Monthly Archives: February 2015

12th Thirsty Cup

It started last Friday at 5:30 p.m. It ran that whole night. The next day, from morning until midnight, the games ensued. Same with last Sunday. For 16 hours that day, there was nonstop kicking, heading, passing and diving.

One dozen “Thirsty Cups” have concluded and three men have remained constant since the event started in 2004. My brother Charlie, who conceptualized this tournament, and his good friends, Chad Songalia and Neil Montesclaros.

The Thirsty Cup has dribbled from venue to venue — the Ayala (Cebu Business Park) grounds to San Roque to USC Talamban and now, the Cebu City Sports Center — but these three have been the same triumvirate behind the event.

This tournament is unique for many reasons. It brings over 200 teams nationwide in one site. Multiplied by 10 players per squad, that’s over 2,000 participants. A record 30+ teams traveled from outside Cebu to join.

Girls play in one pitch while boys play in the other. A 7-year-old boy kicks his first kick while a 50-something fires a winning goal. Father and son join. The music, expertly played by “DJ Chad,” rocks the stadium. (Aina Lacson loved the 80s hits.) It’s football and beach football rolled in one. It’s a format that allows you to lose once but still have a chance to win the trophy. It’s plenty of 0-0 scores and scary penalty shootouts to decide either heartbreak or ecstasy.

Running from SM to SM

Both are giant-sized malls. One is humongous while the other, slated to open by year’s-end, is extraordinarily humongous. I’m referring to the SM City Cebu and that spaceship of a building with a levitating cube and artistic wave-like walls that’s called the SM Seaside City.

Two mornings ago at 5 a.m., the starting gun was fired at the reclamation area fronting the Bayfront Hotel of Chester Cokaliong. Fireworks brightened the black sky. It was the fifth edition of the SM2SM Run and I ran the 21K.

What’s my objective review? VG: Very good.

Hydration stations were littered every kilometer — a total of 10 stops loaded with unlimited water; one or two stations with Gatorade and a few with dark chocolates and bananas. We pressed sponges to cool our heating bodies.

Music stations blasted their melodic noise to soothe our ears during the usually quiet Sunday morning. I especially liked the group, dressed in white, who stood at the SM Seaside City corner to pound the drums.

The road was fully closed to traffic. For two hours and seven minutes, Dr. Tony San Juan and I — plus thousands of others — enjoyed the wide expanse of the route and the SRP. The “S” in the “SM” stood for “safety” as it was a completely car-free race.

After the run, the loot bags distributed were loaded: Jollibee breakfast, Yakult drink plus other goodies. The good-looking medal made by Suarez & Sons showed three Olympic-like rings. The awarding, held inside the mall’s North Wing, was filled as hundreds awaited the raffle prizes (motorcycle, TVs, laptops).

With the prize money, it stood as the biggest not only in Cebu but, I’m guessing, of any race outside Manila. Kenyans and elite runners (including Eduardo Buenavista) joined with the P60,000 first prize as goal.

PAL Interclub

Atty. Jovi Neri sent me this report on Cebu Country Club’s title quest: “Since Dec., the team has been playing together and more often, which means sacrificing time away from family, friends, and work.. We are better prepared than last year when we had so many distractions and uncertainties… Course familiarity is always an advantage in golf, but we only have it in CCC. Club Filipino in Danao is not our home course… On pressure: Nine of our ten players will have at least four appearances so we are all experienced. Our reigning club champion Harvey Sytiongsa is playing only his second Interclub so that still makes him a veteran, plus he beat all of us so that counts, too. It is natural for everyone to feel pressured in competition. Hopefully, experience and preparation will help us deal with it in a favorable way.”

Finally

My dad Bunny, considering the possibility of flying to Los Angeles and driving four hours to Las Vegas to watch Money vs. Manny, was in constant touch with a few friends residing in Las Vegas yesterday. The ticket prices? You won’t believe it. Not 1K or 3K but $5,000 for the second-cheapest seats. That’s P230,000 for a single chair on a scuffle that will last a maximum of 36 minutes. My dad said No. He’d rather occupy his usual front row “good luck” chair inside Casino Español come the morning of May 3.

