At the Beijing Olympics four years ago, Jasmin and I pose with Monico Puentevella
Monico Puentevella could not take my call at 3:30 P.M. yesterday. He was huddled in a meeting. The chairman of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) was busy presiding over the POC’s first Board Meeting after London.
“We were complete,” said Monico, during our 15-minute talk late yesterday afternoon. “Peping Cojuangco, Manny Lopez and the POC Board members attended.”
Happy? Satisfied? Smiling? Those aren’t words best to describe Mr. Puentevella’s demeanor.
“The results are the same. Our analysis is the same. We need to strengthen the grassroots. We need the NSA (National Sports Associations) to improve. We need to take out the leaders who are not producing. We keep on singing the same song each Olympics,” he said.
That’s why the former Congressman of Bacolod City is looking forward to a full Senate and Congress hearing. While many are anxious to face the powerful lawmakers, Monico is not.
“I hope Congress will call an Assessment Hearing,” he said. This way, the nation will know that there’s no money allocated for sports.
“Peping (Cojuangco) talks about building the training center in Clark. We have so many grand plans. But the question is, ‘Where’s the money?’”
With Manny, Noel Villaflor and Jonas Panerio during the SAC Awards
ENGLAND. Buoyed by the success of their Olympic hosting, the English are jubilant.
“You know how many hours Great Britain wants to allocate for Physical Education?” Monico asked.
Two hours… per week? I asked. “No,” he said. “Two hours PER DAY. That’s how much they value P.E. and sports. And more so with their recent success in London where Great Britain won a record 29 gold medals.”
Two hours daily of P.E.?
Ours in the Philippines? “We have two hours… per week. And that’s divided into music, health and sports. Many students only get 45 minutes of P.E. for the whole week.”
How do we expect to win that gold if we devote so little time on sports? And, even if plenty of focus is apportioned for sports, there are still no guarantees. Look at Australia. They have the sports high schools. They operated the Australian Sports Institute, one of the earth’s best.
“But they lost to New Zealand,” said Monico. “Now, the Australians are going back to the drawing board, studying what went wrong, including in swimming.”
What did the POC Chairman watch in London? “Of course, I saw our Filipinos participate. Our BMX competitor? Sadly, he came from America but he was overrated. He wasn’t in the same league as the others.”
It was a sorry sight, said Monico, watching our Pinoys fall one after the other.
“We should forget about swimming and athletics in the Olympics,” he said. “The average height of the swimmers is 6-foot-5. I watched Usain Bolt, who also stands 6’5”, win the 100-meter dash. We can’t compete against them. We should focus on archery, shooting, ping-pong, badminton, boxing.”
Ever the tennis fanatic, Monico witnessed Roger Federer’s thrilling 19-17 third set victory in the semis against Juan Martin del Potro. The men’s finals in Wimbledon? “I saw that!” he said. “We were all excited to see Federer be aggressive but na luoy ko niya. He looked tired after that semifinal.”
Basketball? “I watched several of Team USA’s games including their gold medal win over Spain. That was scary. It was only in the last four minutes that the Americans won that game. This tells us one thing: everyone’s improving.”
As for his future plans, Monico revealed them: “I’m running for mayor in Bacolod next year. One of my goals is to build the best boxing gym in the Philippines. I’ll rebuild the old basketball gym at the Bay Center, fronting the Plaza, and will convert it into a world-class facility.”
Monico plans to hire a Cuban coach and to bring boxers from nearby Cadiz, Bago, Manapla and Himamaylan to “The City of Smiles.” Then, he added, “we’ll revive what Bidoy Aldeguer and I used to do… bring boxers to Cebu and bring yours over to Bacolod.”
Then, in the process, find our first Olympic gold medalist?