The genius of the Japanese


TOKYO — I’ve been blessed to have visited many countries but there’s something so extraordinarily brilliant and efficient about our East Asian neighbor. From our 10-day stay here, I’ve listed several astonishing innovations:

There’s the taxi whose doors automatically open. When I boarded one in Kyoto, I shut the door myself, only for it to remain open as the driver, with the press of a button, slammed it shut. (This helps when your hands are full of bags and it’s raining outside.) Plus, this was charming: our driver was female and she wore formal wear with accompanying white gloves.

How about those vending machines (thousands of them found in every street corner) that’s color-coded: blue labels for cold drinks and red for warm (coffee/tea) beverages. And they sell ramen, electronics, umbrellas, ties and underwear!


Robots? In this land where English is not very well spoken, when we visited the Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka, a robot stood at the storefront, nodding left and right, waving his hands, smiling and welcoming guests.

Or that see-through umbrella so that you can (literally) see-through traffic and buildings overhead as you navigate yourself in the world’s busiest crossing called Shibuya in Tokyo (where as many as 2,500 cross the street at the same time).

Hungry? How about ordering via touchscreen menu? As you enter the restaurant, you choose from a variety of pictures; you pre-pay, take your seat and, 15 minutes later, your steaming hot bowl of Sukiyaki is delivered to your table (by a waiter, not a robot — that will come in 10 years).

Ta-Q-Bin. This is clever. Prior to leaving Cebu, my sister-in-law Atty. Michelle Mendez Palmares and our “Japanese consultant” Jourdan Polotan introduced this idea. I dismissed it. Ta-Q-Bin is a delivery service where your luggages are shipped the next day anywhere. Why spend extra when we can carry our own luggage? I said. It turns out, Ta-Q-Bin is amazing. The day before we left Osaka for Kyoto, we shipped two large suitcases to Tokyo (our third destination). Total cost: only P800 for both items. It’s not expensive and it saved us a lot of hassle of having to drag the luggages from Osaka to Kyoto to Tokyo. We dropped off the items in a Family Mart (or they can be picked up in your hotel) and, voila, the day after, it’s inside your hotel room.

Shinkansen. We took the bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo. The distance spans 513 kms. but it took the Shinkansen Nozomi train only two hours and 20 minutes, reaching a topspeed of 300 kph. It’s expensive (P7,400/person) but is a convenient hop-on, hop-off way to travel. A bonus midway through the trip: we caught a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. The coolest part? As the train leaves, the conductor at the end of the train leans out of the window and salutes everyone on the platform.


But I save the best for last: the toilet bowl. Seriously. For the first time in my 22-year sportswriting career, I’m writing about the toilet bowl. To us, there’s nothing to be celebrated about this bathroom fixture; but not to the Japanese.

It starts with the heated seat. Then, you hear water rumbling — it’s background noise to cover any sounds of the user. Then, after you’re done with “business,” there’s a washlet. It’s a bidet-type washing mechanism. Like all things amazing-Japanese, it spews out soothing warm water. After, there’s a dryer from underneath. Finally, when you’re done, there’s a built-in water-saving sink at the top that pours into the tank to conserve water as you wash your hands. Incredible. This, from the nation that has produced brands like Toyota, Sony, Uniqlo, Asics, Epson, Ajinomoto, Mazda, Nintendo and Yakult.

Finally, lest this column get transferred to the Travel Section, a dose of sports: Tokyo 2020 promises to be the most high-tech Olympics ever. Some examples: Hydrogen-powered buses. Instant language translation. The use of facial recognition technology to verify ticket holders. Driverless taxis. Amazing. Only in Japan.

Categorized as Travels

Merikurisumasu from Japan


KYOTO — Merry Christmas! We arrived in the “Land of the Rising Sun” over a week ago and Jasmin, Jana and I are loving every hour of our Japanese sojourn.

Our first stop was in Osaka. What words would I describe the nation’s second largest city (with a populatin of over 19 million)? Bustling with people. Lights-filled. Progressive. Heavenly food.

