Seoul Photos

Joe, Dondi, John and Bunny with the Joint Security Area guards

Baseball stadium

1988 Olympic Games stadium

With Phil. Ambassador to South Korea Luis Cruz

Our Philippine delegation

A visit to the Seoul of Asia

SEOUL, KOREA–I arrived in this mega-city of 10 million people last Sunday night. Considered one of the Top 10 global cities in the Global Cities Index, with brands like Hyundai, Kia, Samsung, and LG calling this home, Seoul is high-tech. Internet speed? “They have 10 times the speed, the fastest in the world,” said Boni Belen, one of my companions in this trip. “While ours in Cebu, for example, is 2 MBPS, theirs is 20 MBPS. But, their pricing is four times cheaper!”

Yet, for all the prosperity and technological advancement of Seoul, me and my 14 companions were met with puzzled looks when we turned on our mobile phones upon arrival at the Incheon airport. Our phones don’t work here! Or, at least, our SIM cards are useless. This is unusual. In almost every nation I’ve been to, the moment you switch on your phone, telecom companies swarm your message boxes, asking you to pick their network. Not here. It appears to be a closed cellular network — and you’ve got to rent phones and use their system. Weird. Not Wired.

One more thing: there’s no French Open. Ouch. I’m here from Sunday until Wednesday late evening and will miss the every-night excitement that’s now playing in Paris. We’re checked-in at the Pacific Hotel and while the cable TV offers more than 50 channels, none include what this tennis fanatic yearns for. Two channels broadcast the UFC. They showed the Monaco Grand Prix. There’s a Golf HD channel. Korean baseball, of course. There’s CNN. They even replayed the Champions League finale won by Lionel Messi. But no Parisian red clay.

Seoul is the soul of Asia. That’s what they say. I’m here as part of a 15-man delegation of businessmen that’s headed by Dr. Bernardo Villegas, one of the country’s top economists. Dr. Villegas heads the Univ. of Asia and the Pacific in Manila. He heads our Business Mission delegation to Korea.

From Manila, there’s Jesus Zulueta, Gerry Abello, Jimmy Ortigas and several more. From Cebu, we are five: my dad Bunny, Joe Soberano, Dondi Joseph, Boni Belen and myself. We are to meet Korean business leaders and exchange notes (and calling cards) with the hope of conducting future business. In the field of tourism and English education, we know that hundreds of millions of them (OK, that’s an exaggeration; about 12,000 will study ESL in Cebu this 2011. So much for business-talk…

Now, food talk. Our first dinner — it was 10:30 P.M. (they’re one hour ahead compared to PHL) here last Sunday; temperature: 18 C — was funny not because of the spicy octopus that we ate but because of our bill. There were eight of us who dined in a cozy Korean restaurant and, would you believe, our bill was 175,000! Yes. No kidding. But that’s 175,000 Korean Won. No, it’s not One Peso is to One Korean Won — that would be a dinner more expensive than Pres. GMA’s in New York. But it’s P1 = 25 Won. So the dinner wasn’t extravagant; about P7,000. But imagine the shock of hearing 175,000!

Now, on to my game… Sports is major, major league in this land. Back in 1988, the Summer Olympics was held in Seoul. It was only the second time (apart from Japan in 1964) that an Asian nation has hosted the Games. (Beijing followed in 08-08-08.)

Cebu? The Philippines? Next to host the Olympics? Ha-ha-ha. Another joke. The 2002 FIFA World Cup was another giant event that the Koreans hosted (together with Japan). Brazil won the title, beating Germany, 2-0, but the real winner was South Korea, who reached the semi-finals out of 32 teams. My guess is that football, especially after that 2002 World Cup, is the most popular game in this nation of 50,000,000. Their version of the Azkals have millions of fanatics as rabid as our own.

Taekwondo is their national sport. In Korean, “tae” is defined as to “strike using foot,” “kwon” means to “strike using the fist,” and “do” is a “method or art.” The art of kicking and punching. That’s taekwondo; and this Olympic sport is rated by many as the world’s most popular martial art.

Categorized as Tennis

Boom-Boom: The Ray Mancini of Cebu

Rey Bautista woke up at 5 in the morning last Friday. He stretched, got dressed, laced his running shoes, and stepped out of the Nasipit, Talamban location of the Antonio Lopez Aldeguer Gymnasium. It was 6 a.m. After two hours of slow-jogging, he returned to the ALA dugout, where he’s slept and resided for over nine years now.

Wala ko ma-hadlok (I’m not scared),” said the boxer known as “Boom Boom.” The “hadlok,” or scare, refers to Heriberto Cuate Ruiz. Out of the 32 men that Bautista has faced on the square-shaped stage, B-B-B has won 30 fights (23 by knockout) — and he’s lost only twice, to Daniel Ponce de Leon and to Ruiz.

