Stars and Spikes

La Salle vs. Ateneo two nights ago was a thriller! Ricci Rivero dunked. Isaac Go scored another game-winning three. Watched by 22,012 fans inside the Araneta Coliseum, the game was a seesaw contest that saw Ben Mbala, formerly a Cebu resident, playing against Kris Porter, a Cebuano. Three-pointers were easily converted like it was the NBA. What a high quality game to end the UAAP basketball season.

VOLLEYBALL. Speaking of Ateneo, we move from basketball to volleyball. This weekend promises to be an exciting one for Cebu volleyball fans. It’s called “Stars and Spikes” and it’s an invitational tournament between the Ateneo Lady Eagles and the Creamline Cool Smashers.

Alyssa Valdez is a true and blue-blooded Atenean who graduated last year. She won’t wear the white-and-blue attire but will don the pink uniform for Creamline. She’ll be accompanied by one of the country’s best setters, Jia Morado. The Valdez and Morado tandem from Ateneo will face their former teammates in a two-day contest.

WLD Promotions is organizing this activity. Led by Mr. Dean Wong, the father of Ateneo volleyball player Deana, this will be a major sporting event for Cebu.

“Stars and Spikes” will kick-off with a volleyball clinic at the USJ-R Basak campus on Friday starting at 2 p.m. (To join, just buy P200 worth of Creamline ice cream products and visit the Facebook page of Creamline Creamy Ice Cream to register.)

The volleyball action starts on Saturday (Dec. 9) with a preliminary game between the lady players from USJ-R and SWU at 3 p.m. This will be followed by the main event between Creamline and Ateneo at 4:30 p.m.

On Sunday (Dec. 10), the preliminary game will feature the varsity men from SWU and USJ-R at 12 noon. The main contest, again between Ateneo and Creamline, starts at 2 p.m.

Venue for Saturday and Sunday is the same: the fully-airconditioned USJ-R Coliseum in Basak. (USJ-R is the school where Deana Wong, one of the stars of Ateneo, finished high school.) Proceeds to this event will be for the benefit of the Cogon Pardo Senior Citizens Association, the Buot Senior Citizens Association, and the USJ-R Athletics Scholarship Program.

Ticket prices are reasonable: P400 for the VIP seats, P350 for Lower Box seats, and P300 for the Upper Box. For ticket reservations, you may call Chona at 0925-5257557 or Judin at 0998-8650322. Tickets will be available to the general public at the USJ-R venue three hours prior to the preliminary game.

Sponsors of this event include Golden Prince Hotel and Suites, Lournet’s Catering, SunLife Financial, CDN, Aison Surplus, Lantaw Native Restaurant, House of Lechon and Thirsty Juices and Shakes.

The complete roster of players include:

For the Ateneo Lady Eagles: Bea de Leon, Maddie Madayag, Kat Tolentino, Jhoana Maraguinot, Jules Samonte, Deanna Wong, Sydney Eleazar, Pauline Gaston, Jenelle Lo, Bettina Abella, Dani Ravens and Kim Gequillana.

For the Creamline Cool Smashers: Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado, Pau Soriano, Rosemarie Vargas, Rizza Mandapat, Coleen Bravo, Ivy Remulla, Jamela Suyat, Carlota Celda, Alex Cabanos, Jonalyn Ibisa, Aerieal Patnongon and Anngela Nunag.

Categorized as Volleyball

Women rule

I’m no sexist but when it comes to sports, the men dominate. Take the PBA or NBA; the Azkals or Lionel Messi. There’s F1 racing, Cesafi basketball, Michael Phelps, ALA Boxing, LeBron and Steph, Gilas Pilipinas and Donnie Nietes.

The one sport where the women prevail? Volleyball. Last Saturday, Jasmin, Jana and I were witnesses to this phenomenon.

It started with the UAAP men’s volleyball championships between NU and Ateneo. I entered the ticket booth and there was no line. The Patron tickets sold for only P200 and it was near-ringside. We entered the gates of Araneta Coliseum at 12:45 p.m. and saw no spectators at the Lower and Upper Boxes and General Admission — and this was the men’s final! 

