Monthly Archives: May 2018

Philippine National Games

It was 21 years ago — back in 1997 — when Cebu last hosted the PNG. It’s about time! Shall we have the Palarong Pambansa next? Cebu has not organized the Palaro since 1994. Yes, why not; but that’s another story.

The PNG is, in the words of the lead organizer Ramon Fernandez, “the Olympics of Philippine sports.” The PBA great turned PSC Commissioner Fernandez adds: “This is the elite of the elite, the cream of the crop athletes in our country, national team members will represent their LGUs.”

Who are eligible to join? If you’re a Filipino aged 16 and above, you can participate. Just enlist yourself under a specific city or province and, if you’re one of their best, you can compete. Participation is for free.

Pres. Digong Duterte was scheduled to open the PNG yesterday at the Abellana grounds. The Opening Ceremony, we are sure, was another spectacular show — thanks to Ricky Ballesteros, who has organized dozens of the country’s best presentations, ranging from the Milo Olympics to the Sinulog.

The PNG games run from May 19 to 25 and will be played mostly in Cebu City (except for softball at the Mactan Airbase, triathlon and duathlon in Tabuelan, cycling in Danao, and women’s tennis in Naga). Only two sports, gymnastics and rugby football, will be played in Manila because of our lack of facilities here.

If you’re a mall-goer, SM Seaside City will host arnis, karatedo, judo and taekwondo. Robinsons Galleria will host chess, dancesport and table tennis.

There will be 21 sports played: athletics, archery, arnis, badminton, boxing, chess, cycling, dancesport, judo, karatedo, sepak takraw, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, and weightlifting.

Interestingly, two of our country’s most famous games — basketball and football — are excluded.

It’s great to see that the city and province are teaming up for this major co-hosting job. Edward Hayco of Cebu City and Atty. Ramil Abing representing the province have joined forces. This tandem is formidable; Ed and Ramil are passionate, selfless, sports-loving and organized.

The PNG as a national event is important. It serve as an avenue for the national teams to choose their top performers. Based on the Cebu results, many will wear our Phil. uniform to compete abroad.

In all, over 3,000 competitors will be competing in this 7-day sportsfest. PSC’s Ramon Fernandez plans for the PNG to be a biennial meet, similar to that of the SEAG (which the Philippines is hosting next year).

The winning athletes will receive medals and accolades. But they’re not the only recipients of awards. The PNG will also serve as competition for the Local Government Units. There will be 96 LGUs joining with the top LGU receiving P5 million (that will go to their sports program) of the total P15 million in sporting assistance.

Cebu is proud to welcome and host the PNG.

Final Four

Final Four

Houston, Golden State and Cleveland were expected to reach this semifinal stage. How about Boston? With Gordon Hayward injured in their first game and Kyrie Irving out during the playoffs, nobody expected the Celtics to advance this far.

What are the odds among the Big 4? The Warriors are -130. The Rockets are next at +247. The Cavs are pegged at +552 while the Celtics are +2070.

In the East, had Kyrie been healthy, this Batman vs. Robin face-off with LeBron would have us salivating. As their series unfolds tomorrow (3:30 a.m., Phil. time), it’s obvious that the Cavs are favored.

Mr. James has been Mr. Jordan-like this post-season, averaging 34.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 9 assists per game. And who can forgot that buzzer-beater in Game 5 against the Pacers or that one-handed, sideways-facing dagger in Game 3 versus Toronto? Cleveland in 6.

I’m more excited about the Wild Wild West. During the regular season when they met three times, Houston won twice. And, as if it’s a premonition of what’s to come, the two met during the regular season’s first game. The outcome: 122-121, with Houston victorious.

Was that result on the NBA’s opening night a sign of what we’re about to witness next week? Yes. This series will be close and will be absolutely thrilling.

Steph Curry was the MVP in 2015 and 2016 while James Harden is expected to win the coveted 2018 title. Houston stole the league’s best regular season record from Golden State, winning 65 against the 58 of GSW.

The usual trash talk and war of words was unleashed a few months ago when Clint Capela of Houston boasted that they’re superior to the champs.