SALVEN LAGUMBAY. I interviewed one of the country’s foremost experts on boxing. He’s a best friend from UP Cebu College, a fellow writer, and now one of Asia’s top boxing judges. Here was Salven’s email to me a few nights ago:

“Bai, honestly, in the very long time that I’ve been following boxing, this is the first time for me to experience a fight announcement that is taking extremely long to make, with almost everybody around the world waiting for it with bated breath.

“Welcome to the Floyd Mayweather School of Business. First of all, in the history of contemporary boxing, or all of boxing for that matter, I would rate Mayweather as arguably the most astute, business-savvy boxer of all times. If he wasn’t boxing, he would have been the Dean of the Harvard Business School or a member of Barack Obama’s Economic Team.

“I have personally met him at his Mayweather Boxing Club gym in Las Vegas last October, and true enough, Mayweather is an entirely different athlete. You would think it would be easy for an Asian like me who travelled more than 7,000 miles to get a photo session with him? Think again. I got mine, but not after coursing my request thru the right channel.

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“This announcement has been super-delayed because of Floyd Mayweather. It’s the Art of the Deal working its magic. And no, it’s not because Mayweather doesn’t want to fight. Nor is he afraid of a Pacquiao. Let’s put it simply this way: Mayweather wants to be the one to steer the negotiation wherever he wants it to go. And so far he has been successful. Mayweather wins the first round even before the fight gets made.

“Also, a fight of this magnitude, with egos of those involved rivaling its size, this fight would not have been easy to make in the very first place. There’s the issue of who gets what (resolved, 60-40), the contract weight (147 lbs. or catchweight at 150), what gloves to use (Reyes or Grant), which outfit gets telecast right (HBO or Showtime), who gets to air the replay, who will make up the broadcast panel, who will announce (Michael Buffer or Jimmy Lennon), who goes up the ring first, who will be introduced first, how is the PPV sales going to be divided, who gets what corner color (red or blue), who will be the referee, who will be the judges, who will be the lead promoter, who will do the infomercials, which outfit gets right for all accreditations. For all we know, both camps are even at loggerheads as to whose name gets mentioned first in fight posters and advertising billboards.

“As for the promotion of the bout itself, yes, there is still time for that. Usually in major fights, they would allow a window of 4 to 5 months from fight announcement to fight date to allow ample time to promote the show. In this case, they don’t have that opportunity because of negotiation delay, but then again, this fight is so popular there is not much promoting needed to sell it. Lol, they can fight tomorrow and still pack the entire MGM and do more than a million PPV buys!

“As for fight preparations, both Mayweather and Pacquiao would need only 8 weeks or less to be in top condition. Both guys are professionals. They are in shape even with no fight schedule, and would need only a few weeks for the so-called sparring sessions and other ‘body alignments’ and tactical planning needed for the big show.”

Floyd’s marketing ploy

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Only 10 weeks remain. Why the delay? If he’s going to announce it anyway, why prolong the wait? Dozens upon dozens of articles in Philboxing.com all point to the same direction: May 2, 2015 will happen.

Cut the crap, Floyd. Sign the document that Manny Pacquiao has signed and announce the bout. Mayweather is taking us for a joyride aboard his Gulfstream III jet. He’s smiling that handsome and charismatic smile; he’s counting his estimated $280,000,000 net worth; he’s driving his Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorarno or Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 or Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport.

Sport is entertainment. We watch it to feel high or low; we applaud the first to cross the finish and we deride the beaten body lying on the canvas. But underneath our thrill and excitement — the root of all this entertainment — is one word: Money. And isn’t this guy’s nickname the same? This is all about money. Money the person. Money the denomination.

