Super? M. Lhuillier shoots for a ‘Sweep 21’

Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba, our Cebu City Councilor, is the most famous and triumphant coach in our land’s basketball history. Back in 1986, he started coaching for Michel Lhuillier and his cluster of basketball teams. Since then, he’s won 350… 650… possibly thousands… of games during the 23-year span. Recently, Coach Yayoy and his M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala team won 20 games in a row.

He should be smiling and contented and feeling super, right? Wrong. Yesterday afternoon, when I spoke to Alcoseba for a brief, six-minute phone interview, he sounded dissatisfied. He didn’t sound super. And don’t all super-achievers—those who endlessly win and win—always seem to have an insatiable appetite for not being satisfied?

“We were embarrassed in the last championship,” he said. That last championship, of course, was Game 5 of the Liga Pilipinas finals. That was the previous “Conference 2” tournament. Right here at home—at a city where the Lhuillier franchise rarely loses—Coach Yayoy’s squad lost to Misamis Oriental. “We’re hungry now. Today, it’s pay back time in front of the Cebuanos.”

What about the 20-game Liga winning streak in the current Conference 3? “’I told the players, ‘We’re not thinking of records. What’s important is to win. To win the national championship,” he said. The coach is right. Yayoy asked his players not to focus on their past successes but to target one game. Just one game.

The tournament? The 2009 Smart-Liga Pilipinas Super Leg. This event is on its third conference—with Lhuillier winning the first leg and Mis-Or, the second.

Still, to the ordinary fan, what makes the championship game exciting is this: Yayoy Alcoseba’s quest for 21 straight victories. When I asked him yesterday if he had an easy or difficult path winning all 20 games, he laughed. “None of the games were easy. Of course they were tough. We had plenty that were difficult.”

The Super Leg format is a first for the Liga. “Super Leg is copied from the European style of basketball. After a series of legs, it’s a best-of-five format where the teams go to one place and again play the elimination round. Then, the No. 1 has a bye, the numbers two and three play a knockout game. This format is much better for us. It means less traveling. Less expenses. It’s good for the teams.”

The M. Lhuillier squad has five ex-PBA players on it’s roster: Marlon Basco, Bruce Dacia, Mark Magsumbol, Stephen Padilla and Abby Santos. I asked about Mark Magsumbol, a new entry to the Lhuillier squad, and the husband of top sportswriter Caecent No-ot of The Freeman.

“Mark is a very big thing for us,” he said. “He’s helping us in the number three spot. He’s been scoring in double figures. Plus, he’s helping a lot on the defensive side.”

Don’t miss the final at 6 tonight, Cebu Coliseum.

Categorized as Basketball

The Cebu City Marathon: Ato ni bai!

Running has replaced badminton as the most popular recreational sport in Cebu today. If you arise early on a Sunday and visit the two parks—Cebu Business Park and the Asiatown I.T. Park—you will see women and men in short shorts, leggings, sleeveless shirts. On their feet are soft, thick-padded shoes and they’re all moving in forward motion.

Consider last Sunday. There were two races held simultaneously: the 2nd Running MAD event at the U.P. Lahug grounds and the Velez Hospital Run along Ramos St. Nearly 2,000 runners joined both.

This Sunday, Nov. 29? The same. There’s the Go For Green Tourism Eco-Run at the Asiatown I.T. Park and the 4th Seminary Fund Run at the Cebu Business Park. Both start at 6 a.m. Both will invite over a thousand participants each to trample on our asphalted road. Both will ask runners to sweat.

Which brings me to the paramount race in our land: the Cebu City Marathon. Scheduled on “01-10-10,” that’s Jan. 10, 2010, this will be the Wimbledon of road events, the Super Bowl of Cebu racing, the PBA Finals of all Cebu running events.

The main reason? This will be the first time in several years that Cebu will host the full marathon distance of 42.195 kms. Most races are 5K or 10K—this one will be different; there will be three distances: 5K, 21K and 42K.

Also, the prize money. A total of P300,000 in cash prizes will be offered to the winners. The 42K champion? He nets a large amount of P50,000. The runner-up, P25,000. And so forth.

Next, the SRP. For many of us who drive through the South Road Properties area—and for plenty of us who want to run or bike inside the SRP but can’t—this will be your chance.