Japan is a country whose Christian population stands at only two percent. And so, unlike the Philippines with our myriad of activities as Dec. 25 nears, they obviously don’t practice our traditional Misa de Gallo and noche buena. But the highly-nationalistic Japanese have been infiltrated with Western culture. In particular, the playing of Christmas tunes everywhere and the displaying of Christmas lights and decors — all exhibited to excite the shoppers. So, yes, Jingle Bells songs and twinkling lights are all-present in Osaka.

The best example is the Winter Illumination. The 3-kilometer stretch of the main avenue Midosuji Street dazzles with lights — making it one of the world’s longest Christmas-lighted streets. Gingko trees sparkle and historic buildings splash with color at night. As highlight, an extravagant lights show is projected at the Osaka City Hall.

Osaka’s main shopping street is along Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi. Among the tens of thousands of people crowding the alley, I saw a few from Cebu: Dave Lim, one of our best amateur basketball players, tapped me in the back while we were inside the Uniqlo-operated GU store. While walking near the Glico billboard, I saw a tall man — and realized he wasn’t a tourist; he was James Co (who came with his wife Jewel and their children). A many-time Osaka visitor, James quickly pulled me to recommend what he calls “the best sukiyaki restaurant I’ve tried.” The following night, we dined there and yes, the beef was steaming-delicious. A few nights before Christmas, we spotted a familiar and beautiful face: Nia Aldeguer (who came with Chris and their kids and the Durano family). Frederic and Millete Chiongbian and their triathlon champion-boys Justin and Yuan also savored the 10C cold of Osaka.


From our weeklong stay here, this we can conclude about our Japanese neighbors: they are the most polite and courteous we’ve met. In their culture, it’s called omotenashi, which means “Japanese hospitality.” It’s a combination of exquisite politeness with the goal of maintaining harmony and avoiding conflict. In our first day here, we got lost. As we huddled to check on Google Maps, a lady approached to ask if we needed help. She walked us to our destination and did the tradional bow with accompanying smile. She was a university student from Tokyo.

Our tour guide, Mrs. Kumiko Nakame, who escorted us for a full-day visit of the Osaka Castle, the Santa Maria Cruise, the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel and Umeda Sky Bldg., was extremely gracious and amiable. When you visit shops or dine in restaurants, they always welcome you with “irasshaimase.”

From Osaka, we took a day trip (upon the advise of Dr. Ronnie Medalle, who visited here two Decembers ago) to visit Nara. Less than an hour away, Nara was Japan’s capital from the years 710 to 794. While strolling inside Nara Park, you’ll see hundreds of deer (and can feed them by hand) and your eyes will feast on the Todai-ji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building that houses the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha.


On December 24th, we moved to our next destination, beautiful Kyoto, this nation’s capital for over a thousand years. Highly-recommended by our Cebu-based Japan consultant, Jourdan Polotan, who was here last month and who’s visited with wife Jingle multiple times, we spent Christmas in Kyoto. Right across our hotel, in this city of very few Catholics, was the best sanctum to behold: the Kawaramachi Catholic Church, the cathedral of Kyoto. We heard mass at noon, singing Mary, Did You Know?, celebrating the birth of Christ in beautiful Japan.

Categorized as Travels

Edward Hayco, in his own words

As chairman of the Cebu City Sports Commission (CCSC) since 2010, Ed Hayco has accomplished plenty. In his own words, Ed shares with us his thoughts:

ON CULTURE: Instead of accomplishments, we prefer to call it our contributions. At the top of our list is Culture and Believing in one’s self. Confidence would have been an easier word but believing in one’s self has a deeper meaning.

Let me tell you a touching story. The father of an archery athlete named Niño approached me in a gathering. I didn’t know him. He explained how happy he was that his son was helping out as a volunteer coach in Guadalupe public elementary. Their family was supposed to go on a 3-week vacation but he pleaded with his father to cancel the vacation because he was assigned to give lessons in archery. The father recounted to us the story with so much pride in his son for how responsible he has become.

Another story was during the Batang Pinoy in Tagum. A father approached me during badminton competition. He wanted to say thank you and explained that his daughter was very shy. But as a volunteer coach during summer, her daughter was able to learn 3 things: 1) Overcome her shyness; 2) Develop leadership through coaching; and the most meaningful and the exact words of the father, 3): “My daughter developed “a heart for others!”

