The 30th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards

The Academy Awards is this Sunday, Feb. 26. It’s that once-a-year moment when all the stars of Hollywood gather and coronate the best of 2011. It’s the same here in our city. Only, this time, it’s sports. Timed just six days after The Oscars, Cebu will have its own version of recognizing the who’s-who of superstars.

Called the 30th Cebu Sports Awards, this event is held every February or March in honor of the previous year’s top sportswomen and sportsmen. Each year, ever since the awarding started in the 1980s, two groups combine efforts to celebrate this event: the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC) and San Miguel Brewery, Inc. (SMB). SAC and SMB will, once again, host the 30th Cebu Sports Awards next weekend — that’s on March 3 — from 3:30 to 6:30 P.M. at The Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu.

The 28th edition with Z Gorres and Antonio Aldeguer

What happens during the Sports Awards? The best of the best climb the stage to receive their plaques or trophies. You’ve got names like world champ Donnie Nietes, chess Grandmaster Richard Bitoon, weightlifter Christopher Bureros and cyclist Niño Surban, among many others. You also have first-time awardees like Millette Chiongbian (who conquered the 2011 Boston Marathon) and Leon Panoncillo, the WBO top honcho.

And, of course, there’s that one person who’ll be adjudged the “Sportsman Of The Year.” He or she is that individual whom the sportswriters — the ones who decide on the awardees — feel contributed most to sports in 2011. Who’s the Sportsman of the Year? That secret — and the Athlete of the Year — will be unveiled on March 3.

The Awards are divided into three categories. There’s the Citation Awardees, many of whom excelled in the national and local scene. There’s the Major Awardees, most of whom performed best in major national or even international events. Then, there are the Special Awards; including a Posthumous Award given to the family of the late long-distance runner, Melinda Ponce.

Join us next Saturday! Admission is free. (Note to all awardees: see you at 3 P.M. on March 3; for further details, call Sandy at 4161122 local 100 or at 0917-6244853). The list…

MAJOR AWARDEES: ATHLETICS: Julius Nierras. ARCHERY: Dondon Sombrio. BASEBALL/SOFTBALL: Roel Empacis, Jonas Ponce, Darius Bacarisas, Jerome Bacarisas, Jasper Cabrera, Ben Maravilles, Oscar Bradshaw. BASKETBALL: UC Webmasters, UV Baby Lancers, Gregory Slaughter. BILLIARDS: Rubilen Amit. BOWLING: Ronnan Barredo, Alexis Sy. BOXING: Donnie Nietes, Leon Panoncillo. CHESS: Richard Bitoon. CYCLING: John Mier, Niño Surban. FOOTBALL: Don Bosco Technology Center HS team. JUDO: Kiyomi Watanabe. KARATEDO: Orencio James delos Santos. RUNNING: Mary Grace Delos Santos. SCRABBLE: Teodoro Martus. SWIMMING: Beariza Roble. TAEKWONDO: Glenn Lava. TABLE TENNIS: Richard Gonzales. WEIGHTLIFTING: Christopher Bureros.

