Tennis treat awaits Treat, Cecil & Co.

The Japanese are coming!!! But, before they do, our Pinoys have arrived. Yesterday afternoon, with 11 days left before the Davis Cup begins, our Philippine tennis squad landed in Lapu-Lapu City. While the Japanese invade us this Saturday, our PHL team is here many, many hours prior to showtime.

They’ll step on the clay-court that was built brand-new by Plantation Bay. They’ll slide, serve, smother forehands and smell the air of Mactan. They’ll acclimatize. They’ll visualize next Sunday’s victory parade while carrying the flag. They’ll practice. They’ll hope that the Japanese–coming from near-freezing temperatures (it was 4 degrees Celsius in Tokyo yesterday)–will get scorched and flamed by our sun.

Davis Cup is unlike any other. It’s not one player versus another. It’s Philippines against Japan. It’s like boxing’s Pinoy Pride where Mexicans battle our own. It’s the same. Only it’s tennis. And, with tennis, we’ve never seen this giant-sized event before.

Plantation Bay Resort and Spa is the peerless site. Voted one of Asia’s best, the Pinoys and the Japs have the impeccable resort venue to unwind after grueling 5-setter matches. Davis Cup, a 111-year-old tournament involving 137 nations, is world-class. It’s just befitting that a first-rate resort play hosts.

The City of Lapu-Lapu is the organizer. Envisioned to be the sports tourism capital of our 7,107 islands, Mactan is perfect. It has plenty of water, sand and clay. Ideal for play—and, for that tennis court made of clay. Also, it was on this island where the first death of a tourist was recorded: Ferdinand Magellan was slaughtered on April 27, 1521.

Lapu-Lapu crucified him. Will Lapu-Lapu—the city—do the same? Be the venue where the Japanese tennis stars will be vanquished? Yes. I hope so. Most of all, I hope you get to watch. (Tickets, priced at P500/day or P2,500/reserved, are available at SM’s Nike Stadium or Ayala Center’s Planet Sports.)

Sports fan or not, you’ve got to make a beach outing next weekend to Marigondon. Witness how swords transform to racquets. Blood, in the form of defeat, will be spilled on clay. Speaking of clay, I had a feet-on (not hands-on) experience last Friday. I stepped on the court. It’s splendid. The bleachers? Wow. It’s comparable to the U.S. Open or the Beijing Olympics. It’s of the highest standards. Every single blue-colored seat is worth your ticket.

Cecil Mamiit. Treat Huey. Johnny Arcilla. Elbert Anasta. PJ Tierro. These are our players. And, if you want to get a glimpse of them prior to the Davis Cup from March 4 to 6, they’ll be at the Baseline tennis courts this Thursday, Feb. 24. A holiday (Charter Day), they’ll conduct practice sessions and autograph-signing from 2 to 4 p.m. Be there. You’ll see slice backhands and topspin volleys. Watch the Azkals of Tennis.

Chester’s Birthday

Like Bobby Nalzaro, I attended last Saturday’s 50th “Golden” birthday of one of Cebu’s top businessmen/sportsmen: Chester Cokaliong.

The ballroom of Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa crowded with government heads (Mayor Mike Rama, Rep. Pablo John Garcia, Judge Gabby Ingles, Councilor Ed Labella, among many), relatives, friends, and, of course, Chester’s basketball buddies. I sat with Bobit Avila, Bobby Inoferio, Choy Torralba, Jerry Tundag and Jack Huang. We stayed up until 11 p.m. The entertainers–Hajii Alejandro and Willie Nepomuceno, who mimicked Dolphy and Sammy Davis, Jr.–were terrific. Chester’s birthday cake? Why, of course, a multi-layered basketball ring for Cebu’s 3-point King.

Categorized as Basketball

My favorite story on success? Failure

As president of the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC), I delivered a speech yesterday afternoon. In attendance were hundreds: parents, coaches, the 7-footer basketball giant Junemar Fajardo; the Athlete of the Year, Donnie Nietes; and the rest of the awardees of the 29th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards. Here was my speech….

Good afternoon! Cebu City Councilor Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba. Cebu City Sports Commission Chairman Ed Hayco… Our Sportsman of the Year, representing chess… Mr. Boojie Lim. Our Orlando C. Sanchez awardee: Dr. Danny Villadolid. Our guest of honor who flew in from Manila… he was supposed to bring the Azkals, but they’re about to start training in Baguio.. our presidential awardee: Mr. Dan Palami. To the parents and coaches in attendance… And most of all, to you, our awardees… Maayong hapon and congratulations!

