Jens Funk and “The Smiling Torture”

A German IT consultant assigned at the CITE in Talamban, Jens Funk, 40, has lived in Cebu for five years and written a book, “Cycling Philippines.”

Last January 20, Jens made a bet. Alongside 30 bikers, he vowed to pedal for 185 kms.—without ever walking. If he wins, he’ll ask donations to buy helmets and bike locks for the poor. If he loses, he’ll pull his wallet out and pay for it all. Either way, dozens of less-privileged Cebuanos win. In his piece at www.bugoybikers.com entitled “The Smiling Torture,” Jens narrates his unbelievable Tour de France-like experience…

“We started at 7 am. Around 30 bikers all in good mood…

I knew it would be a hard ride and was scared. The first 65 kms. was easy cycling at an average of 30 km/h. We chatted and the sun seemed to be our friend. We agreed to have a first “refill” stop in Lugo, where we took pictures before going downhill to Tabuelan. On this stretch some riders chased each other.

“From Tabuelan (Km 88) to Balamban (Km 135), we passed rough stretches, including a crash (nothing serious) and flat tires, arrived in Balamban at 1 pm, and lunched there. By now, one could realize that the riders were serious knowing what came next. After refilling our bottles, we left at 2 pm to cross the Trans-Central Highway.

“The next 10 kms were flat, but the “big” mountain ranges came closer. Till Km 145 we cycled as a group, chatting and laughing. But this ended the moment it turned steeper. We climbed the first mountain at 850m above sea level, then the group split up and everybody was left to his own fate.

“Climbing on a road bike means finding your rhythm and staying with it. The road got steeper and I realized that I was in my granny gear. It was 2:30 pm and the sun had become a burden. I checked my odometer and it dropped to 6 km/h.

“Suddenly, I saw two group members walking. This wasn’t motivating and when I passed, they asked, “Why don’t you walk?” But I was determined to win the bet. I was also challenged to beat the monster mountains—and got encouraged through text messages. But it came to a moment when I struggled. My legs hurt and I wasn’t in a rhythm. I stopped, drank a lot, relaxed, started again.

“In my mind I knew I wouldn’t lose as long as I didn’t walk. After 500m, I stopped again. It’s cruel when you make the corner then see the road climbing up again. I really felt… that’s it. I drank again and fought between “Come on! You can make it!” and “Why the hell are you doing this?”

“I tried again. Back on the bike. And then, like a miracle, my iPod played! (I prepared it earlier but forgot.) With George Thorogood’s “One burbon, one scotch, one beer,” I focused on the music and not the road. When the song finished, I realized I found it—my rhythm!

“I used the whole road so I could go up in a zigzag. At day’s end, I would cycle 10 kms more (zigzagging) but it was a way to beat the mountain. I looked in front of me and the guys were doing the same. The problem were the cars. As soon as one approached, it was impossible to use the whole road. I got cramps. Still, slowly, I got closer to the peak. The view over the valley was amazing. It recharged me.

“Finally I made it up to Kantipla. By now, I had confidence that I could make it. We regrouped, went downhill, then Ayala Heights stood after.

“Even the easy climb to Ayala Heights was torture. I cramped on that stretch but ignored it. At this time it drizzled—which helped. After another downhill the last climb awaited us. When I crawled around the last bend and saw the saddle of Tops less than 80m away, I felt an indescribable happiness. On Tops I got teary-eyed and shouted. I never had such a feeling before. In the last downhill to Willie’s, we were smiling. After we arrived, I had 185km on my odometer and could almost not get off my bike. After 10 hours of cycling, my back was sore and my legs hurt—but the feeling was overwhelming. I made it!”

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Categorized as Cycling

On clay, the No.2 is always No.1

I pity Roger Federer.

He’s Tiger Woods holding a racquet, the Michael Jordan of his game, the Michael Phelps of this dry swimming pool named tennis court, and yet, when it comes down to a boxing fight between the world’s No.1 and No.2 players—he bows down, wobbles, trips, and gets KO’d.

Funny? No. Embarrassing. How can you be declared Numero Uno if you keep on losing to Numero Dos? Think about it: In the last five times they’ve met on clay, Rafael Nadal has dirtied and spat at and thrown dust into the face of Roger Federer.

