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.

Jeremy Lin: NBA is rocked by LIN-Sanity!

Gerry Malixi sent me this SMS message: “NYC Mayor Bloomberg approved name change: Statue of LINberty!!” Ha-ha. But what’s no joke is this true story of Jeremy Lin…

Prior to college, Jeremy sent a DVD of his basketball skills to Ivy League schools. He wanted to study in UCLA or Stanford. But they didn’t want him. Instead, he went to Harvard. Yes, the world’s most famous university has a basketball team. Lin was a stand-out for Harvard U. He averaged in double-digits and graduated with a degree in economics. His grade-point average? A high 3.1.

The year was 2010. He wanted to be an NBA star. Sadly, although eight teams watched his pre-draft workouts, none wanted Lin. Eventually, he was signed by the Golden State Warriors in July 2010—becoming the first American of Taiwanese or Chinese descent to play in the NBA.

Lin was hardly used. In the 2010-11 season, he was in the inactive list. The Warriors finally allowed him to play—but barely. Fast forward to last year… to the NBA lockout… and to last Dec. 27 when the New York Knicks recruited him. In Lin’s own words, “I was competing for a backup spot, and people see me as the 12th to 15th guy on the roster.”

In short, the 6-foot-3 small guard was a “third-string point guard” who was the team’s spare tire. This all changed when, last Jan. 20, Lin was playing for the Erie BayHawks team of the NBA D-League. On that night, he had 28 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. The NY Knicks, star-stuck, recalled him three days later. Now, the big stage…

On Feb. 4, Lin had 25 points, five rebounds, and seven assists. NY beat the New Jersey Nets.

On Feb. 6, they won over Utah. Lin? He had 28 points, eight assists.

On Feb. 8, Lin had 23 points and 10 assists—and NY beat Washington.

That’s 3-for-3. And a combined 76 points in three games. (Lin didn’t even have a home of his own. Unsure whether he’d get cut by the Knicks, he slept on the couch of his teammate Landry Fields.)

LIN-SANITY! Spike Lee said on Twitter: “Jeremy, moves so sick, they need insu-Lin.” “Jeremy, hang my jersey from the cei-Lin’.” “Jeremy, the Lakers, you better be double-Lin.”

And then, on Feb. 10—just four days ago—he faced the biggest test: the LA Lakers. In a much-hyped face-off, Kobe scored 34 points. Lin? Ha ha. He bested KB by scoring 38 points. NY beat LA, 92-85.

(Andrew Gombert/EPA)

The night before their game, Kobe was asked about Lim. “I don’t even know what he’s done. Like, I have no idea what you guys are talking about… Who is this kid?” said Kobe.

The night after? Said Kobe: “He has been phenomenal… We watched some tape on him. We came up with a strategy that we thought would be effective but he was knocking down his jump shot, penetrating, and he got around our guards. It is a great story. It is a testament to perseverance and hard work. It is a good example to kids everywhere.”

Magic Johnson added: “The excitement he has caused in the Garden, man, I hadn’t seen that in a long time. When you get a spark like this, especially in a season like this, this could carry them for a long time because they needed something to happen positive. Everything has been really negative.”

Prior to Lin’s entry, NY was a disappointing 8-15. Now, after he scored 25, 28, 23, 38 and—just two days ago vs. Minnesota in another NY victory—20 points, he has elevated the Knicks into playoff contention with a 13-15 scorecard. In his first five starts, he’s averaged 26.8 PPG.

But more than points, the 23-year-old Lin has inspired our continent. “Maybe I can help break the stereotype,” Lin said. “I feel like Asians in general don’t get the respect that we may deserve whether it comes to sports, basketball, or whatever it might be.”

His parents, Gie-Ming and Shirley, moved from Taiwan to the U.S. in the ‘70s. They both stand 5-foot-6. Today, they stand tall.

“It’s humbling, a privilege, and an honor,” said Jeremy. “I’m really proud of being Chinese, I’m really proud of my parents being from Taiwan. I just thank God for the opportunity.”

Lance Armstrong joining Cebu’s XTERRA or Ironman?

Yes. I mean, yes, there’s a possibility. The 7-time Tour de France champion joined two XTERRA races last year.

What’s XTERRA? It’s an off-road triathlon with an open-sea swim, a mountain-bike ride, and an off-road trail run. Lance joined the XTERRA USA Championship in Utah last September—his first—and he placed an impressive 5th place. “At 40 years old, I guess I could have gone home and drank beer and played golf all day long,” Armstrong said. “But it’s cool to come out here and test yourself, and also just support a sport that I think is really cool.” He joined another XTERRA race in Maui, Hawaii last October; this time, the World Championship. He placed 23rd—despite crashing head-on with one mile to go on his MTB.

Will Lance join the March 18 edition of the XTERRA here in Cebu? That’s the dream scenario envisioned by the organizers, led by Fred Uytengsu, Jr., who extended his invitation for LA to visit the Philippines for the first time.

