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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.


(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 ( 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, 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.)


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

Greg Slaughter: Q & A with the triple MVP

Back in October of 2008, I interviewed Greg Slaughter… here’s the full article…


Greg Slaughter (left); Sun.Star Cebu photo

OCTOBER 2008 — Less than 48 hours after leading the University of the Visayas (UV) to its eighth Cesafi basketball title, I sat down with not only the tallest person at the Ayala Center Cebu last Friday—but also the only player in Cesafi’s eight-year history to be named the season MVP, the All-Star game MVP and the Finals MVP.

Together with UV shooting guard (and his best friend) Von Lanete, who’s headed for the PBL on Tuesday to play with Harbour Centre, Greg Slaughter and I exchanged stories during lunch at Bigby’s Restaurant. Von and Greg had just finished lifting weights at the Fitness First—and were famished. And so, just between the three of us, we ordered two large plates of sandwiches, two bowls of pasta, a plateful of quesadillas and their Rack-a-bye Ribs. For nearly two hours, I queried Cebu’s 20-year-old superstar…

With UV shooting guard Von Lanete

How was your childhood? “My dad, William, met my mom, Emma (Fuentes), when he visited Cebu many years back. They got married and I was born in Ohio. My dad worked for nuclear power plants and so, when I was very young, we moved around a lot. When I was 7 years old, we relocated to Virginia… that’s where I studied and where my parents still live until today.”

How did you become so tall? “My dad is 6-foot-3. My mom’s 5’7”. So, yes, they’re tall but not super, super tall. My dad’s and mom’s relatives are not also very tall, so I don’t know… I’m just really tall.”

How big a baby were you? “I was 11-plus pounds at birth! My mom would later tell me that I was the second-biggest baby ever born in that hospital.”

At what age did you reach 6 feet tall?
“When I was 12. I was, obviously, always the tallest in school. And when I finally started playing serious basketball at the age of 15, I was 6-foot-6.”

Since you’re only 20 years old, you think you’ll grow that one extra inch to be 7-feet-tall? “Well, when I wear these (looking at his black adidas shoes), I’m over 7-feet-tall. But, without shoes, I should be a little over 6’11.” But, yeah, I hope to be a 7-footer.”

When you fully stretch your arms, how near the basketball ring are you? “Maybe 8 inches away from the ring. I can tap the backboard and grip the middle of the net. So it’s just a few inches of jumping then I’m on the ring.”

Apart from basketball, what other sports did you play as a child? “Fencing. My dad was into fencing when I was young and I took up the sport. I had this big advantage because of my height and, especially, my reach. I’d fully stretch my arm and it would be difficult for opponents to hit me. That was fun.”

I watched you play Cesafi last year and found you moving awkwardly. How did you improve so much in 12 months? “I practiced everyday. We’d scrimmage a lot, joined leagues. Our coaches Boy (Cabahug) and Al (Solis) practiced us hard, Monday to Saturday from 3 to 7 or 8 p.m.”

Your free throws are excellent. In the Cesafi Finals Game 2, I saw you make 8 of 9. What, unlike Shaq, is your secret? “Coach Boy (Cabahug) asks all the players to shoot 50 free-throws everyday before we start practice. Not 50 attempts—but 50 free-throws in. That goes for all UV players. That helped. Also, because of my height and because I’ll get a lot of fouls and will also be shooting free throws, I always hear this comment, ‘Gotta make those free throws, they’re important to the game.’ So I remember that line.”

Favorite NBA player? “Tim Duncan! He’s so good… so good. He’s not flashy and gets the job done. He’s also a two-time MVP. The thing with Duncan is he doesn’t look dominant—but he is dominant! And so I watch a lot of his games and try to follow him. One time, I followed his signature move… attempting to score a hook shot, faking, turning, then driving in for a lay-up… I tried the same move and it worked. I love that move.”

Hobbies? “I love playing videogames, the PSP (Sony Playstation). I just finished the game, ‘God of War.’ I also play card games around my neighborhood. We play tong-its!”

More on Tuesday….

The ‘Tim Duncan’ of Cebu basketball speaks

Part 2 of our conversation with Greg (October 2008):


Last Friday, I sat down for lunch with Greg Slaughter and asked him a plateful of questions. Here is the rest of my Q & A with the Cebu basketball phenomenon who stands nearly 7-foot-tall (…now I know why his jersey is No.7).

Greg (center) dwarfs John Pages and Von Lanete

How does Cebu compare to your home in Virginia, U.S.A.?
“I really like the people in Cebu. They’re more friendly. People here, especially families, help each other out. So I really like it here. In Virginia, we lived there for 10 years and I didn’t even know the people around my neighborhood. In the States, it’s more individualistic. Here, generally, people are more friendly.”