How to explain the delay? It’s called the “Apple strategy.” This was started by the late Steve Jobs and perfected by Tim Cook and the machination called Apple Inc. You know how the world’s biggest company (market capitalization: $740 billion) delays and keeps secret its latest iPad or iPhone to maximize the gossiping and to keep the millions of fanatics swimming in a news frenzy?

The iPhone-using Floyd is employing the same tactic used by the iPhone makers. The man from Las Vegas has learned a trick from the men from Cupertino.

It’s called suspense. Delay, delay, delay. Wait. Pause. Spread a tiny rumor here. Shake hands in Miami. Keep everyone guessing. Watch the NBA All-Star weekend beside Rihanna. Wait. Pause. Delay. Keep everyone salivating….. And when all throats are dry and all tongues are wagging, thirsty and hungry to receive the news… Boom! Like a left hook, you unveil the artwork.

The end result? When it’s finally announced, like when Apple revealed the months-long-rumored iPhone 6+ on the giant screen in California, everybody drools and all eyes are enlarged and mesmerized.

How do you explain this? Big fights usually get announced six or more months in advance. This one only has a lead time of two months? Crazy. If this were a small-time basketball or volleyball tournament, fine. But not the undisputed “Biggest Boxing Fight in History.”

Matthew Fellows, a columnist for Guardian Liberty Voice, wrote an interesting piece, “Mayweather-Pacquiao: Feeding Frenzy Calculated by Money Team,” last Feb. 16.

“Mayweather is extending this drama in order to get maximum exposure for Shots, the social media app he threw down one million dollars for where he plans on announcing the fight,” said Fellows. “He is all about maximizing his earnings even in announcing the fight and has been willing to drag fans along in torturous manner in order to fill his bank account.”

Nobody in sports is better in business than Mr. Mayweather, who tops the list of highest paid athletes in Forbes and Sports Illustrated. Hate him and despise him, but he’s amassed a mountain full of dollars — $105 million, to be exact, in 2014 alone.

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Sport is business. I don’t know how they arrived at the computations but the May 2 clash is supposed to generate a total revenue of $250 million (in pesos, that’s nearly P10 billion).

“Despite what people who clearly know little about the greed of boxing people and their ability to drive up numbers, the fight is in the pipeline and will be announced soon enough,” added Fellows. “The more the media and fans alike obsess, the broader the smile on not only Mayweather’s face but on the big wigs who stand to make tens of millions on a fight that should have happened five years ago.”

Marketing. That’s what this is all about. It’s a business strategy. And it works. It’s word of mouth multiplied by millions of mouths and it’s for free. Except that, on fight night, we pay while Money makes all the money.

Stephen Curry and Zack LaVine

I missed yesterday’s NBA All-Star Game but I did get to see two of the most exciting moments of last weekend: The Three-Point Shootout and the Slam Dunk Contest. Both were shown last Sunday morning.

Prior to the twin thrills, the Shooting Stars Competition started the night at the Brooklyn Nets’ stadium (Barclays Center). A trio composed of a WNBA player, a veteran, and an active player completed the tandem. Chris Bosh joined Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash (nice name) to cash-in on their third year-in-a-row victory.

The Taco Bell Skills Challenge was up next. Sprinting, passing, flicking a lay-up and scoring a three-pointer were the skills needed. Patrick Beverley won. These were the warm-up events.

With an equally star-studded audience that included John McEnroe (who sat beside Spike Lee) and Rihanna (two seats from Floyd Mayweather, Jr.), the Saturday edition of the All-Star Weekend was starting to get very exciting.

I watched at home. Charlie, my brother whom I played basketball with in all our elementary and high school days, arrived just in time to watch the next two episodes.

We witnessed what was termed by the host as “possibly the best field of three-pointers” in the history of the 3-point contest. I won’t delve into the shot by shot account of what transpired but the scores posted in the elimination round were sky-high: Klay Thompson scored 24 with Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving posting identical 23s.

In the Final Round, “Spicy Curry” was too hot, scoring 27 points, the highest ever recorded in the Three-Point Contest. (The previous record of 25 belonged to Jason Kapono. Although it was only last year that a new rule was introduced — increasing the perfect score from 30 to 34 — where one rack was filled with all ‘money balls.’)

