An unforgettable week with Fr. Ben Nebres

I’ve never had a more profound Holy Week than this week. No, we didn’t fly to swim in Boracay or do underground cave-watching in Palawan — we just stayed home. What we did was to join the Easter Triduum Recollection at the Sacred Heart Parish Church. What a moving and touching three days. Last year, it was Fr. Johnny Go — a very inspiring teacher. This Holy Week — from Thursday to yesterday — we had mornings of teachings from one of the most respected of teachers: Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ.

Still filled with so much energy and wisdom (at the age of 73), Fr. Nebres imparted so much from the life of Jesus our Lord. He gave so many examples (Gawad Kalinga, his experiences after 18 years as president of Ateneo de Manila Univ., his humble work with the public school children and with our Muslim brothers — sharing with us hours of lessons with zero notes on hand).

To me, apart from the three mornings of listening and reflecting, a most humbling moment came Thursday night when, as one of the apostles, Fr. Nebres washed my right foot. He knelt down like a servant before each seated man, washed our feet with water, wiped it with white towel — and then, like a man who did not despise but felt joy in the act, he shook our hands and, with his trademark sincere and joyous face, he smiled.

It was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve encountered. Not only because, kneeling in front of you and cleansing your dirty feet is one of our nation’s most respected men — but that Jesus himself did the same. It’s a lesson for all to follow: He who wants to be great must be the greatest servant.

On Good Friday night, our household watched The Passion of The Christ. Though we had seen the movie before, watching it on the day when Christ was humilitated and beaten to death — that’s another profound event.

Today, as we celebrate the most important day of the year, let us be thankful to the Lord for he has rescued and uplifted us. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.”

TENNIS. The next seven days will bring to Cebu’s shores two mega events: the 14th Truflex National Junior Championships and the Davis Cup weekend between our Philippines and Thailand.

Randy Villanueva, the VP of Philta (Phil. Tennis Assoc.), is bringing, for the first time, his Truflex event outside of Manila. To be held at four different venues in Lapu-Lapu City (Mactan Airbase, the City Hall, Amores court and Haruhay Resort), Truflex is a Group 1 (highest-ranked) tournament. We welcome all the participants!

Next weekend (April 5 to 7), it’s Davis Cup. The venue is at one of Asia’s best: Plantation Bay Resort and Spa. Tennis lover or not, everyone ought to watch. It’s an international meet. It’s for free. And it’s not in Rizal Memorial or at the PCA courts in Manila — it’s here in Mactan.

SUMMER HEAT. Whew! It’s getting hot. It’s not only the Heat of Miami that’s getting hot in the NBA (they finally lost!) but our own summer.

April 1, tomorrow, is officially the first summer day. Here’s a non-April Fool’s Day joke: Enroll your children in sports. When can you find uninterrupted time to learn a new game? Now is the best time. Instead of your kids watching TV (or playing online games or texting) all day — get them active.

Before I recommend other sports, I’d like to just suggest one coach and one sport.

For tennis, learn it from one of the top tennis coaches in Cebu today: Tommy Frederiksen. He’s the coach of my daughter Jana and our Bright Academy tennis team — and he’s open to coaching as many children in Cebu.

His tennis camp begins this April 9 at Casino Espanol. It’s month-long and will be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 8 to 10 A.M. The fee is P2,000 (for the whole duration) — and you don’t even need to be a Casino Espanol member to participate.

Call Casino Espanol now (2531260) or call Coach Tommy at 0917-3010338. Happy Easter!

Categorized as Tennis

In triathlon, Aya finds Himaya

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Michelle Himaya “Aya” Garcia Shlachter reads her full name. In English, himaya means “glory and joy.”

Aya is a U.S.-schooled architect who does consultancy work for clients in Hong Kong and the U.S. She’s an entrepreneur who owns the thriving chocolate and coffee shop of six outlets, Tablea. She’s a mother of Ana, 6, and Ari, 3. Her husband is Larry Shlachter, who’s finished three New York City Marathons.

Aya is a multi-tasker. Aya is a multi-sport athlete.

