Category Archives: Highlight

Bruce Lee in Boxing Shorts

He wore red, high-cut boots by Nike with the words “PACQUIAO” and “MANNY” etched at the back. His black shorts were printed with yellow flames. A gray sleeveless Nike shirt covered his chest while a green pair of gloves wrapped his hands.

Last Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., accompanied by the country’s top boxing writer—Salven Lagumbay of and the Philippine Daily Inquirer—I stepped inside RP’s most famous gym today, owned by Rex “Wakee” Salud.

Manny Pacquiao had just finished 10 rounds of sparring. Tired? Did he look fatigued? No. How about recharged? Or pumped-up? For one-and-a-half hours, I observed Manny. After sparring, Manny stepped down the ring then proceeded to pummel the double-end bag. He stared at the round leather that hung from the ceiling, encircled it, threw quick jabs, moved his head left, ducked, stepped back, forward. Continue reading Bruce Lee in Boxing Shorts

Basketball? Like Vegas, there is only one showMANNY

Two years ago (August 28,2007, to be exact), I wrote this piece. It’s relevant given that PacMan is scheduled to play basketball again in Cebu.

I LIED. In an article I wrote two days ago, I vowed to stay five feet away from Manny Pacquiao when I’ll guard him in basketball. But when we met last Sunday morning from 10 to 12 at the Cebu Coliseum—his Team Pacquiao versus our Cebu Sports Media squad—we collided. Literally. Continue reading Basketball? Like Vegas, there is only one showMANNY

A message to all the fathers

Published in Nov. 13, 2007, this has to be my favorite of all the articles I’ve written…

One of my most fulfilling roles in life is being a dad. I love being a father. I love the moments when I hold my daughter’s hand and take her out to a date, when we sit on the floor and play Korean jackstones, when we have breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and I tell her stories about World War II. Yes, no misprint there: our topics range from her Grade 3 quiz on Math to her Bright Academy football practice to why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

I love my daughter. Continue reading A message to all the fathers

Son and Father

Once, there was a teenager who lived alone with his father. The two owned a special relationship. Even though the son never got to play basketball—he was always on the bench—his father never stopped cheering from the stands, never missed a game.

This young man was the smallest of his class when he entered high school. But his father continued not only to encourage him, but also made it clear that he didn’t have to play ball if he wanted to stop.

Yet the boy loved basketball. So he decided to hang in there, determined to try his best at every practice, and perhaps get to play when he turned senior. All through high school he never missed a practice, nor a game, but remained a bench warmer all four seasons. His faithful father was always in the stands with words of encouragement for him. Continue reading Son and Father

Going Bananas Over Bananas

Published in Feb. 28 of last year, here’s an article (and fruit) that all should consume…

Each morning for breakfast after I consume a cup of coffee and devour a bowl-full of cereal, I peel open fruits that are delicious, quick to digest, inexpensive.

Bananas. Are they good for us? For those who exercise? For athletes? I pose these questions because haven’t we all seen Lance Armstrong, midway through one of his Tour de France victories, snacking on a banana? Or Rafael Nadal, in between winning sets at the French Open, feasting on this yellow fruit?

I found the answers when an article, sent by Bobby Villareal, landed in my E-mail Inbox entitled, “A Banana A Day Keeps The Doctor Away.” A Banana A Day Keeps The Doctor Away? Wait, wait. Isn’t that supposed to be “an apple a day…?” Continue reading Going Bananas Over Bananas

To my Best Friend: Happy Birthday!

First published in October 24, 2006, here’s a tribute to my best friend…

I don’t do this. Usually, I don’t yield space to send birthday greetings to friends. But this one’s special. This person is different. Someone I’ve known for many Septembers, opened my ears and listened to talk, someone whom I’ve heard sing—and what a voice, ranging from as high as Mariah Carey’s glass-breaking pitch to as deep as Aretha Franklin’s—and someone, with my wife’s consent, I’ve had the pleasure to spend almost an hour with each day.

Happy birthday, iPod! Yes, without the world noticing, it was five years ago yesterday—October 23, 2001—when Steve Jobs carried his baby on the palm of his hands and announced: “With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.” Steve Jobs, what a proud dad you are today. While the walkman was “cool,” the CD “revolutionary,” and the turntable “all-vinyl,” the iPod is defined by more than one word: “It’s one of the most successful consumer electronics products—ever.” Continue reading To my Best Friend: Happy Birthday!

