Monthly Archives: July 2017

Ironman 70.3 Bike Out

Early this morning at six, a few hundred cyclists will pedal from the Mactan Newtown to join the annual “ocular inspection” of the Cobra Ironman 70.3 bike route.

It’s called the Bike Out. From Lapu-Lapu City, the cyclists will climb Marcelo Fernan Bridge, pass through Mandaue, glide along SM City, descend down the Tunnel, emerge towards the SRP, gaze at the SM Seaside City, then sprint towards Talisay City before making a few of the same loops. In the end, the bikers will return to Mactan Newtown.

With the IM70.3 race, reports came out the other day saying that Talisay City was excluding itself from the bike route. This is not true. Ever since the Half-Ironman race started in Cebu in 2012, Talisay has been an important and cooperative piece of the program. To back out now, just days before Cebu’s biggest sporting event, is irresponsible.

Talisay Mayor Eddie Gullas is a sportsman. He was a topnotch basketball star, coach, owner of the UV Green Lancers success story, and we played tennis for many years. He loves sports just as much as public service. I’m sure he will not be an obstructionist.

People also speculate: Will this year be the last? I’m sure it won’t. The Cebu IM70.3 event is too successful to be discontinued. The grandeur of Shangri-La. The thousands cheering along the route. The support of Mayor Paz Radaza and Gov. Junjun Davide. The shaded route for the 21K run in Punta Engaño. The open-sea swim in Mactan. Kenneth Cobonpue’s iconic medals. And even the roots of Fred Uytengsu, Jr., who was born in Cebu, are all symbolic in ensuring that “Cebu” and “Ironman” will be intertwined for a long, long time.

What I’m also sure won’t happen here? A full Ironman. While Subic will organize the country’s first IM on June 3, 2018, I’m sure the linked cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay will not host the same. Why? The road closure. For an event that includes a 3.8K swim, a 180K bike and a 42K run, it will mean closing the roads the entire day.

Ironman 70.3? Yes. Full Ironman in Cebu? No.

2018 Cebu Marathon

Have you ran a 21K or a 42K marathon before? If yes, that’s terrific; you’re one of a few hundred thousand (from our planet’s 7.5 billion inhabitants) to have suffered, sweated, swallowed the pain of sore feet, and swung your arms up in the arm to declare victory at the finish.

If you haven’t joined a half-marathon or a 42.195-km. race before, now is the time to do it. Make the year “2018” a special one. And start the new year — perfectly-timed with the Sinulog — with a runner’s bang.

Set the date, January 14, 2018. That’s a Sunday. That’s exactly five months and 18 days from today. That’s more than enough time, if you’ve been running 5Ks, 10Ks and 15Ks, to attempt a longer and loftier goal.

It’s the 2018 Cebu Marathon.

What changes are in store for the runners? First, it’s back to Cebu. For the past four years, the Cebu Marathon was organized by RunRio, the country’s largest race organizer that’s Manila-based. It was good. But now it’s time… Bisaya na pud!

The Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC), which founded this event in 2008 when it was first called the Sinulog Half-Marathon, has partnered with top Cebu organizers Kenneth Casquejo and Joel Juarez of Iconic Sports + Events to run this running event. Like it was in the first six years (2008 to 2013), this will be all-Bisaya.

Second, registration will begin tomorrow. And if I were you, I’ll make sure to register this weekend. Why? Because of the incentives in store for all the early-bird registrants.

The Australian brand 2XU, very popular in the fitness and sporting world, will offer a limited edition “2XU Race Tee” for all who register today, tomorrow and Sunday. You may opt to register online (www.cebumarathon.ph) or even better, visit the Active Zone of Ayala Center Cebu to register onsite.

Discounted “early-bird” rates are being offered this weekend. For the 21K, it’s P1,100 and for the 42K, it’s P1,400.

For this special rate, you get the 2XU Race Tee plus several others: a sling bag, an embroidered towel, accident insurance, and a finisher’s shirt and medal upon reaching the finish.

To be clear to all participants, those who do not register this weekend will get a New Balance singlet — still good but possibly not as special as the commemorative 2XU Race Tees.

Also, those who register much later will have to pay the higher prices: P1,400 for the 21K and P1,800 for the 42K… these are the rates for the participants who register after the early-bird registration.

What more for this weekend? The first 200 who enlist tomorrow will get free Ayala Center Cebu cinema tickets. So be there at 10 in the morning.

