I have watched every single Olympic Opening Ceremony that’s available in YouTube and what I witnessed last Friday was the saddest.
The Opening Ceremony is the kickoff party. After seven years of preparations, the celebration commences and the proclamation says, “Let the games begin!”
The Olympic host nation brags about its history and nation. Movie stars and Hollywood singers emerge to captivate the billions of TV viewers. Remember Mr. Bean in London 2012? Or James Bond and the Queen landing via helicopter?
Not in Tokyo. Not after 194 million people worldwide have succumbed to Covid-19 and 4,159,546 people have died.
The Japanese are a rich people. They are rich in culture and history, in wealth and technology. Originally, I’m sure they wanted an outlandish Opening with robots flying 110 feet above the ground. The robots would be holding samurais and fencing in midair.
Not in 2021.
Last Friday night, the mood was somber and dim. Aside from the showcase of the 1,800 drones and “Imagine,” and the human pictograms performance — I won’t divulge more so you can watch the show — the Opening was hushed and muted. The beginning (Opening Act) was so unremarkable that Ricky Ballesteros could have scripted just as good a show.
But we understand the situation. The 60,000 spectators inside the Tokyo Olympic Stadium were not allowed. They were reduced to a few thousand that included Emperor Naruhito, Jill Biden, the IOC officials and the media.
Empty. The seats were empty.
Covid-19 has made everyone suffer and grieve. And this sentiment was woven throughout the Opening. The music was often solemn and sorrowful. The presence of doctors and nurses throughout the show — an appropriate decision but one previously never seen before — showed the world audience that our greatest battle is still against the coronavirus.
The Tokyo Games organizers also had to contend with the public opposition to the Games. In a poll, as much as 59 percent wanted the Olympic Games postponed or canceled.
The 17-day-long Olympics of Japan has also been over budget. The original cost of US$7.3 billion has ballooned fourfold with a final estimate of $30 billion. By contrast, the 2016 Rio Games cost $14B and the London Olympics was $15B. Tokyo is exceed the combined costs of the last two Olympics.
Tokyo 2020 has become Japan’s unwanted Games.
But, if there’s one trait that’s evident in the Japanese, it’s resilience.
The Japanese have a proverb “nanakorobi yaoki.” It translates to “seven times down, eight times up.” They also have a term called “ganbaru” which means to “tough it out.”
After wiping away the tears in that cheerless and empty Opening Ceremony, Japan will emerge victorious.
Only 19 days remain before our 19 Pinoy Olympians compete in Japan’s capital.
For the Philippines, this is the 22nd time that we’re joining the Summer Games. Our debut at the Olympics began in 1924 when David Nepomuceno competed in the 100m and 200m events in Paris.
Four years later in Amsterdam, we sent four Olympians with swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso winning our first medal (bronze) in the 200m breakstroke.
Since 1924, we participated in every Olympics except thrice: in 1940 and 1944 when the Games were cancelled because of World War II and in the 1980 Moscow Olympics when we joined the US-led boycott.
In our 21 times of joining the Olympics, only nine Filipinos have ever won medals. The latest to triumph was Hidilyn Diaz in 2016 — joining Tokyo for her fourth consecutive Olympics — when the weightlifter won silver in Rio.
Prior to Hidilyn’s runner-up finish, our last medal was recorded in 1996 when arguably the most famous Pinoy Olympian, Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, narrowly lost the light flyweight title in Atlanta.
Worldwide, in the list of countries that have won Olympic medals, it’s no surprise that the U.S. ranks first with 2,523 medals (1,022 gold). Next is Russia (1,556 medals) and Germany (1,346).
Our nine total medals (3 silver and 7 bronze) after nearly a century of joining the Olympics ranks the Philippines among the worst-performing. (By comparison, Singapore and Vietnam own gold medals.) But let us not despair. In all, there are still 50 or so countries who have yet to win a single Olympic medal. And our blank gold medal tally makes us equal with Malaysia (who have won 7 silver and 4 bronze — but zero gold).
Here’s a fun fact: There is only one nation on this planet to have won a gold medal every time they join: Great Britain.
Here’s another: If Michael Phelphs were a country, he’d be ranked 39th (out of 205) in the all-time count. His 28 medals (23 gold) outstrips countries like India, Mexico, Egypt and Argentina.
