All posts by jpages

Joy to the world

The odds of Mary Joy Tabal winning the country’s first gold medal in Kuala Lumpur were unlikely.

It’s not like she has gotten slower. No. Her performance has improved. When she debuted at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, her 42K time was 3:04:39. Joy placed second. Since then, she has become quicker. In last December’s Milo Marathon in Manila, she clocked 2:47:57. That’s 16 minutes faster than SEAG two years ago. And even better, at the 2016 Ottawa Marathon, she ran a personal best of 2:43:31.

It’s not like Joy doesn’t have financial backing. This is often a huge problem for athletes. With Joy, thanks to the generosity of this gang of brothers named Marco, Andre, Paolo, Chip and Jonel, the 4-foot-11 runner from Brgy. Guba has full support. She has a top coach in Philip Dueñas. She’s able to travel: at the Rio Olympics and for trainings and events in Japan, the U.S., Italy, Canada and Switzerland.

So if it’s not her speed and sponsors, why was the Philippines nearly denied a gold medal yesterday?

Because of the Malaysian organizers. There wasn’t supposed to be a marathon race! Unbelievable to think but of the 38 sports and 404 events listed in the August 19 to 30 games, the 42K run wasn’t originally included. Why? Because of the few participants and massive logistics involved in organizing them. Well, there is some truth to that. In yesterday’s 42K race, there were only 15 male participants (won by Singapore’s Soh Rui Yong) and six women. (As to why very few join, I don’t know.)

Still, the marathon is a must-race race. It’s been part of the SEAG for the last 16 years and it’s an iconic Olympic sport. Thankfully, bombarded with complaints from other national sports associations and from the running community, the marathon was reinstated. In fact, kudos to Malaysia, they invited the general public yesterday by including a 5K and a 15K open-for-all run.

Second reason why Joy almost did not win gold? You know why. It’s spelled PATAFA. Some now call it “pataka” or “ataya!” If it wasn’t for the pressure applied by the Cebuanos through Facebook and the media; if it wasn’t for PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez who fought in behalf of the 28-year-old Joy; if it wasn’t for Motor Ace and Jonel Borromeo convincing the PATAFA president Philip Juico (like Jonel did for Joy for the Olympics), there would be no joyous headline news. 

The reason why PATAFA wouldn’t include Joy in their roster of athletes? Because she wouldn’t train in Manila and with their team. Juico said last June: “Ayaw namin sa kanya, ayaw niya sumunod sa amin. (We don’t want her. She won’t follow us).” Crazy. Imagine if you forced every sportsman to forgo of what’s successful just because you prefer Manila? It’s about the results. And athletics is a numbers game. The scoring is not subjective like gymnastics or figure-skating, it’s time-based. And it’s easy to spot the fastest. Just compare their times! Worse, the Borromeo brothers were spending for all of Joy’s travels at no cost to the Philippine government. How lucky can we get with that arrangement?

Anyway, thank you, Lord, those hurdles were overcome. With Joy, what’s amazing is her humility. She is so buotan, smiling, respectful, and, yes, kugihan. Joy’s win is a victory for running and for Cebu. May this first gold inspire the 497-strong Team Pilipinas.

Be Honest

Archbishop Jose Palma (2nd from right) with Guy Ceniza, Alan Larot and Boy Villanueva

Of the dozens of values that are important in life, and these include Respect, Excellence, Compassion, Responsibility, Gratitude and having a Caring heart, the single most important value might be this: Honesty.

In the several companies that we operate, and in the over 1,200 team members that we employ, nothing is more important than integrity. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best waiter or the smartest teacher or you possess exemplary leadership skills, if you’re not honest, you’re out.

This advocacy is at the heart of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals. The BCBP was founded in 1980 with the mission “to bring Christ to the marketplace and to win the marketplace for Christ.” And what is BCBP’s signature campaign?

Be Honest. Even if others are not. Even if others will not. Even if others cannot. And from Proverbs 10:9: “He who walks honestly, walks securely.”

