Monthly Archives: October 2014

Eighty eighty

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Today, there are various numbers that proliferate in the triathlon scene. There’s “111” (Tabuelan). There’s “123” (DEFY 123). There’s “5150” (Olympic distance), “70.3” (Half-Ironman), and “226” (Timex Bohol).

These all pertain to the distance. In the case of Tabuelan, that’s 111 kms. — swim for 2-K, bike for 88-K, and run for 21-K.  With the extremely difficult “226,” that’s similar to the full Ironman distance: 3.8-K swim, 180-K bike plus a full marathon. (Crazy distance, no?)

There’s one more number that’s invaded the Tri’ calendar and it’s happening next Saturday, November 8.

8080. If you’re Chinese and believe in the lucky powers of the number “8,” then you’ll be happy. If you’re a graphic artist, you’ll note that when you handwrite the digits “0” and “8,” they’re endless loops — the same loops that triathletes will traverse in San Remigio.

Cornerstone Group is the organizer. Led by Steve Maniquis, he gathered two others — Quinito Moras and Joel Juarez — two years ago and decided to start an event-organizing company that “would make quality triathlon events and fun runs.”

1.8-K swim + 65-K bike + 14-K run. Summed up, that’s 80.80 kms.

“We came up with the 8080 distance,” said Steve, “so people could slowly increase their distance if they wanted to eventually do a 70.3 or Half-Ironman. We feel that the distance is finding a niche in the triathlon community.”

The Nov. 8 race in San Remigio was scheduled because it was one year ago — Nov. 8, 2013 — when a major tragedy truck our nation. “It’s our way of commemorating the one year anniversary of Yolanda,” said Steve. Next year, Cornerstone has lined-up four events: a Sprint distance in January plus three more 8080s: March in Daanbantayan, May (location to be finalized) and back to San Remigio in Nov. 2015.

Like many from Cebu, Steve got bitten by the tri-sport bug just recently, joining his first Sprint race in February 2012. He pedaled onwards, joining the IM70.3 races last year and last August.

What’s remarkable is that Mr. and Mrs. Maniquis are both Ironman 70.3 individual finishers. Maricel Martinez Maniquis, Steve’s wife and a long-time friend, herself completed the IM70.3 race last August. Next year, both husband and wife plan to do another round of IM70.3 races in Cebu and in Vietnam.

What makes 8080 different? For one, the starting time. Unlike all other events that start before 7 a.m., this race begins at high noon! Yes, around 12:30 p.m. The reason: in San Remigio, the low tide means really shallow waters. At noon, it’s the highest of tides and the best time for that freestyle. “The noon time start will make for a not-so-hot run portion and the swim portion will not be too deep,” said Steve.

There’s also a 4040 category — half the full distance. Plus, relay teams are welcome in both divisions. The event will be on a Saturday (while most are on Sunday). Timing chips will be used. “The bike route will be closed for a safer bike ride,” added Steve. “It’s a longer race than the Standard or Olympic distance and it’s also draft legal for the bike so it makes for a faster and more strategic race.” During and after the race, the party will be hosted by Cable Car.

“Triathlon is still growing but you are already seeing derivative forms like CrossFit and Adventure racing gaining exposure,” said Steve. “Triathlon is a very demanding sport and the body definitely takes a beating. Although it’s nice to see the progression of young kids who do triathlons. Before you used to be a swimmer or a biker or a runner; now, the new breed of triathletes are good in all three disciplines. It’s gonna be here for a while.”

With advice for the newcomers, Steve gave three: Get clearance from the doctor. Be careful of doing too much too soon. And, if you want to get faster, do interval training on all three disciplines.

The 8080 deadline for registration is tomorrow. Visit the Facebook page now and see you in San Remigio on the 8th.

Love in Singapore

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SINGAPORE — If you follow tennis, you know that the meaning of “love” is different with this game. While love means everything in life, in tennis, it means nothing. It’s zero. What transpired here the past week was love-filled.

