Dr. Rhoel Dejaño reflects on SHS-Ateneo’s win

Dr. Rhoel Dejaño is one of Cebu’s top sports doctors because, apart from spending time inside his clinics at Perpetual Succour and Chong Hua, he ventures out to personally supervise the fitness needs of his patients and athletes.

The Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu is one such school. Since 2011, Dr. Dejaño has assisted the school’s basketball program. (In 2010, he also helped CEC win the Cesafi trophy.)

After SHS-Ateneo triumphed last Saturday in the deciding Cesafi Game 3 against the University of the Visayas, I asked Rhoel to ponder on his team’s success and his personal involvement.

Here’s Dr. Dejaño: “As their team physician and conditioning coach, preparations started when the team was completed last summer. Daily strength and conditioning sessions were done.

“I had to individually assess each individual’s fitness level… see how they move, how they run, how they jump. In other words, look at their physical attributes or athleticism. From there, I can design a program that will improve whatever inadequacies they have and make them perform better.

“I also teach them proper diet that includes what type of food to eat and what not to eat and what to drink and what not to drink. You’d be surprised that our players do not drink soft-drinks and most sugared drinks.

“Injuries are also addressed right away so that when the game season comes, they are in tiptop shape. One thing that is very admirable with Coach Rommel Rasmo is that he has a very open mind. He collaborates with me on matters concerning the health and fitness of our athletes.

“In game 2, when SHS-Ateneo lost to UV, the players were too tense. They felt the pressure of trying to win the championship. Most of our players did not have the championship experience as this was probably their first time to play in front of a huge crowd. Plus, most of their parents traveled great distances to watch the final games.

“In game 3, the coaching staff told them to just enjoy the game and improve on their defense. For my part, during the game preparations and warm up (which I personally handle), I gave them relaxation exercises (e.g., closing their eyes for a few minutes and just think of the happiest moment in their lives ) and some drills to make them focus on the game aside from the regular warm up and stretches that we do. They were fired up and warmed up. This time around, they were ready both physically and mentally. That’s why in the first quarter they exploded with 26 points. The game was physical and fast but I think we prepared them enough for the rigors that come with this type of play. In the end, they kept their cool and composure that made them last the distance. Skills plus Science in the works!”

Dr. Dejaño’s job isn’t done yet. Because while he has won the trophy in high school, his other team (USC) played Game 1 of the collegiate championship versus SWU last night.

Said the tennis-playing doctor: “Can’t relax yet. Feeling the pressure and tension in the college finals. The game preparations are more intense and different because of the scheduling of the games. Imagine playing 3 straight games in 3 days and 2 more games one day apart if it goes the distance. Hopeful USC will make a good fight.”

CESAFI LIVE. For those who can’t visit the Cebu Coliseum, Sun.Star has live coverage. Just visit cesafi.sunstar.com.ph/live.

Categorized as Cesafi

Boy Tiukinhoy speaks

Green wins big in collegiate basketball. The UAAP or, spelled in full, the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines has followed the script of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. or CESAFI.

Cebu and Manila are the same. At exactly 5:55 yesterday afternoon, the La Salle Green Archers defeated the University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers, 71-69.

This is significant for several reasons. It is the first time in six years that a non-blue-colored team won the UAAP. To be more specific, for five straight seasons (2008 – 2012), the Ateneo Blue Eagles won the UAAP collegiate basketball crown. This season, Ateneo — minus coach Norman Black and several top players — missed out on the Final Four playoffs.

In the 2013 UAAP Final, it was La Salle versus UST. Why do I say that UAAP can be likened to the script of CESAFI?

One, the championship series was decided on the very last game. With Cesafi, it was Game 5; last night at the MOA Arena — just two nights after the NBA’s Pacers and Rockets played — it was the UAAP Game 3 finals.

Two, La Salle lost the first game and came back to win their final games. Same with UV: trampled by SWU in the first two outings, they came back to win their final games.

Third, the color — my favorite: green. La Salle and UV both sport the same color while UST and SWU wear the gold shade.

TIUKINHOY. He just arrived from Cologne, Germany two days ago but, forgetting the jet lag, he still managed yesterday to send me some CESAFI highlights.

Felix “Boy” Tiukinhoy, Jr. is the CEO of Virginia Foods, Inc. He is the national head of the Phil. Association of Meat Processors, Inc. On top of that, he was named chairman of the Cebu Business Month next year — a daunting assignment. And, on these sports pages, we know his hot seat position. He’s the Commissioner of CESAFI — an unpaid, pressure-filled, many-people-are-against-you role that he’s assumed since the league started in 2001.


