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Tour de Cebu: a first

webre-1024x775Dr. Peter Mancao, Sophie de los Santos, Kenneth Cobonpue, Mike Jo, Red Durano and Jay Aldeguer (CDN photo/Brian J. Ochoa)

Unlike my dad Bunny and brother Charlie, I’m no car enthusiast. But I know that there are hundreds of automobile aficionados residing in Cebu.

Next weekend, from Dec. 5 to 7, will be a historic moment as 26 car devotees and their vintage cars — those manufactured older than Dec. 31, 1979 — will parade from the starting point at the Cebu I.T. Park; they’ll rev their engines, pump the brakes, and punish that pedal, traveling 1,000 kilometers in three days.

Yes, no misprint there: from Lahug to Toledo to Santander, then staying overnight in Dumaguete; the following morning, they’ll rise and start those half-a-century-old machines again — this time, passing the coastal roads of Negros (Oriental and Occidental) before halting in the City of Smiles for their second night; finally, on Sunday, they’ll trek that last full day, leaving Bacolod to climb Don Salvador Benedicto before descending to San Carlos City, hopping on a ro-ro boat, landing in Toledo City and heading up north to San Remigio before the final assault back to Cebu City.

Exhausted reading the itinerary? I am. Imagine if you’re driving that entire distance. If there’s a marathon on four wheels, this is it: the 1st Tour de Cebu.

Conceptualized by a close group of friends called PACE (Performance and Classics Enthusiasts), they teamed-up with the Manila Sports Car Club to organize this event they term “a historic rally across the Visayas.”

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This isn’t purely for show. Sure, the cars are multi-million show cars and they’ll reserve time when they park their vehicles in Dumaguete, Bacolod and Cebu for displaying their prized possessions, but next weekend is also a race. The term is “Regularity Race” and it’s not a whoever-finishes-first type of contest. Outright speed is unimportant.

“Unlike speed races, regularity events must be completed in a pre-defined time and not in the fastest time possible,” read the media kit. Although most Regularity Events include “penalties” and the winners will be those incurring the lowest penalties, it will be different in the TDC.

Event organizer Sophie De Los Santos explained: “There will be no penalties but will focus only on finishers and that the real important aspect is the passion and camaraderie of all participants all enjoying their historic cars and the scenic spots of the Visayas.”

The participants: PACE: (1) Bobby Aboitiz – ’71 MB 280SL White, #32. (2) Harley Yunam – ’71 Porsche Orange 911, #20. (3) Glenn Soco – ’67 Alfa Romeo Duetto Red, #67. (4) Kenneth Cobonpue – ’61 Jaguar E type Red, #88. (5) Junjun So – ’59 MGA, #39. (6) Mike Jo – ’64 Karmann Ghia Mint Green, #08. (7) Harold Ong – ’73 BMW 2002 Maroon, #07. (8) Jay Aldeguer – ’62 Porsche 356B, #02. (9) Red Durano – ’78 Porsche 911 SC Lime Green, #45. (10) Chris Aldeguer – ’55 Porsche 550 Spyder Silver, #18. (11) Yong Larazzabal – ’65 Shelby Cobra Black, #33. (12) Lui Alvarez – ’72 Porsche 911 Silver, #28. (13) Darren Deen – ’66 Corvette Stingray white, #24. (14) Louie Uy – ’69 Chevy Chevelle Green, #11. (15) Peter Mancao – ’70 VW Red, #53. (16) Erwin Miranda – Ford Mustang Red, #58. (17) Grand Benedicto – ’63 Kougar, #09.

MSCC (Manila Sports Car Club): (18) Jorge See – ’63 Jaguar XKE Red, #63. (19) Dodo Macapagal – ’68 Mbenz 280 SL White, #23. (20) Dominique Ochoa – ’69 MGB White, #25. (21) Adolfo Sy – ’66  Shelby GT350 White, #21. (22) Mike Aguilar – Porsche 356 Dark Cream, #65. (23) Oscar Medalla/Joe Lao – ’65 Corvette Blue, #28.

GUESTS: (24) Charlie Pages – ’69 BMW 2002 Orange, #69. (25) Julio Mapa, Jr. – ‘72 Datsun 240Z Yellow, #77. (26) Matteo Guidicelli – ’55 Porsche 550 Spyder Cream.

Are all expected to complete the adventure, driving over five hours and 300 kms. each day? That’s the wish — but that might be unrealistic. A couple of cars are nearly “senior citizens” (60 years old). Most have logged tens of thousands of miles; many have been parked in garages, sitting idle, asleep for years only to be reawakened.

WTA is the Williams Tennis Association

RSI TENNIS-WOMEN/WTA S TEN SPO SGP

(Reuters)

SINGAPORE — The official wording of WTA is Women’s Tennis Association. But the way she’s been playing here, they might as well rename it for Serena Williams.

Yesterday at 4 p.m., I witnessed one of the most enthralling matches I’ve seen in my 20+ years of tennis life.

Caroline Wozniacki had been undefeated all week. She carded a 3-0 record and was feeling confident after beating Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Aga Radwanska.

Against Serena yesterday during the semifinals, she won the first set, 6-2. While Wozniacki hardly made any errors, Williams was spraying her shots all over the Singapore Indoor Stadium. At one point, Williams was so exasperated with her start that she hit a smash. No, she didn’t smash the ball; she smashed her racket. Not once or twice but multiple times that the Wilson racket twisted and formed an unrecognizable form.

Wozniacki was en route to an upset. Having lost to Williams in nine out of the 10 times they’ve played, this time in Asia, it was to be her time.

Not so fast, said Ms. Williams. After a 3-all tie in the 2nd set, the 33-year-old American sped to a 6-3 victory. One set apiece.

W & W are actually “besties.” In proper English, they’re the closest of friends. When Caroline was dumped by Rory McIlroy, it was Serena who invited her friend for some beach time relaxation.

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Last Friday night, during the concert of Mariah Carey (here at the neighboring National Stadium), it was these two girls who sneaked out of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to watch “The Elusive Chanteuse.”

Putting their friendship aside hours after that late night out, yesterday’s 3rd set could not have been closer. 1-all. 2-all. 3-3. 4-4 and 40-all. At that point, Caroline earned a break point and didn’t waste it. She broke Serena and led 5-4.

Jasmin, my wife, who predicted a Wozniacki tournament win when we arrived, was ecstatic while watching at our hotel room.

Seated in the middle section of the 12,000-seater Indoor Stadium, I had other thoughts. I wanted the match to last longer. It was too high-quality a back-and-forth exchange of gunfire for it to end. The Singaporean crowd was pro-Serena. You could here it from their screams… GO, SERENA!

Serving for a place in the finals, Caro was broken. What I find amazing with the 24-year-old Danish star is her running. She doesn’t possess the brute power of Serena; what she does own are those amazing legs that never tire. (Next Sunday, during the New York City Marathon, Wozniacki will join two prominent Cebuanos: Liloan Mayor Duke Frasco, running his first 42-K, and marathon veteran Dr. Vic Verallo.)

Third set, 5-all. Wozniacki had another break point and an open backhand shot. She missed. Williams held serve — assisted by 198-kph and 194-kph aces — and led 6-5. Then, a few moments later, it was match point for Serena. What ensued was a remarkable exchange with Caroline attacking and Serena counter-punching. It culminated with the best friends slumped at the net and a jumping volley winner by Caro.

Six-all, tiebreak. At this point, the thousands of spectators realized what they have been witnessing: the best match of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals.

First point, Wozniacki winner. Second point, Williams winner.

The match quality was worth every cent of the S$128.90 ticket that the spectators paid. Then, a couple of the American’s errors saw Wozniacki lead 4-1. This is it, we thought. But you don’t become the first female player to earn $60 million in prize money without putting up a Battle for Singapore.

