Thirsty Cup: Quenching your football thirst

It started 11 years ago; a simple idea to gather footballers of all ages and sizes to one venue, one weekend, one sport. It’s the Thirsty Football Cup and, each February, the numbers have grown and ballooned. Last year, a record 340 teams joined. Multiplying that by a conservative 10 players per squad, that’s well over 3,000 players. It’s humongous.

Starting tomorrow, the 11th Thirsty Cup will kick off once again at the Cebu City Sports Center. Instead of last year’s three venues, the organizers decided on just one location for all 249 teams. This way, parents and coaches won’t have to hop, like a Sunsport football, from one spot to another.

It’s festival-type. The matches are shortened. The pitches, smaller. The players, fewer. The goal is to score goals and goals. The aim is to crowd multiple games in a brief span of time. Loud music will echo from CCSC’s speakers. Free wi-fi will allow spectators to post Instagram photos. Visitors are arriving and they’ll flood the fields. One notable visitor is “imported.” Yes. While Koreans are seen everywhere in our island, there’s one team that’s flying directly from Korea (South K. not North Korea, as we joked in the press-con). This squad is expected to land in Mactan today.

The 11th Thirsty Cup begins at 5 p.m. tomorrow and will be played throughout Friday night. By “throughout,” I mean all the way until midnight. Then, the next day, the games resume. That will last until late Saturday night. Finally, on Sunday, it’s the same day-and-night competition until the Men’s Open final game is contested late, late this weekend. (Good thing it’s a holiday on Monday!)

The Don Bosco Football Alumni group, led by Chad Songalia and Neil Montesclaros, are, as they’ve been the past decade, the lead organizers. My brother Charlie, who helped conceptualize this fast-paced event, is to be thanked for organizing the Thirsty Cup. This event is sanctioned by the Cebu Football Association, led by Engr. Ricky Dakay, Rico Navarro and the CFA board. Visit the Abellana grounds this weekend. Your thirst for this sport of Lionel Messi will surely be satisfied.

Categorized as Football

It’s about time! Cebu City hosts the CVIRAA

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The most powerful man in Cebu City did the most unexpected of acts last Sunday. He shared his cellphone number. Not to one or five or nine guests – but to over 6,000 people!

Mayor Michael Lopez Rama, while delivering his Inspirational Message to the thousands from all over Central Visayas who had gathered for the Opening Ceremony of the CVIRAA, wanted to ensure that every athlete and official was taken-cared of. That, in the event of an emergency, they could call on one person. Himself. As host. No less than the mayor. And so, with a booming voice that reverberated throughout the Cebu City Sports Center, he rattled off his mobile number to a shocked audience…

That wasn’t the only surprise of the night. For our Region 7 neighbors, they were treated to a spectacular welcome that only Ricky Ballesteros can concoct.

Five of the top winners of the recent Sinulog competition performed. To us seated at the VIP Section, it was a spectacle watching four schools (Banilad Elem., Apas, Don Sergio Osmeña Sr. and Abellana) and the grand champion, Lumad Basakanon. With perfect weather and a slightly cool breeze that danced inside the complex, everybody was in awe.

It started with a parade at 3 p.m. Just like the Olympics, the various contingents walked from Fuente Osmeña towards the CCSC. The students – elementary and high school athletes – circled the oval.

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Each delegation wore their unique colors. As they stood on the giant stage, they faced the audience then performed a short chant. Take Carcar City. Theirs was “Pao… pao.. pao!” It was a shortcut for “ampao,” the famous rice cake of Carcar.

Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo walked with his delegation. He was there with DepEd chief Dr. Sal Jimenez. As hosts last year (including hosting the 2013 Palarong Pambansa), it was their duty to formally turn-over the event to Cebu City.

Mayor Rama walked with his athletes. Dressed in the full gear of the CEBU CITY NINOS – yellow and green shirt, jogging pants and cap – he also wore a bright neon orange hi-cut Nike basketball shoes. With a whistle hanging on his neck, he often pulled it upfront and whistled the Sinulog beat.

