Monthly Archives: May 2013

Jack Mendez, The Centurion

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How many Cebu-based businesses can say that they’re 48 years old? Centurion Security Agency, Inc. will turn 50 in 2015. Very few establishments can proudly announce that they’re nearing their Golden Anniversary. Here’s the amazing story (first published in the sports section) of my wife Jasmin’s dad…

He is my coach. My mentor. My Sunday-lunch drinking buddy. He is funny. Wise. Has street-smarts. He’s rich, was poor, is God-loving and forever generous. He’s a family man, a Rotarian, a disciplinarian.

Jacinto Mariano “Jack” Villarosa Mendez was born on August 17, 1931.

The life story of Jack Mendez is amazing. He wasn’t supposed to succeed. Born poor, he was raised poor. In high school during World War II, he endured kilometers of walking on dirt roads to attend school in Ubay, Bohol. In college at the USC, he could barely afford to buy textbooks. When he stepped inside the library, he wore borrowed pants and, to support his studies, he mopped floors in exchange for free lodging.

Manny Pacquiao? Jack Mendez was the same: he lifted wood at the pier as kargador. And, on his final year at the USC law school, his father, a firewood dealer, decided that his brothers and sisters would stop school to allow him to graduate.

After passing the bar exams, he did what no other brand-new lawyer has possibly ever done: he became a security guard. While assigned at a shellcraft company in Manila where snakes crawled the premises at night, he squatted on table tops.

Yet, he endured. He persevered. He did not let his sorry state bruise his fate.

Jack’s first job was with the SSS. Despite a stable job and lofty position as division head of the Claims and Benefits branch, he dreamed beyond the Social Security System. He longed to become an entrepreneur and daydreamed of establishing his own security business.

March 4, 1965. That was the moment. He named the business “Centurion.” As he envisioned, the start-up prospered. And the reason is simple: The owner was a former security guard. Who better to train and manage blue guards than a former security man himself? He understood the guard’s suffering of sleepless nights and the loneliness of working everyday, seven days from Thursdays to Wednesdays, including Christmas and Holy Week.

In those mid-1960s, guards were perceived to be “notorious” and “shady.” He aimed to change that stereotype into one where people would respect security personnel who were courteous, qualified and well-trained. He did that.

From one solitary guard when he started nearly half a century ago, the firm reached a peak of 1,500-strong men and women, back when Centurion also operated a second agency, Mensa (or Mendez Security Agency).

The company motto? It remains as enduring today as it was in 1965: “The Best Pay from the Best of Companies through the Best Service.”

True enough, Centurion became the best: Ten times it was adjudged the “Best Security Agency for Region 7” and, three times, the “Most Outstanding Private Security Agency of the Philippines.”

The story of Jack is motivating. Difficulties? Challenges? Adversity? Are these not present in our daily lives? His example proclaims one of the most powerful teachings in this whole universe: You. Can. Do. It.

For here’s the formula of life employed by the 81-year-old Jack Mendez: “Hardships are not meant to make us bitter.… but better.”

One other lesson he imparts? Laugh. Very often. (He’s one of the funniest men I know.) For life is a constant struggle. But if you laugh at your own foibles and chuckle when problems arise, you’ll often succeed.

Finally, a devout Catholic who now does a lot of “apostolic” work (being with his “apos” or grandkids), he believes that we should both work hard and entrust everything to the Lord. He’d often say, “God helps those who help themselves.”

And so, to the original Centurion, to my inspiration, to my father-in-law: Sir, I salute you.

Basti Lacson swims the Strait of Gibraltar

Based on estimates, the number of people who’ve reached the summit of Mt. Everest is 3,425. If you think this number is very small compared to the world’s population of seven billion, consider this: An estimated 625 people have ever swam from Europe to Africa via the Strait of Gibraltar.

One of those 625 swimmers lives right here — in Banilad, Cebu City.

Sebastian “Basti” Lacson is this rare individual — and possibly the only Filipino — to have ever done a marathon swim between these two continents.

Today, Basti is popularly known as one of Cebu’s top executives; with the Visayan Electric Company, Inc. (Veco), he’s the Chief Operating Officer. But back in 1996, Basti was operating chiefly a different type of challenge: swimming (from Spain to Morocco) one of the toughest crossings on earth.

Here, in Basti’s own words, is the full and first-hand account of that risky, superhuman, crazy and amazing feat:

“Dear John, Thank you for your interest in that swim which, in more ways than one, shaped the person that I am today. That self-imposed test of will taught me many things, showed me what to do and what not to do in life. It opened many doors, as it continues to do today. It establishes a reputation that precedes me in many things I do.

“Your interest led me to dig up my files and thereby recall, once more, exactly what I was thinking back then in 1996. Much of what we do, especially when young and carefree, we cannot readily explain the reasons for. Only later, looking through life’s rear view mirror, can we understand precisely why we chose that course of action. My diary entry for 30 September 1996 states, in response to my very own question, ‘Why am I doing this?,’ states ‘Too see the face of God’ as the reason.

