In fight of his life, Z took a stand

(Photo by Kenneth Casquejo)

Something unusual happened last Thursday. A scene, as described by Mike Limpag, my sports editor, like the ones we watch in Hollywood movies. Only this was better for it wasn’t a reel story… but a real story. It was unscripted, dramatic, spontaneous.

It’s about one man who wasn’t supposed to survive, a knock-out artist who was knocked unconscious last Nov. 13, a patient whose trauma was so severe he incurred hospital bills totaling P25,000,000, a boxer destined to be world champion but instead turned into a champion of life.

Z Gorres, around 9 p.m. three nights ago, stunned the 200 people inside the ballroom of the Casino Español. When his name was called by Rico Navarro, the emcee, as the Presidential Awardee of the 28th Cebu Sports Awards, Z moved. Not to roll the wheels of his wheelchair forward.

He stood up. Everybody gasped. Pushing himself up from his wheelchair and aided by the loving arm of his wife, Datches, he stepped forward. One foot in front of another, his legs quivered. The athlete/awardees cheered like they were spectators. Everybody had goosebumps. We snapped photos. Sabah Fadai, the mixed martial arts champion, cried. Some of the toughest of athletes’ eyes swelled with tears.

“In the 21 years that I have been part of the event,” wrote Nimrod Quiñones, The Freeman’s managing editor. “I’ve never been as moved as the other night when Z ‘The Dream’ Gorres stood up from his wheelchair to receive the Presidential Award given to him by the SAC.”

Nimrod is right. It was the most emotional scene I’ve witnessed of these awards, even more powerful than last year, when Manny Pacquiao joined us in the 2009 edition of the Cebu Sports Awards.

Z Gorres’ courageous act, not to be handed the award but to accept it himself, was that most unforgettable moment. Nobody asked Z to stand. It was his decision. The reason? He wanted to show an example to his fellow athletes what it means to be a fighter. That despite the pain, the difficulty, the suffering of walking, he was telling all… I’m going to stand up and walk to receive my award. What a moment. What a lesson.

What happened next was just as inspiring. Antonio Lopez Aldeguer, our guest of honor, stood on the stage minutes after witnessing the deluge of sympathy and love surrounding his boxer and, in dark black suit that enveloped his broad wide shoulders, said, “I have a five-page long speech that I prepared the past two days and I will disregard this after what I saw. I am here to give an inspirational talk… but what more can I say to inspire you… than what you have seen a while ago?”

ALA was correct. The sight of Z rising and struggling to walk and receive his award was more powerful a message than any words. As Mike Limpag wrote yesterday, “Z GORRES never said a word… but what he did will be remembered, forever.”

Caecent No-ot-Magsumbol, another SAC colleague who writes for The Freeman, summed it up best with her words yesterday: “From A to Z – as in from Aldeguer to Z Gorres – all those who attended the memorable night went home not only with awards, happy thoughts and memories but also learned a valuable lesson in life…

“Z may no longer be able to fight again, but he has already gained a championship belt. No one can take it away from him for he is a champion in life, a living proof on how great an athlete and person he is which the rest of the athletes should emulate.”

From Amit to Z, tonight the superstars shine

March 11, 2010 is the night. That’s tonight. For tonight is the moment. It’s those three hours this evening when fireworks will erupt indoors, cheers will deafen the ballroom, when Z Gorres will receive a standing ovation, when the late volleyball guru Eugene de la Cerna will be honored, when Irina Gabasa will shake hands with Noy Jopson, who’ll greet Rubilen Amit, who’ll smile before world champ Donnie Nietes.

Tonight. It’s that once-every-365-days evening when the top athletes from our Visayan land celebrate. When the Queen City of the South honors kings and princes and princesses of sports.

Tonight, plenty will stand proud. I’ve seen mothers who’ve shed tears, grandfathers who’ve cried as they stepped on-stage to receive the award in behalf of their apo, I’ve witnessed the 7-footer Greg Slaughter tower above his fellow awardee Manny Pacquiao.

Tonight. It’s special. Because, when your name is chosen for the SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards, you are special. Few excel in sports. Fewer get picked as awardees.

Tonight is the night to meet David Lim of autocross, Lorhiz Echavez of triathlon, Jon-Jon Adlawan of motocross, Tonyo Carcel and Jette Calderon of go-kart racing. It’s the evening to meet the awardees who get a kick out of the World Cup in South Africa: footballers Paolo Pascual, Oliver Colina, the Abellana National School, Carmelo Genco, Glenn Ramos, Christian Noel.