CITATION AWARDEES: ATHLETICS: Irene Baluran,Ernesto Ybañez. AUTOCROSS: David G. Lim. BADMINTON: Banilad Elementary School, UC high school team. BASEBALL/SOFTBALL: Jesse Bernad. BASKETBALL: Britt Carlo Reroma, Jerie Marlon Pinggoy, Dawn Hynric Ochea, Aldrich Ramos, Julio Sy Jr, SHS-Ateneo Passerelle champs, June Mar Fajardo, Andres Paul Desiderio. BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Apple Eve Saraum and Erika Camille Verano of USPF. BOWLING: Cebu Tenpin Bowling Association. BOXING: Milan Melindo, Rey Bautista, AJ Banal, Rocky Fuentes, Sammy Gello-ani. CHESS: IM Kim Steven Yap, CEPCA, Jack Tepora, Daryl Pucdol. CYCLING: Luis Maximo. DRAGON BOAT: Luis Ansag. DANCESPORT: Dancesport Team Cebu City. FOOTBALL: Jun Santillan, Jose Paolo Aragon Pascual, Oliver Colina, Glenn Ramos, Don Bosco Technology Center elementary team. GOLF: Lloyd Jefferson Go, Gio Gandionco. GYMNASTICS: Carmelli Garrovillo, UV team. JUDO: Eichi Yahata. KARTING: Jette Calderon. MMA: Johnlery Cañiga. MOTOCROSS: Jon Eleazar Adlawan. PENCAK SILAT: Marnel Dimla. RUNNING: Merlita Arias-Dunkin, Bayani Alvarez, Emily Chiongbian, Mary Joy Tabal, Mendel Lopez. RUGBY: Noel Flowers, Rose Mae Lanticse, Marie Antonette Gambito, Madille Salinas, Blessie Kate De Los Santos, Aiumi Ono, Eloisa Jordan, Mae Ann Ubaub, Ann Kristine Mae Layumas and Jessica Filoteo. SEPAK TAKRAW: Rhey Jey Ortouste. SWIMMING: Anthony Linn Navarro. TABLE TENNIS: Daniel Jay Tormis. LAWN TENNIS: Jacob Lagman, Arthur Craig Pantino, Cebu International Tennis Centre, Inc. TRIATHLON: Noy Jopson, Rochelle Tan, Lorhiz Echavez-Lopez.

The 29th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards

Every year, the best of the best gather. Boxers. Triathletes. Golfers. Motocross champions. Bowlers. Taekwondo black-belters. Scrabble mind experts. Cyclists. Mixed Martial Artists.

Over 180 of Cebu’s top athletes and sportsmen meet. Some, like Donnie Nietes, are world champions. Others, like Irina Gabasa and Igi Maximo and Arthur Craig “Iggy” Pantino, are the best in their juniors categories. A few — like the Cebu Volleyball Association (CEVA) or the Cebu Tenpin Bowling Association (CETBA) — are organizations. One is a company and family name whose athletic involvement spans decades and a multitude of events: Aboitiz. All are champions and supporters of one discipline: Sports.

The event? It’s this Saturday. And you know what’s the best part? You’re invited.

The past two years — in 2009 when Manny Pacquiao was the special guest and last year, when Z Gorres arose from his wheelchair and walked forward to personally accept his trophy — the Cebu Sports Awards had been exclusive. Same in the years past. Grand Convention Center. Laguna Garden Cafe ballroom. And several other “by-invitation-only” venues. All exclusive.

Not two afternoons from today. You’re invited. The Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC), in partnership with San Miguel Brewery, Inc. with the support of Smart, M. Lhuillier, Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Air21, Rudy Project, Coca-Cola and Citigym, have decided that this 2011 will be unique.

Join us. The time is 3 to 5 p.m. The venue will be Ayala Center Cebu. On the center stage of the mall’s Activity Center, you will see David Lim receive his special citation for the sport of Autocross. Want to snap a photo of golf’s rising star, Gio Gandionco? Sure you can. How about asking the sisters Lorhiz and Loren Dale Echavez–the triathlete and swimming champions–for a picture at the Photo Wall? Sure. I’m sure they’ll agree. This is your one chance out of the 365 days of this season to witness every one of Cebu’s sports heroes in one venue.

Boojie Lim, the patron of chess for several decades now, will finally be honored. He’s the Sportsman of the Year. Dr. Danny Villadolid, one of the most respected of officials in this island, will also be recognized. He receives the Orlando C. Sanchez Award, given to the individual who has contributed his full efforts and time–without much fanfare–to the development of Cebu sports.

Our special guest? The one who’ll receive the Presidential Award? He was supposed to have brought with him a full team of footballers. You know these guys. They’re the Azkals. Yes, had the Azkals flown to Cebu after their 2-0 win against Mongolia in Bacolod, they’d join us on Saturday. They’d be the special attractions. But, no, Baguio is their training camp.

Dan Palami will be here in person on Saturday. He’s the man credited for the rise of the Azkals. As team manager, he single-handedly funded the then-unknown squad. Now, they’re heroes. Palami is the super hero. He’ll give a speech on the Ayala Center stage.

