Cebu Megadome: What we needed yesterday

This is NOT the Cebu Coliseum

Last Saturday night, I parked near Colon Street, strolled about 157 meters, and stepped inside the Cebu Coliseum.

San Miguel Beer, the most famous bottle ever produced in this country, paraded 6-foot-6-tall giants who dribbled and dunked as the building’s parquet floor shook. It was the PBA—“Live In Cebu!”—and I arrived midway through the second quarter to watch the Don-Don Hotiveros-less SMB versus the Red Bull Barako contest.

The game was hot! Oven hot. You see, while the Cebu Coliseum is no longer called just “Cebu Coliseum”—they’ve added a first-name and named it “NEW” Cebu Coliseum—I couldn’t figure out what was new about our city’s only sports arena. New? Ha-ha. Instead, I suggest to replace that word with another three-letter word: Hot.

The “Hot Cebu Coliseum.”

Barely seven minutes after I sat down on the front row of the Lower Box, trickles of sweat slipped down my cheeks. And they said this place had air-conditioning? I wonder if those cooling units were the same ones from 1879—the year the Cebu Coliseum was born. (Just kidding. I tried to research when it was built but couldn’t find the answer. But this I’m sure: it was decades and decades and decades ago…)

Isn’t it time for Cebu to have a real NEW COLISEUM?

Imagine with me. Imagine if this proud land of ours, if this city and province that we call “RP’s Best” while those from Manila call “taga-probinsya,” imagine if we had a 25,000-seater arena?

Where to hold Dennis Rodman and his Bad Boys? No problem. Where to stage a future Madonna concert? No problem. Where to hold a Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal exhibition? No problem. Where to hold the Binibing Pilipinas? No problem. Where to hold the World Wrestling Federation rumble?

Sayang. Remember then-governor Pabling Garcia proposed that we build the Cebu Megadome? Where the CICC is now located? Remember that? Had that pushed through—at only a fraction of the CICC’s cost, P250 million—Cebu would be a world-class sports destination today. We’d bring in more tourists. We’d bring in more of our neighbors from Bohol and Cagayan de Oro and Dumaguete to watch and applaud and scream from the stands. And best of all, we’d have no problem where to hold the World Cup of Boxing.

Two months ago, I spoke to Michael Aldeguer, the dashing young son of Antonio Lopez Aldeguer (ALA) who wore a black suit with a silver tie during the Boom-Boom Bautista and AJ Banal fights in Las Vegas. You know what, according to Michael, is Cebu’s problem with the World Cup?

It’s not the fighters. Boom-Boom and AJ won and they’re hungry to gobble nachos and enchiladas with the Mexicans. It’s not the money. Aldeguer has lots and the Cebu City government, with the backing of Mayor Tommy and Councilor Jack Jakosalem, has lots. It’s not the Cebuano audience. There’ll be more of us spectators than there are seats. Remember “Moment of Truth” last March? The Cebu City Sports Center bleachers overflowed. So what’s the problem?

The venue. Why? Because the World Cup of Boxing has to be fought on Saturday night in the US. And Saturday night there means, to us here, Sunday morning. Now. Can you hold a Sunday morning fight—from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.—at the open-air Cebu City Sports Center? Sure you can. But the spectators around the boxing ring will be fried, cooked, torched by the sun. And the whole Sports Center will flood with sweat.

The World Cup of Boxing needs an indoor arena.

The New Cebu Coliseum? Don’t make me laugh. Or sweat.

The PBA in Cebu is hot? Yes and No

Last night, I watched San Miguel Beer come-from-behind to beat Red Bull Barako, 98-93, in a PBA game at the Cebu Coliseum.

The game was hot!

Sitting inside the Cebu Coliseum felt like you were being cooked inside a La Germania oven. It was that hot. And they said it had air-conditioning? I’ve been to both venues and must say, though it’s smaller, the Mandaue Coliseum is better: you don’t have to sweat as much as Olsen Racela.

The San Miguel-Red Bull game? It wasn’t hot. The stadium wasn’t 75 percent full. The Lower and Upper Box bleachers were crowded but in the General Admission section, it was mostly vacant. The game itself was unexciting. Maybe because Don-Don Hontiveros (who’s with the RP National team) wasn’t playing. And isn’t Don-Don the Cebuano Idol of this land, ever since the days of the Cebu Gems?

The game lacked the moments when your palm would turn moist, when your neck will loom out and your eyes enlarge, when your heart pumped 128 times per 60 seconds.

The part when the crowd got most excited? No, not during the game. But during break time when T-shirts were hurled via slingshot to the hungry and sweaty Cebuanos.

Now. Was this a PBA game or a carnival?

The Philippine Basketball Association, in my opinion, has to reinvent itself. Popularity has dwindled. Fans no longer scream as loud. The game has to regain its dribble.