Tonight. It’s unforgettable. I say that in advance knowing that, in the dozens of years that I’ve attended these gatherings, back in 1988 when I was one of the awardees for junior tennis, each year is meaningful. I’ll never forget the late Maning Oyson, one of the founders of SAC, who owned a giant personality despite his small size. I’ll never forget Dondon Hontiveros, our speaker two years ago, or Butch Ramirez, one of the friendliest of PSC chairmen, or Michel Lhuillier, many times a Sportsman of the Year.

Tonight is the night. It’s the evening to salute Buchoy. Boxing’s world-champion-in-waiting, he succumbed to a near-death experience. Yet, he survived and, above all, emerged as the world champion of life. For his bravery, his spirit, his willpower and his instincts of survival, Z Gorres will shine, tonight, as an inspiration to his co-awardees. They’ll pose for photos with him, shake his right hand and find that his grip is firm, they’ll applaud Z.

Tonight. We honor the mastermind of the Guinness World Record “7,770” dance production, Edward Hayco.

Tonight is also the occasion to applaud your sportswriters. The women and men who press their fingers against the computer keyboard each afternoon to provide you with stories that amuse, excite and provoke. Tonight is that moment when the reporters, often popular by name but whose faces remain unknown, will take center-stage.

Tonight is the time to thank San Miguel Corporation and Girlie Garces, one of the conglomerate’s top executives, for their year-in, year-out help. Because without SMC and San Miguel Beer, there’ll be no Cebu Sports Awards. The giant company that cultivates Philippine sports is the giant financier for tonight.

ALA? Yes. Tonight, for many minutes, my eyes and ears and all senses will be glued to one man as he speaks and inspires. Our guest speaker, Antonio Lopez Aldeguer, who was born in Iloilo, raised in Bacolod, resided in Cebu, and who has bred world boxing champions, will share with us his universe of wisdom and sports acumen.

Tonight. It’s the evening when you’ll see faces all-smiling. For tonight’s a celebration, a party, a gathering of Smiling People. Fathers will smile. Mary Grace de los Santos, our almost-unbeatable runner, will grin an earful when she receives the trophy from running diehards Max Limpag, Haide Acuña, Raffy Uytiepo. So will Dr. Yong Larrazabal and Jesse Taborada of CERC when they accept plaques for their contribution to popularize running as Cebu’s No.1 recreational sport today.

Today, tonight, what an evening for Cebu.

The Difference between ‘Ordinary’ and ‘Extraordinary’

This article was written two years ago, last March 13, 2008…

Don-Don Hontiveros was scared. Uneasy. Anxious. His hand was cold. He had been in dozens of pressure-packed moments before—like standing on the free-throw line with 0.7 seconds left on the shot clock and needing to shoot both baskets to reach OT—but this was different.

He was standing before a crowd—like he usually did before 12,000 screaming PBA fans—only this time, he was onstage and, instead of gripping an orange basketball, he was holding a black microphone.

Gi kuyawan ko (I’m scared),” Don-Don started off, grinning shyly, as he faced the over 150 athletes, honorees, parents, coaches and sportswriters that trooped to attend last Saturday night’s 26th SAC-SMC All-Cebu Sports Awards.

Don-Don admitted that he wasn’t used to speaking in front of audiences—and, in particular, talking in front of a Who’s-Who list of sportsmen that included, among many, the Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, world boxing champ Donnie Nietes, former champ Dodie Boy Peñalosa, Felix Tiukinhoy, Ricky Ballesteros, Boom-Boom Bautista, Michael Aldeguer and AJ Banal.

Don-Don (left most) with Dodie Boy Peñalosa Jr., Dodie Boy Peñalosa Sr., Donnie Nietes, Boom-Boom Bautista, Z Gorres, AJ Banal, Edito Villamor, Michael Domingo and PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez

But as Don-Don continued to speak, mixing English with Cebuano, he spoke from the heart. He talked of his love for basketball. He mentioned his short height (4’11”) when he started and how his coaches and teammates told him he’d never make it to his dream, the PBA.

He didn’t listen to them. He believed. In himself. He took those words not as insults but as a challenge. And, most important of all, he never, ever let go of his dream.

“I wasn’t born as an exceptional athlete,” he said. “But I practiced harder than everybody else.” When he was a star at the Cebu Gems and opted to join the San Miguel Beermen in the PBA, critics lambasted him for his decision, saying, “You’re an MBA star here! You’re a big fish in a small pond here! Why go to the PBA where you’ll be a small fish in the large ocean?”