First, the shocker. It happened last Wednesday when Serena Williams lost to Simona Halep. The score: 6-0, 6-2. The first eight games were won by the 23-year-old Romanian. Watching from the bleachers, the sound was deafening inside the Indoor Stadium. All of us were in disbelief. Was this happening?

But, thanks to the round robin format, a loss doesn’t mean an exit. Usually, tournaments employ a knockout system. You lose, you’re out. Not in the BNP Paribas WTA Finals.

At the press conference minutes after that embarrassment, I sat 15 feet away from Serena. She was downtrodden but still managed to smile. (Amazing how champions stay positive despite defeat.)

Serena survived — barely — to make it to the semis. In the last elimination round match of her group, Ana Ivanovic had a chance to gain entry had she won in straight sets over Halep. She won the first set. But then Halep won the second set and vanquished the chance for Ana. Serena, by virtue of a higher quotient, advanced.

FINAL. Last Sunday at 7 p.m. during the Women’s Singles final, the stadium brimmed with a boisterous crowd. Top Philta official Randy Villanueva was here. So was Jean Henri Lhuillier, accompanied by his wife Bea Lucero-Lhuillier. Many top honchos and players from Philippine tennis watched.

Three legends were in attendance. Chris Evert entered the arena and was honored as a WTA Ambassador. Martina Navratilova has the doubles trophy named after her. Also here was the founder of the WTA herself, Billie Jean King. The three Americans sat beside each other at courtside.

The Serena-Simona final was just like their match on Wednesday. Only this time, the roles were reversed. Then, Simona was the aggressor. This time, Serena made sure to be in control.

“I had to play more Serena-style tennis,” she said, “and just do what I do best: enforce myself.”

Serena’s serve, nearing 200-kph on many occasions, was the overpowering shot. On short balls or on floaters, she’d run towards the net and topspin-volley the ball for a winner. In one memorable game while Halep served, she finished the point with a thunderous smash. On her subsequent shot, returning serve, she smothered that ball so hard that it boomeranged harder than Halep’s serve.

Halep was helpless. It was another cold-blooded and unforgiving display of tennis from SW — the same type that won her 18 major singles crowns.

Personally, I’m lucky to have witnessed a few historic Serena moments: when she won her first major in New York at the age of 17; when she won the Olympic doubles gold with Venus in Beijing; and two nights ago.

DOUBLES. Speaking of “love,” another love set occurred in doubles when Sania Mirza and Cara Black blanked the defending champions, Peng Shuai and Hsieh Su-Wei, 6-1, 6-0. Everybody expected a closer bout. The Chinese/Taiwanese pair were the higher seeds (No. 2). But Mirza/Black were inspired. They were down a match point in the quarterfinals and down three match points in the semis but survived. They possessed that nothing-to-lose spirit last Sunday and, after losing the opening game, won 12 straight games.

TV. Too bad for us at home, I don’t think the BNP Paribas WTA Finals was shown on TV. The Singapore tournament should have been broadcasted worldwide — especially to Asia considering that it was the first-ever WTA Finals held in Asia-Pacific.

FUTURE ACES. One program that the organizers included was the Future Aces. They invited the top 14- and 16-and-under female player from each Southeast Asian country to join in a round-robin competition held at the Kallang Tennis Centre. Monica Cruz and Rafa Villanueva represented the Philippines. Not only did they get to join and play, they also got to be up close with the Top 8. During the Draw Ceremony the other Saturday, Rafa stood beside Serena Williams and was gifted with her Wilson racket! Nice!

SEA EVENT. There was also another junior tournament: the South East Asian Championships featuring the top two boys and girls players from the 12-, 14-, and 16-and-under divisions of the various ASEAN countries. Representing the Boys 14 was Cebu’s very own, Arthur Craig “Iggy” Pantino.

BALLKIDS. I’m also here as a tennis parent. My daughter Jana, together with top junior netter Kara Salimbangon, are the two representatives from the Philippines in the ballkids program. Indonesia is also represented by two girls, joining 48 children from Singapore. What a rare chance for Jana and Kara to be on court, just a few feet away, from the world’s Top 8.

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WTA is the Williams Tennis Association

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SINGAPORE — The official wording of WTA is Women’s Tennis Association. But the way she’s been playing here, they might as well rename it for Serena Williams.

