Monthly Archives: June 2013

Tony Galon runs 42K x 6 = 250 kms.

To you and I ordinary mortals, running a 21K is considered an accomplishment. Finishing a marathon — the 42K — is a major, life-changing achievement. How about the 50K? Or the 100-km. ultra-marathon? These are considered “crazy” distances reserved only for the diehard lovers of pain. Well, guess what? There’s more.

Last June 14, a 250-km. race — the countrys’ longest footrace — was held in Cebu. The South-to-North 250K started in Santander and, after passing through 20 cities and municipalities, ended in Bogo City.

Joel Cuyos finished first with a time of 42 hours and 39 minutes. The others who completed the distance within the cutoff time were Zenchen Lagapa (43:19), Wilnar Iglesia (43:19), Rodney Cabahug (46:40), Tony Galon (46:58), Randy Rubio (47:02) and Barry Red (47:37). Three women joined the race and it was Rodah Oporto-Cabellero who finished (12 minutes after the cutoff time).

I interviewed Tony Galon, the 43-year-old president of the Cebu Ultrarunners Club (CUC), and here’s his account:

“At Km70, I had a blister on my left foot and later on the right foot around km100. It’s also the first time that I experienced hallucination. I can see people at a distance — yet they were only plants, trees or road signs. One time I wondered why there’s a bus lying on the road. Was there an accident? It was the shaded part of the road covered with tree shadows.

“Sleeping while running/walking. I took a nap between Aloguinsan-Toledo. I can’t control my eyes; they closed by themselves. I stayed in the middle of the road following the lines and after a few seconds, opened my eyes and aligned myself in the middle of the road. In Aloguinsan, this sleeping habit stopped because of the many stray dogs…

“Along Tuburan-Tabuelan, I was alone because my support crew, John Domingo, helped another teammate. My headlamp had no battery and it was very dark. I can barely run and felt disoriented. I can’t understand everything. My mind can’t hold on as it seems it was a never ending 8km in Tabuelan. I needed fuel (food) as I didn’t have proper intake in the past 2 days.

“I ate a chocolate bar given by Agnes Perez with her husband Garry, joining the Tabuelan 111. But it wasn’t enough; I still can’t focus. Luckily, there was a barbecue station and I asked for barbecue and puso (“hanging rice”) but it was only 1 puso. Soon after I reached Tabuelan, I felt disoriented and cold. I noticed that when I ran I had no sweat and felt hotness in my body.

“I decided to stop and sit down and later decided to take a habal2x going to Bogo City. I have no light for the Tabuelan-San Remigio route and the km. marker says 33km to go to San Remigio plus the 8K going to Bogo City. With my situation, there’s no way I can take the marathon length. I stopped a habal2x and asked the fare going to Bogo. It was P300 and my money was only P100.

“While talking and negotiating with the driver, Ronald and Mazil Rubic (my in-laws) saw me together with Keith and Annabelle Dinoy (CUC members who joined Tabuelan 111). It was perfect timing. They gave me food, medicine, massage, hot soap, fresh dry cloth and a flash light. I stayed for an hour in this area just to recover. From then I was in a good condition and started running again plus my wife (Alfie) and John Domingo arrived. I ran the whole stretch except the part when there was heavy rain and I took a nap inside the car waiting for the rain to stop.

“The rain did not stop. Alfie advised me to use an umbrella to save time so I can reach the finish line within the cutoff time. I ran to Bogo City with an umbrella. On the last 8K, I thought the old city hall was the finish but it was the Martinez Gym. I ran like an UNGO was chasing me until the finish.”

Amazing! Tony completed the 250K in 46 hours, 58 minutes. He was one of only seven runners (out of the 20 who started) to have finished within the 48-hour cutoff time. As baseball’s Tommy Lasorda once said, “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination.” What a story of perseverance by Tony.

Other inputs from Tony:

Tony is presently working at Systech Telecom Ltd, a hongkong based company dealing with hotel wifi internet, bt we have also a music division that is exclusive handled the Asia Pacific for Vienna School of music board. Wife is Alfie Galon, a PE teacher and volleyball coach from St Theresa’s College.

Said Tony: “We have 2 boys, Aaron Gabriel, 13 yrs old and Luke Daniel, 9 years old… I started running last Dec 9, 2009 after i was convinced by my wife to run… Founded the CUC – Cebu Ultrarunners Club. The facebook group name is Beyond 42k.. Cebu Ultrarunners Club, last March 2011 and became the president thru election July 2011 till present… I have also created/founded this “I am a blood donor runner”. A group of any runners (all over Phils) that are willing to share their blood without any pay. We already donated blood to many people runners or not.”

Marathons of Tony: Cebu City Marathon(s), Condura Marathon, Kawasan Marathons & Aboitiz Race to Reduce Marathon.    Ultramarathons: Bohol 50-50, Mayon360, CUC100K leg 1 and leg 2, Bohol 50 Miler Ultramarathon, Ultrahamster(s), Summit 60K, 1st Coast to Coast 65K Ultramarathon and 1st 50K Cebu Ultramarathon. Others events are Xterra(s), Trail Marathons in Mt Patag, Silay City and MSIG Sai Kung 50K Trail in Hongkong and various 21K and fun runs

 

Mike Rama: A runner who runs Cebu City

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Rama (center) and Labella (to his right), in tandem (photo taken over five years ago, last Feb. 2008)

Each time I give him a call to ask if he can join a 5,000-meter run along the streets of the city that he manages, he never says no.

Running for public office. Running for exercise. These two types of runs he cherishes.

Mayor Michael Lopez Rama — had he not been a life-long public servant — would have opted to become a career basketball shooter. He’d rather be wearing high-cut basketball shoes than his trademark leather boots.

The long-sleeves polo shirt wrapped with coat jacket? Sure, he has to wear this attire when he meets VIPs. But, I’m sure, he’d exchange this quickly for long, baggy basketball shorts and a sleeveless jersey.

Several years ago upon the initiation of soon-to-be Provincial Board Member Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba, we played basketball. It was at our family’s school gymnasium at Bright Academy in Banilad.