Two Sundays ago, she finished what I consider one of the most fearsome of outdoor gimmicks: the XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon. Consider this: of the 219 who finished the full triathlon (1.5K swim, 36K bike and 10K run), only 21 were women.

Aya was one of the brave girls. “Several people discouraged me from joining since the bike course was extremely tough and technical,” Aya said. “They were concerned about my safety since I have very poor bike handling skills. I chose to ignore them and face the challenge of the bike course instead of backing down.”

During this International Women’s Month, Aya shows the boys that they’re not the only athletic type. Last year, Aya completed the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Ironman race. Before that, she completed the Tabuelan 111 event. Prior to that, she swam 6 kms. in the Olango Challenge.

Back to Xterra, here’s Aya’s experience:

“Swim: I love swimming and I am most comfortable in the water. The first 500 meters was a warm up and easy swim for me. The rest of the distance, I did some swim intervals. Slow easy pace for 3 minutes followed by 20 fast strokes.  That way, I was able to conserve energy for the bike and run portions.

“Bike: The bike portion was the most challenging since I had only been mountain biking for 2 months prior to Xterra. My bike handling skills are a bit challenged. My goal for the bike portion was to finish injury-free without getting cut-off. I had targeted to finish 1 loop in 2 hours; the problem was, I had no idea how long one loop would take since I had not finished one loop during training sessions. On the first loop, at 1:40 I saw Noy Jopson and he told me that I was making good time and that I was close to making the first loop in less than 2 hours. Noy gave me the boost and self confidence that I badly needed. I made it to the transition area 30 mins before cut off.  After the bike portion was completed, I knew I was going to finish the race.

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“Run: The run was the most fun for me since I knew I was going to finish the race at that point. The run was challenging since it was extremely hot and there were lots of uphills and steep downhills with sharp corals. The water stations were great! I made sure I took ice baths along the way to keep my body temperature cool. I tried to pace myself by doing a 6 minute run followed by a 30 second walk. I walked most of the steep uphills and ran as fast as I could on the downhills and flats to compensate for lost time during the uphill walking.  There were a lot of children during the run course giving me high fives along the way; the kids were very helpful in keeping my spirits high. I was surprised by my run time of 1:19!”

Why not Pilates or Zumba? “Triathlon allows me to go places that I normally would not visit,” she said. “I enjoy the company of fellow triathletes. I have met some very cool and interesting people along the way. I love racing!”

Aya’s 2013 calendar? She plans a full marathon, a few “more Xterra races” and, here’s the ultimate: she will go for the Timex 226! (That’s a 3.8K swim, 180K bike and 42K run.) If that’s not enough, she already has booked Nov. 2014 for a full Ironman race in Arizona.

Aya’s mantra: “I just keep telling myself not to stop no matter how hard it gets because when it is over I know I will feel great. Pride always overcomes any kind of temporary discomfort.”

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One of Aya’s close triathlon buddy is Sen. Pia Cayetano, who invited her in this event last month:

“Mr. Ugo 37K Sky Run was a trail run (in Itogon Benguet province) where the first 18k were all uphills until we reached the Mt. Ugo Summit, then 18k back downhills It was a very tough and mentally-challenging course. It took me 10 hours. There was a cut off time of 8:30 hours and, though I did not make the time, I still finished the race. Fifty meters before the finish line, my friends (Sen Pia, Belle, Che, Noel) were hiding behind a big rock. They emerged from the big rock and surprised me with my own finish line. They brought me fruits and water. We were all in tears,” said Aya.

“What I lack in ability and skill, I compensate for in will-power. Before I joined the Mt. Ugo 37 k trail run, I had several doubts about finishing the race. I had just recovered from a severe hamstring injury. A few days before Mt. Ugo, a friend of mine gave me a quote from Mother Teresa: ‘Focus on small things with great love.’ This quote stuck in my mind. To finish any race, one must just enjoy the experience one step, one mile at a time with great love!”