Draymond Green’s reply? “Now you’ve got to play the game,” he said. “You wanted us, now you’ve got us.”

The players know each other well. In an NBA.com article, author Sekou Smith wrote: “Harden, Paul, Green, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all won gold medals together, be it on the Olympic or World Cup of Basketball stage. Harden and Durant were teammates on the Oklahoma City Thunder team that lost The Finals in 2012. Paul’s LA Clippers squad in 2014 was the last West foe to knock the Warriors out of the playoffs before The Finals. And the Rockets were the team the Warriors beat in the 2015 West finals to jump-start their would-be dynasty.”

Who’s favored? It’s still the Warriors. Now that Curry is healthy, this squad has reached the last four Western Conference Finals and won the NBA title twice. Their only disadvantage this year? They don’t own homecourt advantage. Will this matter? Maybe not.

Given that oddsmakers are pointing at a Part 4 of the Warriors-Cavaliers rivalry, it’s interesting to cite that both favored squads don’t own homecourt advantages.

Houston has to win their first two games at the Toyota Center in Texas to have a chance at dethroning the champs. Same with Boston tomorrow.

Deanna Wong

The most famous female athletes in the country today perform these tasks: they serve, toss, spike, block, set, dig and kill. That’s volleyball.

Jia Morado. Alyssa Valdez. Jaja Santiago. Kim Fajardo. Mika Reyes. Bea De Leon. Sisi Rondina, who was born in Compostela, Cebu. Are these names not national figures? Have we not watched them do a pancake, or a dink shot, or serve a floater?

Thanks to ABS-CBN Sports and their live coverage of almost every UAAP and NCAA game, we follow the sport of volleyball. And while in most sports the men are more popular than the women, in volleyball, it’s the opposite. Sure, Marck Espejo is sikat but the women rule volleyball.

Coming from Cebu, one player was honored in the UAAP Season 80 with a prestigious award: Best Setter. Her name is Deanna Wong.

“She started late as a volleyball player,” said her dad Dean, whom I interviewed for this piece. “She started when she was in Grade 6. She just went to see the try out at STC. Then the trainer, Jamel Macasamat, saw her long fingers tossing a basketball and asked her to join the try out.”

From STC in elementary to USJ-R in high school, Deanna became a star. For college, she was recruited to play for the Ateneo Lady Blue Eagles.

Now on her third year in ADMU, Deanna had immense pressure because she was replacing one of the school’s best-ever setters (Jia Morado), who graduated last season.

“As a setter, you need to read the position of your opponent, especially the blockers,” said her dad Dean. “You need to give the ball to your spikers away from the defense/blockers and you need to analyze situations through quick-thinking.”

I’ve gotten to know Deanna. In the past three years since my daughter Jana has studied in Ateneo, I’d meet Deanna quite often. At the campus, she often leaves the Eliazo Dorm for their twice-daily practice sessions. Deanna is kind, respectful and humble.

For the UAAP Season 80, the Ateneo women’t team did not win gold; they lost in the semifinals to FEU (and La Salle went to win its third straight title). But if there’s one award to be proud of, it’s the Best Setter trophy to Deanna.

“She was surprised that she got the award,” said her dad, who added that she was a rookie in her position.

As to Deanna’s learnings the past few years, he mentioned several: “Deanna has learned to bond with her teammates. To study her attackers, her spikers, their comfortable positions to spike, to adjust to their spiking position.”

I asked Dean (who traveled to Manila almost weekly during the UAAP season to watch the games live), what lessons Deanna has learned in the pressure-filled arena, with over 20,000 in attendance at the MOA Arena or Araneta Coliseum.

“Discipline is vital. The mindset is crucial. To be fierce on the court and not to be intimidated by opponents,” Dean said. “Sports taught Deanna to overcome challenges. There were doubters ever since high school but she proved them all wrong.”

Ateneo is not easy because the academic demands are high. Of balancing the school’s tough academic standards with the countless hours spent practicing, Dean said: “It’s not easy but it can be done.”

As proof of that, Deanna Wong is the UAAP’s best setter.