Rama vs. Alcoseba/Pages. Mayor Mike (then our vice mayor) brought along his entire clan. It was a Sunday afternoon. From our end, it was my brother Charlie, dad Bunny, uncle Ray Pages (the former PBA player), Coach Yayoy, his children Momon, Rocky, and nephew Ryan…

I don’t remember the outcome — it doesn’t matter. What matters is that, for two hours, we passed and rebounded and flicked spinning lay-ups. And, if you’ve played basketball with him, you know Mike Rama’s strength: the outside jumper. He converted on several long-range missiles.

That’s basketball. With running, he enjoys the exercise that we (and incoming Vice Mayor Edgar Labella) all enjoy — jogging, sprinting, lifting one leg after another. In each of the past Cebu Marathon events, he’s there. At 4:30 A.M., when everybody’s still snoring, he’s at the Cebu I.T. Park, stretching and bouncing his long legs, ready for the sweat.

Last January was extra fun. We all know that “Gangnam Style” was the hottest dance song. When Annie Neric, our co-organizer/emcee, started dancing, guess who gamely joined her at the starting line during the warm-up?

Mr. Mayor, of course. Mike Rama danced Gangnam. He then wished the runners good luck. Next, off he ran… step by step, without stop, the five kilometer distance beside his son Mikel.

CITY HALL. Last Tuesday, I had the privilege of being inside his cavernous office inside the Cebu City Hall. Thanks to the invitation of Edward Hayco, our tireless chairman of the Cebu City Sports Commission, the city mayor was surrounded by over 50 sports personalities.

It was a courtesy call by Ed Hayco and he brought along some of Cebu’s top athletes: dancesports gold medalists (with Eleanor Hayco), karatedo champions, archers (led by Dondon Sombrio), sports commissioners like Nimrod Quiñones, Ryan Aznar, Brian Lim, Bernard Ricablanca, volleyball’s Eric Licain, and CCSC’s executive director Brando Velasquez.

Looking refreshed after taking a couple of weeks’ vacation after that extra grueling campaign period, Mayor Mike was relaxed. To the many young athletes listening to his every word, he imparted numerous lessons in life.

“The heart is the most important,” Mayor Mike said. “You may have the talent, you may have the resources, but if the passion doesn’t come from within — your heart — then you can’t be a true champion.”

Mayor Mike talked about two of the 10 commandments. “The most important are to love God to love your neighbor,” he said. He then pointed to his right wall where a black-and-white photo of him as a young boy was displayed. “That’s my only medal,” he explained, as dozens of medals glistened from the necks of the athletes that surrounded him. “I was the valedectorian in elementary.”

After his inspirational words, everybody joined him for the picture-taking. Presented a gift by Ed Hayco, he took off his formal jacket and wore the sports shirt. Then, after being given a bow from the archers, he placed it alongside his personal photos — showing everyone how much he loves sports.

“To whom much is given, much is expected.” Our mayor is a lifelong sportsman. We expect nothing less than the best era in sports from Mike Rama.

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s…….

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Michael Jordan? Yes. Today’s version. The way King James played two days ago reminded us of His Airness. He unleashed 3-pointers. He soared for lay-ups. He drilled 18-footers as effortlessly as free throws. The entire world’s basketball population — hundreds of millions of us, earthlings — expected the best from our planet’s best. He delivered.

It may be premature to compare MJ to LBJ — No. 23 had six NBA rings and five MVP awards compared to No. 6’s two rings and four MVPs — but the way LeBron played on the biggest game of his career was vintage Jordan.

The pressure of that winner-take-all Game VII was unbearable. LeBron had been ostracized for his transfer to Miami. He has been labeled as “Choker” for the occasions when, with seconds left on the clock, he’d rather pass than drive.

LeBron’s performance this season (26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.3 APG), in these playoffs (25.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 6.6 APG) and especially with his Game 7’s output of 37 points (five 3-pointers) and 12 rebounds — these numbers should silence the harhest of critics.

LeBron is the world’s greatest athlete today. That’s undeniable. Nobody comes close. But as examplary as his statistics reveal, what I recently found most remarkable about the 28-year-old is this trait: He’s humble.

Yes, LeBron is a nice guy. If you listened to his post-game interviews, he didn’t call attention to himself. He thanked his teammates. He applauded San Antonio. He used the words “I’m blessed” like a priest would in a homily. LeBron is blessed. He knows it. We know it. But what’s amazing is that he doesn’t put extra focus on himself — unlike Kobe and, at times, Chicago’s No. 23.

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In line with this selfless attitude, he’s also not “buaya.” (Again, sorry to Kobe fans but this differentiates the two.) Didn’t we often complain that he looks to pass more than to score?

LeBron is like a little kid in Disneyland. This amusement park is called the American Airlines Arena. “I’m from Akron, Ohio. From the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here,” he says, with all gratefulness. When he was asked in the press-con what motivates him, he said that he plays the game “to inspire the youth to play basketball or to become better at what they do.” Perfect. He knows his role — to be a role model.

GAME 7. Didn’t the final game mirror the entire NBA Finals series? Every single minute was close — until the final moments. One team wouldn’t lead by more than four. It was the same in the entire series. But in the end, in James vs. Duncan, the current MVP defeated the former MVP.

James converted on his jumpers. Duncan missed two nearby attempts that could have tied the game at 90 in the final minute. The Spurs didn’t score another point. It was that close. “Probably, for me, Game 7 is always going to haunt me,” Duncan said.

What I enjoyed most about the NBA Finals — one of the most-followed in history — was because so many players emerged as heroes. Ginobili in Game 5. Wade in the fourth game. Danny Green’s record 27 3-pointers. Tony Parker’s heroic basket in Game 1. Miami’s Big 3 scoring 85 in Game 4. And, of course, the one shot that will forever be etched in our brain’s internal hard drive: Ray Allen’s 3-pointer in Game 6.

In Game 7, apart from LBJ’s 37 points (scoring nearly 40 percent of the Heat’s entire team score), the hero was Shane Battier, who made six of eight 3-pointers. “I believe in the basketball gods,” Battier said. “I felt they owed me big time.” Like I said, a different MVP for each game. (Interesting stat: among all the Miami players, only five scored last Friday; Allen, Miller, Haslem and Bosh had zero points!)