Yet, if you visit the Basel, Switzerland home of Roger, he has 10 Grand Slam singles trophies that adorn his cabinet. For years, he’s been perched at the summit of tennis’ Mt. Everest. In 2006, he won three major titles and last January, snatched the Australian Open. Inside his Swiss bank account sleeps $30 million in prize money earnings and, for sure, more than double that in endorsements.

But, whenever he faces this 20-year-old Spaniard, the red color of his Swiss flag turns pink.

The other night, together with two of my closest tennis buddies—Dr. Ronnie Medalle and Macky Michael—I watched the Monte Carlo Open finals.

Was it a contest? Sure it was. It’s called a “No-contest.” Nadal bloodied Federer. He ran him left. He ran him right. He feathered a drop shot that died as the ball crossed the net. He hit to Federer’s weaker backhand, hit to Federer’s stronger forehand—it didn’t matter—Nadal hit straight at Federer’s chest. He stabbed him. With Nadal’s high-bouncing topspin, the Swiss was defensive, unsure, shaking his head, shaking the demons. The normally unflappable Federer struck 19 winners and 38 unforced errors. Yes, no misprint there: 19 winners, 38 unforced errors! The man labeled as “The Greatest” was renamed “The Weakest.”

Here’s my observation: I’ve never seen Federer defensive. Not against Andy Roddick or James Blake or Tommy Haas. Roger is Roger because he’s the aggressor. He dictates play. He’ll shoot an ace down the T, rifle a forehand crosscourt, or chip a slice backhand that’s as sharp as a Swiss knife.

But not against Rafa. And not on clay.

You see, this is why I love tennis. The surface changes. Name me a sport where, after this month or that season, they change surfaces. Basketball is always on wooden parquet. Golf, though hopping from Augusta to Dubai to the Scottish links, is on grass. Same with badminton and bowling and billiards.

Not tennis.

In this game, there are a myriad of surfaces: clay, grass, Taraflex, indoor carpet, artificial grass, Har-Tru. And so, this is what makes tennis different—and interesting. On grass (Wimbledon arrives on our cable TV this June), it’s fast! fast! fast! On hard-court at the US Open and the Australian Open, it’s fast and not so fast—or medium-paced. On clay, it’s this….

s…l…o…w….,
s…l…o…w…,
s…l…o…w….

Why? Because on grass the ball skids and slides while on clay, the ball grips the dirt and hugs it for half-a-second before flying.

And this is where Rafael Nadal was tailor-made by God to succeed. Nadal is quick, hits heavy topspin (that even a 6-foot-1 Roger has to hit above his shoulders), he never gives up a point, can sprint for 26 hours non-stop, is left-handed, and has the fighting spirit of a raging bull from Spain.
Nadal is a Spanish raging bull.

And so, after 67 straight wins on clay dating back to the Stone Age, here’s what’s next for Rafa: He’ll win Hamburg, he’ll win Rome and—against Roger in the finals on June 10—he’ll win the French Open.

And, guess what, he’ll still be No.2.

In Guimaras, no oil spills — only bike wheels!

Two weeks ago, during Easter Sunday, I arose at 5:40 in the morning, showered, slipped on a pair of tight-fit shorts, gobbled up two eggs and five bread slices in 4 minutes, applied Coppertone on my face, looked in the mirror, smiled, carried my black Cratoni helmet and blue Fox gloves, then drove off from the town of Oton.

At 7 a.m., I arrived in Iloilo City.

My first cousin Din-Din Zaldarriaga, several years my senior and whom I considered my older brother growing up, welcomed me with a smile that spanned ear-to-ear.

“Ready na?” he asked.

“Hu-o, a!” I replied.

We hiked a hundred steps and arrived to meet 14 men so colorful they donned jerseys, helmets and shoes with colors that spelled ROY G BIV.

Sixteen men? In colorful costume? At 7 a.m.?

On Easter Sunday?

Were we clowns readied to perform at SM City Iloilo’s program? Were we to enter in an egg-hunting contest? To appear in ABS-CBN and wake all the Ilonggos up by screaming, “HAPPY EASTER DIRA SA INYO TANAN!!!?”

