Knocking out the old, Pac’s a new Man

Happy Easter! One of our best decisions during the Holy Week was to attend the Triduum Retreat at the Sacred Heart Parish—facilitated by the Xavier School president, Fr. Johnny C. Go, SJ, one of the most articulate, funny and inspiring of speakers. He provoked us. He allowed us to reexamine our past, sinful life. He spoke about forgiveness.

This Holy Week, I also got to read two articles perfectly-timed with Lent.

“Pacquiao steps aside for the true Champ” was written by ABS-CBN’s Dyan Castillejo. The former tennis ace (she was No.1 in the ‘80s) published it on Good Friday, April 6.

“A new Manny Pacquiao” is the second piece and it was penned (last March 31) by Ronnie Nathanielsz of Manila Standard.

These articles talked about Pacman giving a life-sharing during the ABS-CBN Christian Fellowship last week, on March 29.

Umiinom, sugal, bar, babae…” Pacquiao was quoted by Dyan. As you and I know, as good as Manny was inside the boxing ring, he was bad outside. “Dati dasal ako ng dasal,” Manny admitted. “Simba ako every Sunday pero Monday to Saturday lahat ng kalokohan ginagawa ko. Hindi natin maloloko ang Panginoon.”

Now, four months since opening the Bible, he’s sold his fighting cocks and deleted the mobile numbers of his multiple girlfriends; instead, he’s transformed those vices into prayer.

“Manny attributes his spiritual awakening and transformation after truly discovering the author and subject of the Bible, Jesus Christ,” said Dyan. “He said he repented from his sin, rededicated his life to Jesus and went on a quest to learn as much as he could about his Savior and how to get closer to God.

“‘When I first read the Bible, I couldn’t understand it. I wanted a bible study in the morning and in the afternoon. I felt my day wasn’t complete if I didn’t read the Bible,’ he shares.”

Two Bible passages were quoted by Dyan as among Pacman’s favorites:

Joshua 1:8: “Keep this book of the Law always in your lips. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Those same Bible verses I treasure. Why? Because they’re positive and speak of a great future if you follow the Lord.

At that ABS-CBN event, Manny was accompanied by Jinkee and their four children. He was also with Pastor Jeric Soriano and, upon arrival at the TV station, introduced his group as the “Pacquaio Word Worship” team. (Quick question: You think Manny will remain a Catholic? I hope so.)

RONNIE. TV and newspaper personality Ronnie Nathanielsz was also at the same event.

“We were impressed not just with the facility with which he handled the role of a preacher-man,” wrote Ronnie, “but the genuineness with which he reached out to use his own life’s example as a magnet to get people to change their ways and to believe in the word of God and to learn to love Him like never before.

“There was, on Manny’s face, a look of sometimes childlike innocence. In many ways, we felt it was a reflection of his transgressions being washed away by genuine repentance and a new Manny Pacquiao being born again—and we hasten to add —within himself.”

After I read Ronnie’s column, I emailed him. Here’s what he sent back yesterday:

“John: I’m glad you liked the piece I wrote. It was from the heart because I could sense the change within him and his sincerity.

“In the beginning he asked the huge crowd at the ABS-CBN Dolphy Theater whether they had eaten and then responded by saying that ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but  by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

“He repeated the story of his dream where God asked him why he had gone astray and said he had wept in his dream and when he woke up his pillow was soaking wet.

“Manny admitted his many transgressions and said that was the old Manny Pacquiao, this is now the new Manny Pacquiao.”

CYBL: Part 2

Rico Navarro is one of the nine members of the new Board of Directors of the Cebu Football Association (CFA). The other CFA officials include Ricky Dakay, Joey Herrera, Fr. Heinz Kuiueke, Rodney Orale, Raffy Musni, Nimrod Quiñones, Glenn Quisido and Michael Veloso. I heard that the election, held last Saturday, was highly politicized. From the original 25 voting members, the number ballooned to 43. Cheska Geli wrote a story on this two days ago; Mars Alison of CDN did the same. Let’s hope the new CFA Board will be able to fulfill one of the most often-used terms in football clubs (Manchester U., Don Bosco U., Queen City U.).

The word? UNITED. Let’s kick politics out of football.

Back to Rico: will he? I mean, as suggested by Mike Limpag a few weeks ago, will Mr. Navarro become the CFA president? Maybe. Maybe not. But here’s one fact: in sports, this tall, giant of a sportsman has made an impact in Cebu. Not only does Rico lead the athletic program of Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu, he’s helped a lot in basketball.

I wrote about the Cebu Youth Basketball League on Palm Sunday. The CYBL is a brainchild project of Rico and, starting in 2007, it has evolved from four teams to 42 today.

One of the additions to CYBL 2012 was the Under-19 category, which ended last Thursday. “The U19 final was the second down the wire championship game in 2012 but it was hands down the best ever game in CYBL history,” said Rico. “The U10 finals was also a thriller where Job Reyes (Coach Mike’s son) made two free throws with 47 seconds left to lead USC South to a 32-31 win over USC North. We also had an OT thriller in the U16 championship game of 2011 when USJR defeated USC North.”

What happened in the U19 final? Adgers Sportswear was leading University of San Carlos/RDAK by six points, 75-69, with only five seconds left. They celebrated. Victory was theirs. Five seconds to go! A six point lead!

But not so fast. “Michael Rita drilled a double-pump triple with 4.5 seconds left in the game to cut the lead to 75-72,” said Rico. “And after Adgers failed to control the leather to run out the clock, John Saycon made a ‘Hail Mary’ triple from beyond the half-court line. He shot the ball from about 16 meters away from the ring (note that the full court is 28 meters long).”

Swoosh. The ball went in! 75-all. OT. After another flurry of excitement, it was 85-all. Time expired. Double overtime. Then, with only 48.5 seconds left, the score was 91-91. A third OT? No, as Adgers escaped with a 93-92 score to win the ThreeSixty Pharmacy Cup 2012 at the City Sports Club Cebu.

I spoke to Rico the day after the U19 finals and he was ecstatic. He had never witnessed a game as electrifying. More details on CYBL 2012? “The tournament started on Jan. 23 and ended on March 29 (U19 finals). However, the U10 & U13 games ended on Mar. 3, while the U16 finals was on Mar. 10 (to stay clear from the 4th Qtr Exams),” Rico said. Main CYBL venue: SHS-AdC Mango Ave Campus. Satellite venues: Don Bosco, USC South Campus & CEC.

“With our expansion, Medellin Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MSSAA) is now a regular participant in our tournaments, thanks to Vice Mayor Al Lim. They traveled every week to Cebu to play in the CYBL,” he added. “We also initiated CYBL Visayas Goodwill Games in June 2011 when we hosted St. John’s Institute of Bacolod. The faced SHS-AdC, CEC & USC North in a pre-season friendly tournament for the U12 age group. In the works: Ateneo de Davao is coming over in May for a Vismin Goodwill Games. We’ll also invite St. John’s Institute Bacolod, USLS, & Ateneo de Iloilo.”

Looking ahead to 2013, Rico’s group plans to hold a yearly coaches’ seminar with the help of Ateneo de Manila. “Cebu needs this,” he said. “Our coaches are left behind by their colleagues in Manila in terms of professional development (technical know-how, coaching philosophy, people/player management, sports psychology). Also, we need to spread the base to Mandaue & Lapu-Lapu.”

