Monthly Archives: February 2017

Mayor Rex Gerona and Tabuelan 226

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After five years of Tabuelan 111 — recognized as the country’s “Best Domestic Sports Event” last year during the 1st Philippine Sports Tourism Awards in Resorts World Manila — comes the same back-breaking event but with over twice the distance.

“Tabuelan 111 is considered as the best local triathlon race in our country. It has everything any triathlete would want,” Tabuelan Mayor Rex Gerona said. “Because of the success of the event, Tabuelan decided to level up by organizing the first-ever full distance triathlon race in Cebu.”

That’s a 3.8K swim, 180K bike and 42.2K run for a total of 226 kms. The date is September 16.

“We will be more focused since we are looking at a maximum of 200 participants only compared to almost 800 with Tabuelan 111,” said the mayor, who credits the volunteers composed of the Tabuelanons — the race marshals, water station personnel, medical teams and security — as the reason for the event’s success.

“We invested on training the organizing team. We spent time to make sure that the race would be unforgettable and checked every single detail. It has become Tabuelan’s pride!” he added. “With Tabuelan 226, we are counting on their support since this year’s cut-off is at 12 midnight.”

Tabuelan is not a large municipality. Of the Province of Cebu’s three million residents, Tabuelan is one of 44 municipalities and has a small population of less than 30,000. Despite that, Tabuelan is hugely popular in the triathlon community.

The reason: Mayor Rex Gerona. He used to weigh 230 lbs. and was pained with multiple health problems back in 2010. Mayor Rex lost 50 lbs. and transformed himself into a swim-bike-run athlete. To date, he has finished incredible feats: a 160K ultramarathon, the Ironman 70.3 for five years, the Giro d’ Luca cycling event in Bohol, the Cebu Marathon (thrice), the 10K Caramoan Island swim and a Full Ironman in Western Australia.

Thanks to triathlon, Tabuelan has achieved plenty. Said the mayor: “There is a considerable boost in our local tourism. Public recognition is achieved. We’ve created economic growth through filled resorts, home stays, restaurants, and have enhanced the positive image of Tabuelan. We’ve also built community relationships, strengthened corporate support and created youth opportunity.”

To top it all, Tabuelan 226 will do something extraordinary.

“All race kits and medals will be personalized,” Mayor Rex said. “This is a first in the triathlon world.”

Corazon’s heart

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ILOILO CITY — Last Friday was a day of mourning and celebration.

It was an afternoon of mourning because we laid to rest Mrs. Corazon Garabato Gayanilo, the grandmother of my wife Jasmin (the mom of my mother-in-law, Malu Mendez) in Guimbal, Iloilo. It was also a day of celebration because relatives from Atlanta, New Jersey, Florida and various places converged to pay their last respects to an outstanding person.

Lola Zon was born on June 21, 1911. She was born a decade after Emilio Aguinaldo stood as our first leader and lived through all 15 succeeding Philippine presidents from Manuel Quezon to her namesake Corazon Aquino to Rodrigo Duterte.

“Corazon” means heart and it’s fitting that such a loving and kindhearted person would leave this temporal place for eternity during this month of hearts. Our family is often asked, How did Lola Zon live so long?

“She was not a vegetarian,” my mother-in-law Malu Mendez, the eldest child, said during the necrological service. “She was carnivorous!”

So it wasn’t her diet. Lola Zon also did not swim or run daily — so we cannot attribute extreme fitness as the reason. So, what was her secret to long life?

“She had big ears!” my mother-in-law said. By that, she meant that Lola Zon always listened. She always had time to listen and always had time for others — especially to her family of four children (Malu, Virgilio, Sol and Rene), 10 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. She lived simply. She laughed. She laughed a lot. And we know how good a medicine laughter is.

Lola Zon was a teacher. “The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book,” a quote reads. Her students spoke of her firmness but compassion and patience as a teacher. She loved to serve and give of herself — to her students from the various public schools that she taught in Igbaras, Passi, Iloilo City High School, and in Guimbal. As one of her projects in Guimbal, she helped build a kindergarten right beside the church.