The Guinness records in archery, chess, arnis, and winning the overall title in Batang Pinoy, the summer grassroots, the volunteer coaching, etc. were all tools to achieve this culture. The success of any nation or business is its culture.

Our theme, “Transforming our youth thru sports,” is about character-building. Sports can either bring out the best or worst in an athlete.. the gold medal is just part of the journey, not the end.


Ed Hayco (2nd from right) with Mars Alison, Mike Limpag, Girlie Garces, Hidelito Pascual and John Pages

2017 PLANS. To work closely with DepEd. 1) We have plans to implement a school for sports where all athletes will be in one classroom. They will have different class schedules. 2) An assistant principal for sports in the schools for sports. 3) Develop incentives for public school teacher-coaches and school principals so that the athletes and coaches will be better attended to. 4) Assign high level coaches to train public school teacher-coaches to raise the level of coaching competence. 5) Institutionalize strength and conditioning programs into public school sports programs. 6) Assign 25 volunteer high-level coaches to offer free coaching thrice-a-week, year-round in the Abellana sports center catering to Abellana high school and city central elementary. That’s a potential source of athletes having a population of 9,000 students. If this succeeds, we’ll do similar programs with other schools.

Why are our focus in public schools? Because the students have the least opportunities and resources and yet, they are our richest sources of athletes. Most of these kids cannot afford a P300/session coach. But these kids have the heart of an athlete — they thrive in adversity. We provide them with a hope for a better future.

ON BUTCH RAMIREZ. The PSC Chairman is supportive of Cebu because he has been closely watching our programs when he was chairman in 2005. Since then, we’ve been in touch and have always appraised him of our grassroots program which now covers 25 sports, and also our Guinness records.

Thru volunteerism, we develop the passion and dedication of the athlete for the sports, instead of being obsessed and entitled. This culture has a rippling effect. Winning medals now has a deeper meaning and a gold medal weighs heavier in a different way. When an athlete who has volunteered wins a medal, he wears it with a deeper sense of pride.

ON DEPED. I’ve been trying to lobby this idea, still a hard sell, that the PSC chairman needs to be the undersecretary of DepEd for Sports. As long as PSC is not part of or not an insider of DepEd, the sports programs policies of PSC cannot be implemented effectively, especially the grassroots program.

Just like CCSC. We have a sports program but who do we implement it with? There is no single unit in Phil. govt. that has the command of warm bodies. Only DepEd can make a memo, require and produce the number of kids. That’s why CCSC works closely with DepEd. All our programs are thru DepEd. Once we realize this organizational “flaw,” we can be an effective conductor of the orchestra.

FINAL WORDS. I’m not really a sports person. During the Los Angeles Olympics, the stadium was in front of our hotel. I didn’t even watch! It doesn’t excite me to be in a competition. I’d rather watch Broadway! What an irony? In short, sports to me is a tool. A social screwdriver or pliers to pry open the potential of the underprivileged kids and “make them believe in themselves.” As businessmen, we approach the sports program like a social entrepreneur: we see coaches as managers, athletes as employees, the product as medals and the grassroots training pool. Right culture plus motivated employees equals productivity!

Sports in Taiwan

TAIPEI — Taiwan is small. If you open Google Maps and compare the Philippines with our neighbor up north, it’s smaller than Mindanao. Taiwan is only 12 percent the land area of our country. Population-wise, their 24 million people is one-fourth our overpopulated nation. But if we compare economies, their GDP of US$1.147 trillion is sizable versus our $793 billion.

Sports? If we base the analysis on the Olympics, they beat us. Since they joined in 1956 in Melbourne (while we started earlier at the 1924 Paris Games), they’ve accummulated 24 medals versus our 10. Plus, they’ve gained the shiniest of precious metals: two gold medals for taekwondo in Athens and, just last August in Rio, another gold medal for women’s weightlifting.