Rico Navarro’s Cebu Youth Basketball League

Rico (left) with Chito Loyzaga (center), who recently announced his resignation from the Phil. Sports Commission

Because he is a fellow sportswriter, a member of The Freeman’s pool of columnists, it would be awkward for him to receive an award given by an organization that he’s part of. Thus, the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC) did not honor its fellow member, Rico Navarro. It would have been self-serving. And Rico is too nice and honorable a person—plus, he’s our perennial emcee—to insist on getting recognized during the 30th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards. But what Rico has done the past five years deserves plenty of applause and credit.

CYBL. Spelled in long words, it’s the Cebu Youth Basketball League. It started as a vision and dream of Rico back in 2007. He posed the question, “Why are there very few basketball tournaments for the youth?”

He asked. He dared. He dreamed. Best of all, he acted. With a glaring “loophole” in Cebu’s youth basketball scene, he started CYBL. Rico explains the rationale: “CYBL is a youth-based basketball league that seeks to provide a platform for grassroots development in Cebu basketball. We work hand in hand with schools for the total and holistic development of their student-athletes. Our dream is to be able to have CYBL products present in all the major school-based leagues in the country.”

Lofty. Grassroots-based. Far-looking project. Rico, who now heads the entire sports program of the Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu, added: “Back in 2007, basketball activity for boys 16 and under in Cebu was limited. We needed a solid year-round program of activities for 16, 13 & 10 Under boys.”

And so, in 2007, CYBL started. Like any start-up, it began small. Only four teams joined in one age-group division, 12-years-and-under. That was called a Prelude.

Then, in CYBL 1 in 2008, those four teams tripled to 12. “What started as friendly games turned into a full-blown tournament,” said Rico. There were two groups: 16 and 13 Under. The champions? USC North (U13) and USC South (U16).

Word spread. Players huddled. Coaches scrambled. In 2009, more children dribbled and shot-blocked and rebounded than ever before. From four to 12… CYBL ballooned to 26 teams and three age groups (16, 13 and 10). The winners: USC North (U10), USC South (U13), UC (U16).

In 2010, the tournament was named ML Kwarta Padala Cup 2010 and the same number (26) of teams participated in the February to March event. Last year, 35 teams joined. The champions? 16 Under – USJR; 13 Under – SHS Ateneo de Cebu; and 10 Under – USC North.

What has the CYBL achieved? “The Fruits,” Rico calls them, he enumerates nine:

1) CYBL has become an important developmental venue for players.

2) Cebu (SHS-Ateneo de Cebu) won the 2010 & 2011 Milo BEST national championship (Passerelle division).

3) Cebu won both the Passerelle & SBP divisions of the 2010 Milo BEST Visayas Championships (a first for Cebu).

4) Cebu won three straight NBTC national championships: UV in 2010, SHS-AdC in 2011 & 2012.

5) All of NBTC’s players have played in the CYBL.

6) To-date: 6-8 CYBL products are now with UAAP or NCAA high school teams.

7) CESAFI’s Juniors teams are filled with CYBL players

8) CYBL products to play in Manila this SY 2012-2013.

9) Henry Asilum made it to the Philippine Youth Under 16 Team.

Wow. These are impressive achievements. In a short few years, what existed only in the mind of one passionate sportsman has evolved into a big-time, we-must-join-the-CYBL program.

How about for 2012? A new corporate sponsor has emerged, ThreeSixty Pharmacy—whose aggressiveness in their expansion and all-out thrust to help out in sports (running and basketball) we’ve all been amazed at.

This 2012, the ThreeSixty Pharmacy Cup has added a fourth age category: 19 and Under. Prior to CYBL 2012, Rico stated four goals: a) CYBL will become THE basketball activity for 16, 13 & 10 Under age groups of Cebu; b) Add an Under 19 age group; c) CYBL will become the developmental league of the CESAFI and, (d) CYBL will “complete” the basketball programs of Cebu schools or school “networks.”

Talisay City is fast becoming a sports hub

This weekend—March 23 to 25—is one of the year’s busiest in sports.

Last night, we had the Alex John Banal vs. Raul Hidalgo quarrel. Held at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Lahug, that was the 13th edition of Pinoy Pride. Coming off the embarrassing Boom-Boom and Gernaro Garcia debacle, I’m sure the ALA Promotions team couldn’t wait for this Saturday night. A successful, full-packed crowd will erase the Tagbilaran nightmare.

At the same time yesterday evening, if you crossed the Marcelo Fernan Bridge and headed for the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City, you’d enter a boisterous crowd. It’s the Commissioner’s Cup tip-off between Talk ‘N Text and Rain or Shine. What makes this exciting is this: it’s no exhibition contest—but a crucial, bearing PBA game that happens prior to the playoffs. That’s boxing and basketball. Cebu vs. Mexico. Jimmy Alapag vs. Gabe Norwood.

This morning? It’s one of the most anticipated of road-running races this 2012: the Globe Run For Home. Did you know that Globe Telecom cancelled their annual Manila event to hold it right here, this morning? Yes. That’s 5,000-plus runners that will flood the streets from CICC to the SRP. That’s running.

Chess? Sure. Over the weekend is the 1st Cebu Age Group Challenge—a preliminary event whose winners will proceed to the Visayas championships in Kalibo, Aklan. After the world-record activity that involved over 43,000 children, this event signals a continuation of the sport of chess. Good move.

In football, there’s a pause in the competition for the 14th Aboitiz Cup to give way to the school where many of the Aboitizes studied at: Cebu International School. The event is the CIS Friendship Cup and, with children as young as four years old participating, a total of 108 teams are represented. That’s football. (And we’re not even talking about the contest, as written by Mike Limpag yesterday, called the “CFA Elections.”)

Tennis? There “was” supposed to have been a mega-event. At the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, today would have been the Cebu vs. Sarawak tennis challenge called the Lapu-Lapu Cup. Sarawak is one of the major cities of Malaysia and two of their country’s top juniors—coming from Sarawak—were supposed to be in Cebu this weekend. But last week, one of their players got sick. And you need two for doubles, right? Jacob Lagman, our Cebu No.1, was ready. So was Johnny Arcilla. And, for doubles, the tandem of RJ Abarquez and Kennex Abadia. Plantation Bay’s Efren Belarmino prepared his clay-surfaced tennis court. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Which brings us to… Talisay. After last weekend’s XTERRA in Liloan, the show continues this morning for the 1st Talisay Triathlon Race. Over 100 swimmers-bikers-runners are participating in this race that features a 1-km. swim, a 30K bike ride and a 7.5K run. If my little research is correct, the bike route will take the cyclists inside the SRP. Interesting because the SRP is also closed for the Globe Run. The two events are not expected to merge, though, because one will occupy the Cebu City side and the other will, of course, pass through their own boundary.

Talisay is becoming a sporting destination. This is good. As we know, the Gullas family is comprised of sports fanatics. From Eddigul to Dodong to Didi to Jiji to Samsam to Johnvic, the Gullases are all sports lovers. They play basketball, tennis, golf, badminton—name a sport and they like it, play it, support it.

Which brings me back to Talisay. Much like the cities of Cebu and Lapu-Lapu (and now, Liloan, with the XTERRA), the city of Talisay is getting sports-crazy. Apart from this morning’s triathlon, there’s the 5th Governor’s Cup Horse Show and Competition this weekend. The country’s best cowboys are in town.

What’s more, there’s the Takas sa Talisay All-Women Beach Volleyball Invitational. One city, one weekend, three sports.

XTERRA experience 2: MTB and trail run

(Photo by Reynan Opada)

MTB stands for mountain-bike. It’s that vehicle on two rugged tires with a flat handlebar that we used to maneuver the treacherous landscape of Liloan during the XTERRA last Sunday.