Serena won the next five points, including a 201-kph ace. Leading 6-4, this is it! But like a movie thriller whose excitement builds endlessly, Caro leveled the match, 6-all. Finally, the end came at 7-6 when Serena scored the final shot. Serena wins 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8).

In today’s 7 p.m. final against Simona Halep, is there any doubt who’ll claim the W in the WTA Finals other than Ms. W?

PBA @ 40

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.39.29 PM(Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler.com)

The Philippine Basketball Association is Asia’s oldest professional basketball league. Next to the NBA (born in 1946), it is, according to Wikipedia, “the second oldest continuously existing” men’s pro basketball organization in the world.

Today, the league starts its fifth decade of existence. And what a mega-production the Opening Ceremonies will showcase.

The Philippine Arena, located in Bulacan, will host today’s twin opening games. I had the chance a few months ago to see for my very eyes this humongous dome-shaped structure (while traveling en route to Baguio) and it’s an eye-popping sight that I’ve never witnessed before.

Fifty five thousand people. Yes, that’s the capacity of the Phil. Arena and the PBA hopes to flood the entire stadium with loud and fanatical spectators. “We’ll try to fill up the 55,000-seater arena. I think we can do it,” said our good friend Pato Gregorio, the PBA Chairman.

Will the number of fans who’ll troop to Bulacan set a record? In our country, yes, definitely. The previous PBA record was around 25,000; the recent NU-FEU Finals Game 3 of the UAAP surpassed that figure. Surely, with a crowd of over fifty thousand, today’s game handily breaks the record.

Worldwide, the largest-ever basketball crowd was in 1998 when the Chicago Bulls played the Atlanta Hawks. That brought in over 62,000 spectators. If the Phil. Arena reaches full capacity today, we’ll be ranked among the world’s top five biggest basketball crowds. Ever.

A huge reason for the excitement? Because our most famous Pinoy will lead the opening salvo. No, Manny Pacquiao isn’t fighting Chris Algieri today (that’s on Nov. 23 in Macau), but the boxer-turned-ballplayer will be the center of focus as the coach of Kia Sorento. (Speaking of the team name, wasn’t the original name “Kia Kamao?”)

The question is: Will Manny play or not? We know he will coach — but will he dribble and shoot as a player? Weeks back, I read comments from Freddie Roach saying that he insists that MP not play — to safeguard his ward from injury. But the latest I read was that he has softened his stance and given Manny the go-signal.

My guess? Of course, Manny will play. You think he’ll just stand by the sidelines and deprive himself of a chance, for the first time, to fulfill a lifelong dream? Let’s just hope the Blackwater guys take it easy on the boxer.

The schedule today: The Opening Ceremony kicks off the festivities at 1:30 p.m. Then, Kia plays Blackwater Elite at 3 p.m., after which Ginebra San Miguel battles Talk n Text at 5:15 p.m.

To help transport the riding public to the venue, Kia has partnered with JAM Liner for the bus company to “hakot” as many as 10,000 fans from Metro Manila — all for free — to Bulacan. Up to 200 buses are said to be ready for deployment.

What’s new this 40th season? Plenty. There are plenty of new faces, including over two dozen rookies. And these two new teams: Kia and Blackwater. There will be a total of 12 teams in this PBA All-Filipino Philippine Cup.

The format? It’s a single round robin schedule; each team plays 11 games during the elimination round. The top two teams advance to the semis while the bottom two squads get eliminated. The remaining eight teams enter the quarterfinals.

Schedule? After today, the next game is on Tuesday (Globalport vs. NLEX and Rain or Shine vs. San Miguel). The regular weekday schedule will be every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Some Saturdays will see out-of-town games. During Sundays, the first game commences at 3 p.m. TV5 will show complete the live coverage.

Related to the PBA’s 40th year, a new documentary was recently launched. It’s called “A Nation’s Passion” and it was produced by Bill Velasco. A few months back when Bill and I met here in Cebu, he told me about this major that. It was finally unveiled earlier this week to a select group in Resorts World Manila. I recall Bill coming to Cebu to spend time interviewing Ramon Fernandez.

Beginning today, for the PBA… life begins at 40.

A letter from Boy Tiukinhoy

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 6.32.33 AMTiukinhoy (right) with CDN Sports Editor Ricky Gabuya during the 2008 Cebu Sports Awards

I received an email at 1:44 p.m. yesterday. The sender? Felix Tiukinhoy, Jr. He’s not only the President of Virginia Farms, Inc. but, in the world of sports, he’s the commissioner of Cesafi. Spelled in full, that’s the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. Since the league started in 2001, one man has stood on top of the organization, receiving neither large salary nor high praises in this thankless job. In full, I reprint Tiukinhoy’s letter:

“Hi John: Let me inform you offhand that your feature of me sometime ago as ‘The David Stern of Cebu’ is properly framed and hung on the wall behind me. So many visitors in my office notice it and I am very happy and honored of what you wrote; sometimes the visitors will tell me that I look handsome when I was young. Hehehe.

“Let me again thank the CESAFI Team for their support to all the activities from the Board of Trustees, Athletic Directors, Tournament Managers, especially Fr. Manny Uy, S.J., President, CESAFI; Deputy Commissioner of Basketball Danny Duran, Deputy Basketball on other sports, Dr. Danilo Villadolid, the Secretariat workhorse, Mr. Bernard Ricablanca, Rico Navarro and all the others who have one or the other helped so much for the success of CESAFI. I am honored to work with you all.

“Our assessment of the 14th Cesafi Basketball Season is relatively fair in fans attendance in watching the basketball games as compared to the previous seasons. Several factors caused the fair attendance:

“POSITIVE: 1) The presence of foreign players in USC, SWU, UV, and USJ-R added excitement. 2) The support of the school and their Alumni for their teams especially in the recruitment of players and financial assistance. 3) The media support for the awareness. 4) The coaches and players played a high level basketball in the spirit of sportsmanship. 5) The suspension of key players of UV by management for disciplinary action to play in the current season.

“NEGATIVE: 1) The withdrawal of USP-F to participate this season in the College Division. 2) Good Cesafi Players after graduating high school are all pirated by school teams form Manila.”

ATENEO-UV. “With the SHS-Ateneo vs. UV finals in high school, I was surprised that it reached Game 3. SHS-ADC beat UV three times in the tournament including Game 1. In Game 2, SHS-ADC brought their fans that practically made the gym color blue. Only a handful, around 20 pax, of boisterous UV fans were present.

“I already told Fr. Manny, sitting beside me as President of CESAFI, that the SHS-ADC boys are tense because of the presence of so many fans including their parents and relatives.

“In Game 3, the presence of fans of both sides created a level of playing field, one side of the gym was a sea of blue and the other side, green. Father Manny did not sit beside me but went on stage as he said he wants to cheer too for his team. Hehehe. That game should not be watched by one who has a heart condition.

“In all 3 games, we commend the coaches and players for their sportsmanship. It made our job in the Commissioner’s Office easier and pleasant.”

COLLEGE. “With the USC-SWU collegiate finals: Game 1, USC was tense and showed that USC boys still lack championship experience but in Game 2, USC made the adjustment that SWU was not able to prepare. Imagine, Macmac Tallo (SWU star player) was not able to make a point in the game. This will be a long series.

“With USC, yes it is very good that USC is in the finals again since 2007. It offers a different profile of the fans.

“Supposedly, the CESAFI Final Series will be covered live nationwide by ABS-CBN – Sports. Somebody from them reneged in the arrangement without informing us. This was supposed to be a first in our CESAFI basketball. They covered it but I don’t know when they will show it on TV.”

Are you ready for your first 42-K?

The beauty of running is this: There’s that next goal. After you’ve completed your first 3 km. run, there’s a 5-K. After that and weeks more of training, you can attempt to double the distance. You finish a 10-K. While previously you thought that you’d never be able to run that far, with gradual and steady time on foot, you can do it.