The Sinulog. That’s another reason to invite friends from outside Manila to come. Scheduled one week before the grand festival, what a time to see Cebu’s streets—by foot. By running.

And, possibly the best reason of all, is the distance. You see, among runners, the ultimate goal is to finish a marathon. If you’re an elite, world-class runner, it’s like joining the Olympics 100-meter dash. If you’re a boxer, it’s like fighting inside the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. It’s the same with running. As you progress from 3K to 5K to 10K and to 21K… the major challenge is to finish that 42K.

I, myself, can attest to this quest to finish the “holy grail of running.” I started running three years ago and, last December, finally crossed that finish line at the Singapore Marathon. The good news is, Cebuano runners need not travel to Singapore or Hong Kong. This event will be here.

Ato ni bai! The latest update? It’s called the ChampionChip. For the first time in Cebu—and, I believe, in the entire Visayas and Mindanao—the Cebu City Marathon will hand out timing chips for the 21K and 42K runners. This is unprecedented. And expensive! At a total cost of no less than P500,000, our group—the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC)—has decided to use the chip.

Put simply, this chip is a mini transponder that runners will attach to their shoes. Water-resistant, it will record the time of the runner from start to finish to all points along the route. Benefits? Plenty. It will prevent dishonest runners from making short-cuts. The results, to be posted within 24 hours, will be accurate. And, the organizers will have a hassle-free finish line, devoid of dozens of people checking the time splits of the finishers.

In short, world-class. It will elevate the event to a higher status. This timing chip system—now used in a few races in Manila—is a staple device of races like the marathons in New York, Boston, London and Berlin.

Because of this latest development, registration fees have been slightly increased. The 5K run (which won’t use the chip) is the same at P250. The 21K, previously P350, will now be P450. The 42K, priced at P450 before, will be P650 (with Finisher’s Medals).

Registration begins tomorrow, Friday, at the Active Zone of the Ayala Center Cebu and the Cebu City Sports Commission (PSC office). Deadline is Dec. 31. Register ASAP!

Good and Bad

Good to see the top eight men’s tennis players in the world. They’re in London for the annual, year-ending Masters Cup. The bad news? No cable TV coverage!

Categorized as Tennis

The P1,000,000,000.00 man

No Filipino athlete, female or male, has ever earned one billion pesos in total prize money in her or his entire career. And here comes a former construction worker who could barely feed himself two meals a day, who finished only his elementary education, who started boxing to lift himself from poverty at the age of 16…. go on to harvest P1 billion pesos. Not in his career. Not in two months or one year. But in 33 minutes, 55 seconds. Computed per minute, that’s P29.42 million. Computed per tick, that’s P491,000 per second.

Half a million pesos per second! Can you believe that? Usain Bolt doesn’t earn that much. Same with Federer or Nadal or Michael Phelps. Even Shaq or Ronaldinho or Alex Rodriguez doesn’t earn that much. But Manny Pacquiao does. He just did.

Can you imagine how much a fight with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. will earn Pacman? Compared to the $22 million he grossed against Miguel Cotto, they say he’ll earn as much as $35 million. Some say $40-M. Others predict he’ll fetch as high as $50 million. Choosing the mid-range $40 million figure, that’s about P2,000,000,000. For one fight that lasts, at the maximum, 36 minutes. About the same time you or I shower, get dressed, brush our teeth, comb our hair, get ready for work or school… 36 minutes. P2,000,000,000.

According to Forbes magazine in their July 17, 2009 article entitled, “The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes,” a total of 17 athletes were listed—and only those who earned $30 million or more were admitted to the exclusive list. “Our list of the highest-paid athletes looks at earnings derived from salaries, bonuses, prize money, endorsements and licensing income between June 2008 and June 2009 and does not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees,” said the magazine. “Overall the top 20 earned $789 million, down 1% from last year.”

Tiger Woods, as expected, stood at No. 1. Recently, there were reports saying that he’s the world’s first-ever billionaire. And that’s in dollars—not in pesos. In one year’s time, Tiger was said to have earned a whopping $110 million.