After my “waterloo” (the water, open-sea swim) was done, it was off to the 35-km. MTB ride. I loved it. You’re outdoors. You climb rocks and descend on slippery sand. You pedal amidst thick grass and brake once a giant boulder glares at you. After my 14:39 swim time, my bike ride was 2 hours, 44 minutes. Not fast; conservative. Early on my first of two loops, my three CO2 bottles fell. Had I gotten a flat tire… Oh, no.

(Photo by Icky Salazar)

Thank, God, that didn’t happen. The one occurrence that I also avoided did not transpire: meeting an accident. With such a technical and scary bike route—the architect of whom was Architect Miguel Flores—not getting battered or wounded was the goal. Another “Thank you, Lord” moment, I only fell once with a minor hip bruise.

If you’re a MTB’er and didn’t join XTERRA, you ought to drive to Liloan soon and try the experience. We passed a small opening in-between two bahay-kubos after ascending a steep climb. We descended (I walked) the famous Bagacay Point Lighthouse that’s now, according to Gov. Gwen Garcia, been renamed “graveyard” instead of “parola.”

Porter Marina? Beautiful. We entered the enclave surrounded by yachts and pedaled to the tip where we circled the gazebo. The Gatorade station awaited us. Guess who I saw there? A Cebuano whom I admire the most, Dr. Wyben Briones. He helped with his team from the All-terrain Medical Relief Org (AMRO).

(Photo by Dr. Wyben Briones)

The cheerers? I’ve joined numerous marathons and I’ve never witnessed as many loud voices—especially children—than four mornings ago. Because you bike on narrow paths, the residents troop out to watch and cheer. In the schools that we passed, the elementary girls and boys shouted, “YOU CAN DO IT!” Well-orchestrated by Mayor Duke, the Liloan residents provided extra boost to fuel our tired legs.

Not only were the spectators nice but the pros were, too. Before Ben Allen zoomed past me, he signaled, “Will pass through the right!” As he—and the other pros—would zip through, they never failed to say, “Thank you” after the pass. Amazing. This is the beauty of this sport. You not only get to compete right beside the world’s elite—but they’re courteous and respectful.

(Photo by Astrid Concepcion)

RUN. Since I joined the Lite, my run was 5K. After three hours of swimming and biking, the body gets weary. Still, not to have drowned nor gotten injured (yes!), the run was extra fun. I clocked 38 minutes. We zigzagged through off-road ground and hopped towards the beach. We ran beside the Liloan shoreline and, upon reaching the tip, had to wade through knee-deep waters for over 100 meters. I thought this was a swim-bike-run triathlon… Are they adding a swim as the 4th and final obstacle? Ha-ha.

(Photo by Icky Salazar)

After 3 hours and 36 minutes, with Jasmin, Jana and my mom Allen waiting at the finish, I crossed that line with arms raised high. Yes!

NOTE: I got a phone call past 4 P.M. when I reached home. It was Caecent Magsumbol of The Freeman. Did I hear the news? she asked. Oh, no. Not a terrible accident on a participant, I thought. I was in 2nd place! No way, I said. No way. In my 40 – 44 age bracket (Lite), I placed No. 2 behind Jun Barcenas. Wow, hard to believe! (Before you get too excited: excluding Goyo Larrazabal, who didn’t show up, we were only seven in the age group. Still, the trophy looks good!)

BEN ALLEN STORY. Two days before race day, Ralph Sios-e and I visited Amara for a practice swim. As we finished changing and were about to leave, a man approached us. Can I hitch a ride? he asked. He was alone and had no vehicle ride back to the city. Sure, we said. We didn’t know him but he needed help. But just as we were packing our things, Jacs Jacalan drove by. He, Tenggoy Colmenares and Jomer Lim were ready to go… and so he rode with them instead.

At the Carbo-loading Party the night after, Jacs tells me: remember that guy who rode with us? His name is Ben Allen. He was Xterra champion in Guam the week before. Simple, ordinary-looking fellow but he beat all the top-rated elite pros. We saw Ben later that night at CICC and, like he was when we first met him, he was relaxed and had none of that “celebrity air” found in others. It turns out, Ben was a P.E. teacher in Australia and had no sponsors. He joined and needed to win to earn enough money to compete!

The next morning, Ben Allen obliterated the field—winning in 2:30. His is an example of this adage: Nice guys finish first.

XTERRA experience: Surviving the swim…

(Photos by Dr. Wyben Briones)

Let me begin with the party. Saturday night at the CICC. Gov. Gwen Garcia knows how to celebrate and make the Welcome Dinner… XTERRA-special. As dozens of foreign triathletes arrived, they were accorded the famous “Cebuano hospitality.”

Dancers wowed the audience. Actors Richard Guttierez and Jericho Rosales added glitter to the ballroom. Pasta overflowed. I got to meet the energetic drive behind Liloan, Mayor Duke Frasco. Then, organizer Fred Uytengsu, Jr. beamed with pride as he proclaimed, “I’m happy to bring XTERRA to my hometown of Cebu!”

XTERRA is one of the few events where more participants come from out-of-town than from Cebu. And, judging from their faces that night, the visitors were awed: nowhere are they accorded as dazzling a Welcome Party as in Cebu.

RACE DAY. I woke up at 3:50 A.M. After drinking coffee and munching on chicken sandwich, I donned my one-piece Speedo suit—my solitary attire that morning.

At 5:15, Jasmin, Jana and I were off. As soon as we entered Amara, the usually-serene subdivision reverberated with energy. “Boom-Boom Pow” pulsated from the speakers. Colorful tents littered the marina. Parking was full. I met Gianluca and Matteo Giudicelli and wished them good luck.

It was body-marking time. And no less than Boying Rodriguez, the man responsible for bringing Xterra to our shores, marked “425” on my left arm and right leg.

Kisses and hugs between triathletes and family members ensued. Birthday boy Rio de la Cruz’s hair further electrified the crowd. Photos, ready for FB, were snapped. Gov. Gwen arrived. Eddie and Annabelle Guttierez were next. It was panic time. By 6:40, nobody but the participants would be allowed inside the starting area.

Tenggoy Colmenares helped strap three GU gels in my bike. We took a 5-minute warm-up swim to acclimatize our bodies. Then, as a remote-controlled helicopter circled the marina and the emcee Jaime Garchitorena counted down, “3… 2… 1!” the siren blared as the triathletes were off…

SWIM. Luckily, the sea was calm; but the splashes and bumping of bodies were choppy. They would encircle the rectangle (buoys) twice to complete 1.5 kms.

Our group? About 60 of us—XTERRA Lite competitors—waited for an hour. (My mom Allen sneaked in to give his son a hug!) Then, as swimmer after swimmer emerged, it was our turn.

At 8 A.M., we swam. I had always been anxious about open-sea swimming. An athlete on land, I was not accustomed to the dangers of the ocean. I reminded myself: relax. Yet, I couldn’t relax. Swimming near the rope and buoys, that was where the most traffic was located. Bad move. I had to stop, tread, pedal again. I got kicked. I kicked. Had to overtake; was overtaken. All you could visualize were bubbles and splashes. The sand underneath was 10, 15 feet deep!

Mentally, I told myself to target one buoy at a time. The finish was still far and if you think too far ahead, more pressure sets in. One white buoy at a time.