And, this time to be given to all who show up at the Active Zone this whole weekend, the organizers will be handing out P500 shopping coupons from New Balance.

Important note: All the race giveaways (2XU race tee, towel, sling bag and others) will be given during the Race Expo from January 10 to 12.

As I said, make “2018” an extraordinary year by gifting yourself (or your spouse, loved ones or business colleagues) with the gift of exercise and sport and running. Having finished a few marathons myself, I guarantee you that a 42K or 21K experience will be life-changing. You’ll be more positive, slimmer, fitter. Make sure you register this weekend!

For more details, visit the Facebook page of “Cebu Marathon” or log-in to the website, www.cebumarathon.ph.

Muay Thai

BANGKOK — Apart from eating Tom Yum and Pad Thai, visiting Wat Arun and the Grand Palace and indulging in that authentic body massage, the one activity I did not dare miss was this: watching Muay Thai.

It happened two days ago inside the Channel 7 Stadium. The venue was inside a TV studio. Every Sunday here, Muay Thai is broadcasted live on television. The venue is open to the public for free and while the room looks to sit only a few hundred, it must have crammed over a thousand bodies. If you’re claustrophobic, this isn’t an open space garden; it’s a side-by-side, no-inch-to-give, windowless room that’s mostly standing room only.

I arrived at 1 p.m. It was early, I thought, because the fights start at two. But, no; I was ushered in to one of the last few bleacher seats available. Overhead, a sign was hung: SEATING FOR FOREIGNERS. One wall lined up with bleachers was jampacked with tourists.

If you didn’t know, Bangkok is the world’s most visited city. Last year, it recorded 21.5 million overnight visitors, edging London’s 19.9m and Paris’ 18m. By comparison, the Philippines last year registered only 5.9 million tourist arrivals. Our whole country generated about one-fourth the number of visitors compared to the city of Bangkok.

Back to Muay Thai: While the band played music, people danced. Finally, after an agonizing wait of 80 minutes, with dozens of new spectators shoving and stuffing their way inside, the fight started at 2:20 p.m. The two fighters were young; they must have been younger than 19. One donned blue and the other wore red. They wore socks bearing the same colors. Each wore a headband (the mongkon) and white armbands. Before the battle started, they knelt facing their corners and bowed. As the fight started, dozens of people were yelling and signaling their bets, much like Cebu Coliseum.

According to the Thailand-muaythai.com: “Muay Thai is a combat sport that finds its origin in a noble art with antique traditions, it is also the Thai national sport. In Muay Thai, competitors fight standing like in Western Boxing, but elbows, knees and kicks strikes are allowed, with the only protection being the gloves; an important part of this fighting style is the clinch (standing wrestle).

“MUAY literally means ‘combat’ and it derives from the Sanskrit word ‘Mavya’ which literally means ‘unite together.’ While the word THAI is an adjective of the thai nation, it’s meaning is ‘free people.’ Therefore, the word Muay Thai is translatable as ‘Thai boxing/combat.’”

I watched two of the five scheduled bouts last Sunday. Each consisted of five rounds of three minutes each and the rest period was two minutes. What’s different is what happens in this 120-second rest period. Two trainers per fighter come up the ring and they massage their warrior. They intensely massage the arms, legs and shoulders; finally, just moments before they’re back fighting, they fully stretch each leg. Thai massage is incorporated in Thai boxing!

The combatants elbow one another. They kick the legs and they kick straight to the face. They punch and grapple. And, the most painful, they use the knee to strike the abdomen or a lowered head. That’s why this sport is called the “Art of Eight Limbs” because it involves using kicks, elbows, punches and knee strikes.. utilizing the eight “points of contact.” Muay Thai originated several hundred years ago and was developed as a type of close-combat that used the whole body as a weapon.

All-sweating from the “close-combat” of the hundreds crammed inside the TV studio, I left the building and, just as I exited, I met the winner of the first bout and was able to congratulate him. After, I joined Jasmin and Jana for their own riot: shopping at Chatuchak.

Tour de France

Of all the games that I play (tennis, running, basketball), the one I enjoy most is biking. Maybe it’s the wind that splashes on your face as you descend at 44 kph. Maybe it’s the sweat that envelops your body as you pedal Maria Luisa. It may be the company of friends, laughing and chatting with Ron, Ronnie, Jourdan and James. It’s like drinking with your buddies minus the alcohol. It’s surely because as a little kid, age 10 and residing in Bacolod, my brother Charlie and I endlessly roamed Mountain View Subd. on BMX wheels.