How about Kawhi Leonard for the Spurs? With Tony Parker a non-factor (him scoring only 10 points will not win the trophy for his team), it was the 21-year-old who aggressively attacked and scored a crucial 3-pointer in the dying minutes. Like Paul George of Indiana, Leonard will be a youngster to watch.

But that’s in the future. For now, there’s only one champ with the initials “MJ.”

Mr. James.

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Improbable! Scorched and burned, the Heat survive

Forget the loss-win, loss-win, loss-win erratic first six games of the Miami Heat. Forget the fact that the last time they won back-to-back was 12 games ago (last May 15). Forget the idea that Miami has been inconsistent, that each time they seem to gain the momentum, they falter.

They won’t falter in Game 7. Not after yesterday. Not after dying and coming to life. Not after trailing by as much as 10 after three quarters, not after being 5.2 seconds away from humiliation and ridicule — not after the ups and humps and bumps they’ve endured since the NBA season started last October 30.

It comes down to one game. Broken down to four 12-minute quarters, that’s 2,880 seconds. In each of those seconds, the entire world, from Balamban to the Carribean to Talamban, will be glued to their TV monitors tomorrow (9 A.M., Phil. time) for this grand finale.

This is why we love sports so much. It’s like a movie. Only, better. Because in reel stories, we can predict the ending. (Superman always survives.) In the real world, we never know.

But this we know: Momentum, for the first time, will be behind the backs of team black-and-red. How can they not ride on the inspiration from Mike Miller’s one-foot-with-socks three point shot? Who could have scripted a better 3-pointer — and he’s not Danny Green.

After yesterday’s thriller and this see-saw series, tomorrow will be one of the most awaited of sporting events.

GULLAS. A huge basketball fan, here’s Congressman Samsam Gullas: “What comes around goes around. We may have forgotten Tony Parker’s shot during Game 1 and how that hurt the Heat. Well, Allen’s 3 with 5 seconds left was a dagger that may be embedded on the Spurs heading towards Game 7. Advantage heat on Thursday. But since the ball is round it may go either way. Not to mention LeBron showed us that the he’s clutch after all. Someone who wouldn’t agree that LeBron was 95% of the reason Miami won that game is truly a Heat or LeBron hater. Heat would be crying now if it wasn’t for the best player in the planet.”

STEPHANIE FROM MIAMI. Thanks to the help of friends (among them, Spanish Consul Anton Perdices, my former classmate), I was able to find someone in Florida who can give us the feel and atmosphere in Miami.

Stephanie Ignacio, watching Game 6 with family (all Filipinos) at a Miami resort, said they “almost got kicked out for screaming too much.” Here’s Steph, straight from Miami yesterday:

“Right now I am answering this as I watch Game 6. So far its been nerve wrecking… There’s a lot of screaming and excitement as you can only imagine a close Pacquiao fight in the Philippines. It’s what we wait for all series, this is it!

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“I have been to many games, but the most recent game was against the Pacers. They played strong but ugly… It was a good game all the way through.. To the last buzzer of the 4th qtr, Lebron gave us a shot for overtime. Of course, we won.

“To say that I am a HUGE Heat fan would be an understatement… There aren’t a lot of Filipinos down here that I can say are as crazy. But if you live here, you’re bound to be that ‘crazy’ Heat fan. As for any Filipinos Heat parties going on tonight.. I don’t know ha! But one thing I do know is, my family, the Ignacios are in a crazy screaming match as we speak..

“It’s big for the city because the Heat are pretty much the only good team in Miami. They account for a large amount of revenue for Miami. Even though the Marlins just built a new stadium they still can’t draw in fans.

“Over here in south Florida, we idolize the Heat. Especially when it comes down to the Finals, everybody gets together and makes a party out of it. It’s as fun as it is almost a serious event for us.”

FINALLY… LeBron said: “It was by far the best game I’ve ever been a part of. The ups and downs, the rollercoaster, the emotions, good and bad throughout the whole game. To be a part of something like this is something you’re never going to be able to recreate once you’re done playing the game and I’m blessed to be a part of something like this.”

Jump ball! It’s anybody’s game in the NBA Finals

It all comes down to tomorrow — or Friday. I’m hoping for Friday. I’m wishing for that tingling, sweat-on-the-palms, heart-pounding excitement that can only happen if Miami wins Game 6 tomorrow.

Can the Spurs, spurred by their season’s final victory in San Antonio, steal one game — like they did in Game 1 — in Miami? The Heat are pressured. Anybody who’s facing extinction will feel scared and anxious. One mediocre 48-minutes, a few lousy turnovers, or another sub-par, 16-point outing by LBJ — and that’s it.

Miami losing in Miami will be the most painful experience for these defending champs. They’d rather lose on the road — when the crowd’s against them anyway — than be silenced at home, in front of their kids.

This series has been as unpredictable as last month’s Cebu elections. You never know who’s going to win. While the Heat won 66 games during the regular season (including 27 straight), now they’ve gone 11 straight without winning two games in a row.

Nobody’s achieved the “M” word. That’s momentum. Just when we thought one team would gain the upperhand, the opposite happens. This finale has been an up-and-down, we-don’t-know-what-will-happen-tomorrow drama.

Manu Ginobili’s been absent. He’s the hero in Game 5! Wade’s a non-factor. He scores 32 in Game 4! Ray Allen shoots another 3-pointer. Wait, it’s Danny Green!
Miami’s Big 3 are the Lousy 3. They go on to score 85 points in Game 4!

There have been so many twists and plots and surprises — nobody can guess the next outcome. But this we know: Since the NBA adopted the 2-3-2 format in 1985, the team that won Game 5 after a 2-all tie has gone on to win 7 out of the 10 finals. This bodes well for San Antonio.

Still, ever the optimist, LeBron is looking to win back-to-back at home. “We’ve been here before,” said James. “We’ve been on both sides of the fences. It doesn’t matter if you’re up (3-2) and you need one more win, or you need one more win [otherwise] you’re out. You can’t sleep. Especially at this point. We’ve got an opportunity to do something special. So we look forward to the challenge.”