After that first 10 km. run, the possibilities are plenty. There are multiple 12-K races. The 15-K is another good target. And, there’s the famous “half-marathon” or 21-K. But the biggest prize? Unless you’re Mayor Rex Gerona of Tabuelan, who recently completed the 160-K Ultra-Marathon, the mightiest target is to complete a marathon.

That’s 42.195 kms., all without the aid of your car or bicycle or motorbike. You run the entire distance using your God-given legs. Isn’t that amazing? I’ve completed a couple of marathons and I can say that, while the training is strenuous and pain-inducing, the reward upon crossing that finish line is a memory to last a lifetime.

Are you ready? Obviously, if you’ve done a 42-K before, then you know yourself best. If you’re in good shape — let’s consider the Cebu City Marathon (CCM) this Jan. 11, 2015 as the target — then you’ve got 3.5 months to prepare. You can.

How about for first-timers? How do you know when you’re ready?

The marathon is not an ordinary race. It’s not an 8-K that you can easily join next Sunday. It requires the participant to have logged hundreds of miles on the road. Ideally, one must have done several 21-K runs.

I’d like to consider my friend Raycia Eullaran as an example. Raycia has completed more than six 21-K races the past year. (We ran together two Sundays ago.) Is she ready for the 42-K in CCM? Absolutely. As long as she gradually increases her mileage (peaking with one or two 32-Ks), then she’s good.

How about for those who have yet to complete one 21-K? I’d rather you run the 21-K this January. And, after that, build your mileage by running several more half-marathons.

As part of the CCM organizing committee, through the years we’ve encountered participants who, despite just logging-in a few 10-Ks, decide to jump straight to the marathon. This is not advisable.

Tips on preparing? One, see a doctor. Before you register (or embark on any rigorous exercise program), have an Executive Panel test or a full check-up. This is first priority.

Second: go online and check the myriad of training schedules available for free. You can click on “Beginner” and the appropriate weekly schedules are yours to follow. Usually, these programs ask that you run 4x a week with the Sunday long run as your most important run. Some will advise that you do speed work (tempo or intervals). Unless you’re a seasoned runner, you can skip this. The general rule is to increase weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent.

On your first marathon, the goal is to finish. Forget about the “I need to do a 4:30 time” mentality. Your goal should be to enjoy and run injury-free. Speaking of injury, this is the one hurdle you have to avoid. As your mileage increases, some of your joints and muscles may not be ready for all that excessive pounding — thus, the injury. Listen to your body. If the pain is unbearable at your knee, rest for a few days. If it persists, go see doctors Rhoel Dejaño or Tony San Juan.

Find a group. Especially on weekends when your long runs extend for three to four hours, it’s essential to have friends to chat with. Time will pass quicker. Maintain a “conversational pace.”

Rest. After a tiring session, rest the next day or have an easy jog. Make sure your body has ample time for recovery. Allocate one full day a week of complete rest.

Get a massage. This is good for your aching muscles and becomes a reward for your effort. Talk to marathoners about their experiences. Buy new shoes and socks. Alternate running between hard (cement) and soft (treadmill, track oval, grass) surfaces. Relax. Often, we get tense and uptight — keep your arms and shoulders relaxed. Best of all, pray!

Ateneo vs. Army: An ‘A’ for girls volleyball

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Full house. That was the scene inside the hot USC Main Gym last Sunday. Six girls versus six girls faced each other inside a rectangle. A tall see-through net stood in the middle. Screams from the thousands rocked the coliseum. Most of the spectators wore blue; some, green.

The contest: Ateneo versus Army. It was an army-like battle. The playing field: a volleyball court. The arena felt concert-like; Cebu had not seen a star-studded game like this. Maybe, ever.

The Ateneo Lady Eagles against the Philippine Army Lady Troopers. Could there be two more “A” teams — alluring and appealing? The one-afternoon-only encounter was named “Champions Tour.” And, true to its name, it was a tour of two champs: the Ateneo collegiate team are the reigning UAAP winners. Remember them winning that crown, having to make comeback after comeback against the likes of NU and La Salle? That was one for the Ateneo books. A season that will forever be etched in the storied history of ADMU.

Ateneo’s opponents? The current Shakey’s V-League Open champions, the Lady Troopers. Despite the little publicity the event generated in our local newspapers (I only read about it the day of the event; and my daughter Jana and I were barely able to enter because they had no free passes for sportswriters), the USC Gym was filled to the topmost bleachers.

Volleyball is now a craze. More so because these were athletes who were long-legged and towering; many of them were sexy and pretty.

Take the crowd favorite Rachel Anne Daquis. Codenamed “RAD” by the placards that several raised from the bleachers, Rachel has a supermodel’s smile. Fair-skinned and mestiza, she has light brown-colored hair — with a matching beautiful volleyball spike that she uses to smother that ball. RAY–CHEL! DA–KISS!

As this was an exhibition match, Rachel gamely approached the fanatic audience, took their cellphones by her hand and, with back facing her newfound friends, posed for that selfie.

On court, no crowd cheering sounded louder than when one girl — the best of them all — sprinted towards the net, jumped at her peak, and spiked that ball with an angry strike.

Alyssa Valdez. No player in women’s volleyball is more celebrated today than the forever-smiling 5-foot-9 superstar of Ateneo. She’s the MVP girl version of Kiefer Ravena. On campus or in the volleyball circles, all eyes are circled on her. And no attack is nailed with more ferocity than the spike of Alyssa. BANG!

She steps back, watches the setter toss a high ball towards her wing… she shuffles her feet for a quick sprint, bends slightly then jumps so high as if she were to slam dunk… then she snaps her wrist and slams that ball from the ceiling to the parquet floor. BANG!

It’s a beauty. The power. The speed. The “bounce.” The bullet shot from above, triggered by the palm of Alyssa’s right hand.

The beautiful thing about ladies’ volleyball? The smiles. The high-fives. The hugs. After each winning point, especially after a “kill,” the six players huddle for a quick session of clapping and smiling. They celebrate. It’s positive bonding and it’s a refreshing sight to see.

The actual game wasn’t close. The Army Lady Troopers dominated. In the first set, Ateneo wasn’t far behind. Still, they lost. The second set was lopsided. In the third set (of this 3-out-of-5 game), the Army girls did not field their strongest squad — and so they lost. In the fourth set, while the Army led by a wide margin, Ateneo clawed their way back and were two points away from tying the game. But they stumbled. Final score, in favor of the Lady Troopers: 25-21, 25-15, 19-25, 25-22.

As 5 p.m. neared (the game started 2:30) and the girls shook hands in the end, they performed one final act: the girls danced. Yes, one by one, as they formed a giant circle, player after player stood in the middle to bend and strut and twist and shuffle. This was beyond spiking, killing, blocking, digging. This was volleyball, entertainment-style.

Harvey Sytiongsa: Q & A with the champ

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In the annual Club Championship of the Cebu Country Club (CCC) last May 10, among the Class A golfers who competed, one young man stood tallest. He was only 18 then (he turned a year older last June 1). It was the first CCC “Green Jacket” victory for Harvey Sytiongsa. Here’s our interview:

START. I started playing golf at the age of seven, but the game caught my attention at the age of four when my dad (Edgardo) used to do practice putting in Del Monte Golf Club. My first coach was Bob Pestaño and the one who further developed my game is Coach Joe Bernaldez.

MILESTONES. During my Junior golf years, I won a Championship in one of the VisMin legs (Mactan).. With my amateur years at CCC, I was champion in some Monthly Medals and won a Lowest gross tournament in one monthly medal… In 2013, I placed runner-up in the Philippine Junior Masters. In 2014, I played for my school (Univ. of San Carlos) and placed runner-up in the individual competition. We won runner-up in the inter-school event at the Orchard Golf & CC. Lastly, I’m a member of the CCC that played in the 2014 PAL Interclub in Bacolod.

CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP. It was a great experience for me; a chance to play with the best players of the club. I played my best and shot in the qualifying days 79 and 74 with a total score of 153. I won my first match vs Joseph Stevens, 4 & 3. With the second match, I beat Kiyofumi Takahashi, 4 & 3. The third match was very tough, against Carl Almario, a former pro-golfer; I won 2 & 1.

During the 36-holes final match, I was nervous playing Marko Sarmiento, a former club champion, because he is the strongest hitter in the club. He plays great golf and is an experienced player. I just tried to calm my nerves by playing the way I played that week and not changing the routine I had for the whole week. The first nine was close since we gave and took strokes per hole. The second nine was more challenging since Marko was driving good, hitting the irons solid and making putts. But I finally had the upper hand on the third nine since I just needed to make par and he needed to make birdies. I won the Championship on hole no. 11 with a score of 8 & 7.

GAME. I can’t say that I have a specialty in the sport since I am an all-around person. I treat all shots with equal importance but place more emphasis in the short game.

I usually play with golfers who are better than me so that I can elevate my game. I also play with players who are interested in bringing up their game to the level I am in now. I play as often as possible when I have time. I prepared for the tournament by having my swing and my game checked by my coach.

My idol? Tiger Woods. He plays a solid game and he blocks off any distractions. He has a great mental side and also keeps fighting to win all games. Among the locals, I like Frankie Miñoza. I watched his game against Miguel Tabuena in “The Duel” last May 23 and he played like there was no pressure. I also idolize our own CCC pro Chuck Hong. I was able to play with him during the Pro-Am in “The Duel” and he hits accurately and has a great short game. He is friendly, approachable and is fun to get along with. I really enjoyed playing with him.

WHY GOLF? It’s interesting and challenging. I chose golf above other sports since it is a game where I challenge myself physically and mentally. It is also a game wherein I only blame myself for the mistakes I make. It can be played by anyone of any age; it can be for business and everyone is treated as equals on the course.

My next challenge is to play in the Philippine Amateur Golf and Asian Amateur Golf and hopefully win both the stroke and match play. Another challenge is to qualify and represent the Philippines in the Putra Cup. Tips for the Jungolfers? Just keep practicing, have patience, always keep a positive mindset and never give up!

Danao City hosts the ASEAN Mountain-Biking Cup

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Exciting times! The NBA Finals are underway, the French Open concludes today, the World Cup commences on Thursday, and this weekend, it’s a mountain-biking holiday. It’s the ASEAN MTB Cup from June 13 to 15, this Friday to Sunday.

“There are already 73 foreign riders coming from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Germany, and the USA,” said Boying Durano Rodriguez, the lead organizer. “More than a hundred local riders coming from Manila, Butuan, Davao and Cebu have registered as well as national team riders who have garnered medals in the PNG cycling competition in Tagaytay.”

Danao City is often labeled as “the Mountain Bike capital of the Philippines.” Rightfully so. I think it was Rep. Ace Durano, decades back, who first brought a mountain-bike to our country after his studies in the U.S. Then, in 1997, Danao hosted the 3rd Asian Mountainbike Championships and, in 2005, it was the SEA Games MTB competition.

This weekend in Brgy. Manlayag, Danao will be the first of two legs of the ASEAN MTB Cup. The second stop will be held in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia next month. The categories are… Cross Country: Men’s Elite, Junior and Master; Women’s Elite and Junior for the UCI categories while for the non-UCI there are the Men’s Open (19 & older), Master A (30-39) and Master B (40 & older). Downhill: UCI categories are Men’s Elite and Women’s Elite while non-UCI categories are Men’s and Women’s Junior; Men’s Open and the Men’s Master A and B.

Mars G. Alison, writing for Full Point Cebu (Cebu Sports News), wrote this piece: “A point system will be used in the non-UCI categories to help the local racing scene of each host nation in implementing the UCI rules in future local races that will be run under the UCI regulations. The top 3 will be named in each category and the top 5 will be chosen overall. In the final circuit, an ASEAN Cup jersey will be given to the point leaders while the leaders in the ASEAN sub-categories will get a Cup jersey.”

I checked out the routes in the Facebook page and the X-Country track is four kms. in distance (per loop) with these descriptions along the way, “Entry to snail hill,” “Steep descent,” “Entry to jungle,” and “Mango Tree area.” Exciting. The FB page contains complete details, including the 284-meter high elevation start for the Downhill race.

Prize money? More than P260,000 is being offered and a  Cube 27.5 Mountain Bike will be offered as a raffle prize to the early registrants.

Who are coming to supervise the event? There’s UCI International Commissaires Max Mager (Singapore) and Beatrice Lajawa and Geoffrey Kronenberg from Malaysia. UCI International Commissaire Boying Rodriguez is the Race Director.

This event is supported by the Province of Cebu, headed by Gov. Hilario Davide III, Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, Provincial Board Members Jude Sybico, Miguel Magpale, and Ivy Durano-Meca. Shimano, Cube Cycles, Smart, Rudy Project, Endurace, Air 21, ASAP Advertising, Ayala Center Cebu, YKK Trading, Bikeology, Prince Warehouse, The Brick, CycleLogic. Rep. Ace Durano, Danao City Mayor Ramonito D. Durano III, and Vice Mayor Red Durano.

“The course is not difficult and all mountain-bikers are encouraged to join,” said Boying, in our phone conversation last Thursday. “It’s not as extreme as the Xterra course. The area is like a plateau that’s on top of a mountain. It’s like on a golf course where you see most of the terrain and course. It’s very rideable.”

This should be good news to the thousands of mountain-bikers in Cebu. Let’s join! An event this huge does not happen often. “For the Masters category, there will be a couple of loops with each one measuring about 4.2 kms.,” Boying added. “We will have the Masters and other events on Saturday while the Elite competition (finals) will be on Sunday.”

The best news? Late registration is still open; just visit their Facebook page. Apil ta!

Showbiz and Sports: A foul mix in Laguna

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Laguna Governor Jeorge “E.R.” Ejercito Estregan should be applauded for the staging of the 57th Palarong Pambansa. It was Laguna’s first-ever hosting of the country’s biggest sporting party and, based on what my eyes witnessed from May 4 to 10, the event was a mammoth success. But here’s the catch: It was a self-promotion. Let me explain.

First, there’s the “Magic Bag.” Each of the thousands of athletes received from the host province a bag. Great! But guess whose name and photos were prominently advertised outside and inside all the contents of the backpack?

Gov. E.R. Estregan. On the bag’s outside was his photo. Inside, there’s a ballpen bearing his face. Same with the fan (paypay). The coffee mug? His picture adorns it. There’s a sleeping mat/foam — very nice. Only that when you sleep on it, you will (literally) be cheek-to-cheek with the governor as his photo is on both sides of the mat, at the exact spot where your head rests.

All throughout the Palaro host cities/towns of Los Baños, Sta. Cruz and Pagsanjan stood innumerable billboards that promote the Games. This is good. But what’s bad are the giant images are all decorated with the governor’s face — as if personal money was spent.

In the sports complex, the moment you enter, his name is plastered on the entrance. Standing on the track oval, when you gaze throughout the arena, at the top of each of the bleachers and the grandstand is his name proclaimed.

Gov. E.R. — a nephew of Manila Mayor Erap — attended several awarding ceremonies. I watched a few. While he’d shake the winners’ hands and pose with the medalists, right beside him would stand a mascot with a giant-size head. Whose large head did the mascot reveal? Of course, who else but the head of the province. In the Closing Ceremony last Saturday, while the real life Gov. E.R. congratulated the champions, his two Gov. E.R. clones/mascots were walking about, shaking hands!

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In business, this is called marketing. Promotion. Publicity. This is good politics. The tens of thousands of Laguna residents and the thousands more from all over the nation will know the star — the movie star turned politician. But using sports for political gain? This is showbiz.

The funniest of all? The boy mascot. The logo itself of the Palaro has this boy pictured everywhere. Need you ask who the mini version is? He’s a bespectacled kid with black-rimmed glasses — the 12-year-old version of E.R. complete with a mustache! Yes. I rarely see a boy with mustache. But this boy sports one.