Women’s volleyball? As early as 12 noon, or four hours prior to game start, a long line snaked outside. When the game started past 4:30, over 20,000 jampacked the Big Dome. People screamed D-L-S-U while pounding on balloon cheering sticks. One half was all-green while the other was blue. Drum-beaters smashed their drum sets with the booming sound reverberating throughout the circular arena.

In my many decades of watching sports — from the Knicks in MSG to Agassi at the U.S. Open to Pacman in Macau — few compare to the hair-raising and ear-defeaning Ateneo vs. La Salle atmosphere.

But this wasn’t men’s basketball; it was something more — and even louder and more thrilling. It was women’s volleyball.

It’s amazing to think that the most popular female athletes are collegiate volleyball players. It started with Alyssa Valdez. I cannot think of a lady athlete who’s more photograhed. When she visits SM, she’s swamped with fans like she’s Anne Curtis. Last Saturday, despite her collegiate retirement, plenty still wore her blue-and-white jersey. Same with the names DE LEON, MORADO and MADAYAG. Their shirts are worn by hardcore fans.

While watching the DLSU-ADMU game, what struck me was this: majority of spectators were female. This is terrific. I cannot think of any other sport where the men are outnumbered in the audience.

Game 2, as many of you saw on TV, was a seesaw battle. You can see it from the faces of the spectators. In one set, you’d stand and clap and scream. In the next, you’d sit downtrodden, quieted by the cheers of the other color. In the end, while Blue won among the men, it was Green who claimed the ladies crown.

My daughter Jana, a resident of Eliazo Dorm, was sad especially because most of the Lady Eagles are her dormmates. It was heartbreaking for team captain Jia Morado, who will be graduating from the Ateneo this month and won’t join next season. Had Ateneo won last Saturday, Game 3 would have been tomorrow — Jia’s birthday.

But this is sport. At game’s end, there is ecstacy and agony. Four years ago, Ateneo won back-to-back; now, they’ve lost the same. But if there’s any consolation, it’s this: the women have triumphed. As the saying goes, “Men rule the world but women rule the men.”

La Salle vs. Ateneo


(Photo by Sherwin Vardeleon/CNN Phils.)

Like the Crispa Redmanizers and the Toyota Tamaraws of the 1970s, like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics of the ‘80s, like Barcelona and Real Madrid in soccer — there’s no rivalry in Philippine sports that rivals the one between La Salle and Ateneo.

One is green; the other is blue. One holds fort at Taft Ave. in Manila while the other is along Katipunan Ave. in faraway Quezon City. And while La Salle features a Green Archer as its symbol, who better to target the bow and arrow than the Blue Eagle?

Since their first meeting as founding members of the NCAA, the two private Catholic institutions have spiked and dribbled and swam against each other since 1924. Would you believe, that’s a 92-year-long tug-of-war.

I witnessed one such clash the other Saturday. And it featured the most popular women’s sport in the country today; the one featuring lady athletes who are celebrities. Women’s volleyball. And it was the first meeting this UAAP Season 78 between the Ateneo Lady Eagles and the La Salle Lady Spikers.

The Smart Araneta Coliseum was divided into two. In one half of the Big Dome, which seats approximately 20,000, you can see one blue color. In the opposite side are cheerers all wearing green. Drum beaters from both squads exchanged firepower. It can’t get more exciting than this.

With the help of my daughter Jana, who’s a first year ADMU student and who resides in the Loyola Heights campus dormitory named Eliazo, she and her tennis varsity teammate Jana Hernandez were able to secure tickets for their parents: for me and Jasmin and for Danny and Chu Fernandez.

DLSU vs. ADMU: Who was I cheering for? Although La Salle Bacolod was my school in elementary, I have since transformed into a blue-blooded parent, thanks to our only child. And so we were seated in some of the best seats in the Ateneo corner. Before the game started, I greeted Rene Almendras, who watched wearing blue.