Tiukinhoy (right) with CDN sports editor Rick Gabuya

“SWU beat UV five times during the season (one game in the preliminary games, twice in the semifinals and twice in the finals of the best of 5 games),” Tiukinhoy said. “The 3rd (finals) game would have been the icing for SWU.”

Tiukinhoy estimates the crowd in Game 3 to be only about 1/4 full in the general admission. Fans expected a route against UV.

“I already bought a return trip Cebu to Manila for the 3 referees from Manila thinking that the series would end that night,” he admitted.

But UV won. In Game 4, he estimated the crowd to be only one-third capacity because the fans did not think UV could beat SWU twice in a row.

“Game 5 was a miracle for UV, their fans came in full force, and the general admission was in excess of capacity. I don’t want to get the championship away from UV but with the 24 shot clock that conked out, it was something eerie,” he said.

“A championship game with more than full capacity stadium and only a small blackboard for the scoreboard and a table official watch to monitor games such as 20 seconds to go, 15 seconds to go, 10 seconds to go, 5 seconds to go, etc. — only in the CESAFI finals!

“Kudos to this arrangement goes to coach Yayoy Alcoseba for making these suggestions just to continue the game for the sake of the fans.

“Even if SWU lost the championship, Coach Yayoy Alcoseba was my champion that evening. Congrats Yayoy.”

AYING CASE. On the controversial case, Tiukinhoy had this to say: “I pity Scott Aying at this early stage in his tender years; he has been taught by his parents not to follow rules and regulations and at the same time sanctioned by a Judge.

“You and I know that interference in a league of the rules and regulations from a court of law not from basketball or tennis court would create chaos to any tournament. I will just wait for the final resolution of this issue be it in the Court of Appeals or SC.”

Categorized as Cesafi

Gullas family savors UV (Unexpected Victory)


UV is the University of Vengeance. After leading last year’s Cesafi Finals 2-1, they lost Game 4. Then, in heartbreaking fashion, they squandered an 18-point fourth quarter lead and lost to SWU. That’s last season. This year, they lost five consecutive times — a demoralizing seven-game losing streak to Southwestern.

In the pivotal Game 3 Finals last Sunday, they trailed again; in every single quarter, they were behind. Nine-time champions in the past, we coined the term for UV: “University of Victory.” But it didn’t look that way up until they were victorious in the double overtime triumph in Game 3. Then they won Game 4. And, the “sweetest of all endings,” as the Gullas family would term it, they won Game 5 last Thursday.

“It taught me the lesson that when pride is at stake and when times get hard,” Rep. Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas told me the other night, “you have to take the punches, adjust and never give up. Thats exactly what UV did.”

For the youthful 28-year-old Cebu 1st district congressman, those are mature and significant words.


Want to know the secret of UV, how they adjusted? Here’s Samsam: “SWU’s biggest strength are their starters who play about 37-38 minutes per game. They rely heavily on Tallo, Arong and Mohammed for their 1-2-3 rotation. The main adjustment we made was to play a running game and make all three of them work on defense. We guarded the three of them with all out full-court pressure and we took advantage of our deep bench. Due to this we subbed each player who guarded Tallo and Arong every 3 minutes with instructions to give his all in the 3 minutes he was there. Run on every fast break while also giving him hell on defense every square inch of the basketball court. The result: Arong was too tired to make 3’s during the end of games and Tallo looked winded at the end of games.”

DON VICENTE. The Gullases are known sportsmen. It started with Don Vicente Gullas, the lolo of Samsam. In the 1969 book Man of Vision, Susana B. Cabahug wrote: “Vicente was very sickly as a boy but came through with infantile paralysis, typhoid fever and cholera by intensive physical invigoration and exercise for four years in Maasin, Leyte. When he went back to Cebu he developed his physique by turning to sports. He became an all-around athlete: baseball player, basketball skipper, amateur boxer, tennis player, Roman ring (argulla) artist, and fencer.”

Eduardo or “Eddiegul,” is another sports fan. A Cebu Sports Hall of Fame awardee, he was adjudged “Coach of the Year” by the Philippine Sportswriters Association, the season his UV squad won the national title.

His brother and tennis doubles partner, Jose “Dodong” Gullas, was co-captain of the UV Green Lancers that captured the 1957 national title (they defeated the NCAA champs, Ateneo Blue Eagles, in the first-ever televised game in RP.)