Yesterday at 4 p.m., I witnessed one of the most enthralling matches I’ve seen in my 20+ years of tennis life.

Caroline Wozniacki had been undefeated all week. She carded a 3-0 record and was feeling confident after beating Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Aga Radwanska.

Against Serena yesterday during the semifinals, she won the first set, 6-2. While Wozniacki hardly made any errors, Williams was spraying her shots all over the Singapore Indoor Stadium. At one point, Williams was so exasperated with her start that she hit a smash. No, she didn’t smash the ball; she smashed her racket. Not once or twice but multiple times that the Wilson racket twisted and formed an unrecognizable form.

Wozniacki was en route to an upset. Having lost to Williams in nine out of the 10 times they’ve played, this time in Asia, it was to be her time.

Not so fast, said Ms. Williams. After a 3-all tie in the 2nd set, the 33-year-old American sped to a 6-3 victory. One set apiece.

W & W are actually “besties.” In proper English, they’re the closest of friends. When Caroline was dumped by Rory McIlroy, it was Serena who invited her friend for some beach time relaxation.

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Last Friday night, during the concert of Mariah Carey (here at the neighboring National Stadium), it was these two girls who sneaked out of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to watch “The Elusive Chanteuse.”

Putting their friendship aside hours after that late night out, yesterday’s 3rd set could not have been closer. 1-all. 2-all. 3-3. 4-4 and 40-all. At that point, Caroline earned a break point and didn’t waste it. She broke Serena and led 5-4.

Jasmin, my wife, who predicted a Wozniacki tournament win when we arrived, was ecstatic while watching at our hotel room.

Seated in the middle section of the 12,000-seater Indoor Stadium, I had other thoughts. I wanted the match to last longer. It was too high-quality a back-and-forth exchange of gunfire for it to end. The Singaporean crowd was pro-Serena. You could here it from their screams… GO, SERENA!

Serving for a place in the finals, Caro was broken. What I find amazing with the 24-year-old Danish star is her running. She doesn’t possess the brute power of Serena; what she does own are those amazing legs that never tire. (Next Sunday, during the New York City Marathon, Wozniacki will join two prominent Cebuanos: Liloan Mayor Duke Frasco, running his first 42-K, and marathon veteran Dr. Vic Verallo.)

Third set, 5-all. Wozniacki had another break point and an open backhand shot. She missed. Williams held serve — assisted by 198-kph and 194-kph aces — and led 6-5. Then, a few moments later, it was match point for Serena. What ensued was a remarkable exchange with Caroline attacking and Serena counter-punching. It culminated with the best friends slumped at the net and a jumping volley winner by Caro.

Six-all, tiebreak. At this point, the thousands of spectators realized what they have been witnessing: the best match of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals.

First point, Wozniacki winner. Second point, Williams winner.

The match quality was worth every cent of the S$128.90 ticket that the spectators paid. Then, a couple of the American’s errors saw Wozniacki lead 4-1. This is it, we thought. But you don’t become the first female player to earn $60 million in prize money without putting up a Battle for Singapore.

Serena won the next five points, including a 201-kph ace. Leading 6-4, this is it! But like a movie thriller whose excitement builds endlessly, Caro leveled the match, 6-all. Finally, the end came at 7-6 when Serena scored the final shot. Serena wins 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8).

In today’s 7 p.m. final against Simona Halep, is there any doubt who’ll claim the W in the WTA Finals other than Ms. W?

Beauty and the Best in the Lion City

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SINGAPORE — Here, it’s all about “the girls.” The dominant colors of the tennis court at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and the Gardens By The Bay attraction all emit one lady-like color: Purple.

With tennis, only the girls are invited. The top eight men will have their own season-ending ATP Finals in London; here in Singapore, it’s only the top eight women singles players and the top eight lady doubles pairings that have been welcomed. Even the Future Stars tournament for children 14- and 16-and-below are all-girls.

On Opening Night last Monday, the first match was the highlight: Ana Ivanovic and Serena Williams.

