Super Bowl

In the United States, the most watched annual TV event is not The Oscars or the Trump-Biden debate or even Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

It’s the National Football League (NFL) championship game that’s held every first Sunday of February. Over 100 million American viewers congregate and watch the Super Bowl.

Tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. (Phil. time), it’s the 55th Super Bowl and it’s expected to be spectacular: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) vs. the Kansas City Chiefs (14-2). 

QBs. The most important player in a football team is the quarterback — and the two playing tomorrow are the most sensational. 

Tom Brady is considered the Michael Jordan of American football. He’s playing in his 10th Super Bowl and, if he wins, he’ll collect trophy No. 7.

Brady won six Super Bowls in 20 years playing for the New England Patriots. He transferred to Florida last March and may win the title on home soil — the first team in Super Bowl history to play in their home stadium.

Patrick Mahomes is the younger Mr. Brady. They have an 18-year age gap (25 vs. 43 years old). Only in his fourth year in the NFL, Mahomes has already collected the MVP crown (2018) and will aim to win his second consecutive Super Bowl ring tomorrow.

I suggest you do as I’ve done the past weeks: visit YouTube and type his name and you’ll be presented with a deluge of Mahomes wizardy. You’ll find out why he’s called “The Magician.”

LIVE WATCH. I’ve had the privilege, back in Dec. 2014, to watch a live game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. The day after our arrival in New York, my close buddy from the high school days, Ping-J Villegas, picked me up in his BMW convertible. Inside the open air 82,000-capacity Metlife Stadium, it was freezing cold but the atmosphere was electrictrifying — and that was just a regular game. 

IT’S ENTERTAINMENT. The Super Bowl is not only about the game but also about the Half-time show and the TV commercials.

Everybody looks forward to the half-time show. I’ve watched plenty and my favorites include the performances of Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Madonna and Katy Perry. Last year featured J. Lo and Shakira. My all time favorite is still Michael Jackson in 1993 in Pasadena, California. For tomorrow’s extravaganza, it will be by the singer The Weeknd.

Everybody looks forward to the Super Bowl commercials. Yes, while we all normally dread and skip the ads — not tomorrow. The most expensive advertisements are sprinkled throughout tomorrow’s contest. How much? A 30-second spot will cost $5.6 million. In Phil. pesos, that’s P280 million.. Over P9 million per second! Crazy rates but you have over 110 million eyeballs watching your product or service. Some of the best ads that I’ve seen include those from Budweiser (frogs), Pepsi and Doritos (grandpa ashes).

Back to the game: Who will win? The Chiefs are favorites but the sentimental choice is the Bucs. In this “greatest of all time” trivia, it will be fun to watch if the Baby GOAT can beat the GOAT.

Pinoy Pride Chicken in Ubay, Bohol


Two Sundays ago, I watched an activity that I had longed to watch for years: Cock-fighting.

Upon the invitation of my father-in-law, Atty. Jacinto “Jack” Mendez, we went to Ubay, Bohol. It was their annual fiesta and we were 11: Joining Jasmin, Jana and I were Jourdan and Jingle Polotan; Francis, Michelle, Micco and Micaele Palmares; my parents-in-law Jack and Malu Mendez.

In Ubay, we inhaled the fresh breeze from the Mendez resthouse-by-the-sea and gorged on eat-all-you-can-finish crabs, humba, shrimps and wasay-wasay shell.

That Sunday, after hearing mass, the three Js – Jack, Jourdan and John — drove to the Ubay Sports Complex. It’s an indoor facility where basketball games are played and beauty pageants are organized. But on that morning, it was a different pageant: Cock-Fighting!

Outside the gym, dozens congregated – many, feeling like the Freddie Roaches of Bohol, were holding their prized possessions: their fighting cocks.

There was an entrance fee. And it wasn’t P25 or P35 cheap — it was P150. Jourdan and I paid P300. Guess what? After being given the ticket, we were stamped. Not the customary Waterfront Hotel-style stamp on the wrist. We got the stamps on our necks! Ha-ha. This is going to be fun! I said. Excluding the “chikinini” that we all got in high school or college, it was the first time I had a mark on my neck. Great start.

In the middle of the gym stood the “boxing ring.” Built for the weekend fiesta, railings enclosed the square. Plastic seats and wooden tables surrounded it. Sand covered the floor.