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Even our car pass with the CVIRAA name has the logo with Little Boy E.R. The orange plastic chairs at all the sports venues, including those found at the Unson National High School — on each chair were engraved two initials: E.R.

All the Palaro sponsors are required to place the logo and the mascot/boy’s face. Greenwich Pizza had a “Visit our Booth” banner with the governor’s photo.

Speaking of pictures, a great idea of the organizers was the Photo Booth. Log-in your Facebook account and you get to pose with your friends and you receive a printed photo for free. The catch? Gov’s smiling face, complete with him pointing the “No.1” sign, stand behind you in the photo. Some athletes told me they received a free gift — a DVD with E.R.’s movies! Incredible.

I recall then-governor Gwen Garcia promoting herself through sports via the GUV Cup (volleyball), Horse Barrel races and Airsoft games. I remember the Mandaue reclamation lined with banners of Gwen. That was nothing. This screams 50 times more advertising.

Isn’t there a law prohibiting the excessive use of an official’s pictures and name to promote a government-organized activity?

In the weeklong Palaro, I know that hundreds of elementary and high school girls and boys were awarded medals. But, in the game of self-promotion, there is only one gold medalist. The kid with the mustache.

Palarong Pambansa: Post-event thoughts

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LAGUNA — “Welcome to the Great Province of Laguna!” declared Gov. Jeorge “E.R.” Ejercito Estregan.

“Laguna, the ‘Resort Captial,’ ‘Detroit,’ and ‘Silicon Valley’ of the Phils., the Land of Enchanting Wonders and Refreshing Waters and your host province for the biggest, grandest and most extravagant Palarong Pambansa in history!” said the Laguna governor in the Games’ official brochure.

“The National Athletic Meet… serves as a fulfillment of our aspirations of becoming the Sports Development Capital of the Phils,” he added. “Sports is not just a game; sports is a way of life. For seven months, we have painstakingly worked round-the-clock to prepare for the country’s most important sporting event. We have exerted our fullest effort in rehabilitating our 19-hectare Laguna Sports Complex, redeveloped at a cost of almost P1 billion.. we have constructed our very own Athletes Village, the first of its kind in the country.. we have also constructed the tallest Jose Rizal bronze monument on earth, standing at 26 feet symbolizing our national hero’s expertise in fencing which we built to inspire our sportsmen. We have established the first Laguna Sports Development Academy..”

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CENTRAL VISAYAS. Our delegation stayed at the Unson National High School in Pagsanjan — about seven kms. from the sports complex. Although we did not stay in the school, we visited plenty of times. The school provided ample of classrooms for our CVIRAA athletes. At the center sat a covered gym that served as both dining and meeting area. Last Thursday night was fun. It was the Pasalamat Night and all athletes were required to climb the stage and dance. The best performers? The swimmers. While others simply wore their blue-and-yellow CVIRAA jackets, the swimmers were led by an athlete wearing only trunks and a cap and goggles who, standing at the front, led his delegation to swimming dance moves… backstroke dance strokes, breast-dance moves. The event was a welcome laugh-filled few hours for the battle-weary players.

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DEPED. You’ve got to give a big hand to the DepEd teachers. It’s a major feat organizing these Games. Imagine an event bringing together 12,000 athletes — plus thousands more of officials, coaches, parents and spectators. Special kudos to all the officials who take care of the athletes. Arranging for the boat transfers, Yokohama Bus transport, food, daily 5 a.m. mass schedules at Unson, uniforms, P1,000 allowances per athlete, the safety of every delegation member, the recording of the results — all these take sleepless nights and all-day-long hard-working days. Well done, teachers!

RESULT. Our CV delegation could not match the outstanding results of the other regions. I’m not sure with the previous Palaro Games  but this is what I heard: the host province decides on the points system. Here in Laguna, it’s the Olympic version. This means that one event equals one gold. A major sport like football receives only one Gold — just like the 10-second-quick 100-meter-dash. This is the Olympic scoring. Obviously, this favors regions that have powerhouse Athletics and Swimming competitors — not the strength of CV as we’re noted to be strong in ball games. (Other scoring formats, like the Milo National Little Olympics, allocate bigger points for sports like basketball, volleyball, etc.)

NIGHT. The 19-hectare Laguna Sports Complex — a site that would make Cebu envious — is not only well-designed because dozens of sporting events are housed under one venue, it’s also an entertainment and tourism showcase. Upon entering the venue lies a boulevard that’s lined, left and right, with all-things-Laguna. Every town and city is represented. Waterfalls are replicated. Giant shoes are displayed. Thousands of people are buying souvenirs, eating, taking photos, cheering. There’s a large stage with every-night concerts. Fireworks erupt almost nightly. It’s a festive sports arena.

FALLS. Our best non-sports trek? Yesterday, when we braved the rapids and swam underneath the Pagsanjan falls. This has to rank as one of the country’s best excursions.

Pagsanjan Falls? No, Pagsanjan/Laguna rises

LAGUNA — We’re here for the Palarong Pambansa. It’s our country’s largest, inviting 12,000 athletes from 80 provinces to compete.

My daughter Jana and her Central Visayas team won Silver in tennis last Tuesday. They nearly got the gold. After beating the girls high school teams from regions X (Cagayan de Oro), CAR (Baguio) and VI (Western Visayas), they faced Region XI (Davao) in the finals. Jana blanked Davao’s top netter, Jeni Dizon, 8-0; but we couldn’t sustain the momentum, losing in the doubles and 2nd singles. Still, winning Silver in a field of 17 regions is commendable.

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Here are nine other thoughts:

1)    Laguna is prepared. It’s the first time for this province to host the games. According to my readings, they spent P1 billion in infrastructure. The centerpiece, the sprawling 19-hectare “New Laguna Sports Complex,” is located in Sta. Cruz. At the center sits a football field encircled by a maroon-colored track oval. Bleachers surround the field. Two softball fields park at the left. Nearby are the indoor basketball and volleyball courts. At the back of the grandstand are four tennis courts. An Olympic-size swimming pool is meters away.

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2)    Surrounding the Sports Complex are various shops, all showcasing the beautiful province of Laguna. Each city and municipality is given a space in a 600-meter stretch of road. Places like San Pablo, Calamba, Majayjay, Liliw and others have constructed elaborate designs depicting their land. Los Baños has plenty of buko. Paete has wood carvings. Pagsanjan, naturally, has the Falls. This is why sports and tourism are a perfect doubles tandem. They complement. People flock to an event to watch the athletes — but they also spend a lot of time (and money) digesting the local culture.
3)    To all parents: This is the added bonus of joining these events. You get to travel. You get to visit places that you’d normally not visit. Although Jasmin and I have been to Los Baños before (my Lola Bing and Jasmin’s uncle both taught at U.P), it’s our first in the farther areas of Pagsanjan and Sta. Cruz. Thanks to our daughter Jana’s exploits, we’ve trekked to so many spots that we would otherwise not have visited.
4)    Jose Rizal hails from Laguna. He lived in Calamba. In honor of our greatest hero, photos of Rizal are everywhere. At the heart of the complex towers a 26-foot-tall gold-colored figure of Rizal — in a sporty pose holding a fencing blade.

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5)    We did not attend the Opening Ceremony last Monday, opting to forego of the morning heat to preserve our players‘ energies. What I heard from everyone was the same: It was boring. Endless speeches lasted for hours. Luoy ang mga bata. They had to stand on centerfield listening to all these politicians rant their spiels.