I don’t know if it was a mere coincidence but when Serena Williams stepped into the court and started to warm-up, would you believe the song they blasted on the loud speakers: “I Like Big Butts.” I doubt it if anyone noticed the vulgar song but, wow, what timing.

The WTA Finals couldn’t have asked for a better pairing: Serena is world No. 1 while Ana was formerly at the top. In their Australian Open meeting last January, Ana defeated Serena for the first time after eight meetings.

The American led early, 3-1, before the Serbian fought back and, at 4-all, earned a break point; but she missed an easy volley by inches. Deuce. That was the only chance for Ivanovic to pounce. She lost that game and the game thereafter, losing the first set, 6-4.

In the “point of the match,” Serena was ushered to the net by a short ball by Ana; a lob was thrown to the ceiling as Serena smashed the ball hard; but waiting by the baseline and with a high jump, Ana smashed the ball in reply for a winner. A smash counters a smash!

The contrast between the two was captivating. Ana, soaring tall at 6-foot-1, is slender. She moves like a gazelle. Serena is a few inches shorter but is stocked with might and muscle.

The biggest advantage of Serena? Her serve. It clocked up to 194-kph and would give her one or two free points each time she serves. She can also split! A couple of times when she had to sprint to the side, she’d stretch, extend and split. Outstanding flexibility.

In the 2nd set, Ana gained an early break but it quickly evaporated. When she served to remain in the match at 4-5, she double-faulted. Down match points, she succumbed to the indomitable Ms. Williams. Final score: 6-4, 6-4.

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In Game 2, it was Eugenie Bouchard vs. Simona Halep. Of the eight ladies competing, these two are the only “rookies” (first-timers) to the WTA Finals.

I was hoping for a Bouchard victory. Instead, she was spraying errors all over Singapore. Only 20, she plays with the reckless abandonment of a youngster. At the other side of the net, Halep was as steady as a wall, hardly making any mistakes. Plus, she had a large contingent who flew all the way from Romania. They were loud and they motivated the diminutive 5-foot-6. In the end, it was an easy romp for Halep, 6-2, 6-3.

Gardens By The Bay

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Shifting topic to non-tennis, you’ve got to visit Gardens By The Bay when you come to Singapore. This country has always been known for their flora. From the moment you step out of Changi Airport, millions of trees and flowers and grass fields await you. This tiny nation (2nd smallest in Asia) has a land area of only 714 sq. km. — much smaller compared to our Cebu island’s 4,943 sq. km. Yet, in every corner and walkway, greenery mesmerizes your eyes.

Gardens By the Bay, which opened in 2012, spans 101 hectares of reclaimed land. The SuperTrees tower above all; they’re giant, man-made structures that illuminate at night and are shrouded with various species of plants.

The crowd-drawers are the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome — these are fully-encased glasshouses that are home to waterfalls, vines, palms, flowers and so much greenery from all over the world.

Words cannot describe the natural beauty that’s exhibited in their latest attraction. No wonder Lonely Planet, in their latest guidebook, picks Singapore as the world’s No. 1 country to visit.

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Li Na, Martina dazzle in the WTA Finals opening

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SINGAPORE — Prior to the very first session here at the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Finals — featuring the beauteous Ana Ivanovic versus the best, Serena Williams — there were two important moments last Monday.

The Legends. Yes, four of them played one pro-set (up to 8) of tennis. Martina Navratilova and Marion Bartoli teamed up against Tracy Austin and Iva Majoli.

The Singapore Indoor Stadium, which houses the WTA Finals this October 20 to 26, is not as giant-sized as the MOA Arena or Smart Araneta Coliseum in Manila. Capacity-wise, it only seats 12,000. It’s cozy and comfortable. All the seats are cushioned. The airconditioning is far, far colder than Cebu Coliseum’s. At the center stood one rectangle: the tennis court, colored purple since this is an all-women’s tournament.

As the legends entered, the entire arena turned dark. Then, all lights focused on the court. They installed giant projectors to illuminate the rectangle, showing not just a spectrum of colors but actual images — yes, a mammoth TV screen on the tennis court! Amazing technology.