Next Sunday, August 27, it’s the BCBP Be Honest Run. The main goal is to help promote the culture of fairness, fidelity and faithfulness. To be honest at home. To be honest with your people. To be honest in business dealings. To be honest with yourself.

Over a thousand participants are expected next weekend and registration is still open. The distances offered are not intimidating: you can walk or run the 2K or 4K or 8K distances. There are no winners. And here’s a first, possibly for any race in the country: We will award a prize to the fastest finisher… based on honesty! Sure, a clock (courtesy of Joel Juarez of Coco Running) will be hanging on the finish line but there will be no timing chips or U-turn bracelets to check if you’ve passed all the corners. The Be Honest Run will be won by the first placer who is honest!

The August 27 event will be held at the Ayala Center Cebu. The start and finish is at The Terraces and the runners (and, yes, leisurely-walkers) will navigate the streets inside the Cebu Business Park. The run will start at 5:45 a.m. and everyone is advised to arrive at 5 a.m. for the prayer, opening remarks and the warm-up exercises.

The “Be Honest Run” is open to all BCBP members, family members, friends and colleagues. It’s open to all. The registration fee is P300 and this entitles you to a Meyrick Jacalan-designed shirt and a race bib. Raffle prizes will be given and there will be free Thirsty drinks for all.

The registration booth will open tomorrow until the end of next week at the Active Zone of Ayala Center (near Bo’s Coffee). Just bring your P300 and, subject to availability, you may immediately get your shirt. Then we’ll see you at the starting line next Sunday.

More on honesty, I’d like to leave you with these inspiring words: If it’s not right, don’t do it; if it’s not true, don’t say it. Simple. / Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if no one is doing it. / If you want to be trusted, just be honest. / Everybody wants the truth but nobody wants to be honest. / When in doubt, tell the truth. / If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. / And from St. Teresa: Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.

SEA Games

The Southeast Asian Games is held every two years. For the 29th edition, Malaysia is hosting 11 nations this August 19 to 30. There are nearly 5,000 athletes competing in 38 sports and 404 events and this will be the sixth time for Malaysia to host.

I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur once. This was 10 years ago to watch Roger Federer play Pete Sampras in the event, “Clash of Times.” Kualu Lumpur is impressive. With the Petronas Towers soaring above Malaysia’s capital, KL was named by CNN as the “world’s 4th best city for shopping.” It is also the seventh most visited city on this planet.

With the SEAG, the opening ceremonies will be this Saturday, the birthday of the best man in my wedding, my brother Charlie. Since Kuala Lumpur was awarded the hosting in 2012, it has prepared relentlessly. The main arena is the Bukit Jalil National Sports Complex, about 20 kms. from the city center, and its 1988-built stadium boasts of 87,411 seats.

An estimated (in Phil. pesos) P19 billion was allocated by Malaysia to prepare the infrastructure of the SEAG host nation. (Of the 36 venues, 19 will be in KL and 10 will be in Selangor; the other host-cities include Putrajaya and Negeri Sembilan.) To help save cost, they’ve upgraded existing facilities instead of building new ones.

There will also be no “athlete’s village” where Mary Joy Tabal, Alyssa Valdez and our flag-bearer, Kirstie Elaine Alora (of taekwondo), will stay in. The host country decided not to spend billions for new facilities that often become “white elephants.” Instead, they’re decided to house all the athletes, coaches and officials in dozens of hotels scattered near the venues.

Major sporting events are all about volunteerism. I’ve seen this first hand in the Olympics. For next week, when the announcement was made asking for volunteers, they received 50,000 online applications. Only 13,000 were chosen. But this tells us of the spirit of volunteerism of the Malaysians.

With the sporting events, there will be a total of 404 events in 38 sports. The choosing of which events to include, largely dependent on the host country, is often controversial.

One example is Indonesia. Back when it hosted the 2011 SEA Games, they included numerous non-Olympic events which resulted to them winning 476 medals, including 182 gold medals. They ranked No. 1. Two years later in Myanmar, their tally dropped by nearly half to 258 medals and, worse, in Singapore 2015, they collected only 182 medals (and 47 gold).

