Can UC ambush UV to force a wild Game 5?

(From Sun.Star Cebu)

Ever since the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (Cesafi) started in 2001, one name has emerged victorious in men’s collegiate basketball. For the past eight seasons, the University of the Visayas has been undefeated. They’re 8-0.

Will this number become nine out of nine tonight, when the UV Green Lancers, armed with a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five Finals series, meet the University of Cebu Webmasters in Game 4 tonight?

“This is our biggest game of the entire season,” said top lawyer Baldomero “Merong” Estenzo, who is UC’s Dean of the Law School and the basketball team manager, when we spoke yesterday morning. “If we win, we will have an excellent chance in Game 5 on Sunday. The momentum will be with us. Our players will have added morale.”

Of course, the big, two-lettered word is… “IF.” Because if UC loses, then it’s the end to another disappointing season—and another splendid year for the unbeatable Green Lancers.

“The key to UV’s wins has been their experience,” added Estenzo. “In Game 1, we led the entire game and only lost it in the last three minutes. Same with Game 2. We led but then UV came back. Good that we won that game in the end.”

That’s true. In Game 1, UC led 42-36 entering the fourth quarter. With 7:49 left in the ballgame, they had a 10-point margin, 48-38. But in the end, the last-minute jitters attacked their squad as UV escaped with a 64-56 victory.

In Game 2, UC again led, this time by as much as 16 points before UV sneaked back to lead 70-68 with just 32 seconds left to play. That’s when the heroics of Rommel Luceño arrived when he buried a three-pointer to give UC the win via overtime, 71-70. In last Tuesday’s Game 3, it was all-UV as the Lancers won, 81-67.

“Our players were very tired in Game 3,” said Estenzo. “Game 2 was played on Monday and, on Tuesday, we played Game 3. Unlike UV where they have a lot of second stringers, with us, we rely on a few key players for the entire ballgame. And so, playing back-to-back days, UC was tired. Also, that was a disadvantage to us because many of our players are rookies and not as experienced.”

As to UC’s star center, the 6-foot-9 Jun Mar Fajardo, how has he fared in the finals? “He knows he’s carrying the team. But, sometimes, he becomes too ‘gigil.’ Maybe because too much pressure is on him. At times, “ma-pugos niya and iyang duwa.” When’s he double- or triple-teamed, ma-pugos niya. He has to realize that, when he’s double-teamed, that leaves one teammate vacant. And with UC, there are plenty of good shooters.”
How has the Fajardo vs. Greg Slaughter one-on-one played so far? “Slaughter, no doubt, is a very valuable player for UV. He has the height. He has the heft. And he can stop Fajardo. But in Game 1, it was Fajardo who outplayed Slaughter. But in the next two games, it was Slaughter who dominated.

“What I told Bernard Ricablanca (UC’s athletic director) was for Fajardo to take advantage of his speed. He’s fast. For a person with his height, he’s fast. But I’ve noticed that he has the habit, in practice, of simply jogging. They should engage him with more sprints. Fajardo is extraordinary for a guy at 6-9. He’s not slow-footed. He has to take advantage of his speed. Like, for example, after he rebounds and passes the ball, he should sprint back. No one, especially Slaughter, will be able to catch him.”

When I asked Estenzo why UV, this entire decade, has been unbeatable, his reply was precise. “They have an excellent program. A program that’s geared towards winning championships. They have a deep bench. They have a lot of players. Lots of reserves. They can even form a second squad that can compete against everybody. And so, these second- and third-string players, after a year or two with UV, they’re already seasoned. It’s a continuous winning program.”

Finally, I asked Atty. Estenzo what it takes for UC to break the UV streak. “Our players need to trust each other. No one player can carry the whole team. Not even Fajardo. He needs the support of all players. We have to be a team.”