Categorized as Triathlon

Dear athletes: ‘We honor your sacrifices’


Last Sunday afternoon at the full-capacity North Wing Atrium of SM City Cebu, I stepped on stage and faced over 500 athletes, parents and spectators. As the outgoing president of the sportswriters group, I gave a speech. Here’s what I said…

Maayong hapon kaninyong tanan! Welcome to the 31st SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards. I am so excited and happy for all of you here. This day will be a day that you will remember for a long time. After thousands of hours of training and sweating, we come here to celebrate your triumphs. But before we ask you, the awardees, to come up on stage, I’d like to recognize a few groups of people.

First, I want to ask all the PARENTS to stand up. All the dads, moms, lolos, lolas.. Let us give them the loudest applause of the afternoon. Dear athletes, you would not be here and you would not be who you are today if not for your parents. Your parents have given up so much — of their time, effort, resources — to help you.

On a personal note, let me tell you a story. Twenty four years ago, when this event was still the 7th Sports Awards edition, I sat there just like you, ready to receive my Special Citation Award. The sport was for tennis and I was only 16 years old. Then, I was ranked No. 5 in the country in my age category. That was 24 long years ago — and I know many of you were not born yet at that time!

Today, I stand here not only as a sportswriter but more so as a proud parent because seated among you is a Special Citation awardee… also for tennis. She’s 14 and was ranked No. 4 in the Phils. I’m talking about my daughter Jana.


My wife Jasmin and I cannot be prouder — just like all the parents here today. And so this Awarding is not just an awarding for the athletes — but also for us, dear parents.

Next, I want to honor my fellow SPORTSWRITERS. You read their names in the newspapers and see their photos with their sports columns. But I’d like you to personally meet them today… Mike, Caecent, Edri, JunMigs, Rico, Iste, Jingo, Marian, Rene, Mars, Boy, Salven…

These are the men and women who write about your stories; your defeats and triumphs. They’ve published your photos. Many of their articles, you’ve cut out and kept. Many years from now, when you have your own families, you’ll let your children read about articles they wrote.

Earl Warren, the former US Supreme Court Chief Justice once said, “The front page records nothing but man’s failures. The sports page records people’s accomplishments.” Very true. Let us clap for the men and women who bring us good news…

The third group I want to honor are the AWARDEES. Let me give special mention to football. This weekend is a major one for football. Yesterday, the Aboitiz Cup finals were finished. Tonight, there’s the CFA General Assembly. We have no less than the top officials of Philippine football here with us, led by the PPF president Nonong Araneta, the PFF Sec. Gen. Edwin Gastanes, and Dan Palami, the team manager of the Azkals. And, of course, our presidential awardee, Engr. Ricky Dakay.

Football is the world’s most popular sport. And thanks to these men, football is becoming the most popular sport in Cebu and in the country.

To all the awardees, let me tell you this: you are all different. Look around you. I want you to look left, right, back. Smile at each other. You come from different sports. You each have your own expertise. But as different as you are, you share one thing in common: Sacrifice.

We are here today to honor your sacrifices. Because while your friends go malling, you’re under the sun for four hours training. While your family members are asleep, you wake up at 5 A.M. to run. While your classmates go home from school early and watch TV, you stay in school late to dribble or kick and practice.

There’s a saying: Life is like an echo. What you send out, you get back. It’s the same in sports: What you give; the sacrifices you make — you get back. We honor your sacrifices. We celebrate your sacrifices in this Cebu Sports Awards. Congratulations!


10 reasons to watch the 31st Cebu Sports Awards

This afternoon from 3 to 5, we will be honoring the top sports performers of 2012. The list is long. There’s John Mier. There’s David Lim, Jr. There’s Mendel Lopez, who’s being awarded not for running but for triathlon.

A total of 250 athletes and sportsmen and women — all Cebuanos or Cebu-based — will step on stage at The North Wing Atrium of SM City Cebu to receive their plaques and citations.

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Today’s event — the 31st SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards — is historic for many reasons.

First, it is the first time to be held at the SM City. We’ve hosted this ceremony 30 times in the past, from Magellan’s Hotel to Grand Con to Laguna Garden Cafe to Ayala Center, but never in SM. And never on the 3rd and final day of the 3-day SM sale.