Basketball has dribbled for generations among the Gullases. But Samsam cites one family member who, this 2013, deserves the most praise: his uncle Leo Lucero, the son of Eddiegul’s sister, Cering.

“If there is someone who should be recognized, it’s him,” Samsam added. “Last year he was made the Asst. Team Manager. When the campaign period started, he was the one who handled the team full-time, especially now when I’m usually flying to and from Manila. He is basically the Team Manager. He attends all practices and games and gives the best inspirational speeches before games. Aside from Coach Donbel, Uncle Leo should be given full credit.”

SUNSTAR. Kudos to this newspaper you’re holding, added Samsam: “Papa Eddie, Uncle Dodong, Uncle Jiji, Daddy Didi and the rest of the family have SunStar to thank that they can watch the game (live streaming) right on their living rooms.”

Finally, he ended: “Definitely the best championship I have been a part of. What made it very sweet was the fact that everyone thought we were out and done. People started to quit on us. But never underestimate the heart of a champion, particularly the heart of a Visayanian.”

Categorized as Cesafi

SWU vs. UV: Best ending for Cebu fans

History repeats itself, the cliche goes. After four games in the Cesafi Finals, it’s two-all. Last year, the ending reached Game 5. That was October 9. Today — 10-3-2013 — it’s happening once more: UV-SWU in one game that will end Season XIII.

The funny thing is, Cebu is the same as Manila. While Cesafi is contesting the final, the UAAP best-of-three is being played at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. And, if you examine the four squads involved, they’ve got something in common: La Salle and UV are color green; UST and SWU are color gold. With the UAAP, it’s their 76th season (ours is the 13th — but prior to that we had the CAAA). Another difference: our Finals is best-of-five while theirs, surprisingly, is a short 2-out-of-3. Which teams will win the gold? Tan-awon nato. Abangan.

LAST YEAR. If you forgot what transpired in the 2012 version of Game 5, it was the most improbable of victories. Against the nine-time champions, SWU was down by 18 points with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter. Second by second, John Pajantoy and his teammates chipped at the lead while UV played “not to lose.” Instead of continuing to attack, UV retreated, wanting to run the clock.

73-72. That was the final score last year; winner: Southwestern.  “I’ve been through many comebacks before but this one is extra special. Historic,” coach Yayoy Alcoseba said. Felix “Boy” Tiukinhoy, the commissioner of Cesafi, ranked that game a “Perfect 10.”

SAMSAM. One person who recalls that moment is Gerald Anthony Gullas. How one year changes a man. Twelve months ago, Samsam Gullas was the UV Team Manager. Now, he’s the youngest congressman of our nation.

“We know we have to lay it all on the table and finish what we should have finished in Game 5 of last year,” said the 28-year-old Gullas, just hours after their Game 4 victory last Tuesday.

I asked Mr. Gullas what he discussed with the team after that double overtime Sunday night win in Game 3. “I told them they weren’t playing like they wanted to win the championship,” said Gullas. “They didn’t play with heart and with pride that a Visayanian is known for.”

Getting angry. Being brutally honest. Samsam continued, “It seemed like SWU was hungrier than us. They always got the offensive rebounds; we missed our free throws and played with no intensity on defense.

“I told them I saw a bit of that in Game 3 in the final 5 minutes and both overtimes and I would want to see it in Game 4. I challenged Mike (Nzeusseu) to minimize the offensive rebounds of Sanjo and asked Wowie to show me everything that made him the rookie MVP last year.”

With these tough words from their young leader, the Lancers pierced the slithery Cobras’ game and won their fourth encounter, 71-66.

“I’m so proud of them cause they rose to the challenge,” Gullas said. “I’m so proud of my veterans Abad and Arong and my rookies as well, especially Codilla and Santillan.”

Looking ahead to their 4 p.m. game today, Rep. Gullas provided me with words that his players have to embrace in order to triumph: Passion. Intensity. Pride. “Most importantly,” he added, “the heart to come back and make history by not only winning our 10th championship but winning 3 straight games after losing I think 7 straight games to the Cobras since last year.”

For us, the fans, hasn’t this been a fun, this-is-what-we-want type of season? SWU glides through the preliminaries and coasts last weekend to a 14-0 scorecard. UV struggles and is submerged in a 0-2 hole. But then… after two overtime extensions last Sunday, it’s the opposite now: SWU has lost two straight. It’s just fitting that the season ends — like the Miami Heat did last June — with one final game.