It was 11 A.M. and, in a few minutes, a once-yearly contest will happen. It’s called “Karambola” and it’s not the usual battle. Because — like in boxing – it’s normally one vs. one; but in karambola, they throw all fighting cocks in the arena at once and, whoever doesn’t (pun intended…) chicken-out and whoever emerges as “the last chicken standing” is declared the winner of P10,000.

Imagine this type of free-for-all in boxing? Or in MMA? An enclosed, Octagon-like auditorium and, after 20 warriors are released, whoever is standing alive is the winner. Crazy thought.

It’s like Gladiator. Only, this wasn’t a movie set in Rome but a thrilling Battle of Bohol starring animals that have made KFC, Max, and Sunburst famous.

As the dozens of chicken crowed and the excitement heightened, the emcee grabbed the microphone and made a roll call of each entry. Each fighting cock was representing their barangay! Wow. There was a giant “kabir” that was, literally, “heavyweight.” There was a midget participant. Yes, only half the size, he was quick-footed. (Able to hop and bounce away, he was hardly touched in the actual fight.) Each fighting cock was outfitted with a sharp blade.

Vice Mayor Constantino Reyes, who sponsored the 10K prize money, welcomed the participants. He made special mention of a special man seated beside me and Jourdan: the highly-respected Ubayanon, Jack Mendez.

A priest said a prayer! Would you believe that. As if to bless the about-to-be-slaughtered, this opening act in Ubay beats Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas.

Finally, after a countdown, the 20 or so fighters were jointly released. It was a mad scramble. In one corner, three fighting cocks would tussle. Some jumped and escaped the blades. Feathers flew. Blood spilled on sand. Necks were slashed. Lifeless chicken would, one after another, be left sleeping forever. Dusts of sand would fly.

At the sidelines, the owners would scream. They’d jump if their warrior would score a kill. Some winced at the brutality. Within minutes, two men entered the ring and grabbed the dead. They’d throw them outside, in a corner. After several minutes, half of the fighters were comatose, dead or too scared to fight and had to be plucked out.

Finally, nearing 20 minutes, only three survived. Two handlers would engage them one after the other. In the end, the one owned by Tata (below photo) was declared the winner.


What a first-time experience! No wonder every Sunday, when Pacman’s not on TV, hordes of men would flock to these arenas and gyms. It’s heart-pumping. It’s life or death. It’s MMA and blood minus real people.

What’s cool in hot Manila: Ice Hockey

Four weeks ago, when my three-member “JP” family of Jasmin, Jana and myself visited my youngest brother Michael, who’s now studying as a freshman at the La Salle-St. Benilde, we chanced upon entering the largest shopping complex in the country—and, according to Forbes magazine, “the 3rd largest shopping mall in the world.”

Mall of Asia. If you’ve ever been to our capital city and found time to shop, linger around, stroll, munch on Krispy Kreme donuts, watch an IMAX movie or, as we all love to do, “window shop,” chances are you’ve visited SM’s Mall of Asia.

I’ve stepped inside thrice. And, when we discuss the topic that’s dissected on these pages—Sports—I’ve written an article or two about bringing my nine-year-old daughter Jana to do ice-skating. And, just the same in this trip last month, Jana spent three hours gliding on ice, swaying her hips right to left, pushing forward with the ice blades.

We thought that was it. We concluded that MOA (the mall’s shortcut name)—a mall and not a coliseum—offered no other game.

Wrong! Because after we partook of a late dinner and, on the way out to find a taxi, our group of five—Jasmin, Jana, my brother Michael, his girlfriend, June Jumao-as, and myself—found ourselves strolling near the Ice-Skating Rink. Guess what our eyes witnessed?

Hockey. Yes. The sport that’s as foreign to the Philippines as bobsledding is to Ethiopia or marathon-running is to Antarctica.

When SM built the Mall of Asia and it’s ice-skating facility back in May 2006, it did not scrimp on money. Instead of building a tiny facility that can only house ice-skaters, it built an imposing rectangle that’s Olympic-size. Plus, more amenities: A giant electronic screen loomed to show the score; Bose speakers wrapped the rink and echoed disco music; a giant Mt. Everest picture towered to add a perfect cool to the word “cool.”