Speaking of gold, will Tokyo finally be the city when the Philippines wins the sporting world’s highest achievement?
We will have 19 Olympians joining — the highest number since we had 20 at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Our officials, led by Chef de Mission (and football chief) Mariano Araneta, are slated to land at the Narita Airport on July 15. The athletes will follow soon after (all are billeted at the Conrad Hotel) and they’re expected to join the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium (8 P.M. on July 23).
Our 19 Olympians include Cebu’s star skateboarder Margie Didal; weightlifters Diaz and Elreen Ando (from the Univ. of Cebu); swimmers Luke Gebbie and Remedy Rule; shooter Jayson Valdez; boxers Nesthy Petecio, Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno and Carlo Paalam; sprinter Kristina Knott; golfers Yuka Saso (US Open champ), Bianca Pagdanganan and Juvic Pagunsan; pole vaulter EJ Obiena; gymnast Caloy Yulo; rower Cris Nievarez, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa; and the Cebu-born judoka Kiyomi Watanabe, whose mom Irene is from Toledo City.
The game of basketball — excluding MMA and boxing — is one of sport’s most physical. Bodies collide. Ankles twist. Knees inflame.
This 2020-2021 season, more players have limped and hobbled due to injuries than possibly at any time since the NBA started in 1946.
According to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, the average number of players absent per game because of injury was 5.1 this season. How does this number compare to previous years? It is five percent higher compared to the previous record of 4.8.
For the All-Stars, it’s worse. On average, All-Star players missed 13.7 regular-season games this season. They missed 19% of all games (370 of 1,944 games) due to injuries.
This is the highest percentage in an NBA season. Ever.
LeBron James waddled to the locker room last March and was out for 26 of the Lakers’ final 30 regular season games. Kawhi Leonard may have recently suffered an ACL injury and we’re unsure if he’ll return when the Clippers face the Suns on Wednesday.
Jaylen Brown underwent surgery on his wrist to fix a torn ligament. Jamal Murray’s surgery because of a torn ACL on his left knee was instrumental in the Nuggets’ 0-4 elimination.
Anthony Davis, during the 72-game regular season, missed 36 games because of a strained right calf. In the playoffs, he hyperextended his right knee and suffered a strained left groin injury.
The result: Bye, bye, Lakers.
Kyrie Irving’s case is — literally and figuratively — painful. His landing on the foot of Giannis this week was excruciating to watch. Kyrie is the 7th All-Star this 2021 to miss a playoff game — the most in NBA history. Among his injured classmates include Joel Embiid (who forced a Game 7 yesterday), Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, James Harden, AD and J. Brown.
What does this injury-plagued season mean?
One, it can translate to an unexpected NBA champion. While the Lakers and Nets were predestined to meet in The Finals, this script is now discarded. The winner might be the one who can say “We’re the least-injured team and we won!”
Two, was the NBA off-season too short, resulting to this deluge of surgeries? Yes. After L.A. won last year (on Oct. 11), only 72 days passed before the Dec. 22 start of the next season. This was the shortest turnaround ever; it beat the previous record by 55 days.
I side with LeBron when he claims that this contributed to the spate of crippled and debilitated players. With LeBron and AD, had the duo been healthy all season long, how far would the Lakers have progressed? My answer: At least to the NBA Finals (en route, beating the Suns and Clippers) to face the (if-they-were-healthy) Brooklyn Nets.
Finally.. if Kyrie Irving (and Harden) were totally healthy versus the Bucks, would they steamroll past Giannis and go on to win the Larry O’Brien trophy? Yes.
CEBU. Speaking of injuries, I’m happy to note that — and I speak from experience — during the unhappy moments when we do get injured, Cebu can lay claim to having two of the best doctors in the country: Tony San Juan and Rhoel Dejaño.
Naomi Osaka is a player that I admire. Only 23, she has amassed a multitude of records: four Grand Slam titles, the world No. 1 ranking (2019), and she earned, in the past 12 months, a whopping $55.2 million. That’s more money in a year than any female athlete. Ever.
Setting aside her Nike and Louis Vuitton deals, the Japanese superstar is a global icon. She was a voice of the George Floyd protests when she wore different masks in New York last September. She won the 2020 US Open and won the hearts of millions fighting for racial injustice.