No! Better…

Mountain-biking.

For two years, my cousin Din-Din and I had planned this day. Avid bikers, he roamed the flat streets of Iloilo while I scaled the mountain trails of Cebu. For two years, we waited… until our schedules fit. And what better day than Easter.

Our destination?

Guimaras Island. Wow!

You know Guimaras. Last August, CNN and BBC focused on this island when an oil tanker carrying two million liters of fuel sank. (On the positive side, Guimaras is world-famous for it’s mangoes—reportedly served at two homes you know: Buckingham Palace and the White House.)

We were 16 bikers who boarded the “pump-boat” off the port of Iloilo. How fast was the trip? Very, very fast. In all, 10 minutes. We loaded our MTBs (mountain-bikes), paid P350 to “pakyaw” the boat, then swam off.

As soon as we docked, the wheels turned. Beside me during the trek was my La Salle classmate, Bernie Tongson. We reminisced our Bacolod elementary days while climbing the highway. After 45 minutes, we landed at the center of Jordan (provincial capital of Guimaras), parked our bikes, unfastened our helmets, and strode inside a store ready for the next mission: breakfast.

We were hungry. Salivating. Thirsty. And Judavel’s Eatery is famous among bikers. My cousin Din-Din and I each ordered soup, caldereta (kambing), fish that resembled our kitong, bowls of rice, and a bottle of Lift and Coke. In all, after Din-Din and I had stuffed our stomachs, we spent—would you believe—only P149.

After breakfast, we circled another route with terrains that spelled “up” and “down.” Did I see oil spills? No. It was at the other side of the island. Instead, what I saw was the breathtaking view of Iloilo that glistened off Guimaras.

If there was any negative, it was this: we didn’t ride off-road (and Guimaras has dozens of trails). It was a day to be with family and we all vowed to be home by 11. So on asphalt we rode.

By “we,” I mean Din-Din, Bernie and their friends that included a 69-year-old (yes, 69!) who pedaled smooth and strong. Amazing. Also with us were my three other cousins—Michael, Jason, and Andre—plus one of my favorite uncles (my mom’s older brother), Ondoy Zaldarriaga, all of 59 summers old.

“Next year, please don’t call me ‘senior citizen,’” my uncle tells the group. “I’d rather be called “Señor, citizen!”

We laugh.

You see, this word isn’t spelled in six letters. It’s spelled FUN. It’s a time to bond with cousins, to reminisce with an old classmate, to feel young with your uncle who’s 59 and a lolo who’s 69. It’s fresh air. It’s the colors of the rainbow on your jersey. It’s the view of Iloilo from across the sea. It’s sweat dripping off your chest and your heart pounding 189 beats per 60 seconds—to be rewarded by a bowlful of caldereta. Best of all, on Easter Sunday, it’s not egg-hunting.

It’s biking.

Published
Categorized as Cycling

Don’t laugh! Manny might have the last laugh

If I resided in General Santos City and headed for the poll booth this May 14, I’d write down two words beside the blank space for Congressman: Emmanuel Pacquiao.

Seriously, I would.

A month ago, I lambasted Pacman. Called him “Chump” instead of “Champ.” Asked if the only credentials he carried to Comelec were his lethal left hook and his “This is for the Gods” broken English. Everybody in this archipelago—excluding, of course, his lawyer, wife, and dog—disapproved.

Manny? Congressman?

Crazy!

Well, call me crazy. Call me any word you like because I’m saying this: I’m rooting for Manny this May 14. I’m serious. Last month and last week and even as recent as 10 A.M. last Sunday, I mixed the words “Manny” and “politics” and “stupid” in the same sentence. Not anymore. Not after watching him bleed his eye with a deep cut, then growl like a beast and smother Jorge Solis after that wound; not after watching him angry on that sixth, seventh, and eighth rounds when he unleashed left
hook after uppercut after right hook and floored Solis to oblivion.

Go, Manny!

Think about it. How can you not feel inspired? How can you not root for a man so poor 16 years ago that he peddled on the streets, lived in the slums, and is now so heroic that he’s carrying—alone—the nation’s flag and waving it for the world to smile and say:

Go, Philippines!