The legendary star? Who else but Martina Navratilova. Already 58 years old, she can still volley like a teenager and drive that forehand up the middle like a WTA pro. She is the holder of the most extraordinary of statistics in Tennisdom: In Grand Slam events, she owns 18 singles trophies, 31 women’s doubles titles, and 10 mixed doubles crowns. She’s won these year-ending WTA Finals a whopping eight times.

Here in Singapore, like she is received everywhere around the globe, Martina is revered. As evidence of her athleticism despite nearing “senior citizenship (age 60),” in one point she sprinted back from near the net to the backcourt to retrieve a lob then, two shots later, scuttled her feet to smack a forehand down-the-line winner. The crowd roared in applause. Two points later, she calmly ends the game with an ace. Trademark Navratilova.

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The Legends exhibition was fun because all four of them were having fun. Towards the end of the set, the announcer enters the court and speaks to Iva Majoli, reprimanding her for being coached. Her “coach?” Her little daughter, seated nearby, who gave her mom some words of support. It was all for laughs and entertainment. We were entertained and the score, with Navratilova-Bartoli defeating Majoli-Austin, 8-5, was not as important as the crowd’s delight.

By 7 p.m., it was another showcase. This time, the greatest Asian female player of all time was to be recognized.

Li Na, who rose to become world No. 2 last February but shockingly retired from pro tennis recently due to chronic knee problems, was being honored. Wearing a dazzling long black dress, a tribute was organized for the 32-year-old Chinese star, who won the 2011 French Open and the 2014 Australian Open. Had Li Na not retired, she was to have been part of the WTA Finals Singapore and would have stolen the glamour from the likes of Serena and Maria. Sayang. But still, it was terrific to see her.

Laser lights sprinkled as fireworks erupted inside the coliseum. Drum sets thumped. As the boys and girls banged their drums, lights were emitted from their shirts. Smoke machines exhaled fog. Us The Duo, the husband-and-wife band of Michael and Carissa Rae Alvarado, sang a few songs to excite the Singaporean audience.

Then, in an unprecedented moment, after making the ceremonial serve to start the WTA Finals (the first time the Asia-Pacific has hosted these games), guess what: Li Na rallied! Yes, wearing 4-inch high heels, she swung forehands and backhands with the Under-16 winner of the Future Stars program. The thousands gathered inside the Singapore arena exploded in cheers.

WTA Finals: The Top 8 gather in Singapore

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SINGAPORE–You can’t ask for a better line-up: Serena Williams. Maria Sharapova. Simona Halep. Petra Kvitova. Eugenie Bouchard. Agnieszka Radwanska. Ana Ivanovic. Caroline Wozniacki.

In tennis, next to the four Grand Slam events (Australian, French, Wimbledon and US Open), the grandest stage is this one, happening this week, here in The Lion City.

It’s the BNP Paribas WTA Finals. Only the top eight best female players are invited. The total prize money is hefty: $6 million. Plus, there’s an appetizer waiting to be devoured: the year-end ranking. If Serena wins this Sunday, she keeps that top spot. If Sharapova manages to lift that trophy, she’ll snatch the No.1 ranking.

Exciting? Absolutely. We arrived here last Friday and, by then, all the ladies had descended at Changi Airport. On Saturday, we visited the Singapore Sports Hub — an expanse of multiple complexes, housing an aquatic center, tennis courts, indoor arenas, the Singapore Indoor Stadium and the 55,000-seater National Stadium (same seating as our Phil. Arena!). The entire Sports Hub costs S$1.3 billion.

At the OCBC Indoor Arena, we got to see the “girls.” Yes, this event is purely for girls. The men will have their year-ending finale during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London from November 9 to 16. So, for now, it’s all about the girls.

This is the beauty of tennis: the beauty of the tennis players. The first player to practice when we entered the arena? She’s 6-foot-1, born in Russia but now a Florida resident, and her boyfriend is Grigor Dimitrov.