“The swim was a challenge. One fateful April Sunday in 1996, I happened to be lunching with a cousin in Castelldefels, a coastal town south of Barcelona. She had arranged for a friend of hers to join us. This friend was Andreu Mateu, a Spanish adventurer and explorer. Over lunch, he regaled us with stories of his numerous adventures, among them his swim across the Strait of Gibraltar. He added that he was planning to do the swim once again in October of that year. Without any hesitation, I signed on.

“Why was I so quick to get myself into such a commitment? I was winding up my MBA and was having some difficulty landing a job in Europe. I felt I took the MBA too young (I started at 24, the youngest in our class) and perhaps companies I interviewed sensed this. I was trying to keep a long-distance relationship with my girlfriend, who was herself studying in Boston, alive. Working back in Manila after an MBA in Barcelona worried me. Looking back, now I know why I was so audacious as to commit to the swim despite my complete lack of swimming background: I needed something to catalyze success into my life.

“I eventually ended up back in the Philippines and worked in our family enterprise. Four months before October, I started to train. My simplistic regimen was this: swim until I could swim no more. No interval, no stops, no pulse-taking. Just swim non-stop. Two weeks before the swim, I was doing 10 kilometers per swim, which I thought was sufficient preparation. All this time, I became obsessed with the swim and my life was work and training. My Boston girlfriend, who by then had also returned to Manila, decided she had had enough neglect and called it quits. At that point, it didn’t seem like I cared.

“Andreu and I met up in Barcelona in the last week of September 1996. Three friends of his were joining us. Two guys, Gonzalo Ceballos and Pedro Vernis, and a girl named Cori Sangenis. We all flew down to Malaga in the south of Spain and took a bus to the coastal village of Tarifa, which is the southernmost point in the Iberian Peninsula. I still have some expense items listed down from that time (assuming exchange rate of 3 Pesos per Spanish Peseta):

Pesetas    Pesos
Barcelona-Malaga plane ticket    20,000    6,700
Neoprene suit ¾ inch    21,000    7,000
Hotel in Tarifa    20,000    6,700
¼ share in 2 escort crafts    31,250    10,400
¼ share in doctor    6,250    2,100
¼ share in fishermen-escorts    5,000    1,700
¼ share in other expenses    5,000    1,700

TOTAL (without counting meals and
Ticket from Manila to Spain)    108,500    36,300

“My sponsor was the now-defunct Pilipinas Bank, whose president was the gentlemen banker Carlos “Lito” Pedrosa. He gave me USD1,000 which, if you look at the expenses indicated above, was just on the money. My father sponsored the ticket to Spain and gave me some money for meals.

“During the first few days of October 1996, the wind was not in our favor. Strong Levantine winds buffet the cost of Cadiz constantly throughout the year. This is why the area was already, at that time, dotted with wind turbines. But during the first few days in Tarifa, it was howling. These easterly winds reach their maximum expression in the Strait of Gibraltar, turning this sea lane into a nightmare or, as I wrote in my diary, ‘…rendering the Strait impassable with its monstrous rage.’ I observed further that ‘…the waves tend to break or wipe-out and this, combined with their 2-3 meter height result in any swimmer’s nightmare.’

“On October 5th, the winds died and we planned for an early start the following day. We started at 6:56 am of October 6th from Punta Marroqui in Tarifa. Led by one of our guide boats, a small zodiac, we made for a southwesterly tack, swimming into the Atlantic Ocean.  This is against the current which is from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.  This was very tedious although necessary in order to get to out intended destination: the beaches of Punta Cires in Morocco. So tedious was this first part of the swim that it took about 3H 30mins (out of 5H 19mins total) to cover less than half the total distance of the route. Once the critical inflection point had been reached as determined by our fishermen-guides, we drifted southeast with the current until we reached the beaches of Morocco. We had forgotten to bring our passports (something you don’t normally bring when out swimming) and when we spotted armed men waiting on the beach, we opted to dive down, touch sand, and motored hurriedly back to Tarifa. We had done it: left Spain at 6:56 am, got to Morocco 12:15 pm. 5 Hours and 19 minutes from Europe to Africa. For further verification, please consult the ‘neoprene’ category in www.acneg.com, website of the Strait of Gibraltar swim association.

“The swim did turn out to be a good thing. I got my first good job because of it. The Spanish guys interviewing said that I could ‘do anything if I could swim the Strait of Gibraltar.’ I realized the value of working tirelessly for a goal and of the value of deferring the reward until the end. I apply those virtues at home, in the workplace and in sport, where my love for endurance tests stills persists. I also realized that in life, balance is necessary, that I cannot ignore all else just to pursue some single-minded objective, like I did with the swim. As for the girl in Boston, well, we married in 1998 and now have two wonderful children. So I guess that got sorted out.

