Monthly Archives: October 2013

Aftershocks inside Waterfront

servania.wins.131026.01.500wFuture world champ Azukal Servania (all photos by Dong Secuya)

In all my years of watching the ALA (Antonio Lopez Aldeguer) Promotions fights, I’ve never arrived home earlier. A little past 10:20 p.m. last Saturday, I was inside our bedroom, cuddled beside Maria Jasmin Mendez Pages.

Knockout after KO after knockout. Of the eight fights scheduled, we missed watching only two bouts. Of those two, the Japanese invader Kazuma Ejiri KOed Don Amaparado while Elmo Traya won over Gabby Siempo in a unanimous decision — the night’s only bout that reached the full distance. And that was a four-rounder.

Seven of the eight bouts were KOs. That’s an 87.50 percent knockout score.

Bunny, my dad, and Tommy, my daughter’s Swedish tennis coach, and I arrived at the venue by 7:30. The “Chiwawa” from Bais — Richard Barrios — stepped inside the ring against Rocky Incepido. KO! “Magnifico” (Mark Magsayo) against Hagibis Quiñones. KO! Those were all-Filipino contests. Now, entering the Philippines-vs.-Foreigners sequence, you’d think the sessions would last longer. Wrong.

“He looks like a cook from Bangkok!” I overheard one spectator, commenting on Khunkiri Wor Wisaruth, who lost — knocked-cold, of course — against Mark Bernaldez. The Thai, though he lasted five rounds, hardly punched until his face dripped with blood and the referee waived his arms for a stoppage. TKO!

Seated on the 10th row, we had a magnificent view. Sure, TV is relaxing and comfortable and nothing beats the upclose footages and multi-view replays — but nothing, too, beats the suspense and adrenaline rush of a live watch.

After Thai food was served and gobbled-up by the Pinoy, Indonesian cuisine was next. Lande Olin looked funny. He sported long braided hair and wore multi-colored shorts. Did he just come from Boracay? He looked like Bob Marley reincarnated. After 64 seconds in Rd. 2, Bob Marley was floored. He looked like a comedic act that elicited more laughs than claps.

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Finally, the two main events: Edgar “Chololo” Martinez from Mexico promised to recreate an earthquake inside Waterfront Hotel. Well, his Richter power measured not 7.2 but 0.072; weak and fragile. To start with, his frame was not slender or light — it was skeletal. Cholokoy ni si Chololo! He was absolutely no match compared to the dapper and suave King Arthur Villanueva, who improved his spotless record to 24 wins in 24 performances. The contest was declared a no-contest inside the first round — I can’t even remember the time because it happened too quickly.

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Next, we waited for 30 minutes. I guess the main fighters did not expect to be called so early. King Arthur’s win finished by 8:55. Very early. While waiting, I spent the time chatting with Chris Aldeguer, who was seated beside the super-talented athlete-couple Mendel and Lohriz Lopez.

“The Revenge” turned out to be “The Rout.” In simpler words, the destruction of Genesis Servania over Rafael Concepcion was swift and merciless. You saw it on TV. The perfect ending to a perfect evening of almost perfect knockouts, sugar melted the spicy chili pepper.

Azukal mauled El Torito. With quick, responsive feet and even quicker and more explosive fists, the undefeated 22-year-old Bacolodnon won his 23rd straight bout by handily defeating the old-looking, weary-looking, mauled-too-many-times Concepcion.

After Concepcion’s fall on the canvas, it was Dr. Rene Bonsubre, a fellow sports columnist, who climbed the stage to attend to the unconscious Panamanian. Lying on the floor with eyes open but his body stiff and not moving, Dr. Rene stood up and waved for the oxygen and paramedics to help. He stood again and asked that they speed up. Seconds later, “The Bull” (“El Torito”), though bulldozed, was okay and responsive.

Thirty minutes after, Jasmin was shocked to see me home so early. “All knockouts!” I explained, glad that we won and the bouts finished early.

“Were our fighters that good or were the opponents not good at all?” Hmmm. Good question. I paused for a moment and replied, “Both.”

Michael Aldeguer on Azukal, King Arthur

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Typing on his iPad from the U.S. where, as he said, “I’m working on our California promoter’s license,” the president of ALA Promotions, Michael P. Aldeguer, offered these words in our Q & A yesterday:

ON SATURDAY: It will be a tough fight as Concepcion is a very experienced fighter as he has fought the best. He is very well known in the Philippines after he knocked out AJ Banal in 2008. We believe that the only way to know if the fighter is for real is if he goes through fights like this. we think that Servania has it. He needs to learn to deal with adversity asthis will be his biggest test not just inside the ring but the pressure that goes with it outside as it will be his first time to be in the main event of a big card against a known and tough fighter like Concepcion, this will be a make or break fight for him and a must see fight for all the fans.

SERVANIA: We believe that Servania has the potential to be a World Champion and to be one of the best from the next generation of Filipino fighters , he was featured in the october issue of ring magazine as the most promising prospect in the world so it proves a point that he can be for real as the boxing experts around the world have taken notice.