Lola Corazon’s life was devoted to God. In his homily last Friday, Fr. Albie Labaro spoke of how Lola Zon’s hands clasped a rosary as we paid our respects — and how she must have prayed the rosary for decades until her last breath. She was a grateful person. Contented. Humble. Generous. My wife Jasmin said that she was very, very kind.

As the saying goes, “A good teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart.”

For 105 years, Corazon touched many, many hearts.

‘Heart for Soles’ by Kyle Kokseng

Given the thousands of running enthusiasts that pound our streets — including this Sunday’s awaited SM2SM Run — underneath each pair of legs is a pair of running shoes. We all have one, some two, others three or four pairs of running shoes.

This love month comes an excellent idea to share. As the saying goes, “There is no excercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” I paraphrase that by saying, “There is no better exercise than running.. and reaching down for a pair of running shoes to share.”

Kyle Kokseng is a runner. He has finished three 42Ks: In 2013, the Cebu Marathon; and last year, in Tokyo and Chicago. Kyle has conceptualized a big-hearted project.

“Heart for Soles is a passion project by an average guy who likes running a little too much,” Kyle said in the poster. “After cleaning out his closet, he found several pairs of shoes that were still useable and hard a lot of mileage left in them. So instead of throwing them out, he decided to donate them to athlete scholars from public schools in Cebu City who have the ability but no capacity for equipment and gear.

“Later on, he realized that there were a lot of people in Cebu with the same love for running and the same closet filled with shoes. So he decided to create a program that would allow all running enthusiasts to give back to the city’s athlete scholars. Here’s a reSHOElution for you. Your shoes have come a long way, it can go a little longer.”

How to join? Kyle explains: (1) Donate your old running shoes (running shoes only). Must be clean and in good condition. No tears, no holes. You wouldn’t want someone else wearing your smelly damaged shoes, right? (2) Tie the shoelaces of the pair so we won’t be searching for a missing shoes. (3) Attach an info card/sheet with the ff. details: size, men’s or women’s, inspirational message to the recipient. (4) You may or not put your name on the info card. (5) Drop off your old and preloved running shoes at the donation boxa at the main mall ground floor of Banilad Town Centre (BTC).

Since Kyle started last Feb. 1, he’s collected 14 pairs. “I want to see the running community grow by helping those who have the ability but no capacity,” he said. “Who knows, one of the recipients might be a future Olympian!”

For more details, check Instagram or FB: @heartforsolesph. And in advance for donating to our less fortunate runner-friends, Kyle says: SHOE-lamat!

Heart to heart talk

Bunny Pages, my father who literally (at 6-foot-tall) and figuratively (as head of our family and business) stands tall, had a serious affliction the past few weeks. He had recently been complaining of fatigue and shortness of breath. After a battery of examinations that included 2D Echo and blood tests, an ECG, a stress test, and eventually, an angiogram — he was scheduled for open heart surgery.

My dad was the epitome of strength and stamina. He had exercised all his life. From winning 3rd place in a body-building contest (there were only three contestants; sorry to reveal that, dad) to his almost daily basketball games with BAPRO in Bacolod, to his 6 a.m. singles tennis matches with Dodong Hermosisima and Henry See — my dad was fit, robust, possessed an endless reservoir of energy (he could negotiate deals or give speeches all day long) and was a positive force whose outlook in life, never mind the darkness or storms outside, was eternally sunny.

The news to the family was “heart-breaking.” After more deliberation and thanks to the advise of my best friend, Dr. Ronald Eullaran, we consulted top cardiologist Dr. Francisco “Jun” Chio, who recommended an angioplasty. Exactly one week today and after a complicated two-hour-long procedure with three stents inserted in his arteries, my dad Bunny is fine. He doesn’t need a bypass and he’s feeling, in his own words, “like a 20-year-old.”

Praise God!!!

Today, when the romantic heart is coddled and pampered, let’s ponder also on this muscular organ the size of our fist that’s lumped between our lungs which pumps blood through our veins.

