Cebu is a sports island

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To all visitors and balikbayans, maayong pag-abot sa Cebu! Welcome to the Land of Sports. In our city and province, sports is a major influence. Through the years, Cebu has played hosts to some of the biggest events of our nation.

Davis Cup tennis. Antonio L. Aldeguer (ALA) Promotions boxing. Ironman triathlon. Dancesport championships. The Cebu Marathon. Kopiko motorcross racing. Philippine Azkals exhibition games. The Xterra offroad mountainbike experience. A Guinness world record in Chess. Name the sport, Cebu offers it. Our island is ideal for sports because of several reasons.

First, the central location. If you’re looking for a venue that’s the midway point for those flying from Manila and those coming from Cagayan de Oro or Davao — then this province is perfect. Because of it’s location, Cebu is also home to some of the country’s biggest universities. These schools have invited and developed thousands of top-caliber athletes. To name two Cebuano giants of the PBA, we have Greg Slaughter and June Mar Fajardo.

Two, the excellent partnership between the private and public sectors. Last year, Cebu had the rare privilege of hosting three Davis Cup tennis ties. Our Philippines battled Syria, Thailand and New Zealand. Thanks to the partnership of Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, the Phil. Tennis Association (Philta) and the Lapu-Lapu City govt., these triple major events were possible. This doubles tandem (private + govt.) is ideal in sports development because, quite often, one sector can’t handle everything. Cebu is one example of this amazing partnership.

Three, the selfless and passionate sports movers. Take Edward Hayco. He’s the chairman of the Cebu City Sports Commission. Because of his devotion to sports, the name “Cebu City” is imprinted in the annals of the Guinness World Records. We’re proud to own two world records: the largest dance class and the biggest chess tournament. (Soon, there’ll be a third in Archery.) Ed Hayco’s passion to help — at zero cost to the city but millions poured from his pocket — is called volunteerism.

Four, Cebu is a sports-hungry crowd. Take ALA Boxing. Almost every other month, a mega-promotion is held inside the Waterfront Cebu ballroom. Filled to the rafters, devoted boxing fans scream and cheer for the courageous pugilists. Cebuanos love sports. Always have, always will. The large crowds in boxing events is a testament to this. That’s why we’re home to three world champions: Donnie Nietes, Johnriel Casimero and Merlito Sabillo. Even Manny Pacquiao frequents Cebu — and trained here in 2007 prior to defeating Marco Antonio Barrera.

In basketball, the CESAFI — our version of the UAAP and NCAA — draws a huge following. The recent rivalry between UV and SWU has elicited major crowds.

Five, Cebuanos love is running. In the past six or so years, thousands of previously sedentary, no-exercise individuals have become runners. A few hundred of them have turned marathoners. This is excellent! Running is the easiest of exercises to do. Just tie a pair of rubber shoes, wear shorts (or even Levi’s jeans).. then off you go. These days, hardly a Sunday passes when there’s no road-racing event. Seven days ago, a few thousand runners braved the 21K and 42K distances in the Cebu Marathon.

Six, the brand “Cebu” elicits a positive image. Let’s talk about the Ironman. For the first three years, it was held in Camarines Sur. Fine. It drew plenty of participants. But this number was nowhere compared to the volume of triathletes who trooped to Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort to join the Cebu editions. The brand “Cebu” is thought of by foreigners as positive because of our many advantages: the nearby white-sand beaches, the friendly and eager crowds. These draw sports-goers to Cebu. Apart from the Ironman, there are multiple triathlons that will grow bigger each year. One notable event is the Tabuelan 111. Again, welcome to Cebu. Pit Señor!

u65b(The Freeman photo/Ferdinand Edralin)

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