“The final game is finally here,” Gullas said. “It all ends today. I’m just hoping and praying that we will come out on top this year. I’m going to tell my players that we should win this for my grandmother who will be celebrating her birthday on October 4.”

Congressman (Samsam) or Provincial Board Member (Yayoy), Gullas or Aznar, green or gold, 9-time champion or defending champion… ?

Categorized as Cesafi

Can the Lancers repel the Cobras’ bite?

I called him up at 12:15 yesterday. I thought he’d be having lunch. Instead, my eardrums were greeted with a symphony of sounds: balls dribbling, rubber shoes squeaking against the wooden floor, the referees’ whistles reverberating. They were practicing. Inside Cebu Coliseum. Inside the same arena where, just 17 hours earlier, they could have won it all.

14-0. That was their scorecard before the Sunday night Game 3.

15-0. It could have been that score. They led in the 1st quarter, in the 2nd, the 3rd, the final quarter. In OT. They were just minutes, moments, heartbeats… away from the most dominant season in Cesafi’s 13-year history.

But yesterday, instead of a relaxing seafood luncheon at Yayoy’s Grill, they were there… Practicing. Inside Cebu Coliseum.

Surprisingly, the always-intense Raul Demerry Alcoseba – I call him “King Cobra” – was upbeat when he answered my call. Positive. Expectant. In a good mood. Hmmm… This is a surprise. On second thought, it’s not a surprise. This is a man who, over three decades plus, has been through thousands of pressure-cooker-type situations inside coliseums.

Been there. Done that win. Experienced that loss. It’s called reality. It’s called you-can-never-win-it-all. “I told the players that this is never easy,” Coach Yayoy said. “To win a championship, you need to win three.”

Having led 2-0 in the finals, his Southwestern University (SWU) Cobras was a game away from sweeping the previously-unbeatable University of the Visayas (UV). If you followed the beginnings of Cesafi, you’ll remember that UV was today’s SWU – it was so dominant that it won the first nine Cesafi titles. “I told the players, ‘It’s not about the streak.’ Winning is not given to us on a platter. We have to be patient. We have to learn our lessons,” Alcoseba added.

Maybe it’s the added pressure of the sweep. Maybe it’s the other team, just seconds away from oblivion, rising to the occasion. Whatever it is, it’s good for the public. “This kind of game is good for basketball, for the Cebuanos,” Alcoseba admitted.

Thrilling! That’s what Alcoseba means. And, talking to him yesterday, nothing gives him more euphoria – not even his Provincial Board membership and being a three-time Councilor of the City of Cebu – than a double-OT game with thousands of screaming fans.

“Our players have to be patient,” he said. “We can’t commit early fouls like we did. Like Sanjo. He has to give up some points so he won’t foul out early. He has to be patient in the offense, not exerting too much energy. Not running court to court. Our players have to learn to control the game. It’s called time management. They think that when they get the ball.. hala, discarte.”

Patience. That, in one word, is the command of the King Cobra.

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 8.20.57 AMFrom SunStar Cebu

RYAN AZNAR. I asked for a message from SWU’s athletic director and here’s what Ryan Aznar said: “The guys still believe they can close it out on Game 4, adjustments will be made by the coaching staff for the next game. The school’s support is very important as well as the students, knowing that the entire SWU community is behind them keeps their morale high and encourages them to play hard in every game they play.”

GAME 4. Although each game, especially in the Finals, is important, I believe that today’s game is the most crucial. If SWU wins it, obviously, it’s done. They’re expected to win. After a near-perfect season, they’re still the heavy favorites.

But…. And here’s an important “but,” if UV wins today, wow, this will completely shift the momentum and have the Cobras feeling pressured.

I’ve always loved that winner-take-all ending. Remember Miami-San Antonio a few months back? Game 7? If UV snatches another steal today, imagine the excitement in that Game 5 finale?

LIVE STREAM. I’m out of town right now but, thanks to this newspapers you’re holding right now, I got to see Game 3. Watch it at cesafi.sunstar.com.ph/live.

Categorized as Cesafi

The improbable win of Southwestern University

Yayoy Alcoseba calls the date “October 6” as “historic.” Ryan Aznar, the athletic director (since 2006) of Southwestern University, credits one act of his players for their success: praying before and after each game. Felix Tiukinhoy, the commissioner of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (Cesafi), when I asked him to rank this game from 1 to 10, did not hesitate to say: “The game was a 10! The best so far.”