WHY AZUKAL? He was named Azukal because of the sugar in Bacolod and Servania was known to be a sweet punching machine in his younger days as the pride of Bacolod in his amateur days.

VILLANUEVA: King Arthur Villanueva is a fighter everyone should watch out for, if you wanna know about heart, this guy is all that, he is now ranked #2 in the world by the WBO, He and Servania should be World Champions someday.

NEW BIG NAMES IN PP22: Yes this is what Pinoy Pride is all about, to show the world that the Philippines has so much talent and all they need is to be given a chance to be recognized, the world should know that the Philippines has what it takes to be a powerhouse in the boxing world after the Pacquiao era.

NOV. 30 EVENT. This is the biggest event ALA Promotions has produced as there are not only two World title fights but it will have the five main event fighters of Pinoy Pride in one card. Nietes, Sabillo, Melindo, Pagara and Banal .. All against Latino fighters, the title is Pinoy Pride 23: Filipinos contra Latinos, it will be held at the smart Araneta Coliseum. The last Double world title event was Donaire and Villoria.

2014 PLANS: The plan is to do international events in Dubai and the US, we were suppose to do the Dubai in November but the advertisers , TV and fans felt it was best to stage it in the Philippines to show the world that we can hold a boxing event of this magnitude, they also claim that Nov 30 is close to December so a lot of OFW’s will be coming home for Christmas.

BAUTISTA: Boom Boom wants to comeback on a higher weight division, we knew he will be back coz he needed a break and to assess what he wants, we all forget that at 19 Boom Boom was part of the biggest pay per view of all time the Mayweather vs Dela hoya so the expectations were just too much for a young boy who was not allowed to grow. When he lost to ponce de Leon in 1 round, people never gave him a chance, He went through a lot of injuries not just minor but major ones, he also had weight problems, we think at 130lbs he will be stronger whenever he decided to comeback next year.

Why is Seb Vettel so good yet so despised?

Only 26, Sebastian Vettel has raced in the Formula One circuit for five years. In his rookie season, he was Runner-Up. After that, he won three straight World Championship titles. And, this 2013, he is gunning for a fourth trophy. That’s 4-of-5.

I’m not sure if any other race car driver — or any other athlete of any sport — has excelled and dominated as the German has. This season, out of 15 of 19 races completed, Vettel has won nine — including the last five: Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Korea and Japan. He has amassed 297 points while second-placer Fernando Alonso has 207. With four races remaining (India, Abu Dhabi, the U.S. and Brazil), Vettel is sure to become the year-end champion. He is the LeBron James of F1. No, I change that: Vettel is even more dominant — and I can’t think of another sportsman who’s more imposing.

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Which brings me these questions: Why is he so disliked? If he’s so good, why is he, in the eyes of millions, so bad?

Charles Osmeña, my long-time friend and a five-time visitor to the Singapore Grand Prix (disclosure: he’s a Ferrari devotee), e-mailed me a thorough explanation. Charles says that while F1 may appear to be individual, it’s actually a team sport. “The team principal, the team engineers, designers, managers, pit crew are as integral to the team’s success as its driver. More so at present,” Charles said. “With all due respect to Seb, the main reason he is so dominant is that his team is the best group assembled. And one of the reasons we haven’t seen how good Seb a driver is, is because his team is at least two steps ahead of its closest competitor.”

On the public’s dislike for Vettel, it’s not limited to just the fans — but also includes his competitors. At the Canadian and Italian Grands Prix and, most recently, in Singapore, after climbing the top podium, Vettel was booed. His fellow competitor Nico Rosberg, after Seb made some unsavory remarks, explained: “Sebastian brings the boos on himself… His comments are aloof… He is running the risk of losing the respect of his fellow drivers.”

Ouch! I asked Mr. Osmeña for his analysis on this dislike for the German champ and he outlined three points:

“A. His team, though dominant and the best group formed for a winning F1 team, is carrying a relatively new brand: Red Bull. Thus, human as we are, and purist as we mostly tend to believe we are, the majority of fans would probably equate this to the Oklahoma Thunder or worse the New Orleans Pelicans dominating the NBA or say the Meralco Volts dominating the PBA or the Azkals dominating the Asian Leagues. There are just too many fans for teams that have been with F1 for more years than his team has staff.

“B. His singular focus on winning highlights a very uncharismatic and selfish nature which is bluntly speaking unpopular. Not to say that Schumi wasn’t singularly and selfishly devoted to winning or Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods but Seb with his unhandsome and annoyingly unkempt, just-hit-puberty, spoiled-brat-looking shell is not exactly a figure most self proclaimed pure F1 fans would relate or much less look up to.

“C. His team being just so freakishly awesome just doesn’t give him the opportunity to show a heroes’ performance of one being in dire straits and yet succeeding. What we’ve always seen with Seb is someone with everything succeeding. Not a very climactic or endearing tale.”

