were close; a few points here or there could have swung the favor for Jana.

Hot? The match started past 11 A.M. and finished by 2 P.M. Over 2 ½ hours and no relief from the raging sun. The heat sizzled and scorched. Sure, Cebu is hot during the month of May–but Kuching is hotter during rainy September. And with the hard-court surface, Jana said that her feet were being cooked. (Oddly, it rained hard the whole of yesterday late afternoon.)

Despite the loss, it was a good first-ever-international match for Jana. The atmosphere and venues are completely different from Davao or Manila. The venue is the 12-hard-court Sarawak Lawn Tennis Association Tennis Centre (SLTA), right at the center of town.

Arthur Craig “Iggy” Pantino, only 11 but playing in the U14, fought hard but lost to a much older and more experienced player. The score: 6-4, 6-4. Iggy is accompanied here by his mom, Lourdes.

The Sarawak Tennis Centre has three Cebuano coaches here now: Ariel Logroño, Brian Kintanar and Francis Largo. It was good seeing Ariel, a friend I’ve known since the Sancase Tennis Club days.

What’s good with this tournament is that it’s not a knock-out system. It’s a round-robin format where all players are guaranteed five matches in five days. That’s good! Imagine traveling this far and losing in the first round. This is terrific exposure for the young athletes.

The president of the Sarawak Tennis Centre is Dato Patrick Liew. We met him the past couple of days and, apart from being super-friendly, he’s a top businessman and sportsman. And, in two years’ time, he’ll run for mayor of Kuching.

Enough of tennis… We’re staying on the 15th floor of the Merdeka Palace Hotel, a giant edifice overlooking the city. We’re together with Randy Villanueva, one of the top officials of the Philippine Tennis Association, who brought along his daughter Rafa (who won her first match yesterday in a three-hour thriller).

The food here in Kuching is splendid. Randy brought us to Top Spot, on the 6th floor of a building where fresh seafood abound. It’s like our Sutokil (of Lapu-Lapu City), only cleaner and more organized. We had buttered prawns, calamares, a big fish that resembled our pampano, spicy vegetables (that’s unique to this place) and talaba (oyster) that’s prepared on a crunchy, Kropek-like edible plate.

Even the tennis court canteen food is excellent. We ordered two versions (dry and wet) of their Pad Thai (though they call it by a different name).

Kuching? The word “Kuching” actually means “cat” in Malay. (In our walk after dinner along the Kuching streets, guess what we saw sprint in front of us, surprising our group? Of course, a kuching!)

Plus, there are plenty of words similar to ours. In Ilonggo, cat is “kuring,” very near to “kuching.” Here are some words: “daan” and “jalan,” “hangin” and “angin,” “tamis” and “manis,” “ulan” and “hujan,” “uban” (white hair) is also “uban” (ha ha), “tanghali” and “tengah hari.”

A Grand Prix party awaits the roaring Lion City

SINGAPORE–Yesterday morning at 5:40, I woke up. At this hour here in Singapore, it’s still dark. It felt like 4 A.M. But I got up, dressed, tied my Asics Gel Kayano 17 and jogged towards Orchard Road.
Singapore is clean. Sure, debris litters the asphalted streets–but these are not plastic wrappers or sprinkled garbage but leaves that have fallen from trees.

To many who’ve traveled to this Lion City, this fact you won’t refute: Orchard Road is not only Singapore’s main road (much like our Osmeña Boulevard), but this nation might as well be called Orchard Country.
Singapore is an orchard; it’s all green. As soon as you disembark from the plane and traverse towards the city, all you see is green. Here, trees abound in every corner. Singapore is a forest, a Shangri-La of plants.

What else is here now? Banners proclaiming a giant-size event that is about to rock this nation of 5.1 million people: the Singapore Grand Prix.

The only night race of the Formula One season, the Singapore F1 will be held on September 23. But it’s not only a one-night party–because that entire week is an entertainment feast: Katy Perry is performing, so are Maroon 5 and, if you’re an ‘80s fan, Bananarama and Pretenders.

With only two weeks left, Singapore is revving up its city engines, awaiting the influx of tourists-including my brother Charlie, Mitzi and dozens of others from Cebu–to revel in the race. (In a Puma store at the 313@Sommerset mall, the diehard Ferrari store not only has plenty of red shirts plus BMW apparel, but they’ve also got a new Mercedez Benz-Petronas line featuring Nico Rosberg.)

Jenson Button? Remember him? Cebu’s recent visitor is not in Singapore–not yet–but surely, he’ll be here to try to win. A few weeks back when we had a chance to have dinner together, Jenson talked about this place.

“The Singapore race is amazing,” he said. “It’s very humid. You’re sweating so much. And, because it’s night time, sparks from all the friction light up the track. It’s completely different from the other races.” (Jacs and Perl Jacalan, our companions during that dinner, told Jenson that they’ll be in Singapore for the race. VIP passes? I joked Perl.)

More on F1: Two days ago, guess who won the Belgian Grand Prix? I heard the news from a good friend; the first message I read when I opened my phone yesterday.

“Jenson just won the Belgian Grand Prix, Bai. He has never won there before. Must be the Cebu Ironman training. Hehe.” Ha ha. Maybe! That message came from Vincent Ong of Globe Telecom who also joined us in that get-together with Jenson and his team, including his girlfriend Jessica Michibata. True. Jenson’s hard-charged triathlon racing–while everybody else was in the beach vacationing–might have helped him. (Will write a full story on this very humble superstar soon.)

MALAYSIA. As you read this today, Jasmin and I are flying to Kuching, Malaysia to accompany our 13-year-old daughter Jana for her first international tennis competition.
Jana will join the 8th Sarawak Asian Under-14 Tennis Championships, competing with others from Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, Uzbekistan, Singapore and India. From the Philippines, three girls and three boys will represent us, including Cebu’s star, Iggy Pantino.
After the Kuching/Sarawak leg, we fly to Kota Kinabalu for the 3rd Sabah Asian U14 Championships, to be held at an 11-court facility at the Likas Sports Complex.
The past three months, Jana has been practicing hard for Malaysia. We got a scare two weeks ago when, midway through a practice session, she limped. We cut short her training after she complained of knee pain. We rested for a few days. Then, she joined her teammates from Bright Academy (Shyne Villareal, Anday Alferez and Stephanie Kim) as they won the Girls high school title of the Milo Little Olympics. After, she practiced again.. but the pain persisted. We visited Dr. Tony San Juan who attributed Jana’s growth spurt (she’s now 5’4 ½”) and heavy, almost-daily practices on hard-courts for the slight knee injury. More on Malaysia tennis soon…