Vice Mayor Edgar Labella also wore the full attire. CCSC Chairman Edward Hayco led Team Cebu City.

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The CVIRAA is one of the biggest grassroots sporting events of our region. It encompasses every major sport. All municipalities and cities are represented. Led by the Dept. of Education (DepEd), all 19 divisions are represented. More than 10,000 athletes are in Cebu City this whole week to compete.

DepEd Cebu City Division Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Rhea Mar Angtud gave a beautiful speech saying that, despite the twin destructions of the typhoon and the earthquake, these won’t stop us from gathering and competing. Physical Education and School Sports (PESS)-7 chief Vivian Ginete had an important role: she introduced every delegation, including their heads and top officials. Finally, top DepEd official (Director III) Dr. Carmelita Dulangon rendered a message without any notes. She was very inspiring, speaking from the heart. Among the athletes, our home’s 15-year-old tennis champ, Jana Pages, was chosen to lead the Oath of Sportsmanship.

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Then, another spectacle – the lighting of the torch, led by volleyball star Ulyross Lopez. Patterned after the Barcelona Olympics, two lighted sticks zoomed from the front to light the cauldron.

Moments later, during the finale and while watching Lumad Basakanon perform, I whispered to my seatmate: “Mayor Mike, it’s been 14 years since we last hosted the CVIRAA.”

It’s about time! he replied. The Palaro, next? I asked. Visayas is hosting in 2016… and the last time we hosted was in 1994 – or 20 years ago. He answered, like he often does, with a smile. I’d take that as a Yes.


Categorized as Cebu City

From Russia, with Putin’s love

Let the Games begin! Past 12 midnight (Phil. time) yesterday, the Sochi Olympics started. I tried to stay awake late the other night but couldn’t find the TV5 coverage. CNN showed snippets leading to the Opening but no HD channel was made available by SkyCable.

Based on what I read, it was spectacular. Armed with over $50 billion worth of expenses, it better be a grand spectacle. Some notes that I picked up from the Opening…

Maria Sharapova, who grew up in Sochi, was one of the top athletes (she’s an Olympic silver medalist) who carried the torch before the cauldron was lighted.

Another top Russian athlete who also carried the torch in the final moments was Alina Kabayeva. She may not be that familiar but she’s a top gymnast – though that’s not the “tsismis” story. This one is: she’s the girlfriend of Vladimir Putin. Only 30, she’s pretty and bright and is a Russian politician. Although Kremlin denies it, almost everyone in Russia knows that the now-divorced Putin and her are a couple. Did she get the torch bearer part because of her “insider” relationship with the Russian president? Ha-ha. That’s the tabloid story. But she is, in fact, an Olympic gold medalist in rhythmic gymnastics.

d77eee72750c2767_fpi_largePutin with Alina Kabaeva

What went wrong in the Opening? It appears that only one moment wasn’t right. It was the unveiling of the five Olympic rings; they started as snowflakes and emerged to become rings… the problem was: only four of the five rings opened! The nearly 40,000 in attendance inside Sochi stadium witnessed it.

But, not to worry, the Russians came prepared. For the TV viewers, they quickly deleted that malfunction portion, inserted the “correct” recording where all five Olympic rings were shown (taken from the rehearsal), so that TV viewers saw the “perfect” version. It’s somewhat similar to the Beijing Olympics when they included pre-recorded footages in the supposed “live” version. But the Russian manipulation is worse. Still, many call it a necessary act. They say: For the billion-people worldwide TV audience, you can’t show the Olympics with four rings.

SM2SM Run 2014

urlLike the mall giant does every Valentine’s, it’s the much-awaited SM2SM Run on Feb. 16. Why SM to SM? Because runners start the race at the SM City Cebu then traverse the SRP road towards the latest Henry Sy-owned mall that will open end of next year: the SM Seaside City.