Excellent breakdown, Charles! Well, this fact we know: You cannot please everybody. Even Michael Jordan had his detractors. It just seems that, with Seb, few positives appear on the news — especially when he wins.

Charles ended our exchange with this note: “I’d like to address this to the fans: If all F1 cars were equal and there wouldn’t exist teams and strategies and drivers would be the sole factor in winning, Who would you say the best driver is?”

A Giant in the world of cycling

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Taichung, TAIWAN — The word “giant” means “colossal,” “jumbo,” “mammoth” and “gigantic.” This word aptly describes the City of Taichung when it comes to biking.

GIANT. I mean, the brand. If you’ve entered Bikecology in BTC, chances are you’ve seen the name. It sounds American. The word itself is one of the English language’s most common terms. And when you see the GIANT brand prominently written on a bicycle, you’d think it’s from the U.S. It’s Taiwanese. And, to be more specific, it’s “Made in Taichung.” This city is the third largest in Taiwan (next to Taipei and Kaohsiung) and it’s a highly-progressive marketplace.

Giant, upon my further investigation, is not only “Made in Taiwan” but it happens to be the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer. Yes, no mistaken wording there: Each year, Giant produces over 6.3 million bicycles and grosses US$1.8 billion.

Here in Taichung, dozens of Giant shops are sprinkled everywhere. In bright blue color, the signage outside bike shops is giant-sized. Last Friday, I visited one mega-shop in the Dongshan District and it’s littered with over a hundred bicyclyes — of different colors, shapes and prices — plus hundres of varied bike components and gear. Wanting to bring a souvenir from the land of the Giant, I looked at some cycling jerseys. I thought they’d be heavily discounted but, priced around NT$2,200 (times 1.5, that’s P3,300), I declined. Instead, I opted for a “miniature Giant” — a small bike-replica that cost $560 NT and was given to me for $400 (P600).

As it was a mid-weekday morning, there was only one other customer while I checked the items. I spoke to Justin, the owner, and his shop not only housed the complete line of Giant goods — but also a sizeable room for repairs. Plus, an innovative feature of the store (since it was located along a main road), there was an “Air Pump Self Service” right outside for anyone with deflated tires to use for free. Excellent idea.

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185 WAREHOUSE. The giant Giant store wasn’t the only shop I visited. Together with my friend here from Manila, Albert Go-Alcantara, we went to the largest bike shop in Taiwan. It’s called 185 Warehouse Shop in Daken, Taichung and it’s humongous. It’s a five-story building stocked with so many bicycles and gear that you feel like you’re an 11-year-old inside Toys ‘R Us. They have a cozy coffee shop at the ground level (with a hanging road-bike as decor) and several floors of everything-cycling. The interesting thing with this shop is, they don’t have Giant bikes! They have all the other brands but no Giant. (From what I read, to be a Giant distributor, they require that you stock almost all Giant items — and this store is different.)

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Another exciting happening: Taichung Bike Week (TBW) is near and it will bring many of the world’s top manufacturers, suppliers and companies in this city. TBW runs from November 5 to 8 and two prominent Cebuanos whom we know very well — Chris Aldeguer and Mike Flores, who operate Vellum (www.vellumcycyles.com), a brand I personally use — are intending to join.

But here’s a bizarre twist on Taichung cycling: While this city houses “the world’s largest bike manufacturer (Giant),” not many of its residents are into biking. At least, that’s what Jasmin and I have observed along the city streets. Motorcycles, yes, they run plenty — but not bicycles.

TAIPEI. In Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei, it’s a different story. There, bicycles are being pedaled everywhere. Bike lanes are a natural extension of the road and, for the best part, there are numerous bike-for-rent shops scattered all over. You just need to register, deposit a bond, and you can rent bicycles at spots around town. For one hour, it’s NT$15 (P23). Taiwan being the world’s bike capital, they have several bike options: multi-speed, folding bikes, mountain bikes and even tandem bikes! You hop on a bike and can drop it off at another spot. It’s easy, inexpensive, convenient — and promotes zero-pollution and exercise. Cebu should have this!

Jeremy Lin comes home to Taiwan

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(Photo: Yao Kai-shiou/Taipei Times)

Taichung, TAIWAN — Jasmin and I are in this beautiful, must-visit metropolis of Taichung, the third largest city in Taiwan, next to Taipei and the famous Kaohsiung (bus). Will write more about Taichung in my business column this Thursday. For now, all the commotion here is focused on one celebrity: Jeremy Shu-How Lin.

Last Sunday, it was as if Manny Pacquaio were fighting Mayweather inside MOA Arena. Yes, that’s the hype and pandemonium surrounding the NBA’s first-ever star of Taiwanese descent.

While Jeremy was born and raised in California, his parents grew up in Taiwan before they migrated to the U.S. in the ‘70s. So you can imagine the ruckus and noise in Taipei upon the arrival of their very own son.