On why the Spurs are so difficult to defeat, even with Miami’s roster of super heroes, I like what Michael Wallace of ESPN wrote yesterday in “Will Heat thrive again on cliff’s edge?” He calls them the ‘four necessary intangibles’ of San Antonio.

“They’ve got an efficient attacking point guard in Parker, who even on a gimpy hamstring is exposing the Heat’s position of greatest inconsistency,” Wallace said. “They’ve got an aggressive and smart big man in Duncan, who commands a double team and creates issues for a smallish front line. Add a bevy of capable 3-point shooters, with dynamo Danny Green smashing a Finals record for makes beyond the arc. And last, but certainly not least, the Spurs possess the combination of championship experiences and leadership from Popovich…”

THREE-POINTERS. I had a long and lively discussion yesterday with Cebu’s version of Danny Green… Chester Cokaliong. I asked him to comment on Green’s record-breaking 23 three-pointers.

“This is an amazing record,” Chester said, “but it doesn’t mean to say Danny Green was like this the entire season. He was not. I don’t think Green has even qualified for the three-point shootout. But now, he’s on a streak — and it’s perfectly-timed during the finals.”

Chester’s all-time favorite long-shooter? Larry Bird. “He won three straight three-point shoot-out contests. Next, I like Reggie Miller,” said Chester.

GAME 6. On flying to Florida, Tony Parker had this to say: “We understand Miami is going to come out with a lot of energy and they’re going to play better at home. They’re going to shoot the ball better. Their crowd is going to be behind them. For us, we need to finish as soon as you can. We did that against the Lakers and Golden State and Memphis. So hopefully, we can do the same thing.”

But it won’t be easy. The Heat are 6-0 in the playoffs after a loss. Like I said last Sunday, I’m hoping for one thing: Game 7.

Hoping the Spurs win so the Heat can be champs

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There’s a pattern brewing in the NBA Finals. The Spurs win Game 1, followed by the Heat’s victory. The Spurs win Game 3, then the Heat follows suit. Will San Antonio win Game 5, following the script of this win-loss, win-loss, see-saw battle?

I hope so. I’m no Spurs fan. Like the color (or shall I say, no color) of their jerseys, they’re gray — not as colorful and acrobatic as the red-hot Heat. And, unlike others who prefer the underdogs, I’ve always rooted for the MVPs. Back when MJ wore No. 23, I cheered for Chicago. Same when Magic weaved his magic with Kareem for the Lakers. And, after all the hate that LeBron’s been through after The Decision, it’s a terrific feel-good (from hate to beloved) story for Mr. James. Plus, before we forget, there’s only one Pinoy in the roster of both teams. He’s Erik.

Still, I wish for a Spurs win tomorrow. Why? Because I love Game 7s. They’re the 5th set of a Wimbledon final. They’re the sudden-death playoffs of golf’s U.S. Open. Game 7 is like a 12th round of Pacman-Marquez Part 5 — with Manny scoring a KO in the dying seconds. It’s thrilling. It’s the entire 2012-2013 NBA season coming down to 48 minutes. It’s all-eyes-on-the-TV-this-Friday-morning if this happens.

Don’t we all want a 7th game? But this perfect ending is only possible if Miami loses tomorrow. Because if they win and carry a 3-2 advantage heading towards South Beach, then it’s game over for this Texas – Florida match. There’s no chance for SA to win back-to-back in MIA. And so a Spurs victory in Game 6 is a must for their survival.

BIG 3. Even before the series began, talks centered on the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili vs. Wade-Bosh-LeBron contest. Which Big 3 will triumph?

In Game 4, we witnessed the answer. Miami’s Big 3 combined for five blocks, nine assists, 10 steals, 30 rebounds and a whopping 85 points — scoring 78% of the Heat’s entire output. This is the Miami team that everyone’s feared. This is the squad that we all expected to win — not just two but — four NBA rings.

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The question for tomorrow is this: Which player or trio or team will show up? It’s been an erratic four games.

In his first three outings, LeBron scored 18, 17 and 15 points. That’s a super-lowly 16.6 PPG average. In Game 3, he had one of the worst performances of his career in a big-game moment — 7 of 21 scoring, 1 of 5 from 3-point range and zero free throws taken. Can you believe LeBron not taking any free throws?

“As bad as I played in Game 3, I put all the pressure on me to say I can’t afford to play like that and hope for us to win. Not at this level,” James said. “So I was able to forget about it. It hurt. I watched the film. It hurt watching it. I didn’t like the way I was playing.”

Champions are graded based on how they respond. Author Sherrilyn Kenyon once said, “Sometimes things have to go wrong in order to go right.”

True. As wrong as Game 3 was, it was the right impetus for Game 4. Like Clark Kent turned mad, LeBron unleashed 33 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. From a dark, dark knight, he soared like Superman.

Same with D-Wade. Not until their team was pushed to the brink of embarrassment (no team in the Final has won from a 1-3 deficit) did he transform into his old nickname, Flash. “Yeah, I needed a game like this,” said Wade. “No, I don’t feel like it’s 2006. But it felt good.” Chris Bosh added 20 points in Game 4. It was the first time since March 15 that Miami’s Big 3 each scored 20 or more points. Shane Battier, their Miami teammate, said it best: “Tonight was a Big 3 night. It just was. We all knew it on the bench. It was their night.”

That’s all past. It’s now 2-2. It’s best-of-three. It’s also the best scenario for NBA officials — knowing that, as days prolong, more and more TV viewers from Guatemala to Guadalupe will be watching.

Go, Spurs. Win it tomorrow. Go, LeBron. Win both in Miami. Prove to us what we’ve long suspected: that underneath that No. 6 jersey resides an emblem with the letter “S.”

Golden Alvin and the RCCW

Rotary (International) was started in 1905 by lawyer Paul P. Harris. At 108 years strong, it is the oldest and biggest civic organization the world has known. At present, Rotary has nearly 1.3 million members in over 200 countries. There are over 34,000 clubs worldwide.

One of these clubs, to which I belong to, is the Rotary Club of Cebu West (RCCW) — the 2nd oldest club in Cebu (and District 3860), second only to the “mother club,” the Rotary Club of Cebu. (We meet every Tuesday 7 P.M. at Radisson Blu.)