With next week’s hosting, I’m unsure if Malaysia is doing the same. But Thailand’s representative, Charoen Wattanasin, was quoted as saying last year, “Malaysia is taking advantage of other member countries. It has opted for its favourite sports — events in which it has high hopes — in the Games. It has a clear mission to get the medals from every sport in the Games. Even many traditional sports are missing. It is disappointing that Malaysia has ignored some good events as well.”

Speaking of our pride and joy, Mary Joy Tabal, did you know that Malaysia was planning to exclude the marathon in the SEAG? But thanks to an online petition from the running community, the 42K is back. Even better, the organizers will include the general public with 15K and 5K runs on the same marathon day, August 19.

Ironman swim

Two Augusts ago, I joined the individual category of the Cobra Ironman 70.3 race. In years past, I joined the relay: pedaling the Vellum bike in 2012 and running in 2014. But in 2015, I decided to do the full event: a 1.9K swim, a 90K bike and 21K run.

I have been running and biking all my life. I’m a land-based creature. The swim? I know the freestyle stroke but I’m no fish; it took me months to get comfortable. On our open-water sessions in Mactan, I got jittery.

August 2, 2015. It was race morning and we warmed-up. When I dove into the Shangri-La waters at 7 a.m. and emerged one hour and 8 minutes later, it was one of the most challenging 68 minutes of my life. Of the swim’s 1,900 meters, there was a harrowing stretch of 850 meters where the current was so strong. By the end of the swim leg, the organizers had to extend the cutoff time (supposed to be 1:10) by more than 20 minutes. If not, hundreds would not have continued. And despite the extended time, 120 were cutoff.

Betsy Medalla, a top swim coach based in Manila who also organizes long-distance open-sea races, wrote an excellent post-event analysis. The cause of the unusual current was the “spring tide.”

“On August 2, (2015) today, in Cebu, the tidal range was OVER FIVE FEET.  Think of that as a five foot wave of water coming into shore, spread out over six hours,” wrote Betsy in her blog, justaddwaterph.blogspot.com.

That was two years ago. Will it be another “spring tide” this weekend? When I met Brian Lim during the Bike Out last Sunday, he mentioned about the very strong current when they did an open-sea swim on Saturday. It was similar to 2015, he said. This was the same comment of Andre Borromeo, who swam for two kms. and found the Mactan waters tough with high waves.

So, what’s the forecast?

“August 6 (this Sunday) is NOT a spring tide date,” wrote Betsy yesterday in her blog post. “The next spring tide in Cebu is on August 9. So the conditions will definitely not be as bad as 2015, but we are close enough to make things interesting.”

Based on her study, the projected change in tide is 3.2 feet and the fastest surge will be between 5:30 to 7:30 a.m.

“In 2015, the tide change was roughly five feet,” Betsy said. “This year, we are expecting a much smaller volume of water moving in our direction. However, this is the Hilutungan channel and as I mentioned in the 2015 post, currents and tides are amplified when forced through a tighter space. So expect the 850m stretch of the course to be challenging. Hope you did your paddles and pullbuoy work early in the training program.

“As far as timing of the tide shift goes, in 2015 the racers who left in the last few batches suffered worst. This year, it is one for all! Yeay! We are starting and swimming in the thick of it. In fact, the force of it will be ebbing by 7:30am so .. I don’t know if you want to use that information to your advantage.”

Betsy, who was the first Asian (with Julian Valencia) to complete the Robben Island Channel crossing, swimming for 8.6 kms., is concerned with the stormy weather (in Luzon) the past week.

“The habagat and monsoon winds have been whipped up by two successive storms and all of that built up energy may carry into the end of the week,” she said. “It looks to be a windy, gusty weekend and that may lead to surface chop, and possibly swells.”

Coach Betsy offers these suggestions: Focus on your STREAMLINE. Reduce drag as much as possible and that includes: 1) Keeping your hips up; 2) Don’t pull with a straight arm; 3) Don’t lift your head up to breathe, keep it low; 4) Maintain your momentum.