But, today, I have to disagree with Naomi Osaka.
“I’m writing this to say I’m not going to do any press during Roland Garros,” said Osaka. “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one. We are often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.”
Osaka is willing to be fined as much as $20,000 per press conference absence.
Respectfully, I oppose Osaka’s viewpoint. Media is an integral part of society — including sports. If you take away the role of the journalists, how will the tens of millions who follow tennis know about the fine points of the game?
Roland Garros holds a special place for me because I was there six years ago. Not only did I get to watch Serena and Novak slide and spin on the red clay, but I was there as a journalist. I had a media pass (thanks to SunStar) and sat inside the pressroom to interview the players.
One memorable incident: My first time inside the Media Room, I joined dozens of other writers from around the globe. As soon as Stan Wawrinka sat on his chair to be interviewed, I did the most natural act: I took out my phone and snapped a photo. That’s when an official hurriedly walked towards me and whispered, “Sorry, no photos allowed. Please delete that.”
I apologized and deleted the photo. (I was still able to retrieve the infamous picture and yesterday, when I examined it again, the photo showed a seated Wawrinka and an official near him pointing toward me!)
After that uneasy first media session, I joined a few more (with Federer and the other stars) and found the atmosphere to be relaxed and engaging.
Now, I understand Naomi’s point. There are times when mediamen are cold-hearted and merciless, asking dumb questions to the teary-eyed sufferer. But if, as an athlete, you can suffer on-court for three hours, swatting backhands and sprinting to retrieve drop shots, surely you can absorb a few hard-line questions, right?
“As sports people,” said Rafa Nadal, “we need to be ready to accept the questions and try to produce an answer, no?”
Yes. Added Nadal: “I understand her, but.. without the press, without the people who normally are traveling, who are writing the news and achievements that we are having around the world, probably we will not be the athletes that we are today.”
The 31st edition of the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) will unfold in Hanoi, Vietnam this Nov. 21 to Dec. 2.
Back in 2019, our Philippines hosted 5,600 athletes and we captured the overall title in the biennial event that featured 56 sports and 530 events.
When the Hanoi SEA Games unfolds six months from now, an important ruling has been announced: No vaccine, no play.
“Their policy (no vaccine, no participation) is for the good of everyone,” said Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino.
This ruling involves all SEAG athletes including the 626 Pinoy athletes that will take the 3-hour, 35-min. flight from Manila to Hanoi.
“Before we fly to Vietnam,” said Tolentino, “everyone should be vaccinated.”
Is this “no vaccine, no play” directive a good move? Absolutely.
Vietnam posts one of the lowest recorded Covid-19 cases in Asia. Since the pandemic started, our neighbor has recorded only 4,720 total cases and 37 deaths. Incredible! This, for a sizable country of 97 million people. How did Vietnam do it? Ha-ha. That’s another non-sports-page article.
But the last thing Vietnam wants is to be deluded with Covid-19 cases when tens of thousands of SEAG participants land at the Noi Bai Airport.
How about the Tokyo Olympics — just 61 days away — slated this July 23 to August 8?
No such ruling. This, I don’t understand. There will be more than 80,000 foreign athletes, coaches and officials who will invade Japan.
Can you imagine an outbreak in the Athlete’s Village where 11,000 athletes are housed in close quarters? One super-spreader can infect dozens of super-athletes and cause a super-storm halting the Olympics.
Plus, many sports entail close, physical contact. Boxing. Wrestling. Basketball.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach reiterated this “no need to vaccinate” order last March, saying: “The athletes and the national Olympic committees should follow their national regulations on vaccination. This is a clear government responsibility and in this, we will not interfere.”
We will not interfere. I don’t understand.
Well, of course, I do. The issue of vaccination is a complicated matter. We cannot force someone to be vaccinated against his/her free will.
A player like Novak Djokovic, for example, who has hinted of his objection to being inoculated, can the tennis world No. 1 be forced to get vaccinated prior to his joining the Olympics?
This is a thorny issue. And this will subject the IOC to hundreds of complaints and possible legal actions.
Instead, the Olympics playbook stipulates very soft guidelines. Among the gentle rules include daily testing and barring athletes from using public transportation and disallowing them from dining at local restaurants or visiting shops.
