Richie Garcia: Politics has no place in sports

(Sun.Star Cebu photo)

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman holds the title as the highest-ranking sports official of our 7,107 islands. Last Thursday, thanks to Marko Sarmiento, I had a 30-minute, one-on-one chat with PSC Chairman Ricardo R. Garcia at the veranda of the Cebu Country Club. Wearing golf attire and sporting a smile after he carded a 2-over 74 in the Coral Invitational (partnering 8-time CCC champion Montito Garcia), Mr. Garcia revealed these thoughts in our Q & A:

“I started as PSC chairman last July, having been a commissioner in the past for about seven years. The responsibilities now are much, much more. I have a very good Board of Directors. We are a working board. We meet every week. We have no hidden or political agenda. In fact, we are so transparent that we post everything in Facebook. All the board resolutions and check issuances are available for the public to see.

“PSC-POC partnership? This is crucial. Today, we are two bodies working as one. The PSC-POC has never been closer. We are one. This was the same during the time of Michael Keon. In the last presidential term, the PSC-POC relationship was the worst. It was like black and white. During the SEA Games, for example, there were two sets of planes that carried both groups. There were two sets of uniforms. It was bad.

“Politics has no place in sports. Although we are all political appointees, our agenda should not be political. We have one goal: to improve Philippine sports.

“Monico Puentevalla, the POC chairman, was my schoolmate in La Salle Bacolod. We’ve been together since grade school. He graduated high school Class ’65; I finished in ’64. I was a varsity player in elementary in football and basketball. Then I moved to Taft for college. I’ve also known Peping Cojuangco. I played for the Luisita golf team. We are a good team and have teamwork.

“On the issue of Palaro: The POC suggests that we, the PSC, run the Palaro. I said, sure, we can do that. But our problem is the organization. Compared to the DepEd, which already has the structure to operate the Palaro, we don’t. The Palaro is grassroots and encompasses the entire country. We may not have the capability to operate the entire program.

“With the Batang Pinoy, we will revive it. This was the project of Monico while he was at the PSC. After Monico left, this program stopped. Now, we are bringing it back. Batang Pinoy is good because it involves, apart from students, the out-of-school youth. We will directly be coordinating with the DILG on this.

“President Noy? Unfortunately, we have never had time to sit down and talk about sports. We have sent him a letter requesting for his time but, as of now, we have yet to meet. It’s okay. I understand that he has so many other priorities at this point.

“Cut red tape. That’s one of my top priorities. Before, many of our suppliers were middlemen. We would be purchasing items at 30 percent more. The reason? These middlemen ‘magpa-utang.’ I said, ‘This is not right.’ The government is losing money. Being a businessman — and not a politician — helps. I look for ways to save. And so, for this year, we are expecting savings of P70 million. For the security guards alone, there used to be 200 guards. Now, it’s 90. Why did we need so many guards? And many of them were “ghost” guards who never even reported. And so, with security alone, we save P2 million per month. With the janitorial services, it’s P1 million per month. On those two services, that’s P36 million in savings per year. On the procurement side, I estimate savings of P20 million. On the overhead, we let go of 40 people. On electricity, we merged offices and cut down on 25 air-conditioning sets. And here’s an interesting item: on newspaper subscriptions, before, they paid P40,000 per month! Everybody had a copy. Now, it’s much less. These savings will go directly — every centavo of it — to the athletes.”

“Another issue that we are fighting is the percentage allocation from the PAGCOR funds. The law states that five percent of PAGCOR’s total revenue should go to the PSC and sports. During Tita Cory’s term, it was this. It was five percent. Then, during President Fidel Ramos’ term, then PSC chairman Philip Juico was asked by Ramos to cut the percentage to 2.5. They had an agreement wherein if the PSC needed additional funding, Ramos would fund it from his discretionary funds as president. And so, this set-up was perfect because Juico requested for plenty of additional funding — which resulted in a total amount much bigger than the original five percent. Philippine sports was well-funded.