Second on the list is—again no surprise—Kobe Bryant. He raked in $45 million for 12 months. Tying him in that second spot was the man KB24 idolized, Michael Jordan. “MJ retired as a player for the third and presumably final time six years ago, but he is still the most famous athlete in the United States,” said Forbes. “The Jordan Brand is approaching $1 billion in sales for Nike which turned Jordan into a marketing phenomenon.” One final athlete tied the two ballplayers in No.2, Kimi Raikonnen. He also grossed $40 million.

David Beckham sits in No. 5 with earnings of $42 million. “Beckham is far from the best player on the pitch, but he is still the most famous which is why companies like Adidas, Giorgio Armani and Motorola pay him millions for his endorsement,” said Forbes.

Finally, we reach the sixth placers: LeBron James, Phil Mickelson and…. drum roll, please…. our very own, MP. “The highest-ranking of the four newcomers to the list is boxer Manny Pacquiao who earned $40 million over the last year, tied for the sixth most Pacquiao cemented his claim as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter with convincing knockouts of Oscar De La Hoya in December and Ricky Hatton in May. The two blockbuster fights garnered more than 2 million pay-per-view buys in the U.S. and earned Pac-Man $30 million combined,” said Forbes.

“Pacquiao’s massive popularity in his native Philippines is why companies like Nike and San Miguel beer have signed him to endorse their products. Pacquiao intends to use that popularity to run for political office when his ring career is over.”

Let’s hope our Filipino hero—just like his counterpart, the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year, Efren Peñaflorida—lives up to his name as a true Filipino role model and doesn’t squander his billions on gambling, cockfighting, electioneering, politicking or, with KR, iring-iring.

Bidoy Aldeguer: ‘Prayers of millions helped Z’

Zeta Celestino Oliveros Gorres, or “Buchoy” to his close friends and family, is known to us by only one letter: Z. Nine days ago, a terrifying incident happened. At the Mandalay Bay House of Blues—on an eerie Friday the 13th—Z Gorres won his fight but then collapsed. Z was in Zzzzs. He was in a coma. His condition was critical. Would Z survive? The Filipinos awaited, both anxious and prayerful.

That was then. Today, we know Z is in stable condition. Yesterday morning, I spoke to Antonio Lopez Aldeguer. “Z is progressing rapidly. Remarkably well,” said Aldeguer. “Michael (ALA’s son) is monitoring him day to day. To summarize his recovery in one word, it’s remarkable.”

ALA knew about Z’s collapse seconds after it happened. “Michael called me right away. At first, we thought it was over-fatigue. It wasn’t the case. I knew it was worse when he was in the Coma Center. I was very, very worried. As you know, I’ve had lots of incidents in the past. From other boxers. What gave me confidence was that Z was in the hospital’s trauma center that is one of the best in the world. And the physician operating on Z was a top surgeon. As you know, Las Vegas has probably, in the whole America, the highest rate of coma incidents.”

Did the thought of Z possibly not making it enter your mind? “Not even for a moment. I did not entertain the idea. Maybe because of my strong faith in God. But what came into mind what was, ‘What am I supposed to do? Should I quit boxing?’ And those thoughts have come to mind several times in the past… When Z lost a bad decision before, in our own backyard. When Boom-Boom was knocked-out in the first round. When Banal quit when he was way ahead. And now, this, to Z.

“But what strengthened me was when I realized, ‘If I quit, it’s because the reason is selfish. I’m thinking only of my sentiments. That I’d be relieved of my responsibilities, of the stress, of losing money, that all this doesn’t pay off.’ But then I asked myself, What is all this for? I know I love boxing. And when I weighed things, I knew the answer was no. I couldn’t quit. How about boxers who’ll come to me and ask, ‘How about us, sir? What will happen to our dreams?’

“I also never doubted God’s grace. The outpouring of sentiments was amazing. We never expected it to be this way. We were getting a lot of sympathies and consoling words from so many people. The one factor that sustained us all, that sustained Z, was the millions who prayed for him. Even the doctor said it was miraculous. For most people, it may take months to respond. For Z, it was days.

“We all gathered in Sto. Niño Church that Saturday afternoon when Z was in critical condition. The boxers, the employees. We were surprised to find a TV crew there; I don’t know how they knew. We prayed. The next day, Z’s wife, Datches, and the others went to Simala. Everybody prayed. The nation prayed. Then, last Tuesday, we had a Thanksgiving mass because at that stage we knew Z was removed from serious condition.”