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Maria Sharapova practiced from 10 to 11 last Saturday morning in plain Nike attire. She was relaxed. Three bodyguards (okay, they were her coaches and hitting partners) accompanied the world’s most photographed female athlete. She’s super-tall and smothers that yellow ball with the fierceness of a Bengal tiger (like the one we saw yesterday at the Singapore Zoo). She hit cross-courts, topspin volleys, down-the-line backhands. By hour’s end, she stopped by the sidelines to sign autographs before exiting.

Next in line? A player who, to me, looks even prettier, especially in person: Eugenie Bouchard. Only 20, she has that golden face and a tennis game that’s golden. Wearing short shorts and a loose black Nike top that would rise often to reveal her abs, Bouchard smacks that ball with a short backswing. She powers her shots with as much force as Maria.

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My wife Maria (Ma. Jasmin) and I were discussing women’s tennis. This is why the lady-players are so famous, led by Sharapova, who’s been often voted the most recognizable face among the planet’s women athletes.

It’s because of this combination: athleticism and beauty. These are some of the best athletes; they’re also the prettiest. Apart from Sharapova and Bouchard, also here in Singapore, though we have yet to see her, is the lady from Serbia: Ana Ivanovic. A former world No. 1, she had the “misfortune” last night of facing one of the all-time greats: Serena Williams.

Yes, SW is in SG. This is terrific news. Prior to our arrival, I had read articles saying that she might not come to Asia. Nursing an injured knee, she could have rested to recuperate. But no, Serena is here and, as an 18-major (in singles) champion and the winner of her last 15 matches at the WTA Finals (she won in ’09, 2012 and 2013), she’ll be very, very difficult to beat.

Back to the practice courts last Saturday: Of the three indoor courts, the middle one was occupied by Wozniacki and Halep. Wozniacki is famous for being the “ex-girlfriend of Rory McIlroy.” Scheduled for marriage this year-end, they split. While that was painful, their golf and tennis games resurrected; Rory is back to No.1 while Wozniacki is back in the WTA Finals.

Halep is not a famous name. Yet, she’s ranked No. 3. Small at 5’5”, she must be the fittest of them all. Before she hit the court, she stretched and did a myriad of training exercises at the side court for over half an hour.

As the banners here proclaim, it’s… Game. Set. Singapore.

PBA @ 40

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The Philippine Basketball Association is Asia’s oldest professional basketball league. Next to the NBA (born in 1946), it is, according to Wikipedia, “the second oldest continuously existing” men’s pro basketball organization in the world.

Today, the league starts its fifth decade of existence. And what a mega-production the Opening Ceremonies will showcase.

The Philippine Arena, located in Bulacan, will host today’s twin opening games. I had the chance a few months ago to see for my very eyes this humongous dome-shaped structure (while traveling en route to Baguio) and it’s an eye-popping sight that I’ve never witnessed before.

Fifty five thousand people. Yes, that’s the capacity of the Phil. Arena and the PBA hopes to flood the entire stadium with loud and fanatical spectators. “We’ll try to fill up the 55,000-seater arena. I think we can do it,” said our good friend Pato Gregorio, the PBA Chairman.

Will the number of fans who’ll troop to Bulacan set a record? In our country, yes, definitely. The previous PBA record was around 25,000; the recent NU-FEU Finals Game 3 of the UAAP surpassed that figure. Surely, with a crowd of over fifty thousand, today’s game handily breaks the record.

Worldwide, the largest-ever basketball crowd was in 1998 when the Chicago Bulls played the Atlanta Hawks. That brought in over 62,000 spectators. If the Phil. Arena reaches full capacity today, we’ll be ranked among the world’s top five biggest basketball crowds. Ever.

A huge reason for the excitement? Because our most famous Pinoy will lead the opening salvo. No, Manny Pacquiao isn’t fighting Chris Algieri today (that’s on Nov. 23 in Macau), but the boxer-turned-ballplayer will be the center of focus as the coach of Kia Sorento. (Speaking of the team name, wasn’t the original name “Kia Kamao?”)

The question is: Will Manny play or not? We know he will coach — but will he dribble and shoot as a player? Weeks back, I read comments from Freddie Roach saying that he insists that MP not play — to safeguard his ward from injury. But the latest I read was that he has softened his stance and given Manny the go-signal.