Are you American or Filipino? (Laughs.) “I’m both. I carry two passports. And, when I’m lining for immigration, I show both passports. So I’m both. I’m Fil-Am.”

Best friend in Cebu? (He points to the man seated beside him, Von Lanete, the star UV guard who’ll be joining the Harbour Centre PBL team.) “We get along very well. Ever since our first practice last year with UV, Von and I have become really good friends.”

How popular have you become? “Well, because of my height, everywhere I go people stare at me. But now, especially with the Cesafi All-Star and the Finals, people recognize me more. A few days ago, we were at the beach and someone approaches to congratulate me for playing well. Here in the (Ayala) mall, people come up to me to shake hands.”

Girlfriend(s)? (Laughs out loud then points to Von.) “He’s got plenty. No comment on my part.” (Then Von points to Greg and speaks.) “He’s got a girlfriend… on and off.”

Your goal? “The PBA. Maybe also the RP team, if I’m called. But it’s got to be the PBA. Which team? The team that pays the highest! (Laughs.) But, seriously, I want to go pro.”

When? “I don’t know. Maybe next year. Maybe two years from now. It all depends if there are offers. I also want to take the next one or two years to continue improving myself. I want to be ready before I join the big league.”

What do you need to improve? “Everything! My left hook, my right hook… my footwork… my running… my perimeter shooting… everything. I’m also doing a lot to strengthen my legs. I’m doing a lot of gym work, especially squatting and, without any gym weights, doing the ‘invisible chair’ where I bend my knees to harden the leg muscles.”

Know how to speak Cebuano? “Gamay. (Laughs.) It’s easier to understand than it is to speak. So I understand the basic Cebuano words.”

Like? “It’s funny because the very first word I learned—and I still remember this until now—is ‘manananggal.’ It’s funny but I just remember that word. Maybe I saw it first on some TV show.”

How does this season compare to last year? “Big difference. When I arrived last year, I got sick a lot. Maybe it was where I stayed… at our quarters. But since I moved to my uncle Fernando’s house (the younger brother of her mom, Emma) in Mambaling, I’ve really improved, health-wise. I’m also able to eat more. Also, last year, I had a hard time adjusting, especially when we practiced or played at the (Cebu) Coliseum. I got pneumonia, had colds… people would smoke inside the Coliseum or they’d roast peanuts… I’m allergic to the smoke from roasted peanuts. But now, I’m healthier.”

Your body weight? Shoe size? “I’m 240 lbs. When I arrived last year, I was around 235—so I gained some weight, possibly added muscle. Shoe size? I’m a size 15… but my feet are starting to hurt and I’ll have to get size 16. It’s difficult buying that size here. I often ask my parents (who’ll be coming here for Christmas) to bring me some.”

What’s next? “Well, the next major event is the Champions League, which pits all the top college teams. Last year, we reached the finals and lost to Ateneo. This year, the event is in November… so that will be exciting. It was difficult last year because, coming from out-of-town, you’d have to wait several days in-between games. It’s a big advantage to the Manila teams because they live there. For us, from Cebu, it’s difficult. But it will be exciting to play Ateneo, La Salle, San Beda….”

Well, I wish those Manila teams good-luck. For as they face UV, they’ll be welcomed into Greg’s Slaughterhouse!

Battle of Mactan: Kiwis vs. Pinoys

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It could have been 2-0 instead of 0-2. Such is sport. It comes down to one or two points. At the “Battle of Mactan” inside Plantation Bay Resort and Spa between New Zealand and our Philippines, we nearly won. But “nearly” is not the same as “victorious.”

Sayang. In the first singles tennis match last Friday, Ruben Gonzales held a match point — just one moment away from triumph — before Michael Venus of NZ escaped to win in four hours.

In the second singles match, there was Jose Statham, nicknamed Rubin. (Plenty of Rubens this weekend: Ruben Gonzales, Rubin Statham and the New Zealand Ambassador, Reuben Levermore. Of the NZ ambassador, we had a chance last Wednesday night to talk sports while sipping San Mig Light at Plantation Bay’s Savannah Grill; a footballer turned rugby player, he follows cricket, NZ basketball, the America’s Cup and tennis; he was in attendance last Friday.)

Back to the 2nd singles match: Rubin Statham won the first two sets against Johnny Arcilla, 6-4, 6-2. He was en route to an easy straight sets win (Davis Cup is three-out-of-five). But, no, an unnerving and game-changing occurence was happening: Statham started to cramp! His calves stiffened. He wouldn’t sit down during changeovers. He served underhand.