Who did we see? Americans. Canadians. Caucasians. Out of the 15 players who swung the puck with the stick, I counted five of them. Which is to be expected. Since hockey is a sport famous in winter countries—think of Finland, Russia, Slovakia—then it’s but natural to see plenty of them in RP soil.

We also saw girls. Yes. While we watch the National Hockey League (NHL) on ESPN and see that it’s an all-boys game, at the Mall of Asia, two girls with long, flowing hair mixed with the boys.

The game was six against six. And just like what we see on TV, that Monday at 9 p.m., we saw a reenactment. They wore helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, padded shorts, shin pads, gloves. Protection, as we know, is top priority in hockey. With razor-sharp metal blades on the skating shoes and hockey sticks that can kill with a spank on the face—not to mention all the shoving and bumping—hockey is, as we know, not a game as safe as chess or ping-pong.

Sitting at the sidelines watching for 30 minutes, we were treated to The NHL In Manila. One Caucasian wore a red jersey with the flag of Canada. Another glided on ice like a ballerina. Another maneuvered the slippery ice like the Michael Jordan of hockey, Wayne Gretzky.

We saw sprints. One player dashed to the goal. Teammates passed. Opponents intercepted. Two referees blew whistles.

We saw how the goalie is the team’s pivotal player. Like in football, if the goalie thwarts every attempt, the opponent can never win. This applies even more so for hockey where the goal box is narrow and the goalie is fully-padded and looms large.

We saw the significance of height. The taller the player, the faster he can glide, the longer his reach to catch the puck. Like in basketball and swimming, height is might.

What a sight at night!

So, the next time you’re up north and happen to stroll inside MOA, wait until the mall closes at 9 p.m. Then you’ll see winter in Manila.

‘White Christmas’ in Manila

Did you know that in our country’s capital city, it snows? Yes. Just like in those Christmas movies or, if you’ve been to Boston or Berlin in February, a place where it’s, like the song… White Christmas? I’m not kidding. I saw it, felt it, smelled the white flakes, and slipped on slippery ice. It’s called the SM Mall of Asia.

Three weeks ago, my wife Jasmin and I brought our eight-year-old daughter Jana to Manila. Right after landing, we wasted no time in hailing a cab and zooming straight to the sixth largest mall in the world. Snow? Inside? For real? Yes. It’s called the Ice Skating Rink. And ever since we brought Jana there last year, she’s been pleading to go back. And so we did.

The World’s Third Largest Sporting Event? You’d be surprised

Behind only the Olympic Games and the FIFA Soccer World Cup, guess what tournament sells two million tickets and captures up to an accumulated four billion TV viewers in over 200 countries?

If you guessed Formula One racing—with Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen sprinting 328-kph to the Brazilian Grand Prix finish line at 12 midnight (RP time) later—you’re, sorry to say, incorrect. The answer?

The 2007 Rugby World Cup. It happens only once every four years and the championship between England and South Africa was aired live over Star Sports just hours ago—today (Sunday) at 3 a.m.

Bill Uybengkee

Our bowlers—pardon the pun—bowled over the competition. Really, they did. Led by the husband and wife team (probably the best in the whole country) of Bill (above photo, 2nd from right) and Cynthia Uybengkee, our team composed of Ben Miranda, Ernest Tan, Docdoc Gothong and Sidney Guani won as Team Champion, Team Highest Single and Triple, Highest Men’s Single (Docdoc Gothong scoring 244) and Highest Women’s Single (Cynthia Uybengkee, 180).

Paeng Nepomuceno was a guest. And on Saturday night when he stepped on stage, there was a gasp from the crowd. Paeng is 50 years old but he looks as fit as a 21-year-old bodybuilder. His left arm—the one he used to win four World Cup titles in three decades—was as thick and muscular as any athlete’s leg.

Blood? Broken noses? Yes… Not this Football

Among all the sports that dribble, bounce and fly in our city, one of the newest is Flag Football. It’s been sprinting on the green lawns of Cebu for only three years now. It’s still an infant. Right? Not true. The Cebu Flag Football League (CFFL) now boasts of over 550 active members. Quarterbacks. Wide Receivers. Men. Women. Yes, lots of girls. Spiked shoes. Bandanas. Shin guards. Flags sticking out at the hips.