Two nights ago, RCCW celebrated its 51st Induction Ceremony. On hand to turn-over the gavel and the responsibilities to the new president, Robert “Bobby” Yap, was our 50th year leader.

“Golden President,” we call him — he’s Alvin Tan. The owner of Familia House (the decades-long establishment offering all types of beads and clothing accessories), Alvin was our chosen leader for the club’s historic golden year.

After 12 months as our club president (July 2012 to June 2013), I’m proud to say that Alvin was one of the — if not THE — best president RCCW has ever had. In the District-wide Rotary awarding held a couple of months ago, RC Cebu West garnered most outstanding awards for the club, the president, the secretary and more. Plus, last February during the 76th Cebu City Charter Day awarding, RCCW was a top honoree of Mayor Mike Rama.

How did Alvin do it? What leadership lessons can we learn from him that we can apply in our respective organizations or businesses? Plenty.

“Pres. Alvin was able to develop rapport with his officers even before his term started and he was able to create a cooperative team spirit early,” said Rotary’s Past District Governor Jose Ma. Luis “Toto” Cupin. “He did his planning and organizing and set specific, measurable, achieve and time bounded goals based on the Presidential Citation and District Governors Challenge. Pres. Alvin is a good communicator and persistent at that. He emails or text meeting reminders. Club meetings were terrific – good program and good food.”

On good planning, here’s an example. Among the dozens and dozens of projects Pres. Alvin accomplished during his one-year term, the biggest was the club’s donation of a fire truck to the Cebu Filipino-Chinese Volunteer Fire Brigade.

You know when this fire truck was donated? A month before Alvin’s term started! Yes, not during or at the tail-end of his presidency — but before. That’s how good a planner he is. A year before his term, he socilited the help of various individuals (including fellow Rotarian Jun Tallo, who personally chose the fire truck in Canada), so that his big project will be ready — before he assumed office.

That’s the first lesson: Plan — and plan early. As the saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Next, be persistent. I’ve been with Rotary for over eight years now and I’ve never encountered a president who’s as persistent in following up his members than Alvin. Through emails, text messages, and calls — he communicates with everyone all the time. If he sets his sights on a goal (to invite a specific person as guest speaker or to accomplish a certain project — Alvin is relentless in achieving the goal.)

Third lesson: Be nice and humble. In Alvin’s case, you can’t find someone who’s more friendly. When I asked him how he made his term so successful, he swiftly deflected the attention on himself and showered praise on his officers and fellow Rotarians.

In his e-mail to me, he gave special mention to Rotary Sec. Fabby Borromeo and his overall adviser and “potential Governor” Wilton Uykingtian — plus the rest of the RCCW memberships — as the ingredients to his success. He singled out one person whom he refers to as the “Godfather” of RCCW —  PDG Toto Cupin — saying, “I would give a 21-gun salute to Gov. Toto who helped me with all the projects.”

To President Alvin, congratulations on a golden year. You’ve shown us the true meaning of Rotary’s motto, “Service Above Self.”

Mayor Rex Gerona and the Tabuelan 111

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The Cobra Ironman 70.3 event will be this August 4. Prior to this triathlon race that is billed as Cebu’s biggest sporting affair, a must-race swim-bike-run meet is the Tabuelan 111 — which swims off this Sunday, June 16.

While Ironman’s “70.3” refers to 70.3 miles total (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run), the Tabuelan organizers have creatively transformed the distance to kilometers: 2K swim, 90K bike and 21K run. Thus, 111 kms.

The municipality of Tabuelan, with a population of less than 25,000, is behind this hugely popular race. Credit goes to the leader of Tabuelan: Mayor Rex Casiano Gerona.

Here’s my Q & A with the 41-year-old mayor-triathlete whose motto is, “If others can do it, so can I.”

Why triathlon? Mayor Rex: “I weighed around 230 lbs and health problems started to arise like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I felt I needed to exercise and do something for my health and for my family. Triathlon appealed to me because it is more challenging with three different areas which includes swimming, biking and running. I lost over 50 lbs. in a years’ time and have become healthier.”

How did you start? “When I read in a local daily that the Ironman 70.3 will be held in Cebu, it really interested me. Even without any background in swimming, biking and running, I tried to register on-line and when I was finally registered, I immediately decided to diligently train with less than 8 months to the said event.”

What events have you finished? “Cebu Marathon, Bohol Marathon, Ultra Marathon 50k, Bohol Timex 226, Cobra Ironman 70.3, Cebu Triathlon Leg Series, Cagayan de Oro NAGT Series, Camiguin Triathlon, Bantayan, Sogod, San Remigio, Siquijor, Dakak, Carmen, Danao City, Dalaguete and the Tabuelan 111”

With the Bohol Timex 226 (3.8K swim, 180K bike, and 42K run), how did you do it?     “Actually I had less than a year training before I started! Triathlon training January 2012 then joined the Bohol Timex 226 triathlon Dec. 1, 2012 at Anda, Bohol. It was self-fulfillment because that is the ultimate dream of every triathlete — to be able to finish a 226 race. I finished it at around 14 hours which was a strong finish for a first timer with less than one year triathlon experience. I was also very happy to finish it with four of my close triathlon buddies who were first timers as well. Sweet victory for all of us! So happy my family was there to support me all the way.”

Future events you’re joining? “Tabuelan 111; Cebu 100k Ultramarathon July; Cobra Ironman 70.3 in August; Busselton IMWA in December, which will be my first full Ironman international triathlon; Melbourne IMWA in March 2014.”

How did you make Tabuelan 111 so popular? “When I was planning to join the Cobra Ironman 70.3 last August, 2012 in Cebu, many fellow triathletes were not able to register and others have not tried the said distance so it was just a good chance to offer them more or less the same distance at a cheaper cost, thus, a good value for their money. No other triathlon event offers such distance before the IM70.3 race.”

Why is Tabuelan ideal for triathlon? “We had good feedback last year that it was well-organized, the community was very supportive and we closed the road to traffic especially during the bike course which was highly appreciated. We have white sand beaches and the roads are in good condition. It is also cheaper to go there so it’s really money’s worth!”