Categorized as Cesafi

The ‘big’ Little Olympics by Milo was dazzling

Confetti showered. Cheer-dancers somersaulted. The Dancesport Team Cebu City boogied and waltzed. Fireworks erupted. Athletes screamed. Lights circled the stage. Smiles and hugs and fist-pumps and outstretched arms swamped the arena.

What a Closing Ceremony! I’ve witnessed the 2005 SEA Games opening and, last year, was in Beijing when the first-ever China Olympics were held. But the party and presentations and parade that was showcased last Sunday night when the 1st Milo Little Olympics National Finals concluded was just as breathtaking.

Cebu City should be proud. Ricky Ballesteros should feel proud. Nestle and Milo should be applauded with a city-wide standing ovation. For what a super-successful staging of a nationwide sports meet that’s world-caliber.

Little? Milo calls these Olympics…. little? With over 1,223 athletes from Mindanao, Visayas, Luzon and the NCR, plus a thousand more officials and coaches, plus thousands more of parents and cheerers and spectators, can I suggest that these games be called… giant-sized? Or amazing? Or splendid?

I witnessed the games first-hand. As a sports aficionado, I doubled as a parent last weekend to my daughter Jana who won for Visayas the bronze medal in girls elementary tennis. I sat during the Opening. Was a spectator during the athletic sprint events. Observed the Closing. And, you know what I heard from players and coaches from Manila and Davao and our Visayan neighbors?

Cebu is bad!!! You know why? Because we’ve set such a high bar of excellence in organizing the Milo games that future host cities can’t meet our standards. “From now on,” they tell me, “all other athletes and delegates will be disappointed!” Amazing, Cebu. I second the motion.

More on last Sunday night… what was fun to watch was, unlike the Opening when the officials wore formal attire, in the Closing it was a party. A giant soiree. Gone were the barong tagalogs. This time, everybody wore green Milo T-shirts and Levi’s jeans. The athletes? While, during the Opening, they paraded with their respective contingents, two nights ago it was this sight: Luzon mixed with Mindanao who mixed with NCR who mixed with the Bisdaks from Visayas. It was one humongous party. Win or lose, the athletes all celebrated. Everybody won.

Mayor Tommy Osmeña, who arrived with his beauteous wife Margot at 6:30 p.m., in his brief speech thanked Milo for having chosen Cebu City to be the event’s first host. Well-said, mayor.

Among the many entertainment theatrics we witnessed that evening, to me one of the most moving episodes was when a lone singer sand the Lea Salonga hit song, “Journey.” With the Cebu City Sports Center in total darkness and only seven large screens were lighted on stage displaying the children in action, she sang, “What a journey it has been… and the end is now in sight… But the stars are out tonight… what a journey it has been.” It was fitting, emotional, powerful. I had goose-bumps.

Finally, the highlight was the announcement of the winners. In the overall championship, after the names of Mindanao (3rd place) and NCR (runner-up) had been announced, the boys and girls with the blue-colored Milo sweatshirts started sprinting for the stage. They knew. The Cebuanos knew. Team Visayas knew. Nicknamed “D’ Bisdaks” by Ricky Ballesteros, wasn’t it fitting that we won as champions?

Joy Augustus Young, who first started these Milo Little Olympics here in Cebu back in 1996 when he was a Cebu City Councilor, was back where he belonged: on stage to receive the Grand Prize as the Visayas team’s Chef De Mission.

In all, it was astonishing. Thanks to a company who builds “champions in life.”

Milo and Nestle: Building champions in life


Last Friday night, I attended a spectacle. The Lumad Basakanon dancers, many-time Sinulog champions, astonished the crowd. Raki Vega sang the Olympic theme, “Reach.” Marichu Jao San Juan, the Hall of Fame volleyball star, helped light the torch. Govt. cabinet secretaries Ace Durano and Jesli Lapuz spoke. So did Vice Mayor Mike Rama.

It was the Opening Ceremony of the 1st Milo Little Olympics National Finals. And, who else to host this “first” but our very own, Cebu City? A total of 2,333 athletes and coaches jam-packed the Cebu City Sports Center. The four contingents that paraded the oval—representing Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and NCR—were, I’m sure, impressed.