Z started with ALA when he was only nine. “His elder brother, Jun, was already with me as a boxer. And so it was natural for Z to follow. Z stayed with us in our home in Ma. Luisa. He grew up with us while studying in Banilad Elem. School, in UV Mandaue and for college in UV,” he said.

“Every boxer, athlete, has tantrums. There are times when mang luod-luod. When a boxer is reducing his weight, he’s not eating normally and it upsets his mood. But, in all of my years of training, I have never seen Gorres get mad. Not even once. He’s always smiling.

“Also, his character. To me, in my dealings with people, if I hear someone talk bad about another, I lose respect for that person. With Z, I never heard him say anything bad about anyone. He is good, kind, gentle. He’s quiet. Respectful. And you should see his children and wife… they’re all well-dressed, clean. Z is one of a kind. And so, whenever I get asked about Z, I don’t emphasize on his boxing. There are plenty of good boxers. I emphasize on Z as a good person.”

Categorized as Boxing

25 Cebuanos reflect on Manny’s 50th win

Text messages I received…

Isolde Amante: MP a hero? If a hero is one who overcomes difficult circumstances, develops his potentials to the fullest and inspires others to do the same, then yes. But this refers only to Pacquiao as an athlete. 🙂

Bro. Carlo Bacalla: Pacquiao is special because 1) He has d heart of a winner.
2) He is disciplined.

Alex Baguio: He will beat mayweather. He has a unique rhythm. He attacks from every imaginable angle; his speed and power will provide unbearable pressure.

Jonel Borromeo: Pacman will beat mayweather because he can move in and out fast. Second, its good for the nation to keep on hoping; after all its that hope that keeps us going.

Raycia Eullaran: He’s a hero coz he has proven that Filipinos can rise up in adversity. With faith and hard work, we can conquer the world.

(Photo: AFP)

Councilor Jack Jakosalem: Floyd wil be tougher than cotto coz of his better defensive tactics and quicker hands/footwork. He was once, if you recall, regarded as the most boring champion. But everyone’s looking forward to a bloodied and battered floyd by fight’s end. Manny by UD or late TKO. But then again, it took him 12 rounds to beat oscar, when pacman only needed 8, and 10 rounds to KO hatton while MP did it in 2.

Rene Kintanar: His biggest impact is on the Filipino psyche. He has awakened a sense of pride of a people who has been disparaged owing to underachievement.

Councilor Edgar Labella: Pacquiao never misses to express his overflowing gratitude to God everytime he wins. He epitomizes humility in the midst of success and glory.

Ted Locson: He is humble and has mastered the art of self discipline. He’s able to use his God-given talents.

Neil Montesclaros: Greatest? I don’t have an authoritative opinion. All I know is that because of Pacman, I saw boxing as an art mixing strength, intelligence, endurance, speed and skill.

Dustin Morada: MP wil win (against Floyd). He’s fighting 4 a greater purpose, 4 God nd country, nt 4 money. That spells d difference.

Cherry Muntuerto: What makes Pacquiao special? His strong faith in God which he readily articulates and demonstrates, his humility as seen in how he deals with his opponents outside the ring and his zest for learning.

Georgia Osmeña: Manny is my hero! He is persistent, determined, disciplined and has remained humble all throughout his successes.

Ray Patuasi: The best Asian boxer of all time. A man who can briefly unify a divided nation and momentarily cut the incidence of crime.

Joy Polloso: Beyond giving honor and inspiration among Filipinos, Pacquiao neutralizes the Eco-class in the country and continues to stir economic activities.

Jingle Polotan: His work ethic and humility. He knows how to focus on the things that needs to be done, but still treats his opponent with respect.

Babylyn Roa: Of course, his smile, which exudes confidence. And his mental toughness and focus aside frm all his other strengths. Also his ‘kolokoy’ (entertaining) personality.

Donald Ruiz: His strong belief in God and love of country.

Bernard Sia: His humility, preparation and doing his best then trusting God.

Emma Siao: Gracing the cover of TIME & earning billions is no ordinary feat. But even at the helm of his deafening success, PACMAN never forgets to bow down and acknowledge our Almighty Father for all His blessings!