Visit justaddwaterph.blogpost.com.

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.”

Formula One

Interesting times for F1. Malaysia will host their last Grand Prix race this 2017. After Eddie Irvine won the inaugural event at Sepang in 1999, this October will be the final race. The reason? According to BBC: “Malaysia had struggled in recent years to attract a significant crowd, its appeal damaged by the more glamorous night-time event on a street track in Singapore.”

Speaking of Singapore, they’re not sure yet of being part of the 2018 calendar. When next year’s schedule was announced, Malaysia was deleted and asterisks were attached beside the names “China” and “Singapore.”

April 8, 2018 is the Shanghai F1 race but that’s uncertain. Same with Singapore, which has hosted the night party since 2008. Will racing aficionados witness three Asian countries doing a pit stop (stopping) next year? Let’s see. As to the 2017 season, it can’t get any more thrilling.

Justin Alfafara, a long time F1 fanatic, commented on the eight races thus far this season.

“It’s been more exciting compared to the previous Mercedes dominant era and the Red Bull dominant era prior to that,” Justin said. “Although Mercedes is still the team to beat, Ferrari are not far behind and are leading in the championship.”

Sebastian Vettel is leading with 153 points followed by Lewis Hamilton’s 139. There are still 12 races to go so plenty of fight. Talking of fights, one erupted last Sunday during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and it was a spectacle. Vettel bumped Hamilton’s rear and side. Are we watching a game of bump-cars?

“Hamilton was just doing what any driver up front would do,” Justin said. “The Safety Car was exiting at the end of that lap and ANY driver leading the pack would always slow down and bunch up the rest of the pack so that the Safety Car can exit in a clean manner and not get in his way when normal race speed resumes; he did that also during the previous Safety Car session.”

“Based on the footage, Vettel was following way too close to begin with so naturally, when Hamilton slowed down at that corner, Vettel collided with him. In the heat of the moment, Vettel (usually one who does not man up to his mistakes) took that as a sign of aggression and went alongside Hamilton, raised his hand in anger and turned into Hamilton in retaliation. Now, the FIA stewards have access to the telemetry data on all the cars and it did show that Hamilton DID NOT brake test Vettel at all. So simply put, Vettel was at fault.”

I don’t follow every F1 race but that video footage got me awakened. Justin continues his commentary for this season: “What surprised me is the rest of the mid field teams and the backmarker teams are also in a position to challenge each other. With the exception of the Baku Grand Prix (a fluke and the season’s craziest race), the win is just between Mercedes and Ferrari; but the midfield racing is intense.

“A lot of younger drivers on the same grid with seasoned veterans, throw into the mix team orders, off track politics, engines blowing up constantly, inconsistent steward penalties; we’ve got teammate wars in Red Bull, Force India and Sauber, the ever present Bottas-Raikonnen collisions, and the Hamilton-Vettel rivalry.. these have spiced up the racing.” 

In addition, Justin is hoping that Max Verstappen is given a reliable car and can win some races. “Force India has been strong lately and have their own war between their drivers,” he said. “I hope their in-team rivalry will also get in the way of Lewis and Vettel like they have the past few races and make the racing upfront more unpredictable.” 

Manny Pacquiao City

When Dr. Ronald Eullaran invited us to his hometown of Gen. Santos City last April, we said yes. Who can say no to one of the nicest and funniest (and best) doctors in Cebu?

With Dr. Ron and his wife Raycia (and their son, Ryane), our group included James and Jewel Co, their son, Alex, plus me and Jasmin. It was a three-day getaway loaded with plenty of eating (fresh tuna, steak at the Dole clubhouse, and the best-tasting crabs in Gusteau’s).

We also made sure to allocate most of the mornings to an activity we love best: biking. On our first day, we woke up before 5 a.m. and pedaled the western portion of Sarangani Bay. We biked for over 40 kms., a trek that included several uphill battles as we passed through Tambler and reached Maasim. Our wives (Raycia, Jewel and Jasmin) would not be outdone. They ran the streets of the city formerly known as Dadiangas.

