Cebuano rock-climbers to conquer Thailand

Ten brave hearts will travel via Cebu Pacific on Wednesday night to Singapore. No, they’re not there to shop along Orchard Road or to visit the Night Safari. From Singapore, the 10-person team will next move by land to Krabi, in southern Thailand, then take a bus to the Au Nang port where a “Long Tail Boat” will ship them to a paradise called Tonsai. If you’ve watched the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach,” that’s it. That’s Tonsai.


That’s what will bring Wendel Getubig Jr., Patrick Costelo, Bill Carlo Chiong, Isabel Angela Pascuado, Sunshine Menoza, Crissy Pineda, Gay Nanette Belgira and my first cousin, Giandi Pages, to southern Thailand.

For 15 days, this all-Cebuano group, who call themselves “Team 330 Haiball,” will do a first: become the first-ever group from Cebu to climb the rock formations of Thailand. And here’s the interesting start: for 8 of the 10 members, it’s their first-ever trip outside the country.

Why Thailand? “Thailand is popular for rock climbing,” e-mailed my cousin, Giandi Pages. “Because of the hundreds of developed routes available for beginners to advanced/professional climbers. Plus, the scenery is superb. There are hundred-meter high rock formations with long stretches of white sand beaches at the foot. There are also a number of small rocks protruding from the ocean also developed for climbing. (“Developed,” meaning bolted routes to make it easier and safer for climbers.)

“And, of course, the parties. These parties happen after sunset, when climbers from all over the world gather and share stories. As the saying goes ‘When tired hands meets cold beer’ – by Patrick Costelo.”

It’s taken the team one full year to prepare for Wednesday’s trip. The group is led by it’s top climber, Wendel Getubig, Jr., the leader with 10 years of rock-climbing experience that started with him climbing indoor gyms using the “trad” (traditional) method of temporary anchors (slings, knots, cams).

Having never rock-climbed in my life, I asked Giandi the thrill this sport brings. “Height,” he answered. “The higher it gets, the heavier the heart beats. Also, DANGER. The possibilities of getting injured or even losing one’s life. Could be through equipment failure or pure negligence. Or the possibility of natural rock formations chipping off.”

And how about those sweaty and clammy hands…

“That’s normal,” said Giandi. “That’s why we carry a chalk bag loaded with Magnesium Carbonate powder to absorb sweat.”

Is rock-climbing dangerous? “Yes it is dangerous, but if all the rules and basic precautions are followed, and your equipment is always counter-checked by a fellow climber, then nothing should go wrong.

“The only dangerous part is getting to the first anchor which would be about 3 meters from the ground. It’s dangerous because there is a possibility of falling directly to the ground (termed as “ground fall”). But once you’ve clipped the rope on the first anchor (temporary/permanent), there is less possibility of ground fall since your rope will already be in place.”

In Cebu, the team climbs 3 to 4 times a week indoor, and they spend weekends outdoor, either day trips or overnight trips to Cantabaco, Toledo. “That’s an hour’s drive from the city, and then a beautiful 15 minute hike crossing a mini river and passing thru local villages.”

To Giandi, the most important trait of a good rock-climber is “good vibes… good attitude. Next would be patience since most climbers never achieve what they want on their first few attempts.”

Finally, I asked: What goes through the mind of a rock-climber 45 meters above the ground. Does a climber, even an experienced one, feel scared? Rattled?

“Yes, always scared,” said Giandi. “When climbing, you discover a different side of yourself. You discover your maximum strength—both physical and mental. Its a battle between physical and mental strength… and the mental strength must prevail. It is scary to go up, but at the same time it is also scary to fall! So it’s a mental decision that you HAVE to make.”

Summer’s here! Time to swim out, not sit in

When I grew up as a young boy in Bacolod City in the 1970s, our family owned one 14-inch black-and-white TV set. Voltes V was my favorite cartoon show. I also loved how Popeye gobbled up that can of spinach, turned muscular, punched Brutus, then won over the thinnest creature shown on TV, Olive. How often did I sit fronting the boob tube? Once a week. For 30 minutes. Maybe even less.