Second, for the coveted “Sportsman of the Year” award, we’re not giving it to one man — but to sportsmen. Yes, plural. The award goes to… the Cebu Football Association. Yes, the new CFA officers professionalized the world’s biggest sport in 2012 and brought to our Visayan shores the show entitled “Azkals vs. Singapore.”

Third reason: We’re having a new set of officers for SAC (Sportswriters Association of Cebu). For the past five years, I’ve held the title of president. We held an election recently and I’m proud to introduce our new set of officers: Rico Navarro (president), Mike Limpag (VP), Marian Baring (sec.), Manny Villaruel (treas.), Jonas Panerio (auditor) and Mars Alison, PRO. (You’ll notice that the six officers are equally distributed: two each from SunStar, CDN and The Freeman.)

To Rico — who writes every Sunday for The Freeman and is the sports director of Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu — good luck! (The Induction Ceremony, to be administered by CCSC chairman Edward Hayco, will also be this afternoon.)

Fourth reason: Football is the biggest winner today. There’s a CFA General Assembly starting 6 PM tonight. The top Philippine bigwigs are arriving, including PFF President Nonong Araneta and Azkals patron Dan Palami. Both are expected in SM later. Most of all, my choice for Presidential Awardee is Dr. Pericles “Ricky” Dakay.

Ricky plays football, has kids who play football, has a team (Queen City) who plays football, and runs the most active sports organization in Cebu today that’s all football: the CFA.

Five: Who’s the Athlete of the Year? Last year, it was Richard Bitoon of chess. The year before, it was world boxing champ Donnie Nietes. In 2010, we awarded Rubilen Amit, the billiards wizard. The list is varied. This award is the only surprise that will be unwrapped and announced towards the end of the program. Nobody except the sportswriters knows the recipient. Watch for this!

Sixth reason: Sally Mae “Em-Em” Siso will be honored. A multiple tennis honoree in the past, Em-Em will receive a different plaque today: the Orlando C. Sanchez Memorial Award. This is conferred to that one individual who exemplifies good sportsmanship. Why Em-Em? Last year, we were together in Palawan and, while Em-Em was unjustly defaulted in the finals match, she had all the humility and kindness to approach her tormentors and make amends. That’s sportsmanship.

Seven: Watch Mikeala Calamba. I have yet to meet the 15-year-old high schooler from USC who, last year, became world champion when she won the 7th World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships in Colombia. Mikeala will be performing today.

Reason No. 8: Check out the entertainment. A live band will entertain the crowd. Ed Hayco’s Dancesport Team Cebu City will dance. Tony del Prado’s taekwondo artists will strut their moves.

Nine: Bring your children. Who doesn’t want to get their kids into sports? This is the best occasion to inspire them to get active.

10: Finally… Cheer for your friends! Clap for them. Show your support. We will also have an 8’ x 8’ photo wall. Take photos with all the sports-stars. This only happens once a year. See you later!

Cebu Sports Awards: Gathering of the best

This Sunday, all shoppers — and top athletes — proceed to the SM City Cebu.

It’s not just the 3-day SM Super Sale, it’s also the 31st edition of the Cebu Sports Awards. Organized by the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC) and San Miguel Brewery, Inc. (SMB), it’s the yearly gathering of Cebu’s best athletes and sports personalities. The Awarding will be from 3 to 5 P.M.

To all the awardees, a few reminders:

One, please join us. If you can’t because you’re out of town, please ask a family member to attend. We will ask him/her to receive the award on stage.

Two, come early. It’s the SM Super Sale and thus, parking and people are plenty. We’re asking all to be there before 2:30 P.M.

Three, invite your friends and family members. Be proud! (Years back, we held this function at Casino Español. The problem was, the space was limited. We now have a huge area at The North Wing Atrium of SM.)

Four, wear semi-formal attire. We know you’d rather wear shorts and Nike. But, for once, let us see you wear something more formal. (In previous awards, we’d be happily shocked and not recognize athletes because of their dresses and make-up.) Dress up!