After the Houston Rockets defeated the Indiana Pacers at the MOA Arena last Thursday, the two teams flew to Taipei for their second encounter.

Unlike Manila’s, it wasn’t the first time for Taiwan to host an NBA pre-season game. Back in 2009, the Pacers played the Denver Nuggets. But, back then, while basketball was huge in Taiwan, it wasn’t gargantuan huge — as it is today because of someone named Lin.

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GAME. Taichung to Taipei is about 189 kms. in distance (or 58 minutes by the 300kph High Speed Train). I wasn’t able to make the trek to watch the ballgame last Sunday at 1 p.m., but I did get to watch the game (via Chinese commentary) on TV.

At the warm-up, all the TV footages were zeroed-in on their man. Upon the Rockets’ first-five introduction, James Harden was called first… Dwight Howard was second to the last… and, finally: JEREMEEEEE….. LINNNNN! screamed the announcer.

Unusual but necessary in this type of exhibition match at his home country, Jeremy was asked to speak. In Mandarin, he addressed the crowd like a rockstar hero.

Game on! Would you believe, in the first offensive attempt of Houston, guess who receives the ball and jumps to take the shot? And not just an ordinary jumper — but, right at the top of the key, a three-pointer…

Ringless! Jeremy Lin scores a 3! The 13,000 in attendance stand and wave their flags and go hysterical. This can’t be real! It is. As the game progresses, the unbelievable pressure imposed upon Jeremy is matched by his extraordinatry talent.

In one possession, Jeremy goes one-on-one as he escapes from his guard, flies on air and, with a tall defender fronting him, hurls the ball high up on the Taipei air as it floats, hits the backboard and swims inside the ring. In defense, Granger is rushing for a breakaway as Jeremy glides from behind and slams a fascinating block shot.

Another 3-pointer? Sure. This time, several feet behind the arc — he fires the ball and, like a magnet, it’s sucked into the goal. In all, Jeremy finished with 17 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds and that monstrous block shot as Houston won 107-98. Superman drifted inside the Taipei Arena.

PAPERS. The next day (yesterday), as expected, the newspapers here published banner stories on their action hero.

The China Post, Taiwan’s leading English paper, had “‘Linsanity’ comes to Taipei” — not on the back sports pages but on the front page! In another paper, when you flip open the entire spread (think of the front and back pages of SunStar), it reveals a full-color, full-spread photo of their NBA treasure.

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To top it all, you know what movie is being shown in the theaters here? Sure, “Jobs” and “Gravity” are big hits, but one 88-minute biopic is also being broadcasted here.

The movie is about this obscure, frail, too-small-for-the-NBA Chinese player who graduates with a 3.1 grade point average in Harvard (Economics) and goes on sleeping in friends’ rooms because he can’t afford to pay for the hotel. Junked by the NBA, he doesn’t give up his dream of playing alongside Kobe Bryant — he enlists in the D-League. Finally, given one chance, he proves his worth with the New York Knicks, transfers to the H. Rockets and lands in Taipei last weekend to become this nation’s most famous personality.

The movie? Both playing in Taiwan theaters and playing in real life? Linsanity.

p02-130815-a2(Photo: Yao Kai-shiou/Taipei Times)

Boy Tiukinhoy speaks

Green wins big in collegiate basketball. The UAAP or, spelled in full, the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines has followed the script of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. or CESAFI.

Cebu and Manila are the same. At exactly 5:55 yesterday afternoon, the La Salle Green Archers defeated the University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers, 71-69.

This is significant for several reasons. It is the first time in six years that a non-blue-colored team won the UAAP. To be more specific, for five straight seasons (2008 – 2012), the Ateneo Blue Eagles won the UAAP collegiate basketball crown. This season, Ateneo — minus coach Norman Black and several top players — missed out on the Final Four playoffs.

In the 2013 UAAP Final, it was La Salle versus UST. Why do I say that UAAP can be likened to the script of CESAFI?

One, the championship series was decided on the very last game. With Cesafi, it was Game 5; last night at the MOA Arena — just two nights after the NBA’s Pacers and Rockets played — it was the UAAP Game 3 finals.

Two, La Salle lost the first game and came back to win their final games. Same with UV: trampled by SWU in the first two outings, they came back to win their final games.

Third, the color — my favorite: green. La Salle and UV both sport the same color while UST and SWU wear the gold shade.

TIUKINHOY. He just arrived from Cologne, Germany two days ago but, forgetting the jet lag, he still managed yesterday to send me some CESAFI highlights.

Felix “Boy” Tiukinhoy, Jr. is the CEO of Virginia Foods, Inc. He is the national head of the Phil. Association of Meat Processors, Inc. On top of that, he was named chairman of the Cebu Business Month next year — a daunting assignment. And, on these sports pages, we know his hot seat position. He’s the Commissioner of CESAFI — an unpaid, pressure-filled, many-people-are-against-you role that he’s assumed since the league started in 2001.