Yes! Johnny Arcilla had a chance. He led in the 3rd set. Hobbled and near-limping at certain moments, Statham’s confident face transformed into one that was shocked.

Statham took his chances. Not wanting to prolong the points, he fired go-for-broke forehand winners. He mustered all energy to score aces. In one made-for-YouTube moment, Arcilla carressed a delicate drop shot. Running towards the net, Statham barely retrieved the shot as Arcilla calmly toyed with his opponent by hurling a lob over Statham’s head. We thought the Kiwi wouldn’t risk the painful U-turn to sprint back. He did. And, in the “Point Of The Weekend,” he managed to reach the lob and, in a no-look flick-of-his-wrist act, snapped the ball backwards for a zipping winner that had Arcilla stunned. Unbelievable.

Unbelievably, the cramping Statham broke Arcilla at 4-all then served for the match to win, 6-4. He slammed his racket after the final point and tore open his white Under Armour shirt — all in celebration of another improbable coup for New Zealand.

DOUBLES. The doubles last night? I didn’t have time to write this after the match — and so, I’m guessing: We won. With Treat Huey and Nino Alcantara as partners, it’s hard to imagine us losing. Treat (pronounced “Tret”) is a recent quarterfinalist at the US Open (with Dennis Inglot). He’s world-ranked No. 28. His teammate, Alcantara, is himself a Grand Slam winner — the 2009 Australian Open doubles champion in juniors. They form a formidable serve-and-return-and-volley duo.

Granted we won last night, today is the day. It’s the 3rd and final day. It’s two singles matches. In the first match, it’s No.1 versus No.1. That should be Ruben (Gonzales) against Rubin (Statham). If PHL beats NZ, it will conclude with the best possible scenario: a Game 5. If this happens, I hope Treat Huey will be fielded to play the decider. This scenario happened in South Korea a few years back: We lost 0-2, won the doubles, won the 4th match and Treat Huey played the 5th match to steer Team Phils. to a come-from-behind win. I hope this happens today!

NOTES. This weekend is historic. I know the Phil. Columbian Association (PCA) in Manila has hosted dozens of Davis Cup ties but I don’t think it has hosted three straight in one year — like Plantation Bay this 2013 … These events bring together tennis aficionados from all over; seen over the weekend were Rod Rafael, Romy Chan, Col. Buddy Andrada, Dyan Castillejo, Jean Henri Lhuillier, PSC Chairman Richie Garcia, PSC Commissioner Jolly Gomez, Philta’s Romy Magat, Lito Villanueva … Also here to receive his ITF Commitment Award is Johnny Jose, the 1962 Asian Games gold medalist; here with his wife, Mrs. Olie Jose.

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With Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentevella

Yo, Ming! Bring that giant smile next time

MANILA — Twenty five years ago this summer, I stepped inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex for the first time. I was a skinny, pimple-faced 16-year-old who was joining the Group 1 (biggest) junior tennis event in Manila.

Time travels fast! Last Monday, we stepped inside the same tennis courts of Rizal Memorial. But this time, it was my daughter Jana Marie, now 14, who’s competing in a Group 1 junior tennis tournament.

Walking amidst the eight courts of Rizal Memorial these past few days brought back amazing memories. Unknown and taga-probinsya, I recall feeling anxious when I faced the Manila netters 25 years ago. In the National Age-Group Championships that I joined, I faced the No. 2 seed (Giovani Fabricante, I believe, was his name) in the second round. Imagine facing the second-best player in the Boys 16.

I won, 7-5, 7-5. What a victory. In sports parlance, it’s called an “upset” and there’s no better feeling: you feel like David slaying Goliath; a Cebuano smashing a popular Manila netter.

Thus far here today, Jana won her two matches the other day — including an “upset” of her own, beating the 3rd seed, Nicole Amistad, in two hours and 20 minutes: 6-4, 3-6, 10-8 (super-tiebreak).

YAO MING. While the 7-foot-6 star was inside the coliseum named “Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena” last Monday night, we were inside the mall. Yao Ming arrived in Manila accompanying the Shanghai Sharks — who lost two games here against the Gilas Pilipinas and the PBA selection.

Yao Ming

(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Only 32 years old, Yao Ming played in the NBA for 10 years (with eight All-Star appearances) — ending his career two years ago because of injuries.

While here in Manila, Yao Ming wasn’t smiling —  reports Joey Villar, my good friend from The Phil. Star, yesterday in his story entitled, “Yao Ming no ambassador of goodwill.” Said Joey: “Yao… seldom smiled, got irritated at times, refused to sign autographs and rarely granted photo ops to the fans — and if he did, he frowned at them.” Not good.