If Lance does land in Mactan and joins the 1500m swim, 30K bike and 10K run that will start/end at Amara in Liloan, it will mark the grandest-ever visit of any athlete to Cebu. Dennis Rodman played basketball in Mandaue. Ken Griffey, Jr. threw baseballs at the Aboitiz Sports Field. Davis Cup tennis stars have swatted forehands here; PBA heroes have rebounded balls on dozens of occasions. But Lance is the superstar of super-athletes.

IRONMAN. This weekend, thanks to the recent email from Lance’s lookalike in Cebu—that’s Chris Aldeguer—Mr. Armstrong will be joining Ironman Panama 70.3. This is the same Ironman race that will kickoff at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa this August 5.

Why this shift to triathlon for Lance? Prior to riding his Trek bike, he raced in triathlons. Says Wikipedia: “At the age of 12, he began his sporting career as a swimmer… and finished fourth in Texas state 1,500-meter freestyle. He abandoned swimming-only competition after seeing a poster for a junior triathlon called the Iron Kids Triathlon, which he entered and won at age 13.” Lance soon became America’s No.1 ranked triathlete in the 19-and-under group.

So, there. This is a comeback. This also means two chances for Armstrong to visit Cebu: XTERRA or Ironman.

CONTADOR. Speaking of his arch-rival Alberto Contador, what a contrast of fates. Just days ago, the cycling champ’s appeal of his two-year ban due to drugs was upheld by the sport’s highest ruling body, the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title.

Lance? The opposite. After a two-year-long federal investigation into his alleged drug use, the case was dropped and he’s declared innocent. This is huge news. One, Lance is a worldwide symbol of hope and sporting greatness. Had he been convicted, this would have told the world, “Nobody in sports can be trusted.” Two, Lance is a symbol of cancer survival. His image—and that of his good works against the Big C—would have been forever tarnished. Third, the investigators are the best. Named the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, they’re led by America’s sharpest lawyers and they’ve convicted the likes of Marion Jones and Tyler Hamilton.

And so, in this Armstrong vs. Contador “drugs” battle, the American beats the Spaniard.

CANCER. If you recall, Lance was given a 40% survival chance after testicular cancer had spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. He lived. He biked. He won 7 TdFs. And, despite having surgery down there and retaining only “one ball,” this Superman beats me and so many others by rearing five children!

The latest good news on LA’s cancer fight? I call it the “Big C vs. the Evil C.” Lance is spearheading a campaign in California that will add an additional $1 tax (per pack) on cigarettes. Called the California Cancer Research Act, once approved, this will bring in nearly $1 billion in support of cancer research.

I call it the 4 Cs: Cycling Champ in Cancer vs. Cigarettes fight. Will Lance visit another “C” this 2012? Cebu? Let’s C.

Is Manny Pacquiao now a good boy?

The Congressman from Sarangani has always been good. He’s good at boxing—winning his last 15 bouts. He’s good at accumulating wealth—earning $20 million per 36 minutes hopping on the ring. Manny is good at strumming the guitar and singing Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch.” He’s even good at attracting many of the world’s celebrities to be Pacman fans—Mark Wahlberg, Kobe B., Paris Hilton, the Boston Celtics, and Barack Obama all count as his admirers and friends.

But, as good as Manny has been inside that boxing square and around the entertainment circles, we also know he’s been bad.

Manny gambles money. He keeps a squadron of fighting cocks. He sleeps inside the Casino with both eyes wide open. Prior to his 2007 fight against Marco Antonio Barrera, a few friends from Cebu swear by his late-night exploits inside the exclusive sanctity of the Waterfront Hotel and Casino.

Manny loves women. From Ara Mina to Krista Ranillo to Kat Ordoñez, these rumors have enriched gossip magazines like YES!—and kept Jinkee Pacquiao from sleeping well at night. Manny’s exploits make Tiger Woods look saintly.

That’s the bad. The good news? Manny is reading the Good News. Yes, I mean, the Bible. In a recent TV interview with Dyan Castillejo, Manny confessed to his sinful ways and vowed to change and become a renewed Christian.

(AFP Photo)

“‘Pagsusugal, yung pag-iinom, yung mga pambababae. Kung ano mga kalokohan mga barkada. Kung anong ginagawa diyan…’ (Gambling, drinking, women.. all kinds of vices…).. he said,” enumerating his sins in the ABS-CBNews.com story, “Pacquiao: Encounter with God changed me.”

“‘If I had died last year or in the last 2 years,” said Manny, “I am sure I would’ve gone straight to Hell. My faith in Him is there 100 percent but behind it, I was still doing evil.”

Manny relates the story of having a dream after the Juan Manuel Marquez fight last November. He was amidst the forest when a bright light stopped him with the voice, “Son, why are you going away from me?” He woke up from the dream crying and soon opened the Bible.

Translated in English, Pacquiao said in that interview: “In the old times, the Lord talked to people through their dreams. So I said, my dream is real. I have to change my life. Maybe it was God calling because he knows what’s in my heart, that I believe in Him but still do bad things, things that don’t please Him.”

