Monthly Archives: February 2013

Pinoy Pride 18, Xterra Tri and the PAL Interclub

Is this week the biggest ever in Cebu sports? Yes. It started last week when the PAL Interclub tournament teed-off at the manicured lawns of Alta Vista. It continued with Day Two of the Seniors Division at the Club Filipino in Danao. That tournament invited 800 players nationwide to our Cebu shores. That’s golf.

Two mornings ago, we had one of the most sought-after races: the SM2SM Run. Over 4,000 pairs of running legs participated. Millions were spent by SM and thousands of pesos will go to charity. That’s running.

Tomorrow, the Championship Division of the PAL Interclub commences. Our Cebu Country Club team — Bayani, Andre, LJ, Marko, Gen, Jovi, Eric, Mark, Montito and Carl — will, on home turf and as a band of 10, attempt to repeat as champions. As I’ve written here last Sunday, the PAL Interclub is not only the biggest golf outing in our Philippine islands, it’s also 66 years rich in history and brings “golf tourism” to Cebu.

What else is happening? This Saturday, it’s the 18th edition of the Pinoy Pride Series and it’s dubbed “World Champion vs. World Champion.” That’s because Donnie Nietes, the Murcia, Negros-raised Cebuano is fighting Moises Fuentes of Mexico on March 2. It’s Nietes’ WBO (light flyweight) belt against Fuentes’ WBO (minimum weight) belt.

Having observed Nietes doing sparring seven afternoons ago at the ALA gym in Mandaue, I’m here to report the sad news for the Mexican contingent, including the visiting Marco Antonio Barrera: good luck, enjoy the battle while it lasts because you’re going to lose.

Donnie Nietes is in terrific shape. When we spoke in Ilonggo (while he was wrapping his knuckles with white tape), he knew the enormity of this moment: he’s not fighting in MOA Arena or anywhere else abroad, he’s fighting in our “mini Las Vegas” called the Waterfront Hotel.

“This event is historic,” said ALA Promotions President Michael Aldeguer. “For the first time in Cebu, two world champions will be fighting each other.”

Perfect. “Ahas” stars in the Year of the Snake. In the undercard, Genesis Servania, who is the WBO Asia-Pacific super bantamweight champion, will entertain the crowd. What’s outstanding about “Azukal,” as he’s nicknamed, is this: He won 19 times with six KOs and has never lost a bout. Jimrex “The Executioner” Jaca, carrying an impressive 36-win, 20-KO record, we’ll also watch. That’s boxing.

Is that all? Nope. One more: The Vaseline Xterra Off-Road Triathlon Championship Weekend. Now on its third year in Liloan, Cebu, this swim-bike-run event is different from the Ironman. Because while the IM70.3 is in Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort — and where bikers use Cervelo road bikes worth P700,000 and the runners are “spoiled,” running on smooth asphalt — in Xterra, it’s the opposite. It’s dirty. It’s rocky. It’s risky. It’s muddy.

Xterra uses the mountain-bike — and I tried the 17.5-km. route last weekend. Scary! Last year, I joined the Xterra Lite and found the bike route scenic. For this weekend — a completely different route but still in Liloan — it’s more technical and dangerous. You traverse through areas beside a cliff. After reaching the highest peak at 185 meters, you descend on a single-track, non-paved, sharp-rock-filled narrow road. Too many times, I went down my bike and walked. Not wanting to fall and get bloodied, in possibly 20 percent of the way, I walked.

Ken Salimbangon, Onek Priagula, Bernard Palermo joined the “elite” triathletes like Joseph Miller, Tenggoy Colmenares and Jomer Lim in trekking the mountainous terrain. The view from the top of Consolacion? Amazing. We took photos. We even stopped for a “buko break,” drinking fresh coconut milk and “carbo-loading” on buko meat. I love mountain-biking. I love maneuvering past the cobbled stones. I love the shaded, nature-filled route. This is Xterra — and it’s happening this Saturday and Sunday.

This week, our mantra is… Sports: It’s more fun in Cebu!

PAL Interclub: only one of its kind in the world

Jovi Neri, one of Cebu Country Club’s top golfers, described the 66th PAL Interclub this way: “The tournament is unique because it is the only one of its kind in the whole world. No interclub golf team tournament in the world has a history this rich or a field this big. It will feature almost 200 teams and over 1,500 golfers from all over the world — all coming to Cebu for two weeks, which boosts the city’s exposure, tourism and economy. It’s not only a showcase of the host courses, but for the whole Cebu. Golfers have been wanting to come back since we last hosted in 2002.”