Curry’s amazing long-range bombs included shooting 13 straight shots (too bad he missed that very last one). Imagine making 13 in a row (out of 25). That record beat Larry Bird’s 11 (done in 1986) and was bested only by Craig Hodges, who made an improbable 19 consecutive shots in 1991.

The leading vote-getter in the NBA All-Star Game, beating LeBron James, it’s obvious that Stephen Curry is a global superstar athlete. Standing only 6-foot-3, he’s not only a sharp-shooter possessing that charismatic smile, he’s also universally well-liked, having won the 2011 NBA Sportsmanship Award.

MVP? If the Warriors continue to shine like the Golden State Bridge, he’s going to be locked-in for a close fight with LeBron. (The two share one more thing in common: they’re born in Akron, Ohio.)

Did you see the photo of Stephen as a little kid seated beside his father, Dell (the former NBA player), smiling and giving his dad a high-five? That’s an iconic picture.

Next attraction was the Slam Dunk Contest. While the previous years did not provide much fireworks, this year was different: Zack LaVine was the anointed one. Still a teenager who won’t turn 20 until March 10, the 6-foot-5 son of a professional football player (dad) and softball player (his mom), he was destined to dunk. At the age of five, he watched Space Jam and dreamt of himself flying like Michael Jordan.

Three nights ago, the reel story became real. Stepping out of the lighted dungeon as he was introduced, you won’t believe the shirt he unveiled to perform his first dunk: a “23” jersey with the name “Jordan.” Talk about guts and confidence! When you wear such an attire, either you’ll be derided as an embarrassing teenager or celebrated as a high-flying modern-day MJ.

Slam! His first dunk was incredible. He throws the ball up on air, picks it up with his left hand, inserts it between his legs, and slams it down. 50! He scored all 10s with the five judges. In dunk number two, he throws another lob then flies to twirl the ball behind his back before jamming that ball on his way down to earth. Another 50!

Zack’s idol is Kobe Bryant. That’s fitting because he’s the second-youngest slam dunk champion (after KB).

NBA All-Star: Play and Display

urlWith an average of 14 players per squad multiplied by 30 teams, that’s roughly 420 total players today. Out of that number, a select few — the ‘Navy Seals of the NBA’ — make it to the All-Star game. Only 24 players, or six percent of 420, play in either the West or the East All-Stars teams. This Sunday, the day after Valentine’s, is the 64th edition of the NBA All-Star Game.

The East, who won last year 163-155, will be led this weekend by Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Pau Gasol, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Chris Bosh, Jimmy Butler, Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver (who replaces the injured Dwayne Wade). Their head coach is from the Atlanta Hawks, Mike Budenholzer.

The West, who trail the all-time win-loss record with 26 wins versus 37 losses, are manned by Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, Stephen Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, Klay Thompson, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard (who replaces Blake Griffin), and DeMarcus Cousins (who replaced Kobe Bryant). The Warriors’ Steve Kerr will be head coach.

The All-Star game is not the only attraction this weekend. It’s the culminating activity but there are plenty of festivities.

New York City is hosting the Feb. 13 to 15 spectacle. The two NBA teams — New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets — will be spitting the venues.

Last Dec. 16, I had the chance to be inside the Madison Square Garden, the venue of the All-Star Game this Sunday. MSG is one of the world’s most iconic of coliseums, hosting concerts (John Lennon’s final appearance was there) and the hockey team, the New York Rangers. It also hosts, sad to say, the NBA’s worst-performing team: the Knicks, who carry a 10-42 win-loss record.

Tomorrow (Friday), the weekend kicks off at the MSG with the Celebrity Game, featuring movie stars and celebrities. Over at the Barclays Center (home of the Nets), it’s the Rising Stars Challenge. According to NBA.com, “The league’s annual showcase of premier young talent will debut a format that pits 10 first- and second-year NBA players from the United States against 10 first- and second-year NBA players from around the world.”