I know this issue is complex but for the safety of all — including the Japanese people, 80% of whom are reluctant for the Games to continue — I wished they’d enforce the “no vaccine, no play” rule.
Two years ago when I stepped inside Glorietta in Makati, the mall shook.
It reverberated not because of the music of the band “IV of Spades.” The screaming voices did not come from the kids watching Cartoon Network’s Shriektober, featuring The Powerpuff Girls. The echoes resonated from the bouncing of the ball. It originated from the squeaking sounds of the shoes, the whistle of the referee and the electronic dance music that awakened the mall-goers.
The game was “3 x 3 Basketball” and the dribbling cascaded throughout the five floors of the Ayala-owned mall.
Yes, basketball was played not inside MOA Arena or Araneta Coliseum — but inside the confines of the mall. Hundreds of spectators crowded the half-court to holler. A large video screen displayed slow-motion replays. Basketball fan or not, people stopped their shopping to witness the blocks and lay-ups.
What a brilliant idea.. 3 x 3 in the mall.
This brilliant idea will be showcased when the Tokyo Olympics begin in July. For the first time in the 124-year history of the Olympics, “3 x 3 basketball” will be played.
It all started in 2010 at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Singapore. This is the IOC-organized event for athletes between 14 to 18 years old. One of the pioneering events in Singapore was “3 x 3 basketball.” Fast forward to today, it becomes the first-ever YOG event to have “grown up” to become a full-fledged Olympic medal event.
“From The Streets To The Olympics!” That’s the slogan of 3×3. It’s also labeled as the world’s largest urban team sport. The ad campaign says: “We can play anywhere. We can play in the mall, in the park, on top of the building.”
I like this game because it’s fast. There are no inbounds passes. You sprint outside the 3-point area to start the point. The rules are elementary.
The game clock is 10 minutes and it’s a sprint to whichever team can score 21 points first or whoever has the higher score at the end of the 10th minute.
Simple. Swift. Spine-tingling.
If the 6-on-6 volleyball has beach volleyball, the 5-on-5 basketball has 3 x 3.
With beach volleyball, the spectators stand or sit nearby. The setting is intimate but chaotic. It’s noisy. Music echoes from the speakers.
With 3 x 3 basketball, it’s the same. You are right up in the court. It’s a different atmosphere compared to being one of the 55,000 fans in the Philippine Arena.
In YouTube, I watched the replay of the 2019 SEA Games final between the Philippines and Indonesia. Inside the Filoil Flying V Centre, the Pinoy fans roared to cheer on CJ Perez, Moala Tautuaa, Chris Newsome and Jason Perkins as they won the gold, 21-9.
The only bummer with 3 x 3 in Tokyo? The teams are fielding nobodies. Team USA has Canyon Barry, Robbie Hummel, Dominique Jones and Kareem Maddox?
Too bad we won’t get to see the line-up of Steph Curry, DeAndre Jordan, Paul George and LeBron James. Or how about a Durant, Kawhi, Drummond and Kemba combo?
Still, 3×3 is a must-watch. It’s quick, it’s epic and now it’s Olympic.
Wardell Stephen Curry II is the hardest human being to guard on Planet Earth. Joe Biden may be the US President and he’s surrounded by the Secret Service; Vladimir Putin employs the modern-day KGB called SBP — but Steph Curry is even more unguardable.
As soon as “30” crosses that halfcourt line, the enemy patrol guards are deployed to congregate around him. Curry springs forward, dribbles between-the-legs, skips to his right, bounces to his left. The defense swarms him. Like a snake, he slivers in and out of the 6-foot-5 enemy, galloping to hop forward before whisking two steps backward — tripping the opponent — before he unleashes the most difficult-to-guard move in the NBA: the Steph-back three.
The Spalding orange leather ball floats through space and slices through the net, avoiding contact with the 18-inch steel rim. Curry smiles, sways and shimmies; he pumps his chest once, then points to the ceiling with his index finger.
The NBA’s 3-point distance is between 22 to 23 feet (depending on the court position). But because Curry’s jersey number is “30,” he prefers to catapult that lob 30 feet away. To him, it’s all a shooting exhibition. Without care, he simply catapults the ball up and, magically, it always finds the hole.