Last Sunday, I spoke about the Taipei Marathon and discussed the moniker, “The Bicycle Kingdom,” conferred to this nation that manufactures millions of bicycles each year.

Biking and running are popular in Taiwan. Their streets are wide and planted with biking and jogging lanes — unlike our roads where the joggers and bikers have to negotiate the traffic with tricycles, private vehicles, jeepneys, pedicabs and, worse, motorbikes who “counter-flow.”

But as beloved as biking and running are in Taiwan, they’re not the most celebrated sport. This mantle belongs to baseball. If the Philippines has basketball, Taiwan has baseball. First introduced during the Japanese rule — which ran from 1895 until the end of WW2 in 1945 — baseball is Taiwan’s national sport. And if we cheer for the PBA, theirs is the Chinese Professional Baseball League. The Taiwanese have produced world-class players and have sent a few to America to play in Major League Baseball. These include Wei-Yin Chen (Orioles) and Chien-Ming Wang (Yankees and Nationals).

How good are the Taiwanese? According to the International Baseball Federation, Chinese-Taipei is ranked world no. 3, behind only the U.S. and Japan. They won silver at the Barcelona Olympics and bronze in 1994 at the Los Angeles Olympics.

With baseball, it’s the No.1 sport that they follow. But it’s not the top game that the Taiwanese themselves play. That honor goes to basketball and their top league is the Super Basketball League (SBL).

In tennis, their star netter is Lu Yen-hsun. He was ranked as high as world no. 33 (in 2010) and he currently sits at no. 64. I recall an interesting story involving this 33-year-old, 5-foot-11 player who resides in Taipei. Back in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, my wife Jasmin and I watched Andy Murray in singles. As he was ahead in the first set and was playing an unknown opponent, we moved to the other courts knowing that he’ll easily advance. An hour or so later, we saw the score flash: Murray lost! Minutes after the Briton’s shocking defeat, we saw his mom Judy walk in front of us, downtrodden and shocked. The man who beat Murray? Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan.

More on tennis: the Chinese-Taipei team has played Davis Cup in Plantation Bay Resort and Spa. For those who visited the five-star resort in Marigondon in 2011, you were treated to smashing tennis action which ended up with the Taiwanese winning, 3-2.

Among the women, it’s Hsieh Su-wei who has achieved the highest of goals. Two years ago competing in doubles, she was ranked No. 1 in the world.

29th UNIVERSIADE. One major sporting event that this nation is looking forward to will run from August 19 to 30 next year. It’s the 2017 Taipei Summer Universiade and over 12,000 athletes from 150 countries are scheduled to converge for these biennial games.

Dubbed “the largest multi-sport event in the world apart from the Olympics,” the Universiade is organized purely for university athletes. Last year, South Korea hosted and next year, it’s Taiwan’s turn to organize this event which consists of 14 compulsory sports, seven optional sports and one demonstration sport.

In summary, sports-fan or not, Taiwan (especially with the direct EVA Air flights from Cebu) should be part of your travel list in 2017.

Categorized as Philippines

Running and biking in Taiwan


My mom Allen running the streets of Taipei

TAIPEI — This city is teeming with people. If you visit Ximending at night or Taipei Main Station by day, you’ll see thousands upon thousands of fast-moving, on-the-go Taiwanese.

We’ve been here since Wednesday and took the direct EVA Air flight from Cebu. The airline is high-recommended. It’s clean, the leg-room on the Economy Class is spacious (like the Premium Economy seats at Cathay Pacific), and the 3-hour direct flight is speedy. After a quick lunch meal, a few Spotify playlists to listen to and a short nap, you’ve already landed at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. We left at 11 a.m and landed at 2. At the airport, we were met by a local carrying a placard bearing my printed name. Assuming he was Taiwanese, I spoke in English. He answered in Bisaya! It turns out, he’s Wilbert Tan, a former Sacred Hearter who’s the batchmate of my neighbor on this page, Atty. Jingo Quijano, and of Bernard “Ironman-Bionic Man” Sia.

What we like in Taiwan is the weather. With no offense meant for places like Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, what sets this nation of 23.5 million apart from the tropical countries is the cool, Hong Kong-like temperature. When we arrived last Wednesday, it was 19C. The next two days, it dropped to 14C.