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6)    Manny Pacquiao was a no-show in the Opening. Days prior to the start, the organizers were advertising his attendance. Imagine the nation’s hero attending the largest sporting party in the land of Rizal? He didn’t show up. Instead, Manila Mayor Erap Estrada landed in Sta. Cruz via helicopter.
7)    Speaking of “Openings,” I can’t help but talk about Ricky Ballesteros, Junjet Primor and our Cebu group who organize the best — and this is undisputed — Opening ceremonies of sporting events. Because of their immense experience hosting the Sinulog, our games’ opening (SEA Games, Milo Olympics, CVIRAA) are unbeatable. Which brings me to…
8)    When will Cebu host the next Palaro? It’s been 20 years since we last hosted. Visiting these not-very-near spots is good Phil. tourism, but I bet you that athletes would love to compete in Cebu. Mayor Mike?
9)    I reserve the last for the best: After watching four days of competition here, the ones that brought me nearly to tears was seeing the handicapped join. It started after hearing mass in the Pagsanjan Church last Sunday. As we were exiting, we met a group from Cagayan de Oro. One child had no arms and was limping. She only had one leg. And she’s joining the swimming event. (In Dumaguete last year, she won gold.) Speaking to her coach about this child got me teary-eyed. Last Tuesday, I saw two dozen boys and girls lining up. They formed a line, each athlete holding the shoulders of another. The front-most child was guided by a DepEd official. He was advised to bend down and touch the floor. Then, after a slight bend, he’d jump. They’re blind. It was the standing long jump competition. Some jumped five feet. Some barely a foot. It didn’t matter. What mattered was this: These children, deprived of sight, were joining the nation’s largest sporting meet and could hear thousands cheering them on.

Sports this summer

gallery_a gal“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” I love that quote. It’s by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German writer born in 1749.

I add another gift: Love for sports. This summer, when your children have endless hours and a myriad of activities to choose from, let him or her do sports.

It may be basketball. With the NBA Playoffs now on-going, this would be the best motivation to enroll in a Summer Basketball Clinic. There are dozens of choices.

Swimming is best. It’s hot. It’s refreshing. It’s a must to learn how to swim — in case of emergency. Like basketball, every blue-colored pool in Cebu offers some form of swimming classes. Boxing. Tennis. Dancesport. Let your child choose. What’s important is a sport that she’ll enjoy. Volleyball is “in” today. With Ateneo’s dramatic UAAP victory, volleyball has transformed into a hugely popular game. Karatedo, Taekwondo, Arnis or any type of martial arts are also highly recommended. These sports offer plenty of discipline. They also teach the essential art of self-defense — just in case the unexpected happens.

Whatever the sport, what’s imperative is that you keep your children active. This is the disease of today’s modern world. Mobile phones. Facebook. Computers. PS4. Chatting. Instagram. All of these gadgets and technological advancements help us a lot — but they also help our children to become lazy, anti-social and, sorry for the term, fat.

“Surfing” isn’t what it used to be — the act of stripping off your clothes to balance on a board and be bombarded by wind and waves. “Surfing” today keeps your buttocks planted on the chair, browsing websites while you eat Chippy and drink Coke.

This summer, get out. Do. Move. Jump. Run. Pedal. Swing. Dance. Kick. Jab.

But here’s a vital tip: Don’t just throw your child into a summer program for the sake of getting him out of your house. Our children need our Presence more than Presents. If possible, enroll in a program together. Play golf together. Swim together. Do. Play. Run 5Ks. Together. This doesn’t only teach your child the importance of fitness, but, more importantly, it reinforces your bond.

I remember my now-15-year-old daughter Jana. When she was younger, we engaged in all types of games. Playing baseball using plastic bats in the parking lot. Roller-skating in the garage. Ball-throwing in the bedroom. Football. Swimming at Casino Español. Biking at Family Park in Talamban. Ping-pong. Badminton. And, of course, the game of Li Na … tennis.

Again, I stress: Find an activity that your child likes. Oftentimes, we choose the ballgame that we like. Offer choices.

What happens if your child doesn’t manifest any interest in any form of physical activity? Don’t force it. Not every child is a Justin Chiongbian or an Enzo Ceniza or an Iggy Pantino or a Rhenzi Kyle Sevillano. Not every child is born athletic or sporty. Be patient. Maybe you, as the parent, should first enlist in a sport to be a model to your child! Aim for the camaraderie and fun that your child will get from joining the summer program. Don’t compare. Don’t say, “Look at so-and-so, he’s a champion! You should be like him!” Too much pressure early-on will discourage, not encourage.

Be encouraging. The goal is to motivate and inspire your children so that, as they grow older and without much forcing, they will value the idea that exercise is good.

Friends. Fun. Familiar faces. These are strong influences. Here’s a specific tip: Call the parents of your child’s best friends and make “sabot” so they can enroll together. This is a good idea. But it may also have a negative effect: Your child won’t learn to meet new friends. He’ll be content to mingle with the same circle or barkada.

The point is clear: Get the family moving. Just remember: texting (exercising one’s fingers) is not an exercise!

From Russia, with Putin’s love

Let the Games begin! Past 12 midnight (Phil. time) yesterday, the Sochi Olympics started. I tried to stay awake late the other night but couldn’t find the TV5 coverage. CNN showed snippets leading to the Opening but no HD channel was made available by SkyCable.

Based on what I read, it was spectacular. Armed with over $50 billion worth of expenses, it better be a grand spectacle. Some notes that I picked up from the Opening…

Maria Sharapova, who grew up in Sochi, was one of the top athletes (she’s an Olympic silver medalist) who carried the torch before the cauldron was lighted.

Another top Russian athlete who also carried the torch in the final moments was Alina Kabayeva. She may not be that familiar but she’s a top gymnast – though that’s not the “tsismis” story. This one is: she’s the girlfriend of Vladimir Putin. Only 30, she’s pretty and bright and is a Russian politician. Although Kremlin denies it, almost everyone in Russia knows that the now-divorced Putin and her are a couple. Did she get the torch bearer part because of her “insider” relationship with the Russian president? Ha-ha. That’s the tabloid story. But she is, in fact, an Olympic gold medalist in rhythmic gymnastics.

d77eee72750c2767_fpi_largePutin with Alina Kabaeva

What went wrong in the Opening? It appears that only one moment wasn’t right. It was the unveiling of the five Olympic rings; they started as snowflakes and emerged to become rings… the problem was: only four of the five rings opened! The nearly 40,000 in attendance inside Sochi stadium witnessed it.

But, not to worry, the Russians came prepared. For the TV viewers, they quickly deleted that malfunction portion, inserted the “correct” recording where all five Olympic rings were shown (taken from the rehearsal), so that TV viewers saw the “perfect” version. It’s somewhat similar to the Beijing Olympics when they included pre-recorded footages in the supposed “live” version. But the Russian manipulation is worse. Still, many call it a necessary act. They say: For the billion-people worldwide TV audience, you can’t show the Olympics with four rings.

SM2SM Run 2014

urlLike the mall giant does every Valentine’s, it’s the much-awaited SM2SM Run on Feb. 16. Why SM to SM? Because runners start the race at the SM City Cebu then traverse the SRP road towards the latest Henry Sy-owned mall that will open end of next year: the SM Seaside City.

What makes this race unique – apart from the 3K, 6K, 12K and 21K distances and with over P250,000 in prizes – is the date: Valentine’s. The SM2SM Run, on its 4th staging this 2014, will be held two days after Feb. 14. And like they do each time, there’s the Couples Categories for the 12K and 21K. The husband-and-wife (or boyfriend/girlfriend?) tandem have to cross the finish line together. Holding hands and drained with sweat, what better way to cross that finish line next Sunday.

To all participants, the Race Kit distribution will start this Wednesday at The Event Centre of the SM City Cebu. See you next Sunday for the race.

Jonel Borromeo: Fit to Tri

1619604_631142706939972_881171607_nJonel (center) with Joseph Miller and Tenggoy Colmenares

At CIS in high school, we were the closest of buddies. Jonel dated Lovelin while her younger sister Cefelin was my girlfriend. (Had we married the Villegas sisters we’d be brothers-in-law.) We played varsity basketball with Serge Cuasito and Iker Aboitiz against the likes of Michael Aldeguer, Chad Cañares and Grant Go of Sacred Heart. This was in the late ‘80s when the top hits were Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun.”

