I love magazines. Time. Reader’s Digest. Fortune. Runner’s World. Newsweek. Men’s Health. Tennis. Outside. These are some I digest each month. My favorite? Wired. It’s a monthly for all things technie and gadgetry. Yesterday, I read another type. It’s glossy, gossipy, and is littered with 200 photos plus dozens of stories that are provocative and tantalizing.

YES! Yes, that’s the name. And, chances are, if you follow Kris Aquino or John Lloyd Cruz, you have a copy of YES! Well, I bought one. Not my wife Jasmin or mom Allen… but me. Buying YES! Yes.

The cover? JINKEE IN HER $2.3M HOME IN LOS ANGELES! What’s inside? Plenty. Full spreads of Pacquiao’s four-bedroom home in L.A. are on display. The living room. The master’s bedroom. The kitchen. The guest room where Mommy Dionisia sleeps. The rooms of the Pacquaio boys (Michael Stephen and Jimwell) and girls (Princess and Queenie) are all showcased in YES! The P100,000,000 house has a floor area of 4,500 sq. meters and sits on a 6,750-sq.m. property in the upscale neighborhood of Hancock Park.

Is the magazine worth buying? Absolutely. It illustrates plenty on our boxing hero: MP singing songs at the Mandalay Bay hours after his win over Miguel Cotto, him getting ready to file his certificate of candidacy for Congressman, MP showing off his newest tattoo on his left hand…. Will spare you further details. Get the Jan. 2010 issue!


While YES! is, I’m sure, a major hit in the newsstands, the movie that I expected to be a blockbuster has turned out to be a disaster.

On the first day of the two-week-long Metro Manila Film Festival, nine movies were shown. Guess which movie came in first? Not Wapakman. It didn’t even score No. 3 or 5 or 7. It grossed P750,000 on its first day—for the last place among nine movies. Ha-ha-ha. What a comedy. And a debacle. While movies like “Ang Panday” and “Ang Darling Kong Aswang” and “Shake” each grossed over P16 million on those first 24 hours, Pacquiao’s much-hyped movie could not earn over one million. It was knocked out.

In the Phil. Daily Inquirer article “Pacman flick knocked out on first day” by Bayani San Diego Jr. last Dec. 26, the noted director Jose Javier Reyes was asked why the fiasco with the movie starring our most popular countryman.

“Filipinos adore him as a prizefighter… as an athlete, but apparently not as an actor, singer… not even as a politician,” he said. “People will stop their lives to watch him fight in the ring, but it seems they will not go out of their way to watch him goof around in a movie. He is a real-life hero; not a superhero.”

Perfectly-said. This movie disaster is not Pacman’s first. Two years ago in “Anak ng Kumander,” it was another flop. That movie—with Ara Mina (remember her?)—grossed a measly P2 million. And while we all thought that Manny’s alleged romance with co-star Krista Ranillo will lure moviegoers to the movie, “now we know,” as MP himself would say. Now we know the answer is No. “There is a disconnect, publicity-wise. That’s possible,” said Reyes. “But in Pinoy macho society, there’s nothing too scandalous, shocking or salacious about the gossip regarding Manny and Krista anyway.”

Hearing it straight from Manny himself, he was quoted in an earlier interview as saying, “Sana panoorin ng mga intrigero ang pelikula namin. Sayang naman ’yong intriga pag hindi kumita ang pelikula? (I hope the intrigue-mongers watch our movie. What’s the use of the intrigues if our movie doesn’t make money?)”

Ha-ha. Funny. Still, blockbuster or not, I hope to watch the movie soon!

Kobe vs. LeBron: Who’s better?

My brother Charlie, his wife Mitzi Tan, and her entire family, are now in Los Angeles. They’re spending Christmas there. While that may be a terrific experience (earlier, they spent “White Christmas” for a few days in Winnipeg, Canada with it’s -14 degree weather), my younger brother isn’t all-too-happy. The reason: He could not get tickets to watch the most-awaited game of the entire NBA regular season.

LA vs. Cleveland. West against East. The Lakers opposite The Cavs. The 7-foot-1 Shaq standing tall versus the 7-foot-tall Pau Gasol. And, of course, LeBron James face-to-face with Kobe Bryant.

Sure, there are plenty of rivalries. Manny vs. Money (sayang!). Rafa vs. Roger. In Manila, there’s Ateneo vs. La Salle. In the past, there were these mano-a-mano fights: Ali-Frazier, Magic-Bird, Nicklaus-Palmer, Chamberlain-Russell, Yankees-Red Sox.

Today, if there’s one rivalry I’d like to see evolve it’s the one I saw yesterday morning in Sky Cable’s Channel 12 (RPN). One wore a white jersey with gold trimmings; the other had a Superman-like vest that was dark blue in color. The arena? Staples Center. The movie? “NBA Christmas Special.”