Who is the Athlete of the Year? That one person who will emerge the brightest among the stars? Last year, it was Rubilen Amit, the lady billiards gold medalist. Though small in height, she stood tallest. Who will it be this year? Find out this Saturday. Her or his identity will only be revealed on the spot. Like the Grammys or the Oscars–nobody knows except the organizers. It will be publicly announced by our master of ceremonies, Rico Navarro.

Join us. Please do. You’ll enjoy the two hours.

Now, if you’re an awardee reading this article, please call our Secretariat for a few instructions (Sandy or Emma at 4161122 local 100 or 112.) And, more importantly, if you’re an honoree, bring your whole family. Invite your friends. Ask your barkada to cheer for you.

This is your day. This is a special moment to forever capture. This is your reward for excellence. See you this Saturday.

28th Cebu Sports Awards photos

Dr. Yong Larrazabal (in red) receiving his award from Max Limpag, Raffy Uytiepo, Haide Acuña and John Pages

CERC President Jesse Taborada with Presidential Awardee Z Gorres

Jesse Taborada with his running buddies

(Photos by Kenneth Casquejo)

In fight of his life, Z took a stand

(Photo by Kenneth Casquejo)

Something unusual happened last Thursday. A scene, as described by Mike Limpag, my sports editor, like the ones we watch in Hollywood movies. Only this was better for it wasn’t a reel story… but a real story. It was unscripted, dramatic, spontaneous.

It’s about one man who wasn’t supposed to survive, a knock-out artist who was knocked unconscious last Nov. 13, a patient whose trauma was so severe he incurred hospital bills totaling P25,000,000, a boxer destined to be world champion but instead turned into a champion of life.

Z Gorres, around 9 p.m. three nights ago, stunned the 200 people inside the ballroom of the Casino Español. When his name was called by Rico Navarro, the emcee, as the Presidential Awardee of the 28th Cebu Sports Awards, Z moved. Not to roll the wheels of his wheelchair forward.

He stood up. Everybody gasped. Pushing himself up from his wheelchair and aided by the loving arm of his wife, Datches, he stepped forward. One foot in front of another, his legs quivered. The athlete/awardees cheered like they were spectators. Everybody had goosebumps. We snapped photos. Sabah Fadai, the mixed martial arts champion, cried. Some of the toughest of athletes’ eyes swelled with tears.

“In the 21 years that I have been part of the event,” wrote Nimrod Quiñones, The Freeman’s managing editor. “I’ve never been as moved as the other night when Z ‘The Dream’ Gorres stood up from his wheelchair to receive the Presidential Award given to him by the SAC.”

Nimrod is right. It was the most emotional scene I’ve witnessed of these awards, even more powerful than last year, when Manny Pacquiao joined us in the 2009 edition of the Cebu Sports Awards.

Z Gorres’ courageous act, not to be handed the award but to accept it himself, was that most unforgettable moment. Nobody asked Z to stand. It was his decision. The reason? He wanted to show an example to his fellow athletes what it means to be a fighter. That despite the pain, the difficulty, the suffering of walking, he was telling all… I’m going to stand up and walk to receive my award. What a moment. What a lesson.

What happened next was just as inspiring. Antonio Lopez Aldeguer, our guest of honor, stood on the stage minutes after witnessing the deluge of sympathy and love surrounding his boxer and, in dark black suit that enveloped his broad wide shoulders, said, “I have a five-page long speech that I prepared the past two days and I will disregard this after what I saw. I am here to give an inspirational talk… but what more can I say to inspire you… than what you have seen a while ago?”

ALA was correct. The sight of Z rising and struggling to walk and receive his award was more powerful a message than any words. As Mike Limpag wrote yesterday, “Z GORRES never said a word… but what he did will be remembered, forever.”

Caecent No-ot-Magsumbol, another SAC colleague who writes for The Freeman, summed it up best with her words yesterday: “From A to Z – as in from Aldeguer to Z Gorres – all those who attended the memorable night went home not only with awards, happy thoughts and memories but also learned a valuable lesson in life…

“Z may no longer be able to fight again, but he has already gained a championship belt. No one can take it away from him for he is a champion in life, a living proof on how great an athlete and person he is which the rest of the athletes should emulate.”