AEROSMITH. Another MOA Arena attraction here happened last night. It wasn’t sports but another type of entertainment. It’s Aerosmith. Led by the former American Idol host Steven Tyler, this band is the best-selling American rock band ever — selling over 150 million albums.

Flying into Manila last Monday, Aerosmith was supposed to perform in Jakarta, Indonesia in front of 15,000 fans. But their concert there was cancelled — due to security reasons.

The band behind “Dream On” and “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” performed their first-ever Southeast Asian last night. Not a fan of hard rock, no, I didn’t watch. (Ticket prices as high as P20,000 don’t help.)

PACQUIAO. It’s final. The date is Nov. 24 and the venue is Macau (The Venetian). As I’ve said in this space before, let’s watch!

Pacman only has a couple of fights left in him (if he loses — that’s three in a row — this will surely be his last). While the choice of venue in the previous years was faraway Las Vegas, now it’s the nearby “Asian Las Vegas.”

Brandon Rios? He’s a good choice. Remember, after Pacman’s fall to Marquez, everybody commenting the same words: Don’t let Pacman fight Marquez right away. Let him meet a second-rate fighter first…

Well, if you study the past opponents of Rios, you’d conclude the same thing: He’s no Mayweather or Bradley. I scanned his previous opponents and — though I’m no boxing guru like Atty. Jingo Quijano — I couldn’t recognize a single popular big-named star.

Which makes an ideal tune-up fight for Pacman. Train extremely hard for six months, win against Rios (via KO, if possible), then arrange for a Part 5 against Juan Manuel or, if he’s willing, that mega-battle all have been awaiting: Manny/Money.

Bring back the PBA All-Star Weekend to Cebu

I’ll admit it: I don’t follow the PBA. I used to. My dad’s younger brother, Rey Pages, used to play for the Crispa Redmanizers together with Bogs Adornado, Atoy Co and Philip Cezar.

My all-time favorite player is Allan Caidic. I recall, back when we lived in Bacolod and basketball was my sport in elementary, watching Caidic (then with UE) score a dozen three-point shots—just like Chester Cokaliong would today.

Last Sunday night, I watched the PBA. On AKTV, the PBA All-Stars played Gilas Pilipinas. The venue was Digos City, Davao del Sur and it was the 2013 PBA All-Star Weekend.


Junemar Fajardo: it was terrific to watch him play for Gilas. We used to watch him at the Cebu Coliseum—now, he’s a giant in the Philippine Basketball Association.

The other night’s game wasn’t the only show inside the Davao del Sur Coliseum. There were plenty the whole week: the Obstacle and Trick-Shot competition; the 3-point shootout, the Greats vs. the Stalwarts game; and, of course, the highlight: the Slam Dunk event.

Chris Tiu was unbeatable in the 3-point contest. In Round 1, he shot 4 out of the 5 “last balls” (which award two points) and scored 17 — the same number as his jersey. In the final round, he disposed of all with a score of 21.

Slam dunk? I watched the replay and they were spectacular. As if slamming the ball inside a hole that’s 10-feet-high isn’t already difficult, the five PBA stars who joined were acrobatic.

Chris Ellis scored perfect “50” points in his first two attempts. If I were in Davao to judge them, I’d give him a perfect mark, too. He flies. No wonder he’s called “Air Force.”

With the PBA All-Star game itself, what I like about these games—patterned after the NBA, of course—is they’re high-scoring. There’s less defense and more dunks.

Talk about high-scoring, would you believe that last year, the score was 176-144. I didn’t watch that game (held in Ilocos with James Yap as the MVP) but what an offensive barrage when both squads totaled 320 points.

Last Sunday, I watched the last two quarters of the All-Star game between Gilas and the All-Stars squad. It was exciting and got even more exciting in the last minute.

With 15 seconds left in the game, thePBA All-Stars led, 122-119. They were going to win. But, wait—Gilas stole the ball. Castro then scored on two free-throws. Next, JV Casio was fouled and also sank his two free-throws.

Score: 124-121. Time left: 13.7 seconds remaining. Then, with 7.6 seconds left, a funny thing happened after a three-pointer was attempted: the ball got stuck in-between the ring and the fiberglass board. Jump ball!

Then, with a few ticks left on the game-clock, Jeff Chan of Gilas faked a shot as the defender flew; he then unhurled a three-point shot.

With 0.6 seconds, Jeff Chan made it! The final score: 124-all. (Expecting an overtime, the game’s rules stated a draw in case of a tie ballgame.) Said the TV announcer: “Literally, a win-win situation.”