We have to take good care of our heart. How? For one, our food intake is most important. A balanced diet with plenty of high-fiber vegetables and fruits and low in fats and sugar is universally suggested. Eat more fish. Regular check-ups is a must. An annual Executive Panel, preferably with a stress test and especially for those involved in triathlon and 90K bike rides is needed. Don’t run a marathon unless you’ve been checked. Reduce stress. Relax. Take deep breaths often. Monitor your BP and, when prescribed with medication, take them without miss. Finally.. Exercise. At least 45 minutes of daily sweating is recommended. Dr. Jun Chio told my dad that had he not been a regular exerciser, he could have succumbed to a heart attack.

This Valentine’s Day, let’s heed the words of Jose Mari Chan: Please be careful with your heart…

Buddy Andrada: Why, why, why?

I don’t understand this penchant for clinging on to power forever. Take the case of Col. Salvador Andrada. I’ve known him since 1986. That was the year when I started joining tennis tournaments. That was the year Andrada became president of the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta).

For 20 years until 2006, Andrada was Philta chieftain. Was that dynasty too long? Absolutely. It’s not like he produced a Pinoy version of Djokovic or Murray or Kerber. (Come to think of it, those three were not even born when Andrada headed Philta in ’86!)

If you find that two-decade-long overstaying tenure as ludicrous, wait till you hear this: Andrada is back. He reinstated himself last June. Unbelievable. As we say in Bisaya, baga ug nawong.

When Jean Henri Lhuillier (the main backer of the Davis Cup team and the CEO of Cebuana Lhuillier), and Philta VP Randy Villanueva (who helped bring the five Davis Cup sorties here in Plantation Bay Resort and Spa) questioned Andrada’s return, he vowed to step down. But, as the cliche goes, promises are meant to be broken. In a Philta board meeting last Wednesday — just after our Davis Cup team, led by Ruben Gonzales and Treat Huey, defeated Indonesia — the transfer of power was to have been effected.

Lhuillier, 47, would preside as the new Philta head and Andrada would gracefully exit. But like a stinging backhand that stabbed Jean Henri flatfooted, Andrada reversed his decision.

“We walked out of the meeting because we were made to understand during our last board meeting that Col. Andrada had decided to step down for health reasons,” Lhuillier said. “As it turned out, this was not the case.”

I know Jean Henri and you cannot find someone with more enthusiasm and passion for tennis. He is selfless, humble, approachable, has contributed tens of millions to the game, and whose only objective is for the upliftment of Philippine tennis.

I do not understand the Philta board members who voted for Andrada over Lhuillier, namely Romy Magat, Paranaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez, Dr. Pablo Olivarez (attending in behalf of daughter Edna Nguyen), and the father and son Manny and Martin Misa. They have plenty of explaining to do.

“We wanted to participate in this election properly,” said Randy Villanueva, “but they misled us and now we’ll look at our legal options.”

Andrada is a “trapo;” an 82-year-old career politician disguised as a sportsman. Power-hungry. Selfish. Old. Like his buddy Peping Cojuangco.

In the Super Bowl, Tom Brady is super

In this era of Michael Phelps, Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, Roger Federer and (should I include him?) Floyd Mayweather, Jr., when we are all witnesses to the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) athletes, one man has enshrined himself as NFL’s best quarterback.

Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. is old at 39. In this merciless sport when a 314-lb. linebacker can bulldoze your body from behind, when injuries are ever-present and the banging and hammering of quarterbacks is the defense’s No. 1 goal, Tom Terrific is terrific.

“Brady is getting better with age,” said Lapu-Lapu City councilor Harry Radaza, a long-time football fan. “That cements Brady’s legacy. He went from ‘arguably’ the best QB to ‘definitively’ the best. I would love to see him retire but he still wants to play. That means we get to see the GOAT for another 4 years. Enjoy it while we can! And did you know he was the 199th pick? When the rookie met owner Robert Kraft, he told him, ‘I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.’”