Five, bring a camera. We’ll have a photo wall. We’ll have snacks by 5 P.M. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to snap photos with your co-awardees. Relish this moment. It only happens once every 365 days.

Six, celebrate. Use this occasion to feel honored. You are one of the few. You are one of the top in Cebu. Use this honor to motivate you. Congratulations!

MAJOR AWARDEES. (Athletics) Daniel Noval, (Arnis), Trixie Mary Lofranco and Reynaldo Combate, (basketball), Jerie Pingoy and June Mar Fajardo, (beach volleyball) Jonrey Sasing and Edward Ybañez, (boxing), Johnriel Casimero, Donnie Nietes and Michael Aldeguer, (chess) Enrico Sevillano, (cycling) John Mier, (dancesport) Mae Lozada, (football) Don Bosco Technology Center Grade School, Cebu Football Association, (golf), Cebu Country Club men’s team, Gio Gandionco, (gymnastics) Carmelli Garrovillo, (mixed-martial arts) Victor Cui, (running) Mary Grace de los Santos, (swimming) Bea Riza Roble, (table tennis), Dannel Jay Tormis and Stephen Jaca, (taekwondo) Mikeala Calamba, (triathlon), Justin Liam T. Chiongbian.

CITATION AWARDEES. (athletics), Lorna Olarita, USPF Athletics team, (autocross), David G. Lim Jr., Jess Garcia and Derek Arculli, (badminton), SWU high school team, USJ-R men’s team, UC Women’s Doubles, Jessa Mae Lagat, Irish Mae Ares, (baseball), Cebu Dolphins, (basketball), SWU Cobras, SHS-Ateneo de Cebu, UV U-16 team, Hernal Escocio, Dawn Hynric P. Ochea, UV Under-16 team, Arnie Christian A. Padilla, Felixberto G. Jaboneta IV, Gregory Slaughter, (beach volleyball), UV’s Jade Becaldo and Mike Abria, (billiards), Warren Kiamco, (bodybuilding), Dondon Cardona, Dennis Nichol Delgado, (boxing), Genesis Servania, Romnick Magos, Jason Pagara, Milan Melindo, Rocky Fuentes, Rey “Boom-Boom” Bautista, Merlito Sabillo, Arthur Villanueva, (chess) Allan Pason, Kyle Sevilleno, Vic Glyzen Derotas and Cepca, (dancesport), Dancesports Team Cebu City, Wilbert Aunzo, Pearl Marie Cañeda, (football), SHS-Ateneo de Cebu, Aranxa Trebol, Eddie Alivio, Kintaro Miyagi, Lawrence Colina, Majordean Ebarle, Vincent Erik Lovitos, Moiselle Angelo Alforque, Lorenzo Genco, Brandon Durano, Cheska Toledo, Patrick Reichelt, Ray Jonsson, Oliver Colina, Glenn Ramos, Paolo Pascual, USC College Team, (golf) CCC ladies team, (gymnastics) Mikaela Silverio, (judo) Joaquin Fernandez, (karting) Juan Antonio Carcel, (mixed-martial arts) Cary Bullos, YawYan Ardigma, (motocross) Pepo Rubi, BJ Pepito, (mountain bike) Zandro Fajardo, (running) Mary Joy Tabal, Merlita Dunkin, John Philip Duenas, (rugby) Cebu Lady Dragons, (sepak takraw) Rhey Jay Ortouste, (softball) Abellana National School, Salazar Colleges of Science and Institute of Technology, (swimming) Anthony Linn Navarro, (speed skating) Zach Sanchez Araneta, (table tennis) Jerny Kaye Pepito, (taekwondo) Antonio R. del Prado, Team Cebu City, (tennis) Kara Salimbangon, Jana Pages, Jan Godfrey Seno, (triathlon/duathlon) Elmer Clarabal, Rochelle Tan, Mendel Lopez, Justin Liam T. Chiongbian, Nina Francesca M. Villaba, (underbone racing) Team Suzuki-BMR and Anacleto Flores, (volleyball) USC men and women’s teams, USJ-R boys and girls teams, SWU V-League champions, SWU national Prisaa champs, Catmon Central School, Jusabelle Brillo and Raphril Aguilar.