“In the end, maybe I did see the face of God.”

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COMMENTARY ON SPORTS. My discussion about sports with Basti did not end with his Strait of Gibraltar swim.

Basti has been a lifelong sportsman. Back in college at the Ateneo, he was captain of the Blue Eagles basketball team.

While taking his MBA in Spain, he decided to run a 42K. “I ran the Barcelona Marathon in 1995, which was I believe the first time they used a timing chip,” he said. “It was a fabulous route down the northern coastal road towards Barcelona. It culminated in the Montjuic stadium where the 1992 Olympics began and ended. The last three kilometers were up the hill to Montjuic, and many of the professional runners complained. I also recall that after that year, they stopped ending in Montjuic. I ran that in 3H 56mins. I also did a couple of half-marathons in Madrid some years later.”

MORE Q & A. Here’s the rest of my interview with Basti…

John: Given that we’re a country of 7,107 islands, it’s a wonder why swimming is not that popular; why do you think this is so?

Basti: The islands and beaches are for having fun and frolicking. Swimmers are bred in public swimming pools, and we don’t have any. To expand the talent pool of any sport, public sports facilities must be available and young athletes must be able to revolve their sporting and social lives around those sporting facilities. This applies to tennis, soccer, swimming, cycling, table tennis and the like. If one wants to swim in this country, where does one go without spending much money or becoming a member of a private club? In other countries, municipal facilities provide the breeding ground for what later become world-class athletes. Once in a while we will produce an Akiko Thompson (very well to do parents), or import soccer players from Europe, but our talent pool is not rich because we have chosen, as a society, not to invest in sport. Since there is nowhere to swim, we won’t produce many fine swimmers.

John: What do you think of the Olango Challenge (which just finished two weeks ago) and the long-distance swims?

Basti: The Olango Challenge is a great opportunity to experience the delight of open sea swimming. We should have more of it.

John: Do you still swim nowadays? Any events you’re targeting? What exercise keeps you busy?

Basti: Recently I’ve started swimming again and have been doing 2. 5K workouts whenever possible. It isn’t easy to find a decent 25-meter pool in Cebu. When in Manila, I try and swim every day since I have access to a nice 25-meter pool out there. I just do it for my own conditioning. I haven’t caught the triathlon bug yet. I have a bias against sports that require heavy investment. I’m a bit of a purist in that the best sports for conditioning are the ones that require minimal investment and maximum effort.

John: Why is sport so important in life? What lessons can one derive from sports? What have you personally learned from sports?

Basti: Sport means different things to different people. Sports and/or music in young people set the important keystone habits that unlock other beneficial traits that will help them throughout life. They underscore the need to practice relentlessly to excel at something. In this age of instant just-swipe-your- I-Pad gratification, this value can be forgotten, to the detriment of the child. They underpin the need to set priorities and follow schedules. They teach a child how to win, and how to lose. Sports and music create friendship bonds that last longer than other friendship contexts. To win and to succeed in music and sport, one must rely on teammates, coaches and parents. Winning by cheating is frowned upon, also a valuable learning point.

Once we get older, sport becomes important in staying fit and healthy. It releases much of our angst and tension that can accumulate because of work and the like. We also need to accept when the body starts slowing down and the next generation come in and take over. That is life’s cycle.

Samsam, Dennis preview the NBA’s Final Four

When the NBA season started last October 30, there stood 30 teams. Today, there are only Memphis, Miami, Indiana and San Antonio.

Of the “Final Four,” my good friend Dennis Que is most impressed with the Memphis Grizzlies. Weeks back, he picked Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers (East) and San Antonio Spurs-Oklahoma City Thunder (West); he got 3 out of 4 right.

Memphis, meanwhile, grizzled and sizzled. “They’ve been playing the best basketball so far in the playoffs,” said Dennis. “They play with intensity and they reminded me of the 2004 NBA champions Detroit Pistons. There’s the defense of Marc Gasol, along with Tony Allen and Prince, the steady play-making of Mike Conley and the resurgence of Zach Randolph.”

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Dennis e-mailed me his comments the other night. This was, of course, before the Spurs embarrassed the Grizzlies yesterday, 105-83. Still, this team has been down before — and won. “They’ve beaten the Clippers despite being down 0-2; they defeated OKC four straight games after losing Game 1,” said Dennis, who is so confident with Memphis that he expects them to reach the NBA Finals and beat Miami in Game 7.

GULLAS. Another expert I consulted is Cebu’s new congressman, Gerald Anthony “Samsam” V. Gullas.

An excellent ballplayer who still practices with his University of the Visayas squad (he’s the team manager), Samsam doesn’t believe in “upsets.” To him, the rankings are overrated, citing New York as an example. “They ranked #2 but if Rondo was available, Celtics would have won against the Knicks. Denver and OKC both lost first round match up but that’s without Gallo and Westbrook,” he said. “I also feel frustrated with Rose in Chicago. He was cleared to play, getting paid millions and yet left everyone hanging if we would play or not. A simple yes or no would have sufficed.”