“During Erap’s term, this was stopped. Only 2.5 percent of the PAGCOR revenue was allocated — and nothing more. This continued under GMA’s term.

“Now, we are requesting Pres. Noynoy for the full five percent. Right now, our annual budget is around P700 million. Compared to tiny Singapore, with a population of just five million, their budget is (computed in pesos) a big P4.3 billion. That’s six times our figure. And so, if the five percent is granted, at least that will double our budget to P1.4 billion.

Older at 51, Frankie Miñoza grows younger

I like golf. Golf doesn’t like me. The few occasions that I swung an 8-iron, the ball performed either of two reactions: it swerved right for a “hook shot” much like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s or it veered left — a “slice” as sharp as Steffi Graf’s backhand. Once, at Alta Vista with Louie Moro and Macky Michael, I lost 22 balls!

One player who loves golf and the sport loves him in return is Frankie Miñoza. Here’s outstanding news on our Pinoy ace: “Frankie became the first male Filipino to qualify on the PGA Tour,” said Marko Sarmiento, in an email last month. “Although it’s the Champions Tour, it is part of the PGA of America and one of the major tours (PGA, LPGA and Champions) in the U.S. Not only did he qualify, he qualified 2nd and only the top 5 from the final stage get a full exempt status for the 2011 season. That means that he gets to play on all the tournaments!”

Marko Sarmiento got to experience a moment that all golfers wish they go through: he played in the same foursome with Frankie. In their grouping were Montito Garcia (Marko’s uncle and the Cebu Country Club eight-time club champion), Marko’s dad, Efren, and Marko’s older brother, Arlo.

Montito, Marko, Arlo, Frankie and Efren Sarmiento

Frankie’s score that day at the CCC? A relaxed 6-under 66.

Looking ahead this 2011, Marko’s not sure if Frankie is exempted for the Majors. As to qualifying for the PGA Tour, Marko explained: “He went through a grueling 144 hole qualifier in 2 states. The regional qualifying was held in Seaside, California while the final stage was in Coral Springs, Florida. Q-school is known to be the most stressful event for any professional on any tour because of the uncertainty of their careers if they don’t qualify. After qualifying, Frankie said it is a dream come true. He’s played with all the top pros throughout his career but not on a weekly basis because he was based in Japan and competed mostly in Asia. Now he gets to rub elbows with the likes of Couples, Langer, Watson and Pavin on a day to day basis. How sweet is that??”

Here in Cebu, almost nobody outhits Marko Sarmiento off the tee. Averaging 290+ yards, his ceramic ball disappears into the air. How was Frankie, who turned 51 years of age last Dec. 29, off the mound?

“I played with Frankie a month ago and it was a good time to see the condition of his game, which was fresh from his stint in Q-school (the week after Q-school, he finished 2nd in a European Seniors event in Japan), and you could see that he was still oozing with confidence. His ball striking has always been impeccable, but his distance is what amazed me the most. I didn’t expect him to be as long as he is now, at his age of 51. He was hitting his drives 290 to 300 yards consistently.

“He has always been a long hitter but he credits 10-15 more yards to a new Titleist driver (910D3) that he just started using. He also attributes great putting to his recent success. You can say that his putting has been his achilles heel throughout his career, but when his putter gets hot, he almost always contends. He’s also in great physical shape since he runs on a regular basis. He actually looks more fit now than he did when we has in his late 30’s.”

The 5-foot-10, 160-lb. Frankie was ranked, in 1998, among the top 50 in the world. That was over a dozen years ago. But Marko considers his form today just as outstanding.

“Frankie may not be in the peak of his career like he was in the mid 1990’s when he was in the top 50 of the World Golf Rankings,” wrote Marko, “but you can argue that he isn’t far from it. Golf is the one exception to the rule of sport, and that you can actually get better with age. Many golfers peak in their 40s and don’t be surprised to see a resurgence in Frankie’s career. He’s excited and definitely motivated to turn back the clock and compete with these golfing legends.  I would have to rank Frankie as the best Filipino golfer of all time, hands down. He has the most international wins and has definitely made the most money, and remember… he’s a rookie all over again.”