In Cebu, biking is hugely popular. There are serious cyclists like Jong Sepulveda, Tonyson Lee, Miguel Flores and JV Araneta who would sleep with their roadbikes if their wives would say yes. There are hundreds of recreational bikers who pedal beyond Marco Polo Hotel, past Willy’s and reach the peak called Buak.

Cebu is perfect for biking because of the mountains. Our friends from Manila have to travel two hours to MTB in Tagaytay. In Iloilo, they have to cross to Guimaras Island. In Bacolod, makadto pa sila sa Mambukal or Don Salvador Benedicto. For us Cebuanos, the hills reside in our backyard. Just warm-up towards JY Square and you’re ready to scale Busay.

I write about cycling because “Le Tour” is about to finish. And while many of us pedal almost daily, our regimen is miniscule compared to what these supermen go through. How tough is the 104th edition of TdF, where 198 riders from 22 teams started in Dusseldorf, Germany last July 1 and only 167 riders remain?

Total distance for 21 race days (with two rest days in the middle) is a whopping 3,540 kms. Can you believe that? Pedaling 200K everyday at an average speed of 40 kph. These include climbs like the Col du Galibier at 2,642 meters high. Downhill? They are crazy fast, descending faster than 70 kph.

Some fun facts about Le Tour: This race isn’t limited to France as the riders also pass through Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. There are an estimated 12 million spectators along the route. The winner of the tour? He pockets $583,000 (Php30 million). This is large but paltry compared to the $10M of Senator Pacquiao.

Today is the last day of the Tour de France, ending each July in the same area along Champs-Elysees. The final 104-km. flat stage is ceremonial because whoever wore the yellow jersey yesterday will not be challenged or attacked. After three weeks of climbing the French Alps and the Pyrenees, today’s 21st racing day is a relaxing finish towards the heart of Paris.

Yesterday was one of the most crucial stages. I don’t know what happened (Stage 20 starts past my deadline) but it’s expected that the defending champion will gain time over his rivals. It’s the Individual Time Trial (when they bike alone, unaided by teammates) and this second-to-the-last stage runs only 22.5 kms. But because of the speed and skill involved, precious time can be won or lost.

Speaking of time, would you believe that, after 19 race days, the leader is ahead by only 23 seconds? He carries an overall time of 83 hours 26 minutes and 55 seconds and the second-placer, Bardet Romain, is only 23 seconds behind? That gap is about the length of time it will take you to finish this paragraph. Incredible. That’s why Lance Armstrong’s book was entitled, Every Second Counts. Because it does.

The winner? The man who’ll wear that maillot jaune (yellow jersey)? It will be his fourth after wins in 2013, 2015 and last year. Because his parents are British, he rides for the U.K. but he was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. In yellow, It’s Chris Froome.

Edwin Salazar of Oz

It will be 10 years this October since Edwin Salazar moved from Cebu to Australia. A top engineer with a topspin in tennis that mimics Rafa Nadal’s, Edwin works as a Senior Stormwater Asset Engineer for the Gold Coast City Council. He helps ensure that the city’s flood mitigation and stormwater drainage infrastructure performs well.

With tennis, while Edwin used to play five times a week here in Casino Español, now he plays twice weekly. He joins the bi-annual Filipino Tennis Open (playing singles and doubles) and has recently been recruited to a team that plays competition in a club where Sam Stosur picked up the game. Edwin’s weapon of choice: the Volkl V Sense racket.

Gold Coast City is 85 kms. from Brisbane. And so, two weeks ago and together with his wife Pipin, daughter Wren and friend Marevil Gladman, they watched The Battle of Brisbane.

“As early as April, the hype can be felt by the 6,000 Filipinos living in Gold Coast,” said Edwin, of the city that will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. “During my chat with customers at The Filipino Shop (the one-stop grocer owned by the family and run by Pipin), almost all the men bought tickets. At that time, I was told the tickets were selling fast and some sections have been sold out. In the nightly news, Bob Arum said that 40,000 tickets have been sold in the 50,000-capacity stadium.”

At first, Edwin was unsure to watch. But upon the prodding of his parents, Doroteo and Zenaida, and his nephew Carlo, he bought tickets in May. Rushing to buy them before they sold out, Edwin bought four online tickets that were three times the listed price.

Na-ilad pod ko (I also got fooled) just like some of the spectators,” he said with a good laugh, paying AUD$197 apiece plus booking fees for a total $1,012.26 (about Php44,4400) for four tickets.