What to expect? “A better race over last year. We had almost 200 participants last year. Now, over 500 triathletes have registered so it’s more challenging for all the participants as well as to the organizers. We have prepared personalized kits and finisher shirts. We are now using timing chips used in Ironman events.”

Advice to the other mayors? “We are trying to promote Sports tourism not just in Tabuelan but Cebu as a whole. As municipal mayor, I am a model not just for the youth but for everyone who wants to live a healthier life. It’s never too late for I decided to be a triathlete at the age of 40.”

Can David beat Goliath in Paris?

It’s David vs. Goliath in today’s Men’s Final of the French Open.

David Ferrer, in his first-ever Grand Slam final, will be facing a fellow Spaniard who’s called the King of Paris. Rafael Nadal, since he started playing in Roland Garros, has amassed a record that screams, “That’s Impossible!”

Nadal has played 59 times on the red clay of the French Open and has a 58-1 record. ‘Unbelievable’ is an understatement. He’s won seven titles there (apart from similar crazy-to-believe records/titles: eight of nine in Barcelona, seven of nine in Rome and eight of 10 in Monte Carlo).

Sorry to all fans of the underdogs: this dogged retriever named David (Ferrer) won’t beat Nadal tonight in the final. (Head to head, Nadal has won 19 and lost only 4 to Ferrer.)

The semi-finals between Nadal and Novak Djokovic? Wow! From 7 P.M. until 12 midnight last Friday (PHL time), I hope you stayed home to watch it. (I’m in Bacolod and, despite the cravings of all the good eateries here, we sprinted back to watch it from our Sugarland Hotel room.)

To those of us who saw the game, it was one of the best ever matches our eyes have witnessed. It had everything. A 7-time champion versus a contender who had never before won the Grand Slam of France. It was Spain vs. Serbia. It was lefty against right-hander. It was between a bandana-wearing Nike endorser versus a white-cap-wearing of Uniqlo.

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(Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images)

For a set and a half, Nadal was unstoppable. He won the first set, 6-4, and led the second, up a break, 3-2. That’s when Djokovic — one of the most resilient fighters in sports today — would not give Nadal a straight-sets victory. He won the next four games to snatch the second set, 6-3. It was one-set apiece.

The third set was puzzling. After gaining the momentum with his 2nd set win, Novak collapsed. His body did. He was so tired that he committed error after easy error. For the fittest tennis player on earth, I couldn’t understand why he had gotten so tired. He almost lost 6-0 but salvaged a game to lose the third set, 6-1.
In the fourth set, everybody who watched thought the match was over. With Djokovic tired and Nadal still bouncing and sprinting and repeatedly scratching his behind, it would be a straightforward 4-set win for Spain. But, no; ever the combatant, Novak wouldn’t yield the fight. He wanted war.

At 5-all in the fourth set, Nadal broke Djokovic’s serve to lead 6-5. At that point, Balls TV started to show what was coming next: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer. They devoted footages on the two (next to play) semi-finalists. It was only a question of a few minutes left before they would be next.

But, wait. I’m the world No.1, Novak screamed. I won’t yield. Not yet! Despite a 30-15 lead, Nadal was broken. The match was 6-all and a tiebreaker ensued. Nadal lost.

This heightened the drama. Another epic, titanic, here-we-go-to-another-four-hour-long drama was unfolding. To Nadal fans, ouch! What another wasted moment. Was this to be another Australian Open heart-breaker, when Nadal was sure to win — only for Novak to win in five hours, 53 minutes?

And Djokovic — previously looking pale — he was back to life. He had his second, third, fourth wind. He was going for the win.

In the fifth set’s first game, Nadal lost. Djokovic moved ahead to 2-0. Oh no, Nadal fans — like Bobby Lozada and Ernie Delco — would cringe. Novak led, 3-1. Despite trying so hard, Rafa couldn’t break the serve. It moved on to 4-2, Novak leading in the fifth set, with only two more service games to go.

That’s when Rafa leveled the match and it continued on and on.. Serving first, Rafa had an advantage. He led, 5-4. Then, 6-5. Next, 7-6. At 8-7, that’s when Novak’s tired body — and Nadal’s winners — resurfaced.

Finally, after 4 hours and 37 minutes, Rafa won. The funny part is, that wasn’t it. That wasn’t the final yet. But, Rafa fans, don’t worry. The coronation was only delayed by 48 hours. Later tonight, the crowning of the trophy will transpire. A Spaniard from Mallorca will slay David and be crowned the King of France.

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Spurs vs. Heat: Battle of the Big 3s

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Miami is in Florida while the city of San Antonio is in Texas. I’ve never been to either state. But, based on my little research, no two cities can be more different.

Miami is the “Cruise Capital of the World” and is located along the Atlantic coastline. We all remember the hit TV show, “Miami Vice,” right? We picture a city with blue skies hovering, red Ferraris sprinting, and green palm trees lined-up along Miami beach.

San Antonio is large. It’s the 7th most populous city in the U.S. (1.3 million) and it hosts several military bases — apart from having a rich history of cowboys. The city is named after Saint Anthony of Padua.

MIA v. SAN: Starting tomorrow morning (Phil. time), all eyes will be on both basketball squads. Plenty of questions arise: Is Miami weary and tired? The 10 days of rest between games, will that make San Antonio rusty? How will each team clamp down on Tony Parker and LeBron James? Which coach is better: our Fil-Am Erik or Gregg Popovich? Miami hosts games 1, 2, 6 and 7 — will this home-court advantage help?

I guess that — excluding Game 7 — the most crucial game in the series is Game 1. If the Spurs win that game, it sets the momentum. It transfers the home-court advantage in their favor. It adds extra pressure on the Heat to win Game 2 because if they also lose that fight, then it’s game over. If the Heat win Game 1, then all order is restored. They’re not tired after all. They’re on track to receive the trophy that’s been awarded to them even before the season started.

Another question remains: Can LeBron finally beat Tim Duncan? Six years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Spurs in the Final. They were humiliated with the 4-0 win by Duncan.

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“I think our team is more experienced, first of all,” James said after his team defeated the Indiana Pacers in Game 7. “My Cleveland team, we were very young, and we went up against a very experienced team, well-coached team. And they took advantage of everything that we did.”