For outside the NBA Play-offs, there is no bigger game—make that “games,” because there were a total of five—than the ones held every Dec. 25th. With the LA-Cleveland hoopla that I saw on TV, what I found most interesting was Shaq against his “best friend,” Kobe. In one instance in the third quarter, KB drove down the lane and rammed straight into the leviathan. But no foul was called! And Kobe was mad. What a sight to see them both.

LeBron vs. Kobe? Mr. Bryant scored more points (35 versus James’ 26) but one man’s output is less significant than the team’s score. At the final buzzer, the Cavs upset the Lakers, 102-87. But even more upset were the LA fans (the audience included Hollywood stars like Sylvester Stallone, Danny DeVito, Snoop Dogg, Anna Kournikova) who threw yellow foam hands to the court—including one water bottle (reminds us of the Old Cebu Coliseum days, right?).

Back to the one-one-one debate: Do I favor LeBron over Kobe? Yes I do. Because while I don’t dislike both jersey numbers 23 and 24, I favor LeBron more. Maybe because he’s less “hambog.” Maybe because LBJ’s quieter and less expressive than the “It’s me! Me! Me!” Kobe.

What do the experts think? Who’s better?

Kurt Helin, in his blog Forum Blue & Gold, says, “If you love basketball, you can (and should) love them both. Kobe and LeBron are different players with different styles. LeBron is just a freak of nature, blessed like no other and he is just tapping into that. Kobe is more polished, someone who loves the work of perfecting his game… I love to watch them both for those reasons, for LeBron’s bull-like drives to the basket, for Kobe’s amazing balance on the pull-up jumper.”

Josh Tucker of the Silver Screen and Roll blog writes: “LeBron James is the MVP; Kobe Bryant is the better player. Both are lockdown defenders, fantastic passers, capable of scoring or facilitating and excellent leaders of their teams. The primary differences lie in each player’s individual offensive repertoires, and the key here is the versatility, polish, and completeness of each player’s game.

“LeBron James is a player with one primary, ultra-developed offensive skill: his ability to get to the hoop for layups and dunks… Kobe Bryant doesn’t have a single dominant skill that far outweighs all others, like LeBron does. Instead, he has the most complete, versatile, and polished skill set in the NBA… Simply put, the difference between the two boils down to unprecedented raw athleticism versus unequaled, finely honed skill.”

Henry Abbott, in TrueHoop, comments, “LeBron James’ biggest advantage over Kobe Bryant is his size. That height and weight—with that agility, speed, leadership, and skill—is a combination we have really never seen before. It is why he blows away just about every statistical analysis.”

To me, this White Christmas, I’m dreaming of an NBA final: Cavs vs Lakers.

Al S. Mendoza’s middle name is Sports

He loves golf. He loves basketball. He loves boxing. He loves chess. He loves tennis. Name a sport and Al S. Mendoza almost surely loves that game. For that’s the secret I learned from one of the gurus of sports-writing; from the man who’s won not one or two—but three—Palanca Awards, the “Pulitzer Prize” of Philippine journalism.

What have I learned from Al? That love of sport equals success in sports-writing. For if you don’t love what you do—sports—then how can you write well about the game?

Al Mendoza loves sports. This I found out last weekend. For three days and two nights and upon the invitation of Mike Limpag, our sports editor and fellow columnist (on the occasion of the baptism of Mike’s son, Nico), the highly-respected writer was here in Cebu with his wife Sol, herself a Palanca awardee.

Last Saturday night, we drank brandy and San Mig Light at the Bistro Ecila at the Ayala Terraces. With us were sportswriters: Atty. Jingo Quijano, Nimrod Quiñones and his son Nico, Edri Aznar, Bobby Motus, Mike and myself. Jun Migallen and Atty. Cheking Seares also shared a beer with Al at Giligan’s. Then, two days ago, Al and his fellow writers of sport met again—at the baptism of Nico and, at the reception after, in Mooon Cafe.

Al Mendoza (2nd from left) with John P., Nico Quiñones, Nimrod Quiñones, Mike Limpag, Atty. Jingo Quijano, Edri Aznar and Bobby Motus

Edri, John, Mike, Jun Migallen, Atty. Cheking Seares and ASM

What a story-teller Al Mendoza is. And what stories he told…

His most interesting interview? “Bobby Fischer.” Al told the story when Fischer was in Manila and the sports columnist wanted to interview him. He was told to report to Fischer’s hotel room… at 4 a.m.! And so, the dutiful writer that he was, Al knocked on Fischer’s room at that appointed time. When Al and a fellow Manila sportswriter sat near Fischer, the chess great asked, “What are you doing here?” When, finally, the interview began, it was the most outlandish of dialogues: Al asking questions while Fischer was in bed, eating mangoes while answering questions. At four in the morning.