When I asked Rep. Gullas who surprised him most, he answered two. First, Memphis. He belies trading Gay was a good move. “Memphis is a physical inside-out team and they did that against the Thunder. It seems like Gasol and Randolph made Perkins and Ibaka look like boys in a man’s game,” he said.

Second, the Golden State Warriors, whom he considers a young team with young stars, a great coach and the best home-court crowd. “My brother-in-law, who is constantly at the games, sends me messages on how the fans are at the Oracle; 15 mins prior to tip-off, fans are cheering, and they barely sit down when the game is on.”

Of the Final Four teams left, Samsam credits their “good big men and good backcourt play.” He’s reminded of the ‘90s teams like the Knicks and the Rockets.

“Every team in the final four play inside-out basketball and a physical brand of basketball,” Gullas said. “Miami is an exception, they are the hybrid type. They are playing fantastic with small ball and have great rotations defensively. Not to mention this guy named LeBron who can guard and play all 4 positions. I am excited to see have he will fare against Indiana’s physical big men West and Hibbert.”

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As exciting as the Final Four is, Samsam believes less people will follow the NBA playoffs today compared to before. The reason: no Lakers, no Celtics, no Knicks.

“People follow big market teams such LA, Boston and New York. Miami is in but the Spurs, Memphis and Pacers are small-market teams. More people may be watching in that state but I don’t think majority of the fans will be following the smaller market teams due to the lack of superstars.” Good point.

Finally, on his “fearless forecast,” while Dennis Que picks a wild-card in Memphis, Samsam is going safe with the Heat and the Spurs.

“Heat caused I’m biased and they have the best player in the world. Spurs because they have everything you would want in a team: great team chemistry, great coaching, unselfish superstars, role players who accept their role, very good defensively and players who do not care about the box score, and players who know what to do to win games. But with the NBA rule changes that tend to favor fan-friendly run-and-gun teams, I see the Heat winning it in 6.”

Bo’s Coffee: Proudly brewed by Steve Benitez

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Steve Delantar Benitez and I are members of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP). We call each other “Bro.” Well, it might as well be “Brew.” Because when we talk of a business that’s brewing, nobody is more celebrated.

Bo’s Coffee started in 1996. Today, with 56 branches and 4 to 6 more opening before yearend, it is the nation’s No. 1 homegrown coffee chain.

“Being a national brand is challenging,” Steve admitted, as he helps manage outlets in Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Bohol, Tacloban, Davao, Iloilo, Pagadian, Bacolod and Cebu. “What might work in one place may not work in another region. The key is to adapt and localize yet being consistent in delivering our brand experience.”

Ahh, experience. I love coffee. You do, too. And the magnetic pull of Bo’s is often attributed not just to their Caffee Cappuccino or White Chocolate Mocha — but to the “experience.” The ambience, it’s called, or “the look.”

This 2013 — the 17th year of Bo’s — Steve is embarking on another new look, “our 5th generation store design,” he says. “We are adapting to the lifestyle of the current generation of the coffee market, young and vibrant.”

Steve, 46, is excited about the reinvention; he’ll expand their breakfast, bakery and dessert lines, plus, to differentiate the brand from American giants like Starbucks and Seattle’s Best, he’ll focus on the company’s strength: Being Pinoy.

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“Bo’s will continue to showcase the best of Philippine Coffee,” Steve said. “We have introduced the ‘Philippine Coffee Origin’ in Manila, and in Cebu as we launch our new designed store in July. The first Origins will come from Benguet, Sagada, Mt. Matutum and Mt. Kitangland.”

Here’s the strategy: If Starbucks brags about beans flown from Kenya or Guatemala, Steve is proud to showcase our own.

“What’s fascinating about these Single Origin Arabica beans is that it enables coffee lovers to get to know the featured places in a different way through its flavor profile,” wrote the blogger, MomsHug (momizhugcom.blogspot.com).

“Sagada, for example, has a sweet, nutty, and well balanced taste, with hints of chocolate and fresh tobacco. Benguet, which is near Sagada, is also well balanced, with herbal notes. Mt. Matutum, which is located in Mindanao, features a berry-like and spicy taste, and Mt. Kitanglad, which is also in Mindanao, is perfect for coffee drinkers who are looking for something light and nutty, with a hint of floral undertones.”

Another concept that Steve has introduced is the “pour over method.” In this era of push-button, here’s-your-cup-in-15-seconds machines, Steve is embarking on a back-to-basics style.

The “pour over method,” literally, means manually pouring the coffee. “It requires precision, a steady hand, the right water temperature, and the right circular pouring motion,” explained the writers behind the blogsite, The Pickiest Eater.Net. “They say it’s the best method for their Philippine Origins product line. It’s also the most basic way to brew coffee and what’s nice about it is you can brew by the cup.”