Dodong Sulatre: Pacquiao wil surely win over mayweather becoz pacquiao’s foot and hand speed and power cud not be equaled.

Chris Tio: I have stopped doubting the pacman, as long as he stays focused, disciplined, confident and out of politics!

Boy Tiukinhoy: Definitely, Pacquiao will win. After what Pacquiao did to Cotto, Mayweather will be psychologically and mentally stressed.

Nick Torres: Hand speed. Foot speed. Power in both hands (even off balance). Stamina. No fear. Focus. Commitment. Weird attack angles. Defense. The greatest trainer. Humility. Always learning. Always improving. And now, a granite chin and Kevlar belly. Where’s the chink in the Pacman’s armor?

Roy Trani: MP is gifted and trains hard. He does this not only for himself but also for the Filipino people!

Wapakman! Our reel real-life superhero

Adjectives like “unbelievable” and “astonishing” and “stunning” are no longer befitting the task of describing Manny Pacquiao. And so, I propose that Webster Dictionary add a new adjective to its vocabulary: Wapakman.

Never before have we witnessed such a man. What Pacman has done, no other Pinoy has done. Not in the past. Not in 55 years. He has united us. He has rekindled our pride in the RP flag—which he proudly waved seconds after victory. He has elicited joyful tears in our eyes. He has stopped crime. He has stopped traffic during his fight. And, he stopped the welterweight champion of the world.

Wapakman. Wow, Pakman!


Recalling the clash, weren’t we anxious in Round 1? Didn’t our usually-combative boxer just lean against the ropes, covering his chest with both arms like it were a shield, inviting Miguel Cotto to pound on him? Didn’t Manny look doubtful? Not the usual aggressor? Not, as Freddie Roach predicted, a Round 1 knockout?

True. But that lasted three minutes. Because after feeling the pummels of MC’s left jab, MP’s internal engine revved up to score those knockdowns in rounds 3 and 4. From then on, Manny was on a rampage. Never looking tired the entire bout, Manny pursued Miguel like a dog would a cat. The funniest part came when, exasperated with Miguel’s escaping, Manny stopped and, as if placing his hands on his hips, sighed, “Mo away ka or di?”

Wapakman. The movie itself will be shown nationwide on Dec. 25. “Wapakman” is a reel story—while Pacman’s performance two days ago was a real story. For the real Manny has special powers. He’s a true-to-life superhero. His punches fly like Superman flies, his legs strut like Spiderman’s climbs, his muscles flex to reveal the six-pack of Batman. He’s Superman, Spiderman and Batman bundled into one… Wapakman.

Here’s another inconceivable act: Imagine doing a concert after the fight? What confidence. Imagine if his face looked like Cotto’s at fight’s end? He’d have looked pitiful. But Manny knew. As the Nike shirt says, “Pac Man Knows.” He knew that he’d win. He knew that his face wouldn’t be bloodied. He knew that he’d be world champ and would have enough energy to not only last 12 rounds—but to sing songs with his MP Band at the Mandalay Resort party. As one story put it, “Pacquiao belts Cotto… then belts out songs.”

What’s next for our Filipino Idol? A much-deserved vacation. More singing. A promotional tour for his movie which, I’m sure, will be the highest-grossing film of all time. Then, finally, he’ll announce his candidacy for Congressman of Sarangani.

Wapakman? No. It’s… Wala Pakman. Think about it: Manny ran during the 2007 elections. Had he won, do you think he’d have trained with single-minded focus and won against his next five opponents… Marquez, Diaz, De La Hoya, Hatton and Cotto? Because while Manny moved up in weight to take on heavier opponents, against Darlene Antonino-Custodio (who weighs, in my estimate, less than 90 lbs.), the lightest-ever “enemy” he’s faced—he was embarrassed. Wa’ Pakman unta if Manny won.

The question is: When Manny runs for congress this May, will voters elect him? Maybe, maybe not. But there’s a good chance he’ll win this time. MP lost in ‘007 because of two reasons: Darlene Custodio and the public’s clamor for Pacquiao to continue as a boxer and not turn politician. That was then. Now, having beaten all other boxers, he can stop running on the road and run for public office. His new name… Congressman Wapakman.