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Tiukinhoy (right) with CDN sports editor Rick Gabuya

“SWU beat UV five times during the season (one game in the preliminary games, twice in the semifinals and twice in the finals of the best of 5 games),” Tiukinhoy said. “The 3rd (finals) game would have been the icing for SWU.”

Tiukinhoy estimates the crowd in Game 3 to be only about 1/4 full in the general admission. Fans expected a route against UV.

“I already bought a return trip Cebu to Manila for the 3 referees from Manila thinking that the series would end that night,” he admitted.

But UV won. In Game 4, he estimated the crowd to be only one-third capacity because the fans did not think UV could beat SWU twice in a row.

“Game 5 was a miracle for UV, their fans came in full force, and the general admission was in excess of capacity. I don’t want to get the championship away from UV but with the 24 shot clock that conked out, it was something eerie,” he said.

“A championship game with more than full capacity stadium and only a small blackboard for the scoreboard and a table official watch to monitor games such as 20 seconds to go, 15 seconds to go, 10 seconds to go, 5 seconds to go, etc. — only in the CESAFI finals!

“Kudos to this arrangement goes to coach Yayoy Alcoseba for making these suggestions just to continue the game for the sake of the fans.

“Even if SWU lost the championship, Coach Yayoy Alcoseba was my champion that evening. Congrats Yayoy.”

AYING CASE. On the controversial case, Tiukinhoy had this to say: “I pity Scott Aying at this early stage in his tender years; he has been taught by his parents not to follow rules and regulations and at the same time sanctioned by a Judge.

“You and I know that interference in a league of the rules and regulations from a court of law not from basketball or tennis court would create chaos to any tournament. I will just wait for the final resolution of this issue be it in the Court of Appeals or SC.”

Perfect 10-10 as NBA rocks Manila

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Anybody who’s somebody will be inside the MOA Arena tonight. How often does it happen? When stars like Paul George and James Harden land in our Southeast Asian nation? When two of this season’s top contenders — Indiana and Houston — will dribble and dunk beside the humongous Mall of Asia?

Ten. Ten. Whatever the outcome, I’m sure, to all who watch, the experience will be an absolute 10. Ticket prices, as expected, are exhorbitant. The most expensive, I heard, go for P51,000. Those are front-row seats. The least expensive, all the way up to the roof, sell for a few thousand. Still overpriced. But with these overpaid superstars here — and you don’t have to travel to America to watch them — then… sulit.

Of all the players, the one I’d like to meet is a non-player: Larry Bird. Who doesn’t admire the 6-foot-9 Boston Celtic who was a 3-time MVP and won for his green team the titles in ‘81, ‘84 and ‘86? I was an LA Lakers and Magic Johnson backer but you’d have to applaud the sweet-shooting jumper of Larry Bird.

He’s here. They’re all here, as part of the first ever NBA Global Games — when a mixed group of teams travel to various cities around the globe. Starting with Istanbul, Turkey last Oct. 5, NBA teams travel for pre-season games to Bilbao, Manchester, Taipei, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing and our very own Manila. They cap the tour when Golden State meets the LA Lakers on Oct. 18 in Shanghai.

The above-mentioned cities are some of the richest on Earth. For Manila to be included in the short line-up means that we truly are basketball crazy. And we are.

“It has blown me away,” Jeremy Lin was quoted in a Phil. Daily Inquirer story yesterday. “The second I got off the airplane until now, everyone had been over the top. I’m definitely feeling the love from the Philippines.”

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As the most famous Asian after Yao Ming to play on the biggest stage, Jeremy Shu-How Lin will surely be the most photographed, especially when his team flies to Taipei for the game there on Sunday. He’s the NBA’s first American-born player of Taiwanese descent.

Another player who professed his fondness for Manila is Dwight Howard. “I’m so excited to be back here in Manila,” Howard was quoted by Joey Villar in The Phil. Star. “I always told people in the years I’ve been in the NBA, one of the best places I’ve been is the Philippines and I think they are the best fans in the world.”

One major reason why the NBA Global Games is in the Philippines is because of Henry Sy. Thanks to his billions of pesos in spending power, he built the MOA Arena. From what I heard, not only did they offer our country as the venue but the Sy family also plunked down tens of millions of pesos for the NBA to play here. Talk about “marketing expense.”

Like what Manny Pangilinan did when the FIBA Asia Championship was held here last August, the Smart/MVP group of companies overspent; this means that, surely, all their expenses cannot be recouped by the gate tickets and sponsors’ money. But never mind. What’s important is that mega-events such as these arrive in Manila.

Same today. SM is willing to spend money (OK, this is just small change for the multi-billionaire) to get it done. For such initiatives, we thank the Sy family and MVP.

Talking about the MOA Arena, I bring back the issue again of this similar complex being built at the South Road Properties (SRP). If I recall the conversation my dad and I had with Ms. Marissa Fernan, SM’s top official outside of Manila, a few months back, it’s confirmed: SM will build a billion-peso Arena at the SRP. While Manila’s is called MOA, ours is more relaxed-sounding, suited perfectly for Cebu: SM Seaside City.