I struggled. It wasn’t until halfway through our 500-meter distance when the swimmers had spread out that I felt more comfortable. Still, the heart rate was 100 percent max and all you can tell yourself was, “Let’s get this over with!”

Finally, after what seemed like 30 minutes (I finished with an actual time of 14:39; that includes the transition time from swim to bike), I reached the shore. Thank you, Lord! (Compare my swim time to former Olympiad Guy Concepcion – the winner of our Lite swim leg who finished under six minutes!)

I had always told myself that after the swim, my race was done—I can completely enjoy myself. Which was true…

(These photos by Nimrod Quiñones)

BIKE. I love mountain-biking. Given Cebu’s mountainous terrain, it’s one of the most exhilarating activities. And that’s how my 35-km. ride transpired. I loved it. Many times I’d whisper, “Thank you, Lord!” for the fresh air and mountains.

In the first 17.5-K loop, I biked with Matteo Giudicelli and his group. It was good. Why? Everybody knows Matteo. And so, with hundreds of spectators lining the inner, narrow roads of Liloan, they all cheered us on!

One funny moment: a spectator shouted, pointing at me from afar, “Naa si Richard Guttierez! Si Richard!” Then, realizing I was not, “Ay, dili man diay si Richard!”

My goal was not to get injured or have a flat tire. The scary part? I lost my three CO2 bottles—to help fix a flat tire. (More on the bike and run this Thursday.)

Extra! XTERRA! Cebu hosts the off-road TRI

As one of the hundreds of participants of this weekend’s Vaseline Men XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon Series, here are some points…

RACE PACKS. Within the first hour when the race kits were released last Friday, I made sure to visit the Holiday Spa. After paying P3,800 to register, you’re expected to receive plenty of freebies. True enough, this international event did not disappoint. A race cap, running belt, two GU gels, a temporary tattoo, plus a pair of 2XU compression socks were inside the bag. T-shirt? Not yet. Those will be given at the finish line. Courtesy of the mayor, Titay’s rosquillos and goodies were part of the giveaways.

The one that interested me most was the wrist I.D. After they give you the pack (Igi Maximo and I got our kits together), they put a neon-colored (yellow) race band on your wrist that can’t be removed (unless you cut it off after the event). Unlike race bibs for running that are easily transferrable, the non-removable wristband ensures that nobody else but “John Pages” uses my kit. Wise! Also, you get to sleep and dine with your race band for a couple of nights – adding to the excitement.

IRONMAN. Arland Macasieb is often described as the country’s Ironman. The first Filipino to cross the finish line at the 2011 Ironman 70.3, Arland has won gold in numerous events. Two nights ago at Justin Uy’s J Centre Mall, Arland gave a talk on triathlon. What sets Arland apart from any other triathlete-teacher is that he’s armed with a degree in Exercise Physiology. This means he speaks not only from first-hand experience but also with scientific backing. Given his packed schedule, it was commendable for Arland to share his time with the Cebuanos. Kudos to organizers Jerome Mil, Benjoe Gimenez and Great Adventures and Concepts @ Work.

THE BRICK. Tonight is the grand opening of the business of a top sportsman. Noy Jopson is formally opening his multi-sport business that caters to runners, bikers, swimmers. Visit The Brick at the lower level (beside Tablea) of J Centre Mall.

GOV. GWEN. Volleyball, horse-back riding, and airsoft have been supported, among others, by Gov. Gwen Garcia and the Provincial Government. Add “triathlon” to the list this 2012 as the governor supports XTERRA and Ironman 70.3. Last night at the CICC, after our race briefing at 6 P.M., she hosted a carbo-loading party for the participants.

SWIM. On a personal note… I’ve been biking since I was eight years old. I’ve been running since my elementary school-days. So biking and running come naturally. Swimming? No, no. It’s the one obstacle that has disallowed me from joining the Ironman 70.3. Thanks to the Lite version of the XTERRA (swim is only 500 meters instead of 1.5 kms.), I’m joining the race — as you read this today.

Fear? Sure. Last month, I accompanied Jacs Jacalan, Tenggoy Colmenares and Joseph Miller for a dip in Shangri-La. Bad timing for me that day, the waves were tall. No problem for my triathlete-companions, but major concern for me. I struggled. Held on the buoys and rope every five meters. It was excruciating; a far negative experience compared to the enjoyable mountain-biking or running.

But you know what I realized? Patience. While I’ve been running and biking for three decades now, my swimming habit only started two months ago. So I shouldn’t be overly optimistic—or put myself down if I can’t swim like a fish. This morning, I’ve lowered my expectations: will swim slow and easy. I’ll hold on the buoys and rope as often as my mind says so. It doesn’t matter if I finish late. What matters is I relieve the unnecessary pressure on myself. Relax. That’s another reminder.

Two mornings ago, I had a practice swim with top triathlete Ralph Sios-e at Amara. The waters were semi-rough. They weren’t as smooth as a lake. (We even saw a foot-long sea snake!) Still, being an ignorant, non-swimmer, this I realized: you float on open sea water. Little effort is needed to stay afloat. Said Ralph: “It will take more energy to drown that to float.”

Mayor Duke Frasco: ‘Liloan, sports hub’

While Lapu-Lapu City organized the Davis Cup tennis “Battle Of Mactan” and Mandaue City played hosts to PBA games, Dennis Rodman, horse-back riding contests and Cebu City has Guinness World Records in dancesport and chess, another Cebu locality is carving its name in sports: Liloan.

“I think Liloan is prime to be the sports tourism capitol of Cebu,” said Liloan Mayor Vincent Franco “Duke” Frasco. “We have the beaches for water sports and possibly, wake-boarding; bike trails for the mountain-bike enthusiasts, and trail runs for international and huge events, like XTERRA Championships.”

Mayor Duke is right. If we talk of “outdoor and adventure sports,” no city or municipality in Cebu today boasts of capturing that niche or segment.

Water sports? Check. Wake-boarding? Check. This was popularized nationwide by Camarines Sur but, with the loss of the Ironman 70.3 from Camsur, how about Cebu—maybe in Liloan’s Silot Bay—building a wake-boarding facility? Mountain-biking? Check. Twice, I’ve trekked the MTB route of Xterra and it’s challenging and beautiful. Above the hills near Amara, you have the encompassing view of the sea and the mountains. Trail running? Check. The Columbia Trail Run, held last month in Liloan, has received laudable reviews. I saw a video produced by one of the participants, Dr. James Guardiario, and the Trail Run in Liloan was breathtaking.

“Lilo-an has the complete package,” said race organizer Ralph Pilapil. “It’s coastal and it is also near a mountain, which has a very scenic view.” I agree. “Liloan Sports” has the potential to be a huge tourism booster because the man at the helm of this 1st class municipality is, himself, a first-class athlete.

I spoke to Duke two days ago and he’s an avid sportsman. He plays golf and is a fan of Rory Mcilroy. He lifts weights thrice weekly. His favorite? Running. “I’ve finished two 21Ks,” said the mayor. “The Cebu Marathon and the Operation Smile Run.” The 42K? Sure. Liloan’s mayor has enlisted himself in the online lottery for this November’s New York City Marathon. “Last year, I also joined the lottery but did not make it. I hope to enter this time and finish my first full marathon.”

Duke ran for public office as mayor in 2007 but he’s been running on the road since 1998, in high school. “I love to run. It’s not only a great way to stay fit and keep healthy,” he said, “but it helps me relieve tension and stress acquired from a demanding schedule and job.” Running helps the mayor run Liloan.