Everybody’s talking about the incredible victory of SWU over UV last Saturday night. “We were down 18 points with seven minutes and 55 seconds in the fourth quarter,” said Yayoy yesterday. “I’ve been through many comebacks before but this one is extra special. In one final against MisO in Cagayan de Oro, my team trailed the entire game until the very last shot when we won the game. That was special. But this was historic.”

Like many classic battles, this was a seesaw contest. SWU won Game 1. UV won games 2 and 3. SWU won Game 4. Game 5? The winner-take-all finale? It appeared that UV would win. In his Facebook post, Noel Advin aptly coined an acronym for S.W.U.

SWU: “Sorry, Winner ang UV.” Noel correctly wrote that UV fans thought of that acronym for most of Game 5. Until the dramatic last few minutes that ended with SWU’s 73-72 win.

What happened? “When UV had that lead of 18 points with only minutes left, they became tentative,” Yayoy said. “They were no longer aggressive with the offense. They knew that the clock was ticking. Na usab ilang game. They were running the clock, waiting for the time.”

SWU? They had nothing to lose. That’s why Yayoy brought in John Pajantoy. They were desperate. They needed a miracle. “While UV became tentative, we became aggressive. We had no choice. We had to play catch up,” said Yayoy.

UV was playing not to lose — instead of trying to win. And it cost them. The game. The title. The season. “The momentum changed,” said Yayoy. “We fought back. Our players gained confidence.”

My fellow SunStar writer Rommel Manlosa said it best when he wrote: “UV was in total control of the game and showed it had better experience but it was SWU who had the heart and determination to win the championship.”

RYAN AZNAR. One person to be credited for SWU’s triumph is their athletic director, Ryan Aznar.

A former Cebu Country Club jungolfer who is now into practical shooting, Ryan is also a commissioner of the Cebu City Sports Commission and a board member of the Cebu Volleyball Association.

As a testament to his devotion to SWU’s sports program  — and not just the school’s basketball program — Ryan told me that while the SWU team celebrated at (fittingly) Yayoy’s Grill after the game, he head to leave early. The reason: Early the next day, the SWU girls volleyball team will play in the championship as well as the women’s team.

Ryan credits the SWU populace for the support. “Our chairman of board, Maris Aznar Holopainen, and treasurer Ana Alfonso Almario are at the forefront of our entire sports program together with the rest of the board of directors of SWU. Our university president Dr. Elsa Suralta is also credited for her all-out support and to the entire SWU community.”

Mr. Aznar thanks Coach Alcoseba. “His experience was a big factor on us winning; it was his idea that we get foreign players and even UV followed, too. Also, Coach Mike Reyes was a perfect addition to SWU’s coaching staff.”

As to the grand victory party, Ryan said that that will have to wait. “It’s our final exams this week, no time yet to celebrate.”

But very soon, the school founded a couple of years after the war (1946) will soon celebrate and party. On the 12th year of the Cesafi season, the team with the colors maroon and gold finally struck gold.

Gullas: UV ‘overconfident and complacent’

The University of the Visayas is the Michael Phelps of the CESAFI collegiate basketball league. Since the Cebu School Athletic Foundation, Inc. started a dozen years ago, they have won not thrice or five or seven times but 9 of the last 11 years. UV stood for the University of Victory. Not anymore. Not the past two years. Not two nights ago.

“We were overconfident and complacent,” said UV team manager Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, the grandson of Rep. Eddie Gullas. It’s good to hear honest and brutally-frank words from no less than the school owner. Samsam added: “We beat them twice in the eliminations and the semis as well and went undefeated until game 1.”

Compyansa? “Maybe the boys thought it would be easy,” said Samsam. “Hopefully that first game was a wake up call for my players. I hope they will step up for game 2.”

UV forgot that the Southwestern University (SWU) were the runners-up last season. UV also forgot that, last year, it was the venom unleashed by the Cobras that defeated them in the semifinals.

Last year, despite losing the first two games of the CESAFI final to UC, the Aznar-owned team won the next two. I watched Game 5 last year. SWU was minutes away from winning the CESAFI title until a 6-foot-10 giant named Junmar Fajardo and his Webmasters pulled the ball away and held it for good. UC won, 3-2.

“All I want for our bigs to do is to neutralize their bigs,” said Samsam, ahead of Game 2. “I believe the key for us to win is our guard play. If Abad, Mercader and Calo can step up their games for the rest of the series, we will come out victorious.”