ALL-STARS IN CEBU? I checked Wikipedia and found out that the PBA All-Star Game started in 1989.

In that very first All-Star Game at the ULTRA in Pasig, the Veterans defeated the Rookies-Sophomores-Juniors team, 132-130. Guess who the MVP was? Our own, Elmer “Boy” Cabahug.

In its first 10 years, they held the weekend in Manila. But, in the year 2000, the venue was the San Agustin Gym in Iloilo City. Since then, majority of the All-Star games have been outside Manila.

Cebu? We hosted only once, in 2004. Asi Taulava and Jimmy Alapag were declared co-MVPs in that game at the Cebu Coliseum. After Cebu, the hosts have been Laoag, Cagayan de Oro, Baguio, Bacolod, Puerto Princesa and, two years ago, in the tourism capital of our nation: Boracay.

Isn’t it time to bring back the PBA All-Star Weekend to Cebu? It is. Since it will be 10 years next year since we last hosted, it’s about time. The question is: Where? The best Cebu gymnasium? The under-utilized but excellent venue in Lapu-Lapu City called Hoops Dome.

An interview with Dr. Rhoel Dejaño

In Cebu, if we speak of Sports Rehabilitation and Sports Conditioning, one of the top experts is Dr. Rhoel Dejaño. His specialty is Rehabilitation Medicine. “We are called Physiatrists, not Physical Therapists,” he says.

A certified sports conditioning coach who trained with the IGNITE360 discipline — the sports performance section of the IMG Academy (Bolletierri Tennis Academy is part of IMG) that’s based in Braddenton, Florida — Dr. Dejaño has also trained numerous teams and athletes in Cebu: CEC, Sacred Heart School-Ateneo, June Mar Fajardo, Dave Wilson Yu, the Cebu City Sports Commission, and tennis aces Noynoy Seno, Jana Pages and Kara Salimbangon, among others.

A Class-A tennis player who’s watched the US Open (Sampras and Agassi) and who considers Novak Djokovic as his favorite, Dr. Dejaño is both a sports doctor and a sports fanatic. Here’s our recent Q & A:

WORKED WITH TEAMS AND ATHLETES. I had the chance to work with CEC (the basketball team that became champions in CESAFI – from never winning a game before to being eventual champions). That was the first time I felt fulfilled after working sometime with USP as a volunteer. I offered myself to some schools before to help them out with the conditioning part of their training but hard to convince them that this was the way to go. Even now, majority still stick to the old methods of training. After CEC won, Ateneo asked me to help them out and until now I’m with them with their basketball program and football teams. The Ateneo basketball team and footbal teams won the championships in the major basketball tournaments in Cebu. Both teams will represent Cebu in the upcoming Palaro. The good thing with Ateneo is they believe in what I do and the Admin and coaching staff are very supportive. I started working with some schools but it was shortlived because, time and again, they still want to be with the old system of conditioning – eg. isolated weight training when this is not functional, ( form vs. function ) or jogging for and hour when they are not going to be long distance runners (unless youre sports require such like marathon, triathlon or cycling). Even so you can still break this up into short training periods but with more frequency.

Not a lot know that June Mar Fajardo was with us for a year way back when he was statrting out with UC. Remember that time when he was sidelined for knee injury? He was actually doing rehab and conditioning with us for a year after which upon his return he can now move more effeciently, run faster and jump higher.

Moncrief Rogado previously with USP and UC who now plays for the D League in Manila was also with me for quite some time. So is anthony Navarro from cec before ( bemedalled swimmer sa palaro ) and is now with San Beda.

Dave Wilson Yu formerly with the Ateneo hi school team also was with me. He is now with NU in manila and is presently training with Coach Schilling  in Idiana USA.

I’m also collaborating with the Cebu City Sports Commision. we already had several workshops with the local coaches especially in the grassroots level. I want to share my knowledge with them so as to improve our training methods and hopefully produce future champions. I’ve also been going around the Philippines doing workshops for those interested in this field. I have several coming up in Bacolod, Davao and Tacloban. Some universities have already asked me to help them out as they prepare for the next season.

Individuals that come to the clinic – I have Noy2 Seno, Jana Pages and Kara Salimbangon for tennis. Noy2 seno has been doing good in the junior circuits lately several basketball players from different schools. Volleyball players, golfers, almost all sports actually and even ballet dancers.