For Jovi and his Cebu Country Club (CCC) teammates, the Interclub is special not just because they’re “playing for CCC,” but because they all grew up in CCC and have been on the Banilad greens since they were children. “There is a shared heritage among us,” he said. “CCC has been part of our lives the same way we have been part of it. That makes our team unique and not a lot of other teams can say the same.”

MARKO SARMIENTO. The reigning CCC men’s champion, Marko Sarmiento agrees, saying: “CCC treats this tournament different from the other participating clubs since this is the only team competition that we enter. Other Manila clubs have team tournaments like the Federation which is played all year round and the Fil-Am. For one week, we play as a team and our teammates rely heavily on each other to perform well. This is the main reason why the pressure from this event is unlike any other.”

The 66th PAL Interclub is classified under four divisions: Championship, Founders, Sportswriters, and Friendship. For the first time ever, Team CCC won the premier Championship division last year in Davao when it beat Del Monte Golf Club. Thus, the added pressure — especially because Cebu is hosting.

“The Men’s division will start on Wednesday and will be played on 2 courses: CCC and Mactan Island Golf & CC. Play in Mactan is instrumental since it’s a difficult course that not many have practiced in. What makes the course difficult are the conditions of play, especially the tricky greens,” said Marko.

Each team has 10 players. Except for Gio Gandionco, who is in the U.S. for golf scholarship, all nine players are returning.

Are we favored to win? Yes and no. “We’ll be favored since this partially in home turf,” said Atty. Neri. “In other sports, hosts depend on crowd support to give them home-court advantage but the courts are still all regulation size and length. In golf, all courses are different so familiarity is really a playing advantage. However, CCC is only the venue for 2 of the 4 days, and the other 2 is in Mactan, which is neutral ground. So while observers call CCC as the favorites, rivals are just as strong, especially Del Monte and Alabang, which finished 2nd and 3rd last year.”

Gio’s replacement is my next-door neighbor, Andre Borromeo. Thrice a member of CCC’s Founders (champion) team, Andre qualified after a grueling 72 hole qualifier vs JJ Alvarez.

Top players? Says Marko, who’s joining his 12th PAL tournament: “We will again be led by our two young guns, Gen Nagai (2hdcp) and LJ Go (+1 hdcp: the only plus handicapper in CCC).”

NIMROD QUINOÑES. Over at the Alta Vista Golf and Country Club – which hosted the Seniors Division — I asked one of my closest friends, Nimrod Quiñones, to comment on the impact for Cebu.

“PAL Interclub is not just for the golf clubs. We have a total of 800 players for the seniors and another 800 for the men’s tournament for a total of 1,600. That is still excluding their companions. If a player spends just a minimum of P20,000 here while taking part in the tournament, that is P32 million that is pumped into the economy of Cebu.

“Since this is my 20th PAL Interclub playing various roles as sportswriter, photographer, thrice as participant, once as team captain, and several times playing in the media tournament, now as GM of a host club, I know that players spend so much more than P20,000 each.

This is sports tourism at its finest moment.”

Inside Antonio Lopez Aldeguer’s Gym

20130219_153243

The country’s most respected and best-managed boxing facility is not found in GenSan or in Quezon City or in Bacolod, it’s right here in Cabancalan, Mandaue.

Last Tuesday, I visited the ALA Gym. Wow. Superstar after superstar I saw. Jimrex Jaca sparred. Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista wore jogging pants and intently watched the hostilities. Genesis Servania sweated. Michael Domingo was there — no longer a fighter but a trainor.

I went to visit Donnie Nietes. Humble and always sporting a charismatic smile, Donnie proclaimed himself super-fit (“wala problema gyud,” he said) for next Saturday’s duel at the Waterfront Hotel.

“I was not my best shape in Bacolod,” he told me, in Bisaya, referring to his controversial win in October 2011 at the La Salle Bacolod Gym. This time, Donnie is much more confident. As we spoke, he wrapped his fists with white tape. He wore all-black, from foot to head: Asics boxing shoes, leggings, shorts and a shirt plus a head gear that was black.

We spoke in Ilonggo. Nietes hails from Murcia, a town 10 kms. from Bacolod. His snake? “Ara didto sa kwarto (It’s in the room),” he said, referring to his good-luck pet snake, Don II.