UV has to win today’s 5:30 P.M. game at the Cebu Coliseum. If not, SWU will have three chances out of three to win the trophy.

As I’ve said last year, kudos to Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba, the head coach, who took over the SWU team only last season. Thus far, they were the 2011 runners-up and, just two games to go, a possible 2012 champion.

INTERNET. I could not find the time to be at the Cebu Coliseum last Tuesday for Game 1. But I watched the game. Live. How was that possible?

SunStar Sports. If you log-in the website,  http://specials.sunstar.com.ph/sports/,  you’ll be able to watch – in real-time — the game. For free. When I started watching two nights ago, it was the end of the 3rd quarter. SWU led UV 55-50. At that time, there were 50 current users and a total of 124 views.

You will see the SunStar logo at the upper-left and a USTREAM logo on the right. At the lower-right portion of the website, real-time comments are published for all to see and be updated. This is awesome. A UV or SWU follower can be anywhere around the world and watch the game “live.”

SINGAPORE F1. I have two corrections to make. In my last column, I wrote about the Grand Prix night race. Some thought I was in Singapore. Sorry but I watched the race like many of you did… fronting a TV.

One mistake: I mentioned that the Pit Stop, where the cars zoom in and out in as fast as 3.1 seconds, is where they change tires and refuel. It turns out that starting 2010, refueling is not part of the routine. Thanks to Ivi Sumergido and Kerrwin Sanchez for pointing this out.

CCC LADIES. Congratulations to the Cebu Country Club ladies team for winning the Founders Division title in the Sept. 18 to 21 event in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo called the PAL Ladies Interclub.

Hannah Wong, a perennial CCC champion, sent these details: “Our team won Champion in the Founders Division by 30 points despite being just 3 up going to the 3rd day over Alabang. Our leading scorer, Lois Kaye “LK” Go, also won1st runner-up in Flight A and she also won the “Highest Point Scored Award.”

The CCC team: Lalay Lava – Captain; Mercy Bejar; Ryoko Nagai (mother of Gen); Hannah Jayne Wong -ex-jungolfer; Stephanie Marie Abigail “Abby” Olea – ex-jungolfer; Alyeska Yunam -jungolfer; Lois Kaye “LK” Go – jungolfer; Junia Louise Gabasa -jungolfer. Scores are available at palladiesinterclub.com.

Categorized as Cesafi

UC’s pride June Mar Fajardo is PBA’s No.1 pick

I spoke to Atty. Augusto Go last Friday. We talked about the most talked-about player in Philippine basketball this week: J.M. Fajardo.

“Before the PBA Rookie Draft,” said Atty. Go, “when he was selected by Petron as the number one pick, he visited me in my UC office. Buotan kaayo. You cannot find a more humble person. June Mar was so grateful and thankful. But I told him, ‘No, it is I who should say thank you for all that you have brought to our school.’”

(SunStar/Arni Aclao)

The 6-foot-10 behemoth of a Cebuano is now a multi-millionaire Manila resident. Set to earn the maximum salary for a rookie of P150,000 per month in his first year (P225,000/month in Year Two and P337,500 in his third year), he will be dribbling and smiling his way to the ATM machine.

Out of the 39 rookies who were chosen to join the PBA—Asia’s first pro basketball league (and reportedly the world’s second oldest after the NBA)—it was June Mar who was picked by fuel giant Petron.

“This fellow is extraordinary,” continued Atty. Gus Go. “He has no airs in him. You know what? Years back, a school in Manila offered him scholarship with a lot of money and he turned that down. He is so humble. Labing grabeha ka buotan. I’m so happy for him.”

Atty. Baldomero “Merong” Estenzo, the Executive Vice Chancellor for the AWG (Augusto W. Go) Group and a huge basketball fan (he’s also a tennis player), confirms the kindhearted heart of their pupil.

“I admire his loyalty to the school and to the team,” said Atty. Estenzo. “He was offered by Smart Gilas through Pato Gregorio. I told Pato that we need June Mar more than they need him. I am very happy that his loyalty to the school has given him his just rewards.”

June Mar Fajardo’s beginnings at the University of Cebu started five years ago when he approached the school wanting to try-out for the team.

Actually, UC was not his first choice. He wanted the University of Southern Philippines (USP).     “Fortunately for us,” said Atty. Estenzo, “USP does not offer a Nautical Course which he wanted to take at that time.” With his 6-foot-5 height at the age of 17, UC grabbed him to join the varsity squad “without any second thoughts,” said Estenzo.