The PlayStation 3 did not exist. The XBox 360, one of today’s most popular gaming devices, wasn’t invented by Bill Gates. Motorola Rzor cell phones weren’t produced. The iPod was a thick box with a cassette tape twirling inside named the Walkman. The Internet? It was decades away and the only “surfing” people understood was on the beach above a surfboard.

That was the 1970s.

Today, young ones clasp with 10 fingers the PSP (for the “young once,” that’s Sony’s popular toy, the PlayStation Portable). Cable TV channels boast of thousands of shows named Kim Possible, Mr. Bean, Raven, and Totally Spies. Today, six-year-olds can “txt” with their eyes closed.

What has this made the world?

It has made our children fat. Lazy. It has made them think less. Sweat less. Do less. It has made them crawl to the computer to E-mail their best friend instead of saying the old-fashioned “I’ll call you!” and talking for two hours on the phone. It has made our children reclusive. Introverts. Like turtles, they turn inside their shells, inside their rooms, inside their computers, inside their friendster accounts. Take this example: Instead of going out to join a karate class, today’s children would rather play a martial arts videogame with a joystick.


Very, very sad.

So here we are, once more, back in this season called Summer. The question is asked of every parent, “What do I let my children do?”

My advice? Go out.

During the next 60 days, when the sun is burning and the skies are light blue and it’s 34 degrees outside and the clouds are puffy and white—take your child out. Literally. Take her out.

Enroll your son on an aikido program. Buy him those white martial arts overalls, let him kick, jump, block and punch. Let him do all those acts in front of a teacher, beside other children—and not on some PlayStation game.

Go out.

Enroll her in a tennis clinic. There are dozens of programs available: Sancase Tennis Club, Casino Espanol, and the Cebu Country Club—which will have national coach Butch Bacani as it’s head.

Basketball? Badminton? Football? Swimming? Bowling?

Every single sport that has a field or a pool or a court or an alley will have a summer program this season. What to join? It’s all up to you. It’s all up to your child.

Not interested in sports? No problem. There are so many other choices available: classes for painting, for cooking, for dancing, for acting…

The point is this: Before the two months pass and the next you realize is your daughter has memorized all the earth’s TV shows, do something. Plan out her summer today.

Go out.

I know, I know. Very often, the words “summer” and “extra expenses” are synonyms. That’s true. But you can also be creative. You can take your child out without spending too much.

When I was no older than nine years old and our family lived in a Bacolod subdivision called Mountain View, my dad and mom did the wisest move any parent can do: They bought me an inexpensive bike. And so I biked. Each morning, I pedaled. Each afternoon, I pedaled. Together with my neighbors, we drove our BMX bikes, raced the asphalt roads, scouted for “damang” (as “kaka,” or spiders are called in Ilonggo) crawling the electric lines, shot hoops at the village court, and pulled our “tiradors” (slingshots) to target birds.

We weren’t inside. We were out.

Finally, here’s one last tip: Summer’s the perfect time to bond with your child. Buy a plastic kite and drive to the Family Park in Talamban. Throw the kite up in the air while your son maneuvers it upward.

You play golf? And want your daughter to learn the game? Enroll her in a JunGolf program. Drop her at the morning’s start. Pick her up. Watch her. Compliment her swing. If you can afford it, buy her a junior golf set. And when she’s good enough to play a few holes, be her partner. Or her caddy. By summer’s end, guess what: Your daughter will be all-smiles, tanned, tired. And, she’d have found a new best friend named Dad.

Tales from a first-time marathoner

Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III will never forget the date February 25, 2007. That was the morning when he arose at 3 a.m., showered, put on his Sight First Clinics jersey and running shorts, tied his New Balance shoelaces, and drove to the starting line for his first-ever 42K race. When he arrived before the 4:30 a.m. start, nearly 1,000 runners crowded and stretched their muscles, all set for the 3rd Philippine International Marathon.