Is it because Manny hasn’t finished college (or was it high school? Or elementary?). Because he can’t speak English like Tony Blair? Because his IQ isn’t as high as Darlene Antonino-Custodio’s?

So what! Is all success based on one’s schooling? One’s childhood upbringing? One’s English?

Dili intawon.

I say we give Manny a chance. Why? Because Manny Pacquiao is a unique human being like no other. He’s not a Cesar Montano or a Richard Gomez who score with pogi points.

What do I see inside Pacman?

Determination.

I’ve never seen a Filipino athlete as determined as Manny. You can see it in the way he “over” trains, in the way he grits his teeth, dives, and punches for that KO. And this determination, I believe, rooted deep underneath that sweatshirt, might—just might—spill over to his province mates if he’s elected. He’ll fight for them. Bloody himself, if needed. That’s who he is.

What else is inside Manny?

He’s pro-poor. Makatao. How can he not be? Once poor, who better to talk to the poor? He suffered what they suffer, lived in a nipa hut as they now live, starved as they now starve, ate what they now eat.

Clout. That’s another. Name me a Filipino with more influence and “star power” than Manny. When he enters a stadium, eyes enlarge, people stand, and cameras click. Simply because he’s Manny Pacquiao. I’m not saying everything Manny wants, Manny gets. But believe me—whether it’s to approach GMA for a new 13.5-km. asphalted road or to call PNP head Gen. Oscar Calderon for more men to safeguard GenSan—my guess is, what Manny wants, Manny gets. His people benefit.

Here’s one more: South Cotabato is not as popular as Cebu or Davao or Cagayan de Oro but, with Manny at the helm—and with mediamen beside him to take pictures, write stories, and film video footages in every step—wow, the limelight will be on South Cotabato.

Finally, here’s why I’ve softened on Manny: I thought politics would ruin his boxing. I thought he’d lose focus, get distracted, lessen his road running and replace it with another running. Did that happen last Sunday? You saw it. I saw it. The answer is no.

So, call me crazy, but you know what, at the end of this all, Manny just might surprise us. Let’s not forget: Nobody believed he’d topple Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003, critics declared he wouldn’t last against Erik Morales, and now, his countrymen berated him when he declared his running for Congress. Well, let’s see…

As for me, just like last Sunday, I would never bet against Manny Pacquiao.

A Manny win will score very Manny votes

AS much as you and I and 91 percent of the Filipino population (in a survey) disapprove of Manny Pacquiao’s running for Congress this May 14, this we have to conclude: When the bell rings and the gloves are clasped and mouth guards are bitten, Pacman is all about one word.

Focus.

Asked in an interview if the legal tussle against Oscar de la Hoya and his battle inside the not-so-square ring called politics could get in the way of boxing, he replied: “Never. I never let distractions get in the way of my training. My focus has been to train hard and concentrate.”

Thanks, Manny.

Thank you because, had you lost aim and succumbed to the trappings of your green dollar bills, had you shifted from “running on the road” to “running for politics” and slackened off your uppercuts, jabs, and training—we’d have lost a hero.


Let’s admit it: This nation owns just one hero and he’s not Jose Ma. Sison. He’s Pacman. Sure, we’re 90 million-strong in this 6.5-billion world and we have Lea Salonga and Bata Reyes and Tony Meloto and Paeng Nepomuceno to call our own, but, let’s face it, no Filipino compares to Manny. Among many stands only one Manny.

That’s why as we all converge at resto-bars and the SM Cinemas and at home this morning—every single Filipino with eyes who can see, will be watching—there rests a huge burden for our Robin Hood: He has to win. Not a loss. Not a draw. Not even a 12th round outing to be decided by three men is good enough. Pacman has to win. By KO.

Imagine if he loses? All Filipinos scattered around this globe will clasp both hands in despair, we’ll cover our faces, shake our heads, and weep. For weeks, the Philippines will undergo a depression. A severe depression. That’s why I say…

Thanks, Manny.

Thank you for the sweat that dripped off your chest at Gensan, for the kilometers you sprinted uphill in the mountains of Los Angeles, for the punches you absorbed inside the Wild Card Gym.