On Saturday, all in Barclays Center, there’s plenty. The Shooting Stars. The Skills Challenge. The Three-Point Contest with Curry, Thompson, Harden, Irving, Korver, Marco Belinelli, Wesley Matthews and J.J. Redick competing. Finally, the Slam Dunk contest featuring Giannis Antetokounmpo, Victor Oladipo, Mason Plumlee and Zach LaVine.

On Sunday, there’s the D-League All Star Game at the Barclays Center and, to cap the action, MSG’s hosting of the All-Star Game (for us, it’s scheduled at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 16).

Plus, there’s something new: the first-ever All-Star Fashion Show. No kidding. Just because we see these men all-sweaty and wearing knee-high socks, baggy shorts and high-cut Nikes, it doesn’t mean to say they don’t dress well off-court.

Produced by LeBron James himself (under his Springhill Production Co.), the “NBA All-Star All-Style” will not be purely a simple “paso-paso” (walk) like those leggy models. True to their competitive spirit, it will be a fashion competition.

Klay Thompson, James Harden and DeMarcus Cousins are expected to join others in this contest that will have an actual winner. Said the AP report: “It will have three rounds: dressing for the boardroom, a night out and attire worn to the game. The competition will start with eight players, with four advancing to the second round and the top two competing in the finals.”

Why this new concept? “NBA athletes are legitimate fashion icons, with various stars (e.g. Russell Westbrook) and notable players (e.g. Nick Young) becoming notable not just for their play on the court but their sartorial impact,” wrote Eric Freeman for Yahoo! Sports. “Some players will show up on basketball blogs just as often as they appear in the pages of GQ. Personal style is part of their public image and brand.”

On-court and on the ramp, it will be fun watching the stars.

Will Tiger ever be Tiger again? Bayani responds

The two-letter answer is NO. At his peak, TW soared with invincibility like Michael Jordan, was as dogged relentless as Rafael Nadal, and as famous as Manny Pacquiao is in GenSan.

Consider this: From 1997 to 2008, he won 14 major trophies and achieved a career Grand Slam three times. His 79 PGA Tour wins is second only to Sam Snead’s 82. Tiger is acknowledged as the sporting world’s first billionaire, a feat he pocketed at the age of 33. He was en route to besting the likes of Ali, Pele, MJ, Lance (pre-doping revelation) and Phelps as the greatest human being who ever played sports.

This was then; pre-Elin Nordegren. Now, he can barely walk. At the Farmers Insurance Classic last week, he limped and quit after 11 holes. The week before, he shot a horrendous 82 — the worst number he’s recorded as a professional.

“His golf game is in shambles,” said former pro Paul Azinger. “It’s sad to see that. But what we get to see is the most confident golfer of all-time try to claw his way back.”

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Mentally, during his peak, we know that he was unbreakable. It was Tiger who uttered these words: “My mind is my biggest asset. I expect to win every tournament I play.” Sure, up until today, he can summon his brain to conjure up images of success. That’s in the mind.

But the bigger problem is everywhere else in his body; his physical maladies. Tiger is Nadal: he’s the most injured man among men. A quick listing of his ailments will give you a headache. He’s had afflictions related to the ACL, MCL, pinched nerve, tibia, cartilage damage, back spasms.

BAYANI GARCIA. I sought comments from Cebu Country Club’s 2010 and 2013 club champion.

Here’s Bayani Garcia: “Tiger’s number one priority is to get healthy. For a person to undergo as many injuries and surgeries as he has, recovery takes longer and not to mention he isn’t as young he thinks he is. Once you get older, recovery takes longer. Also, I really feel like he needs to submit to the fact that there are certain swing thoughts and movements that he used to do 10-15 years ago that he cannot do anymore because of his age and injury. He is always talking about speed and explosiveness in his drives and getting it back to where it used to be where in reality, its not. He has to humble down and admit that he won’t be hitting it as long as he used to and these younger players will, and are hitting it past him on a regular basis.