Boracay: The Perfect Mix of Sun, Sand and Sports

Since summer is near (or has, in fact, because of the HOT weather, arrived), here’s an article I wrote in May 2007 about one of the world’s best beaches….

It was 23 years ago when my feet first touched the powder that sprinkled on this island. Then, there was no electricity. No rock bands rocked your sleep until 3:17 a.m. No Greek or Indian or Portuguese cuisine tempted your tongue. No 18-hole golf course chased down the white ball into a six-inch-hole like Fairways and Bluewater. No Flying Fish or Banana Boat or Yamaha jet-skis floated on the slippery seas. Boracay, in those 1980s and echoed by Madonna, was “Like A Virgin.”

Last week, after my 10th or so visit, my feet once more touched the powder. I despised it. You know what I hated the most? The part when, after five days and nights stranded there, your boat leaves the paradise to head back home.

I hate leaving Boracay! To my family-threesome—my wife Jasmin and daughter Jana included—there’s no other place in our archipelago that we’d rather vacation than this island strip off Panay the world calls “One of the Best Beaches in the World.” Continue reading Boracay: The Perfect Mix of Sun, Sand and Sports

Sinulog Half-Marathon Photos

Photos courtesy of Dr. Vic Verallo and Meyrick Jacalan

Mizuno-Asia Miles Sinulog Half-Marathon 21K Men’s winners (from left) Rogelio Reli, John Dueñas, champion Angelito Sibayan, third placer (and last year’s champion) Elmer Bartolo, Rene Desoyol, Vicky Yue of Cathay Pacific/Asia Miles, Paolo Cagalingan of Mizuno and Dennis Lu of Philam Life. The Sinulog Run, held last Saturday (Jan. 17) at the Asiatown I.T. Park, drew a total of 1,223 runners. Continue reading Sinulog Half-Marathon Photos

Roger and Rafa: Simply smashing!

(EPA/V. Donev)

Squandered break points. Rain delays. Two-set comebacks. Saved match points. A finish just 12 minutes shy of five hours. And, at 9:16 p.m. London time, the latest ending for a Wimbledon singles final. It wasn’t just a Grand Finale. It was a Match For The Ages. A rivalry that’s unrivalled. A marathon classic. Here are 14 random thoughts…

1. Manny Sainz, the president of Casino Español de Cebu, is beaming a toothful grin today. Next to our own, his favorite country won. And how Spain has dominated sports… Nadal wins two Grand Slam titles. Spain win football’s Euro 2008. Pablo Larrazabal (any relation with Dr. Yong?) wins golf’s Open de France. And Alejandro Valverde wins the Tour de France first stage en route to possibly the yellow jersey in Paris. Said Manny Sainz: Viva España! Continue reading Roger and Rafa: Simply smashing!

Why I Love Cebu

From left: Jesse Taborada, John Pages, Meyrick Jacalan, Dr. Ron Eullaran and Roel Militar

The year was 1986 when my family and I moved from Bacolod to Cebu City. Back then, like any 14-year-old who had developed deep friendships with classmates and neighbors, I resented the decision

“Can I just stay in Bacolod?” I recall asking my parents. The answer, of course, was obvious. From the City of Friendship we transferred to this Queen City of the South. Looking back 22 years ago to that time—with no offense meant to Bacolod—it would be hard for any city to surpass what Cebu offers. In schooling, in business opportunities, in R & R, in malls to visit and night spots to party in and, lest I forget, in this favorite topic of these back pages…. Sports.

Take mountain-biking. Here in Cebu, if one craves to climb steep hills, descend on trail roads, trek across muddy terrain or traverse shallow streams—it’s all, as the cliche goes, right at our own backyard. Continue reading Why I Love Cebu

The Day I Tried….

February 17, 2008. That date was to have been one of my life’s biggest moments. Like that first kiss. Like my graduation. Like winning that first tennis event. Like my wedding. Like my daughter’s birth nine Novembers ago.

When I woke up at 4:45 a.m. last Sunday, I was sure that when I crossed the Finish Line to record my first-ever 42-K run—the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon—that it would mark one of my life’s most memorable days.

Well, dear readers, guess what: I didn’t make it. I failed.

When the horn roared along Nathan Road at 7:45 a.m. four days ago to signal the start, I felt confident. And running beside Jesse Taborada, the president of the Cebu Executive Runners Club, the first part was easy. We laughed, talked, overtook dozens. At the 10-K point, our time was one hour, two minutes. With barely a sweat.