“Three days before the fight,” Edwin said, “Pipin found out that Pacquiao was holding nightly prayer meetings at Sofitel Hotel, where he was staying. So off we went. Aside from being curious, I was interested to experience what it was like to be at Manny’s prayer meetings.”

Edwin recounts the experience:

“I attended the second prayer meeting of Manny at Sofitel. I was standing beside Buboy Fernandez while the preaching was going on. I also saw Dyan Castillejo milling with the Filipinos inside the function ‘prayer’ room. Everyone was welcome to attend. The limiting factor was the room capacity. My estimate, about 250 curious Pinoys were cramped inside the room. And maybe another 250 more standing on the hall way as the security had to advise the others to leave the room due to the numbers going beyond the design & safety room capacity. We stayed for about 2 hours, from start to finish. At 6pm as we walked in the hotel — the lobby was overflowing of curious Pinoys. When we finally found the function room, all seats were taken except the stairs and a few spaces along the end wall.

What was it like?

I was impressed with how the meeting was well organised. I was expecting for Manny to walk in and preach or a at least a Pinoy preacher to preach. But Manny asked a professional American preacher imported from Las Vegas — apparently the same preacher Manny hires in Las Vegas. A Pinoy choir opened the prayer meeting; Manny just welcomed the Pinoys and said maybe max of 5 sentebces and the pro preacher took over. At the end of the prayer meeting, Manny slipped through and internal door and escaped the hundreds of pinoys standing along the hallway and later at the lobby waiting for the opportunity to see him. But Manny was too quick to be caught.”

Reminiscing on his fight day experience, Edwin was proudest of the moment before the fight started when our national anthem was sung. “I admit,” he said, “that was one of the times that I was very proud to sing the Pambansang Awit.”

Inside the Suncorp Stadium, Edwin recalls the boisterous hometown crowd. “At our section, the Jeff Horn supporters were very vocal even before the fight started,” he said. “And the nosiest one happens to sit (or stand) in front of my seat. As some of them had a few drinks in the nearby pubs, that even made them noisier.”

During the fight, Edwin and his family sensed that Pacquiao was losing. But then Round 9 came.

“Everyone stood up cheering for Pacquiao as he kept pounding Horn at the end of the 9th round,” Edwin said. “Like everyone else, we felt Horn will be finished in the 10th round. But when Horn was announced as the winner in the end, ‘naminghoy ming tanan.’ The ‘ka minghoy’ atmosphere was felt among the Filipinos riding the train going back.”

The following day at The Filipino Shop, Edwin spoke to many Filipinos and they were still downtrodden, in disbelief at the outcome.

“My friends, Eddie and Jaime Murrillo, believe Manny underestimated Horn’s strength and toughness,” he added. “But some thought Manny gave the game away to have a rematch.”

19 at SW19

The number “19” refers to the number of Grand Slam singles titles that Roger Federer will amass if he triumphs.

SW19 refers to the exact location of the tournament that the Swiss is attempting to win. Wimbledon is located in SW19. That’s South West 19, its postcode in London.

A coindence, these “19” numbers?

Maybe. Or possibly it’s a sign of what’s to come tonight when Roger Federer meets Marin Cilic for the grandest prize in racket-sport. Will SW19 mean “Swiss Wimbledon 19?”

Often called “GOAT” for “Greatest Of All Time,” the Federer Express has accummulated a record that is peerless. Federer’s professional career started in 1998… guess how many years ago? That’s 19 years ago. And while he lost his first match to Lucas Ker in Gstaad, Switzerland, he has won and won and won. Of the 1,357 singles matches that he has played in 19 years, he has won 1,110 for an outstanding 82 percent winning clip.

In career titles, Federer has 92 trophies, behind the 106 of Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl’s 94 (which he will soon overtake, for sure).

With the most important tournaments (the majors), Federer has been champion five times at the US and Australian Opens, once in the French Open and, at the pristine green grass of SW19, he has seven.

Will he be eighth-time lucky tonight, starting at 9 p.m.? Yes. I don’t want to jinx it (as Jourdan Polotan would warn me) but it’s hard not to see the Swiss maestro lift that Wimbledon trophy, which was first handed to the champion in 1887. (As trivia: the actual trophy is not given to the winner; there is replica, three-fourths the size, that is given as prize.)