He thought hard. Listened. But his heart knew that his dream was to be in the Philippine Basketball Association. And, deep inside, he believed in himself. He believed that he wouldn’t be this “small fish” swimming in a “large ocean.”

Belief. That’s what Don-Don taught me that evening. All champions possess it: Tiger. MJ. LeBron. Roger. Pacquiao.

Unbowed by the criticisms hurled his way, Don-Don Hontiveros jumped and dove into the ocean of the PBA superstars….

Now, years later, we know what happened. A gold fish swimming in the Pacific Ocean? Nah. Don-Don has transformed into a large whale—one of the Philippines’ top basketball stars.

Don-Don continued speaking….. More words struck the audience. But, to me, this was best: When he asked the crowd, “You know the difference between ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary?’”

The crowd stood still. Nobody moved. All ears opened.

“It’s the word ‘EXTRA,’” he said.

I glanced at Michael Domingo and Z Gorres and Boy Cabahug and Jacob Lagman and Irina Gabasa and could see from their faces that, yes, that word—extra—is what makes champions… Champions.

All-Cebu Sports Awards Photos

These photos first appeared last March 13, 2008….

The UV Green Lancers (on stage) with (from left) CDN’s Jonas Panerio and coaches Boy Cabahug and Al Solis

Mary Stephanie Agbay, one of the top awardees for Wushu

Girlie Garces of San Miguel Corporation

Felix Tiukinhoy (right), the Presidential Award recipient, receiving his award from outgoing SAC President (and CDN Sports Editor) Rick Gabuya

Ricky Ballesteros (center), the Sportsman of the Year, with (from left) Manny Villaruel (The Freeman Sports Editor), Girlie Garces, Rick Gabuya and Mike Limpag (Sun.Star Cebu Sports Editor)

Manfred Schuwerk (far right), the Orlacsan Awardee, with Rick Gabuya and Girlie Garces

PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez (far right) inducting the new set of SAC officers (from left): John Pages, Jun Migallen, Marian Baring, Caecent No-ot Magsumbol, Manny Villaruel and Mike Limpag

All-smiles, All winners….

Looking Down At The Stars, What A View

This article came out on March 11, 2008….

One of my favorite parties each year is the All-Cebu Sports Awards. For where can you gather, under one restaurant roof, sitting side-by-side, mingling, posing for photos, swapping autographs, beaming with earful grins, exchanging stories, laughing, parents crying of joy, world boxing champions in sight, gymnasts and footballers talking, everybody proud, all standing on Cloud 10, the best athletes in Cebu?

It only happens once. Each year. At the All-Cebu Sports Awards.

Last Saturday night, it wasn’t the first All-Cebu Sports Awards. It’s wasn’t the second, 12th or 22nd. It was the 26th year when your very own sports scribes—the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC)—honor the year’s top sports figures.

Let me say this: I am fortunate. Lucky. Honored. Not only was I bestowed the title of ‘President’ of the SAC for this year but, more important, I stood as emcee for the night. What did that mean? That meant that when I stood on that podium for the entire evening, I had an unparalleled vantage point of all of Cebu’s winners……

To my left sat giants. They wore XXXL-size jackets, 14-size Nike shoes, and they gorged on the Laguna Garden Cafe buffet like starved men. The 7-time CESAFI champions, undefeated since the annual collegiate games started, sat on a round table. Led by coaches Boy Cabahug and Al Solis, they’re the University of the Visayas basketball team.

At the very back sat Niño Surban. On a pair of two wheels named the bicycle, nobody in Cebu is faster. Standing almost 6-feet-tall, Niño is Cebu’s Lance Armstrong.

Don-Don Hontiveros with Niño Surban

Down the center table sat Jess and Julie Lagman. Of all the sports parents in Cebu, I admire the Lagmans most. God-loving, sport-loving and children-loving, no wonder Julian, Julius, Jessica and Jacob (one of RP’s top juniors) are tops in tennis—thanks to their dad and mom.

From left: Don-Don, Jess Lagman, Julie Lagman, Jacob Lagman, PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez

Wushu. Heard of wushu before? I have but never saw this type of martial arts until the duo of Stephanie and Evangeline Agbay performed. It was a fascinating five-minute show. And you could see their benefactors, Francis and Joy Onglatco, beaming with pride.