Mayor Mike: Given that no astute businessman will spend for hundreds of millions (if not a billion pesos ++) for such a sports coliseum — even Atty. Gus Go has been hesitant to rehabilitate his Cebu Coliseum — then I guess we just have to apply some patience and do this: Wait for the SM Seaside Arena.

Doc Sander: ‘Prayers kept me going’

Dr. Sander Ugalino is a member of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP). He joined the Cobra Ironman 70.3 race last August — and was the last runner allowed to complete the race!

Barely making the cutoff time for the 90K bike portion, he was, at that point, “so physically drained by the time I started running and was getting slower by the minute.” Still, he ran. “Prayers,” said Dr. Ugalino, “kept me going.”

To the many people who know him, you would not expect Doc Sander to be the typical super-slim-type triathlete. Over six feet tall, he has actually finished three (42K) marathons and considers exercise as a way to unwind and recharge. “With sports, I’m healthy and mentally fit to be able to live up to the demands of my stressful job. Lately, after I started training for Triathlon, I’ve been able to encourage my wife and son to try swimming and biking. Now, our training sessions have become quality family time as well.”

A surgeon by profession, his work schedule was full; thus, it was difficult to train. But he prioritized: God, family, work, sports/community.

RACE DAY. Sander explained in detail what happened on Aug. 4…

“The bad weather the night before the race added more tension and anxieties to all the triathletes. Good thing, Kuya Kim was there to pacify our nerves. Just like your first marathon, sleep was difficult; this time, with triple the excitement. A couple of hours before race start it was still drizzling but our prayers would not be denied…

“Swim was difficult. Current was strong and by the time our group was released the waves had swollen and it was getting more difficult to swim by the minute. At about 1.5 kms., I started having leg cramps. I rested for a few seconds, made a quick prayer and finished the swim with minimal kicks enough to make the cut-off time.

“The bike for me was most difficult. I’m not a biker and I was undertrained, having bought my road bike less than three months before. The headwind going back from Talisay to CICC was terrible and made things worst. The climb going back up to Fernan Bridge after almost 90 kms. was most difficult. I kept praying that the Lord will pedal for me and I will have enough strength to make it back to Shangri-La. I was already resigned to the fact that I might not make it in the bike cut-off time.

“However, they told me I barely made it and was the last triathlete allowed to run. The route was flat and well-shaded. It took some time before I could get my second wind and with about 4 kms. to go they told me it was already cut-off time. By God’s providence, I was allowed to finish the race and was escorted by the Ironman marshals. I finished the race with a smile on my face.”

SPIRITUAL. Doc Sander believes that apart from being mentally and physically ready, an athlete should also be prepared spiritually. “My family always included the safety and success of my Ironman race in our prayers,” he said. “With the whole BCBP community praying for me and the other brother-triathletes it wasn’t a surprise that we succeeded — all for the glory of God.”

Sander’s wife, Dr. Mai, and their son Josh were his inspiration. “They have kept me strong all throughout training and race day. Mai, Josh and I had this favorite prayer throughout training and during race day. We asked the Lord.. ‘To swim with me, to pedal for me and to run beside me.’

LEARNINGS. “Mr. (Fred) Uytensu once said that Triathlon is not just an event but a lifestyle and I completely agree with him,” he added “It has been a good learning experience as an athlete, a father, a husband and as a surgeon. It was humbling yet very fulfilling… physically-draining yet invigorating… intimidating yet very exciting.

“As they always say, pain is constant but suffering is optional. Since joining the BCBP, I have learned to lift up everything to the Lord and He has always been my source of strength. My Ironman experience further proved that ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).’”

Gullas family savors UV (Unexpected Victory)

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UV is the University of Vengeance. After leading last year’s Cesafi Finals 2-1, they lost Game 4. Then, in heartbreaking fashion, they squandered an 18-point fourth quarter lead and lost to SWU. That’s last season. This year, they lost five consecutive times — a demoralizing seven-game losing streak to Southwestern.

In the pivotal Game 3 Finals last Sunday, they trailed again; in every single quarter, they were behind. Nine-time champions in the past, we coined the term for UV: “University of Victory.” But it didn’t look that way up until they were victorious in the double overtime triumph in Game 3. Then they won Game 4. And, the “sweetest of all endings,” as the Gullas family would term it, they won Game 5 last Thursday.

“It taught me the lesson that when pride is at stake and when times get hard,” Rep. Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas told me the other night, “you have to take the punches, adjust and never give up. Thats exactly what UV did.”

For the youthful 28-year-old Cebu 1st district congressman, those are mature and significant words.