Our hosts for that weekend were Dr. Ron’s mom — Mrs. Dhel Eullaran — and Ron’s sister, Atty. Elvie Albano. Her husband, a top lawyer and businessman, Josemar Albano, ran a 60K race that Sunday. As Josemar finished in Susan’s Beach in Maasim, we converged in the same area to congratulate the ultramarathoner (a week later, Josemar would run the Great Wall of China Marathon).

While on the bike, the view was stunning. The road snaked beside the water (Sarangani Bay) and there were few cars and trucks. Biking with us was Elvie’s son, Aries, who does triathlon; we ascended a few hills and stopped to smell the fresh air and to absorb the calm blue water that overlooked.

The following morning, we did the opposite route of Sarangani Bay. We started in Greenleaf Hotel and biked for over 60 kms. As we reached the town of Glan, we stopped at the high point of the Glan Monument and took a photo: James, Ron and me. All-sweating, all-smiling with Mount Matutum in our background and Sarangani Bay beneath us, it was a photo and an experience to cherish.

PACMAN. What else did we see in Gensan, which also happens to be the hometown of my editor, Mike Limpag? Plenty of buildings labeled “JMP.” Those are the initials of my wife but they’re not her buildings. They stand for Jinkee & Manny Pacquiao. They are plenty in number and they’re numbered: JMP 1, JMP 2… and you see them, large and small, everywhere. In the JMP 2 buiding, for example. there’s one shop that’s handled by the queen: Jinkee’s Fashion World.

Right beside the Greenleaf Hotel was the Pacman Wildcard Gym. I was unable to take a peek inside but was told that Pacman visits to train and box. It’s a fitness center that offers other types of workouts: dancing, stationary cycling, Zumba and yoga. The building where his gym was located? JMP Arcade.

We passed by the house of the Senator. Surrounded by high walls, it was a massive house and was near the home of Atty. Josemar and Elvie Albano, close friends of Manny.

One more structure that Pacquiao is building is a church. In an Inquirer story dated Nov. 27, 2014, Pacquiao was said to have appropriated P295 million to build the massive church. It sits on a five hectare property (that cost P95 million) and the cost of construction is reportedly P200 million. We did not get a chance to tour “The Word for Everyone” church but the two-story building is said to include, apart from the worship arena, a bible school, a bible study room and a pastor’s lounge.

“I owe to God everything that I have right now – wealth, health, fame, success, a dutiful and beautiful wife and my wonderful children,” said Sen. Pacquiao. “I have to give it back to Him. The amount is nothing compared to what God has done to my life.”

Down Under, it’s uphill for Jeff Horn

He’s a Physical Education school teacher turned boxer. Imagine if he shocks the world next Sunday by defeating Manny Pacquiao? Though that scenario is as unlikely as Golden State relinquishing the trophy next year — what a fairytale story for the Australian.

Jeff Horn’s story is inspiring. When he was a young kid in Brisbane, he walked out of school one day only to be told to drop on his knees and say sorry.

“Get on your knees and say sorry to my mate,” the big kids said to Horn’s friend. He took a knee and got whacked. “Now you,” they told Jeff. “No,” he replied. “I didn’t do anything wrong.” They slapped Jeff’s face. “Then I just walked away,” he said. “I couldn’t fight anyone let alone fight 30 of them. I remember walking back to my mate’s place that day. I felt so annoyed and so belittled.”

That story came from the Sydney Morning Herald. Soon after that traumatic experience, Jeff entered a martial arts gym. He then slipped on a pair of boxing gloves and won the amateur state trophy. Next, the Australian title in 2009. After that, he competed in the London Olympics where, as a light welterweight, he won twice before losing in the quarters.

And now, this: the biggest fight of his life and the most consequential boxing fight in Australia. For the 29-year-old who stands 5-foot-9 and carries a 16-win, one-draw (undefeated) record, this story is remarkable. This bout wasn’t supposed to happen, remember? Pacquiao’s first choice was Amir Khan, with event in the U.A. E.