With this weekend and the XTERRA Championships, Mayor Duke is not only busy with all the preparations—he’s also busy preparing, physically. “Like last year’s XTERRA, I’m joining the Relay. Our team, Abante Liloan, will have Keith Ocampo as swimmer and my cousin, Aljew Frasco, as the biker. I’ll do the 10K run. My target is to finish the run in 53 minutes. Last year, our team placed 3rd. Let’s see this Sunday…”

XTERRA is lucky to be held amidst the rugged terrain of Liloan. Being the off-road version of the triathlon, Liloan’s clear waters plus rocky and tough landscape are a perfect mix. Liloan, obviously, is also fortunate for having been chosen by Fred Uytengsu, Jr., race director Guy Concepcion and their Sunrise Events team for this international meet.

“XTERRA is as big to Liloan and to me as it is to the individual participants coming from all over the world,” said the mayor. “It’s an opportunity for us to showcase our beautiful town and the hospitality of our people.”

Plus, of course, it helps that the major backer not only of XTERRA but also of the bigger triathlon event, the Cobra Ironman 70.3 (this August 5), happens to be the Provincial Government, headed by Gov. Gwen Garcia—the mother-in-law of Mayor Duke Frasco.

With all these, Liloan will succeed in sports. It’s going the “XTERRA-mile.”

50K Women’s Ultra

WOMEN’S ULTRA. Each year, the date “March 8” is celebrated worldwide as the International Women’s Day. Very fitting that, just two days after last Thursday, on March 10, the women ran. A total of 181 women joined the 50K Ultra-marathon that started at 10 P.M. and finished at sunrise on Sunday.

To Merlita Arias Dunkin, whom we awarded the weekend before in the 30th Cebu Sports Awards, congratulations for being No.1, clocking 5:28. Who says women are weaker? Now, these ladies have beaten most of the long-distance male runners.

“Running has reinforced discipline,” said Joy Polloso, who started running only a couple of years ago but now has several marathon medals hanging in her closet. She finished the 50K in a very respectable 7:44.

“For an event that was conceptualized over a few discussions with the small group of ‘elders’ in Ungo and CUC in December, we didn’t have enough time to prepare and yet we were able to generate participants from Singapore, Japan, etc aside from those from Manila, Albay, Davao, Bohol,” said Joy.

Take a bow, ladies!

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.

XTERRA: the swim-bike-run adventure

www.xterraphil.com

This 2012, the “Year Of The Water Dragon,” Cebu will host two major triathlon events: the Ironman 70.3 in Mactan and the XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon. While the Ironman 70.3 — a major loss for Camarines Sur — is still this August 5, the XTERRA is happening on March 18. That’s seven mornings from today.

What’s XTERRA? It’s off-road. It’s mountain-biking instead of the road bike. It’s a trail run. It’s more adventure than speed. And, best of all, it’s happening here, at one of the most scenic real-estate projects of our island, where the sea and sun beckon for free: the Amara residential community in Liloan.

I’m joining. A mountain-bike fanatic, how can I not? While others travel to distant locations to participate, the Cebuanos are lucky that this event of Fred Uytengsu, Jr. is being organized in his home place of Sugbu.

The XTERRA Lite. That’s the event I’m joining. Unlike the full XTERRA Triathlon with a 1.5-km. swim, a 35K bike and a 10K run, the Lite version only has a 500 meter swim. The bike distance is the same while the run is cut to 5K.

Why the Lite? I have zero background in open-sea swimming. The only time I tried the Tri was a couple of years back in the “Pipti-Pipti” race and Joel Garganera and myself were holding on the buoys and rope (and to our lives!) in the short 300-meter swim. There are 49 of us joining the Lite. For the full version, 171 have confirmed.

This is not all. There’s also the XTERRA Trail Run. This happens this Friday, the day before the triathlon. Only 69 have registered so far and, Cebu being such a huge running haven, I’m surprised that hundreds haven’t enlisted. The Trail Run, with choices of 5K, 10K or 21K, is all-adventure. You’ll climb short hills, jog on grass, step over boulders and bask in the terrain of the country’s newest trail run playground called Liloan. Registration is still open.

Yesterday, thanks to Tyrone Tan, who owns a beautiful, overlooking-the-sea property in Amara, several of us congregated at 6 A.M. to do a simulation run. We swam. (Well, they did; I swam-and-stopped, pausing often to “acclimatize.”) We biked the full two loops. While biking, I high-fived a child/spectator and fell on hard cement. (My butt is still sore as I sit typing this.) We also did a short run. Igi Maximo, Bernard Palermo, Dodong Sulatre, Tenggoy Colmenares, Meyrick Jacalan, Joseph Miller and several more joined. Regan King, Niño Surban and another group also did the bike trek.

Chance favors the prepared

My best friend Dr. Ronald Eullaran’s favorite saying is this: “Chance favors the prepared.” Pause for a moment and think about those four words. Chance favors the prepared.

This is the story of Jeremy Lin. You think he’s a one-shot wonder, someone who was a nobody and, due to a lucky break, was just fortunate to become the world’s newest superstar? No. All his life, Jeremy Lin prepared for that moment. That “Chance,” that one opportunity to shine, was never presented to him before. Before college, he applied to join the best basketball universities in America. UCLA. Stanford. UC, Berkley. He was turned down. He ended up in Harvard. (Not bad!)

After Harvard, he sent his resume to fulfill a lifelong dream: becoming an NBA player. He submitted his credentials to eight NBA squads. All eight said, “Sorry, kid, you’re not good enough.”

Finally, Jeremy did enter the league and joined the Golden State Warriors. He wasn’t golden there; he was a golden bench-warmer — asked to sit down and lay golden eggs on the bench. Next, he got transferred to the New York Knicks where, sleeping in his friend’s couch, he was weeks away from being cut.

Then, the moment he’d been waiting for all his life appeared. Many call it “lucky break.” Some say its “opportunity” or “good fortune” or a “stroke of luck.” It was Jeremy Lin’s chance. A couple of players from the Knicks got injured. Having few options — and in desperation after their team lost 11 of their last 13 games — coach Mike D’Antoni called the forever-sitting Jeremy Lin to play ball.

Game One, he scored 25 points. Game 2, he scored another 28 points. Against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, he shot 38. In Jeremy’s first seven games with NY, they were 7-0. From a win-loss record of 8-15, they climbed to 15-all. In the process, Lin became the NBA’s first-ever player to score at least 20 points and pass for seven or more assists in each of his first five starts. Even Michael Jordan couldn’t achieve that!

Of course, as expected, New York has slipped in their last few games, including a loss yesterday to Dallas. Still, they’re a respectable 18-20 today; having won 10 and lost five since Lin joined.

Lin is the world’s super-hero. Chance? Swerte? Luck? Yes. Of course. Everybody who’s good needs good luck. And, true enough, many who are good are luckier. But remember this: Chance favors the prepared. All his life, Jeremy prepared for the moment. In high school, he averaged 15 points per game. In college at Harvard and while studying the difficult Economics course, he averaged 16 PPG in his senior year.

Jeremy Lin is not surprised at his success — like we all are — because he prepared for it.

What does this tell us, ordinary mortals? Prepare. Whatever it is you want to pursue in life — sports-related or work-related or school-related or any dream that you own in life — be ready. Your opportunity will come. Maybe it hasn’t. It possibly won’t be today, next Friday, or this April. But it will come. And, when it does, be ready.