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Want to know the secret of UV, how they adjusted? Here’s Samsam: “SWU’s biggest strength are their starters who play about 37-38 minutes per game. They rely heavily on Tallo, Arong and Mohammed for their 1-2-3 rotation. The main adjustment we made was to play a running game and make all three of them work on defense. We guarded the three of them with all out full-court pressure and we took advantage of our deep bench. Due to this we subbed each player who guarded Tallo and Arong every 3 minutes with instructions to give his all in the 3 minutes he was there. Run on every fast break while also giving him hell on defense every square inch of the basketball court. The result: Arong was too tired to make 3’s during the end of games and Tallo looked winded at the end of games.”

DON VICENTE. The Gullases are known sportsmen. It started with Don Vicente Gullas, the lolo of Samsam. In the 1969 book Man of Vision, Susana B. Cabahug wrote: “Vicente was very sickly as a boy but came through with infantile paralysis, typhoid fever and cholera by intensive physical invigoration and exercise for four years in Maasin, Leyte. When he went back to Cebu he developed his physique by turning to sports. He became an all-around athlete: baseball player, basketball skipper, amateur boxer, tennis player, Roman ring (argulla) artist, and fencer.”

Eduardo or “Eddiegul,” is another sports fan. A Cebu Sports Hall of Fame awardee, he was adjudged “Coach of the Year” by the Philippine Sportswriters Association, the season his UV squad won the national title.

His brother and tennis doubles partner, Jose “Dodong” Gullas, was co-captain of the UV Green Lancers that captured the 1957 national title (they defeated the NCAA champs, Ateneo Blue Eagles, in the first-ever televised game in RP.)

Basketball has dribbled for generations among the Gullases. But Samsam cites one family member who, this 2013, deserves the most praise: his uncle Leo Lucero, the son of Eddiegul’s sister, Cering.

“If there is someone who should be recognized, it’s him,” Samsam added. “Last year he was made the Asst. Team Manager. When the campaign period started, he was the one who handled the team full-time, especially now when I’m usually flying to and from Manila. He is basically the Team Manager. He attends all practices and games and gives the best inspirational speeches before games. Aside from Coach Donbel, Uncle Leo should be given full credit.”

SUNSTAR. Kudos to this newspaper you’re holding, added Samsam: “Papa Eddie, Uncle Dodong, Uncle Jiji, Daddy Didi and the rest of the family have SunStar to thank that they can watch the game (live streaming) right on their living rooms.”

Finally, he ended: “Definitely the best championship I have been a part of. What made it very sweet was the fact that everyone thought we were out and done. People started to quit on us. But never underestimate the heart of a champion, particularly the heart of a Visayanian.”

SWU vs. UV: Best ending for Cebu fans

History repeats itself, the cliche goes. After four games in the Cesafi Finals, it’s two-all. Last year, the ending reached Game 5. That was October 9. Today — 10-3-2013 — it’s happening once more: UV-SWU in one game that will end Season XIII.

The funny thing is, Cebu is the same as Manila. While Cesafi is contesting the final, the UAAP best-of-three is being played at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. And, if you examine the four squads involved, they’ve got something in common: La Salle and UV are color green; UST and SWU are color gold. With the UAAP, it’s their 76th season (ours is the 13th — but prior to that we had the CAAA). Another difference: our Finals is best-of-five while theirs, surprisingly, is a short 2-out-of-3. Which teams will win the gold? Tan-awon nato. Abangan.

LAST YEAR. If you forgot what transpired in the 2012 version of Game 5, it was the most improbable of victories. Against the nine-time champions, SWU was down by 18 points with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter. Second by second, John Pajantoy and his teammates chipped at the lead while UV played “not to lose.” Instead of continuing to attack, UV retreated, wanting to run the clock.

73-72. That was the final score last year; winner: Southwestern.  “I’ve been through many comebacks before but this one is extra special. Historic,” coach Yayoy Alcoseba said. Felix “Boy” Tiukinhoy, the commissioner of Cesafi, ranked that game a “Perfect 10.”

SAMSAM. One person who recalls that moment is Gerald Anthony Gullas. How one year changes a man. Twelve months ago, Samsam Gullas was the UV Team Manager. Now, he’s the youngest congressman of our nation.

“We know we have to lay it all on the table and finish what we should have finished in Game 5 of last year,” said the 28-year-old Gullas, just hours after their Game 4 victory last Tuesday.

I asked Mr. Gullas what he discussed with the team after that double overtime Sunday night win in Game 3. “I told them they weren’t playing like they wanted to win the championship,” said Gullas. “They didn’t play with heart and with pride that a Visayanian is known for.”

Getting angry. Being brutally honest. Samsam continued, “It seemed like SWU was hungrier than us. They always got the offensive rebounds; we missed our free throws and played with no intensity on defense.

“I told them I saw a bit of that in Game 3 in the final 5 minutes and both overtimes and I would want to see it in Game 4. I challenged Mike (Nzeusseu) to minimize the offensive rebounds of Sanjo and asked Wowie to show me everything that made him the rookie MVP last year.”