From Amit to Z, tonight the superstars shine

March 11, 2010 is the night. That’s tonight. For tonight is the moment. It’s those three hours this evening when fireworks will erupt indoors, cheers will deafen the ballroom, when Z Gorres will receive a standing ovation, when the late volleyball guru Eugene de la Cerna will be honored, when Irina Gabasa will shake hands with Noy Jopson, who’ll greet Rubilen Amit, who’ll smile before world champ Donnie Nietes.

Tonight. It’s that once-every-365-days evening when the top athletes from our Visayan land celebrate. When the Queen City of the South honors kings and princes and princesses of sports.

Tonight, plenty will stand proud. I’ve seen mothers who’ve shed tears, grandfathers who’ve cried as they stepped on-stage to receive the award in behalf of their apo, I’ve witnessed the 7-footer Greg Slaughter tower above his fellow awardee Manny Pacquiao.

Tonight. It’s special. Because, when your name is chosen for the SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards, you are special. Few excel in sports. Fewer get picked as awardees.

Tonight is the night to meet David Lim of autocross, Lorhiz Echavez of triathlon, Jon-Jon Adlawan of motocross, Tonyo Carcel and Jette Calderon of go-kart racing. It’s the evening to meet the awardees who get a kick out of the World Cup in South Africa: footballers Paolo Pascual, Oliver Colina, the Abellana National School, Carmelo Genco, Glenn Ramos, Christian Noel.

Tonight. It’s unforgettable. I say that in advance knowing that, in the dozens of years that I’ve attended these gatherings, back in 1988 when I was one of the awardees for junior tennis, each year is meaningful. I’ll never forget the late Maning Oyson, one of the founders of SAC, who owned a giant personality despite his small size. I’ll never forget Dondon Hontiveros, our speaker two years ago, or Butch Ramirez, one of the friendliest of PSC chairmen, or Michel Lhuillier, many times a Sportsman of the Year.

Tonight is the night. It’s the evening to salute Buchoy. Boxing’s world-champion-in-waiting, he succumbed to a near-death experience. Yet, he survived and, above all, emerged as the world champion of life. For his bravery, his spirit, his willpower and his instincts of survival, Z Gorres will shine, tonight, as an inspiration to his co-awardees. They’ll pose for photos with him, shake his right hand and find that his grip is firm, they’ll applaud Z.

Tonight. We honor the mastermind of the Guinness World Record “7,770” dance production, Edward Hayco.

Tonight is also the occasion to applaud your sportswriters. The women and men who press their fingers against the computer keyboard each afternoon to provide you with stories that amuse, excite and provoke. Tonight is that moment when the reporters, often popular by name but whose faces remain unknown, will take center-stage.

Tonight is the time to thank San Miguel Corporation and Girlie Garces, one of the conglomerate’s top executives, for their year-in, year-out help. Because without SMC and San Miguel Beer, there’ll be no Cebu Sports Awards. The giant company that cultivates Philippine sports is the giant financier for tonight.

ALA? Yes. Tonight, for many minutes, my eyes and ears and all senses will be glued to one man as he speaks and inspires. Our guest speaker, Antonio Lopez Aldeguer, who was born in Iloilo, raised in Bacolod, resided in Cebu, and who has bred world boxing champions, will share with us his universe of wisdom and sports acumen.

Tonight. It’s the evening when you’ll see faces all-smiling. For tonight’s a celebration, a party, a gathering of Smiling People. Fathers will smile. Mary Grace de los Santos, our almost-unbeatable runner, will grin an earful when she receives the trophy from running diehards Max Limpag, Haide Acuña, Raffy Uytiepo. So will Dr. Yong Larrazabal and Jesse Taborada of CERC when they accept plaques for their contribution to popularize running as Cebu’s No.1 recreational sport today.

Today, tonight, what an evening for Cebu.