You see, when Pacman steps inside that square ring, he’s in unbelievable shape. You know why I know this? His weight. It’s 128.75 pounds. Unlike Solis, who weighed 130.5 and 130.125 before finally making the 130-pound limit, Pacquiao is fit. This means that while he arrived late in L.A. (didn’t we all think Manny had too many distractions on his mind), he didn’t gorge on lechon or drink eight bottles of San Mig Light. He was all about one word.

Focus.

I’m now staring at his picture taken right after the final weigh-in yesterday. His shirt is off and he’s smiling, clenching his fists, posing beside Jorge Solis. Compare their bodies. Solis is taller, bigger, and yes, more handsome—but look at Pacquiao.
Stare at those abs. Gaze at that chest. Marvel at his arms. In bodybuilding lingo, look at the “definition” of his muscles. Wow. They’re well-chiseled, well-cut, so well-defined that I don’t think one percentage of fat resides inside Pacman.

Thanks, Manny.

Thank you for knocking-out Solis in the fourth round. Or is it the sixth? The eighth? 10th? Never mind what round, thanks for teaching this undefeated—yet underrated—Mexican a lesson in how to spell the letters “K.O.” Teach him about history.

Remind him about the name “The Alamo,” and how, back in 1836 during the Alamo Mission one, the Mexicans were annihilated and bloodied.

Annihilate Solis. Bloody him. Twist him like an enchilada. Chew him like a burrito. Crumple him like you would a crispy taco. For Manny, when you do that, you’ll retain the “Filipino Hero” medal, you’ll keep 90 million of your countrymen away from depression, and best of all, next month, you’ll assure yourself of a new championship belt bearing one name.

Congressman Manny Pacquiao.

Inside this Casino, everybody’s a sure winner

Luis Moro III entered the doors of the Casino last week. On the poker tables, he sat and gambled. On the green rectangles with the felt covering, he competed. He hopped from event to event, playing this shot and that stroke, joining as many tables and courts as he could.

In the end, guess who emerged the Casino jackpot winner and took home the P2.75 million prize money?

Louie Moro.

(This being April Fool’s Day, that’s the amount I overheard Louie brought home. Some say he won more…)

The “Casino,” of course, is no Casino Filipino at the Waterfront Lahug. It’s the other, better-because-you-never-lose Casino, the one along V. Ranudo St. and founded some 87 years ago. It’s the Casino Español.

Last month, during the whole March, the club organized a sports campaign called the “Copa de Casino Español” that included hundreds of members and guests joining. There were five Copa events: tennis, badminton, poker, billiards, and golf. The jackpot winner among all who garnered the most points and was named “Sportsman of the Year?”

Louie Moro. He joined badminton and won the deciding mixed doubles game with Gina Juan against their rivals from the Metrosports Badminton Club. Louie also joined last Thursday’s golf event at the Cebu Country Club, scoring 40 points to win the runner-up Class A honors together with teammates Macky Michael, Toby Florendo, and Steve Benitez.

MACKY MICHAEL. Here’s another super-athlete. Class A in golf (his handicap runs between 6 to 9), he’s Class A at tennis. Last Thursday, from 12:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon, Macky walked several kilometers under the summer heat to compete in the Copa golf event. On the front nine, he carded a 37 and on the back nine a 39 for a total gross score of 76. Wow. That’s a top Class A score.

But Macky wasn’t finished. In less than two hours, he switched from golf to tennis shoes, from 5-wood to tennis racket, then drove to the Casino Espanol. Playing with partner Stanley Yap (the young entrepreneur of the iStore at the BTC), he beat Dave Townsend and myself in a thrilling match (8-7… 7-5 in the tiebreak) for the Class A trophy.

Not bad? How about amazing. Runner-up in Class-A team golf, 3rd in golf individual scores, champion in tennis—all in one same afternoon and evening? That’s Macky Michael.

In the other tennis finals, the big winners were Kit Borromeo and Nene Montederamos (Class C champions) who won over Hydee Mesina and Joy Pesons…

Donald Ruiz and Fred Quilala won the Class B title over Jun Jumao-as and Rolly Borres…

To the organizing group, led by Jeffrey Dico, Jun San Juan, and Joe Camaya, congratulations!