The ALA Gym, found behind the sprawling Aldeguer compound that houses their multitude of businesses (The Islands Group, included), was abuzz with excitement two afternoons ago. They house a track oval for running. A full-size basketball court. Mirrors adorn the walls while various weights of dumbells are ready for use. There are two boxing rings, side by side.

Because the Pinoy Pride XVIII is just nine days away, a who’s-who of Pinoy boxers was present last Tuesday. There were about 50 boxers, including several Japanese. Punching bags, too many to count, stood still, ready for pounding.

Above, hanging, were dozens of banners of the ALA Promotions events. In full color, the various Aldeguer boxers were celebrated. Each photo had their family name printed underneath.

20130219_153545

Minutes after I arrived together with Tommy Frederiksen, the Swedish tennis coach of my daughter Jana, The Godfather himself arrived.

Each Monday to Saturday afternoon for the past 28 years since his gym started in 1985, Tony Aldeguer himself is there to supervise their training. He wore shorts and running shoes. And when the sparring started, instead of just sitting down to watch, he climbed the NordicTrack stationary bicycle (which had a plastic sign at the side which said, “For ALA Use Only”). He himself was there to work out. Pedaling, observing, shouting comments to Donnie and to Edito Villamor — all these ALA was doing in his second, every-afternoon home.

“We’re letting Donnie spar against a taller, bigger opponent,” said “Tito Bidoy,” as I call him. This way, Donnie gets used to the Mexican, Moises Fuentes, that he’ll face next weekend.

Donnie sparred for four rounds with Ralph Lulu. They didn’t seem to hold back; they were going all out. This was Donnie’s second-to-the-last sparring session; he spars his final four rounds today. “Donnie might not be spectacular but he’s powerful and very effective,” Aldeguer tells me.

Ilonggos. I’m not sure if it’s because Mr. Aldeguer himself comes from Iloilo but his gym is filled with Ilonggos — many from Bacolod and Negros. “They’re very talented,” ALA says.

After Nietes’ session, guess who came on board? It’s a sight that we’ll not see anywhere, even in Las Vegas.

Milan Melindo versus John Riel Casimero! Milan is scheduled for an April 6 bout (undercard of Brian Vilora) in Macau while the world champ Casimero is headed for Panama next month.

Their sparring? I don’t know if a) they both hated each, or b) they wanted to put-up a great show for the audience, or c) they’re just ultra-competitive and want to always give their best… but it was a spectacle. They were out to flatten each other.

Shirtless with spiky light brown hair, Casimero (wearing adidas running shoes) was offensive. Seated beside Coach Tommy, we were, literally, at ring-side (beside the ropes) and could feel the power of the punches and the absorbing pain they’d inflict. Milan himself did not relax: he punched uppercuts and wanted to KO his fellow Pinoy.

And that’s only the sparring. I can’t wait for March 2.

LeBron: Hybrid MJ, Magic, Pippen, Robertson

With limited TV time the past three days, I only got to watch the NBA festivities last Sunday night.

Erik Spoelstra beamed an earful smile. As head coach of the league-leading Miami Heat, he got to coach the Eastern All-Stars, including his three players in the starting five: Bosh, Dwayne, LBJ. How cool is that? The Filipino-American looks relaxed as ever. He’s won an NBA crown and is headed for another one this June.

I watched the practice session when the West and East stars shared half-a-court each. While the West All-Stars were tutored seriously by their coach, Gregg Popovich, the Team from the East were joking: they positioned themselves across each other, passed two balls simultaneously, rotated their giant bodies across the rectangle.

To any basketball fan, watching this NBA weekend “live” must be a dream. In one arena, in one floor, in one game — the best of the best gather. They’re relaxed. They score up to 143 points. They dunk and dunk.

SAMSAM GULLAS. Each time I need expert inputs on the NBA, I always seek the advice of one man: Gerald Anthony V. Gullas, Jr.

The AVP for Finance and Administration of UV, if Samsam were not working for the family-owned university (or not running for Congress this May), he’d be a full-time basketball player or coach.

“I love the new concept of the East vs. West Format for all the events,” said Gullas. What he likes most? The trait the Gullases are most known for: giving back to community. (During the All-Star Weekend, the winning team was given $350,000 for their charity while losing team, $150,000.)