The Difference between ‘Ordinary’ and ‘Extraordinary’

This article was written two years ago, last March 13, 2008…

Don-Don Hontiveros was scared. Uneasy. Anxious. His hand was cold. He had been in dozens of pressure-packed moments before—like standing on the free-throw line with 0.7 seconds left on the shot clock and needing to shoot both baskets to reach OT—but this was different.

He was standing before a crowd—like he usually did before 12,000 screaming PBA fans—only this time, he was onstage and, instead of gripping an orange basketball, he was holding a black microphone.

Gi kuyawan ko (I’m scared),” Don-Don started off, grinning shyly, as he faced the over 150 athletes, honorees, parents, coaches and sportswriters that trooped to attend last Saturday night’s 26th SAC-SMC All-Cebu Sports Awards.

Don-Don admitted that he wasn’t used to speaking in front of audiences—and, in particular, talking in front of a Who’s-Who list of sportsmen that included, among many, the Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, world boxing champ Donnie Nietes, former champ Dodie Boy Peñalosa, Felix Tiukinhoy, Ricky Ballesteros, Boom-Boom Bautista, Michael Aldeguer and AJ Banal.

Don-Don (left most) with Dodie Boy Peñalosa Jr., Dodie Boy Peñalosa Sr., Donnie Nietes, Boom-Boom Bautista, Z Gorres, AJ Banal, Edito Villamor, Michael Domingo and PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez

But as Don-Don continued to speak, mixing English with Cebuano, he spoke from the heart. He talked of his love for basketball. He mentioned his short height (4’11”) when he started and how his coaches and teammates told him he’d never make it to his dream, the PBA.

He didn’t listen to them. He believed. In himself. He took those words not as insults but as a challenge. And, most important of all, he never, ever let go of his dream.

“I wasn’t born as an exceptional athlete,” he said. “But I practiced harder than everybody else.” When he was a star at the Cebu Gems and opted to join the San Miguel Beermen in the PBA, critics lambasted him for his decision, saying, “You’re an MBA star here! You’re a big fish in a small pond here! Why go to the PBA where you’ll be a small fish in the large ocean?”

He thought hard. Listened. But his heart knew that his dream was to be in the Philippine Basketball Association. And, deep inside, he believed in himself. He believed that he wouldn’t be this “small fish” swimming in a “large ocean.”

Belief. That’s what Don-Don taught me that evening. All champions possess it: Tiger. MJ. LeBron. Roger. Pacquiao.

Unbowed by the criticisms hurled his way, Don-Don Hontiveros jumped and dove into the ocean of the PBA superstars….

Now, years later, we know what happened. A gold fish swimming in the Pacific Ocean? Nah. Don-Don has transformed into a large whale—one of the Philippines’ top basketball stars.

Don-Don continued speaking….. More words struck the audience. But, to me, this was best: When he asked the crowd, “You know the difference between ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary?’”

The crowd stood still. Nobody moved. All ears opened.

“It’s the word ‘EXTRA,’” he said.

I glanced at Michael Domingo and Z Gorres and Boy Cabahug and Jacob Lagman and Irina Gabasa and could see from their faces that, yes, that word—extra—is what makes champions… Champions.

All-Cebu Sports Awards Photos

These photos first appeared last March 13, 2008….

The UV Green Lancers (on stage) with (from left) CDN’s Jonas Panerio and coaches Boy Cabahug and Al Solis

Mary Stephanie Agbay, one of the top awardees for Wushu

Girlie Garces of San Miguel Corporation

Felix Tiukinhoy (right), the Presidential Award recipient, receiving his award from outgoing SAC President (and CDN Sports Editor) Rick Gabuya

Ricky Ballesteros (center), the Sportsman of the Year, with (from left) Manny Villaruel (The Freeman Sports Editor), Girlie Garces, Rick Gabuya and Mike Limpag (Sun.Star Cebu Sports Editor)

Manfred Schuwerk (far right), the Orlacsan Awardee, with Rick Gabuya and Girlie Garces

PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez (far right) inducting the new set of SAC officers (from left): John Pages, Jun Migallen, Marian Baring, Caecent No-ot Magsumbol, Manny Villaruel and Mike Limpag

All-smiles, All winners….