But, wait. Isn’t there one final hurdle for his quest to be named, Greatest Of All Time? Against the man who’s won 40 times and lost none? I hope this happens. Money Mayweather vs. Money Pacquiao will not only be the richest event in the sport’s history, it will be the Super Bowl of boxing.

Today is ‘Manny Pacquiao National Holiday’

The day has arrived. The day we’ve looked forward to for weeks, hours, months. This day is special. There has never been a day like Nov. 15, 2009. Elections happen in our land every 36 months—but that’s insignificant compared to this 36-minute mega-fight. This day—win or lose—will be remembered next year, in 2015, and 30 years hence.

Consider how Manny Pacquiao has changed our lives. He is on the cover of Time, the world’s most popular weekly. He is the first-ever Asian athlete to grace it’s front page. That’s historic. That’s his story.

Consider our city streets. Today, there’ll be a jeepney strike. For four hours until 2 p.m., the roads will be deserted. No, Barack Obama has not flown into Mactan, Cebu—he’s in Singapore. The streets have been closed for another President—the leader of RP sports and entertainment, if there ever was a title.

Consider the innumerable family reunions today. Brothers, fathers, daughters, lolos, mothers—all cloistered as one this lunch. And, friends, too. I, for one, will be in the brand-new Ma. Luisa home of my best friend, Dr. Ron Eullaran. So will my wife Jasmin and daughter Jana. So will Dr. Ronnie Medalle and his family. And Ray and Letty Patuasi and their families. Today, family and friends share one TV set. These get-togethers don’t just happen here in Lapu-Lapu or Toledo or Bogo. They’re in Tagum, in Baguio, in Kalibo. They’re in Dubai, in Los Angeles, in Vancouver—all over the globe where colleagues and kindred cluster. As one. All because of One.

Consider the movie-houses. Aren’t they closed during mornings? Not this A.M. Today, by 9, thousands will enter SM and Ayala and hundreds of other cinemas nationwide. Has this ever happened before?

Consider the restaurants. They’ll be jam-packed. Everybody devouring buffet meals at P299. San Miguel Beer? Oh, that will ooze. Rico’s Lechon and the dozens of other lechon stops? The owners, by day’s end, will be hundreds of thousands of pesos richer.

Consider the 11 a.m. mass schedule. Normally one of the most crowded of schedules—the pews will be empty. Consider the groom and bride who booked their wedding six months ago and chose the 10:30 a.m. schedule of Nov. 15. Ouch! Theirs will suffer either (1) a 60 percent drop in attendees or (2) will be forced, during the lunch reception, to install TV monitors with “live Las Vegas coverage.”

Consider that war ceases. Gun-fighting, in the hours during Pacman’s fight, will halt. Ceasefires called by President GMA can’t stop wars. Peace treaties can’t. Only one man can.

Consider how this man, once homeless and who only had one meal of rice per day, has transformed the way the world thinks of the name, “Filipino.” Today, mention our nationality and foreigners smile. They think of Pacman. Like Hillary Clinton, who spoke highly of MP. Same with America’s most celebrated of celebrities—Denzel Washington, Shaq, Tyson, Donald Trump, the Boston Celtics—who revere our 5-foot-6 southpaw from Gen. Santos City.

Consider that MP has a chance to win the SI “Sportsman of the Year” prize, besting Kobe and the NY Yankees.

Consider the impact that Manny’s win will do for him—and for RP—if he succeeds. Already in Nike’s billboards and TV ads, he’ll solidify his status on the Mt. Summit of Sports and be on the same plateau with Tiger, Roger, Bolt, Phelps.

But let’s also consider that our hero can lose. Overconfidence poisons. Too much smiling can turn that cheerful look into a bloody face. Boxing is unpredictable. Sports endings are never like a James Bond movie where Daniel Craig is always unscathed and left smooching a starlet.

You see, we’ve been spoiled by Manny’s KOs. After slaughtering the Mexicans and the DLHs and the Hattons—we believe he’s unbeatable. In this fight, from Freddie Roach to the betting tables to me and you—we believe Manny can’t lose. He can. Let’s hope not. Let’s pray. Let’s watch. Let’s clap.

For there has never been—and will never be—a day in sports, a day in Philippine life, a clash in boxing… like today.