With the Super Bowl, I did not get to watch the live telecast last Monday. It was only late that night when I switched on the Sports Illustrated channel 763 that I saw the important moments of SB LI: the Patriots were down 9-28 with 14 minutes left. No way they could mount a comeback. But they scored and scored — 25 unanswered points to zero for the Falcons — en route to a miraculous 34-28 victory in front of 70,807 fans in Houston.

The highlight was Julian Edelman’s catch with 2:03 left in the 4th. Surrounded by three Falcons defenders, Edelman was able to catch the throw of Brady with the ball floating inches from the ground.

Ping-J Villegas, writing from New Jersey, watched the game at home with his wife Jenn: “The game was one of the best since I moved to the U.S. 20 years ago. It was nerve-wrecking. At first, I thought the game would be lousy because of the score before the 2nd half. I guess Lady GaGa woke up Brady, hehe. I made a bet with my boss that the Patriots will win and now I have a free lunch to collect. It was dead at work at Bloomberg for a Monday morning. A lot of people called in sick or just worked from home.”

My wife’s cousin Richard Baluyot, who lives in Atlanta, said, “I’m watching the news and the city is in a somber state. The fans are heartbroken. When the Falcons returned, there was only a small crowd to greet them. Here it’s called Monday Mourning.”

Russell Westbrook as sub is a snub

After yesterday’s Super Bowl and Lady Gaga show, this weekend it’s the NBA All-Star Game with John Legend in Louisiana. It’s the 66th edition of this star-studded show, when 7-footers fly to dunk, when the defense is absent and nobody wants to foul, when last year, the West defeated the East, 196-173. Can you believe that offensive output? Are we about to see the league’s first-ever score exceeding 200? It’s possible.

This 2017 All-Star Game has been controversial. Let’s talk about Russell Westbrook. Last year and the year before, he was named the All-Star MVP. Thus far this season, the 6-foot-3 OKC Thunder guard has been averaging incredible numbers: 31 PPG, 10.3 APG and 10.4 RPG. Against Memphis last Friday, he recorded his 25th triple-double. If he continues at this pace, he’ll become the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1962 to achieve double-figure in rebounds, assists and points. Consider this: Westbrook is achieving triple-double stats while averaging 31 points per game.

“Such a feat (is) a remarkable achievement.. if not the greatest individual season in NBA history,” said Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo Sports.

So what’s the controversy with Westbrook? It’s this: While he’s en route to possibly winning the year’s MVP trophy — Westbrook was not picked to start for the West in the All-Star Game. He’ll be a reserve, waiting in the bench, clapping for the First 5 to jump ball.

“It is what it is,” Westbrook said. “That’s the nature of the business, the game. I just play. I don’t play for All-Star bids. I play to win championships and every night I compete at a high level, and it’ll work out. I just continue doing what I’m doing and play the game the right way, and everything else will work out.”

Here’s what happened: For the first time, the NBA changed the rules on how the All-Star players get selected. The voting system this season is comprised of the media (25%), the players (25%) and the fans (50%).

In summary, James Harden and Steph Curry were picked and Westbrook was dislodged. Understandably, this issue is debatable; Harden and Curry are top-notch. Still, given Westbrook’s outlandish start, he deserves to be a starter.

“His absence from the starting lineup,” said Nicholas Goss of NESN, “is arguably the worst snub in All-Star game history (in any sport).”

Agree. I’ve never been a Westbrook fan. But how can you deny someone who’s achieved triple-double in 25 of OKC’s 52 games?

Super Bowl LI in the Land of Trump

If you’re wondering what “LI” stands for, that’s the Roman numeral for 51. Tomorrow (9:30 a.m., Phil. time), it’s the 51st Super Bowl. An estimated 110 million TV viewers will watch “Super Bowl Sunday” in what’s unofficially billed as American’s national holiday. It’s the single most watched television broadcast in the U.S.

“Football is perfect for TV,” said Dan Mastous, my long-time tennis friend who resides in New Hampshire and was in Cebu recently with wife Julie to swim with the butandings and trek to Tops. “The games are played once a week, so there is plenty of time for discussion and build up. The excitement grows as the game approaches. Even the commercials have become ‘must see TV.’ Sometimes the commercials are better than the game.”