LOVE FOR TENNIS. I’ve been playing tennis since I was in grade school. Got the chance to play in some age group tournaments way back. These were usually sponsored by PNB before (maybe you’ve joined this, too). Unitl now I still play regularly. I’ve watched the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows during the time of Agasii and Sampras. But this time my US trip schedule doesnt coincide with the US Open. I’m usually in New York every December to visit family. But I get the chance to play, though, in Flushing Meadows. Of course the experience of playing where our idols play is different. It’s like walking on hallowed grounds.. the feeling is just hard to describe.

I have several tennis players whom I admire. Roger federer for his coolness. He’s probably the most conditioned player there is. He’s been in the tour for quite sometime and haven’t had any major injuries so far. Sharapova for her grace and poise. Serena for her tenacity. Nadal for his vicious forehands; but sorry for him as his been plagued with a lot of injuries lately. Hopefully, we’ll see him back in the tour soon. But the player i admire most is NOVAK Djokovic. He’s very well conditioned that’s why he is winning almost all the major tournamnts. In professinal tennis, when you look at it skills-wise, most are probably on the same level. In the end, it boils down to who is more conditioned.

I’ve watched a few tennis tournaments in the US, some NBA games, too. Of course, locally, PBA games and especially when in Cebu I get the chance to be in the front row as I’m calld to treat their injured plyers as the games physician. In cesafi basketball, I’m also there. Thanks also to your group for bringing the Davis Cup to cebu as I get the chance to watch good tennis. Excited for the NBA game coming in October.

COMMON INJURIES? “Sprains and Strains. This involves the musculoskeletal system. This may range from cuts and lacerations to more serious ones when you have brain Injury from falls or blows, fractures, ligamentous injuries like ACL tears. This also depends on the type of sport. Most injuries happen due to lack of (or improper) training. Most people do it too soon, too fast, too heavy. Look at Abellana during Intramurals season (Aug. and Sept.) and you can see a lot of “athletes” doing “training.” During regional and division meets, we hurriedly form teams. This results in a lot of injuries. You cannot produce champions overnight. I believe that champions are made, not born. You can make a champion out of a beginner with the proper training in skills and in physical condition.”

HOW NOT TO GET INJURED. “The best way is to have proper training. That means they should be well-conditioned. Look at tennis. If you’re not well conditioned, how can you last several hours of continuous running, jumping, shifting positions? You’ll get injury if your muscles, joints and bones have not been trained to withstand all this rigors. You have to listen to your body. Once you start to feel something, especially pain, then it means something. You have to stop (rest) and, if it doesnt go away, then you have to seek professional advice. DO NOT overdo things. There is no shortcut to training. Look at our runners today. They just train for a month or two then they’re doing the full marathon. Worst, doing 3, 5 or more marathons in a year. The literature says that you need at least two years of training before your first 42K. And the most you can do is two marathons in a year. (A lot would frown on this.) You have to look long-term. You have to take care of your body; that also means proper nutrition, hydration, mental attitude and character.”

PERPETUAL SUCCOUR. “Since our clientele at Perpetual is increasing, we have plans of expanding. In the drawing plans is a 2-floor Rehab Center which is going to be the biggest in the Philippines and probably in Asia. One floor for rehab for patients and another floor dedicated solely to sports conditioning. It’s going to be a sports performance center. Thats why I have to update myself with training abroad. Come June, I’ll be in the IMG Academies in Braddenton, Florida for a week for actual coaching and get the chance to train professional atheletes.”

SCHEDULE. “I’m in Chong Hua Hospital from 10 AM to 12 noon (Cebu Rehabmedics at the Chong Hua Medical Arts building). In the afternoon, I go to Perpetual Succour Hospital from 3 to 5 PM; this is the clinical part of me. But when I train with my staff in the field, I’m usually in the courts by 5:30 AM.”

MESSAGE. “There is no shortcut to training. You can become a champion if you work hard and train properly. Having superior skills will not necessarily make you a champion. It has to be paired with a well conditioned body. As for the general population: Always listen to your body. Once you feel something — this is a red flag that something is wrong. Finally, Don’t play a sport to get fit. You have to be fit to play a sport!”

Dear athletes: ‘We honor your sacrifices’


Last Sunday afternoon at the full-capacity North Wing Atrium of SM City Cebu, I stepped on stage and faced over 500 athletes, parents and spectators. As the outgoing president of the sportswriters group, I gave a speech. Here’s what I said…

Maayong hapon kaninyong tanan! Welcome to the 31st SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards. I am so excited and happy for all of you here. This day will be a day that you will remember for a long time. After thousands of hours of training and sweating, we come here to celebrate your triumphs. But before we ask you, the awardees, to come up on stage, I’d like to recognize a few groups of people.