Perfect conditions for running. Of this sport that has invigorated millions, you won’t believe what we discovered. While our Pages family — 21 of us, led by our parents, Bunny and Allen, and my siblings Charlie, Randy, Cheryl and Michael, plus the children — strolled towards Taipei 101 (acclaimed the world’s tallest building in 2004), guess what sight had my heart pumping double its speed?

The Taipei International Marathon, happening today. Of all the times that our family visited, it was marathon weekend. With Jasmin and Jana, I quickly entered the Race Expo site hoping to join the half-marathon.

“Sorry, registration has long closed,” the staff member said. Unlike Hong Kong (or our very own Cebu Marathon, which kicks off this January 8), Taipei doesn’t offer on-site registration. Too bad. This event is quite huge: they limit the entries to 7,000 runners for the 42K and 18,000 for the 21K. The cutoff time for the marathon is 5:30 and three hours for half that distance.


Nice running form, Mom! Crossing the finish line a day before the marathon

Running is popular in Taiwan. One example is the Nike Running store near Taipei 101 that spans three gigantic floors of nothing but running shoes, running clothing, running gear.

Cycling? It’s absolutely big here. Taiwan is known as “The Bicycle Kingdom” and a huge number of bicycle components are stamped, “Made in Taiwan.” They’re led by Giant, the world’s largest bike company, which grosses over $2 billion and churns out an estimated 6.6 million bicycles per year (compared to the 3,800 they sold on their first year in 1972).

Apart from bike manufacturing, bike-riding is also popular in Taiwan. Giant helped launch the YouBike sharing format. Aside from Taipei, it’s found in 10 other cities here, including Taichung — the city that Jasmin and I visited a few times before (and we love even more than Taipei).

YouBike’s concept is simple: You visit one of many stations, you hop on a bike and drop it off in the nearest station of your destination.

Biking is good for the health of a nation’s citizens and it’s good for Mother Earth. Their website reads: “In the hope that by equipping a urban bike lane network with a bike station service, encouraging citizens to use low-pollution and low-energy-consumption Bike Sharing as short-distance transit vehicles and reducing and replacing personal possession and use of motor vehicles, traffic congestion, environmental pollution and energy loss in the city will be improved.”

How I wish we can do this. Our problem is the lack of bike-lanes. Here in Taipei, like in many parts of the world where pedaling is encouraged (especially in Europe), there are dedicated bike lanes. In Cebu, how can we adopt this bike-sharing concept when we don’t even have proper pedestrian lanes?

Categorized as Marathon

Can a human being run a sub-2 marathon?

It’s audacious. It’s unimaginable and absurd. I’m talking about the quest to break one of humankind’s most enduring and seemingly-unbreakable of feats: running 42.195 kms. in under 120 minutes.

The marathon world record today stands at 2:02:57. That was set three Septembers ago at the 2014 Berlin Marathon. The current record holder is from Kenya and his name is Dennis Kimetto.

I’ve joined a few marathons myself and running 42K is backbreaking, toilsome and you can’t sprint fullspeed the entire stretch because it’s too far. How lengthy is a marathon? It’s the distance from the Provincial Capitol to Carcar. That’s a long, long, long, long, long way to travel using only your God-given feet.

How fast is the WR time of 2:02:57? It’s sprinting at a pace of 2 minutes and 54 seconds per kilometer. It’s like stepping on a treadmill and setting the speed beyond 20 kph! (A 10 kph speed is fast enough; imagine running at twice that pace — for two hours nonstop.)

Now, the question: Is it difficult to cut three minutes off that world record mark? Absolutely. Through the years, the WR has been broken repeatedly, but only by increments of a few seconds. Consider that in 1999, the fastest marathon was clocked at 2:05:38 by Khalid Khannouchi. This means that with the present record, only 2 minutes and 41 seconds was reduced in the last 17 years. That’s an average yearly reduction of only 9.5 seconds.

Which brings me to the Nike Project dubbed Breaking2. In a Runner’s World article entitled, “Nike’s Audacious Plan: Break the 2-Hour Marathon Barrier in 2017,” the sporting footwear giant wants to break the record next year.