I’ve been blessed to have seen RF in person. The first was in 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when, together with a contingent from Cebu (that included RF diehards Michelle So and Chinggay Utzurrum, Renee Ven Polinar, my brother Charlie and sister-in-law Mitzi, Dr. Ronnie and Stef Medalle, Jess and Jacob Lagman), we watched Roger play Pete Sampras in “Clash of Times.” The year after, my roommate Jasmin and I saw Federer partner with Stan Wawrinka as the Swiss won the Olympic doubles gold medal in Beijing. At the 2015 French Open in Paris, I was in the center court as The Fed won his 3rd round match; he later sat inside the Press Room, seated just a few feet away, answering questions.

Up close and having watched hundreds of his matches on TV, what makes Federer special?

He’s good. Not only on the court but more so, off the court. He is a good father to his twin set of twins, spending most of his free time playing with them. He is good to his wife Mirka and their 17-year-old relationship (they met at the 2000 Sydney Olympics) is as rock solid as RF’s first serve.

Inside and outside; mentally and physically; while wearing Nikes or slippers at home; whether he’s meeting Pope Francis (Federer is Catholic) or smiling at a 9-year-old ballkid… RF is an honest-to-goodness good man.

I quote Nick Torres on his favorite player: Good guys do finish first.

One final word: When I visited the clay courts where Federer first started to play in Basel, Switzerland — he was four years old when he first held a racket; and the name of the club is “Old Boys Tennis Club” — I toured the facility and marveled at the brown clay tennis courts. I gazed at the courts and imagined an athletic young boy toiling for hours, swatting a racket to hone his forehand. Then I went inside the small clubhouse. It was adorned with signed photos of their prodigy. The club opened it’s doors for children to play; it was neat, clean, humble and spotless. Just like tonight’s champion.

BCBP Be Honest Run

Spelled in full, BCBP stands for the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals. The BCBP was founded 37 Julys ago when a group of gentlemen met for breakfast at the Makati Sports Club. The gathering became a weekly habit as the business personalities, who initially numbered 24 men, grew. This was in July 1980.

Thirty seven years ago this month, the BCBP is a large Catholic charismatic organization numbering over 20,000. From Makati, the brotherhood has sprouted with 106 chapters and 35 outreaches and has gone international: there are BCBP breakfasts and missions in Jakarta, Canada, Bangkok, Singapore and in various cities (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and more) in the U.S.

Here in Cebu, led by pioneers such as Jojo Veloso, Willy Puno, Sadi Saguisag, Jourdan Polotan, Larry Veloso, Jojo Osmeña and Del Ordoñez, the first BCBP breakfast was held in 1988 at the Club Filipino. As each Saturday morning passed, more and more Cebuanos joined. They talked business over ham and eggs and listened to the testimony of a BCBP member whose life was tranformed by the Lord.

Today, BCBP Cebu has 14 chapters and a total population that exceeds a thousand men and women. My wife Jasmin and I belong to the North Chapter and we were invited by Jasmin’s parents, the late Atty. Jack Mendez and my mother-in-law Malu.

The BCBP Vision reads: “Bringing Christ into the marketplace and winning the marketplace for Christ.”

BCBP’s main advocacy can be summed up in two words: Be Honest. And you might have seen a poster, standee or sticker with the following text: BE HONEST. EVEN IF OTHERS ARE NOT. EVEN IF OTHERS WILL NOT. EVEN IF OTHERS CANNOT.

These powerful words are accompanied by a passage from Proverbs 10:9: “He who walks honestly, walks securely.”

Next month, on August 27 (Sunday), the BCBP will be hosting the first “Be Honest Run.” It will be purely a fun run and walk (meaning no winners and prize money). The start/finish will be at The Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu and the 2K, 4K and 8K distances will be covered inside the safe confines of the Cebu Business Park.

Why a “Be Honest Run?”

First, to spread the importance of honesty. Among life’s many virtues, honesty ranks at the very top. Truthfulness. Integrity. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Being fair and sincere. We hope to spread the culture of truthfulness to everyone.

Second goal: to promote fitness. From Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Third objective: To help raise funds for the international mission projects of the BCBP and to help donate funds to our sisters and brothers affected by the Marawi crisis.

The BCBP Be Honest Run is open to everyone, not just to BCBP family members. It is open to 99-year-olds who can walk for two kms. and to 9-year-olds who can run a 4K. The registration fee is only P300. This includes a race bib and a shirt with a logo designed by my fellow marathoner Meyrick Jacalan.