TIPS. Steve isn’t all-work. When not traveling, he spends a lot of time with his wife, Geraldine “Din-Din” Oliva, (some say “BO’s” means “Benitez-Oliva”) and their children, Hugo, Daniela and Vito.

Finally, I asked the CEO for tips. Steve gave four:

1) Pursue your passion. And be imaginative in pursuing it.

2) As your business grows, wisdom comes not in grabbing every opportunity but saying no to the wrong ones. It is easy to grow but saying no is difficult. Stay true to your core business.

3) Make your business relevant not only to your customers, but to your community as well. Be socially and environmentally responsible.

4) What got you to where you are, may not be the same factors that will get you to the next level. In the cycle of entrepreneurship, your strength at the beginning may become the obstacle to growth. When you hit this point, complement your weakness with the strength of others. Be open and humble.

The Beauty, the Best and the King of Clay

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The first time I saw Serena Jameka Williams was in 1999. We were in New York. It was the US Open and, as a young 17-year-old, Serena was not expected to win. But she did. It was her first Grand Slam singles title. Since then, Serena has won a total of 30 majors (15 in singles, 13 in women’s doubles and 2 in mixed doubles).

The second time I watched Serena in person was in 2008. Playing doubles for Team USA with her older sister Venus, they won the Olympic gold medal in Beijing. In singles, she won another gold.

Last Sunday night on Solar Sports TV, the 31-year-old Serena faced Maria Sharapova. It wasn’t the first time they met. I recall their Wimbledon encounter in 2004 called “Beauty and the Best” — won by the long-legged Russian blonde.

Not two nights ago. Holding a 12-2 win-loss record, Serena has a mental edge over Maria — just like Rafa has over Roger, or Novak has over Rafa.

Williams easily defeated Sharapova, 6-1, 6-4. The match was over in 78 minutes. Serena — who has not lost to Maria since 2004 — is nearly-invincible because of two Bs: brawn and brains. If we talk of physical strength, nobody is more muscular. If we talk of mental strength, nobody possesses more resolve and willpower than Ms. Williams. (Add another B: a Boombastic serve, at times clocking 207 kph.)

With one more B — big bucks — it’s also the same: nobody, in terms of prize money among women athletes, has earned more. In her career so far, Serena has amassed $44.1 million.

And if that’s not mind-boggling enough, here’s further bad news for the women: At the press conference after her Madrid victory, she wore a red shirt that said, “Bestest Ever.” She then explained: “Every time I play, I really relish it more. I feel like, honestly, Serena, when are you going to get tired? I don’t know.”

With Maria, well, this we know: she doesn’t mind losing these days because she’s in love. Previously engaged to NBA star Sasha Vujacic, she has since dribbled away from basketball.

Maria’s new boyfriend is Roger Federer. No, not the Rolex endorser and the married man codenamed “Federer Express.” It’s the player whose game resembles that of RF: Grigor Dmitrov. The Bulgarian (who’ll turn 22 this Thursday) stands 6’2” and was a former world no.1 junior. He shocked Novak Djokovic in the first round of the Madrid Open.

In this sport where the word “love” is used each game, these two have found a love game.

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NADAL. Of the Spanish superstar, I’ve watched Rafa play twice. The first was together with Dr. Ronnie Medalle and his wife Steph and my wife Jasmin in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. That was in 2007. The following year, Jasmin and I witnessed the Olympic gold medal victory of Rafa in China.

Intense. Spin-filled. Physical. Tenacious. These are a few words I’d use to describe Rafa. Here’s one more: the Best Clay-Court Player Of all Time.

For all you tennis players, you know this: Grass is slippery fast; hard-court, too, is quick — but red clay is slow. And, when the games are long and the rallies are long, this is when Rafa excels.

Like last Sunday. In Madrid, Rafa was as comfortable speaking Espanol as he was winning points. He beat Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-2, 6-4. (The first set he won in half an hour.)

Rafa was out for seven months until last February because of a knee injury. He missed the Olympics and the US and Australian Opens. He missed too many — and this is why he’s winning many today, reaching seven straight finals and winning five.

Which brings us to Rome this week for the “Italian Open” and, in two weeks’, to the Super Bowl of clay-court events: the French Open.

Ranked No. 5 in the world, this number troubles Novak, Roger, Andy Murray and David Ferrer. That’s because Rafa can meet any of the top four in the quarterfinals. Imagine a Novak-Rafa contest in the Round of 8? Ouch. That would be bad.

I hope that doesn’t happen. I’m hoping for a Novak-Rafa final that goes five hours, five sets, with all four socks brown and a million drops of sweat watering the dusty red Parisian clay.

In golf, the hero is Bayani

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Bayani (far right) with his CCC teammates

Two Saturdays ago, the 2013 Club Championships of the Cebu Country Club was played. After a weeklong series of one-on-one contests (called “match play”) pitting winner against winner, one final winner emerged.