My favorite ‘Quotable Quotes’

I love reading quotations. They’re quick, at times funny, and always mind-provoking. Take what Muhammad Ali once said: “I’m so fast I could hit you before God gets the news.”

My favorite? “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot… and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why…. I succeed.”

Who said that? (Clue: Read on… he also said No. 17.)

1. “My doctor told me jogging could add years to my life, I told him ‘Yeah, since I began, I already feel 10 years older!’” – golfer Lee Trevino
2. “The man who will whip me will be fast, strong and hasn’t been born yet.” – Muhammad Ali
3. “Golf is the only game where the worst player gets the best of it. He obtains more out of it as regards both exercise and enjoyment, for the good player gets worried over the slightest mistake, whereas the poor player makes too many mistakes to worry over them.” – David Lloyd George
4. “Brazilian football is not only a sport. It’s a kind of stage play, a theatrical movement.” – Muniz Sodre
5. “When I was 40 my doctor advised me that a man in his forties shouldn’t play tennis. I heeded his advice carefully and could hardly wait until I reached 50 to start again.” – Hugo L. Black

Your chance to be Spiderman!

Name me a child—or adult—who doesn’t like Spiderman. I have one: my mother-in-law, Malu Mendez. She dislikes spiders. No, make that hates spiders. Anything brown and web-like and crawling with eight legs, she stays at least 957 feet away. But Spiderman? Because of Jana, her grandchild, she’s willing to catch a glimpse of the movie.

Spiderman is in Cebu! No, make that Spider-men. They number hundreds. Young and old. Some as young as four and some as old as 50. They come in different shapes, short and tall. They all share one passion. Crawling. Vertical crawling. They love to stare up the ceiling, plant their four legs on the wall and climb.

Spider-men. Wall-climbers. The same species.

The first time my daughter Jana, now eight years old, tried wall-climbing was two years ago. Jourdan Polotan, the muscleman of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP), invited John Ligan and Ferns Uy and our children to Metrosports.

At first, Jana trembled at the sight of the wall. It stood 24 feet tall. She sat frozen. Then here comes her dad to the rescue… just like the superhero… Spiderman. Never mind the sweaty palms and Ferrari piston-pounding heart beat, I crawled up, up and away. Aha! I told myself.

Jana laughed. She laughed so hard. Why? I found out later: she said I looked like a giant lizard! Then she tried it. Right hand up, left leg up. Step by step, she reached the summit. Fast forward…

Today, Jana is Spider-woman. Since that first climb, we’ve been back every month or two; in each visit, she climbs at least 15 times! Wall-climbing is exhilarating. It’s fun. Here’s why…

1. Wall-climbing builds courage. Believe me, as a first-timer, it’s scary. And that’s the point. To take a risk, to try something different. In life or in business or in wall-climbing—you’ve got to be scared, at first. If your heart’s not pumping full blast, then you’re not taking a risk. Let’s say you’re halfway up—at 12 feet—and you look down. You want to climb down. You don’t. Instead, you look up and aim for the sky. You climb. Once the summit is reached with your bare hands, you grin and scream, “Yes! I made it to the top!”

2. Wall-climbing means child bonding time. John Ligan climbed with his daughter Alison. They did it together, side by side. What a sight! You’re hanging up on air, your daughter’s looking at you and she’s got that worried look, but you smile, give her instructions and say, “You can do it!”

3. Wall-climbing teaches perseverance. I’ve seen Jana shouting the words “Falling” (the signal for you to be lowered) and wanting to stop midway when her instructors urge her on and say, “Almost, Jan… you can do it!” She pushes a few more climbs and makes the top.

4. Wall-climbing is to feel relaxed. Same with life. Even when you’re hanging on to a small form of clay, you’ve got to breathe deep, not look down and not get panicky. Stay cool. That’s a motto in life and in climb.

5. Wall-climbing is safe. In Metrosports (called Vertigo Wall Climbing), look for Tony Go, the head instructor (assisted by Bernie Yu and Jack Culi). They’re a good team. Their English is perfect. They’re polite. They don’t just hold the rope to make sure you’re securely fastened. They teach you. They give you tips. They demonstrate. We asked Tony, who had been wall-climbing for 10 years, to give us a demo. He slipped on his special shoes, covered his hands with powder, and walked vertical. He climbed the most difficult wall—the same one you see on TV with those spiders hanging upside down.