The first time I attended the Sports Awards was 22 years ago. I was then 16 years old and — like you — I received an award for the sport of tennis. The awarding was held at the Magellan Hotel. Since then, the awards had always been held at an exclusive hotel or function room area. Each time, we would only invite the head coach or the team captain.

That is why I am so happy today to see all of you. Because it’s not just one coach or one player but all of you who should be recognized.I want to share with you my all-time favorite quotation:

I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times, I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot… and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life…. And that is why I succeed.

You know who said those words? Michael Jordan. The person considered the greatest basketball player — the greatest athlete of all time — said that failure is the reason for his success.

I mention this quote because — although all of you here are champions and gold medalists — the reason behind your success is also failure.

You have failed many times. You have been defeated. The only athlete I know who remains undefeated is Floyd Mayweather, Jr. — but he’s a failure because he’s afraid to face our very own Manny Pacquiao.

Now, in your own training and in your many competitions, you have failed several times. But, it was how you responded after the failure that brought you here. You rose from the times when you lost — you trained harder, you did not let failure defeat you. You used failure as motivation to rise and to win.

I mention failure because I see the Cebu Eastern College Baby Dragons here. Back in 2009, CEC lost by 131 points in one game. In another, they lost by a margin of 151 points! Now, today, they are here as the Cesafi high school basketball champions of last year and as our major awardees for basketball. Their comeback story — from failure to triumph — is one of the most amazing stories ever in Cebu sports.

Also, I cite Dan Palami. Years back, our Philippine football players were nobodies. Nobody cared about them. But, thanks to Mr. Palami — who supported and took care of the team while they were failing — today the Azkals are the hottest sports idols in our country.

And so, dear awardees, as you come up on stage in a few minutes and receive your plaques and trophies — feel proud. Relish this moment. Very few are recognized like you. And, later this year, when you go back to the basketball court or the boxing ring or the football field and, in case you falter and lose, use those moments to become stronger. Be like Mike. Be like CEC. Do not be afraid of losing.

Once again, thank you so much. To all the awardees, we are all very, very, very proud of you. Congratulations!

Categorized as Tennis

The 29th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards

Every year, the best of the best gather. Boxers. Triathletes. Golfers. Motocross champions. Bowlers. Taekwondo black-belters. Scrabble mind experts. Cyclists. Mixed Martial Artists.

Over 180 of Cebu’s top athletes and sportsmen meet. Some, like Donnie Nietes, are world champions. Others, like Irina Gabasa and Igi Maximo and Arthur Craig “Iggy” Pantino, are the best in their juniors categories. A few — like the Cebu Volleyball Association (CEVA) or the Cebu Tenpin Bowling Association (CETBA) — are organizations. One is a company and family name whose athletic involvement spans decades and a multitude of events: Aboitiz. All are champions and supporters of one discipline: Sports.

The event? It’s this Saturday. And you know what’s the best part? You’re invited.

The past two years — in 2009 when Manny Pacquiao was the special guest and last year, when Z Gorres arose from his wheelchair and walked forward to personally accept his trophy — the Cebu Sports Awards had been exclusive. Same in the years past. Grand Convention Center. Laguna Garden Cafe ballroom. And several other “by-invitation-only” venues. All exclusive.

Not two afternoons from today. You’re invited. The Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC), in partnership with San Miguel Brewery, Inc. with the support of Smart, M. Lhuillier, Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Air21, Rudy Project, Coca-Cola and Citigym, have decided that this 2011 will be unique.

Join us. The time is 3 to 5 p.m. The venue will be Ayala Center Cebu. On the center stage of the mall’s Activity Center, you will see David Lim receive his special citation for the sport of Autocross. Want to snap a photo of golf’s rising star, Gio Gandionco? Sure you can. How about asking the sisters Lorhiz and Loren Dale Echavez–the triathlete and swimming champions–for a picture at the Photo Wall? Sure. I’m sure they’ll agree. This is your one chance out of the 365 days of this season to witness every one of Cebu’s sports heroes in one venue.

Boojie Lim, the patron of chess for several decades now, will finally be honored. He’s the Sportsman of the Year. Dr. Danny Villadolid, one of the most respected of officials in this island, will also be recognized. He receives the Orlando C. Sanchez Award, given to the individual who has contributed his full efforts and time–without much fanfare–to the development of Cebu sports.