Though his family owns this newspaper (his dad, Atty. Jesus “Sonny” Garcia, Jr., is SunStar’s chairman), very few words were devoted to his victory.

Bayani Lopez Garcia is the 2013 CCC Club Champion. It’s his second trophy after winning the 2009 edition. “This one feels good,” Bayani said. “I proved to myself that the first club championship was not a fluke.”

Bayani’s path to victory included two excellent qualifying rounds (69-71) and never trailing in any of his matches during the knockout stages. (En route, the No. 2 seed also defeated Marco Mendoza, Kim Kwang Seok and, in the semis, Andre Borromeo.)

In the 36-hole, morning-and-afternoon finale against Lloyd Jefferson “LJ” Go last April 27, Bayani once again played near-flawless: grossing 4 under and being bogey-free in the first 27 holes. He credits his consistency to Coach Andrew Ong.

But as outstanding as Bayani’s performance was, LJ played well, too, in particular in the third 9 holes. “LJ played the lights out having back-to-back birdies on 2 and 3 as well as sticking his second shot on the 25th hole (hole 7) to a few inches for an easy eagle!” Bayani said. “From 4 down after 19 holes to being dead even after 28. That was one of the best 9-hole performances I have ever seen and to be able to pull it off under immense pressure was just remarkable.”

In the end, though, the more remarkable one was Bayani, who proved that experience still prevails over youth. The 27-year-old Bayani beat LJ, only 18, with a score: 1-up.

“I was actually not favored to win this match,” Bayani said. “Lj was the favorite since he was the top seed during the qualifying and he has been joining tournaments here and abroad. Also, because the finals is 36 holes and me tipping the scales well over 300 pounds, people thought I could not withstand the final.”

Of LJ, Bayani had this to say: “He is a phenomenal golfer with a very bright future ahead of him. Most importantly he is one of the kindest people I know. He is a very good friend with a big heart, very thoughtful and considerate, and a very jolly demeanor. He is the epitome of a true sportsman.”

The past two months — helping CCC win the 66th PAL Interclub Championship Division title in March and winning this individual trophy in April — have given Bayani a golf high. “It feels great! The two are the most important tournaments for me and to be able to win both is a feeling like no other!”

As to Bayani’s favorite player, his response was tiger-quick: Mr. Woods, the man he watched win the 2000 British Open Championships at St. Andrews. “Nobody in the sport has the mental toughness and drive,” said Bayani.

Finally, I asked Bayani why he loves the sport and what lessons he can impart to his fellow players.

“Golf is character-building,” Bayani said. “It is the only sport where your greatest adversary is yourself. It is how you deal with different uncontrollable situations that can decide on whether you win the tournament or not. It teaches you patience, perseverance, commitment, an,d most importantly, decision-making. It is a life teacher.

“Never give up on yourself. I know a lot of golfers that easily get discouraged because despite all the hours they spend on the course, they do not see an improvement in their game and handicaps. I always tell myself when I’m playing bad that things will always get better. I just have to weather out the storm and continue to practice in order to improve.

“Have fun and enjoy the game! Golf is not just about hitting balls to a target, making putts, and scoring well. It is a time where you can break free from the daily grind, have time for yourself at practice and enjoy the company of your friends during. It is about de-stressing and for 4 hours of your day, leaving your work and the daily grind behind.”

Yo, Ming! Bring that giant smile next time

MANILA — Twenty five years ago this summer, I stepped inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex for the first time. I was a skinny, pimple-faced 16-year-old who was joining the Group 1 (biggest) junior tennis event in Manila.

Time travels fast! Last Monday, we stepped inside the same tennis courts of Rizal Memorial. But this time, it was my daughter Jana Marie, now 14, who’s competing in a Group 1 junior tennis tournament.

Walking amidst the eight courts of Rizal Memorial these past few days brought back amazing memories. Unknown and taga-probinsya, I recall feeling anxious when I faced the Manila netters 25 years ago. In the National Age-Group Championships that I joined, I faced the No. 2 seed (Giovani Fabricante, I believe, was his name) in the second round. Imagine facing the second-best player in the Boys 16.

I won, 7-5, 7-5. What a victory. In sports parlance, it’s called an “upset” and there’s no better feeling: you feel like David slaying Goliath; a Cebuano smashing a popular Manila netter.

Thus far here today, Jana won her two matches the other day — including an “upset” of her own, beating the 3rd seed, Nicole Amistad, in two hours and 20 minutes: 6-4, 3-6, 10-8 (super-tiebreak).

YAO MING. While the 7-foot-6 star was inside the coliseum named “Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena” last Monday night, we were inside the mall. Yao Ming arrived in Manila accompanying the Shanghai Sharks — who lost two games here against the Gilas Pilipinas and the PBA selection.

Yao Ming

(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Only 32 years old, Yao Ming played in the NBA for 10 years (with eight All-Star appearances) — ending his career two years ago because of injuries.