Categorized as Golf

The 42K: An incredible, life-changing moment

(Photo by Erwin T. Lim)

How to explain the satisfaction — and pain — of running 42,195 meters on foot? Here are a few explanations…

“To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who’s never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind.” – Jerome Drayton.

“The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop, but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy. It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.” – Jacqueline Gareau.

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” – Emil Zatopek.

Yes. Emil Zatopek, the Czech runner who won three gold medals at the 1952 Olympic Games (including the marathon, deciding to join the event in the last minute – and in his first-ever 42K distance!) is correct. Running the marathon will change your life. From now on, you can achieve anything. A difficulty or challenge or problem that’s too tough to overcome? Prior to the 42K race, “That’s too hard,” you’d say; after, it’s this proclamation: “I CAN DO IT!”

Triumph. That’s what the marathon is. It’s about the word “impossible” and removing its first two letters. Possible. Yes. After last Sunday, to the one thousand-plus who ran from the Asiatown I.T. Park to the tip of the South Road Properties in Talisay City then back to Lahug…. anything is possible. “A marathon is like life with its ups and downs,” someone once said, “but once you’ve done it you feel that you can do anything.”

Take Raul Cepeda. He’s 77. He’ll celebrate his 78th birthday one week from today, on Jan. 18. This means that he was born in 1933. Two days ago, Raul ran his first marathon. When I saw him running towards the finish line, I almost cried. Here’s a grandfather of many, accomplishing what senior citizens are not supposed to do. Raul is one of the most amazing people I know. And, to top it all, last week I got a call from him saying that he’s in pain, nursing a plantar fasciitis injury. I suggested that, maybe, he not join or do the 21K instead. He braved on. And for that, he has the 42K finisher’s medal to proudly show to his grandchildren.

(Photo by Sydney de los Reyes)

How about Atan Guardo and Joel Garganera? These best friends finished their 12th marathon (yes, no misprint: one dozen) last Sunday. Their first? Exactly 23 months ago. Now, it’s No. 12.

Or SunStar’s very own Michelle So. In the Press Freedom Run two years ago, Michelle hobbled towards the 3K finish line. In CCM 2010, she did the 5K. Last Sunday? She traveled 42,195 meters—the distance from the Provincial Capitol all the way to Carcar.

Same with Joy Polloso, the general manager of Ayala Center. She completed her first two marathons — in Singapore and Cebu — in a span of just one month!

There are hundreds more of similar inspiring stories–many recounted in Facebook postings and photos. In all… What a celebration. What a sense of fulfillment. What a festive moment during this Sinulog.

As to the hot weather last Sunday morning? That’s another one of those unexplainable moments. The entire week last week until Saturday night, it was gloomy. Rainy. It drizzled. Same with the whole of yesterday, right? It rained. But on the solitary morning of last Sunday, it was all sunny and hot… Many runners got burned. Explains marathon guru Hal Higdon: “The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals.” How to explain the slow roasting at the SRP? Only God can do that but, to me, it meant two things: One, it reemphasizes the difficulty and torment of the 42K and, two, it makes the agonizing victory all the more gratifying.    Finally, to all those still grimacing with aches and sore muscles, consider this…

“I’m never going to run this again!!!” said Grete Waitz after winning her first of nine New York City marathons.

See you at the starting line of CCM 2012!

Congratulations, marathoners!

To all who joined yesterday’s 2011 CEBU CITY MARATHON and crossed that finish line… Congrats! Your months of hard-work have paid-off. It’s time to relax and savor the incredible experience you’ve just accomplished. Congrats!