Today, Jonel Borromeo is a corporate top gun. He is president of three companies: Honda Motorworld, Motorace (multi-brand bike dealer) and Sakura Auto World (Suzuki cars). He is happily married to Olive and they have three children, Dani, Renzo and Basti.

Last year, Jonel went on a physical transformation. Because while he dabbled into badminton before, he wasn’t super-fit. Unlike today.

“When I went to the US recently I was almost sent home because my passport photo and the real me didn’t match,” Jonel said. “After two hours of interrogation they were finally convinced it was me. When I go to a function or in the airport, I approach people I know who haven’t seen for, say, six months, and they stare at me. I tell them who I am and the reaction is… you sound like Jonel but you don’t look like him.”

That’s because Mr. Borromeo lost over 80 lbs. in two years after becoming a recent convert to this swim-bike-run sport. Today, he rises daily at 5 a.m. to run or bike for 90 minutes. Twice weekly, he adds the swim. “I make my workouts part of my daily schedule,” he said, “Just like a meeting.”

How did this all start? Jonel described being lured into triathlon in three stages. In his own words…

“Stage 1: It all started when Louie Moro asked me to join him biking. We would ride almost every Saturday. I had fun doing it. We would head up Guba and the poor guy would have to either wait for me or head back. I appreciated his patience. After a few rides he convinced me to get a new bike cause mine was one of those heavy metal types. So I did. Biking became more challenging. I would get up early on weekdays just to climb Budlaan and weekend rides with Louie. That sealed my love for Mountain Biking.

“Stage 2: Since I bought my bike from The Brick, shop owner Noy Jopson rang me up one day and invited me for a ride with his group (Tenggoy Colmenares, Joseph Miller, Jomer Lim). I must admit they, too, needed a lot of patience. The level of experience and endurance they were in was beyond compare. To my surprise they invited me again the following week. I told myself I wasn’t that bad after all. They made me feel part of the group. I appreciated their coaching and guidance without me asking. Then, they told me I was ready to race: DaanBantayan MB challenge here we go! I joined several after that. In the process of Stage 2, Jomer kept convincing me to start running. I did under the coaching of Phillip Duenas.

“Stage 3: After getting a hang on running, Tenggoy, Jomer, Joseph and Noy kept convincing me to take up swimming. They said it’s a good cross-training program. I did and that was it. James is my swimming coach and likes pushing me to the limit. If he does not see your nostrils swelling, he pushes you more. The other triathletes that I train with include Gianluca Guidicelli, Meyrick Jacalan, Dr. Solis and Jung Cases.”

I asked Jonel how his fitness level has affected his work and he replied, “I feel great in the office! My mind is sharp and no lag time. Before, I would have to take a coffee or two to get started. The only change I feel is that I need to eat more especially during meetings so instead of serving bread or siopao I have them serve fruits.”

Last Sunday in Davao City, Jonel joined his first race, the 1st Davao Xtrail Triathlon. “I crashed on the downhill but miraculously finished 5th place (out of 41) in my category and 29th place out of 117 participants.”

1509024_818366298189698_376825242_nFinal instructions from Tenggoy in Davao

This year, his goals include joining four events: Xterra, Safeguard 5150, Ironman 70.3 and Century Tuna 5150.

“The best part in a race,” he said, “is when I hear the gun start and when I see the finish line.”

JRB’s motto: “Say I can and I will.”

Lloyd Jefferson Go is CCC’s ace

He was born in Cebu Country Club. His parents, Charlie and Lily, allowed him to call the 52-hectare, 1928-founded Banilad garden as his playground. He started swinging putts by the age of seven. When he was 13, he scored his first ace — a hole-in-one in CCC’s 15th hole. Putt after putt, divot after divot, he improved, leading his team to PAL Interclub trophies, winning junior championships, setting records and being called “the best junior talent CCC has produced.”

LJ Go turns 19 in February 2. He’s now in college, enjoying a golf scholarship at the prestigious 157-year-old institution called the Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

Two weeks ago, LJ accomplished a feat that every jungolfer dreams of accomplishing: He won the 2014 Philippine Amateur Open. Against a field of international stars, he scored rounds of 72, 72, 71 and 76 to win by a whopping 11-stroke margin, the largest in tournament history.

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(Photo from Gilbert Mercado)

Now back in Seton Hall after his recent trip here, I interviewed LJ. Here’s our Philippine ace…

VICTORY. “Winning the Philippine Amateur felt great because it is the biggest amateur tournament in the Philippines and I got to win it with a great field. This is my biggest win. I didn’t know I won by a record margin until Jovi (Neri) said so. I didn’t expect the win. I came in with a different mindset. I said to myself, ‘No expectations.’ The only thing I placed in my mind was not to make a double the whole tournament. I only had one and that was good. I knew that if I played well on the 3rd day, winning the tournament would come true. I had a 7 stroke lead going to the last day and I wanted to start the day well and avoid trouble and I was able to do that.”

PREPARATION. “I wasn’t able to play a lot of golf here in New Jersey because the weather is cold. I was hitting balls into a net for awhile. When I got to Cebu I played everyday so I could prepare. I focused on my short game because Wack Wack was a difficult course and the short game would be the key. My practice paid off. My short game was unbelievable that week and I was able to hole out a lot of chip shots.”

COLLEGE. “Life in the States is harder than at home. You have to do everything on your own. But that helps you become independent. It prepares you for the future. During the week, I have class in the morning and we practice golf or workout in the afternoons. We also run before our class starts three times a week. The weekends, we are free. That’s the time I catch up on school work and rest a bit or go out and play a round of golf.

“Playing College golf helped me mature as a golfer. My course management improved significantly. I don’t force a lot of shots now. I calculate everything more. I take a bit more time. Caddying myself made me realize that I can’t play too fast or I will make stupid mistakes. I still play fast but those extra 10 seconds thinking before you hit helps.”

FELLOW PINOY. “The only Filipino I know in school is the President.” (The president of Seton Hall Univ., which has nearly 10,000 students, is Dr. A. Gabriel Esteban. Two years ago, he was installed as the first-ever Asian-American president of the Catholic university. He also became the first-ever Fil-Am to be president of a major U.S. university. For LJ Go to have the university president as his fellow Pinoy gives him good company.)

TIGER. “My favorite player is Tiger Woods. He makes the game very lively. I love watching highlights of him winning because the crowd gets energized.”

GOALS. “My goal this year is to be able to play in the US Amateur, Asian Amateur and hopefully my team could win the Big East Conference. I want to get stronger to be able to hit the ball farther. With my coach Andrew Ong, I want to perfect my golf swing so I could strike the ball consistently. My long term goal is to be a Professional golfer and hopefully be the first Filipino to play in the PGA Tour.”

Cebu Marathon

On Jan. 12 — next Sunday — the streets of Cebu will be littered with runners. Hundreds from Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, Davao and other cities are landing in Mactan to run CCM. Even better news: more than 60 from Tacloban, Palo and other Yolanda-stricken places will be here to start the year running! We’re all looking forward to cheering and providing the loudest welcome to our neighbors from Samar and Leyte.

I’ve been in constant touch with Lester Tabada, whose articles and photos in his blog (lapiskamay.wordpress.com) have provided much inspiration to us. We were able to raise at least P70,000 to help the Leyte group with their various expenses. Thanks to The Brick (Noy/Amale Jopson), Chris/Nia Aldeguer, Jane-Jane Ong, Jacs/Perl Jacalan and Pork Shop (among others) for the cash donations.

Important reminders for all CCM participants? First, it’s time to taper down. For the 42K runners, no runs beyond 10K are advisable. Drink plenty. There’s a saying that holds true: it’s better to be undertrained than overtrained. Relax.