With these tough words from their young leader, the Lancers pierced the slithery Cobras’ game and won their fourth encounter, 71-66.

“I’m so proud of them cause they rose to the challenge,” Gullas said. “I’m so proud of my veterans Abad and Arong and my rookies as well, especially Codilla and Santillan.”

Looking ahead to their 4 p.m. game today, Rep. Gullas provided me with words that his players have to embrace in order to triumph: Passion. Intensity. Pride. “Most importantly,” he added, “the heart to come back and make history by not only winning our 10th championship but winning 3 straight games after losing I think 7 straight games to the Cobras since last year.”

For us, the fans, hasn’t this been a fun, this-is-what-we-want type of season? SWU glides through the preliminaries and coasts last weekend to a 14-0 scorecard. UV struggles and is submerged in a 0-2 hole. But then… after two overtime extensions last Sunday, it’s the opposite now: SWU has lost two straight. It’s just fitting that the season ends — like the Miami Heat did last June — with one final game.

“The final game is finally here,” Gullas said. “It all ends today. I’m just hoping and praying that we will come out on top this year. I’m going to tell my players that we should win this for my grandmother who will be celebrating her birthday on October 4.”

Congressman (Samsam) or Provincial Board Member (Yayoy), Gullas or Aznar, green or gold, 9-time champion or defending champion… ?

Can the Lancers repel the Cobras’ bite?

I called him up at 12:15 yesterday. I thought he’d be having lunch. Instead, my eardrums were greeted with a symphony of sounds: balls dribbling, rubber shoes squeaking against the wooden floor, the referees’ whistles reverberating. They were practicing. Inside Cebu Coliseum. Inside the same arena where, just 17 hours earlier, they could have won it all.

14-0. That was their scorecard before the Sunday night Game 3.

15-0. It could have been that score. They led in the 1st quarter, in the 2nd, the 3rd, the final quarter. In OT. They were just minutes, moments, heartbeats… away from the most dominant season in Cesafi’s 13-year history.

But yesterday, instead of a relaxing seafood luncheon at Yayoy’s Grill, they were there… Practicing. Inside Cebu Coliseum.

Surprisingly, the always-intense Raul Demerry Alcoseba – I call him “King Cobra” – was upbeat when he answered my call. Positive. Expectant. In a good mood. Hmmm… This is a surprise. On second thought, it’s not a surprise. This is a man who, over three decades plus, has been through thousands of pressure-cooker-type situations inside coliseums.

Been there. Done that win. Experienced that loss. It’s called reality. It’s called you-can-never-win-it-all. “I told the players that this is never easy,” Coach Yayoy said. “To win a championship, you need to win three.”

Having led 2-0 in the finals, his Southwestern University (SWU) Cobras was a game away from sweeping the previously-unbeatable University of the Visayas (UV). If you followed the beginnings of Cesafi, you’ll remember that UV was today’s SWU – it was so dominant that it won the first nine Cesafi titles. “I told the players, ‘It’s not about the streak.’ Winning is not given to us on a platter. We have to be patient. We have to learn our lessons,” Alcoseba added.

Maybe it’s the added pressure of the sweep. Maybe it’s the other team, just seconds away from oblivion, rising to the occasion. Whatever it is, it’s good for the public. “This kind of game is good for basketball, for the Cebuanos,” Alcoseba admitted.

Thrilling! That’s what Alcoseba means. And, talking to him yesterday, nothing gives him more euphoria – not even his Provincial Board membership and being a three-time Councilor of the City of Cebu – than a double-OT game with thousands of screaming fans.

“Our players have to be patient,” he said. “We can’t commit early fouls like we did. Like Sanjo. He has to give up some points so he won’t foul out early. He has to be patient in the offense, not exerting too much energy. Not running court to court. Our players have to learn to control the game. It’s called time management. They think that when they get the ball.. hala, discarte.”

Patience. That, in one word, is the command of the King Cobra.

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 8.20.57 AMFrom SunStar Cebu

RYAN AZNAR. I asked for a message from SWU’s athletic director and here’s what Ryan Aznar said: “The guys still believe they can close it out on Game 4, adjustments will be made by the coaching staff for the next game. The school’s support is very important as well as the students, knowing that the entire SWU community is behind them keeps their morale high and encourages them to play hard in every game they play.”

GAME 4. Although each game, especially in the Finals, is important, I believe that today’s game is the most crucial. If SWU wins it, obviously, it’s done. They’re expected to win. After a near-perfect season, they’re still the heavy favorites.

But…. And here’s an important “but,” if UV wins today, wow, this will completely shift the momentum and have the Cobras feeling pressured.

I’ve always loved that winner-take-all ending. Remember Miami-San Antonio a few months back? Game 7? If UV snatches another steal today, imagine the excitement in that Game 5 finale?

LIVE STREAM. I’m out of town right now but, thanks to this newspapers you’re holding right now, I got to see Game 3. Watch it at cesafi.sunstar.com.ph/live.