How much does a 30-second ad cost? During the first Super Bowl in 1967, it cost $42,000. Expensive, yes. But here’s the mind-boggling figure from last year: $5 million. That’s $166,666 or PhP8.3 million per second.

On the game of American football, it’s thrilling. Back in Dec. of 2014, my CIS schoolmate and now New York resident Ping-J Villegas picked me up in his BMW Boxster convertible to watch the New York Giants and Washington Redskins in MetLife Stadium. Drinking beer and devouring hotdogs in the freezing cold while watching Eli Manning pass to Odell Beckham was an unforgettable two-hour experience.

With Super Bowl LI, this is the finals of the National Football League (NFL). When the season started four months ago, 32 teams competed. The New England Patriots amassed a 14-2 regular season record while the Atlanta Falcons scored 11-5. Both teams clash tomorrow in Houston.

What’s electrifying is the clash of the quarterbacks. The Patriots have Tom Brady, the 39-year-old four-time Super Bowl champ who stands 6-foot-4 and is married to Gisele Bundchen. At the opposite end is the Falcon’s Matt Ryan. Though they’re of the same height and weight (around 220 lbs.), Ryan’s credentials do not match Brady’s but he might have a better prize: Ryan is slated to be this season’s MVP.

Oddsmakers tilt the betting on the Patriots. Understandable because they’ve won four times during the Brady-Belichick era. 

“It’s a gladiator sport which has plenty of explosive action and precision that at times is difficult to understand for the layman,” Dan Mastous said. True. And, apart from Brady vs. Ryan and those $5 million ads, there’s the halftime show featuring Lady Gaga.

Haide Acuña: marathoner turned dragon boat paddler

Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a boat of a traditional Chinese design, typically decorated to resemble a dragon, propelled with paddles by a large crew and used for racing.”

More than 2,000 years ago, dragon-boating started in China. It originated from superstitious beliefs that racing boats would bring bountiful crops. Today, the sport of dragon boat in the country is “making waves.” Last August, the Phil. Navy Dragon Boat team was the winner in the Ordos International Nadam Dragon in Inner Mongolia. Last Sept., it was the Filipino paddlers who harvested six medals in Moscow.

Here in Cebu from April 28 to 30, we will all be witnesses to the 2017 Cebu Dragon Boat Fiesta. I can’t wait to watch that event and I’ll write more in future columns.

Atty. Haide Acuña, a celebrated ultramarathoner, has since hopped from running on the road to paddling at sea.

“I’m very new at this sport,” Acuña said, starting only last June and admitting, “Hadlok ang bawod sa Mactan Channel at first but you get used to it,” opting to wear a PFD (personal flotation device).

“Unlike running where you can be very independent or train like a lone wolf on your own,” she said, “in DB you have to rely on and trust your teammates to show the same dedication, commitment, discipline and work ethic as you. It can be frustrating at times. It challenges your patience and people skills. That’s why DB is a great tool for teambuilding in the corporate setting kay kung dili synchronized inyo bugsay, pildi jud mo.”

DB is also ideal as cross-training for endurance athletes. Acuña cites Gruppo Habagat, whose members include triathletes, runners, adventure races and mountain climbers.

“It is by no means an easy sport (even for an endurance athlete) because paddling demands that you learn a specific skill set,” she said. “It is a sport that rewards consistency, diligence, discipline, dedication and teamwork. Even those who are not naturally athletic to begin with can try this sport.”

Dragon boat in the country has been around for 25 years. “But in Cebu, we only started in 2015 with teams like Kugtong Paddlers, Gruppo Habagat, Lexmark (now disbanded), Bogo DB Team. This year, 3 to 4 teams are being formed including a possible team composed of cancer survivors and the team by Niño Abarquez, whose base will be at the SRP,” Acuña said. “Our topography, climate and natural affinity to the sea and rivers for inland paddlers make for perfect conditions for this sport.”