Paco Jarque is one of the luckiest people in Cebu. Why? It’s not because he won the P138,000,000 Super Lotto jackpot or scored a hole-in-one in golf then drove home a brand-new BMW X5, it’s this: Unlike you and me and tens of thousands of others living on this island who love basketball, he gets to watch—everyday—the 2008 NBA Playoffs. Not on the internet. Not via delayed telecast. Not from listening to Y101 updates. But “live.”
“I watch almost all the games,” said Paco, when we spoke on the phone yesterday.
When I called him at around 11:40 in the morning, guess what, he was watching and updating me—in real time—the Game 4 score of the L.A. Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs.
“Nine-point lead for the Lakers,” he said. “And it’s the last three minutes of the game.”
If you subscribe to SkyCable and click on the Balls channel 33, or, if you’re wired to a Dream Satellite TV and point to Solar Sports, each night for the next two weeks you’ll be treated to warfare. Fought on dirty and muddy brown clay, your eyes will feast on two nemesis, each carrying a long-barrel shotgun and firing back bullets that zigzag and sting. Then, after four hours, one warrior hangs his head while the other raises his arms to the Moon in victory.
It’s the French War.
(Photo by Tom Jenkins)
And, tennis soldiers have been engrossed in the battle since 1891. Yes, well before anyone of us was born—and much earlier than the 1914 start of World War I—the French War started. At first, it was a battle only among Frenchmen. But, as the years dragged on and it’s popularity mushroomed, in 1925, it opened it’s doors to accept enemies from around the globe.
The French Open, it’s called today. Why, you ask, do I call it “war?”
Sunday last week, on this same lazy day, my nine-year-old daughter Jana and I stared at each other at 4 p.m. to ask what we would do next. We had read three books, tossed the Frisbee at the parking lot, and were looking for an activity more exciting.
“Dad, why don’t we bike? Let’s go to Maria Luisa!” she said.
Our eyes lit up and off we sprinted to open the car’s back door as we snuggled in our two bikes. Upon reaching my mom’s house, we unloaded Jana’s BMX and my MTB.
Kevin Garnett said it best: “This is my first of, hopefully, many. If you don’t know about the Lakers-Celtics history, then you really don’t know basketball. I’m looking forward to it and I’m going to enjoy it. I’m going to embrace it. I’m going to try not to get too hyped about it. I’m very much aware of it. The titles… and the endless battles.”
Not to fast, KG. But, granted that the 6-foot-11 forward’s wish comes true, what a moment! Because aren’t the Lakers and Celtics the NBA’s two greatest names?
How do you look so calm in such a pressure-filled game? How do you manage to stay unaffected and appear so relaxed in the biggest tournament of the biggest golf club in Cebu?
I posed these questions last Saturday to one of the best—if not the best—golfer in Cebu today; to the player who was recently crowned as “Club Champion” (his second in three years) of the Cebu Country Club……. Chuckie Hong.
“My personality off the golf course is who I am on the golf course,” he said. “I’m the silent, serious type. And whenever a problem arises, for example, I’m never one to jump and be overly surprised. I’m not impulsive. I’m more of a thinker. And this carries on in the golf course. I’m relaxed. Patient. I guess you can also say that, as a player, kalma ang akong disposition.”
Eight days ago, two of the best golfers of the 1928-founded Cebu Country Club—and, quite possibly, the entire Cebu—stood at the footsteps of Hole No.1, shook hands, plunged their tees on the grass, then swung.
Eric Deen, 43, loomed tall as a four-time champion. He’s the Dean of Golfers. From 1997 to 1999, then again in 2004, he hoisted the trophy above his shoulders. And, once again, he was on familiar ground: the finals of the 2007 Club Championship.
His opponent? Twenty four years his junior: Charles Hong. “Chuckie,” as he’s called by everyone, is only 19 years old yet, for three years straight, he’s been in the Class A finals. Two years ago, he beat fellow jun-golfer Jojo Tiongko in a thrilling 37th hole, sudden-death playoff to become one of the youngest-ever champions in Cebu Country Club history. He was 17. Last year, he entered the finals again—but lost to arguably the best player to ever set foot in the club, Montito Garcia.
When you stroll along the world-famous harbor of Hong Kong, as I did with my family last weekend, your eyes will stare at familiar sights: dozens of high-rise metallic buildings that touch the clouds, green Star Ferry boats that transport 26 million people each year, and thousands of tourists that line the seafront posing for picturesque moments. But, there’s one new sight that was never visible in the past six weeks or 12 months or 24 years that now envelopes Hong Kong: The Olympics.
Pasted on one side of an imposing building along the harbor are five giant Olympic rings, each bearing an Olympic color: blue, yellow, black, green and red. At night, these lighted rings are visible from almost any part of Hong Kong—even from the faraway tourist attraction called The Peak.
His name is Jean Henri Lhuillier. He used to own the Cebu Gems but no longer spends tens of millions on basketball. He is, by heart, Cebuano though he’s lived most of his adult life in Manila. His strongest passion—next to family and business—is this six-letter word that has implanted the name “Lhuillier” among the minds of the 81 million who reside in this country: Sports.
“I speak better Cebuano than Tagalog,” Jean Henri told me last Wednesday afternoon as we stood together to watch Johnny Arcilla and PJ Tierro, RP’s top tennis stars, play doubles at the Baseline Recreation Center.
JHL, to put it mildly, is devoted to sports. He’s watched the French and Australian Opens. During college in America, for two years he played the highest-level Division I varsity tennis. Plus, we know that his company bankrolled the week-long Cebuana Lhuillier Men’s Open that concluded yesterday.