Prior to every game against Golden State, the opposing team’s coaching staff spend the longest time analyzing how they’ll double team Mr. Curry. Nothing works. He toys with the opposition. As the defender draws near, he shuffles his feet, dances the tango and waltzes around the befuddled man. He fakes a pass as the chaperone gets fooled. Never mind the outstretched hand that’s covering his face and eyes, his barrages of long-range, 30-feet-away missiles hit the target.
Steph Curry shooting threes is like others shooting free throws. It’s that effortless and easy for this Warrior. On free throws, while chewing either the MOGO M1 or Under Armour flavored mouthguards, Curry is shooting 92% this season. His lifetime average is 90.7%.
How about his catch-and-shoot? In a millisecond, shorter than it takes for the opponent to blink, he’s able to flick that wrist as the ball is hurled high, high up in the air..
Curry’s teammates sometimes employ the “Elevator Door Screen,” a move so brilliant (two of his teammates close the opening and disallow “entry”) that it makes the NBA announcers scream and go berserk.
SC30 is now on his 12th season. The 33-year-old, two-time NBA MVP hails from Akron, Ohio. He and LeBron James were not only born in the same city but also the same hospital: Akron General Medical Center.
Curry did the unthinkable last month. He made three-point after three-point… 96 total in April. (This broke the previous record of 82 set by James Harden.) Given that GSW played 15 games last month, that’s an average of 6.4 three-pointers per game. In one five-game stretch, he shot 10-11-4-11-10 three-pointers. In April, he averaged 47.6% from beyond the arc. This, despite being as heavily guarded as Biden or Putin.
Eighty seven days remain before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Yes, the year is 2021 and the Olympics is “2020” because the virus that started in 2019.
The Japanese are scared. In a recent survey, a whopping 72 percent are opposed to holding the Games; 39.2 percent of respondents want the Olympics cancelled and 32.8 percent want it postponed again.
Why? Isn’t the Olympics the pride and glory of the host nation? And hasn’t Japan spent a gargantuan amount to be ready for the Opening Ceremonies on July 23?
Yes and yes. The Tokyo Olympics, originally budgeted at $7.5 billion, has ballooned to $35 billion — making it the most expensive Summer Games ever.
Then why, despite the 3.77 trillion Japanese Yen that the hosts are spending, are they anxious?
COVID-19. This is the unseen opponent that’s petrified the Japanese and the IOC. It’s more devious and foxy than any rival; more cunning than any assassin the world has encountered.
Consider this: Japan has the world’s oldest population. Japan has 126 million residents and 28 percent are aged 65 or above. This means that nearly one in three Japanese are senior citizens — the most vulnerable sector in this fight against the virus.
To make matters worse, Japan has a very low vaccination rate. Despite it owning the title of “the world’s third-largest economy ,” Japan ranks at the bottom of the vaccination ladder.
Only 1.3 percent of Japanese have been vaccinated thus far. This is exactly the same percentage with the Philippines. But considering how wealthy Japan is versus our archipelago (Japan’s GDP is $5 trillion vs. our $377 billion — we are 7.5% the size of Japan’s economy), you would expect that the Pfizer, Moderna and AZ vaccines would have landed sooner in the shores of Osaka, Sapporo, Nagoya — all 47 of Japan’s prefectures.
Inexplicably, the answer is No. This has caused a major worry with the nearing of the Olympics, which run from July 23 to August 8.
Over 11,000 athletes are expected to arrive in Japan’s capital. If you add the coaches, officials, team members and entourage, this number will enlarge. Because of the pandemic, the IOC has placed a limit: no more than 90,000 athletes, etc. will arrive in Japan. No foreign spectators are allowed.
Here’s another complication: the athletes are not required to be vaccinated prior to their arrival. I say “complication” because this is a big gamble on IOC’s part.
I know, I know; vaccination, anywhere around the world, is not compulsory; but this creates a huge risk for the Games.
With 90,000 incoming guests from 205 countries and airports — all arriving at the Haneda or Narita airports in Tokyo, it’s a huge possibility that some of those individuals will carry the coronavirus.
In the Athlete’s Village where they are confined in close quarters, can you imagine the scenario if a Covid-19 outbreak happens?
One super-spreader can inflict considerable damage on the Olympics. Athletes may be barred. Events postponed or canceled. Zero spectators allowed.