I am not a boxer. I do not know the dizzying effect of a right hook, a stabbing left wallop or a jaw-breaking uppercut. Bautista experienced those. In his Nov. 22, 2008 loss to Ruiz — via unanimous decision with the judges’ scorecards of 80-70, 78-72 and 77-73 — our Boholano was castigated by the Mexicano.

Yet…. Wala ko ma hadlok. That’s the confident statement of Bautista, with just 13 evenings to go before his Part II encounter vs. Ruiz.

“I am focused now. I am in great condition,” said Boom-Boom. “In our first fight, wala ko sa sakto na huna-huna (I was not in the proper frame of mind). The main reason was because of my painful hand. Timing lang gyud to.”

That left hand injury was diagnosed as “a rotten bone” on his wrist. Bautista had surgery following that fight and, according to reports, had that rotten wrist bone replaced from another bone from his hip. It took one year before Bautista fought again. That fight was in 2008. The rehab, in 2009. We’re 2011. Time elapses. Wrist wounds heal.

I asked Boom Boom about his nickname. “It was Sir ALA (Tony Aldeguer) who came up with that name,” he said. “My style, said Sir ALA, resembled that of the original Boom Boom — the one with the same first name as me, Ray Mancini. And so I was nicknamed “Boom Boom.”

Rey was only 17 then. He’ll turn 25 eight days after the June 11 fight… on June 19. What birthday gift will you reward yourself if you win? I asked. Boom Boom chuckled. Because as serious as Rey Bautista has been in training, off the boxing court, he is relaxed, even funny.

I’ve experienced this first-hand. The past few months, we’ve been together on several occasions. As president of the Rotary Club of Cebu West, I invited the entire top-notch stable of ALA Gym fighters to our Tuesday night meeting. This was last December.

Surrounded by Donnie Nietes, Mark Melligen, AJ Banal, Z Gorres, Jason Pagara, Milan Melindo, and Rocky Fuentes — an All-Star cast from the A-team of Aldeguer, one man stood out as the most popular. He’s from Candijay, Bohol and stands over 5-foot-6.

Boom Boom, in the Q & A portion of that Rotary night, laughed a lot. He’s a joker. And, later that evening, he showed his being a ladies man by cozying up with our club assistant, Ms. Emma Gallos.

A month or so later, Boom-Boom joined our meeting again. Afterwards, we partook of yoghurt ice cream at John Young’s yoghurt bar. Justin Uy was there. So was Johnny Siao. We stayed up past 10:30 p.m.

Then, during the Davis Cup tennis weekend last March, there was an open-to-the-public sparring session at Parkmall. Boom-Boom shook hands with the tennis team. Then, in one unscripted but unforgettable moment, the two famous men — Boom Boom and Cecil Mamiit of tennis — stood at the center and, with similar heights and muscular builds, stared eyeball-to-eyeball, as if all-set to fight. Laughing ensued. It was fun. Boom Boom, as intense as he is when the fight nears, has fun. He’s funny.

With Cecil Mamiit

With Johnny Arcilla

Let’s all pray that, two Saturdays from today, when the jampacked Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino gets a rousing entrance parade — with matching “Boom Boom Pow” loud music in the speakers — that Bautista will entertain the Cebuanos via a KO win.

Dallas vs. Miami: Let The Finals begin

With 3-1 leads in a Best of Seven series, the Mavericks and the Heat are 95.9 percent assured of victory. Yet, like the twin, shocking defeats of the M. Lhuillier squad last Friday and Saturday against the Cebu Landmasters/RDAK team, this we know: Basketball is unpredictable. The ball is neither flat nor perfect — it’s round. The bounce, odd. The loser can rebound and win.

But, as Roberto Duran once famously said, “No mas.” With Nowitzki and Bosh and Kidd and Wade and Mark Cuban as the Mavs owner and LeBron as the two-time MVP, I doubt that Chicago and Oklahoma can each win three of the next three games.

(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

So, the stage is ready. The world awaits. The Heat is on. The Mavs? They move… to the Finals. You know my pick. Ever since LBJ announced in “The Decision” last July 8, 2010 that he’d combine forces — like Thor joining Spider-Man and Iron Man in a Marvel Comics triumvirate — the unanimous decision on the 2011 NBA champions is obvious.

I pick the Heat. Dwayne Wade having an off-night? Like he did yesterday? When he missed a dunk in the early minutes, did not score in the 3rd and 4th quarters, and shot only 5-of-16 with 14 points? No problemo. LeBron scores 35 points. Chris Bosh adds 22. They escape from near-defeat in Game 4 to force an OT and win, 101-93, leading the Eastern Conference Finals, 3 to 1.