“After more than two years of research, preparation and testing, three top distance runners—Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea—have officially started their Nike-backed build-up toward a sub-two-hour attempt sometime in the spring, the exact timing and location of which have yet to be finalized,” wrote Alex Hutchison in the Dec. 12 article from “Their goal is to run 1:59:59 or faster, a pace of 4:34 per mile for 26.2 miles.”

This goal is bold and stunning. “Nike’s announcement will undoubtedly raise eyebrows,” said the article. “Just two years ago, in a data-driven investigation of what it would take to run a marathon in less than two hours, I concluded that the barrier would be broken in 2075. That admittedly pessimistic prediction was based on the assumption that the record would continue to be shaved down by small margins, in keeping with previous trends.”

Nike is undaunted by this long-term prediction. They’re in a hurry and they plan to break the record very soon. Percentage-wise, the goal to carve three minutes doesn’t seem much, until you compute that it’s 2.5 percent. That’s substantial in a race where every second counts.

There are five key areas that Nike is focusing on. First, the athlete selection. From a pool that started with hundreds of runners, they selected three of the world’s best, testing each athlete to find out if they had what it takes for the record attempt.

Two, course and environment. Nike plans to control the course (not to be done in a regular road race), the time of the year and the conditions. “As our sub-two-hour feature noted, just getting the drafting right could shave 100 seconds off an elite marathon time, according to wind-tunnel estimates,” Hutchinson said. The final three areas: training, nutrition/hydration and equipment. (I strongly recommend you read the full article at

“‘The sub-two-hour marathon is one of those epic barriers that people bust through,’ Nike’s VP of Footwear Innovation, Tony Bignell, told us. ‘It’s like breaking 10 seconds for the 100 meters or 4 minutes for the mile. At the end of the day, we just want to show it can be done. We want to show that it’s within the capability of human physiology.’”

Can it be done? As Nike says: Just do it.

Categorized as Marathon

In hosting mega-events, “apiki ra kaayo”

Decades from today, when the history of Cebu sports is written and immortalized, the name “Edward Hayco” will be one that’s most prominent. As head of the Cebu City Sports Commission for many, many years now, he has produced too-many-to-count accomplishments. World records. International dance meets. Grass-roots programs. No less than the top bigwigs of the Phil. Sports Commission pay homage to the creative strategies of Cebu.

The latest challenge for Ed Hayco and Atty. Ramil Abing, who leads the Cebu Province Sports Commission, is the hosting of the 2017 Phil. National Games or PNG. This is a major effort. Thousands of our archipelago’s best of the best will land in Mactan, kick in Mandaue, bowl at SM, swim in Abellana. The PNG is scheduled this April. This is a highly laudable hosting of the city and province bearing the name of Cebu.

By my question — and this is addressed to the top honchos at the PSC, POC and Dept. of Education (DepEd) — is this: Why such late announcements? Why not give potential hosts three years notice so ample time can be allocated for preparation?

Let’s talk about the Palarong Pambansa. Organized by DepEd, the Palaro started in 1948. That’s 68 years ago. Thanks to my daughter Jana’s participation in tennis, I’ve witnessed two Games: the first in Dipolog and Dapitan when she was in elementary and the second in Laguna when she helped Central Visayas (Region VII) win a couple of medals.

The Palaro is huge. It’s only one week long but every region of this 100-million-strong nation is represented. (Prior to this national meet are the local eliminations: the Unit, City, Provincial and Regional meets. Ours is called the CVIRAA.)

The Palaro, held every summer, involves thousands upon thousands of athletes, volunteers, officials, parents, coaches and government personnel.

Here’s my point: For next year’s 60th edition of the Palarong Pambansa — slated to be held in Antique Province of Panay — you know when the announcement was made?

The Palaro Selection Committee revealed the winning host last November 18. And when will the Palaro be held? This April or May.

This means that, from the time it was announced to the time of the actual event, only five to six months are appropriated for the hosts to prepare. (The exact Palaro date hasn’t even been announced yet!) Unbelievable.