Best marathon tip: ‘Run Your Own Race’

Having joined 42K races in Hong Kong, Quezon City and Singapore, the single most important suggestion that I can impart to the thousands joining this Sunday’s Cebu City Marathon can be summed up in those four simple words above.

Each of us is different. Some are slim, long-legged, fast — like Mendel Lopez. Most of us are not. This means that only a rare few, for example, can run a “sub-4 marathon” like Steve Ferraren and Dr. Yong Larrazabal. Most of us can try — but most-likely, we won’t achieve that speedy target in our lifetime. Run Your Own Race.

Never mind if others are faster. Don’t mind those who, in the first 750 meters, sprint as if a salivating Doberman were chasing them. If you’re running the 42.195 km. distance, the race is long. Don’t rush. Slow down. Walk. Drink in each water stop. Relax. You’re not Haile Gebrselassie. You’re you. So run your own race.

You know your body. You know how long you’ve trained. If your training has been less than planned, stop. Trot. Jog. This marathon — as long as you don’t take eight hours or so — is not strict with the curfew. So pace yourself. The slower you are in the first half, the better. The reserved energy you keep will be utilized towards the finish. Our body is like a battery. Deplete it quickly and you’ll lose power towards the end — when you need it most.

Don’t mind the others. Don’t be envious of those who overtake you. A heavyweight whistling past you? Let him go. Believe me, you’ll breeze past him later. Because — unless you’re Mary Grace de los Santos — the race is not about speed… it’s about crossing that finish line. Run. Your. Own. Race.


Parking. It’s best to park at the Waterfront Hotel. There’s ample room there. You get to warm-up (walk) heading to the starting area at the Asiatown I.T. Park. You’re also assured of parking space — given that the I.T. Park open spaces are limited.

Go Early. The 42K runners start 4 a.m. Be there before 3:30 a.m. You want to be relaxed — not in a last-minute rush — before the starting gun fires. The 21K participants begin at 5:10 a.m. Show up at 4:30. For the 5K, it’s 5:30. Arrive before 5 a.m.

Onsite Registrants. Only today and tomorrow, those who have yet to register can do so at the Active Zone of Ayala Center.

Change Category. Here’s an important message: If you’re planning to run a different category from the one you’ve registered, sorry but you cannot. For example, you got injured in training and want to run 21K instead of your registered 42K. You cannot. You won’t be allowed to enter the 21K starting area. The solution? Visit Active Zone today and change your category. This entails a fee — but, at least, you can still join.

Pasta Party. That’s tomorrow, Friday, starting 6 p.m. at The Terraces of Ayala Center. Be there. Listen to inspiring stories. Be updated of the final notices. Mingle with your fellow runners. Pasta meals are available at P150/meal.

Photos. One new addition to this year’s CCM are the professional photos. Needs and Solutions, a company specializing in beautiful pictures, will set-up 10 photo stations: at the Start/Finish, JY Square, U.P., Capitol, Magellan’s Cross, the Tunnel, Fort San Pedro, and several points along the SRP. You can then purchase your photos via online. Smile!

Traffic. To the Cebuano public, come Sunday morning, you will feel inconvenienced. Your movement will slow down. This is understandable because the city government is closing half of all roads along the route: including Osmeña Blvd., Gen. Maxilom., Gorordo, Salinas… plus the full closure for 12 hours of the SRP and the SRP Tunnel from 10 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday. We ask for your patience.

Finally… To the runners: I will end in the same way I started: Don’t mind the others. Many will be faster… let them go. Stay within your practiced speed. Stay calm. Enjoy, as the slogan reads, “The Sights and Sounds of Cebu.” Run Your Own Race.

CCM Press Conference

According to CITOM Chairman Jack Jakosalem, “CCM” can also stand for “Cebu City Mayor.” In attendance during our lunch press briefing was the mayor himself, Mike Rama.

Cebu City Councilor Edgar Labella, CITOM Chairman Jack Jakosalem, Mayor Mike Rama, Jesse Taborada, Jacs Jacalan and John Pages