Alexandra Eala

The first time I met the country’s tennis sensation was back in October 2012. That was over eight years ago and the now-15-year-old standout was then a diminutive little girl who stood no taller than the 3-foot-high tennis net.

But even if Alex Eala was only seven years old at that time, she stood confident and tall and competed in the Unisex-10-and-under category to play against boys and girls who were much taller and older.

Back in 2012, my daughter Jana joined the Palawan Pawnshop Group 2 age group tournament held in Puerto Princesa. The day before the tournament started, we booked a time slot at a nearby court.

As Jana and I practiced forehands and backhands, the other court was occupied by the Eala siblings: 7-year-old Alex and her older brother Miko (now 18 and a tennis scholar at Penn State in the U.S.). They were accompanied by their dad Mike and their lolo, the late Bobby Maniego.

I don’t think the then-7-year-old Alex won that 10-and-under Palawan tournament but it was obvious, given her steely focus and the intensity of her left-handed shots, that she was a future star.

The past two weeks, every major Philippine daily had a story on Alex Eala. Her name appearred alongside major stories like SBP’s cancellation of the FIBA hosting and the transfer of PBA’s CJ Perez to SMB.

Alex Eala is now a major sports star. She’s only 15 years old but is already the world’s No. 3-ranked junior player. (In tennis, the age cap for juniors is 18.) She was briefly ranked No. 2 before she stepped one slot lower. But there’s no doubt that she will soon reach the pinnacle of girls junior tennis and be world No. 1.

If my memory is correct, only one other Filipino has been ranked at the top spot in juniors. That’s Manny Tolentino in the 1980s. 

To get a better glimpse of Alex’s game, I suggest you go to YouTube. Type “Alex Eala” and you’ll be treated to every match that she played the last two weeks. And what a treat! Her offensive forehand and impressive retrieval skills are a delight to watch. 

Last week in the W15 Manacor ITF Rafael Nadal Academy World Tennis Tour event in Mallorca, Spain, she bested five players (including the No. 1 and 5 seeds) to win her first pro title. This week, she won two more times before losing in the quarters. 

She won seven straight matches against much older and experienced ladies — and she’s only 15. 

No less than Rafael Nadal, who’s in Adelaide preparing for the Australian Open, congratulated Alex. This title is a major step forward and adds to her impressive 2020 when she won the Australian Open girls’ doubles title and reached the semifinals at the French Open. Unfortunately, no thanks to Covid-19, there will be no Australian Open junior event next month.

But, when the world health situation improves later this year, expect to see another junior Grand Slam title and a world No. 1 ranking for Ms. Alexandra Maniego Eala.

Tokyo Olympics

The world’s most populous metropolis is not New York, Metro Manila, London or Bangkok. With nearly 38 million residents, the Greater Tokyo Area holds this distinction. It’s also the richest; its GDP is US$1.8 trillion — five times that of the entire Philippines.

Tokyo was first tasked to hold the 1940 Olympic Games. But with plans of engaging in another sport — World War II — the Tokyo Games were canceled and transferred to Helsinki. When the dust of war dimished, Japan was asked to host again. This time, the cauldron was lit to start the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Fast forward to 2020, the same scenario transpired. No thanks to Covid-19, the Tokyo Olympics — like 1940 — was once again postponed.

But this July 23 to August 8, the Games in Japan’s capital are scheduled to happen. But will it? While 50 countries have already started injecting vaccines, Japan has not commenced yet. Their target date for vaccinations in late late February.

The Tokyo Olympics is a mere six months from now. Will the city be ready to host the 11,000 athletes all flying in from 206 nations?

I hope so. The Olympics will radiate a positive air in today’s “positive” world.  

The problem is many people are skeptical. In an article from The Times (London), it stated that 80 percent of Japanese do not want the games to be held. They fear that the deluge of Olympians, officials and fans will further spread Covid-19.

“No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult,” read The Times article, quoting a senior member of the Japan’s ruling coalition. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Immediately after this damaging story appeared, the IOC and Japanese officials were quick to denounce it.

“Six months ahead of the Games, the entire Olympic movement is looking forward to the opening ceremony on July 23,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “I had the opportunity today to speak with all the 206 National Olympic Committees of the world and they are all fully committed and looking forward to the Games.”

Bach said the Tokyo organizers are exploring all options to safely hold the Games. The issues range from immigration rules to vaccination policies to allowing spectators to watch.

Come July, my take is that the athletes would have gotten the vaccine and would be deemed safe to travel and compete. Also, worldwide, sports has started. The most successful was the NBA bubble in Florida that lasted for over three months with zero positive cases. 

“We know how passionate Olympic athletes are and this is why we know they will be flexible enough and they will adjust to this situation we are all in now,” said Bach. “They will enter the Olympic stadium on the 23rd of July with full pride and sending an important message … to the entire world — a message of resilience, of Olympic passion, of Olympic values like solidarity and peace.”

To be or not to be? That is the question. Six months from now, these words will be declared: “Let the games begin!”

Categorized as Olympics

2021 Cebu Marathon

Over 1,400 runners have registered thus far for the 2021 Cebu Marathon Virtual race. I mean “thus far” because, while the deadline was originally set last Thursday night, another 10 days were added to accommodate those who have yet to join. The new and final deadline is on January 10. 

If you’re one of those who occasionally runs and walks, join the race. In case you’re unfamiliar with how a virtual race goes, it’s simple. You run or walk at your place and time of choosing. What’s important is you record and complete the distance within the cutoff time.

It’s 2021! There’s no better way to start the year than to set a target and to accomplish it. The targets are doable. There’s the 15K distance. To the non-athlete, covering 15,000 meters by foot seems far. Yes, it’s the 5K distance from USC Talamban to Ayala Center Cebu — multiplied by three. It’s not a “walk in the park.” But if you consider that you’re given four hours to complete this distance, it’s achievable. 

Half-marathon. This is the next option. This one measures 21 kms. That’s the 10.5K distance from USC Talamban to SM Seaside Cebu — multiplied by two. The 21,000-meter stretch looks daunting. But if you’ve been running or walking far distances for sometime, this is a good target. The cutoff time is very kind: five hours. (As comparison, the Milo Marathon 21K has a 2.5-hour cutoff time for you to avail of the medal. This doubles that deadline.) 

Finally, there’s the 42K. This one I don’t recommend unless you’ve been a serial runner or one who’s willing to endure suffering and pain. The cutoff is a very unselfish 10 hours. 

Why run and walk and join the Cebu Marathon? 

First, it comes at the beginning of 2021. After the frightful and horrendous 2020, no year was as highly-anticipated and welcome as this new year. And for you to join a physically-demanding race and to raise your arms and smile at the finish is an accomplishment that will carry over for the remainer of 2021. You’ll feel confident, reassured and optimistic (“positive” is a word that I would have used.. except now).

Second, it’s 1521 plus 500 years. This year is a historic moment for the Philippines and, in particular, our very own Sugbu. Joining the Cebu Marathon virtual race and completing the distance will mean being part, in your own way, in the celebration. It will also mean receiving not only the well-designed Finisher’s Shirt but, more importantly, the Finisher’s Medal with the number “500” engraved on the metal.

Third, no New Year’s Resolution is complete without a fitness goal. Once you join and complete the 15K or 21K or 42K, this will trigger a perfect January start for your fitness journey that will reverberate in the coming 11 months months. You’ll be off to a good new year’s start.

To join, visit