The Palaro selection committee, if my research is correct, received the formal bids only last August, they announced the winning city last month and, voila, 170 days later you get the organize the country’s largest tournament.

In my simple analysis, the host city or province should be given at least three years to prepare. Apart from organizing all the manpower and volunteers, all the billeting requirements, the food catering systems, transportation and logistical needs, the biggest task and the one requiring the longest time is infrastructure. How can one host properly if you don’t give them enough time to plan, design and build? A rubberized oval can’t be constructed by a magician.

Take the Olympics. For the 2020 Tokyo Games, the announcement was made in 2013 — seven years prior to the planet’s largest sports party.

With the 2017 Palaro, three major cities initially joined the bidding: Iloilo, Bacolod and Cebu. One after the other, each Visayan city backed out.

I’m not privy to the reasons why our very own Cebu City opted not to join. I was one of many who voiced support because the only times we hosted were in 1954 and in 1994. You bet, it’s about time!

Maybe the lack of time and preparation (“apiki ra kaayo”) were reasons? And there’s always the unwritten dictum among city mayors that says: Give chance to others. This is not a way to demean the smaller cities but a way for them to receive substantial funds for infrastructure projects (many of which won’t be constructed if not for a large event like the Palaro).

This “apiki” practice has to stop. Let’s hope Manila listens.

Green Archers shoot down the Blue Eagles


(Photo: ABS-CBN News)

At 6:15 p.m. yesterday, white confetti rained inside the Araneta Coliseum as green jerseys swarmed the court all-smiling. 

Too strong. Winner of 15 of their 16 games this season, the DLSU Green Archers added one more last night as they swept the Ateneo Blue Eagles to win the school’s ninth UAAP title.

Big Ben Mbala and Jeron Teng were unstoppable. The regular season MVP Mbala and the Finals MVP Teng combined for 46 points in Game 2 to win, 79-72.

I watched the last three quarters and Mbala doesn’t play college ball — he’s a pro-caliber star. Standing 6-foot-8, two moments stood out tallest. As seconds ticked to end the 2nd quarter, a charging Ateneo player drove down the lane.. only for his shot to be blocked (no make that, hammered) by Mbala. On the play-of-the-game and with 4:13 left in the 4th, Teng drove for a layup, missed the shot as Mbala, with both muscular arms outstretched, slammed the ball for an alley-hoop dunk.

Rosberg quits

Days after he was crowned F1 champion, Nico Rosberg called it quits. Shocking! For the Mercedes-Benz team managers, just when they experienced the high of a one-two (Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton) sweep, it’s a brisk goodbye. It’s like Leonardo de Caprio bagging an Oscar then saying adios. Or Adele topping the Billboards chart then never singing again. Or Bjorn Borg, age 26, walking away from tennis.

Wait, the last sentence came true. But before we talk about the Swede, let’s analyze the German’s move. Only 31, why would anyone want to retire this young?

“Lewis Hamilton lost the battle but won the war,” Kevin Eason of The Times wrote. “He dominated Nico Rosberg from karting to the ultimate in Formula 1 and when the German finally won his world championship, the strain was so great that he had to walk away from the sport.”

Rosberg admits to the overbearing pressure, saying: “It was unbelievably intense. It is indescribable the last four races. It was my championship to lose and the last race was the toughest thing I have ever done – except from watching my wife suffer through the birth of our daughter. That was a whole another level!”

He’s also reached the Mt. Summit of motor-racing and, once you ascend the world’s tallest peak, there’s nothing higher to climb.

“Since I was six years old when I started out the dream was very clear – that was becoming a Formula 1 world champion. That is what I pursued all along, and it is mission accomplished for me. I’ve done it,” Rosberg said. “It is a dream come true – and now I move on to other things. Let’s see what the future holds – I will follow my heart.”