As inspiration to all of us, here are a few quotations…

“The will to prepare is as important as the will to win.” – Bud Wilkinson

“Don’t go to the fishpond without a net.” ~ Japanese Proverb

“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.” ~ Henry Ford

“Talent alone won’t make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is: ‘Are your ready?’” – Johnny Carson

“Chance favors the prepared mind.” ~ Louis Pasteur

“The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” – Benjamin Disraeli

“Today’s preparation determines tomorrow’s achievement.”

“It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” – Whitney Young

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

Starry, star-filled night in Cebu

Of the year’s 366 nights (yes, that includes Feb. 29), the one evening I enjoy the most happened last Saturday. It was the 30th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards.

As president of the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC), I was fortunate to have stood on-stage and overlooked all of Cebu’s top sports personalities. Including three nights ago, I’ve presided over four Awards Nights: In 2009, we had Manny Pacquiao as guest speaker. Two years ago, it was Antonio Lopez Aldeguer. Last year, the “Year of the Azkals,” we had the “founder” of the Azkals, Dan Palami.

Last Saturday, our guest of honor was Chito Loyzaga, the former PBA superstar and now one of the commissioners of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

With Chito Loyzaga (center) with Rico Navarro

Why was the 30th Cebu Sports Awards special, apart from gathering under one open roof all of our elite athletes? “The reason why Cebu sports is one of the nation’s best,” I explained to Mr. Loyzaga in my Closing Remarks while standing beside him on-stage, “is because of those two gentlemen there seated beside each other.”

I then requested the two to stand and be applauded. Edward Hayco and Harry Radaza. For the first time in a major gathering, the sports leaders of Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu City sat alongside each other, exchanging stories and ideas. Thanks to Ed and Harry, Cebu is a leader in sports.

With Harry and Ed

AWARDING. Nearly 200 athletes were honored. Mary Grace de los Santos and Mary Joy Tabal we could hardly recognize because they wore glittering dresses and high-heels — so different from their sleeveless-shirts and running shoes.

AJ Banal, Milan Melindo and the ALA boys were there. So were Sammy Gello-ani and Leon Panoncillo. The one who looked most stunning? Lorhiz Echavez-Lopez, who wore a sexy, body-hugging dress… and she just gave birth seven days ago!

Also looking pretty were the lady-sportswriters, who all wore dresses. And us, gentlemen, barong-tagalog.

PRESENTATIONS. The University of Cebu (UC) Cheer Dance group opened the event with a performance that included cart-wheels, balancing acts, and up-in-the-air flips.

Carmelli Garrovillo, prior to her receiving her Special Citation trophy, danced. She’s a multi-awarded gymnast. Then, Johnlery Caniga and his Yaw-Yan team did a Mixed Martial Arts demo.

Then, for the finale, Dancesport Team Cebu City re-enacted their “Human Chess Dancers” performance that was part of our Guinness World Record chess attempt.

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR.  This was awarded to one of the few chess Grandmasters of our nation: Richard Bitoon. As editor Mike Limpag pointed out yesterday, chess is the big winner of the 30th Cebu Sports Awards.

GIRLIE. Without San Miguel Brewery, Inc., represented by Girlie Garces, the event would not have happened. SAC and SMB have been partners all these 30 years. Thanks, Girlie!

HARRY. The speech of the night? It belonged to the man who received the “Sportsman of the Year” trophy: Lapu-Lapu City Councilor Harry Radaza.

I had the chance to work with Harry last year on two projects. Exactly one year ago today, we hosted the first Phils. vs. Japan tennis event of the Davis Cup. Then, in September, another Davis Cup tie: Phils. vs. Chinese-Taipei (Taiwan). Apart from tennis, Harry organized PBA games, multilple road-running events, Pinoy Pride boxing clashes. Plus, of course, there’s the Hoops Dome.

In his acceptance speech last Saturday night, Harry joked the athletes: “My love for sports started when I was seven years old and I won third place in a swimming competition.” The crowd clapped. “We were only three participants!” he added, drawing laughter from the audience.

Harry also delivered the most memorable line when he ended his speech by  saying… “As soon as I wake up in the morning, I read the newspapers. And the section that I read first is the sports section. Why? Because unlike the front pages that talk about people’s failures, you guys, the sportswriters, write about people’s accomplishments.”

Well-said, Harry. And, perfectly-timed today, let me greet you… Happy Birthday!

CCC stands for ‘Country’s Club Champions’

Atty. Jovi Neri calls the Philippine Airlines (PAL) Interclub event that finished last weekend, “The biggest and most prestigious golf team tournament with a 65-year history and around 800 players joining.”

Cebu Country Club emerged victorious last weekend at the Apo Golf Club in Davao City. “Simply put,” explained Neri, “CCC has the best golf team in the country.”

Jovi has been part of the CCC squad since 2003. The past 10 years, they’ve won the Founders’ Division seven times. “We stuck with the same core team while others disbanded because their players turned professional. This moved us up to the Championship Division where we were 2nd last year in our first crack losing to the home team. Finally, this year and on neutral ground, we won.”

As head of the CCC Jungolf program, Neri is all-smiles. “I have received numerous congratulatory texts commending me on a job well done with the junior program because our top scorers were the juniors – Lj Go, Gen Nagai and Gio Gandionco. But I also want to put it on record that I, too, am a player and have a little game myself (hahaha!). Also, guys on the team such as myself, Mark Dy, and Marko Sarmiento come from an older generation of junior golfers and credit should go to the leaders of that era too – Vicky Moraza and Reny Sarmiento.”

Credit, of course, goes to all the team members. These include CCC president Montito Garcia, Eric Deen, Carl Almario and Bayani Garcia.

“The past winners of the PAL Interclub were ‘hired guns,’” said Neri. “Meaning provincial players recruited by Luzon courses to receive monthly allowances and playing privileges on the condition that they will represent their team in the PAL. With our win, we have shown that home-grown players who have a common origin in the junior golf program and have a genuine affiliation with our club rooted from childhood can win. This will not only inspire our team but others as well. Alta Vista and Alabang are among those fielding junior golfers.”

One of the secrets shared by Neri? Let the kids be kids and not give them unnecessary restrictions.

“Two days before we left for Davao, Lj, Gio, and Gen played badminton. During the tournament, we were hosted to a dinner in a house with a spacious lawn and the kids played volleyball and soccer. I don’t subscribe to some who say that other sports are bad for golf. The more active the lifestyle, the more athletic the player… that can only be good for golf. The kids also hit the gym regularly.”

Gio Gandionco, 16, the son of proud parents Opep and Cora, was the final player on the last day. On the 18th hole, he drained a six-foot birdie putt to score an impressive two-over-par 74 (34 points).

“Yes I was a little nervous,” said Gio, who’ll soon move to the U.S. on a college scholarship. “Being the last player has so much pressure, especially on the last hole when everyone is watching your every move. But, I thought, after all the experience I’ve been through, I can handle the pressure. Sinking my birdie putt on the last hole felt great. Even though that putt had not much bearing, I wanted to finish it with a birdie to prove that despite the pressure, I can make it.”

On pressure, Gio adds these tips: “I try to stay calm and breathe. Just take deep breaths, think positive and stay in the present. I try not to think too much and just go over my routine. The only thing in my head is imagining myself hitting the best shot and seeing the ball go where I want it to go.”

Next year? The PAL Interclub will fly back to Cebu. Our last hosting was back in 2001. “This will be a joint exercise with all four clubs – CCC, Club Filipino, Alta Vista and Mactan,” said Neri. “Two clubs will host the seniors event the week before and, the other two, the regular event. We are privileged to have a captain like Montito Garcia who has friends all over, so whenever we travel there are people always inviting us out. Now that we will be hosting it, we look forward to giving back the hospitality. As a team, this win will motivate us to practice earlier and harder than ever.”