Garcia and Garcia help in twin golf wins

Raymond Garcia and Bayani Garcia are first cousins. Their fathers, Alvin and Jesus, Jr., are brothers. But that’s not the only thing they share in common. There’s another: golf.

Last week, while triathletes braved Liloan and Donnie Nietes salvaged a majority draw Waterfront Hotel win, there was another duel going on: the 66th PAL Interclub.

The biggest winner? No doubt: Cebu. Team CCC won the Championship Division. In another category — not played by sportswriters but called the “Sportswriters Division” — Club Filipino won. That’s 2 out of 4 for Cebu.

But first, the premier category: the Championship Division.

Bayani Jess L. Garcia, one of the 10 chosen by Cebu Country Club to lead their squad (the others include Andre Borromeo, LJ Go, Mark Dy, Marko Sarmiento, Eric Deen, Jovi Neri, Carl Almario, Montito Garcia and Gen Nagai), surprised me with this statement…

“I can confidently speak for the team that we did not feel any added pressure,” Bayani said. “Yes, we were favored to win because we were the defending champions and the tournament will be held in our turf but we did not let those thoughts get to us. We were more focused on our practice, preparation, and character-building for the tournament.”

In one word, Bayani alludes to a trait that’s common to all winners: Confidence. And, when you add that the venue is Cebu, you have this: Home-court confidence.

Bayani considers this victory even sweeter than last year’s. “We were able to do it in our home course, in front of all the members, our club, and our fellow Cebuanos,” he said. This win also validated what his team knew: last year was no fluke. He adds, “It also solidifies our position as the top club in the country.”

The secret to victory? “Chemistry and a family-oriented frame of mind,” he answered. “Everyone is so comfortable with one another despite the different age groups (ages covering from the 50s down to the teens). We play with each other so often even during the offseason that we are able to form bonds and develop a certain level of comfort among one another. We don’t consider ourselves just teammates. We are FAMILY to each other. This is a special trait that CCC has which sets us apart from the rest.”

Next year? The host city has yet to be determined. But, ever the confident bunch, they’ll maintain the same team next year (“a solid group of skilled and talented players,” says Bayani) and will be aiming to defend and give CCC a new meaning: Champion-Champion-Champion.

CLUB FILIPINO. Another Cebu club that triumphed was Club Filipino.

Atty. Raymond Alvin N. Garcia, SunStar’s AVP for Legal and Administration Affairs, narrated to me their story.

Heading into the PAL Interclub event, Club Filipino had not won in a long time. Led by captain Evans Tumaliwan, club president Boboy Durano and Atty. Garcia, they devised a plan.

“Our strategy was very well planned and executed,” said Raymond. “It was simple: let the players who are familiar with Mactan play in Mactan for two days and the same for Cebu Country Club.”

They assigned Mactan specialists like Fernando Mondares, Jufil Sato, Bataire Balangauan, Hospicio Razon and Teddy Almario to play in Mactan and CCC regulars like Garcia, Evans Tumaliwan, Kawakami, Shotaro Soda and Victor Yuvallos to play in CCC.

The result was amazing. “Club Filipino won by 16 points. And it could have been 20 points if Jufil Sato was not disqualified,” Raymond said. “Before the tournament, I told the team that the key to success was Mactan. True enough, it was the Mactan scores that gave us the lead. We scored 17 points better than Zamboanga (who was the 1st day leader by 8 pts.), and in Day 2, we scored 8 pts. better than Zamboanga.”

The most remarkable part? The last time Club Filipino won the Sportswriters Division was in 1980.

Raymond Garcia explains: “The team then was composed of, among others, my dad, former Mayor Alvin Garcia. I was 3 years old then. Now after 33 years, Club Fiipino wins again and this time, me as a member of the winning team. What a great trivia.”

Categorized as Golf