First, I want to ask all the PARENTS to stand up. All the dads, moms, lolos, lolas.. Let us give them the loudest applause of the afternoon. Dear athletes, you would not be here and you would not be who you are today if not for your parents. Your parents have given up so much — of their time, effort, resources — to help you.

On a personal note, let me tell you a story. Twenty four years ago, when this event was still the 7th Sports Awards edition, I sat there just like you, ready to receive my Special Citation Award. The sport was for tennis and I was only 16 years old. Then, I was ranked No. 5 in the country in my age category. That was 24 long years ago — and I know many of you were not born yet at that time!

Today, I stand here not only as a sportswriter but more so as a proud parent because seated among you is a Special Citation awardee… also for tennis. She’s 14 and was ranked No. 4 in the Phils. I’m talking about my daughter Jana.


My wife Jasmin and I cannot be prouder — just like all the parents here today. And so this Awarding is not just an awarding for the athletes — but also for us, dear parents.

Next, I want to honor my fellow SPORTSWRITERS. You read their names in the newspapers and see their photos with their sports columns. But I’d like you to personally meet them today… Mike, Caecent, Edri, JunMigs, Rico, Iste, Jingo, Marian, Rene, Mars, Boy, Salven…

These are the men and women who write about your stories; your defeats and triumphs. They’ve published your photos. Many of their articles, you’ve cut out and kept. Many years from now, when you have your own families, you’ll let your children read about articles they wrote.

Earl Warren, the former US Supreme Court Chief Justice once said, “The front page records nothing but man’s failures. The sports page records people’s accomplishments.” Very true. Let us clap for the men and women who bring us good news…

The third group I want to honor are the AWARDEES. Let me give special mention to football. This weekend is a major one for football. Yesterday, the Aboitiz Cup finals were finished. Tonight, there’s the CFA General Assembly. We have no less than the top officials of Philippine football here with us, led by the PPF president Nonong Araneta, the PFF Sec. Gen. Edwin Gastanes, and Dan Palami, the team manager of the Azkals. And, of course, our presidential awardee, Engr. Ricky Dakay.

Football is the world’s most popular sport. And thanks to these men, football is becoming the most popular sport in Cebu and in the country.

To all the awardees, let me tell you this: you are all different. Look around you. I want you to look left, right, back. Smile at each other. You come from different sports. You each have your own expertise. But as different as you are, you share one thing in common: Sacrifice.

We are here today to honor your sacrifices. Because while your friends go malling, you’re under the sun for four hours training. While your family members are asleep, you wake up at 5 A.M. to run. While your classmates go home from school early and watch TV, you stay in school late to dribble or kick and practice.

There’s a saying: Life is like an echo. What you send out, you get back. It’s the same in sports: What you give; the sacrifices you make — you get back. We honor your sacrifices. We celebrate your sacrifices in this Cebu Sports Awards. Congratulations!


What’s wrong with the LA Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers is the most famous basketball team on earth. In terms of history, no other ballclub compares. Founded in 1947 as the Minneapolis Lakers, they transformed to become the “LA Lakers” starting in 1960.

Since then, the team has won 16 NBA championships and has hosted such legends as Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant. From the coaching end, they’ve been led by icons Pat Riley and Phil Jackson.

The Lakers are defined by one color: gold. That’s the color on their jerseys. That’s the color painted on their floor. That’s the color they often wear at the end of the NBA season: a gold medal for winning the golden NBA ring.

This 2012 – 2013 season, the residents of Los Angeles — tens of thousands of whom are our Filipino relatives — could not have been more optimistic. Why? Because they have as golden a line-up as any other NBA team.

If Miami Heat has the “Big Three” in LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, the LA Lakers has the “Fantastic Four” in Kobe, Pau Gasol and their two newest recruits, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

Imagine a Bryant-Gasol-Nash-Howard team? They can play with four players and beat a squad with five men.

Add Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) or Antawn Jamison and you’ll have an unbeatable team. We’re looking at a 96-0 (regular season and playoff period) record!

Wait, wait. Not so fast. It turns out this all-star cast won’t score a perfect-win season.

Game 1 vs. the Dallas Mavericks? Lakers lost, 99-91. Game 2 vs. the Portland Trail Blazers? Lakers lost 116-106. Game 3 vs. their “neighbor,” the LA Clippers? I watched that on Channel 45 yesterday. Lakers lost again.

From Hollywood-like expectations, the Lakers have become Bollywood; they’ve turned-over the ball, missed easy shots, lost Steve Nash to injury in Game 3, and are now scrambling.