Visit the website. At www.cebumarathon.com, check your name among the list of runners.

The Race Expo will run from Wednesday to Friday at The Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu. A huge set-up has been built by Safeguard, the event’s title sponsor, and Ayala Center. (Out-of-town participants can claim their race packs on Saturday.)

On Friday night at The Terraces, it’s the Pasta Party. There will be music and entertainment. There will be last-minute briefings by Rio de la Cruz. It’s that one chance before the main event to mingle with the other long-distance runners.

On race-day Sunday, the 42K brave-hearts will start at the Cebu I.T. Park at 3 a.m. The 21K (half-marathoners), who’ll also receive medals and finisher’s shirts, will commence at 4 a.m. In all, the target of 3,000 participants was achieved — all vying to cross that finish, with the others, especially our Kenyan and Ethiopian friends, attempting to win that P100,000 first prize.

As to the Cebuano public: the race organizers would like to request for patience on the road. The inconvenience will not be as bad; the Cebu Marathon (traversing the cities of Cebu and Talisay) starts while you’re still asleep and will be finished around 11 a.m.

The SRP Tunnel will be fully-closed from 12 midnight until 9 a.m. Unlike the SRP area where half of the roads will be open to vehicular traffic, it’s not possible to have vehicles using the tunnel because the fumes will be intoxicating for the runners.

Advance thanks to Joel Juarez, whose CocoRunning outfit is leading the CCM operations, and to Dr. Peter Mancao, who is heading the Medical Team in coordination with ERUF, AMRO and many other groups.

Nelson Mandela: The fighter who KO’d apartheid

Pele called him “one of the most influential people in my life. He was my hero, my friend.” Muhammad Ali adds: “His was a life filled with purpose and hope – hope for himself, his country and the world. He made us realise we are our brother’s keeper and that our brothers come in all colours.”

The world mourns the death of Nelson Mandela. Imprisoned for 27 years, he emerges from his 8 x 7-foot prison cell not loathing with hatred and revenge but overflowing with peace and forgiveness. Given the depth of his world impact, what many don’t know about Mandela is this: He’s a lover of sports.

BOXING. He was a six-foot-tall heavyweight boxer. “Although I had boxed a bit at Fort Hare, it was not until I had lived in Johannesburg that I took up the sport in earnest,” Mandela wrote in his book, Long Walk to Freedom. “I was never an outstanding boxer. I was in the heavyweight division, and I had neither enough power to compensate for my lack of speed nor enough speed to make up for my lack of power.”

mandela boxer

Larry Merchant, TV’s top boxing commentator, recalled interviewing Mandela in 2001. He said that Mandela spoke a lot about Ali, even following closely the heavyweight champ’s career while in prison. “That showed how important Ali was as a political figure and not just as a world-wide celebrity and cultural star,” said Merchant. “He talked about how Ali was an inspiration both to him and to all African people.”

Merchant said that Mandela discussed with him boxing technique and showed him the proper way to unleash a left hook. After their interview, the two posed for a photo, side by side in a boxing stance. Mandela — whose name “Rolihalhala” means troublemaker — was then 82.

In his 1994 autobiography, Mandela talked more about the sport. “I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one’s body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match.
“Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, color, and wealth are irrelevant… I never did any real fighting after I entered politics. My main interest was in training; I found the rigorous exercise to be an excellent outlet for tension and stress. After a strenuous workout, I felt both mentally and physically lighter. It was a way of losing myself in something that was not the struggle. After an evening’s workout I would wake up the next morning feeling strong and refreshed, ready to take up the fight again.”

INVICTUS. Last Saturday night, Jasmin and I watched the most inspirational of films. The true story of Mandela and the healing power of sports, “Invictus” stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon (as the South African rubgy team captain Francois Pienaar). The two forge a bond that transcended sports. It was the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the movie showed how sports can unite and uplift a nation. Be prepared to shed a few tears. This movie is uplifting! Directed by Clint Eastwood, you have to watch it — especially at this time when the memory of Mr. Mandela shines brightest.

PRESIDENT. Although he was president of South Africa for only one term (1994 to 1999), Mandela’s legacy in sports has been embedded in their nation. Apart from the 1995 Rugby World Cup, they hosted (and won) soccer’s African Cup of Nations in 1996. Years later, he strode midfield, greeted by billions around the globe. It was the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa.

“Sport has the power to change the world,” Mandela once said. “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”

Before Manny, it’s David in Macau

MACAU — If last weekend the 60th Macau Grand Prix was raced in this Chinese territory and, next week, on Dec. 1, running shoes will trample the streets with the Macau Marathon, this weekend it’s all about one sport: Boxing.

My father Bunny and I arrived here at 11:20 a.m. yesterday. Taking the 6 a.m. Cebu Pacific flight from Mactan, as soon as we landed in Hong Kong, we disembarked to ride the 50-minute Turbo Jet fastcraft that torpedoed towards Macau.

The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel is splashed with everything Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios. On board the free bus service, video footages were on display; before entering this immense $2.4 billion edifice, gigantic billboards adorned the entrances.

Inside, as we entered the Media Room, dozens of journalists huddled around one American: Freddie. Relaxed while seated and speaking in a calm tone, Freddie Roach wasn’t the combative man that he was two mornings ago when “The Clash in Cotai” erupted — meaning his clash with Ariza and Garcia.

“It won’t happen again,” Roach said, referring to that melee. “It’s not worth it.” Donning a red Nike shirt and white Nike cap that sat as umbrella for his black spectacles, Roach confided the secret that we all know: Manny has to win. Period. No more fourth chances.

“He (Manny) knows he has to be impressive in this fight,” said Roach. “He came from two losses. People are questioning him. Others would have been finished after that knockout loss (to Marquez).” Ever the confident confidante, Roach expects nothing but a KO.

While the guru was speaking, in walks this man whose smile is forever plastered in his jolly, child-like, always-rosy-cheeks face. It was Bob Arum. Nobody noticed. Everyone was focused on Roach. Clad in simple polo shirt and donning New Balance sneakers, the 81-year-old doesn’t look 81. To me, he’s a dozen years younger. With him sneaking from behind the reporters as if he stood as an ordinary spectator — and not the decades-long promoter whose clients included Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard — my dad and I took the chance. We alternated snapping photos with Mr. Arum as the promoter snuck his arms around us if we had been long-time friends.

dad arumBob and Bunny

V GYM. I got the chance, after lunch, to do a 30-minute stationary bike ride exercise inside the hotel’s V Gym. Thousands of Filipinos work in this humongous complex; the head gym instructor hailed from Ozamiz. We made small talk. The day before, he said, Brandon Rios ran on the gym’s treadmill. The instructor spent some time talking with Ariza who confided that, in the trainer’s Bisaya words, “gi-daug-daug mi diri.” Unlike the royal treatment given to Team Pacquaio, he said, they’re not given the same type of hospitality. Maybe Ariza’s making early excuses when Bam Bam loses! The gym trainer mentioned that dozens of Hollywood celebrities have worked-out in V Gym, among them: Nicole Kidman.

DAVID. Remember, a few days ago, Manny Pacquiao quoting the “David and Goliath” story and proclaiming himself as the smaller man who would slay the giant? Manny wants to be David.

Well, another David arrived here yesterday. And he’s one of the world’s most famous footballers. David Beckham is here in Macau for the first time. He’s here to announce a joint business partnership with the Sands Resort. I got to be inside the ballroom where he spoke about his retirement, his greatest football moment (being England captain) and his shift to the world of business. (Another celebrity who’s in town is Alicia Keys. She performed last night and will perform “Set The World On Fire” concert again tonight inside Venetian. On Monday, she flies to Manila for her MOA Arena concert there.)

beckham

WEIGH-IN. This morning will be another exciting event here: it’s when all the fighters flex their muscles and step on the scale for the-day-before-ritual. The ballroom will be jampacked as the Weigh-In is open to the public for free.

robert garciaWith Robert Garcia