If the Academy Awards, which unfold tomorrow in Hollywood, were to give an Oscars trophy to the category, “Best Sport this Covid-19,” the runaway winner isn’t… running.
It’s cycling. On Sundays from 6 to 9 A.M., try climbing from JY Square to Marco Polo and you’ll witness a spectacle:
Hundreds of two-wheeled vehicles crawling upwards to Busay. Grinding, sweating, pushing one leg after another to encircle that pedal, they’re gripping that handlebar tight. Many are painted with multi-colored jerseys, all body-hugging. The bikers are wearing gloves, arm sleeves and Sidi shoes with cleats; water bottles and reflector stickers adorn the two-wheelers. Their bikes range from MTBs to Giant fat bikes to Ebikes to an S-Works Venge that costs P549,500.
Biking means freedom. It means the wind blowing in your face. It means happiness — “You can’t be sad while riding a bicycle.” It means social interaction during this anti-social time. Biking doesn’t have walls. It means exercising minus the pushing-and-elbowing of basketball and running’s foot injuries.
I love biking because, on flat asphalt, it’s effortless. On downhills, flying at 42-kph, it’s horrifying. And while your bike is pointed to the sky and you’re on your softest gear and your body is rocking side to side and you stand to deliver extra oomph to your leg-powered vehicle, it’s punishing and painful but fulfilling.
Biking during this Covid-19 year is a winner because people long for the outdoors and free space. Trapped in our homes during those ECQ days, pedaling offers immunity from isolation.
I love cycling because of the 7Fs: Friends. Freedom. Fitness. Free. Forward. Fun. Fast.
PANDAY CHALLENGE. Biking is also for another F: Females. Although majority of riders are men, an increasing percentage are women.
Take the “Panday Challenge” of Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera. I’ve known Cons Joel for many years now and we’ve ran countless kilometers together but one vivid memory of us together happened in a Pipti-Pipti Triathlon event in Catmon in 2009. We both swam alongside each other and started the bike leg in tandem, exiting the Bachao Beach Resort — when Joel’s bike chain suddenly broke. We stopped, tried to fix the chain (to no avail), and ended up laughing. That was a memorable experience.
With the Panday Challenge, this is like the AWUM (All Women Ultra Marathon) — also co-organized by Hon. Garganera — except that it’s biking and the distance is not 50K. It’s scheduled this April 27 (Tuesday) and is named “Kadaugan sa Sugbo Cycling Event.” The climb is from JY Square to Willy’s; it’s open to women only and it’s for free. The first 150 to reach Willy’s will be given a free jersey.
BIKE QUOTES: “You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a bike — and that’s kind of the same thing.”
Albert Einstein: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
“A bad day on a mountain bike beats a good day at the office.”
“Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.”
Cleevan Kayne Alegres circumnavigated Olango Island last week. He did not walk, paddle-board or sail around Olango — he swam all of it: 25,420 meters of swimming.
“My farthest distance before the Olango swim was 14 kms.,” he told me in our 28-minute-long talk last Thursday.
Cleevan’s ultimate goal is to encircle the entire Mactan island — a 40 to 45-km. swim. — later this month to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Mactan.
With the 25-K swim in Olango, he told me, “Kalit-kalit ra to because I needed to swim a longer distance.”
Starting at 3:30 p.m. last April 4, Cleevan completed the trek by swimming for 9 hours and 59 minutes. He had to stop for two hours at the latter part of the expedition because he was separated from his accompanying pump boat.
Starting at Sta. Rosa port, he ended at the same spot at 3:30 a.m. He swam a big portion of the 25K in total darkness.
“I swam at night because of the tides,” he said. “I studied the tide chart and currents and they’re favorable at night.”
While most, if not all of us, are afraid of swimming the open seas at night, Cleevan felt relaxed when submerged in darkness.
“I’m used to spear-fishing in the evenings and night-diving,” said Cleevan, whose house sits right beside the waters of Mactan (behind J Park Resort). “I’m not scared of the dark while swimming.”
He did not wear a full-body wetsuit but opted for the barest of barest: swimming trunks.
“Swimming for 10 hours, there were plenty of jellyfish, but I just ignored them,” said Cleevan, who believes his achievement was 40 percent physical and 60 percent mental.