The fight next Sunday will be held in the Suncorp Stadium, a venue mainly for soccer and rugby (it hosted the 2008 Rugby League World Cup final), and the promoters are hoping for a full capacity crowd of 55,000. They’ve also priced the tickets reasonably: 27,000 seats are sold at A$100 (Php3,800) and they’ve allocated 6,000 general admission tickets at only $39 (only Php1,500).

In June of last year, I got the chance to visit Australia for the first time and, I must declare, of the numerous places that I’ve visited, Australia ranks at the very top. The weather at this time is perfect (9 to 22C). The Aussies are so relaxed and friendly. There is so much open space for bike lanes and jogging paths; lakes for kayaking and rowing; tennis courts littered everywhere; it’s an outdoor, all fresh air, let’s-go-out-and-sweat continent. Jana, Jasmin and I loved the visits to Syndey and Melbourne.

The fight will be in Brisbane and it’s scheduled at 1:30 p.m. That’s quite an awkward time for a sporting event. But they have to conform with the U.S. Saturday night schedule. So, to us here at home, it’s the same 11:30 a.m. schedule.

The odds are obviously tilted in favor of MP. But this has only given the Aussie camp more impetus in that we’re-the-underdog inspiration.

“We want Manny overconfident and dismissive of Jeff’s chances,’’ said Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton. “Jeff’s a heavy puncher but the legs are the key to this fight. His legs are 29, Manny’s are 38. Jeff will be giving Manny all kinds of angles and controlling the distance between them. Manny’s legs aren’t as fast as they were 10 years ago. If he’s cut corners in his preparation Jeff will make him pay hard for every one of those 38 years.’’

Prize money? Pacquiao is guaranteed $10 million while Horn will receive $500,000. Computing the disparity, the Pinoy will get 20 times more than the Aussie. As lopsided as this is, Jeff Horn won’t mind. It’s his biggest paycheck ever. Not bad for a bullied kid turned PE teacher turned boxer. Reminds me of Rocky Balboa.

Jonel Borromeo and Joy Tabal

Mary Joy Tabal (speaking) with Jonel Borromeo (center) and Coach Philip Dueñas (SunStar/Alan Tangcawan)

If there’s one individual to thank for the continued excellence of Mary Joy Tabal, it’s the eldest son of Maxcy and Marivic Borromeo.

Jonel Borromeo was my high school classmate. He’s also the CEO of several Borromeo-owned companies. The Ironman 70.3 races? He’s completed that multiple times.

I asked Jonel for an update on Joy Tabal and here’s what he said: “All is good. I’m glad the ordeal of getting Joy to run in the SEA Games is over.”

We, too, are happy that Cebu’s pride and joy will be competing this August in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Thanks to the negotiating skills of Mr. Borromeo, he was able to convince the PATAFA officials to include the marathon queen in the SEAG roster.

But why did PATAFA give Joy such a difficult time? Wasn’t her inclusion supposedly obvious? Are we not to send our best? Joy is the four-time reigning champion of our nation’s most prestigious road race, the Milo Marathon (champion in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016). Last year, she became the only Filipino marathoner to join the Olympics. And just last month, she won the 21K race in the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon — clocking 1:16:27 to break the Philippine record.

Are these results not good enough for PATAFA? Track and field is one discipline where the results are measurable. You know who’s the fastest. Unlike volleyball or ping-pong or badminton or football where the choice of representative is often subjective, track and field is objective. It’s time-based.

I asked Jonel, whose family and Motorace company sponsors Ms. Tabal, why PATAFA insisted on their way (training and coaching).

“I agree with your thoughts on PATAFA encouraging all athletes to find better ways to improve,” said Jonel. “I think what has to be recognized is that there is not only one way to train an athlete to improve. I believe it is a trial and error process. Once the formula is found then stick with it and build from it.

“In the case of Joy, her training format which suits her is different from other athletes who are under any NSA. And the results of the recent 21K in Ottawa will prove that. Let’s not forget she did bring home the silver in the SEA Games held in Singapore.”