What makes this race unique – apart from the 3K, 6K, 12K and 21K distances and with over P250,000 in prizes – is the date: Valentine’s. The SM2SM Run, on its 4th staging this 2014, will be held two days after Feb. 14. And like they do each time, there’s the Couples Categories for the 12K and 21K. The husband-and-wife (or boyfriend/girlfriend?) tandem have to cross the finish line together. Holding hands and drained with sweat, what better way to cross that finish line next Sunday.

To all participants, the Race Kit distribution will start this Wednesday at The Event Centre of the SM City Cebu. See you next Sunday for the race.

Jonel Borromeo: Fit to Tri

1619604_631142706939972_881171607_nJonel (center) with Joseph Miller and Tenggoy Colmenares

At CIS in high school, we were the closest of buddies. Jonel dated Lovelin while her younger sister Cefelin was my girlfriend. (Had we married the Villegas sisters we’d be brothers-in-law.) We played varsity basketball with Serge Cuasito and Iker Aboitiz against the likes of Michael Aldeguer, Chad Cañares and Grant Go of Sacred Heart. This was in the late ‘80s when the top hits were Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun.”

Today, Jonel Borromeo is a corporate top gun. He is president of three companies: Honda Motorworld, Motorace (multi-brand bike dealer) and Sakura Auto World (Suzuki cars). He is happily married to Olive and they have three children, Dani, Renzo and Basti.

Last year, Jonel went on a physical transformation. Because while he dabbled into badminton before, he wasn’t super-fit. Unlike today.

“When I went to the US recently I was almost sent home because my passport photo and the real me didn’t match,” Jonel said. “After two hours of interrogation they were finally convinced it was me. When I go to a function or in the airport, I approach people I know who haven’t seen for, say, six months, and they stare at me. I tell them who I am and the reaction is… you sound like Jonel but you don’t look like him.”

That’s because Mr. Borromeo lost over 80 lbs. in two years after becoming a recent convert to this swim-bike-run sport. Today, he rises daily at 5 a.m. to run or bike for 90 minutes. Twice weekly, he adds the swim. “I make my workouts part of my daily schedule,” he said, “Just like a meeting.”

How did this all start? Jonel described being lured into triathlon in three stages. In his own words…

“Stage 1: It all started when Louie Moro asked me to join him biking. We would ride almost every Saturday. I had fun doing it. We would head up Guba and the poor guy would have to either wait for me or head back. I appreciated his patience. After a few rides he convinced me to get a new bike cause mine was one of those heavy metal types. So I did. Biking became more challenging. I would get up early on weekdays just to climb Budlaan and weekend rides with Louie. That sealed my love for Mountain Biking.

“Stage 2: Since I bought my bike from The Brick, shop owner Noy Jopson rang me up one day and invited me for a ride with his group (Tenggoy Colmenares, Joseph Miller, Jomer Lim). I must admit they, too, needed a lot of patience. The level of experience and endurance they were in was beyond compare. To my surprise they invited me again the following week. I told myself I wasn’t that bad after all. They made me feel part of the group. I appreciated their coaching and guidance without me asking. Then, they told me I was ready to race: DaanBantayan MB challenge here we go! I joined several after that. In the process of Stage 2, Jomer kept convincing me to start running. I did under the coaching of Phillip Duenas.

“Stage 3: After getting a hang on running, Tenggoy, Jomer, Joseph and Noy kept convincing me to take up swimming. They said it’s a good cross-training program. I did and that was it. James is my swimming coach and likes pushing me to the limit. If he does not see your nostrils swelling, he pushes you more. The other triathletes that I train with include Gianluca Guidicelli, Meyrick Jacalan, Dr. Solis and Jung Cases.”

I asked Jonel how his fitness level has affected his work and he replied, “I feel great in the office! My mind is sharp and no lag time. Before, I would have to take a coffee or two to get started. The only change I feel is that I need to eat more especially during meetings so instead of serving bread or siopao I have them serve fruits.”

Last Sunday in Davao City, Jonel joined his first race, the 1st Davao Xtrail Triathlon. “I crashed on the downhill but miraculously finished 5th place (out of 41) in my category and 29th place out of 117 participants.”