Back in 2007, LeBron was only 22 years old. He did not own an MVP award yet. Today, at 28 years of age, his season includes averaging (per game) 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 7.3 assists. He made 56.5 percent of all his field goals. To top these amazing statistics, he is a four-time MVP, a six-time All-NBA first-team member and was, for five straight years, part of the All-Defensive first-team. “I’m a much better player (now),” said James. “I’m 20, 40, 50 times better than I was in the 2007 Finals.”

One more question: Which Big 3 will dominate? San Antonio has Manu Ginobili, Parker and Duncan. Miami has Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and James. (On Wade and Bosh, they’ve played sub-standard games against Indiana. Wade averaged only 14.5 points per game before scoring 21 last Tuesday. Bosh, in his last four games, was worse: making only 8 of his 34 shots.)

My pick, of course, is Miami. But plenty choose San Antonio. One of them is Ben Golliver of SI.com who picks the Spurs to win in 6. He says: “Rested, experienced, balanced, intelligent, disciplined and potent, San Antonio is a nightmare matchup for any opponent, particularly one struggling with team-wide inconsistency and, possibly, a series-altering health concern in the form of Dwyane Wade’s ailing knee.”

I asked former PBA star and UV coach Elmer “Boy” Cabahug for his assessement. Here’s what he said: “Spurs is doing great. Consistent game of Duncan, Mano and Parker are big, big factors. Plus, McGrady might be their secret weapon. If they scouted the game between Miami and Pacers, the Pacers won when their team had balanced production: Low post and outside shooting. Miami lost when Wade and Bosh were off. Miami’s outside shooting must be consistent. That is their first option (shoot outside); they don’t have a post-up man. These two teams should stay healthy; any injury will cost them the championship. It will all depend on coaches’ strategy and counter-strategy.”

The NBA: Where amazing happens tomorrow!

Red Clay Meets Red Clay in Paris

Published in June of 2007, here’s a flashback of our unforgettable experience….

GOLFERS dream of smelling the grass and catching a Tiger lurking behind the woods at Augusta National, home of The Masters. Hoop fans envy fellow columnist Homer Sayson, who owns NBA Finals reserved seats in San Antonio and Cleveland. The feet of soccer fans get ticklish with the words “Germany World Cup.” We all have dreams. I own one. No, four. To watch all the tennis grand slams: Wimbledon, the Australian Open, Roland Garros, and the US Open. The US Open? That dream became reality eight years ago when I spent four straight weeks with my dad Bunny in New York. Seeing Andre Agassi and Serena Williams hold aloft those trophies sent shivers up my spine. I had to pinch myself and slap my face left and right to ensure I was awake.

Wimbledon? The Australian Open? Dreams, yes. Roland Garros?

Six years ago, my father-in-law Jack Mendez gathered the family and announced: “We’re going to Europe!” Three months later, we’re aboard Galaxy, the Princess Cruises ship that’s seven stories tall complete with theaters, a casino, restaurants, and Broadway musicals. By boat, we hopped from city to city. The place I loved the most? Paris.

Imagine the Eiffel Tower, Nortre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre Museum, Versailles Palace. Touring those sites, it felt like watching a movie. Only this time, the screen was “live,” right before your eyes. The place I loved the most? Roland Garros.

We arrived late in the afternoon. As our van stopped at the entrance, I gripped my fingers, smiled and screamed, “This is it!” To our surprise, no guards manned the gate. We entered. Our first stop was to the right as we walked inside a side court. There it was, before our bare eyes, the red clay, or le terre battue, as the French call it. I stepped on it, bent down and felt the dirt rub against my fingers. Almost like our courts here in Cebu, only thicker and red.

We moved to the open air pavilion. This is the area, I imagined, where spectators relaxed, dined and chatted between matches. We mimicked the statues of the Four Musketeers, some of the best French netters in history: Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet, and the clothing wear founder, René Lacoste.

Finally, we entered the main stadium, Court Philippe Chatrier (named after the former head of the French Tennis Federation). We absorbed every detail and gazed around. Compared to the US Open’s Arthur Ashe Center Court, this is intimate, I told my wife Jasmin. With us were my daughter Jana, Jasmin’s sisters Michelle and Monette, and brother Jake. It was just us inside, the court laid bare all to ourselves.

We snapped photos, took videos, and lingered wondering how it must feel when the court is jam-packed and inhabited by warriors with rackets. All of a sudden, as we marveled around and chatted, my daughter blurted out, “I want to make poo-poo!” Poo-poo? My two-year-old Jana? At the center court? Was this possible? Will we be caught? Jailed?

As parents all know: When a child has to go, she has to go. And so Jana, with her diapers on and standing on Court Philippe Chatrier, dropped a bombshell that rocked Paris. POOOOT! POOOOT! POOOOT!

We shook our heads. Laughed. Who would have believed such a sight. That was our family’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not episode. On center court, dozens have been crowned champions, knelt down and wiped tears after victory—the Bjorn Borgs, the Michael Changs, and, this Sunday, Rafael Nadal will win his third straight—but how many can claim they dropped red clay on the red clay of the French Open?

Five tips while watching the French Open

I’ve been playing tennis since our family moved from Bacolod to Cebu when Marcos was toppled and Cory moved into power in the summer of 1986.

Since then, I’ve posed for a photo beside Federer and Sampras in Kuala Lumpur, smacked 27,856 forehands, and been operated on a shoulder injury by Dr. Tony San Juan. I’ve watched Agassi and Serena win the US Open, helped organize the four Davis Cup events in Plantation Bay Resort and Spa (a 5th one is coming this September versus New Zealand!) and helped train a young 14-year-old champion that is my daughter Jana.

Through these 27 years of tennis, what tips can I offer the regular, thrice-weekly player? Here are five clay-court tennis tips — while we’re all watching the French Open each night.

One: Practice your serve. It’s funny. We often spend hours perfecting our backhands and forehands — but spend so little time fine-tuning our serves. Lest we forget, this rule applies: the serve is the only shot in tennis that we have complete control of. Think about it. If one has an excellent serve, one will win lots of free points.