While here in Manila, Yao Ming wasn’t smiling —  reports Joey Villar, my good friend from The Phil. Star, yesterday in his story entitled, “Yao Ming no ambassador of goodwill.” Said Joey: “Yao… seldom smiled, got irritated at times, refused to sign autographs and rarely granted photo ops to the fans — and if he did, he frowned at them.” Not good.

AEROSMITH. Another MOA Arena attraction here happened last night. It wasn’t sports but another type of entertainment. It’s Aerosmith. Led by the former American Idol host Steven Tyler, this band is the best-selling American rock band ever — selling over 150 million albums.

Flying into Manila last Monday, Aerosmith was supposed to perform in Jakarta, Indonesia in front of 15,000 fans. But their concert there was cancelled — due to security reasons.

The band behind “Dream On” and “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” performed their first-ever Southeast Asian last night. Not a fan of hard rock, no, I didn’t watch. (Ticket prices as high as P20,000 don’t help.)

PACQUIAO. It’s final. The date is Nov. 24 and the venue is Macau (The Venetian). As I’ve said in this space before, let’s watch!

Pacman only has a couple of fights left in him (if he loses — that’s three in a row — this will surely be his last). While the choice of venue in the previous years was faraway Las Vegas, now it’s the nearby “Asian Las Vegas.”

Brandon Rios? He’s a good choice. Remember, after Pacman’s fall to Marquez, everybody commenting the same words: Don’t let Pacman fight Marquez right away. Let him meet a second-rate fighter first…

Well, if you study the past opponents of Rios, you’d conclude the same thing: He’s no Mayweather or Bradley. I scanned his previous opponents and — though I’m no boxing guru like Atty. Jingo Quijano — I couldn’t recognize a single popular big-named star.

Which makes an ideal tune-up fight for Pacman. Train extremely hard for six months, win against Rios (via KO, if possible), then arrange for a Part 5 against Juan Manuel or, if he’s willing, that mega-battle all have been awaiting: Manny/Money.

Bring back the PBA All-Star Weekend to Cebu

I’ll admit it: I don’t follow the PBA. I used to. My dad’s younger brother, Rey Pages, used to play for the Crispa Redmanizers together with Bogs Adornado, Atoy Co and Philip Cezar.

My all-time favorite player is Allan Caidic. I recall, back when we lived in Bacolod and basketball was my sport in elementary, watching Caidic (then with UE) score a dozen three-point shots—just like Chester Cokaliong would today.

Last Sunday night, I watched the PBA. On AKTV, the PBA All-Stars played Gilas Pilipinas. The venue was Digos City, Davao del Sur and it was the 2013 PBA All-Star Weekend.

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Junemar Fajardo: it was terrific to watch him play for Gilas. We used to watch him at the Cebu Coliseum—now, he’s a giant in the Philippine Basketball Association.

The other night’s game wasn’t the only show inside the Davao del Sur Coliseum. There were plenty the whole week: the Obstacle and Trick-Shot competition; the 3-point shootout, the Greats vs. the Stalwarts game; and, of course, the highlight: the Slam Dunk event.

Chris Tiu was unbeatable in the 3-point contest. In Round 1, he shot 4 out of the 5 “last balls” (which award two points) and scored 17 — the same number as his jersey. In the final round, he disposed of all with a score of 21.

Slam dunk? I watched the replay and they were spectacular. As if slamming the ball inside a hole that’s 10-feet-high isn’t already difficult, the five PBA stars who joined were acrobatic.

Chris Ellis scored perfect “50” points in his first two attempts. If I were in Davao to judge them, I’d give him a perfect mark, too. He flies. No wonder he’s called “Air Force.”

With the PBA All-Star game itself, what I like about these games—patterned after the NBA, of course—is they’re high-scoring. There’s less defense and more dunks.

Talk about high-scoring, would you believe that last year, the score was 176-144. I didn’t watch that game (held in Ilocos with James Yap as the MVP) but what an offensive barrage when both squads totaled 320 points.

Last Sunday, I watched the last two quarters of the All-Star game between Gilas and the All-Stars squad. It was exciting and got even more exciting in the last minute.

With 15 seconds left in the game, thePBA All-Stars led, 122-119. They were going to win. But, wait—Gilas stole the ball. Castro then scored on two free-throws. Next, JV Casio was fouled and also sank his two free-throws.

Score: 124-121. Time left: 13.7 seconds remaining. Then, with 7.6 seconds left, a funny thing happened after a three-pointer was attempted: the ball got stuck in-between the ring and the fiberglass board. Jump ball!

Then, with a few ticks left on the game-clock, Jeff Chan of Gilas faked a shot as the defender flew; he then unhurled a three-point shot.

With 0.6 seconds, Jeff Chan made it! The final score: 124-all. (Expecting an overtime, the game’s rules stated a draw in case of a tie ballgame.) Said the TV announcer: “Literally, a win-win situation.”