How to register? A registration booth will soon be available at the Ayala Center. Or you may approach a BCBP member so he/she can help get the race kit for you. Visit the Facebook page, “BCBP Be Honest Run – Cebu.”

Paraphrasing the words from Proverbs 10:9: “He who walks (or runs) honestly, walks/runs securely.”

Want to live a peace-filled and healthy life? Be honest. Run.

  

Jerry Roa on the Beermen

Jeruel “Jerry” Roa worked for San Miguel Corporation from 1983 to 2003. He led the Corporate Affairs Office. During that 20-year span, he was assigned in the SMC head office in Manila from 1986 to 1992.

A tall 6-footer who played basketball since he was a teenager, Jerry made sure to watch most of the Beermen’s PBA games.

His most memorable moments? They were back in 1989 at the ULTRA in Pasig when he not only witnessed the Grand Slam feat of San Miguel but also when he was part of the celebration, joining the team at Kamayan EDSA in the aftermath of the final conference’s championship game.

That was in 1989. Are the San Miguel Beermen ripe for Grand Slam II?

An excellent writer and avid follower of sports that include football, volleyball, tennis, athletics, boxing and rugby, I asked Jerry for his thoughts on this historic moment. In a two-part series, here are Jerry’s own words:

“The San Miguel Beermen are one conference away from achieving the rare Grand Slam in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Only five other teams in the 42-year history of the league have achieved such distinction: the 1976 Crispa Redmanizers, the 1983 Crispa Redmanizers, the 1989 San Miguel Beermen, the 1996 Alaska Milkmen, and the 2014 San Mig Coffee Mixers.

“To duplicate their elders’ feat of 28 years ago, the current Beermen must win the Governors’ Cup which begins on Friday, July 15. Momentum seems to be on the side of the Beermen. Earlier this year, they won the Philippine Cup (formerly known as the All-Filipino) over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 4 – 1. Last weekend, they clinched the Commissioner’s Cup, 4 – 2, over the Talk N Text Tropang Texters.

“What more could motivate this talented bunch to focus on the final leg of their hunt for the Grand Slam?

“Perhaps a look at history of their franchise’s first Grand Slam may convince them that the stars are aligned on their path to greatness. The Grand Slam of 1989 was achieved by a team with a core who had played together since their amateur years, led by a multi-awarded veteran slotman, an outstanding Fil-Am reinforcement, willing role players, and promising rookies.

“Its roster during that golden year read like a legends All-Star team. At that time Ramon Fernandez was already a multiple MVP winner. Hector Calma, Avelino ‘Samboy’ Lim, Jr., Yves Dignadice, Franz Pumaren and Elmer Reyes, had played together in the national team and Northern Cement under coach Ron Jacobs. Ricardo Brown, a deadly shooter and ball handler, brought in more firepower. Alvin Teng and Jeffrey Graves provided length and young legs to protect the rim. Ricky Cui and Alfie Almario provided instant offense when called from the bench. Future MVP Ato Agustin and Bobby Jose were the team rookies.

“In the Open and Reinforced conferences (precursors of the current Commissioner’s Cup and Governors’ Cup), San Miguel picked imports who complemented the locals. They were Michael Phelps (the cager, not the swimmer), Keith Smart, and Ennis Whatley. Calling the shots from the bench was Norman Black, a former perennial PBA Best Import. He was assisted by Derrick Pumaren. San Miguel’s closest rivals then were definitely no pushovers.

“Open Conference runner-up Formula Shell, whom San Miguel defeated 4-1 in the finals, paraded the season MVP cum Rookie of the Year Venancio ‘Benjie’ Paras. (Yes, the same Benjie Paras who makes you laugh and cry today in TV sitcoms and teleseryes, and is father to young ballers Kobe and Andre).

“The ‘Tower of Power’ was recipient of assists from Ronnie Magsanoc, his buddy in the U.P. Maroons, and the scoring support of veterans Arnie Tuadles, Jay Ramirez, Ed Cordero, Onchie de la Cruz, Tim Coloso, and young Romy de la Rosa. Sharing the backcourt with Magsanoc was veteran guard Leovino Austria, who is now the head coach of the Beermen. Bobby Parks earned his third Best Import plum with the Zoom Masters, who were coached then by Dante Silverio, formerly of the defunct Toyota franchise.