Here’s another idea to remember: If you can’t be broken, you won’t lose. True. Just hold your serve and you won’t lose. Never. I like this saying that differentiates the average club player (that’s us) versus a pro like Novak: “We serve to START the point. The pros serve to END the point.” Got it? On that first shot alone (serve), the pros try to finish the point.

Here’s a favorite saying: “Life is like a game of tennis. He who serves well seldom loses.”

Two: Employ the drop shot. Study the French Open players tonight. (If you subscribe to SkyCable HD, go to channel 702 where the free HD on Roland Garros is found.) On the red clay of Paris, the best players employ a strategy that’s wise and proven successful: When the opponent is far, they hit a feather-like drop shot. It works. The key point is the element of surprise. You can’t hit a drop shot every other point — your opponent will guess it and sprint forward. Disguise. Surprise.

Three: High topspin is best. Watch Nadal. He’s the greatest ever on the dirt surface. What does he have that nobody else has? Tremendous spin. It’s been recorded that his forehand generates 5,800+ revolutions per minute (RPMs) — the most of any pro. (Federer, at 4800+, is a distant second.) The higher the allowance over the net, the deeper the shot. Add more spin with the high-bouncing shot and you’ve got a Rafa-like chance of victory.

Four: Watch only one player. While watching tennis on TV, you really want to learn and improve? Watch only one person. Yup. That’s no joke. Instead of moving your eyeballs up and down, stick to focusing on one player. Observe Maria’s side-to-side movement (not her yellow-colored bikini shorts). Copy the best backhand down-the-line shot in today’s game (Djokovic’s). Relish the inside-out forehand of the Rolex-sponsored Swiss codenamed RF. Watch only one player. You’ll learn more.

Five: Play the game. Majority of readers who’ll read this are non-tennis players. That’s a fact. Few people have ever gripped an Eastern backhand grip and performed a slice shot. Tennis is not as easy to learn as, say, bowling or Zumba. You need a racket. You need a person at the opposite end of the court (although I spent hundreds of hours as a young junior practicing against the pelota court’s high wall — at the old Casino Español). In tennis, you need balls, tennis shoes, grips, new strings (once they break) and cash to pay for the court fees, etc, etc. It’s not as inexpensive as the most inexpensive of sports: running.

Yet tennis is fun. It’s a game you can play from six until 86. It’s a chance to group together with friends. It provides some of the best form of exercise. It enhances your competitive spirit. It offers both rigorous (singles) and recreational (doubles) options. Plus, it’s a game of contradictions, as Billie Jean King once said: “Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility.”

Miami wins 4-2? Yeah, ‘Yoy says

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Almost like a ritual, each time the NBA Playoffs gets underway, I make a phone call. It’s no ordinary Samsung-to-iPhone conversation. That’s because the person on the other end of the line is no ordinary basketball follower. He’s Raul “Yayoy” Demerry Alcoseba, the Phil Jackson of Cebu.

“Miami owns championship experience,” said Yayoy Alcoseba, moments after the Miami Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers, 90-79, last Friday. “This is the huge edge of Miami. Plus, of course, LeBron James. Wow. His third quarter was unbelievable.”

The no-holds-barred forecast of Coach Yayoy? He said: “Miami will win Game 6 (today) and win the series, 4-2.”

We talked at length about Miami’s player with the jersey number 6. “The reason why LeBron has improved so much, especially this year, is because he’s surrounded by good players,” Yayoy said. “There’s Bosh, Wade, Haslem. Unlike his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was alone. Iya tanan. Now, he not only scores but also has double figures in assists and rebounds. He’s complete.”

The winningest coach in Cebu basketball history, Coach Yayoy gave me a phone lecture on what makes a team successful. “It’s never a one man show,” he said. “Sure, there will be superstars. There will always be stars. Look at Michael Jordan. He was the star. But he would not have become great and won for Chicago all those titles if not for Pippen and the rest of the team.”

It’s the team, says Yayoy. It’s never about one player. Although what we witnessed in Game 5 — when LeBron performed a one-man demolition job; outscoring the Pacers, 16-13, in the third quarter, for example — was different, throughout the season, LeBron has relied more on this teammates than at any other point of his career. “Chemistry,” Yayoy adds, “is essential to success.”

Miami Heat has become an even better team this year, he says, because the other players have contributed more. Yayoy spoke about Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Chris Andersen. “They may not contribute with points but with the defense,” he says. And when LeBron penetrates to the rim, he has many options in case the defense is overwhelming. He can pass and the others will score. Look at Haslem.

This is what’s scary about Miami — scary for their opponents. Because while all the focus is on LeBron and/or The Three Kings (LeBron, Wade, Bosh), it appears that they have other weaponry available — thanks to the other teammates. “Their bench is very deep,” Yayoy adds.

What if Indiana wins today (Game 6) and upsets Miami in Tuesday’s Game 7?

Yayoy laughed. “The ratings will go down!” he said. Few want an Indiana-San Antonio NBA finale. That will be boring. The NBA is about superstars and, devoid of figures like Durant or Kobe or LBJ, that championship will have the lowest ratings in years.

How about a Miami-San Antonio final, what’s Yayoy’s prediction. “Four-two, Miami,” he said.

CEBU. Speaking of local politics, Raul Alcoseba, after three terms as Cebu City councilor, ran for Provincial Board member in the last elections. Never used to losing, he, obviously, won.

“I’ve spoken to Governor-elect Junjun Davide,” said Yayoy, “and I hope to help with sports. That’s my expertise. And not limited only to basketball but to the whole sports program of the Province of Cebu. We will help identify and develop athletes.”

Back to coaching, has he resigned? Reports have surfaced saying that he will no longer coach the Southwestern University (SWU) Cobras.

“I have to finish my contract,” he said. “I have one year to go. I just got very busy with the campaign and the elections that I had to reassess my coaching job.”

Coach Yayoy is excited about the improvements being done to the Aznar Coliseum. “SWU has spent P1.7 million for the rehabilitation of the flooring,” he said. “Plus, Michel Lhuillier, through M. Lhuillier, has spent P1 million for brand-new, NBA-caliber goals. Once reopened, this will be a great-looking gym!”

That’s in Cebu. But for now, at 8:30 A.M. (PHL time), our focus is in Indiana. Go, Pacers. I’m rooting for a Game 7.