“The only statistic that matters in golf is scoring and Tiger is arguably the best in this category in the history of the game. He is probably the most mentally tough golfer to ever play the sport and he will always find a way to score. His performances over the last 3 tournaments was rust in his game plus trying to revisit a new swing theory with his new swing coach. As golfers, we know that with any major change we introduce or re-introduce in our technique, the results take a long time to bear fruit.

“I have no doubt that he will be back. He will be back to winning golf tournaments and even snagging a few majors along the way. I still believe that he has a good chance at beating Jack Nicklaus’ record. He has the drive, the mental toughness and most importantly his experience in winning. The only way he can achieve his goals is if he remains healthy throughout the duration of his career.”

When I reminded Bayani that Tiger is getting old — he’ll turn 40 this December — he added: “There have been some 40 year olds who have won and won majors. Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera (twice), and Phil Mickelson (who won 2 of his majors when he was 40).”

True. Jack Nicklaus won his 18th and final major (Masters 1986) at the age of 46.

“These guys haven’t got an ounce of the mental toughness that Tiger has,” said Bayani. “Golf is a relatively forgiving game where you can play at a high level even to your 50s. Tiger just needs to get healthy and remain healthy. That is top priority right now. Once he does, he will find a way to score and win. Not dominate perhaps but still win.”

GIO GANDIONCO. Gio Gandionco, another top golfer from CCC who’s now in the U.S. with a golf scholarship, had this to say: “I think Tiger right now is facing a slump and if he doesn’t stay healthy, his game will continue deteriorate. He’s had many injuries and back issues and I think that’s really affecting him. His swing mechanics are coming into place, he’s recently been working with his new coach Chris Como to  get his swing back to what it was like at his prime. I think at this point, it’s also a mental issue that Tiger needs to overcome. He has never played this bad consecutively before and he needs to find a way to bounce back and gain his confidence. No doubt he has the capabilities to win again, if he stays healthy and continues to work hard, I’m sure he can win more majors.”

Tennis-playing priests: ‘It’s good to serve’

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Awards Night at the Padgett Place

Archbishop Jose Serofia Palma, the eloquent and always smiling leader of the Cebu archdiocese, stood before the assembled priests last Thursday night and declared these nuggets of sports wisdom: “Tennis brings us together. It keeps us united. The Pope himself exhorted us to go out of our churches and take a break. Let’s be active.”

Bishop Ricardo Baccay of Tuguegarao echoed those words by adding: “Let us be passionate in our service… both in serving in tennis and in serving our parishes. The more active we are physically, the better we’re able to serve.”

One hundred thirty priests representing 19 provinces and 16 dioceses (including five religious congregations and three bishops: Baccay, Precioso Cantillas of Maasin, Leyte, and Antonio Palang of Mindoro) gathered in Cebu City earlier this week to serve.

By “serve,” I mean the movement where you toss a yellow ball, swing your arm backwards to scratch your back, then you slap forward to pounce a shot.

Fr. Fernando Suarez, who celebrated his birthday yesterday, conceptualized this tournament for priests back in the year 2010. After five years in Manila, he decided to change venues and try our city.

Msgr. Ruben Labajo, himself a tennis player, led the 31-priest Cebu contingent in helping organize the tournament. He was assisted by dozens, including Frederick Yap, Wilson Ong, Michael Sy, Zsazsa Sierra, the Tabura family (Fritz, Jun and Freza) and the Siso siblings, Niño and Em-Em. Lito and Fe Barino of Duros Land sponsored the Awards Night at their beautiful skyscraper, The Padgett Place.

During the awarding, Archbishop Palma was gifted with two Technifibre tennis rackets by Fr. Suarez. A former netter who stopped because of his busy schedule, Archbishop Palma told Msgr. Ruben, “Let’s play tennis again.”

That evening when I had the chance to sit beside him, I said: “Archbishop Palma, I only have one child and she’s become a national junior tennis champion. It was you who baptized her (Jana).”