Ateneo was expected to win. They won last season. They won the season before. In both of those final encounters, Ateneo defeated La Salle. In all, they carried a 24-match winning streak and La Salle was supposed to be an easy victim as the Lady Eagles closed the UAAP first round.

But, no. Alyssa Valdez was off. On multiple occasions, Ateneo would miss a serve and hand La Salle a free point. While Ateneo expected a quick victory, the result was reversed.


(Photo by Sherwin Vardeleon/CNN Phils.)

First set went to DLSU, 25-22. In the second set, things got worse. La Salle scored the first eight or so points and steamed through the set, 25-14. Finally, in the third, it was the same, 25-18, in favor of the all-jumping and ecstatic La Salle.

I can’t wait for the playoffs, when these two squads hopefully meet again in the championships.

TENNIS. But this wasn’t our only La Salle-Ateneo experience the other Saturday. Earlier that morning, in the tennis courts of Rizal Memorial when the UAAP tennis season finished with the mighty National University Bulldogs winning both the men’s and women’s titles, another duel occured.

In the fight for 2nd Runner-up in the Women’s Division (NU was champion while UST was first runner-up), the scores were tabulated and you won’t believe what transpired.

Ateneo and La Salle were locked in a bout for the trophy. It was one meeting apiece (ADMU won in their first round while DLSU won in Round 2). It was five sets won per team. When the number of sets were computed, it was 10 sets per team. Finally, down to the last figure (the number of games won per team), it was 79-79. A tie!

During the awarding ceremony at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center, it was a beautiful sight. The DLSU ladies in green on the right and the ADMU ladies in blue on the left. Archrivals standing side by side as equals. One trophy shared by two teams.

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‘If you believe, you can do it’

One of the most powerful words in the universe — words that you and I and anybody else wants to succeed in anything, sports or otherwise, ought to memorize — were said by a wise man: “I say if you believe, you can do it. You play happy, you can do it. You believe to win, you can win. I talk to players everyday to believe they can win.”

Those words came from the Ateneo volleyball coach Anusorn Bundit. He’s from Thailand. But he’s now here in Manila and has turned the Ateneo Lady Eagles into the toast of Philippine sports.

We were at the SM Mall of Asia last Saturday night. Just hours after Ateneo defeated La Salle in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball championships, the blue eagles soared while the green archers missed the target. You could see it from the faces of the hundreds that swarmed MOA: those wearing blue sported smiles from ear to ear; those in green endured frowns of shock.

The La Salle girls carried a 30-game winning streak when they met Ateneo in the finals.

They lost the first game. Shocker!     In Game 2, they recovered to force the duel. Sadly, La Salle lost the last two games, including the winner-take-all last Saturday. After 30 games of being undefeated, they lost three of the last four.

Alyssa Valdez of Ateneo stood not only as the MVP of the season and the finals but also as hero. We spotted a few in SM MOA who wore, like we would NBA stars like LeBron, jerseys with ‘VALDEZ’ printed at the back. In the front pages of the newspapers here in Manila, her charismatic smile adorned the newstands.

‘Heart Strong’ and ‘Play Happy’ were the by-words that carried this Ateneo to clinch their first-ever volleyball women’s title. These are words we should forever remember: Be strong. Believe. Be happy. Smile.

I watched the previous games of these two squads on Balls HD channel and the nice thing is, the girls are always smiling. After a spike and a point, they group together, slap high-fives, commend each other. They’re a team of closely-knit players whose mantra says… we’re-in-this-together.

The major reason for Ateneo’s win: their mentor. “Coach Tai’s arrival was a big factor for us,” Valdez was quoted as saying. “If we’re gonna rate it with 100 percent as the highest, I’d say he’s at 110 percent.”

The funny thing is, if you watched the TV games, Coach Tai was difficult to comprehend while he huddled his players. His English is not as good as ours, and so you’d think, “How can they understand their coach?”