Our special guest? The one who’ll receive the Presidential Award? He was supposed to have brought with him a full team of footballers. You know these guys. They’re the Azkals. Yes, had the Azkals flown to Cebu after their 2-0 win against Mongolia in Bacolod, they’d join us on Saturday. They’d be the special attractions. But, no, Baguio is their training camp.

Dan Palami will be here in person on Saturday. He’s the man credited for the rise of the Azkals. As team manager, he single-handedly funded the then-unknown squad. Now, they’re heroes. Palami is the super hero. He’ll give a speech on the Ayala Center stage.

Who is the Athlete of the Year? That one person who will emerge the brightest among the stars? Last year, it was Rubilen Amit, the lady billiards gold medalist. Though small in height, she stood tallest. Who will it be this year? Find out this Saturday. Her or his identity will only be revealed on the spot. Like the Grammys or the Oscars–nobody knows except the organizers. It will be publicly announced by our master of ceremonies, Rico Navarro.

Join us. Please do. You’ll enjoy the two hours.

Now, if you’re an awardee reading this article, please call our Secretariat for a few instructions (Sandy or Emma at 4161122 local 100 or 112.) And, more importantly, if you’re an honoree, bring your whole family. Invite your friends. Ask your barkada to cheer for you.

This is your day. This is a special moment to forever capture. This is your reward for excellence. See you this Saturday.

SM2SM Run; Operation Smile this Sunday

Calling on all awardees of the 29th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards: the annual honoring of our island’s best is this Saturday, Feb. 19, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Activity Center of the Ayala Center Cebu. Everyone is requested to be at the venue by 2:15 p.m. Attire is semi-formal wear or, if that’s too formal, honorees can come in their athletic uniform (except the swimmers!).

San Miguel Brewery is the lead company helping. Also, this 2011, the following have come forward to support: Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Smart, Rudy Project, Citigym, Air 21 and M. Lhuillier. If you’re an awardee, please call Sandy or Emma at 4161122 local 100 or 112 for more details. See you.

SM2SM. I immensely enjoyed last Sunday’s SM2SM Run. The top officials of SM City–led by Marissa Fernan–were there very early two mornings ago. SM top honchos Joel Andres, Sherry Tuvilla and Tata Mempin I also had a chance to speak with.

Joining the 12K distance, there was plenty to commend with the event organized by Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III. The full closure of both lanes of the SRP. The P30,000 first prize for the 21K winners (which was just as large as the Condura Run in Manila). The passage beside Plaza Independencia and the Malacañang sa Sugbu. The unlimited water supply every kilometer. Best of all, the God-given weather. Late Saturday evening and early Sunday, it poured. But, as God smiled down upon those who took good care of their bodies through exercise, He gifted the runners: no rain until past 9 a.m. when the participants had finished.

Steve Benitez ran his first 12K. The owner of Bo’s Coffee had never previously joined a 10K race. The appeal of running the SRP–plus the prodding of Mike and Joyce Fernan, who also comfortably ran the dozen-kilometer distance–convinced Steve to run. Congratulations also to the tandem of Noy and Amale Jopson, the first-placers in the 12K couples category. Another SM Run is targeted for October.

To doctors Yong Larrazabal and Peter Mancao–and to the entire SM team–well done!

With the Manila-based Kenyan runners after the SM run

CERC. Roy Trani is the new president of the Cebu Executive Runners Club. After many years at the helm of the running group founded in 1997, Jesse Taborada (now the Vice-President) turns over the leadership to a fellow marathoner. The other officers include Kenneth Casquejo (Secretary), Steve Ferraren (Treasurer), Dodong Sulatre (Auditor), Jacs Jacalan (Sgt-at-Arms) and myself as PRO. The “Council of Elders,” not chosen because they’re the oldest, include Dr. Abraham Manlawe, Roel Militar, Dr. Albert Santos and Dr. Vic Verallo. The main project of the CERC, of course, is the Cebu Marathon–slated on Jan. 8, 2012. Congrats, Roy!

BIEBER OR BRUCE. Plenty have commented that, with his new, full crop of hair, Manny Pacquiao looks like Justin Beiber. Is our Pinoy trying to copy the looks of the heartthrob of American music?

“That is a very good question,” Rep. Manny answered in response to a press conference query. “Bruce Lee is my idol. That is why I have this haircut.”