“The race traversed six cities (Manila, San Juan, Makati , Taguig, Mandaluyong and Pasig) and 11 bridges,” said Dr. Larrazabal. “The bridges were most difficult since we all trained on flat surface. I never thought of quitting but it was the five-hour curfew that was always on my mind. Imagine, traveling all the way to Manila and not finishing the marathon.

“During the halfway mark (21K), I was on schedule with my trainer to make it in 4 hours, 15 minutes. But at the 30k mark, the heat was unbearable. It was only the second time that I was running under direct sunlight (the first during the 21k Milo Marathon) and it was draining my energy. This part of the route was the notorious C5.

“A lot of runners were taken in by ambulance. There was this particular runner who suffered a heat stroke. I saw him jumping out of a moving ambulance and subsequently jumping over a 14-foot overpass. Luckily, he was not seriously hurt.

“At 37K, my lack of training began to haunt me. I suffered cramps on my left leg. After resting for two minutes, I continued to run with the moral support of my trainer. I was practically dragging my stiff left leg. At 41K, my right leg started to hurt. This was when I asked God to help me finish the race. I thought that if my right leg would suffer cramps, that would be it. What normally would take me 22 to 24 minutes to cover the last five kilometers took me almost an hour because of my injury.

“Luckily, I FINISHED THE RACE AT EXACTLY 4 HOURS, 53 MINUTES, and 3 SECONDS and got my medal!”

Wow. Wasn’t that amazing? An eye surgeon, Dr. Yong Larrazabal revealed the strength of his heart. “I had no doubt that I would finish the race. My greatest fear was that I would not finish it within the five-hour curfew. I have always believed in “mind over body” and have never quit any race so far.”

Lance Armstrong, when he finished the New York City Marathon—also his first-ever attempt at the 42K run—said it was the most difficult physical experience he’s ever done. Dr. Larrazabal? The same. “Clearly, that was the most physically demanding activity I have ever done in my 33 years of existence,” he said.

“I could not train hard for the Manila Marathon due to my hectic schedule at the clinic. One month before the race, I started increasing my mileage. I started to run two hours instead of one hour twice a week and one hour in between those days. I realized after the race that it was not enough. I stopped running five days before the race and started “carbo-loading” with lots of pasta. We were six in our group: my trainer Charlie Berberio, my Ophtha associate Dr. Brian Canton, my Iranian Ophtha resident Dr. Jahani Hivechi, CDU faculty and Racing coordinator Raymond Silot and CDU student-athlete Earl Canapi.”

After only one-and-a-half years of joining 5K and 10K races, Dr. Yong Larrazabal completed his first-ever 42K race. For a long-distance runner, that’s a sprint.

Will you run again? I asked. “Yes! I plan to join the New York City Marathon on November and plan to join two to three marathons a year. I was particularly inspired when Fernando Zobel de Ayala (who I believe is in his early 50s) was featured last year after finishing the NYC Marathon in 4 hours 20 minutes.”

I asked Dr. Yong Larrazabal how he felt at the finish line. “Surprisingly, maybe because of the euphoria of finishing my first ever 42K, I was not exhausted. President Fidel Ramos, Former First Lady Ming Ramos and Sec. Angelo Reyes were at the finish line to greet all the successful runners. We all went home full-pledged marathoners.

“The next day both my legs were stiff and I was limping. But you know what? I still did my surgeries and finished my clinic. Two days after the race, I was back on the treadmill. MIND OVER BODY!”

Categorized as Running

Exclusive! Yes, Dr. Yong Larrazabal is running

All three local newspapers have advertised his name and proclaimed his running. Radio broadcasts have trumpeted and shouted his running. Businessmen, public officials, his fellow doctors—everyone has speculated and debated and asked the question: Is the young Ophthalmologist and heir to the Cebu Doctors Hospital throne running?

Is Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III running?

In a series of text messages, talks, and E-mails with him the past two weeks, I have the inside scoop: Yes, he’s running.