They did. And more than that, the coach’s belief rubbed off on the girls. “He never stops pushing us, giving us confidence. So on our part, with coach’s vote of confidence, there’s no reason for us to doubt ourselves,” said Valdez in the Phil. Star  article, “To Lady Eagles, heart-strong means ‘if you believe, you win’.”

Someone once said: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”

Who said that quote that fits the Ateneo story? Muhammad Ali.

Categorized as Volleyball

Richard Gomez and Volleyball

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Can you believe it? Richard Gomez, one of our most famous of actors, is trying to achieve a feat that’s never been done before. Not by Pacman. Or Paeng. Or Bata Reyes. Or Jaworski.

He’s vying for a spot in the men’s national volleyball squad. The players will compete in the 18-nation tournament called the PLDT Home Fibr Asian Men’s Volleyball Club Championship (AMVCC) that runs from April 8 to 16.

How old is the actor-athlete? Goma turns 48 on April 7. He hasn’t made the team. Not yet. And, I presume, just because he’s handsome and prominent and is married to Leyte congresswoman Lucy Torres, that he won’t be given automatic entry.

An actor joining the Philippine team in a physical sport like volleyball is fascinating. “I am determined to join the men’s volleyball team,” Gomez said. “I’ve been joining the tryouts since coach Francis (Vicente) issued the call and I’m not going to miss this chance at serving the flag once more.”

If he makes the cut, it will be phenomenal – and not just because he’s 48. It’s because of this fact: This will be the fourth sport that Richard Gomez will join representing Team Philippines. Yes, four national squads – in rowing, fencing, shooting…. Volleyball?

“Gomez first joined the national team for rowing in the early 1990s,” said the article, “Juico believes Richard Gomez will be an asset to national volleyball team,” from the popular sports website

“He spent several years with the national fencing team for which he contributed a Southeast Asian Games bronze medal in 1995 in Brunei, two silver medals in 1997 in Jakarta, another silver in 2001 in Malaysia, a gold medal in 2003 in Vietnam and another gold medal in 2005 in Manila. Gomez also doubled as an entry in the shotgun event in the sport of shooting in the 2005 SEA Games in Manila, where he placed fourth.”

To be a national squad member is, by itself, difficult. To be a member of two events is herculean. The one other prominent athlete that I can think of is Bea Lucero, now married to Jean Henri Lhuillier. She won a bronze medal in 1992 when taekwondo was a demonstration sport in the Barcelona Olympics. Prior to that, she won gold at the 1987 SEA Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Goma is attempting to join his fourth sport at the elite, national level.

“Gomez would be a welcome addition to the new national team,” said Philip Juico, the AMVCC organizing committee chairman who was formerly the head of the Philippine Sports Commission. Aside from his leadership, his experience playing for the three national teams will be a big factor for the team.”

The Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF) is conducting the tryouts at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum. Gomez is among the 30 players vying for a spot. The final composition will be announced this Sunday.

Volleyball isn’t new to Gomez. He first played the game in grade school and joined competition in high school at the Arellano University. “Every since I was young, I really enjoyed playing volleyball. It was really part of my daily routine,” said Gomez in

The sport appears to be his “first love,” playing it even before he got into his multitude of activities, which include golf and basketball. In college, he competed at the Polytechnic University. When asked when he last competed, he replied in the article, “Matagal, more than a decade na wala akong volleyball. So when I came back, I began playing for small clubs muna and then major club competitions hanggang umabot dito (sa PSL).”

Wrote Mei-Lin Lozada for, “Ever competitive, Gomez said he won’t allow himself to be just an ornament in the tournament, much less be a liability to his team when he’s on the court. He is out to win.

“I train with them (PLDT) everyday,” Gomez said. “Ako naman personally, I don’t want to enter the tournament na hindi rin ako prepared, I will not allow myself to be a mediocre player. I will train hard and play my best and hopefully we will get the championship.”

I hope Goma makes it.

Categorized as Volleyball

Cebu: the volleyball capital of the Philippines?

Thanks to our lady governor, Gwen Garcia, the sport of volleyball is no longer a game played between six against six. It’s now thousands—of setters, blockers, servers… all tossing and spiking that ball around the province of Cebu.