I agree with Pacman. His looks–more so, his quick bursts of punches and flurry of ra-tat-tat blasts–resemble that of the King of Kung Fu.

OPERATION SMILE RUN. If you’re targeting both to get physically fit and to help the needy, join this weekend’s Operation Smile Charity Run. The proceeds go to support the Operation Smile Cebu Mission Year 14–which begins the next day, Feb. 21, at the V. Sotto Hospital when free reconstructive surgeries will be performed to correct cleft lips, cleft palates and many other facial deformities.

Mariquita Salimbangon Yeung started Operation Smile in Cebu more than 12 years ago. Since then, over 3,000 children and young adults have had positive changes to their lives.

This Sunday is the run to both celebrate Operation Smile and to raise funds. Distances (in kms.) are 1.6, 3, 5, 10 and 21. (For the 10K and 21K, RFID timing chips will be used.) Register today at Runnr!

Categorized as Running

The Azkals are good — and looking good

Girls dream of convincing James and Phil to be their young husbands. The Fil-Brit brothers are rockstar-famous. They’re celebrities in today’s hottest entertainment called football. My wife Jasmin calls them “hot.” Quinito Henson has a new term for the PHL squad: “The Beatles.” Mobbed by Ilonggas, their shirts pulled, their hands wearied with autograph-signing, their photos plastered on pink bedroom walls, the female population is obsessed.

This craze began when the Azkals shockingly beat Vietnam, tied with Singapore, and reached the semifinals of the AFF (Suzuki) Cup last December. It reached a climax last Wednesday night when the fireworks erupted at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod.

These footballers are good. But more than good, they’re good-looking. And this is what fuels their popularity. In the same way that all movie stars except Pokwang are pretty, we assume the same with our athletic heroes: we adore them because of their incredible prowess on the sports arena.

And, even better, if they’re beautiful, we worship them. Consider Anna Kournikova. She is more famous than 97.5 percent of the world’s female athletes–not because she’s won 38 events (she has zero singles titles)–but because of her Russian beauty and curvaceous Jessica Alba-like body.

Michael Jordan is the same. The reason why he topped the No. 1 ranking as the all-time greatest is not solely because of his acrobatics wearing the Chicago Bulls jersey, it’s because he’s the complete package. He’s got the tools, the Nike goods, the look.

David Beckham, in People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive 2010,” is right there alongside Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio. Sure, the former England captain is adroit and dexterous. His feet are good. But his face—as millions will agree–is even better looking.

Which brings me back to Neil Etheridge, Alex Borromeo, Simon Greatwich, Jason de Jong, James and Phil and the other Azkals. These guys are good, no doubt. Did you see the in-between-the-legs goal stung by Chieffy Caligdong? That was like Manny Pacquiao’s left hook on Ricky Hatton. Or how about, just seconds before the final whistle by the referee to end the game at 1-0, a curving shot by Phil Younghusband that penetrated the goal line and erupted a nationwide scream which reverberated from Davao to Mandaue to Barotac Nuevo?

Football, beginning this 2011, will reach heights to rival basketball and boxing. The reason? Football is grass-roots. If you study closely the elementary and high school students–in Cebu’s private schools, for example—the most-played sport is not basketball–it’s soccer. It’s what five-year-olds dribble. The game of the foot, not hand. Parents of Springdale and Sacred Heart-Ateneo and Bright Academy and Don Bosco and USC and many more are soccer moms and dads. The Azkals give these youngsters their Super Heroes. Which brings me to the “celebrity” discussion. These Azkals boys have an opportunity to be much more famous than their PBA 6-footer counterparts. They have a chance to achieve movie star-like prominence.

How? One example: The “tweet” sent by Phil Younghusband to Angel Locsin. In a Twitter message delivered the day after the Azkals win over Mongolia, he said: “Hi Angel! This Phil. How are you? I was just wondering if you are free for Valentines day?”

This public announcement during this love month rippled throughout the showbiz world—in particular, to the millions of non-sports Pinoy fans. This was juicy. Kilig. A top story for Boy Abunda. Then, not long after, Angel responded with her own Twitter message: “hi! this is angel? Congrats on your win last night! Tnx for the invite but I have work on valentines.. Let’s try another day?”

My point? These non-sports acts are perfect for sports. By fueling tsismis, by creating gossip, Phil—off the field—has excited our nation.