How about the weekend’s most awaited contest? “The Slam Dunk competition was very entertaining compared to last year but without NBA stars I believe it still lacks the kind of hype it had in the 80’s and 90’s,” he said. “It’s just sad to only see clips of the 80’s and 90’s when the stars took stage in the Slam Dunk Contest. MJ, Nique, Spud, Kobe, etc. I believe the All-Star Game would showcase the REAL slam dunk contest.”

Asked to name a standout player, Samsam picks Kyrie Irving who, he says, should overtake Chris Paul as the league’s top point guard. “He is smart, athletic, possesses a great shooting stroke and most importantly, clutch. Just ask the Thunder,” said Gullas.

MJ vs. Kobe vs. LeBron? Samsam answers: “MJ turns 50. More than a decade removed from the game, we still hear stories of MJ joining Bobcats practices and even challenging Bobcats rookie sensation Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a one on one game and won. The best thing about MJ is that he will always be a competitor.

“MJ had the talent to be the best basketball player in the world, but his will to win and love of competition made him, the G.O.A.T. MJ hated to lose, that’s why he has been to the finals six times and is a six time NBA champion and a six time NBA Finals MVP.”

As to Jordan saying Kobe is better because “5 will always be more than 1,” Samsam cries foul. It’s unfair, he says.

“Even being a Kobe Bryant fan, I’d have to say talent-wise, LeBron is the best basketball player in the world today. Kobe Bryant in his prime vs. LeBron today would definitely be a tossup, but today, it’s a no contest. I think it is unfair for MJ to use the 5 vs. 1 ‘rule’ because I believe he is the G.O.A.T and I will never pick Bill Russell to be a better player who has 11 rings to Jordan who has 6. With the way LeBron has been playing, he will definitely have 3-4 more rings added to his collection. Kobe will always be the closest thing to Jordan but LeBron is the first hybrid of Jordan, Magic, Pippen and Oscar Robertson.”

From SM City to SM Seaside City

SM_Seaside_City_Cebu

Marissa Nolasco Fernan, SM’s top official here in Cebu for many years now, showed my dad and I the SM Seaside City design when we met a few afternoons ago at the Radisson Blu.

It’s Cebu’s version of the Mall of Asia (MOA). Only better. And more modern. With a glass-encased towering tube rising at the middle of an open garden. Ready for occupancy two years from now, it will be Cebu’s all-in-one, must-visit place soon.

Marissa also showed my dad and I a structure which, if realized, will change the sports and entertainment scene in Visayas and Mindanao: our own version of The Arena. I’m sure you’ve heard of MOA’s Arena, the 16,000-seater indoor coliseum where Lady Gaga danced, where the ALA Boys boxed, where Jennifer Lopez sang and where the UAAP games are being played.

Imagine an SM Seaside City Arena? In Cebu! Well, according to Marissa — now on her 25th year with the Sy family — this should be realized. If it does, we can host NBA exhibition games, a Djokovic-Murray 3-setter, a UFC Asia fight…

Remember the Megadome that then-Governor Pabling Garcia wanted to build? Where the CICC is right now? The Arena will be the same — only so much more modern and world-class (the MOA Arena reportedly cost P3.6 billion!).

SM2SM. For now, as the SM Seaside City construction is underway, we can visit the Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod. We can hear mass there today.

Even better, seven mornings from today, we can join the run that’s the biggest this season: the SM2SM Run.

Fifty thousand pesos to the 21K winner! Yes. No misprint there. This, by far, is the largest paycheck anyone can receive outside Manila. (As comparison, our Cebu Marathon 21K event only offered P20,000.)

The 21K champion gets 50K. The runner-up, P30,000; the 3rd placer, P20,000. Just on those podium finishers alone, that’s P100,000. In cash. Plus, there are plenty of other prizes: Radisson Blu overnight stays for two, buffet dinners, raffle items and more.

Now on its third year, runners joining the Feb. 24 race will start at the SM City Cebu. Parking, always a concern, is plentiful. There are four distances: 21K, 12K, 6K, and 3K. All distances, if you compute it, are divisible by 3K — which makes this event not only unique but also “runnable” for everyone.

A couple of weeks back, I got the chance to meet with Jen-Jen Amigo, the Assistant Vice-President for Marketing (Visayas). We were in their conference room together with Joan Zanoria (SM City Cebu’s Marketing Manager) and RJ Leduna, the SM Supermall’s Public Relations Manager for Vismin. Joining us was the race director, Joel Baring.