Al has been to the grandest of sporting events: the Olympics. Not once, but two times, in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and, in the year, 2000, in Sydney, Australia.

Tennis? Sure. “My wife and I,” said Al, “played tennis together. We started the game a long time ago.” His favorite interview? “That was with Bjorn Borg when he came to Manila,” said Mr. Mendoza. But his love affair with the sport of racquets and nets and drop volleys disappeared when he tried the game of woods and divots and putts.

“Among all sports, I love golf,” he said, “I also consider it the most difficult game in the world.” Since Al has swung the golf iron for over two decades now, he hasn’t stopped, playing almost daily at one point in his golf career. Now, he finds time to play once or twice a week.

“My lowest handicap was 11,” he said. “And I’ve had the privilege of traveling around the world to watch golf.” He’s met Tiger Woods—not in the past decade—but when TW was still an amateur playing the junior tournaments in Florida. “I also met and have spoken to, many times, with Tiger’s dad, Eldrick.”

Al Mendoza is not only a golfer, a golf fanatic, and a golf writer, he’s also a golf rulesman. Which means that he’s an expert at the hundreds of details on the game. Which sport, I asked, is more difficult: tennis or golf? “It has to be golf,” he said, “because it’s a game of inches. One tiny fraction makes a major difference.” How about the mental aspect of golf? “That’s 99 percent of the game!”

We also talked about Rey Pages, my uncle who played for the Crispa Redmanizers. That rivalry—Crispa vs. the Toyota Tamaraws—Al considers as the best ever tug-of-ever in RP sports.

Al first started with the Manila Bulletin in 1974. That’s 35 years ago. In between, he wrote for the Phil. Daily Inquirer—where his stardom rose. It was also during that stint when he wrote the expose of the overage Zamboanga City baseball players—who, in 1992, “won” the Little League World Series.

Today, his column appears in eight Sun.Star newspapers nationwide. What an honor it is for me and Atty. Quijano to call ourselves neighbors of Al Mendoza.

Categorized as Golf

RF not only aced 2000-2009, he’s best-ever

The coming week or so will not only be the last 11 days of December, they will also be the remaining moments of 2009 and–even more significant–the last 11 days of the past 120 months of this decade. Starting with the year 2000, here we are, less than two weeks away from the end of the decade—the first 10 years of the new millennium. And so, we celebrate. We highlight the outstanding achievements of the past 10 years.

To me, few can surpass the triumphs of this Swiss who can fluently speak German, English and French. Today, he stands 6-foot-1—and stands as the player who has the tallest of rankings: No.1. For he has amassed just about every laurel there is in tennis.

Grand Slam singles titles? He’s collected 15. Previously, the record-holder was Pete Sampras, who totaled 14—a number that plenty (including myself) thought was unlikely to be surpassed. Yet barely a few years had passed after Sampras’ retirement had his close buddy winning all the slams on this planet.

“What he’s done over the past five years has never, ever been done,” said Sampras, “and probably will never, ever happen again.”

That’s true, Pete. For here are the numbers… Wimbledon? Roger won six: from 2003 to 2007 and, last July, in 2009. US Open? Federer has five wins in New York, from 2004 to 2008. Australian Open? He’s grabbed three—in 2004, 2006 and 2007. French Open? Ahh. This is special. For this tournament, because of it’s slow red clay surface, is often dubbed “the most backbreaking event in tennis.” Last May, while Rafael Nadal lost early in Paris, RF collected his most precious memento ever in Roland Garros.

That’s 15 majors. More than Sampras. More than Bjorn Borg. More than anyone else who’s ever carried a tennis racquet. More than Tiger Woods. The man adjudged by the Associated Press as the “Athlete of the Decade” (and Disgrace of the Year?) has 14 major titles. Well, shouldn’t the Athlete of the Decade prize instead have gone to RF instead of TW? That’s another story—and article. But this fact is true: Thus far, Roger beats Tiger with 15 vs. 14. Plus, isn’t Tiger taking an indefinite leave while Roger, at age 28, is still at his peak?

More statistics to cement RF’s status as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) in tennis? He stayed at the No.1 spot for 237 consecutive weeks, a record. He’s reached 22 straight Grand Slam semi-finals, a record. He’s been in 21 Grand Slam singles finals—and 17 of the last 18, a record. Is there any other record that he has yet to break?

“What he’s done is arguably as great of an achievement as anybody can ever have in any sport,” said Andre Agassi, “and I think tennis is one of the most brutal forms of sport. I think it’s physical, and there’s so many components to come together to make a tennis player, from balance to power to grace to fitness to concentration.”