“This year is the biggest GUV Cup ever,” said Antonino “Jun” San Juan, Jr., the president of the Cebu Volleyball Association (CEVA). “We have 74 teams and, quoting former PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez two years ago, he said, ‘The Gov. Gwen Garcia Unity Volleyball Cup is the biggest volleyball tournament in the country.’”

Yes it is. With 34 teams among the men and 40 in the women’s division—multiply those figures by 14 players per squad—and you’ve got over a thousand athletes representing Cebu’s 42 municipalities and seven cities. That’s remarkable. That’s widespread.

Gener Dungo, the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF) Vice-President (and, by November, the PVF President), was impressed. During the Opening Ceremony of the 6th GUV Cup last Saturday at the Mandaue Sports Complex, he said: “During the congress, I heard a lot of success stories of volleyball in different countries. In some countries, their government gives full support for the volleyball events, but I didn’t expect that there is one province in the Philippines that religiously supports volleyball and that is the Province of Cebu. Having seen this big event, the PVF will document and report this to the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) and Federation International De Volleyball (FIVB) so the worldwide volleyball community will recognize this kind of tournament.”

“Mr. Dungo announced,” added Jun San Juan, “that the Cebu province is now ‘The Volleyball Capital of the Philippines.’ It was indeed a big WOW-moment for us!!”

With a prize money of P100,000 to the GUV Cup champion and P20,000 to each of the six Cluster champions, this Sept.-to-Dec. tournament started by then-CEVA president Glenn Soco has vastly improved since its inception six years ago.

“When we started in 2005, we had participants who were ‘ahead in years.’ Some were municipal employees asked to join by their mayor just to have a team. But now, they’re getting younger and we have players as young as 11!” said Jun San Juan.

“I’m proud to say that the GUV Cup has paved the way for undiscovered athletes to be given the chance to show their capabilities. We have young players who started out in the GUV Cup and ended up with an offer for scholarship in big universities/colleges. It’s hitting two birds with one stone—their extraordinary talent has been discovered AND they are given the chance to attend college.”

Other improvements this 2010? “We made adjustments with the format and introduced city clusters last year. The municipal teams felt they they had a little chance against the city teams since they were much stronger. So we had City and Municipal Cluster GUV Cup Champion,” said San Juan.

“This year, we decided to go back to our original format and just have one GUV Cup Champ for the Women’s division and one for the Men’s. The reason is that, first of all, three of the cities (Naga, Bogo and Carcar) were reverted back to municipalities based on the Supreme Court. This year, we have allowed our participants to recruit two imports per team in order to level the playing field. We even have imports coming all the way from Manila.”

Finally, I asked the CEVA president about volleyball’s popularity today. How does it compare to years back? “The last time we produced exceptional volleyball talents was from the years 1978 to 1983 when six of the Women’s National Team were from Cebu,” he said. “They were the champs in the SEA Games. After that, volleyball became dormant. CEVA is grateful for Gov. Gwen who revived the popularity of the sport by actualizing GUV Cup. Now, we are getting back on our feet to put Cebu back on the map of celebrated volleyball players. We aim to produce athletes who not only will make it big here locally—but also in the national and international arena.”

Categorized as Volleyball

Volleying? No one better than Jun San Juan

At the Casino Español de Cebu, if you conduct a survey among the tennis players and ask, “Who’s your top doubles player?” one name will surface among the top in the list. His name: Antonino San Juan, Jr., who first dribbled with basketball then spiked the volleyball before swinging at that tennis ball. Today, he’s a Class-A netter whose volleys up at the tennis net are skillful and precise.

The favorite word he memorizes? “Volley.” Because apart from using it often in this game of Justine Henin and Andy Murray, he also happens to be, just starting last month, Cebu’s highest-ranking official of the sport with the same first name: Volley.