Cleevan was accompanied by a team. At portions of the route, he was joined by swimmers Jason Earl Bilangdal, Ryan Galo and Reinwald Ebora. There were three stand-up paddler teams that included his girlfriend Gillan Mae Sayson, his sister Eaa, and friends Saysay Silawan, Janjan Cañete and Tado Amit. A pumpboat glided nearby.
Cleevan did not eat during the 25-K challenge. He did not take caffeinated drinks because of a heart condition that started when he was a baby; for two months after he was born, he was in the incubator. Today, his heart palpitates if he takes coffee.
The only nutrition that fueled him was the supplement brand Vitargo, recommended by Atty. Ingemar Macarine, the “Pinoy Aquaman.” During the swim, Cleevan took sips of the carbo-electrolytes supplement every 20 to 25 minutes.
Swimming is a lonely sport. I asked Cleevan how he survived the mental anguish of floating at sea for 10 hours.
“I thought of my Veterinary studies,” said the fifth year junior clinician at SWU-Phinma. “While swimming, I tried to remember the lessons and kept on repeating them. I also sang, in my mind, my favorite songs. (These included the songs Inspector Mills and Superman, Five for Fighting.)
“I counted 1 to 1,000. I thought about my future plans. I prayed to the Lord to help my tiredness. At the 20K mark, I experienced hallucination and thought that a dolphin was swimming beside me…”
Part 2 (published last April 18, 2021)
Cleevan Kayne Alegres stands 5-foot-3 and weighs 121 lbs. When asked in an interview after he completed the 25-km. Olango Island swim what he wanted to be called, he paused, thought of a nickname and said… The Little Merman!
Bright. The Little Mermaid, as know from the Disney movie, is derived from an 1837 book by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was a fairy tale.
On April 25, it will be another fairy tale — this time, a real life tale of Cebu’s very own “Little Merman” attempting to encircle Mactan Island using only his God-given legs and arms. The around-Mactan swim is expected to cover the length of between 40 to 45 kms.
Swimming for 40+ kms. — this sounds ridiculous. If you consider that a marathon road race spans 42 kms. — I’ve done a bunch of those runs and they’re tough — how much more in a horizontal position.
OLANGO SWIM. Two weeks ago (on April 4) when Cleevan swam the 10-hour-long adventure around Olango Island, he experienced moments of hallucination.
“A dolphin was swimming beside me,” Cleevan said. “It was past 1 A.M. and I had been swimming for over 20 kms. It was only later that I realized that they were only coconuts floating nearby.”
Cleevan’s 25K “practice swim” provided him with several lessons before his 42K “main event” on April 25.
Lesson No. 1: music helps.
“A boombox is important,” he said. “I’ll ask my companions on the paddle board and pump boat to play music during the swim. Swimming in the middle of the night and for many hours.. I need music.”
Bright head lamps so his path won’t be too dark, said Cleeven, will also help.
With the swim pacers, Cleevan plans to ask four swimmers to accompany him. But this time, instead of asking them to join him at the start, they’ll form a relay team with each pacer swimming eight kms. The ones who’ve enlisted as pacers include Reinwalk Ebora, Albert Godinez, Ryan Galo and Jaron Earl Bilangdal.
ADVOCACY. When I spoke to Cleevan for nearly half an hour 10 days ago, he was very passionate about the reason for this exploit.
“My advocacy is to raise awareness and get rid of the garbage at sea,” said Cleevan. “I live right beside the waters; our house is very near the J Park Resort. Where I live in Maribago, I am able to collect as much as two sacks of garbage everyday.”
Cleevan will embark on his 42K marathon swim at 5 p.m. on April 25 — near the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Mactan. It’s a symbolic date. But the bigger symbol that the 25-year-old is attempting to achieve is this: We need to clean our seas and not throw plastics, junk or rubbish.
Cleevan wants to make sure that his swim will include passing along the Mactan Channel. While he previously only wore swim trunks, this time, for that stretch, he will have to wear a full suit. The reason is shocking and depressing.
“Hugaw, baho, lubog, daghan mag lutaw-lutaw bisag unsa, ang lapok itom pas black,” Cleevan said, of the Mactan Channel.
Let’s hope that the swim of Cleevan Alegres will not only be historic but will help raise awareness to clean our seas and save the oceans.