This training program of Joy included a stint in Japan. There, she was introduced to new coaches and new methods of training and she was pushed to her limits. Now, she’s in Tuscany, Italy. She trained there for two months and will train for several more weeks. Part of her intense regimen includes high altitude training in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Joy is also at home (literally and figuratively) in Cebu and she thrives here. Why force her to train in Manila? And with the case of Jonel and Motorace spending hundreds of thousands of pesos for Joy’s training, isn’t the government lucky? PATAFA doesn’t have to spend but in return they reap the benefits of the international training of Joy. No expenses. No usage of their coaches and facilities. And in exchange, they have Joy Tabal and her possible gold, silver or bronze medal? Being a businessman, I’d conclude that this is an irresistable deal. PATAFA should be thankful.

The good news si: Cebuanos and running aficionados are relieved that our country’s top marathoner is included in the Southeast Asian Games roster for the Kuala Lumpur event in August.

With her training schedule, I asked Jonel Borromeo, who has supported Joy in her training and international competition, for updates. Here’s Jonel:

“Joy Tabal has been training in Tuscany, Italy for the last 2 months and will be there for another 2 months with the last 3 weeks focused on high altitude training in St. Moritz, Switzerland. If I’m not mistaken, it’s 2500 meters elevation and super dry air. According to her, the current training is quite different from that of Japan.

“In Japan, programs were focused on her ability to push her limits to her full capacity. In Italy, she is pegged with runners who run much faster than her; the result of that is she realizes she can actually do more. She understands her potential.”

With her training staff, they’re a complete group. “Her support team consists of a head coach, strengthening coach, nutritionist, physiotherapist, psychologist and a doctor who specializes in high level athletes. All are present from start to finish of training.. yes, impressive,” said Jonel Borromeo.

One more person to thank for Joy’s success: her coach Philip Dueñas.

3×3 Basketball

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Kobe Paras, Jeron Teng, J. R. Quiñahan. Kiefer Ravena. They comprise our Philippine squad for the 3-on-3 World Championships in Nantes, France.

What’s 3×3? It’s fast. It’s quick shooting and rebounding. It’s a half-court game played in 10 minutes with the first team to score 21 points the winners.

In our first game against Romania, Team PHI won, 21-15. Our best player? The 6-foot-6 son of Benjie Paras who’s the namesake of Mr. Bryant. Kobe Paras is good. He’s tall. He can shoot from beyond the 2-point line. He can dribble behind-the-back and sprint towards the goal for a layup. 

Thanks to YouTube, you can watch all the basketball action. In Game 2, we faced the host nation France. While we competed strongly in the early minutes, our defense was weak and it allowed the tall Frenchmen to score uncontested shots. They were also terrific from beyond the arc. The final score? An easy 22-11 victory for the hosts.

Next, we play Slovenia. Seeded No. 2, they’re strong. And it’s a must-win scenario for us because only the top two teams in Group B (of five teams) advance. France and Slovenia are the favorites. (After Slovenia, we play El Salvador.)

This sport is gaining popularity, thanks to this announcement: 3-on-3 will be a new sport in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This is an outstanding decision by the IOC. Not only is basketball one of the planet’s most followed of games, but 3-on-3 is exciting. I’m 101 percent sure that it will be one of the most popular events when the Olympics begin in July 24, 2020.

Are professionals allowed? Absolutely. Can you imagine if the U.S. will pick its best to join? I did a little online research and some have suggested this team: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant. (As to why there are four players, there’s a substitute: three on the court and one on the bench.) Can you imagine these four playing in Tokyo?

“Your ideal 3-on-3 player is really a guard-skilled big,” said Troy Justice, the NBA’s senior director of international basketball. “Kevin Durant would translate very well. A 3-point shot is worth two points, and inside the arc is worth one point. So the teams I’ve watched — I’ve done a lot of scouting globally with 3-on-3 and watched some of the best players and teams and the strategies they implement. It’s a lot of 3-point shooting and getting to the rim. The one other thing you need is a good rim protector, a strong big that can rebound and defend. Then you need three knock-down great shooters. But because there’s so much space on the floor, everyone needs to have the ability to put the ball on floor and create their own shot.”