I listened to their plans. Full hydration by Nature’s Spring. There will be entertainment along the way — including at the South Road Properties (SRP). And there is proper coordination with the government agencies: Citom, the SRP, the DPWH.

What’s also new this year are the use of Timing Chips. Within hours after the race (for those doing 12K and 21K), participants can visit the SM Facebook page and see the electronically-timed finishing times. Few races in Cebu use the timing system but, in major events worldwide, this is a must-have race component.

Beneficiary? Of course. Based on earlier press releases, the event donated P200,000 last year. For the 2013 edition, an amount will again be contributed to two organizations: the Cebu City Task Force for Street Children and the Cebu Newspapers Workers Foundation (Cenewof).

I know that, almost every Sunday, Cebu has a road-running race organized. The 21K distance — once a rarity in our streets — has become a monthly occurrence. But next Sunday’s event is different. It’s big. You can make the sign of the cross (or say the Sorrowful Mystery, if you’re suffering in the 21K) while passing the Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod. You will run unopposed at the SRP. You’ll see the future SM Seaside City. And, who knows, 10 days after Valentine’s Day, thanks to a prize or raffle win, you might bring your wife on a dinner date or overnight stay at the Radisson Blu.

The 31st SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards

Each month of March, our group of columnists, writers and editors on these back pages — the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC) — gather to honor the year’s top sports performers.

Who will be the Athlete of the Year? Who will be our guest of honor? In previous years, we had Antonio Lopez Aldeguer, Manny Pacquiao and Dondon Hontiveros. Who will be this year’s inspirational speaker?

Sportsman of the Year? Who will be this solitary man (or woman) who will receive the highest honor this 2013?

Although I sit as president of SAC, these answers — for now — are confidential. In the next days and weeks, we will slowly announce the full list (plus the full details: date, venue, etc.). But, today, I am ready to present to you our Major Awardees and Citation Awardees.

All of these individuals, teams and organizations have excelled in the 12 months of 2012. They’ve worked the hardest. They’ve sweated buckets. They’ve won gold. They are the most outstanding sports for last year…

MAJOR AWARDEES. (athletics) Daniel Noval, (arnis) Trixie Mary Lofranco, Reynaldo Combate, (basketball), Jerie Pingoy, June Mar Fajardo, (beach volleyball), Jonrey Sasing, Edward Ybañez, (boxing), Johnriel Casimero, Donnie Nietes, Michael Aldeguer, (chess), Enrico Sevillano, (cycling), John Mier, (dancesport), Mae Lozada , (football), Don Bosco elementary team, Cebu Football Association, (golf) Cebu Country Club, Gio Gandionco (gymnastics). Carmelli Garrovillo, (mixed-martial arts), Victor Cui, (running), Mary Grace delos Santos, (swimming), Bea Riza Roble, (table tennis), Dannel Jay Tormis, Stephen Jaca, (taekwondo), Mikeala Calamba, (triathlon/duathlon), Justin Chiongbian.