UC vs. UV: Can Fajardo slaughter the champs?

When I spoke to the two-time reigning CESAFI MVP yesterday, Greg Slaughter corrected me. “Are you ready for the match-up of the two tallest men in Cebu?” I asked. “You mean the two tallest players in the whole Philippines!” answered Greg.

Oh, yes. Greg Slaughter is Herculean. He stands 7-feet-tall. Jun Fajardo (above photo) is gargantuan. He’s 6-foot-9. In the history of Cebu basketball—and possibly of the entire Philippine collegiate basketball—this is the most sky-scraping and towering of contests.

Categorized as Cesafi

Amsterdam Marathon

Albert Santos, Nica Ong, Jane-Jane Ong, Andrew Ong, Meyrick Jacalan, Perl Jacalan and Vic Verallo

Last Sunday, Oct. 18, while plenty from Cebu joined the Quezon City International Marathon, seven of our fellow members from the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) travelled all the way to Europe to join a major marathon race. The Amsterdam Marathon is acknowledged as one of the most popular of road races in Europe. The results of our fellow Cebuanos? Excellent! All of them posted Personal Best (PB) times. The team was led by Dr. Vic Verallo, one of Cebu’s top dermatologists, who posted a speedy time of 4:20:50. He was followed by ASAP Advertising top honcho Meyrick “Jacs” Jacalan who posted a fast time, despite nursing a foot injury, of 4:21:14. Next, it was first-time marathon Andrew Ong who clocked 4:24:23. Then, Jane-Jane Ong, who runs the famous Leona Pastries outlets in Cebu, finished in 4:29:12. Next was Jane’s sister, Nica, at 4:29:54. They were followed by Dr. Albert Santos, a veteran of three marathons (Hong Kong, Singapore and Milo), who also finished in his PB time of 5:03:34. Finally, there was Perl Jacalan who finished the 21K in 2:17:36. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

Categorized as Marathon

Quezon City Intl. Marathon: The Good and the Bad

Having joined dozens of road-running races (mostly in Cebu), including the Hong Kong and Singapore marathons in 2008, here are several observations from last Sunday’s QCIM:


1. Weather. Obviously, this has nothing to do with the organizers, but we were blessed with excellent weather that day. It didn’t rain. Even better, the sun barely shined all-morning-long. Given the up-and-down terrain of the QCIM 42K, can you imagine if the weather was super-hot? If, from 6:30 to 11 a.m. there was blazing sunlight? I bet a lot of runners would have stopped. Especially because the event ran out of water on so many water stations.

2. Chip. Having that ChampionChip on your shoe makes the event world-caliber. This was good. And something we have yet to experience in Cebu (given it’s cost, around P200,000 just for the deployment, we’re targeting in the 2011 Cebu Marathon).

Categorized as Marathon

The torture called Quezon City Marathon

That’s me and Bro. Carlo Bacalla meters from the finish

Jesse Taborada, a veteran of six 42K marathons, calls it, “The hardest marathon in the world!”

Of course, Jesse exaggerated. Nothing, I assume, can beat the Great Wall of China or the Mt. Everest marathons. But the 42.195 kms. that we trekked last Sunday may be termed, “the country’s toughest 42K.”

The Quezon City International Marathon (QCIM) started at 4:30 a.m. Anticipating harsh weather due to Typhoon Ramil, it did not rain at the QC Circle. Stars glazed. At the Starting Line, hundreds of hearts pounded. Then, after a 10… 9… 8… countdown, the firing gun blasted. Joel Garganera was beside me. Same with Jesse. And Bro. Carlo Bacalla of Don Bosco in Labangon, Cebu. We entered U.P. Diliman in darkness as students slept. Next, we exited and ran along Commonwealth Avenue—all of eight lanes-wide per lane. Cars were barred. It was perfect.