My guess? Of course, Manny will play. You think he’ll just stand by the sidelines and deprive himself of a chance, for the first time, to fulfill a lifelong dream? Let’s just hope the Blackwater guys take it easy on the boxer.

The schedule today: The Opening Ceremony kicks off the festivities at 1:30 p.m. Then, Kia plays Blackwater Elite at 3 p.m., after which Ginebra San Miguel battles Talk n Text at 5:15 p.m.

To help transport the riding public to the venue, Kia has partnered with JAM Liner for the bus company to “hakot” as many as 10,000 fans from Metro Manila — all for free — to Bulacan. Up to 200 buses are said to be ready for deployment.

What’s new this 40th season? Plenty. There are plenty of new faces, including over two dozen rookies. And these two new teams: Kia and Blackwater. There will be a total of 12 teams in this PBA All-Filipino Philippine Cup.

The format? It’s a single round robin schedule; each team plays 11 games during the elimination round. The top two teams advance to the semis while the bottom two squads get eliminated. The remaining eight teams enter the quarterfinals.

Schedule? After today, the next game is on Tuesday (Globalport vs. NLEX and Rain or Shine vs. San Miguel). The regular weekday schedule will be every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Some Saturdays will see out-of-town games. During Sundays, the first game commences at 3 p.m. TV5 will show complete the live coverage.

Related to the PBA’s 40th year, a new documentary was recently launched. It’s called “A Nation’s Passion” and it was produced by Bill Velasco. A few months back when Bill and I met here in Cebu, he told me about this major that. It was finally unveiled earlier this week to a select group in Resorts World Manila. I recall Bill coming to Cebu to spend time interviewing Ramon Fernandez.

Beginning today, for the PBA… life begins at 40.

A letter from Boy Tiukinhoy

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 6.32.33 AMTiukinhoy (right) with CDN Sports Editor Ricky Gabuya during the 2008 Cebu Sports Awards

I received an email at 1:44 p.m. yesterday. The sender? Felix Tiukinhoy, Jr. He’s not only the President of Virginia Farms, Inc. but, in the world of sports, he’s the commissioner of Cesafi. Spelled in full, that’s the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. Since the league started in 2001, one man has stood on top of the organization, receiving neither large salary nor high praises in this thankless job. In full, I reprint Tiukinhoy’s letter:

“Hi John: Let me inform you offhand that your feature of me sometime ago as ‘The David Stern of Cebu’ is properly framed and hung on the wall behind me. So many visitors in my office notice it and I am very happy and honored of what you wrote; sometimes the visitors will tell me that I look handsome when I was young. Hehehe.

“Let me again thank the CESAFI Team for their support to all the activities from the Board of Trustees, Athletic Directors, Tournament Managers, especially Fr. Manny Uy, S.J., President, CESAFI; Deputy Commissioner of Basketball Danny Duran, Deputy Basketball on other sports, Dr. Danilo Villadolid, the Secretariat workhorse, Mr. Bernard Ricablanca, Rico Navarro and all the others who have one or the other helped so much for the success of CESAFI. I am honored to work with you all.

“Our assessment of the 14th Cesafi Basketball Season is relatively fair in fans attendance in watching the basketball games as compared to the previous seasons. Several factors caused the fair attendance:

“POSITIVE: 1) The presence of foreign players in USC, SWU, UV, and USJ-R added excitement. 2) The support of the school and their Alumni for their teams especially in the recruitment of players and financial assistance. 3) The media support for the awareness. 4) The coaches and players played a high level basketball in the spirit of sportsmanship. 5) The suspension of key players of UV by management for disciplinary action to play in the current season.

“NEGATIVE: 1) The withdrawal of USP-F to participate this season in the College Division. 2) Good Cesafi Players after graduating high school are all pirated by school teams form Manila.”

ATENEO-UV. “With the SHS-Ateneo vs. UV finals in high school, I was surprised that it reached Game 3. SHS-ADC beat UV three times in the tournament including Game 1. In Game 2, SHS-ADC brought their fans that practically made the gym color blue. Only a handful, around 20 pax, of boisterous UV fans were present.