1509024_818366298189698_376825242_nFinal instructions from Tenggoy in Davao

This year, his goals include joining four events: Xterra, Safeguard 5150, Ironman 70.3 and Century Tuna 5150.

“The best part in a race,” he said, “is when I hear the gun start and when I see the finish line.”

JRB’s motto: “Say I can and I will.”

Batang Pinoy in the City of Smiles


BACOLOD CITY—Since Tuesday, I’ve been here with hundreds of other athletes, coaches and parents for the national finals of Batang Pinoy, a priority event of the Phil. Sports Commission for the nation’s best athletes aged 15 years old and younger.

Bacolod was not the original choice of venue. Zamboanga City was awarded that distinction but, due to the bombings that rocked the Mindanao city last year, PSC moved the venue to the City of Smiles.

Yes, the Bacolodnons are known for their smiles. Just listen to the Ilonggo’s sweet dialect and you’ll know that people here are friendly.

Bacolod is a city I called home for the first 14 years of my life. I played varsity basketball in La Salle. Bob’s, Chicken House and Pendy’s were – and still are – my favorite restaurants.

While here, we got to tour several of the sporting venues. The Batang Pinoy headquarters is located in a giant piece of land called the Panaad Stadium. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because this is the preferred venue of the Azkals, especially given it’s 35,000 seating capacity. Numerous games by our Philippine football team have been played in Panaad.

It’s located a bit far from the city proper but it’s expansive and huge and littered with tall Gemilina trees that make it look like a forest. Swimming pools. Tennis courts. An international-standard track oval. These and many more venues are housed in Panaad.

Our only complaint is not the distance but the lack of signages. We hardly found a single large sign with the word PANAAD. Or, at least, given that this is a large event, signs of BATANG PINOY to lead the visitors. Still, this venue is essential.

Compared to our city, we admit that the Cebu City Sports Complex is conveniently-located but it’s too small – especially for a metropolis as large as Cebu.

Cebu needs a Panaad. We also got to visit other venues. Badminton was held at the Pohang Badminton Center, right behind the Riverside Hospital. There, we got to see dozens of youngsters playing in the four indoor courts.

We visited La Salle. At the covered court, volleyball spikers slammed the ball while hundreds of La Sallians watched.

With tennis, the results are in and it was a near-sweep for Team Cebu City: we won three out of the four gold medals at stake.


Zethley Mae “Anday” Alferez was the event’s star when she won the singles and doubles events at the Montevista Tennis Court. My daughter Jana lost to a Laguna-based player in the semifinals and settled for bronze in singles but partnered with Alferez to win the doubles gold.

Among the boys, Noynoy Seno of USC captured the boys title via a clinical 6-2, 6-2 win in the finals. Shyne Villareal, Jermaine Laurel and Norman Enriquez also won bronze medals.

While staying at a hotel here, I woke up early last Thursday to do a morning run at the back of the City Hall. While descending the stairs at 6 a.m., guess who I saw? Maxi Maximo. They also stayed in East View Hotel and arose early (with wife Sheila) for breakfast because their daughter Ica was joining the cycling contest. The day after, I read that Ica won gold. She added a silver in the MTB race.

We also met CCSC Chairman Edward Hayco at the boxing event. Of our three Cebu City boxers who vied for gold, we witnessed one who won the top prize.

One non-sports event that we enjoyed here was the Bacolaodiat. It’s an annual Chinese New Year celebration, running for four days, where the main Bacolod thoroughfare called Lacson Street is closed. Walking along Bacolod’s version of our Osmeña Boulevard, you’re treated to a joyous party and celebration. Chicken inasal is grilled at every corner. Loud music booms. Red lanterns hang at the center. Though not as large as the Masskara Festival, it’s gotten bigger each year.

Cebu ought to emulate Bacolod in this street party concept. It’s excellent for tourism. The Bacolaodiat and Bacolod’s chicken inasal: the perfect doubles tandem to accompany the Batang Pinoy.

Categorized as Tennis