Well-said, Andre. For Roger’s successes go beyond just piling up victories. It’s his manner of play. His effortless motion. His grace. His movement that sees him floating. His serve. His forehand. His volleys. Every aspect of his game is A+.

“It’s amazing what sort of shots he can come with, from impossible positions,” said Rod Laver. “It’s a great feeling of being able to watch the talent that he has, and the opponents that he beats comfortably.”

From a personal standpoint, I consider myself lucky. Twice, I had a chance to watch Federer in person. In August of last year, I saw him win the Olympic gold medal in men’s doubles.

And, in Kuala Lumpur back in 2007, and accompanied by several from Cebu that included two of Roger’s most passionate of fans, Michelle So and Chinggay Utzurrum, we watched Federer vs. Sampras.

But here’s my “mistake.” The day before their exhibition match, in a meet-and-greet session with Malaysia’s elite, I sneaked my way on stage to be near Roger and Pete. But given only a few seconds and the choice to shake one player’s hand, I turned to Pete. Now the Greatest Ever, I should have picked Roger.

Happy 31st birthday, Manny

Today, we greet an ordinary man turned extraordinary superman. He started poor. Dirt poor. Because, literally, it was dirt and ashes and sand and gravel that he carried and shoveled when he first worked in construction as a teenager. He could barely feed himself then. One meal a day. Two meals a day. Very often, unlike some of us who have the luxury of gorging on three unlimited platefuls per 24 hours plus cups of coffee and slices of toasted bread in between, he could not afford the same. Yet, it was this same bedrock, this same painful and gritty upbringing that fabricated his mettle.

Today, long after he climbed past the mountain called poverty and millions of minutes after he’d spent sweating inside the boxing gym to pound on punching bags and skip on skipping ropes, he has become our warrior. Our Philippine eagle.

If Sweden had a Bjorn Borg in the 1970s to catapult tennis to smashing heights, if U.S.A. had Jesse Owens in the 1930s to embarrass Adolf Hitler, if Brazil had Pele in the 1960s to proclaim that they owned the most powerful football kick on earth—we have our own version.

He looks like us. Has a mustache like many of us. He’s not tall. He eats tinolang manok. He speaks Bisaya, converses in Tagalog. He’s brown-skinned, black-haired, just like us.

Yet, unlike us, he has become the lone sunlight amidst the Philippine darkness. In this land where corruption is ingrained in the ladders of government, where natural calamities like Ondoy and Pepeng have destroyed our habitat, where our sports delegation to an international meet like the SEA Games is not one but two squads—as if there existed two different Philippines—he soars alone as our Philippine eagle.

He has inspired us. He has made the forgotten name “Filipino” into a much-talked about word when we visit Europe or America or Australia. For, in those continents, when we say we’re from the Philippines, they smile, shake our hand and not say, “Oh, you’re from the same country as Gloria Arroyo!” They say… “You come from the land of today’s Bruce Lee.”

Think about this Filipino. Boxers, we know, are no cowards. For who coward will allow himself to get stabbed by an uppercut or to bleed from the nostrils? But this Filipino boxer is much more than a boxer. Because, unlike some who evade the most robust of opponents, he’s undaunted by whoever famous name stands before him.

De La Hoya? Marquez? Cotto? Barrera? Hatton? Morales? All these fighters, almost surely, will land in the Hall of Fame. And our Filipino was never intimidated to face the finest of the best. Unlike Money, The Weather-Weather.

Money? The Cash? The Gen-San native has lots. While, when he started fighting, the prize money amounted to only hundreds of pesos, now it’s in the hundreds of thousands. No, millions. Computed in pesos, billions. And just as Bob Arum is almost never wrong, our birthday celebrant today will receive, in his coming fight, the biggest prize money in all of boxing. More than Ali. More than ODLH. More than Hagler or Hearns or Evander or Sugar Ray L.

But, to me, what distinguishes our countryman more than any other is his passion for life. Be it singing in front of thousands at the Mall of Asia concert grounds or singing while his ears are bloodied and his face swollen hours after he TKO’d Miguel Cotto, this we know of him: he enjoys life.

He loves cock-fighting. He loves to place a gamble in casinos. He plays basketball as often as he wants—like he did against us Cebuano sportswriters two years ago in a series of every-Sunday games. In those games, he drives down the lane and attempts a Michael Jordan-like leap. Never mind if this endangers millions of dollars if he injures his ankle or knee.

He’s an actor. He’s Wapakman. He’s a billiards marksman. He’s a darts marksman. Congressman?

Above all, we see a man who relishes each second of each hour of each week of his life. God bless our Philippine eagle.