Thirty minutes later, Dr. Vic Verallo joined us. Down the tunnel, up the tunnel, down the foot of Tsing Ma Bridge, up the world’s sixth largest suspension bridge, down, up the Ting Kau Bridge, down. Flyovers. Tunnels. Bridges. Continue reading The Day I Tried….

…. And Why I’m Thankful For Failure

Yesterday (Feb. 21, 2008), when I wrote about my daydream-turned-nightmare called the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, I spoke about running comfortably until the 28th km. when cramps writhed my legs in pain, when I vomited and could barely stand up when I sat down, and when I trudged on with the help of Dr. Peter Mancao until unbearable leg injury forced me to stop at Km. 36.

What happened? I started too fast. At the 21-K mark, my watch read two hours, seven minutes. At Km. 28, it was 2:50. Now, that’s nowhere near the 42-K world record mark of Haile Gebrselassie (2:04) but, considering that the up-and-down, tunnel-bridge-flyover-plenty route of Hong Kong was found in the first 25-K—then it was too fast for me. Had I ran 10 minutes slower, it would have made all the difference. Said Dr. Yong Larrazabal: “The course was really difficult. I even experienced cramps which I did not in New York.”

I didn’t run hills. Here in Cebu, I almost never ran uphill/downhill. Once, when I climbed Ma. Luisa Estate Park for 20 kms., I limped for days with knee pain. And the worst part? The downhill. And in HK, we were going fast down.

I didn’t drink enough. Looking back, over the course of 25 kms. I drank less compared to what I drink here in 10 kms. (At each water station, I grabbed only a half-cup to drink.) Knowing the importance of hydration—and carrying two empty water bottles around my waist which I almost never got to use—why didn’t I drink more? It was cold and my body didn’t sweat as much. I wasn’t as thirsty. Still, internally, my body was dehydrating faster than I was replenishing it with liquids.

No walking breaks. In a marathon, unless your body is the mold of Paul Tergat, walking after every few kms. (or during water stops) is recommended. I didn’t do this. At each water station, I stepped to the side, grabbed a cup, downed it, then zoomed away. Why? I was with Dr. Vic Verallo and Jesse Taborada—two long-time runners who’ve finished, between them, five marathons prior to Hong Kong—and they were quick-paced. And, to me that morning, the last thing I wanted to do was run alone. So I stayed with two veterans—and this neophyte suffered. Continue reading …. And Why I’m Thankful For Failure

Ana: How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Yesterday, my mobile phone beeped at 1:10 p.m. It was my dad, Bunny, with this text message: “John… your favorite was clobbered by Hantuchova in the 1st set, 6-0… Also, she got broken in the 1st game of the 2nd set… Hope she recovers but it’s a big mismatch thus far…”

The big tennis fan that he is, my dad spoke of the ongoing Australian Open, the year’s first tennis Grand Slam event. The match he described?

Ana Ivanovic vs. Daniela Hantuchova. I quickly devoured what was left on my lunch plate and raced to the TV screen. The score: 6-0, 2-0. In favor of Daniela. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, predicting an Ana victory, possibly in two easy sets, and here she was losing… the first eight games! Unbelievable. I sat down to watch. Ana won a game, then another, and then one more. The next thing I knew, she won six of the next seven games to snatch the second set, 6-3. We’re in for a fight. In the third set, the match see-sawed until Ana finally broke Daniela at 4-all and went on to win, 6-4. Continue reading Ana: How do you solve a problem like Maria?

In Tennis, Who’s The Greatest Ever?

For the past 21 years, I’ve followed the sport. I remember—long before cable TV was plugged to our homes—trooping to The Boulevard and Cafe Valeriano along Osmeña Blvd. to watch (beamed “live” via a huge satellite dish) Boris Becker diving for volleys to collect his three Wimbledon trophies. In the late 1980s, I recall seeing Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg in the “Fire and Ice II” showdown at the Araneta Coliseum. Then in ‘99, I had the opportunity to watch Andre Agassi lift the U.S. Open trophy in New York. And, just two months ago in Malaysia, I had the rare moment of shaking hands with Pete Sampras. Who, among all, do I consider the best of all time?

None of the above. Not Lendl with his three French and U.S. Open titles. Not Agassi, who’s captured the Olympic gold plus all the four tennis majors. And not even Sampras, the man I idolized the whole 1990s decade.

The best ever? Roger Federer.

Continue reading In Tennis, Who’s The Greatest Ever?