For five years, he donned the blue-and-gold colors of the University of Cebu. He and Greg Slaughter, who wore green for the University of the Visayas (UV), were the “Twin Towers” of Cebu collegiate basketball. For where could you find, anywhere in our 7,107 islands, two giants at 7’0” and 6’10” but in Cebu?

In Fajardo’s last two seasons with the UC Webmasters, he fulfilled his twin ambitions: CESAFI champions and Most Valuable Player awards.

As a student (from his first year in Nautical, he shifted to Hotel and Restaurant Management), June Mar was just as focused inside the classroom as he was on the basketball floor. “He finished his HRM Course last school year,” said Estenzo. “He is well-liked by his teachers because he always tries his best. I think it is indeed an achievement to graduate considering the practices he has to go through aside from his school work.”

Augusto Go concurs: “In my talks with June Mar, I would always tell him, as I do the other varsity players, that you cannot play sports and basketball all your life. It’s important to get a degree.”

Having personally overseen Fajardo’s improvements with UC, I asked Atty. Estenzo what makes his player, apart from his height, stand out.

“As a player, June Mar is determined. He does not complain about hard practices. He is always the first to arrive in practice. He is also one who is willing to sacrifice to learn. We knew then that he will have a very bright future, barring any injuries or falling into temptations. Seldom can you find a player of his height who moves fast and well. He is also easy to teach.”

GOOD NEWS. Announced Gus Go: “Fajardo is coming over with another UC alumni, Don-Don Hontiveros. Petron will have an exhibition game on Sept. 9 at the Cebu Coliseum versus the All-Star selection of Cesafi.”

The Captain of the University of Champions (UC)

Three weeks ago, I stepped inside the office of Atty. Augusto Go. The room was spacious. Leather seats rested comfortably. Portraits of the young Gus Go decorated the walls. A 32-inch Samsung TV flashed images beside his cavernous, all-hardwood desk. Papers were stacked. Books adorned the cabinets.

Atty. Go was wearing his usual office attire: short-sleeves shirt. He was also wearing a smile. The reason? Plenty. His University of Cebu (UC) had just been declared, thanks to a heart-stopping Game 5 victory over the Southwestern University (SWU), the winners. UC was the University of Champions. Champions in the Cesafi last year, they repeated again this 2011 season.

“Basketball is important for UC,” said Atty. Go, a huge fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. “Basketball is the game that everyone follows.” But UC is not all basketball. One of the largest educational institutions in the country—in a few years’ time it will exceed 50,000 students—UC focuses not on one sport but on all sports.

That morning when we talked for nearly half an hour, his Arnis team members, gold medal winners in another major event, were waiting outside his office. Also standing outside his office lobby were tall trophies.

“Sports is important,” he said, “but education is even more important. We never compromise the studies of our students for sports.”

One example, he narrated, was when a foreign student was once “imported” by UC. A photo-op was taken inside Atty. Go’s office. It turns out, the handshake deal was not formalized because weeks after, that student revisited UC’s officials and asked for more money. He requested that UC match the higher “asking price” of another university.

“I said no,” Atty. Go explained. “We’re not in it for the money.” The player moved elsewhere.

Junemar Fajardo? The 6-foot-10 MVP who’s been the best Cebuano collegiate player the past two seasons? “He came to UC because of our Maritime program,” said Gus Go.

On their Maritime program, the UC owner was at his most excited. “I’m happy to say that UC is the biggest maritime school in the world that caters to foreign companies,” he said. “Each year, we have 15,000 applicants and we accept only 500 scholars per campus. With our four campuses, that’s 2,000 students. They get free tuition, uniforms and more. Plus, when they graduate, they’re eligible to get as much as $6,000 salary per month.”

I knew UC was huge. I also knew that UC excelled in maritime education. But it wasn’t until the first-hand explanation of the founder that I understood their impact.

“Thirty percent of the world’s seafarers are Filipinos,” he said. “By the end of the decade, that will increase to 50 percent.” Today, roughly $16 billion is pumped into the Philippine economy, thanks to our modern-day heroes, the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

“John, would you believe,” said Atty. Go, “that out of the 12 million OFWs, only 500,000 are seafarers… yet they account for 30 percent of the entire $16 billion that enters our economy. That’s the financial impact of the seafarers.”

While speaking, Atty. Go was animated. Given that UC is the world’s biggest, you can imagine the impact he’s making to thousands of people’s lives. “Many who come to us are poor,” he said. “For them to be given full scholarships then work for very high paying jobs, that makes happy.”