Cebu City Councilor and most-bemedalled coach Yayoy Alcoseba (right) with Patrick Gregorio, the man groomed to head the Samahang Basketbol Pilipinas (SBP)-BAP

Rey Pages: Our Family Superstar

LAST April 29 in Valencia, Bukidnon, our family held a reunion in honor of my grandmother, Dr. Paulina “Bing” Pages, who celebrated her 84th birthday. In attendance were my dad and his brothers and sisters, including the most known “Pages” in our clan… Rey Pages.

Here’s an article I wrote about my uncle in September of last year for Sun.Star Cebu…

He is the most famous member of the family. Up until today, over three decades after he first slipped on that green jersey named Crispa Redmanizers, whenever I introduce myself, people always stop to ask, “Are you related to Rey Pages?”

I am. I’m proud to call him “Tito Rey,” the younger brother of my dad who once stood as Cebuano Idol, more famous than any other sportsman during his time.

Last June of this year, we were at the San Remigio Beach Resort for the family’s biennial reunion. After the usual “hello’s,” we escaped to a familiar scene: that tall circular steel rim hanging with the net and, on his hands, an orange ball.

“How many can you shoot?” I asked. He smiled. And went to work… “One, two, three…” I counted. “Four, five, six…” Every smooth release of the ball, every follow-through, every swoosh of the ball to the bucket, he stood relaxed. “Seven, eight, nine…” 10!

An hour or so later, the boys had crowded the court and a four-on-four ensued. Drilling 20-footers as effortlessly as a little boy would throwing pebbles into the lake, guess who scored the most points?

Rey Pages’ story began in the mid-1960s at the University of San Carlos. He scored the most points. People clapped. They screamed. He moved to the Colegio de San Jose-Recoletos and averaged more than 18 points, back when they had no three-pointers. For two years, he played Batman-and-Robin on the rectangle floor with his best friend, Bernard Fabiosa.

Rey Pages, a star? No. Superstar.

In college, he was plucked from Cebu and asked to strip and wear all-green. At La Salle, he became the team’s second-highest scorer (behind Lim Eng Beng). Next, he hopped to the Concepcion team before moving to the squad that immortalized his name…

Crispa. To those who followed the PBA in the ‘70s and ‘80s, didn’t you just love those days? I miss those days when you only chose between two: green or red, Crispa or Toyota.

From 1974 to 1981, Rey Pages donned the Crispa uniform. You know his friends. Atoy Co. Philip Cesar. Bogs Adornado. Abet Guidaben. Bernie Fabiosa. Johnny Revilla. Rudy Soriano. Freddie Hubalde. You also remember Team Toyota: Robert Jaworski, Abe King, Francis Arnaiz, Ompong Segura and, of course, Ramon Fernandez.

“What reminds you most of those days?” I asked.

“1976,” he said. “The year we scored a grand slam. As prize, we joined the Goodwill Games. We went to Hong Kong, then to Hawaii.”

Back then, Rey Pages, all of 6-foot-1, stood tall. Twice they traveled to Hawaii, four times to Hong Kong. He owned a brand-new Mitsubishi Galant, then later a hatchback two-door Toyota Corolla SR, then a sporty Mitsubishi Celeste.

He was so popular that his younger sister Grace (Vargas) became well-known at her Insular Life office because “she’s the sister of Rey Pages.”

In my case, I was barely 10 years old then but I recall that whenever he’d visit Bacolod, our house grew chaotic and people crammed to see him throw hoops at our backyard court.

My uncle Rey (left) with my father Bunny and my little brother Charlie


After eight years with Crispa, Rey moved to Utex Wrangler in 1982. As fate would have it, he dislocated his shoulder. It turned so painful that, at a youthful age of 29, he quit.

Today, almost 25 years since, Rey Pages has lived the non-pro basketball life. He relocated to Los Banos, Laguna, where my grandmother, Dr. Paulina “Bing” Pages, was a top botanist at U.P. He went into business: from landscaping to the supplying of plants (you see those coconut trees at Shangri-La in Mactan, many were supplied and planted by his men). Now, he’s into the selling of vehicles in Calamba, Laguna. He lives with his wife Gloria and they have many children. No, not the ones born by them but those in four legs. “We have 30 dogs and cats,” he said. “They climb the table, sit beside and eat with us. They sleep with us.”

Basketball? In smaller leagues, he played on. When called to play a Crispa exhibition game against Manny Victorino and Jimmy Santos, in six minutes he drilled 12 points. In their league in Laguna, he would score 30-plus points. And this was against 20-year-olds. He is 53.

Last year, he received news from the doctor that tore him: “Stop playing!” he was told, after he tore ligaments in his left knee. “Play and you’ll be in a wheelchair for life.”

Rey Pages? Quitting basketball? Is this possible?

Not during our reunion. Not when that basketball continues to dribble inside disguised as his heartbeat. Not when you score 10 out of 10.