Rosberg is not the first athlete to retire young and at his peak. Magic Johnson was 32 when he left the NBA. His, of course, was a different story as he was diagnosed with HIV. Rocky Marciano was another. After winning 49 of 49 fights (with 43 knockouts), he stopped at the age of 32. Sadly, 13 years later, he died from a plane crash. Isiah Thomas also quit at 32 after leading the Detroit Pistons to NBA crowns. Yao Ming, plagued with injury, quit at 30. But to me the most bizarre was Bjorn Borg’s stoppage at 26. Imagine how many more majors he would have added (to his 11) had he played for, say, 10 more years. He’d handily be the greatest netter in history.

With Rosberg, I’m sure he’ll be back. After the gloss of the F1 trophy has faded and his competitive juices start revving his heart and blood stream, he’ll return. This time, for sure, not paired with Lewis.

Green and blue clash in UAAP 79

No rivalry in Philippine sports rivals the confrontation between La Salle and Ateneo.

In academics, they wage mental warfare. In business, one school brags that Danding Cojuangco started kindergarted in 1940 and finished high school in a green-colored campus; the other school boasts of Manny Pangilinan graduating cum laude (Economics). In the halls of power, Michael Dino and Bong Go finished management courses from DLSU while Carlos Dominguez III and Silvestre Bello III received diplomas whose leather covers are colored blue. But above all, the tug-of-war is best exemplified in the arena called sports.

Yesterday at 3:30 p.m., the dream finale that both campuses envisioned became real. (I did not have time to write this piece chronicling Game 1 but will focus on their history.)

The first La Salle-Ateneo skirmish happened in 1939. In the final of the NCAA men’s championship, La Salle won, 27-23. Yes, no wrong typing there; the score in that contest 77 years ago was that low. Since then, the duel has flourished.

Since 1939, the two schools have taken turns winning. The next time they met in the NCAA finals was in 1958; on this occasion, the game was high scoring (105-103) with Ateneo claiming victory. In 1974 (the last time they’ll meet in the NCAA Finals), it was La Salle’s turn, 90-80.

When the battle shifted to the UAAP, they met four times in the championship. In 1988, ADMU bested DLSU in only one game because they held the twice-to-beat advantage. Three years later, La Salle recovered the trophy, winning the Game 3 decider, 93-88. The following year (2002), it was another third-game thriller but with Ateneo victorious, 77-70. And finally, in 2008, it was a clean two-game sweep as the Chris Tiu-led Blue Eagles (with Rabeh Al-Hissaini, Nonoy Baclao and Ryan Buenafe) won with Norman Black as head coach. It would be the start of an incredible five-year winning streak for the Blue Eagles.

The next year, in 2013, who would dethrone the champs to claim bragging rights? Who else but the Green Archers. In all, both squads have won eight UAAP men’s collegiate basketball crowns. How closer can this rivalry get?

With the 2016 season, La Salle dominated. Led by the MVP (and former Cebu cager) Ben Mbala, the green team were unbeatable. In the first round, they not only demolished all their opponents but embarrassed the blue squad, 97-81. That was in Oct. 2. Then, it looked like La Salle was en route to a clean sweep of the eliminations… before one team slapped their daydream and woke them up. It was, of course, Ateneo who scored the lone upset (83-71).

Who’s favored to win the trophy? Ateneo has the momentum. They won the last time they met and have won their last six elimination games and, including the escape over FEU last Wednesday, they’ve won six of their last seven. Plus, maybe the Archers are rusty after a 10-day gap before yesterday’s Game 1.

La Salle? Heavy favorites. Prior to the Final Four, they finished with a 13-1 slate. Ben Mbala is unstoppable, playing with these regular-season averages: 20.6 PPG, 16 RPG and 2.4 BPG — all first in the league. When you study the team statistics, La Salle leads in all but one of the nine departments, including points per game (88.1 average) and rebounds (52.3 per game).

My pick? It’s hard to bet against the university located along Taft Avenue. Plus, I’m biased. I studied eight years in La Salle Bacolod and suited the green jersey as we won the city-wide elementary title. Also, my uncle Rey Pages, my dad’s younger brother, played for the Green Archers in the 1970s before he turned pro with Crispa and Utex.

My head (analysis) and history (past schooling) go with La Salle. But times have changed… since our only child Jana Marie has enrolled in the campus along Katipunan Avenue, my green mind has turned blue-blooded.