CITATION AWARDEES. (athletics) Lorna Olarita, USPF Athletics team, (autocross), David G. Lim Jr., Jess Garcia, Derek Arculli, (badminton), SWU high school team, USJ-R men’s team, UC Women’s Doubles (Jessa Mae Lagat, Irish Mae Ares), (baseball), Cebu Dolphins, (basketball), SWU Cobras, Sacred Heart School-AdC, UV U-16 team, Hernal Escocio, Dawn Hynric Ochea, UV – Under-16 team, Arnie Christian Padilla, Felixberto Jaboneta IV, Gregory Slaughter, (beach volleyball), UV’s Jade Becaldo and Mike Abria, (billiards), Warren Kiamco, (bodybuilding) Dondon Cardona, Dennis Nichol Delgado, (boxing), Genesis Servania, Romnick Magos, Jason Pagara, Milan Melindo, Rocky Fuentes, Rey “Boom-Boom” Bautista, Merlito Sabillo, Arthur Villanueva, (chess), Allan Pason, Kyle Sevilleno, Vic Glyzen Derotas, Cepca, (dancesport), Dancesports Team Cebu City, Wilbert Aunzo and Pearl Marie Cañeda, (football), Sacred Heart School High School, Aranxa Trebol, Eddie Alivio, Little Azkals, Cheska Toledo, Patrick Reichelt, Ray Jonsson, Oliver Colina, Glenn Ramos, Paolo Pascual, USC college team, (golf) Cebu Country Club Ladies team, (gymnastics) Mikaela Silverio, (judo), Joaquin Fernandez, (karting), Juan Antonio Carcel, (mixed-martial arts), Cary Bullos, YawYan Ardigma, (motocross), Pepo Rubi, BJ Pepito, (mountainbike), Zandro Fajardo, (running), Mary Joy Tabal, Merlita Dunkin, John Philip Duenas, (rugby) Cebu Lady Dragons, (sepak Takraw), Rhey Jay Ortouste, (softball), Abellana National School, Salazar Colleges of Science and Institute of Technology, (swimming), Anthony Linn Navarro, (speedskating), Zach Sanchez Araneta, (table tennis), Jerny Kaye Pepito, (taekwondo), Tony del Prado, Team Cebu City, (tennis), Kara Salimbangon, Jana Pages, Jan Godfrey Seno, (triathlon/Duathlon),Elmer Clarabal, Rochelle Tan, Mendel Lopez, Yuan Chiongbian,. Francesca Villaba, (underbone), Team Suzuki-BMR, Anacleto “Insik” Flores, (volleyball), USC men and women’s teams, USJ-R boys and girls teams, SWU V-League champions,. SWU national Prisaa champs, Catmon Central School, Jusabelle Brillo, Raphril Aguilar.

Pinoy Pride Chicken in Ubay, Bohol

20130127_112203

Two Sundays ago, I watched an activity that I had longed to watch for years: Cock-fighting.

Upon the invitation of my father-in-law, Atty. Jacinto “Jack” Mendez, we went to Ubay, Bohol. It was their annual fiesta and we were 11: Joining Jasmin, Jana and I were Jourdan and Jingle Polotan; Francis, Michelle, Micco and Micaele Palmares; my parents-in-law Jack and Malu Mendez.

In Ubay, we inhaled the fresh breeze from the Mendez resthouse-by-the-sea and gorged on eat-all-you-can-finish crabs, humba, shrimps and wasay-wasay shell.

That Sunday, after hearing mass, the three Js – Jack, Jourdan and John — drove to the Ubay Sports Complex. It’s an indoor facility where basketball games are played and beauty pageants are organized. But on that morning, it was a different pageant: Cock-Fighting!

Outside the gym, dozens congregated – many, feeling like the Freddie Roaches of Bohol, were holding their prized possessions: their fighting cocks.

There was an entrance fee. And it wasn’t P25 or P35 cheap — it was P150. Jourdan and I paid P300. Guess what? After being given the ticket, we were stamped. Not the customary Waterfront Hotel-style stamp on the wrist. We got the stamps on our necks! Ha-ha. This is going to be fun! I said. Excluding the “chikinini” that we all got in high school or college, it was the first time I had a mark on my neck. Great start.

In the middle of the gym stood the “boxing ring.” Built for the weekend fiesta, railings enclosed the square. Plastic seats and wooden tables surrounded it. Sand covered the floor.

It was 11 A.M. and, in a few minutes, a once-yearly contest will happen. It’s called “Karambola” and it’s not the usual battle. Because — like in boxing – it’s normally one vs. one; but in karambola, they throw all fighting cocks in the arena at once and, whoever doesn’t (pun intended…) chicken-out and whoever emerges as “the last chicken standing” is declared the winner of P10,000.

Imagine this type of free-for-all in boxing? Or in MMA? An enclosed, Octagon-like auditorium and, after 20 warriors are released, whoever is standing alive is the winner. Crazy thought.

It’s like Gladiator. Only, this wasn’t a movie set in Rome but a thrilling Battle of Bohol starring animals that have made KFC, Max, and Sunburst famous.

As the dozens of chicken crowed and the excitement heightened, the emcee grabbed the microphone and made a roll call of each entry. Each fighting cock was representing their barangay! Wow. There was a giant “kabir” that was, literally, “heavyweight.” There was a midget participant. Yes, only half the size, he was quick-footed. (Able to hop and bounce away, he was hardly touched in the actual fight.) Each fighting cock was outfitted with a sharp blade.

Vice Mayor Constantino Reyes, who sponsored the 10K prize money, welcomed the participants. He made special mention of a special man seated beside me and Jourdan: the highly-respected Ubayanon, Jack Mendez.