For Cebu City Councilor? This May 14? Against Mayor Tommy Osmena? And his 16-person slate? His first-ever foray into politics? At the young age of 33 years old?

“I’ve been asked to run for mayor and councilor by several individuals,” he confessed. “At the moment, the only running I will be doing is the marathon!”

So, there it is. Sorry to disappoint the gossip-mongers, but it’s a different form of running. You see, Dr. Yong Larrazabal is too busy a physician, too busy a father to his seven-year-old daughter Belle and four-year-old son Cian, too busy a husband attending to his beauteous wife Donna Cruz, who’ll give birth to their second son in two months; too busy to run, dribble and shoot for the ballgame named Politics.

But running? The sport where your heart pumps 168 times in 60 seconds and your sweat drips and bounces off the cement road? Yes, that running.

“My sport was always basketball since my elementary days,” he told me. “But I knew because of it’s intense physical demands, it would just be a matter of time when I’d be injured. Being an Eye Surgeon, injury to any of my fingers could spell disaster. So I was looking for an alternative sport that would not involve my arms and hands too much.

“A year and a half ago, Dr. Douglas Del Prado (a good friend and an anesthesiologist), during surgery, invited me to a 10K marathon. I decided to join out of curiosity. I was not worried about training because I had been on the Treadmill 30 minutes a day for the past seven years. I caught the ‘running bug’ since then and have been joining all the races in Cebu.”

Why this sport? “It’s when I’m running that I feel free from the outside world. While running, I reflect on a lot of things. Things I’ve done wrong. My loved ones. My profession. And God. I have never felt better physically since I started running. Ever. My stamina now is terrific. I can work the whole day and never get tired. Lastly, I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight.

“I run an hour a day on the Treadmill four times a week. I run along the running path around my home twice a week and run with the Sight First Running Club members once a week at the Cebu City Sports Center. Cebu Doctors University is building a mini-oval this year in its new campus in Mandaue. I plan to run there, too.”

Though the young doctor prefers long-distance running, he has sprinted his way to collect trophies: 1st place (Doctors Category), the 1st University Run, World Heart Day Run, and Run for Guimaras; 9th place (Men’s Executive), the 1st 10K Asean Summit Run at 47 minutes; and 10th place (Men’s Open), Gawad Kalinga 10K Run at 44 minutes.

A 10K run at 44 minutes? Wow. That’s blistering fast.

Exactly two weeks ago today, Dr. Larrazabal joined a race that would kill a man unprepared. It’s 42.125 kms.—the distance from the Capitol to Carcar. It’s battling a God-given enemy named the heat of the sun. It’s bridges to climb and asphalt roads to conquer and Honda Civics that zoom past you at 89 kph. It’s your legs saying no, lungs saying no, mind saying no… but that muscle underneath the shirt saying yes. It’s the final thesis for the student named Runner.

The Marathon.

After only a year-and-a-half of joining 5K and 10K races, Dr. Yong took his thesis examination last February 25 at the 3rd Philippine International Marathon.

“We took the Saturday 5 pm flight from Cebu,” he said. “Upon arrival we went to the Mall of Asia to look for an Italian Restaurant. We found Italianni’s after 30 minutes of walking and feasted on pizza and pasta. Our racing coordinator handed out laxatives to each of us. All of us had a hard time sleeping because of the excitement (max two hours of sleep).

“We had to get up at 3 a.m. to get ready for the starting time at 4:30 a.m. There were nearly 1,000 runners for the marathon. There were a lot of VIPs in the race—thus the presence of policemen, traffic enforcers and even the SWAT. There were water stations (two per kilometer). It was very well-organized. We were even given a map and a survival handbook prior to the race. There were bicycle escorts for a fee. The support team of some runners was unbelievable.

“Imagine, one VIP runner was tailed by two SUVs. When he was tired, the trunk of one SUV would open and you could see food, Gatorade, mineral water, energy drinks. Two men from the other SUV would come out and massage each of his legs…”

Categorized as Running