Without doubt the best-looking awardee was Niño Ramirez. The MVP at last year’s PRISAA National Championships (and the basketball star at USC), Niño wore a black coat-and-tie that complemented the formal wear of his equally good-looking parents, Jay and Lou Ramirez.

Don-Don with (from left) the Ramirezes: Marilou, Niño, PSC Chairman Butch and his brother Jay

Standing on the stage, to my right was a table loaded with superstars. Consider these names: Z. AJ. Boom-Boom. Donnie. Know them? Of course you do! Z Gorres. Michael Domingo. Rey Bautista. AJ Banal. Their trainer, Edito Villamor. With them were ALA Gym honchos Dennis Cañete and Chad Cañares. The top gun himself, Michael Aldeguer, attended despite that night being his wife Christine’s birthday. The looked terrific wearing black long-sleeves. But what made me happiest posing for a photo with their group? Because world champ Donnie “Ahas” Nietes didn’t bring his snake!

From left: Manny Villaruel, Dennis Cañete, Z Gorres, Boom-Boom Bautista, Michael Aldeguer, AJ Banal, Edito Villamor and Michael Domingo

Who else joined the jam-packed crowd? Judo’s Vicente Fernandez III, the silver medalist of the Philippine Olympic Festival, was there. So was Vince Marc “Mac-Mac” Tabotabo (the multi-awarded tennis star), joined by his dad Titus and coach Dodong Ruelan.

The Siso family, who’ve been awardees almost each year, were in attendance: mom Sally and children Niño, Sally Dine, and Sally Mae (who’ll be leaving for Jakarta, Indonesia this Friday for the Asian Championships).

From left: Don-Don, Sally Dine Siso, Sally Siso, Sally Mae Siso, Niño Siso, Cyril Camporedondo, Butch Ramirez, John Pages

Dancing. No, the night wasn’t all eating or trophy-giving; twice, the Dancesport Team Cebu City—represented by Christy Kim Velez and Inoue Roi Rendon—boogied, swayed their hips, and did the “split” on the shiny floor. When they finished, I noticed a man, seated just inches away, whose eyes grew wider, mesmerized.

“Boom-Boom,” I announced, “we all know is a very focused man. But I’ve never seen him this focused… staring at the sexy dancer, Christy Kim Velez!”

The crowd roared while Boom-Boom, never one to shy away inside the ring, smiled, turned red and blushed.

All-Cebu Sports Awards Photos

These were the awards of the 2008 edition…

Cebu City 15-and-Under Football team

Don-Don Hontiveros (far left) and Butch Ramirez (far right) pose with gymnast Mary Carmelli Garovillo with her mom

San Miguel Corporation’s Girlie Garces, PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez, The Freeman columnist Raffy Uytiepo and John Pages

John Pages (Sun.Star Cebu), Caecent No-ot Magumbol (The Freeman), Rick Gabuya (CDN Sports Editor) and Manny Villaruel (The Freeman Sports Editor)

The Agbay family (at center, Stephanie and Evangeline, with their parents) posing with Don-Don and PSC Chairman Butch

Proud Night! Niño Ramirez with his girlfriend and mom Marilou

Don-Don with Superbalita Sports Editor Jun Migallen

Lessons we can learn from Dr. Pacquaio

I’m republishing this article I wrote last Feb. 22, 2009 (last year)…


Manny looking up at 7-footer Greg Slaughter; from left, Raffy Uytiepo, Jun Migallen, John Pages, Jingo Quijano and Raffy Osumo (Photo by Iste Sesanted-Leopoldo of CDN)

As president of the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC), I was tasked to give the Closing Remarks at last Wednesday’s 27th SAC-SMC Cebu Sports Awards at the Casino Español.

I prepared a 10-minute speech. Instead—because Pacquaio had left, the clock neared 10:30 p.m. and the crowd sat restless either to have photos with Greg Slaughter or to head home—I delivered a 25-second “Thank you and goodbye” message. Allow me to read to you—in writing and in full—my speech…

“To Acting Vice Mayor Jun Davide and Councilor Jack Jakosalem, thank you for joining us tonight. I promise not to talk about the Cebu City Sports Center track oval! Thank you to Girlie Garces of SMC, our awards night partner for decades.