Yesterday, in LA v. LA, since the time that I switched on the TV set in the 2nd quarter, the Clippers led each and every minute. Gold-and-Purple was trampled by Blue-and-White.

“Being a diehard Kobe fan,” said SamSam Gullas, an astute basketball observer and the UV team manager, “I must admit that I’m shocked by the 0-3 start. I really thought they would challenge the 72-10 record set by the Chicago Bulls.”

Why this horrific start? I asked Mr. Gullas. “Maybe with Phil Jackson at the helm,” he said. “But with Mike Brown, they’re not going anywhere.”

From the highest of expectations, now the Lakers are being castigated. And this is a valid concern: Not since 34 years ago has the Lakers started 0-3.

“We’re hitting the panic button now,” said Bryant, who scored 40 yesterday. “That’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s our job. We’re not supposed to just kind of coast and just assume things are going to fix themselves. We’ve got to push at it.”

In every step of yesterday’s game, the Lakers were beaten. In fast-break points, the Clippers beat them, 21-8; in second-chance points, the same scenario: 20-7.

The Clippers player I enjoyed watching? Chris Paul. He scored 18 and dished-out 15 assists. He was all-smiles because Steve Nash was absent with a bruised left shin.

“To be remembered from now until April: The Clippers haven’t won the season series with the Lakers since 1992-93,” wrote Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times in ‘Lakers lost to Clippers, 105-95, fall to 0-3.’ He added, “In fact, they took the series one other time in the 42-year history of their franchise, when they were the Buffalo Braves in 1974-75.

“It’s only a rivalry if both teams win. It’s been pretty lopsided,” Paul said. “For us, we just wanted to come in, try to get a win in a tough environment and we did.”

Is this start a cause for concern? Absolutely. Is it time to panic and say that the Lakers can’t win this whole thing? No. Like Miami two years ago, it takes time for super heroes to work together. Let’s just hope, in tomorrow’s game vs. the Detroit Pistons, this “Fantastic Four” won’t go 0-4.

Jurence Mendoza

Got this message from my good friend Roland So, our former No.1 tennis (and Davis Cup) player. Amazing results thus far for Jurence:

The country’s top junior netter, Jurence Zosimo G. Mendoza, 16 years old and a native of Olongapo City, recently won in 2 international junior tennis championships.
He won the singles championship in the Chickeeduck Hongkong Open Junior Tennis Championships, a Grade 3 tournament, last week where he beat a Swiss opponent.  He was runner-up in singles and champion in doubles in China Junior 15 – Xiamen, a Grade 2 tournament which was held last September.  As a result of these performances, he is now ranked no. 94th best junior player in the world by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

More importantly, he is now the highest ranked junior player in Southeast Asia and 7th in Asia.  Prior to joining these tournaments, he trained in Thailand and Switzerland under the program of Swiss Coach Dominik Utzinger.

His local coach, Martin Misa, said Jurence is right on target for the necessary ranking to be included in the main draw of the grand slam juniors, starting with the Australian Open in January 2013.  Jurence will next compete in Grade 2 and Grade A tournaments in Japan and Korea beginning next week.

Hit by few spectators, Charice was a hit

We watch sports to be entertained. Last Sunday, we got entertained by a different type of sport. The athlete? She sported a tattoo.

Charice. In her first solo concert in Cebu, two “negatives” I can mention. First, few people showed up. When the concert started, 60 percent of the Waterfront ballroom was empty. Shocking! But it wasn’t surprising. The organizers hardly marketed the event. I didn’t even know about the event until my sister Cheryl reserved tickets. (Also, I’ve never seen so many scalpers prowling the lobby.) The other “bad” part? Charice’s image. Unlike the sweet and cute teenager that we’ve seen on Oprah and with David Foster, this time she has the “edgy” look: gloves, leather jacket, dyed hair covering her face. (With her change of look/image, she didn’t even sing a single Celine Dion song!)

Still, seated seven rows from the stage and together with 10 other family members, it was an entertainment blast.

Charice opened with David Guetta’s “Without You.” She spoke in perfect Bisaya, “Maayong gabii kaninyong tanan.” Admitting that she was nervous, (“It’s my first time back since I came here for the ‘Little Big Star’ contest,” she said), Charice is a world-class performer. She did renditions from Michael Jackson, Adele, Bruno Mars and she sang Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” The sentimental part was when she recalled the death last year of her father (“I never got to perform in front of him”) and sang Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”

The best part? Of course, when Iyaz appeared on-stage for “Pyramid.” Iyaz then did several solo songs and got the seated audience standing and dancing.

Ending? Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” to which Charice added… “I will always love you… Cebu.” It was a blast. Sayang that few people watched.