BADMINTON. Three nights were all-badminton. Last Monday to Tuesday, players were divided into four teams. The winners? The team lead by Jordan Tanco, with Jourdan Polotan and Co. as members. On Wednesday night, it was the Casino group versus their friends from the Metrosports. The Casino netters included Martin Montenegro, Louie Moro, Gina Juan, Frederick “TT” Tan, Jordan Tanco, Allen Tan, Kenneth Co, and 12-year-old CVIRAA champion, Janel Dihiansan.

The most thrilling moment came when, after five doubles pairings and a dozen sets, it came down to the final set between Louie and Gina Juan against Arman and Noeme. In the end, with Louie sneaking forward to smash the returns and Gina flicking the shuttle cock for pinpoint drop shots, the Casino group won.

AWARDS NIGHT. How about these: Eat-all-you-can Angus beef. The SRO band who danced and screamed live at the front stage. Free wine and umbrellas for all. Intelligent lights that swirled and encircled the ballroom. A giant “Vamos a Jugar!” streamer that hung on the backdrop. Wow!

It was the Awards Night last Friday, the moment to honor the winners. Casino president Cheling Sala welcomed the participants while Nonoy Tirol (the Copa chairperson) thanked all the sponsors. Nonoy Alba, the sports director of Casino, stood tall at the front to hand out the shiny silver-clad trophies that were handed to the champions while Casino general manager Ed Tongco, in his dashing light pink polo barong, beamed a smile and shook hands with everyone.

At the end of the night and the month of March that brimmed with sweat and laughter and high-fives and food, everybody asked, “Does anyone lose at the Casino?”

No, nobody loses at the Casino Español.

Even if, like Louie, you don’t win P2.75 million.

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Categorized as Cebu

Cebuano rock-climbers to conquer Thailand

Ten brave hearts will travel via Cebu Pacific on Wednesday night to Singapore. No, they’re not there to shop along Orchard Road or to visit the Night Safari. From Singapore, the 10-person team will next move by land to Krabi, in southern Thailand, then take a bus to the Au Nang port where a “Long Tail Boat” will ship them to a paradise called Tonsai. If you’ve watched the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach,” that’s it. That’s Tonsai.

Rock-climbing.

That’s what will bring Wendel Getubig Jr., Patrick Costelo, Bill Carlo Chiong, Isabel Angela Pascuado, Sunshine Menoza, Crissy Pineda, Gay Nanette Belgira and my first cousin, Giandi Pages, to southern Thailand.

For 15 days, this all-Cebuano group, who call themselves “Team 330 Haiball,” will do a first: become the first-ever group from Cebu to climb the rock formations of Thailand. And here’s the interesting start: for 8 of the 10 members, it’s their first-ever trip outside the country.

Why Thailand? “Thailand is popular for rock climbing,” e-mailed my cousin, Giandi Pages. “Because of the hundreds of developed routes available for beginners to advanced/professional climbers. Plus, the scenery is superb. There are hundred-meter high rock formations with long stretches of white sand beaches at the foot. There are also a number of small rocks protruding from the ocean also developed for climbing. (“Developed,” meaning bolted routes to make it easier and safer for climbers.)

“And, of course, the parties. These parties happen after sunset, when climbers from all over the world gather and share stories. As the saying goes ‘When tired hands meets cold beer’ – by Patrick Costelo.”

It’s taken the team one full year to prepare for Wednesday’s trip. The group is led by it’s top climber, Wendel Getubig, Jr., the leader with 10 years of rock-climbing experience that started with him climbing indoor gyms using the “trad” (traditional) method of temporary anchors (slings, knots, cams).

Having never rock-climbed in my life, I asked Giandi the thrill this sport brings. “Height,” he answered. “The higher it gets, the heavier the heart beats. Also, DANGER. The possibilities of getting injured or even losing one’s life. Could be through equipment failure or pure negligence. Or the possibility of natural rock formations chipping off.”

And how about those sweaty and clammy hands…

“That’s normal,” said Giandi. “That’s why we carry a chalk bag loaded with Magnesium Carbonate powder to absorb sweat.”

Is rock-climbing dangerous? “Yes it is dangerous, but if all the rules and basic precautions are followed, and your equipment is always counter-checked by a fellow climber, then nothing should go wrong.