“I already told Fr. Manny, sitting beside me as President of CESAFI, that the SHS-ADC boys are tense because of the presence of so many fans including their parents and relatives.

“In Game 3, the presence of fans of both sides created a level of playing field, one side of the gym was a sea of blue and the other side, green. Father Manny did not sit beside me but went on stage as he said he wants to cheer too for his team. Hehehe. That game should not be watched by one who has a heart condition.

“In all 3 games, we commend the coaches and players for their sportsmanship. It made our job in the Commissioner’s Office easier and pleasant.”

COLLEGE. “With the USC-SWU collegiate finals: Game 1, USC was tense and showed that USC boys still lack championship experience but in Game 2, USC made the adjustment that SWU was not able to prepare. Imagine, Macmac Tallo (SWU star player) was not able to make a point in the game. This will be a long series.

“With USC, yes it is very good that USC is in the finals again since 2007. It offers a different profile of the fans.

“Supposedly, the CESAFI Final Series will be covered live nationwide by ABS-CBN – Sports. Somebody from them reneged in the arrangement without informing us. This was supposed to be a first in our CESAFI basketball. They covered it but I don’t know when they will show it on TV.”

Dr. Rhoel Dejaño reflects on SHS-Ateneo’s win

Dr. Rhoel Dejaño is one of Cebu’s top sports doctors because, apart from spending time inside his clinics at Perpetual Succour and Chong Hua, he ventures out to personally supervise the fitness needs of his patients and athletes.

The Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu is one such school. Since 2011, Dr. Dejaño has assisted the school’s basketball program. (In 2010, he also helped CEC win the Cesafi trophy.)

After SHS-Ateneo triumphed last Saturday in the deciding Cesafi Game 3 against the University of the Visayas, I asked Rhoel to ponder on his team’s success and his personal involvement.

Here’s Dr. Dejaño: “As their team physician and conditioning coach, preparations started when the team was completed last summer. Daily strength and conditioning sessions were done.

“I had to individually assess each individual’s fitness level… see how they move, how they run, how they jump. In other words, look at their physical attributes or athleticism. From there, I can design a program that will improve whatever inadequacies they have and make them perform better.

“I also teach them proper diet that includes what type of food to eat and what not to eat and what to drink and what not to drink. You’d be surprised that our players do not drink soft-drinks and most sugared drinks.

“Injuries are also addressed right away so that when the game season comes, they are in tiptop shape. One thing that is very admirable with Coach Rommel Rasmo is that he has a very open mind. He collaborates with me on matters concerning the health and fitness of our athletes.

“In game 2, when SHS-Ateneo lost to UV, the players were too tense. They felt the pressure of trying to win the championship. Most of our players did not have the championship experience as this was probably their first time to play in front of a huge crowd. Plus, most of their parents traveled great distances to watch the final games.

“In game 3, the coaching staff told them to just enjoy the game and improve on their defense. For my part, during the game preparations and warm up (which I personally handle), I gave them relaxation exercises (e.g., closing their eyes for a few minutes and just think of the happiest moment in their lives ) and some drills to make them focus on the game aside from the regular warm up and stretches that we do. They were fired up and warmed up. This time around, they were ready both physically and mentally. That’s why in the first quarter they exploded with 26 points. The game was physical and fast but I think we prepared them enough for the rigors that come with this type of play. In the end, they kept their cool and composure that made them last the distance. Skills plus Science in the works!”

Dr. Dejaño’s job isn’t done yet. Because while he has won the trophy in high school, his other team (USC) played Game 1 of the collegiate championship versus SWU last night.

Said the tennis-playing doctor: “Can’t relax yet. Feeling the pressure and tension in the college finals. The game preparations are more intense and different because of the scheduling of the games. Imagine playing 3 straight games in 3 days and 2 more games one day apart if it goes the distance. Hopeful USC will make a good fight.”

CESAFI LIVE. For those who can’t visit the Cebu Coliseum, Sun.Star has live coverage. Just visit cesafi.sunstar.com.ph/live.