2015-02-05 22.33.15With Archbishop Palma

The 6th Fr. Suarez Cup, which ran from Feb. 3 to 5, saw the priests wearing shorts and not vestments, lifting rackets instead of holding rosary beads. The priests were engaged in all-out battle. Yes, believe me, having watched several intense matches this week, the priests are competitive. (Consider that the first prize includes both a Norkis motorcycle and a trip to Poland to represent the nation in the all-priests international tournament.)

Fr. Jose Dosado, a good friend from the former Sancase Tennis Club, won the 56-and-above singles category. In doubles, Fr. Arnel Haber teamed up with Fr. Jerry Pascual to win the doubles crown; they come from Tagum.

The indefatigable Fr. Suarez, whose stamina has amazed his tennis friends (once, he played 12 consecutive sets of tennis), won the 46-55 singles category.

Why, I asked Fr. ‘Do Suarez, do you like the game of tennis?

Ever the inspiration (and healer) to so many, he recited the ABCs.

“A” stands for “Ace.” In tennis, like in life, you serve and “don’t expect anything in return.”

“B” stands for “Be Grounded.”

“C” is “Consistency.” I’ve been privileged to recently play four sets of tennis with Fr. Fernando (we partnered in one and played against each other in three — him winning all four doubles sets) and he’s like a wall; returning shot after shot with his two-handed forehands and backhands. Same with life, it’s essential for us to be steady.

“D” is “Do Not Underestimate Your Opponent” (for tennis) and “Do Not Judge Others” (in life).

With “E,” it’s simply to “Enjoy.”

Fr. Suarez imparted one final message to us three nights ago: He once had a problem with his tennis serve and so he asked his good friend Roland So, a former Davis Cup star, for a tip. Roland’s answer was perfect: ‘Bend your knees.’

In tennis, the more we bend our knees, the better our service; in life, we ought to do the same: bend our knees to be humble and bend our knees in prayer to God.

6th Fr. Fernando Suarez Tennis Cup

It’s a first. For the first five years, it was held in Manila. Now, it’s here in Cebu. I’m talking of the national tennis tournament for priests that’s called the Fr. Suarez Cup.

Over 100 priests from all over the nation are here in our shores to swat forehands, to exchange volleys, to serve. Yes, these clergymen not only serve their parishes but also serve the tennis ball.

Fr. Fernando Suarez, known all over the world as a healing priest who has healed hundreds, if not thousands, founded this event in 2010. From an initial 50+ participants, it has grown three-fold.

The three-day tournament started last Tuesday with a mass at 11 a.m. officiated by Bishop Ricardo Baccay of Tuguegarao. In his inspiring homily — the first time I’ve heard mass where majority of the attendees were priests — he exhorted all “to be active.” Bishop Baccay said that for the priests to be energized and ready to serve, they have to be physically active. Tennis, the sport involving service, is an ideal sport for real-life service.

The event is divided into singles and doubles categories. For the singles play, there are three groups: 45 years old and under, 46 to 55, and 56 and older. Doubles is open to all age brackets.

Together with several from Cebu (Mike Sy, Wilson Ong, Fritz Tabura, Nino Siso and more), we’ve helped organize the event. The challenge is how to accommodate over 100 players in all categories in three short days. We had to pick five venues: Alta Vista, Citigreen, Talisay Tennis Club, La Paloma and Pardo Tennis Club.

The Fr. Suarez Cup is exciting not only because the priests are able to enjoy the sport they love; they’re also able to mingle with fellow netters who come from Mindoro, Bicol, Manila, Bacolod, Maasin, Cagayan de Oro and several more cities. Plus, the prizes are good: a trip to Rome and a brand-new motorcycle for the winners. And, the chance to represent the country in the international for-priests-only tournament in Poland later this year.

I got the chance to play with Fr. Suarez himself the past week and he’s a Class A player who’ll be tough to beat, especially in singles. The event finishes today with the final matches in Alta Vista and Citigreen; it culminates with mass and dinner tonight at The
Padgett Place.