Five reasons why I love Running

First, the convenience. All you need is a good pair of running shoes and you’re off and running, literally.

Compare this with our experience yesterday. About 30 of us trooped near the lighthouse of Liloan at 7:00 A.M. to have a test bike run on the upcoming XTERRA race. From our homes, we loaded the bikes unto various vehicles. Helmets, gloves, water bottles, biking shoes — we prepared them all. Biking is fun. But it’s also a “production number.”

Running? It’s simple and pure. You can run early morning or late at night. If it’s raining, you can hop on the treadmill. When you go on a trip, it’s easy to pack a pair of shoes and discover the sights of Singapore or Cagayan de Oro by foot.

TWO. I don’t think any form of exercise beats running. On average, you burn 600 calories per hour of running. Just look at the physique of the runners. They’re lean, slim, fit. Here’s a guarantee: If you run four times each week, you will lose weight.

My favorite example is Steve Ferraren. He used to weigh 228 lbs. He could barely complete one round in the Abellana oval. But, through determination, he pushed one leg in front of the other and, now, he’s lost 83 lbs. and is one of the fastest runners among the Cebuano executives. His 42K time: 3 hours, 43 minutes.

THREE, I enjoy the company of friends while running. I recall training for the Singapore Marathon with our Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) group. We’d run 20 to 30 kms. and, the entire way, I’d be chatting with friends like doctors Vic Verallo or Albert Santos. Running is a time to bond with friends.

Councilor Edgar Labella’s favorite motto is this: “If you run alone, you run fast. But if you run with a group, you run far.”

Want to become a long-distance runner? Find a group of friends and run together. Especially when you’re training for a 21K or a 42K, when hours on the road are a necessity, it’s important to run with friends. Time passes faster and the experience is more enjoyable. Running is the “Facebook of Sports.” It’s social sport.

My mom Allen, looking 40-ish but already a Senior Citizen cardholder, has convinced her teachers at Bright Academy to join her running. Every Friday afternoon after school, they circle the campus as a happy, smiling group… running together.

To me, running as a group is the same as a barkada in a bar gulping San Mig Light and talking for three hours. It’s hours of quality time spent chatting with friends while getting fit!

FOUR: the opposite of No.3, it’s your time alone. Said the great Jesse Owens: “I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”

FIVE: There’s that next goal. I cannot find this in any other sport. I’ve swatted the badminton shuttle cock, competed nationally in tennis, biked to Ayala Heights and done numerous other sports, but none compare to running.

What I mean is this: We all start with a 3K or a 5K. After, as your body gets fitter, you attempt the 10K. Then, months pass and you do a 15K. Then, the half-marathon. And, for the brave, the ultimate challenge: 42.195 kms.

In running, there’s always that next race, that farther challenge, that bigger medal. In fact, the 42K has been eclipsed in Cebu today by the 50K.. 65K.. 100K. Atty. Haide Acuña finished the 160K! And, just last weekend, Joel Garganera ran 100 kms. in mountainous terrain and freezing-cold weather in Hong Kong.

Of running, the actress Sasha Azevedo sums it all up: “I run because it’s my passion, and not just a sport. Every time I walk out the door, I know why I’m going where I’m going and I’m already focused on that special place where I find my peace and solitude. Running, to me, is more than just a physical exercise… it’s a consistent reward for victory!”

The 30th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards

The Academy Awards is this Sunday, Feb. 26. It’s that once-a-year moment when all the stars of Hollywood gather and coronate the best of 2011. It’s the same here in our city. Only, this time, it’s sports. Timed just six days after The Oscars, Cebu will have its own version of recognizing the who’s-who of superstars.

Called the 30th Cebu Sports Awards, this event is held every February or March in honor of the previous year’s top sportswomen and sportsmen. Each year, ever since the awarding started in the 1980s, two groups combine efforts to celebrate this event: the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC) and San Miguel Brewery, Inc. (SMB). SAC and SMB will, once again, host the 30th Cebu Sports Awards next weekend — that’s on March 3 — from 3:30 to 6:30 P.M. at The Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu.

The 28th edition with Z Gorres and Antonio Aldeguer

What happens during the Sports Awards? The best of the best climb the stage to receive their plaques or trophies. You’ve got names like world champ Donnie Nietes, chess Grandmaster Richard Bitoon, weightlifter Christopher Bureros and cyclist Niño Surban, among many others. You also have first-time awardees like Millette Chiongbian (who conquered the 2011 Boston Marathon) and Leon Panoncillo, the WBO top honcho.

And, of course, there’s that one person who’ll be adjudged the “Sportsman Of The Year.” He or she is that individual whom the sportswriters — the ones who decide on the awardees — feel contributed most to sports in 2011. Who’s the Sportsman of the Year? That secret — and the Athlete of the Year — will be unveiled on March 3.

The Awards are divided into three categories. There’s the Citation Awardees, many of whom excelled in the national and local scene. There’s the Major Awardees, most of whom performed best in major national or even international events. Then, there are the Special Awards; including a Posthumous Award given to the family of the late long-distance runner, Melinda Ponce.

Join us next Saturday! Admission is free. (Note to all awardees: see you at 3 P.M. on March 3; for further details, call Sandy at 4161122 local 100 or at 0917-6244853). The list…

MAJOR AWARDEES: ATHLETICS: Julius Nierras. ARCHERY: Dondon Sombrio. BASEBALL/SOFTBALL: Roel Empacis, Jonas Ponce, Darius Bacarisas, Jerome Bacarisas, Jasper Cabrera, Ben Maravilles, Oscar Bradshaw. BASKETBALL: UC Webmasters, UV Baby Lancers, Gregory Slaughter. BILLIARDS: Rubilen Amit. BOWLING: Ronnan Barredo, Alexis Sy. BOXING: Donnie Nietes, Leon Panoncillo. CHESS: Richard Bitoon. CYCLING: John Mier, Niño Surban. FOOTBALL: Don Bosco Technology Center HS team. JUDO: Kiyomi Watanabe. KARATEDO: Orencio James delos Santos. RUNNING: Mary Grace Delos Santos. SCRABBLE: Teodoro Martus. SWIMMING: Beariza Roble. TAEKWONDO: Glenn Lava. TABLE TENNIS: Richard Gonzales. WEIGHTLIFTING: Christopher Bureros.