Fulfilled. Yes. That’s the word I’d best describe Augusto Go. His work ethic, still reporting to the office daily and commanding his vast empire of schools and businesses, is outstanding. Best of all, I was amazed at his intellect and memory. He recited to me the names of every single foreign company that’s linked with UC. He even enumerated the names of the key officials who landed in Cebu to formalize deals with him. In business parlance, that’s being “hands-on.”

Like a ship commander, he steers the University of Captains.

(Note: Read my October 13, 2010 story about Gus Go here.)

Categorized as Cesafi

Yayoy and the rise of the Cobras

I had a lengthy phone conversation with Cebu City Councilor Raul Alcoseba yesterday. No, our talk did not delve into politics. And, no, I did not ask the three-term councilor if he’s eyeing a congressional seat in two years’ time.

We talked basketball. If you recall, Coach Yayoy joined the CESAFI tournament for the first time. He led the Cobras collegiate team of Southwestern University. In just his first season, he transformed a previously unrecognized SWU team into a title-contender.

What happened this 2011? SWU lost their first two games. At that point, the critics barked on Yayoy and his prediction of the Cobras biting and unleashing venom. Naysayers laughed. But, as each game and week and month progressed, the Cobras turned lethal. They won. At the end of the First Round, they had a positive win-loss record. In the Second Round, they swept the enemies to score 6-0. They beat UC. Then, in a twice-to-beat scenario against UV, they lost the first game. Finally, they rebounded and won the decider in a lopsided (and, yes, controversial) manner.

SWU faced UC in the finals. Again, they were down. Game 1 they lost. Game 2 they lost. Nobody had ever recovered from a 0-2 score-line. But, minute after minute, SWU recovered. They regained their confidence. They won Game 3. They won Game 4.

“This whole season,” said Coach Yayoy, “has been one of downs and ups for Southwestern. We were down in our opening two games. We came back. We were down against UV. We won. We were down 2-0 against UC.”

Win? Did SWU steal that victory, like a Pacquiao over Marquez, in Game 5? No. The fairy-tale ending did not happen. Still, what an amazing, roller-coaster-like, near-championship-victory for the Aznar-owned squad.

“As each game progressed,” said Alcoseba, “more and more fans went to watch SWU. We were not this popular before. Not until this year.”

The reason? “We’re the underdogs,” he said. That’s true. Don’t ordinary followers often gravitate towards cheering for the ones not expected to succeed?

UC is a giant. I’ve coined the nickname for them: University of Champions. They’ve been—and are—winners not only in basketball but everything from athletics to tennis to swimming to name-the-sport-and-UC’s-won-it. One of the Philippines’ largest schools (they’ll soon surpass 50,000 enrollees), UC is a behemoth in sports.

SWU? In volleyball and others, yes. But not in CESAFI basketball. Not until this 2011. Back to Game 5: SWU won it…. Almost.

With three minutes left in the season, they led. It evaporated. With Pao’s double three-pointers, it disappeared. “Inexperience,” Yayoy calls it.

Still, the season was a success. “The support of the SWU management was all-out,” said the coach. Specifically, Maris Johana Aznar Holopainen, the chairperson of the Board of Trustees; Annette Alfonso Almario, treasurer; Andrew Aznar, team manager; and, my good friend and an impassioned sportsman, SWU’s athletic director, Ryan Aznar.

One name also emerged in our phone conversation: Michel Lhuillier. Though not an owner of the team, thanks to his over 25 years of close ties with Mr. Alcoseba, M. Lhuillier supported the SWU team in many ways. The uniforms. Extra support when they reached the finals. And, most of all, Michel funded the TV coverage on SkyCable.

“Showing the games on TV was important,” said Alcoseba. “The Cebu Coliseum was over-capacity. More wanted to watch but could not be accommodated. The airing of the games gave plenty the chance to see this season.”

This season, of course, turned out to be one of the 11-year-old CESAFI league’s most enthralling. Both the high school and the collegiate finals reached the precipice—the Game 5 finale.

“Our season is not finished yet,” Alcoseba said. On Nov. 27, both UC and SWU will play in Ormoc. They’ll face the Mindanao and W. Visayas champions, respectively. If both win, they’ll meet again on Nov. 28. The winner? That team will represent Vis-Min in the Phil. Collegiate Champions League in Manila.

Game 6, UC v. SWU? Abangan.

Categorized as Cesafi