Mr. Bosh? He’s Mr. Boss in Game 3. Attempting only 18 times, he made 34 points. The Heat have too many options, too many Pacquiaos in baggy shorts, two MVPs, they’re too damn good. They’re the Navy SEALS of the NBA. They’re the elite force – the best of the best. Like the SEALS who killed Osama Bin Laden carrying night vision apparatus, M16/M4, grenade launchers, pistols and other gadgetry that Karlon Rama can better explain, the Miami Heat has multiple weapons.

Free throws? They made 24 of their last 24 in Game 4. Plus, there’s The Big Two to add to The Big Three… Udonis Haslem (with nine rebounds yesterday) and Mike Miller (same nine rebounds plus 12 crucial points). “These are some of the things we anticipated coming into the season,” said Erik Spoelstra, the Fil-Am coach of the Heat. “Now when it counts, (Haslem and Miller) have both been able to contribute.”

Wade-Bosh-LeBron-Haslem-Miller. These five weaken and make the opponents helpless — like the Bulls, who owned the best regular season record of 62 wins and have the honor of calling their own, Derrick Rose, as the league Most Valuable Player. “That lineup that we talked about this summer is something we always envisioned,” said LeBron. “And it’s coming together at the right time.”

Dallas Mavericks? In the Finals, they won’t own home-court advantage. Both the Bulls and the Heat own better regular season records — thus, the 2-3-2 home-and-away format will not favor the Western Conference winners.

Still, wrote Matt Regaw in a gutsy piece entitled “Dallas Mavericks Should Be the Favorites To Win NBA Title,” he argues for this team that humiliated — not just “defeated” — the L.A. Lakers.

“The Mavericks have been road warriors in the playoffs,” said Regaw in his May 24 story from the website Bleacher Report. “They are not intimidated by the opposing fans and that was never more evident, than in the last game against the Thunder. The Thunder have one of the rowdiest crowds in the league, and when faced with a 15-point deficit with less than five minutes to play, the Mavericks showed unnerving composure.”

The Mavs, he argues, have won at least once on the road in each series — plus, twice in L.A. and Oklahoma. So this negates the “home-court advantage” philosophy.

Point # 3: “The entire Mavericks team is covered with skilled veterans that are groomed to handle pressure situations. Nowitzki is a point-producing scoring machine… Jason Kidd leads the team at the point and distributes the ball with ease… Jason Terry is a spark plug…”

Good points, Matt. But, sorry. In three weeks, we’ll be applauding the first time ring-bearers, James and Bosh.

Joe Soberano leads the Cebu Landmasters

ROTARY: RC Cebu President Joe Soberano (third from left) during the turn-over ceremony of the Gift of Life Project of Rotary; (from left) Jun Ferreros, Romy Dy Pico, Dr. Potenciano Larrazabal, Jr, John Pages, Dr. Peter Mancao and Oscar Tuason

Last weekend, no Cebuano was happier than the president of the Rotary Club of Cebu and the CEO of Cebu Landmasters…. Jose Soberano. His basketball team, Cebu Landmasters/RDAK, beat a squad that’s invincible, M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala — not once but two times in the SMC Liga Pilipinas Conference V.

In last Friday’s elimination game, Soberano’s team, which bannered Mandaue City, bested Lhuillier, 78-68. Then, 24 hours later, in the finals, they duplicated the feat against the reigning national champs, 66-49.

“That was a rare feat,” said Soberano. “Nobody can just blow-out the winningest basketball ball-club of the country (outside of the PBA) for two consecutive games. It was unbelievable but it did happen which proved the maxim that the ball is indeed round. I wish we can win more often and I am sure that the great Lhuillier team will not take this sitting down.”

Ever gracious and humble in both victory and defeat, Joe Soberano deserves a Cebu Coliseum-packed thunderous applause.

Milo and Gullas: Tennis

Starting this Thursday, the Milo Age-Group Tennis event will begin in Laray, Consolacion. With eight courts and organized by Ken Salimbangon and Nestor Toledo (Cebu International Tennis Center, Inc.), the event will run from May 26 to 29 with nine categories: 10 unisex, and 12, 14, 16 and 18 — boys and girls. To register, contact Jovy Mamawal at 0916-4708286.

The 16th Gullas Tennis Cup, one of the biggest in VisMin, follows. From May 30 until June 3, this Group 2-sanctioned tournament will be held in three locations: Cebu Country Club, Casino Español and Baseline.

I met Dodong Gullas at his office last Thursday. Looking trim and forever-smiling and humble, Mr. Gullas is a lifelong tennis fan. We talked about Roland Garros, a stop that Mr. Gullas has visited.