CITATION AWARDEES: ATHLETICS: Irene Baluran,Ernesto Ybañez. AUTOCROSS: David G. Lim. BADMINTON: Banilad Elementary School, UC high school team. BASEBALL/SOFTBALL: Jesse Bernad. BASKETBALL: Britt Carlo Reroma, Jerie Marlon Pinggoy, Dawn Hynric Ochea, Aldrich Ramos, Julio Sy Jr, SHS-Ateneo Passerelle champs, June Mar Fajardo, Andres Paul Desiderio. BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Apple Eve Saraum and Erika Camille Verano of USPF. BOWLING: Cebu Tenpin Bowling Association. BOXING: Milan Melindo, Rey Bautista, AJ Banal, Rocky Fuentes, Sammy Gello-ani. CHESS: IM Kim Steven Yap, CEPCA, Jack Tepora, Daryl Pucdol. CYCLING: Luis Maximo. DRAGON BOAT: Luis Ansag. DANCESPORT: Dancesport Team Cebu City. FOOTBALL: Jun Santillan, Jose Paolo Aragon Pascual, Oliver Colina, Glenn Ramos, Don Bosco Technology Center elementary team. GOLF: Lloyd Jefferson Go, Gio Gandionco. GYMNASTICS: Carmelli Garrovillo, UV team. JUDO: Eichi Yahata. KARTING: Jette Calderon. MMA: Johnlery Cañiga. MOTOCROSS: Jon Eleazar Adlawan. PENCAK SILAT: Marnel Dimla. RUNNING: Merlita Arias-Dunkin, Bayani Alvarez, Emily Chiongbian, Mary Joy Tabal, Mendel Lopez. RUGBY: Noel Flowers, Rose Mae Lanticse, Marie Antonette Gambito, Madille Salinas, Blessie Kate De Los Santos, Aiumi Ono, Eloisa Jordan, Mae Ann Ubaub, Ann Kristine Mae Layumas and Jessica Filoteo. SEPAK TAKRAW: Rhey Jey Ortouste. SWIMMING: Anthony Linn Navarro. TABLE TENNIS: Daniel Jay Tormis. LAWN TENNIS: Jacob Lagman, Arthur Craig Pantino, Cebu International Tennis Centre, Inc. TRIATHLON: Noy Jopson, Rochelle Tan, Lorhiz Echavez-Lopez.

C. Aldeguer launches Fish18 Sport + Vellum

Dan Brown will arrive in Cebu. No, he’s not that Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code. He’s a triathlete. And, no, he’s no ordinary biker, runner, swimmer. He’s a 15-time Ironman finisher. He placed 8th in the Hawaii Ultra Man Championships — an unbearably strenuous race involving a 10K swim, a 421K bike and an 84K run. He’s also the current national coach of the Philippine Triathlon team.

Mr. Brown will visit Cebu on Thursday to update this soon-to-be “triathlon capital” (with the XTERRA and Ironman 70.3 landing in this island) and to unveil a partnership that will involve Chris Aldeguer and his newly-relaunched brand: Vellum bikes.

What’s Vellum? “Vellum is a special kind of paper,” Chris Aldeguer said. “We thought the name was appropriate because our bikes are mainly made of carbon fiber and, just like paper, this material is very light in weight.  We also liked how it sounded. Fast and Aggressive.”

With his return to competitive triathlon, Chris also formed Fish18 Sport. “Years ago, I planned to form a competitive Triathlon Team if and when I decided to go back to racing,” Chris said. “I wanted to gather a group of Triathletes that share the same philosophy and approach. That philosophy is to Race. To Compete. I believe it brings the best out of each other during Training and Racing. So, last December, with the help of Michael Flores, my partner in Vellum, we formed the team; sponsored by and called Fish18 Sport with Vellum, K-Swiss and GU as major sponsors.”

The six members: Chris Aldeguer, Leo Oracion, Eugene Sanchez, Michael Flores, Franz Baguio and Gerrie Calinawan.

“The selection process was easy,” said Chris. “Leo Oracion needs no introduction. Other than being the first Filipino to climb Mt. Everest, he has won a lot of Triathlon Races and competed several times internationally. Though he is identified with climbing Everest, and being an Adventure Racer, Leo is a successful Elite Triathlete.

“Eugene Sanchez has been doing Triathlons for nearly 12 years. He is very competitive and very accomplished. He is known to be the King of Pain.

“Michael Flores, a VIP of Cebu Cycling, is probably the top cyclist of the Team. He brings in the energy and intensity during our Training Rides and is making a comeback to Triathlon. He is also the Team Manager.

“Franz Baguio is an up and coming Triathlete. He was the second best-performing Cebuano in last year’s Ironman 70.3 in Camsur behind Gerrie Calinawan.

“Gerrie Calinawan, I believe, is the top Cebuano Triathlete today. He was still a junior when I last raced against him 10 years ago. His potential is extremely high and I believe he can be one of the favorites to win or podium among the Filipino Elites in the Ironman 70.3’s near future.”

I interviewed Chris about biking. Why is it so much more popular today? “Huge difference (now vs. before),” he said. “We can’t compare it. There are so much more people riding bikes these days. You see a lot of Mountain Bikes, Road Bikes and even Folding Bikes. The Bicycle events and races have not grown, though. It still is far from being mainstream. But what has grown are the number of recreational riders. Now, you see a lot doing the night rides in Busay, Mountain Biking in Maria Luisa, etc. Mountain Biking has always had a mix of both Recreational Riders and Serious Riders, while Road Cycling were always more of the Hardcore and Competitive riders. Today, there are tons of new and recreational guys on their road bikes. It’s unbelievable.”

Aldeguer cites three factors for the popularity of biking.

One: more people are health-conscious and cycling is a terrific form of exercise. Two: The running boom has led to a cycling/triathlon boom. “The runners either add cycling to their training or they shift because of the wear and tear and injury from too much running,” said Chris. Three: the bike shops. More bikes and parts are now available. Said Chris: “These shops are now in strip malls that are easily accessible to customers.”

Rotary + Swimarathon = World Record

I met Edward Hayco last Tuesday. It was Valentine’s Day. It was also Ed’s birthday. He was having lunch with Eleanor and his children at Ginza; I was avoiding the V-Day rush by having a lunch date with Jasmin.

Ed and I spoke about the Guinness world records of Cebu City. Granted that the latest (chess) will be formalized, we now have three:

1) Dancesport –largest dance class: 7,770 dancers.

2) Fireworks –125,801 rockets launched in less than 60 seconds.

3) Chess – 43,157 players in one event.

Well, ever the restless sportsman, Ed is concocting another Guinness attempt. I won’t divulge the details yet but will write about it soon.

But, for now, Ed will be happy to hear that Cebu City will be part of another WR attempt on February 25. Called the “Rotary Swimarathon,” we’ll join a global event where thousands will swim simultaneously for one hour.    April Dequito, president of the Rotary Club of Talisay – Cebu, is spearheading the project. Here’s the plan: On Feb. 25 (next Saturday) from 8 to 9 P.M. at the YMCA pool (along Osmeña Blvd.), people will take turns swimming 100 meters. Every swimmer who records that distance will be counted. And, while Cebuanos are swimming in YMCA, thousands of others worldwide — from New Zealand to South Africa to Portugal — will swim during the same hour.

“At the moment, we have gathered 50 participants,” said April. “We still need to contact different varsity teams in various high schools. We are allocating two lanes for the 100-meter swim, and the other 2 lanes are for the 25-meter relay (exhibition purposes only as not everyone can finish a 100-meter swim). PWD will also be invited to swim on a special lane.

“Only the 100-meter swim can be counted as part of the attempt to break the World Record. There are also options to swim for more than a 100-meters. Hopefully we can gather about 150 swimmers for the 100-meter swim and perhaps 50 more for the relay. The 150 swimmers would be more than enough to help contribute in the our attempt to break the world record but if we can gather more, that’s even better.”

This project is done not just to break the WR (currently at 2,533 swimmers). “At the same time, we are raising sponsorship or charging a nominal entrance fee of P500/swimmer to support the End Polio Now campaign. After 20 years of hard work, Rotary and its partners are on the brink of eradicating this tenacious disease.”

The objectives? Like the Rotary’s famous Four-Way Test, it’s also Four-fold: 1) Set a new World Record for the most number of people swimming at the same time. 2) Raise funds towards the elimination of Polio. 3) Increase the awareness of Rotary. 4) Encourage more people to swim and stay fit.

I’m joining. Want to join? Email rctalisaycebu@gmail.com.