Jun San Juan recently took over from Glenn Soco, who’s busy on the campaign trail as a Vice Governor candidate, the title of President of the Cebu Volleyball Association. “CEVA was started in the year 2000 by Glenn Soco,” answered Jun, in our exchange of emails. “I was one of the board of directors. In 2004, I rose to become the Vice President.” Today, Mr. San Juan heads one of the most dynamic of sporting bodies in Cebu. Thanks to him and Glenn and CEVA, their accomplishments the past 10 years have been exceptional.

“First, CEVA hosted two international events,” said Jun, when I asked for a list of their projects. “The World Men’s Volleyball and the Asia Youth Girls in 2004 participated in by 11 Asian nations, China, South Korea, Australia, Philippines, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan.” An even more popular project is the GUV Cup. Started in 2005, this partnership of CEVA and Gov. Gwen Garcia and the provincial government is now touted to be “the biggest and most prestigious volleyball tournament in the country with 47 participating municipalities and five component cities.” There’s more: The Nestea Beach Volley at Parkmall last year and the First Beach Volleyball in San Remegio, 2008-2009. The annual workshops and attestation of referees and coaches, said Jun, has also produced nine national referees from Cebu. Finally, through the GUV Cup, a national-caliber player was recognized: Jusabelle Brillo.

Yet, despite being the top honcho of CEVA, the interesting story is that Jun San Juan is not even the most famous volleyball personality in his family. His wife, Marichu Jao San Juan, is that person. “Chu” is one of the two Jao twins (together with Marilou Ramirez) who became national volleyball heroes during their athletic days. Cebu Hall of Fame? Yes, Marichu is a member of the exclusive club. The Milo National Little Olympics last October? Yes, it was Chu who lit the torch to spark the beginning of those games.

Jun and Chu

“I used to be a basketball player,” said Jun, when I asked how he started. “But when I saw the twins train and play in the national team in Manila, there was a change of heart and I immediately fell in love with volleyball.” Heart? Fell in love? I’m sure Jun was referring to Chu. After his shift from the orange basketball to the white volleyball in college, Jun became a member of the Mapua volleyball varsity team. Soon after, he was team captain for two years and, he says, “I was later drafted to play for the NCR selection in the Palarong Pambansa in Tuguegarao and was a candidate for the national team in 1981.”

As to CEVA’s plans for the year? They have plenty: 1) Beach Volleyball (Holy Week in Bantayan Island). 2) We will be conducting clinics by district level in the summer. 3) Coaches and Referees Seminar and Workshop at the Capitol Social Hall in August to be conducted by an international referee from Manila. 4) GUV Cup tournament from Sept. to Dec. 5) Planning stage on hosting a Beach Volleyball event in Parkmall. 6) Renovate the existing beach court in Parkmall & change the sand. 7) Planning stage on hosting an international tournament before the end of the year. With Jun and CEVA volleying, 2010 will be a smash.

Categorized as Volleyball

Cebu Volleyball Photos

Jun San Juan, the Vice-President of the Cebu Volleyball Association (CEVA) and the husband of one of Cebu’s all-time greats in volleyball, Marichu San Juan, sent me these photos of the various events CEVA has organized. Together with Governor Gwen F. Garcia and CEVA President Glenn Soco, this organization has done a lot for Cebu sports. Check out these photos…

Categorized as Volleyball

Cebu Volleyball Serves An Ace

Gov. Gwen F. Garcia (3rd from left) and Glenn Soco (2nd from right) award the 2006 GUV Cup champion’s trophy to the Talisay City team

The Cebu Volleyball Association (Ceva) was organized in the year 2000. Though never a volleyball player, I remember Glenn Soco inviting me to join the initial core group. I sat through the first meetings and attended the induction of officers. And through the past seven years, I have seen how this group—with the help of our dynamic and energy-packed governor, Gwen Fiel Garcia, who herself, if I’m not mistaken, was once a volleyball standout—has popularized the sport and scored an ace in the Province of Cebu.

“Gov. Gwen supports volleyball,” Glenn Soco, the president of Ceva, wrote to me last week, “because she wants sports development to be one of the priorities of each Local Government Unit (LGU).”

Categorized as Volleyball