“If there was a young and powerhouse team that gave the Beermen the fits, it was the Purefoods Hotdogs. The All-Filipino runners-up was composed of young guns Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, Jerry Codinera, Al Solis, Glenn Capacio, Nelson Asaytono, Naning Valenciano, Edgar ‘Jack’ Tanuan, Pido Jarencio, and Dindo Pumaren. This was the core of the national team that placed third in the Asian Games of 1986 behind China and South Korea without a naturalized player in its line-up. The Hotdogs were coached by the legendary Virgilio ‘Baby’ Dalupan. The Beermen defeated them, 4 – 2, in a competitive series.

“In the Reinforced Conference, the Beermen faced crowd-favorite Anejo Rum 65 led by playing coach Robert Jaworski. Before, as it is today, there was no love lost between the sibling ballclubs as they went at each other in a bruising series. The 65ers were bannered by Dondon Ampalayo, Leo Isaac (now Blackwater coach), Chito and Joey Loyzaga, Rudy Distrito, Rey Cuenco, Peter Aguilar (Japeth’s dad), Philip Cezar, and the season Most Improved Player Dante Gonzalgo. The Beermen vanquished them, 4 – 1, for the title and the Grand Slam.

“A dominant center. An array of shooters. Excellent ballhandlers. Role players. Complementary imports. A coach who used to play. That was how the San Miguel Beermen human resource looked like when they last won a Grand Slam in 1989. Or is this the way to describe their present line-up?

“June Mar Fajardo is the reigning Most Valuable Player. The backcourt tandem of Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross, guards who can defend as well as they can shoot, have mostly complemented each other instead of overlapping roles. Marcio Lassiter is licensed to puncture the hoops. So is team captain Arwind Santos, who accepted his new role off the bench during the import-laden conferences. Gabby Espinas, Jay-R Reyes and Yancy de Ocampo provide ceiling. Brian Heruela, Ronald Tubid and new recruit Matt Ganuelas can dish out decent contributions when called into action. Even seldom used David Semerad, Arnold Van Opstal, Keith Agovida, and Rashawn McCarthy.

(Photo from pinoyboxbreak.com)

“The way San Miguel Beer has been winning, it shows the players’ buy-in to the system espoused by coach Leo Austria and team management. To be helpful to the Beermen, import Wendell McKines should be able to fit into his role the way Charles Rhodes stepped up for San Miguel in the Commissioner’s Cup. He is familiar with the PBA, having previously played with Alaska and Rain or Shine.

“To contend, the Beermen should also stay healthy. Any injury could derail their chances, no matter how deep their bench. Most of all, they should have the desire to make history. They should stay focused and visualize that moment when they etch their individual names into the annals of history as a member of the sixth team in the PBA to have achieved a Grand Slam. For if they blink, the TNT Tropang Texters, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Rain or Shine, Star Hotshots or the Meralco Bolts are only too willing to take that winning moment away.”

Come home, Manny

(Photo: AFP-JIJI)

The result was controversial but this verdict is unanimous: Pacquiao was tired. He’ll turn 40 next December 17. The past year, he’s been busy crafting Senate laws and not busy crafting his punching paws.

Round 9 was the bout’s most crucial stage. Horn looked wobbly. His legs were rickety and wavering; his mind was unsteady. The Pacquiao of 2010 would have feasted on Horn like he were an Australian tenderloin steak. He’d have battered and pulverized him. Like Mike Tyson, our Pinoy would have hammered the enemy for a KO.

Instead, Pacquiao employed a different KO: Kulang Offense. In Round 10, just as we all stood up (like we did in the house of Ray and Letty Patuasi), what did we witness instead from Pacquiao’s last three rounds? Same old, same old.

Had Manny won those last nine minutes — which he should have, after that Round 9 near-stoppage — he’d have retained the WBO crown. Why? Because while judge Waleska Roldan still would have given the win for Horn; the score for Chris Flores would have been 114-all while Ramon Cerdan would have scored 115-113, in favor of Pacquiao. Given this draw scenario, the champ retains the belt. In summary: Manny should have won the fight had he not been exhausted in the last three rounds.

My thoughts? First, I think “hambugero and kompyansya ra kaayo si” Manny with this bout. He was dismissive of the Australian, belittling him as a nobody. If this were chess (and Manny loves chess), he used Horn as a pawn for a future clash against Mayweather or Marquez. What he didn’t realize was the pawn was huge; always pushing, head-butting him multiple times to unleash that torrent of blood; that Horn wasn’t awed or scared of the 51,000 in attendance; that he had nothing to lose and Horn was relaxed and at home, comfortably sleeping in his own Brisbane bed surrounded by his family and townmates.