“I’d like to congratulate Fr. Vic Uy, the first Cebuano PSC commissioner, who is the Presidential Awardee. To my fellow Rotarian, Francis Onglatco, the Orlacsan Awardee. To Maxi Maximo, the Sportsman of the Year. To Donnie Nietes, who is represented by Michael Aldeguer. To Gerry Peñalosa, our co-Athlete of the Year… Congratulations!

“I’d like to recognize Nonito and Rachel Donaire for joining us. Same with the president of the Casino Español de Cebu, Manny Sainz.

“Our Guest of Honor, Monico Puentevella, the congressman from Bacolod, maayo ni siya mag basketball kag mag-tennis. Plus, he’s an excellent singer! Maybe we can hear a duet later with Manny?

“Dr. Manny Pacquiao: We’re lucky to be the first event to address him as Dr. Pacquiao. And, I’m sure next to GenSan, Manny calls Cebu home. Why? Because his father, Rosalio, comes from the southern town of Pinamungajan. Dili ra si Manny maayo mo Bisaya, naa gyud siya Cebuano roots. Thank you for accepting our Lifetime Achievement Award. Hangyo lang mi that this May 2, katong hambugero kaayo na taga England i-knockout nimo!

“I’d also like to commend all the parents who are here. Without your support, example, sacrifice… your children will not be here.

“To our awardees, congratulations! This is a memorable night. Imagine, this is the 27th Awards Night and there have been thousands of past Cebuano greats who’ve come before you… but, tonight, is your night.

“Feel proud. Celebrate. Smile. And, before the night ends, have a photo not only with Manny but with all the other athletes. THIS HAPPENS ONLY ONCE A YEAR.

“Two tips I want to share with you summarized in three words: BE LIKE MANNY!

“Never stop learning. Look at Manny. He’s the greatest boxer in the world. On his off days, he can be watching TV all day or relaxing at the beach… but, no, what does he do? He enrolls in college. He reads. He’s planning to become a lawyer. That’s amazing. Shows how learning and studying is so important to Manny. So I hope that we, too, will learn from this: to never stop learning, never stop improving.

“Work hard. There’s no shortcut to success, especially boxing.. you’re the only one on the ring. Like my fellow sportswriters, I’ve watched Manny up-close train at Wakee Salud’s gym and you won’t believe what he goes through: the no. of hours he trains, all the beating and suffering he undergoes. I asked others if they try to follow Manny and they do… but they all get sick! Nobody can match the work ethic of MP. So, I know you all work hard but, if you want to become a world champion… you’ve got to train like MP!

“To end, let me say that if you grab a newspaper today and scan through its pages, what do you see? BAD NEWS. If you look at the front page, there are murders, factory closures, Texters’ Choice fiascos… Bad news.

“But, did you know that there is one section in the newspaper that is the GOOD NEWS SECTION. You know which one? It’s the sports section. And why are the sports pages the good news section?

“BECAUSE OF ALL OF YOU. Because of your Palarong Pambansa gold medals, your trips to Singapore or Hong Kong where you won silver or bronze, your flying to Manila and beating RP’s best. Because of you, there is good news. Thank you.”

2009 Cebu Sports Awards… More Photos

These photos from last year’s Cebu Sports Awards….

Thanks to Iste Sesante-Leopoldo and Marian Baring for these pictures…


Gerry and Manny


Edward Hayco, Nimrod Quiñones, Marian Baring and Marigold Lebumfacil


POC Chairman Monico Puentevella (center) with Jun Migallen, Raffy Uytiepo, Caecent Magsumbol, Iste Leopoldo, Goldie Lebumfacil and Manny Villaruel


Greg Slaughter with Mike Limpag and Marian Baring


Tennis ace Sally Mae “Em-Em” Siso receiving her award


Sun.Star Cebu Sports Editor Mike Limpag with Ciriaco “Noy Cacoy” Cañete

27th SAC-SMC Cebu Sports Awards Photos

More photos from the 2009 Awards Night…

Thanks to Marian Baring of Sun.Star Cebu for these photos…


Greg Slaughter and Manny Pacquiao


Jinkee and Manny…

dsc-1698Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) Chairman and Bacolod Congressman Monico Puentevella, the night’s Main Speaker

dsc-18191The Awardees

dsc-1792Hon. Monico Puentevella (in blue) conversing with Manny; left, John Pages; right, Raffy Osumo

dsc-1767With the Carcel family (from left) Mia, Kali, Neil and Tonio

dsc-1824The Sportswriters Association of Cebu members

dsc-1789From left: Noel Villaflor, Jonas Panerio, John Pages, Hon. Puentevella and Manny