ALL-STARS IN CEBU? I checked Wikipedia and found out that the PBA All-Star Game started in 1989.

In that very first All-Star Game at the ULTRA in Pasig, the Veterans defeated the Rookies-Sophomores-Juniors team, 132-130. Guess who the MVP was? Our own, Elmer “Boy” Cabahug.

In its first 10 years, they held the weekend in Manila. But, in the year 2000, the venue was the San Agustin Gym in Iloilo City. Since then, majority of the All-Star games have been outside Manila.

Cebu? We hosted only once, in 2004. Asi Taulava and Jimmy Alapag were declared co-MVPs in that game at the Cebu Coliseum. After Cebu, the hosts have been Laoag, Cagayan de Oro, Baguio, Bacolod, Puerto Princesa and, two years ago, in the tourism capital of our nation: Boracay.

Isn’t it time to bring back the PBA All-Star Weekend to Cebu? It is. Since it will be 10 years next year since we last hosted, it’s about time. The question is: Where? The best Cebu gymnasium? The under-utilized but excellent venue in Lapu-Lapu City called Hoops Dome.

Should Manny have accepted Money’s $40 million?

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Multiplied by the exchange rate (rounded off) of P40 = $1, the amount of $40 million translates to P1,600,000,000. Yes. No typo-error there. That’s “16” plus eight zeros.

If you encashed that amount in 20 peso bills, it would fill a 20-foot container van. That amount can buy one person (I computed this) 688 Ford Fiesta 1.6L Trend 6PS vehicles plus 37,000 iPad Minis plus a whopping 7.2 million meals of ChickenJoy!

Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who’s fighting Robert Guerrero this morning, said these words in a recent ESPN interview:

“I say this: I called Manny Pacquiao, myself, on the phone, and offered him $40 million. This was before the Marquez fight. Offered him $40 million. I told him I would wire (him) $20 million within 48 hours. He told me, I want 50-50, and got off the phone. I’m not scared of no fighter, and I feel that, where was this guy when I was dominating the sport of boxing in ’98, in ’99, in ’96. This guy was never heard of. This guy just popped out of nowhere, walking through the biggest and the strongest fighters? And this guy come from 105? Are you serious? Once again, I never said he took anything. All I said is I want to be on an even playing field.”

Mayweather is a loudmouth. He blabbers. He talks as fast as his rapid-fire punches. Should we believe the man nicknamed “Money” when he talks about money?

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In this case, yes. When analysts estimated that a Pacman-Mayweather fight could have fetched each man $50 million, then his $40 million offer is possibly true.

Did Pacquiao make the mistake of not accepting Mayweather’s offer?     Definitely.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” David Beckham once said. True. Because… What if Pacquiao accepted the P1.6 billion offer then went on to humiliate the previously-undefeated American? Then he retires. Perfect.

Instead, MP rejects Money’s money offer, fights Marquez a fourth time, falls to the canvas and doesn’t wake up for minutes; he then takes a super-extended-leave of absence from December until today.

Now, that’s all past. Pacman wants to completely erase the memory of that Marquez daytime-nightmare. “Let go of yesterday,” Joel Osteen preaches.

Still, the questions remain: Will Pacman fully recover? Can he regain his old self, when he was at his peak during the fights with De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto? He’s now 34 years old—surely, he’s on the physical decline, right? (Consider this: Boom-Boom Bautista, who reportedly quit boxing, is only 26; yet, let’s also consider that Mayweather is 36 and Marquez will turn 40 this August; plus, Bob Arum is 81!).

MARQUEZ. More on Juan Manuel: it’s obvious that the Mexican has the upperhand in the negotiations. Offered $13 million to fight Manny, he spurns the temptation.

For vindication purposes, Manny needs Juan Manuel. Will this MP-JMM Part 5 happen next year, after they win their respective bouts this 2013?

Maybe. Maybe not. But for now, Marquez is playing hard-to-get. He believes he won their first three fights. He also wants to preserve the memory of December 8, 2012. He doesn’t want to give Pacquiao the satisfaction of revenge. He wants our last remembrance to be of him climbing the corner ring with arms pointed in victory while his Filipino rival was slumbed asleep on the Las Vegas floor.

PACMAN. As for the Congressman from Sarangani, it looks like the date is set. “He’s (Pacquiao) fighting Nov. 23rd, that’s the date in the United States; Nov. 24th, that’s the date in Macau. He’s gonna fight in Macau, at the Venetian Cotai Arena,” Bob Arum said. Who’s the enemy? “It’s Rios or Alvarado,” Arum added.

MONEY. With today’s fight against The Ghost, expect the same: a 44-0 scorecard for Floyd. It’s his first time to step on the stage after a two-month-long prison sentence. Facing an opponent who was a perennial 126-pounder and fighting only his third fight in the 147-lbs. division, Floyd is expected to easily win. And he will.

FINALLY. Said Bil Keane: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”