In contrast, Manny looked small, physically and figuratively. He was pushed, elbowed, and shoved to the ropes.

Pacman forgot that his opponent was nicknamed Hornet. By nature, the hornet is an insect that doesn’t just float around the garden like a harmless butterfly. The hornet stings and bites. Based on Wikipedia, “Hornets are often considered pests, as they aggressively guard their nesting sites when threatened.”

Jeff The Hornet was a pest to Pacman, aggressively guarding his nesting site called Brisbane, Australia.

But as sad as the loss was to Manny, I consider it a blessing-in-disguise for the Senator, the man who vowed to retire from boxing while he campaigned. Why a blessing? Because had he won, his boxing ego would have enlarged and he’d consider three more fights. What if — and let’s remember that boxing is a brutal and bloodthirsty game — he’d be injured so bad as to cause lasting damage? With the loss, Pacquiao is down to either of two choices: retire or revenge.

I’d seek revenge. But only for one last time. And since it will be his very, very, very last alternation, Manny should come home. Forget the money. Do it for the Filipinos. So here’s the plan:

December 17, 2017. That’s a Sunday. Venue: the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena, larger than Suncorp Stadium. One last victory to celebrate his birthday.

Pacmania in Australia

Before today, Jeff Horn was a nobody. Outside of Australia, he was, “Jeff, who-rn?” He may be undefeated and won 16 times but those wins came against the most unfamiliar of names: Ali Funeka, Rico Mueller and Randall Bailey. Who are these guys? Soccer midfielders?

Compared to Manny Pacquiao’s resume: the listing of Who’s-Who that he’s defeated include De La Hoya, Hatton, Morales, Barrera and Mosley. That’s why with Manny, the odds are -600. To earn $100, you bet $600. With Horn, it’s +400. This means that your $100 bet for the Aussie will earn you quadruple your investment. (Willy Puno and I made a bet: I owe him dinner if Manny wins by decision; he pays a Marco Polo buffet if Manny scores by KO.)

Which makes this fight remarkable. In the “Battle of Brisbane,” a world champion Hall of Fame invader nicknamed Pacman is fighting a hometown hero who was born and raised in Brisbane. How exciting it is today to be in Australia? (Plus the temperature in Brisbane today is perfect: 9 to 18C.)

Tou know who financed the fight? It’s the Queensland government. It’s called sports tourism. The thousands of people who’ll flood Brisbane and the millions of Australian dollars that will be pumped into the local economy — plus the millions of eyeballs watching on TV from Surigao to Seattle to Sydney — this brings brand promotion for Down Under.

“There is tremendous excitement for this fight — it is something really special,” said Bob Arum. “The whole country has caught on. Every newspaper, front page, back page, all over the television. The country has really embraced this event.”

Andrew Mackinnon, a Brisbane resident, agrees.

“There’s a buzz around the town Horn is on every TV show,” said Andrew, the son of the legendary football coach Graeme Mackinnon. “The media are giving it to the Pac man saying he is showing this fight no respect. Arriving an hour late to interviews and on his phone when at the interviews. There has been 95% of money bet on the fight for Horn to win even though he is the underdog. The fight is a sellout 52000 and every venue showing the fight will be bursting at the seams.”

Andrew will be watching at a local Brisbane club where, his dad says, there will be plenty of Filipinos and where he’ll practice his “Kamusta” and all the Tagalog and Bisaya words that he knows.

With Pacquiao’s antics — coming in late during interviews and fiddling with his phone during the entire press conference — I believe this is a deliberate move. He’s playing mind games with the neophyte, as if to tell him, “I’m the 11-time world champ.”

But this hasn’t endeared Pacman to the locals. 

“Manny has lost some points and respect with the Aussies with his attitude,” said Graeme. This has turned into the bad-guy/good-guy fight, with Graeme adding, “Horn is such a humble guy; a school teacher when not boxing.”

What’s interesting, added Graeme, is Suncorp Stadium. “Last Friday at 9 p.m., there was a big Rugby League game being played there in front of possibly 30,000 spectators. As soon as the game was finished, the transformation of the stadium into a fight venue began,” Graeme said.

“There is an air of expectancy because this is the biggest fight in Australia history. Horn is unknown. But I would not take the unknown for granted; it might come back to bite you. Of course, we want Horn to win but we are also paying homage to one of the greatest boxers of all time. Everyone is hoping for a long fight.”