Matt Santangelo, the executive director of Hoopfest, the world’s biggest 3-on-3 event, added: “The game of 3-on-3 basketball is all about spacing, passing angles, screening, motion without the ball and strategy, because you’re in such a confined space. Each player in 3-on-3 needs to have a hybrid skill set, because everyone has to do everything—score, rebound and pass.”

Another thrilling announcement is the news of the 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup hosting. It will be in Manila! No venue selected yet but it will be held in May 2018. Like the WC in France now, there will be 20 teams each for the men and women and there will be individual events that will include a men’s dunk contest, a women’s skills event and a mixed shoot-out.

This is a triple celebration: We get to watch the WC now (on YouTube); Manila hosts next year; and it’s an official Olympic event this 2020.

Rafa

(Photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Dominance. That’s the one word to best describe the past two weeks of Rafael Nadal. It started at the Australian Open. Leading 3-1 in the fifth set against Roger Federer, he was at the brink of winning his 15th major. But the Swiss reeled off five straight games to steal the match. Still, that impressive showing from Rafa would continue. He won a 10th title at Monte Carlo and Barcelona. And now, this, “La Decima.” He has played 81 times at the French Open and won 79. How amazing is that record? On his first event as a 19-year-old in 2005, he won in Paris. He won four straight before losing to Robin Soderling. After that loss, he won another five straight before a defeat to Novak Djokovic in 2015. Will this be another five year streak? No less than past champion Gustavo Kuerten has declared: “Rafa could potentially win up to 15 times.” I agree. If you saw any of his seven matches the past 14 days, you’d nod your head in agreement.

Rafa lost only 35 games in seven matches. That’s an average of five games surrendered per match — and these are best-of-five setters. He now moves to world No. 2 and, given his tremendous start and because he has few points to defend in the year’s second half, there is a good chance that he’ll end the year at No.1.

Nadal this 2017 has been the best I’ve seen. He steps forward to strike that crosscourt backhand early. He serves wide or down the T with unpredictable variety. His forehand is so dangerous and offensive that even if he’s in a defensive position, he can hit an outright winner. He also has a new coach in the former Roland Garros winner Carlos Moya, who hails from the same island of Majorca. Best of all, Rafa is healthy. Last year, he had to quit in the third round because of a wrist injury. Today, the only injury inflicted is upon his opponents who have to run side to side and suffer in defeat.

My dad Bunny watched the Madrid Open last month and, watching up close, he noted what we know well: Rafa plays a physical game. Famous in Spain, he’s a bull-fighter; always charging, attacking and aggressive. On the tennis court, what differentiates Rafa is his spin: Unlike a Roger or Sampras who play with flatter shots (thus, less margin for error), the groundstrokes of Rafa clear the net high. They land deeper in the court and kick upon landing. The spin rate exceeds 4,000 rpm.

Humility. That’s the another astonishing word to describe Rafa. (Lucky for us tennis followers, it’s also a fitting word to describe Roger.) In a serious of post-match interviews, Rafa was never cocky or boastful; he credits his success to hard work and dedication. He’s the man who once said, “I think the tennis is only a game. You can lose. You can win. After that? In life, there are much more important things than tennis.”

Rafa now has 15 majors. Roger has 18. Come July 3, the winner of the year’s first two majors will meet in Wimbledon. This early on, I’m hoping for another final between the two. Roger is all-confident; so is the winner two days ago.

Rafa’s 10th crown isn’t the only major story in Paris. There’s also a player who turned 20 just a few days ago and had never won a WTA tournament before. Employing a very aggressive game, her average forehand shot is clocked at 76 mph — faster than Andy Murray’s 73 mph. She scores 50 or more winners per match and she’s the Roland Garros champion. Will write a story soon on Jelena Ostapenko.