More on the Gullas Cup: Apart from singles, a doubles category will be offered. To all interested, registration forms are available at the Cebu Country Club tennis court. Or you may call Sandy at 416-1122 local 100.

Categorized as Tennis


Last Sunday, there were two road-running races: The Run for Japan and the One Thousand Cranes Run (organized by Three Sixty Pharmacy). While both races were held during the same time and for the same purpose (to help our disaster-stricken neighbor, Japan), the two were different.

Run for Japan was lambasted by Cebu. Few marshals, few participants, few water stops — such events and organizers should be banned.

The Three Sixty Pharmacy-sponsored run? It was excellent. I joined the 15K held two mornings ago and, in every intersection, marshals were ready, waving flags; water stations were abundant; the start/finish area — at the Asiatown I.T. Park — was festive. Bananas, cold drinks, even kamote — these were offered for free. Kudos to Kenneth Casquejo and Annie Neric and to RunCheck, Cebu’s best in race-organizing.

Roland Garros

The French Open has started. The only Grand Slam event whose surface (clay-court) is similar to most of our tennis rectangles here in Cebu, this two-week-long sports meet in romantic Paris will be a business meeting between Novak and Nadal.

For with Rafa, he doesn’t call Roland Garros “my second home;” it’s his personal house. It’s where he lives. Out of the six years that he’s set foot on the red dirt, he’s won five trophies. That’s 38 of 39 matches won. He is so good, so unbeatable, so assured of victory that I declare… The 2011 winner is…

Djokovic!!! No joke. If the two meet next Sunday, I’d place my bet on the Serb. Why? Because, if he reaches the final, Djokovic will automatically become world No. 1. With that added confidence-booster (plus he’s beaten Nadal in the last four finals), he’ll win his first French crown.

If…. Yes. If… Novak does not succumb to the pressure. He’s 37-0 this 2011. “I’m really not trying to think about the run that I have,” he said. “Or I’m not trying to think about when this run will end, because that will mean that I’m thinking about losing.”

Eric Deen wins his 5th Cebu Country Club title

Eric with his dad, Danny

The golf champion from 1997 to 1999 and, again, in 2004, it’s been many summers since he last won the Club Championship trophy of the Cebu Country Club.

Yesterday, playing another former titlist — Jovi Neri, who won the 2001 edition — he finally won again after playing 18 holes in the morning and 17 holes in the afternoon.

“That was tiresome!” said Eric Deen, seconds after receiving a congratulatory hug from his family members that included his dad (and former club champion) Atty. Danny Deen, and his sisters Jackie Lotzof and Vanessa Deen.

Jackie, Danny, Eric, Vanessa and James

It was Eric’s fifth Men’s Club Championship victory. Dating back to 1965 when Luis Ugarte won one of Cebu’s most revered of amateur golf titles, Eric’s Victory No. 5 elevates him to second in the all-time winners list: he and Carl Almario have five apiece while Montito Garcia — the new CCC president — has eight trophies.

Yesterday afternoon, thanks to Charlie Michael, who helped drive the golf cart, I was able to watch the back nine starting with Hole No. 13. At that point, Eric was leading 1-up and, after Jovi landed in the sand trap after his second shot, it was Eric who won that hole and led, 2-up, with five holes to go.

Eric and Jovi, from Holes 14 to 17, were both steady. They parred each hole. The crucial moment came in Hole # 14 when, after his tee shot, Eric drove left and landed far from the green. He was under a shade of trees. But, the ultra-relaxed player that he is (you’d never know, from watching, that he was in the final of a major tournament), Eric punched his second shot as the ball flew, hit a few branch leaves, then safely landed on the green. Par.

This 2011 (though the CCC Club championship, oddly, is called the 2010 edition), Eric Deen had no par. He was unbeatable. In his first round, he bested Macky Michael (my best friend on the tennis court), 5 and 4. In Round 2, he beat Jon Joseph Alvarez, 4 and 2. Then, in probably the most thrilling of all the week’s encounters, Mark Dy led Eric Deen in the semi-finals one-up with two holes to play. Sadly for Mark, he bogeyed the final two holes and lost, 1-up. At 4:30 p.m. yesterday on Hole # 17, Eric received a resounding applause when he won 2 and 1 against Jovi.

Bayani Garcia, Vicky Moraza and The Champ

In the Class B division, Evans Tumaliwan won after beating Kiddy Limchao, Jr., 1-up. In the Class C category (perfect because of the way his family name sounds), it was champion Andrew Si. He beat Henry Dy. In the Class D, it was Naotsugu Isobe besting Rhoudie Tiu. The CCC Senior champion was Koichi Horii. And, on the opposite end, the Women’s Champion was Abby Olea.