Good. Good PR. Good-looking. Good for football.

Boom’s booming business; Nadal in Cebu?

Will Rep. Manny Pacquiao get to fulfill his goal of meeting Pres. Barack Obama? Let’s see. Let’s hope so. For if it happens, what a dream photograph moment for MP. Everybody wants a picture with Obama. (Remember GMA?) I hope Pacman gets his Oval Office wish.

SUPER. Apart from the half-time show, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, the fireworks and the actual Steelers-Packers game, the Super Bowl is known for another contest: Advertisements. Each Super Bowl TV ad costs a monstrous $2.6 million. Computed in pesos, per 30-second advertisement, that’s P113,282,000.

Of the several 2011 Super Bowl advertisements I’ve seen, here are my favorites…




PALARO. DepEd has released details pertaining to the complaints raised about the Palarong Pambansa selection for Region VII: “Only basketball, football, baseball, sepak takraw, softball and volleyball will conduct evaluations.” This is both good and bad. Good because the rest of the athletes (individual sports) will no longer undergo the confusing “performance evaluation.” Bad because, until now, nearly three months after the Cviraa in Dumaguete City, the final composition of the above-mentioned ballgames has yet to be completed.

BOOM. Rey Bautista and Jason Pagara were our guests last Tuesday at the Rotary Club of Cebu West meeting at the Cebu Country Club. With at least five mega-events organized by the ALA Promotions this 2011—plus, of course, the global power of a certain congressman from Sarangani—Philippine boxing is at its peak today.

Benjie Cimafranca, Roger Un, Ronnie Medalle, Jason Pagara, John Pages, Boom-Boom B., Edito Villamor, Maxwell Espina, Chad Cañares, Nilo Domingo and Philip Tan

Staying up past 10:30 p.m. two nights ago with Boom-Boom, Jason, Chad Cañares and Edito Villamor at the Frostbite Dessert and Yoghurt store (along Juan Luna Ave.), what impressed me most about Boom-Boom was his business acumen. Not wanting to throw his money to waste, he explained to our group (Justin Uy, Johnny Siao, Nilo Domingo, John Young, Camilo Ceniza, Dr. Benjie Cimafranca) his “Booming” venture. He bought several passenger vans and has an expanding V-hire business in Bohol. Plus, during times when he’s available, he drives the van himself–complete with a side-trip tour of his home in Candijay, Bohol. Impressive, Boom-Boom!

NBA. Can you believe the strength of a Carmelo Anthony-powered L.A. Lakers? Rumors are swirling that Andrew Bynum will be traded for the Denver Nuggets superstar. Wow, if that happens, the Anthony-Bryant-Gasol trio will not only rival the Three Kings of Miami—it will also be hard to imagine any other NBA final but the Lakers-Heat.

The Cavaliers? Ouch. Don’t you pity Cleveland? Like a groom left at the altar by a bride who sped away minutes before the “I do’s,” LeBron’s former team has lost 25 straight games. Their standing is 8-44.

NADAL. After his rival Roger Federer won the Laureus Sportsman of the Year award from 2005 to 2008, it’s now Rafa Nadal’s turn. (The past two years were won by Usain Bolt.) In a ceremony in Abu Dhabi, the 24-year-old Spaniard was conferred the trophy. “For me, the most important thing is not being No. 1,” said Nadal, “but to be healthy and keep being competitive in every tournament I play.” Wise words. For someone who plays an all-out physical game that endangers his body, Nadal’s strongest opponent is not Roger, Novak or Andy—it’s the expected breakdown of his body.

Speaking of Spain, would you believe that, if we win the Davis Cup tie against Japan this March 4 to 6 in Lapu-Lapu City… and then we win the next one against either New Zealand or Uzbekistan… then we have a chance to play Rafa? I’m not joking. We are two Davis Cup victories away from joining the highly-prized World Group (top 16 nations including France, U.S., Switzerland…). The last time we entered that group was back in 1991. I flew to Manila and watched Felix Barrientos and Roland So at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium battle against Sweden (whose star, Stefan Edberg, opted not to join; Sweden still won 5-0).

It’s a long shot but… you never know. (If the Azkals can do it…) And speaking of dreams: imagine if we beat Japan, beat NZ/Uzbekistan, draw Spain… and the Davis Cup against Nadal is played in Plantation Bay!

Davis Cup player Cecil Mamiit with Sun.Star’s Marian Baring