The quick learner on the ring, he quickly changed his ways. In an Inquirer Mindanao story, “Friends say Pacquiao is a changed man,” by Aquiles Zonio, it says:

“Mayor Reynaldo Constantino of Malungon, Sarangani, a close political ally of the Sarangani representative, said that recently, Pacquiao sold a casino he operated in a five-star hotel in Manila and divided the proceeds among the affected employees.

“Pacquiao then disposed of his fighting cocks at his sprawling MP Farm in Malungon. He gave all his game fowls to his close friends. The guy is really determined to change for the better,’ Constantino said.”

In Gen. Santos City, at a place we visited during a Rotary District Conference two years ago, Pacquiao closed the J-Mix Restaurant and Bar. They used to frequent his bar for drinks and billiards. Also, said the Inquirer story, MP now keeps only one cellphone—without any password; which means Jinkee can view his messages freely.

“The power of the word of God has changed Manny,” said Jinkee. Daily, he prays and reads the Bible with the guidance of a pastor. Has Manny changed religion?

“He told me that he is still a Catholic,” said Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez. “He admitted that the one conducting daily bible service in his home is a Protestant pastor. So, I gave him a daily scripture guide and I directed a priest from a parish near his house to lead the conduct of a bible study.”

Said MP himself: “Being a Christian means accepting Christ as your saviour, your God. That is why you are called a Christian. If you remove ‘Christ’, there’s only ‘ian’ and that means ‘I am nothing.'”

Can we teach our children Harmony through Sports?

Yesterday’s article by sports editor Mike Limpag was like a Lionel Messi kick: it was direct, straight, razor-sharp.

The biggest losers in this controversy between the Cebu Football Association (CFA) and PAREF-Springdale? The children. They’re innocent. They just want to play.

Here are some questions: Was CFA correct to forfeit Springdale? When, according to Springdale parents whom I spoke to, the players were at the gate when the 15-minute extension expired? Upon seeing the players at the entrance, could they not have been accommodated and given the go-signal? (I can imagine the pain in the eyes of the children; you sprint to the venue, all-excited, and, at the last second, are denied to play. Your coach argues. The referee sticks to his ruling. Parents complain. Officials rebut. It’s all chaos.)

But, on the opposite side, wasn’t CFA just enforcing the rules? Doesn’t the rule state that you have to be ON THE FIELD on or before the 15th minute extension time? (I can imagine the referee looking at his wristwatch and, upon the tick of that 15th minute, blowing the whistle to announce the default… CFA argues that the referee was just doing his job.)

Here’s one more: Isn’t it also unfair to the opposing team to “accommodate” another team for being late, even for just a few seconds?

In all this: Who’s right? Who’s wrong? It depends. It depends on who you’re talking to.

Springdale will say: They’re biased. We were there! Why couldn’t they just let us play?

CFA will answer: Rules are rules! An extension was given and the time expired.

Here are more questions… Was Springdale’s reaction to withdraw ALL of their teams from the 14th Aboitiz Cup not exaggerated? Did they not anticipate a harsh rebuke? Did Springdale decide on their forceful “let’s-all-withdraw” act purposely to incite a fight with the CFA? Surely, they anticipated, pulling out midway through Cebu’s most prestigious football event will have severe repercussions…

Talking about “severe,” here’s one query, this time, for the CFA: Isn’t the three-year ban too harsh? Imagine banning one of the country’s most successful football programs for three years?!

Wow. How do you explain this to the hundreds of athletic and eager and active boys of Springdale? You can’t. Now, while I believe Springdale was too hasty on their “let’s-withdraw-from-Aboitiz” move, wasn’t CFA also guilty of the same? Thirty six months! Banning the children? This is preposterous.

I saw a copy of the letter from CFA President, Engr. Richard Montayre, addressed to Ric R. Ampiloquio, Executive Director of PAREF-Springdale, and, true enough, it stated a specific provision of the “3 years up to life time ban…”

First of all, this “banning for three years or more” ruling is crazy. I know, I know. The CFA Board will say… this is done to prevent teams from just brazenly pulling out. True. But here’s a question…

Why wasn’t a formal inquiry or meeting conducted prior to the tyrannical 36-month ban? I mean, how difficult is it to call together both parties and talk?

Was this not done because, as Mike Limpag pointed out yesterday, there’s a deeper, underlying conflict between the two camps, CFA vs. the Cebu Amateur Football Club (CAFC) included? I think so. Because if there was no “bad blood” between the two, this issue could have been settled amicably.

CFA could have called Springdale for a meeting and explained the possible harsh sanctions. CFA could have, “inamigo-style,” asked them to reconsider. A compromise could have been arrived at. Conflict, resolved.

Let’s play ball! would have been the happy yell. Instead, sadly, the one playing is…. drum roll, please…

Politics. Ugly, ugly politics in sports.

My suggestion? Sit down. Relax. Smile. Begin with a prayer. Look at the “bigger picture” and know that the ones who’ll suffer in this uncalled-for fight are the children.

Let’s show them that, as God-loving adults and parents, we can resolve conflicts. Let’s resolve this conflict. It’s the best lesson we can teach our children.