Rates? Reasonable. In Metro Sports, for non-members, it’s P110 for four hours.

Back to Jana: After 109 or so climbs, I no longer tremble watching her brave the 24-foot summit. My only fear? It’s when I climb and she calls me by another name and not Spiderman…. Daddy lizard.

Summer’s here! Time to swim out, not sit in

When I grew up as a young boy in Bacolod City in the 1970s, our family owned one 14-inch black-and-white TV set. Voltes V was my favorite cartoon show. I also loved how Popeye gobbled up that can of spinach, turned muscular, punched Brutus, then won over the thinnest creature shown on TV, Olive. How often did I sit fronting the boob tube? Once a week. For 30 minutes. Maybe even less.

The PlayStation 3 did not exist. The XBox 360, one of today’s most popular gaming devices, wasn’t invented by Bill Gates. Motorola Rzor cell phones weren’t produced. The iPod was a thick box with a cassette tape twirling inside named the Walkman. The Internet? It was decades away and the only “surfing” people understood was on the beach above a surfboard.

That was the 1970s.

Today, young ones clasp with 10 fingers the PSP (for the “young once,” that’s Sony’s popular toy, the PlayStation Portable). Cable TV channels boast of thousands of shows named Kim Possible, Mr. Bean, Raven, and Totally Spies. Today, six-year-olds can “txt” with their eyes closed.

What has this made the world?

It has made our children fat. Lazy. It has made them think less. Sweat less. Do less. It has made them crawl to the computer to E-mail their best friend instead of saying the old-fashioned “I’ll call you!” and talking for two hours on the phone. It has made our children reclusive. Introverts. Like turtles, they turn inside their shells, inside their rooms, inside their computers, inside their friendster accounts. Take this example: Instead of going out to join a karate class, today’s children would rather play a martial arts videogame with a joystick.


Very, very sad.

So here we are, once more, back in this season called Summer. The question is asked of every parent, “What do I let my children do?”

My advice? Go out.

During the next 60 days, when the sun is burning and the skies are light blue and it’s 34 degrees outside and the clouds are puffy and white—take your child out. Literally. Take her out.

Enroll your son on an aikido program. Buy him those white martial arts overalls, let him kick, jump, block and punch. Let him do all those acts in front of a teacher, beside other children—and not on some PlayStation game.

Go out.

Enroll her in a tennis clinic. There are dozens of programs available: Sancase Tennis Club, Casino Espanol, and the Cebu Country Club—which will have national coach Butch Bacani as it’s head.

Basketball? Badminton? Football? Swimming? Bowling?

Every single sport that has a field or a pool or a court or an alley will have a summer program this season. What to join? It’s all up to you. It’s all up to your child.

Not interested in sports? No problem. There are so many other choices available: classes for painting, for cooking, for dancing, for acting…

The point is this: Before the two months pass and the next you realize is your daughter has memorized all the earth’s TV shows, do something. Plan out her summer today.

Go out.

I know, I know. Very often, the words “summer” and “extra expenses” are synonyms. That’s true. But you can also be creative. You can take your child out without spending too much.

When I was no older than nine years old and our family lived in a Bacolod subdivision called Mountain View, my dad and mom did the wisest move any parent can do: They bought me an inexpensive bike. And so I biked. Each morning, I pedaled. Each afternoon, I pedaled. Together with my neighbors, we drove our BMX bikes, raced the asphalt roads, scouted for “damang” (as “kaka,” or spiders are called in Ilonggo) crawling the electric lines, shot hoops at the village court, and pulled our “tiradors” (slingshots) to target birds.

We weren’t inside. We were out.

Finally, here’s one last tip: Summer’s the perfect time to bond with your child. Buy a plastic kite and drive to the Family Park in Talamban. Throw the kite up in the air while your son maneuvers it upward.

You play golf? And want your daughter to learn the game? Enroll her in a JunGolf program. Drop her at the morning’s start. Pick her up. Watch her. Compliment her swing. If you can afford it, buy her a junior golf set. And when she’s good enough to play a few holes, be her partner. Or her caddy. By summer’s end, guess what: Your daughter will be all-smiles, tanned, tired. And, she’d have found a new best friend named Dad.