A priest said a prayer! Would you believe that. As if to bless the about-to-be-slaughtered, this opening act in Ubay beats Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas.

Finally, after a countdown, the 20 or so fighters were jointly released. It was a mad scramble. In one corner, three fighting cocks would tussle. Some jumped and escaped the blades. Feathers flew. Blood spilled on sand. Necks were slashed. Lifeless chicken would, one after another, be left sleeping forever. Dusts of sand would fly.

At the sidelines, the owners would scream. They’d jump if their warrior would score a kill. Some winced at the brutality. Within minutes, two men entered the ring and grabbed the dead. They’d throw them outside, in a corner. After several minutes, half of the fighters were comatose, dead or too scared to fight and had to be plucked out.

Finally, nearing 20 minutes, only three survived. Two handlers would engage them one after the other. In the end, the one owned by Tata (below photo) was declared the winner.

20130127_112402

What a first-time experience! No wonder every Sunday, when Pacman’s not on TV, hordes of men would flock to these arenas and gyms. It’s heart-pumping. It’s life or death. It’s MMA and blood minus real people.

Want to win? Lose first.

I love failure. No, I don’t want it. Who does? But, when it does happen — and, human beings that we are, failure is bound to happen all the time — then I relish it.

Failure is good. Without it, we don’t learn. We don’t correct. We don’t see what we need to improve; we don’t become better. That’s what failure does. It teaches us. It helps us see the other side; helps us observe what we did right in the past; it humbles us.

I love failure. There’s a saying that goes: “If you don’t fail, then maybe you haven’t tried hard enough.” True. Too often, we’re afraid. We don’t take risks. We look at what can go wrong instead of what can be.

My favorite quotation? “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life…..    and that is why I succeed.”

This man made error after mistake after missed shot. And that’s why he’s Michael Jordan.

I love failure. This is why I love sports so much. It teaches us about life. It teaches us how to live life. Because in sports — as I shared two mornings ago at Bright Academy when I spoke during the Sports Fest Opening — in any game we play, there are always two possible outcomes: either you win or you lose.

There will always be a loser in sports. But when you lose, it doesn’t mean you’re a loser. It means you lost one game. You can use that failure as an impetus to practice harder, jump higher, run faster. You can win. In the next game. Yes you can. Because of failure.

I love failure. I like it so much that, two years ago in my speech before a full house crowd in Ayala Center Cebu — for the 29th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards, attended by Cebu’s top athletes and sports personalities; all of them champions — guess what topic I discussed?

Failure. You know why? Because as successful as those honorees were, they’ll fail. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in next month’s tournament. Maybe to a more inspired opponent who they handily beat before.

Failure is as human to you and me as the air, the darkness at night, the ball that is round. But failure is temporary. It’s what you do after you fail that’s essential. Do you rebound after? Do you smile, swallow the defeat, and vow to become a new You and better You? That’s when failure is good.

Remember Nadal? Out for seven months with a knee injury, is he now a failed athlete, a footnote to the greatness of Novak and Murray? Ha-ha. Never. In Rafa’s mind molded of Spanish steel, he’ll use that “failure” (he failed to compete in so many events, including failing to defend his Olympic gold medal) as extra motivational sauce to spice up his forehand. Watch out, Rog.

I love failure. Winners do. Of course, deep inside, they hate it. Champions despise it. But, when it does happen, the hurt is being transformed into a positive force.

Remember LeBron? And how the world conspired to hate him when he left Cleveland and transferred to Florida? He swallowed that humble Miami pie and, guess what, he’s now got an NBA ring and an Olympic gold to go with his MVP trophies.

I love failure. You should, too. Use it. Turn around your failed status. It’s all in your brain. Success is not due to your present circumstances — it’s up to your mind. If you want it; if you program your brain and change that dark state into a spirit that says I-can-do-it, then here’s the secret: You can do it.

Look at the Davis Cup team. Twice losers in our first two outings in Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, many said “dimalas ang Cebu.” We can’t win here. We’re not strong. Well, we beat Syria and will face Thailand this April 5 to 7. I was there the whole of last weekend and you can’t describe the extra joy and extra sweetness of victory — finally winning after losing.

That’s what failure does. It makes the victory tastier; it makes the come-from-behind win more savory; it means more. Relish failure. And be thankful to God when you rise and finally triumph. Because you will.