Proud to be Cebuano

More than two years ago (on Nov. 27, 2005, to be exact), I wrote this article about the Opening Ceremony of the SEAG here in Cebu City…

If you were among the 20,000 who screamed and raised fists in the air last Friday night at the Cebu City Sports Center, you’ll shout this in unison with me, “I’m proud to be Filipino! I’m proud to be Cebuano!”

I’ve watched many shows in my life—from Gary V and Martin Nievera concerts to the Ati-atihan and Maskara festivals to The Phantom of the Opera in New York City’s Broadway. But believe me, nothing gave me more goose bumps, nothing made my blood pressure zoom past its limit and my heart pump three times faster than the opening bang of the 23rd SEA Games. Continue reading Proud to be Cebuano

Ho! Ho! Hold it!

“Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall…. diet!”

Haven’t you noticed? Santa Claus singing this tune every single Christmas for hundreds of centuries now to no avail? And for good reason…

Think of that mouth-watering La Marea warm-brownie cup. Or the turtle pie only Coffee Bean perfects. Or Homebakers’ merceditas and Leona’s Chocolate Surprise. Feast your taste buds on Victoria pineapple ham, Marca Piña queso de bola, fruit cake, Dondi Joseph’s red wines…

But wait, ho-ho-hold it! Before gorging any further, did you know that U.S. studies have concluded that the average weight gain during Christmas is seven pounds! Yup. Seven pounds of excess baggage. And we’re going to pay for it. Funny how we spend 11 months flicking that shuttlecock, pushing that barbell, or rolling down those tenpin orbs—only to lose it all in three weeks! Continue reading Ho! Ho! Hold it!

Words of Wisdom from Ali, MJ, Lance, Tiger, Kareem…

I love quotations. Ever since I was in high school, I recall tearing out and compiling every single copy of Reader’s Digest’s ‘Quotable Quotes’ that I could find. Sports quotations? My favorite. Hope you enjoy these…

“I’m tired of hearing about money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok.” – Shaquille O’Neal

“Whoever said, ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts,’ probably lost.” – Martina Navratilova

“I don’t watch movies a lot. I watch sporting events. Because you can never tell how they’re going to end.” – Michael Douglas

“If they cut my bald head open, they will find one big boxing glove. That’s all I am. I live it.” – Marvin Hagler Continue reading Words of Wisdom from Ali, MJ, Lance, Tiger, Kareem…

Defeated, UV still the ‘University of Victory’

ALMOST. Just one game shy of carving it’s name in history, just two half-times away from becoming the first provincial team since 1957 to win an RP crown, just four basketball quarters away from arriving home to Cebu and carrying a banner that reads “NATIONAL CHAMPIONS” then driving to a motorcade along Osmena Boulevard amidst a thunderous rain of confetti—the University of the Visayas lost. Continue reading Defeated, UV still the ‘University of Victory’

Shook Pete’s hand in Shook

KUALA LUMPUR—Yesterday, when my watch read “3:15,” I knew it was improbable. The exclusive, by-invitation-only Cocktails Party for Roger Federer and Pete Sampras was scheduled at 6 p.m. and, less than three hours shy of that time, I still had not received any confirmation.

But by 3:30 p.m., as I pulled out my mobile phone, my eyes enlarged reading the text message: “Ok I will meet u @ Starhill 530pm. I will pass u the invite then.”

WOW! I couldn’t believe it. We were at the IKEA store, 30 minutes away from the hotel, and I had barely two hours left. Plus, I had a problem: I brought no formal attire. So I rushed to buy a pair of leather shoes, bought a Giordano gray T-shirt, and, just as I was searching to buy a black coat, Dr. Ronnie Medalle phones to say that I can borrow his black jacket. Perfect. And so I ran. Got to Hotel Capitol by 4:15, changed, then sprinted to the venue. Continue reading Shook Pete’s hand in Shook

In New York, two doctors make Cebu proud

(From left) Dr. Yong Larrazabal, Donna Larrazabal, Sophia Mancao, Dr. Peter Mancao


Those were the exact two words first uttered by Dr. Peter Mancao when I called him in New York yesterday at 7:40 p.m. (NYC time)—just four hours after he had finished running last Sunday’s 42.195-km. race called the ING New York City Marathon.

Then, he laughed. “Never again?” I checked if he was serious. “Dili na ko mo usab,” he answered. “Sakto na to!” Then again, he laughed. Joking or not, this he added in all seriousness: “It was an unbelievable experience. Painful, very painful… but really, really worth it. It was also very humbling. But the crowd, grabe… murag Sinulog!” Continue reading In New York, two doctors make Cebu proud