“The only dangerous part is getting to the first anchor which would be about 3 meters from the ground. It’s dangerous because there is a possibility of falling directly to the ground (termed as “ground fall”). But once you’ve clipped the rope on the first anchor (temporary/permanent), there is less possibility of ground fall since your rope will already be in place.”

In Cebu, the team climbs 3 to 4 times a week indoor, and they spend weekends outdoor, either day trips or overnight trips to Cantabaco, Toledo. “That’s an hour’s drive from the city, and then a beautiful 15 minute hike crossing a mini river and passing thru local villages.”

To Giandi, the most important trait of a good rock-climber is “good vibes… good attitude. Next would be patience since most climbers never achieve what they want on their first few attempts.”

Finally, I asked: What goes through the mind of a rock-climber 45 meters above the ground. Does a climber, even an experienced one, feel scared? Rattled?

“Yes, always scared,” said Giandi. “When climbing, you discover a different side of yourself. You discover your maximum strength—both physical and mental. Its a battle between physical and mental strength… and the mental strength must prevail. It is scary to go up, but at the same time it is also scary to fall! So it’s a mental decision that you HAVE to make.”

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.

Sad?

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.

Tales from a first-time marathoner

Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III will never forget the date February 25, 2007. That was the morning when he arose at 3 a.m., showered, put on his Sight First Clinics jersey and running shorts, tied his New Balance shoelaces, and drove to the starting line for his first-ever 42K race. When he arrived before the 4:30 a.m. start, nearly 1,000 runners crowded and stretched their muscles, all set for the 3rd Philippine International Marathon.

“The race traversed six cities (Manila, San Juan, Makati , Taguig, Mandaluyong and Pasig) and 11 bridges,” said Dr. Larrazabal. “The bridges were most difficult since we all trained on flat surface. I never thought of quitting but it was the five-hour curfew that was always on my mind. Imagine, traveling all the way to Manila and not finishing the marathon.

“During the halfway mark (21K), I was on schedule with my trainer to make it in 4 hours, 15 minutes. But at the 30k mark, the heat was unbearable. It was only the second time that I was running under direct sunlight (the first during the 21k Milo Marathon) and it was draining my energy. This part of the route was the notorious C5.

“A lot of runners were taken in by ambulance. There was this particular runner who suffered a heat stroke. I saw him jumping out of a moving ambulance and subsequently jumping over a 14-foot overpass. Luckily, he was not seriously hurt.

“At 37K, my lack of training began to haunt me. I suffered cramps on my left leg. After resting for two minutes, I continued to run with the moral support of my trainer. I was practically dragging my stiff left leg. At 41K, my right leg started to hurt. This was when I asked God to help me finish the race. I thought that if my right leg would suffer cramps, that would be it. What normally would take me 22 to 24 minutes to cover the last five kilometers took me almost an hour because of my injury.

“Luckily, I FINISHED THE RACE AT EXACTLY 4 HOURS, 53 MINUTES, and 3 SECONDS and got my medal!”

Wow. Wasn’t that amazing? An eye surgeon, Dr. Yong Larrazabal revealed the strength of his heart. “I had no doubt that I would finish the race. My greatest fear was that I would not finish it within the five-hour curfew. I have always believed in “mind over body” and have never quit any race so far.”

Lance Armstrong, when he finished the New York City Marathon—also his first-ever attempt at the 42K run—said it was the most difficult physical experience he’s ever done. Dr. Larrazabal? The same. “Clearly, that was the most physically demanding activity I have ever done in my 33 years of existence,” he said.

“I could not train hard for the Manila Marathon due to my hectic schedule at the clinic. One month before the race, I started increasing my mileage. I started to run two hours instead of one hour twice a week and one hour in between those days. I realized after the race that it was not enough. I stopped running five days before the race and started “carbo-loading” with lots of pasta. We were six in our group: my trainer Charlie Berberio, my Ophtha associate Dr. Brian Canton, my Iranian Ophtha resident Dr. Jahani Hivechi, CDU faculty and Racing coordinator Raymond Silot and CDU student-athlete Earl Canapi.”

After only one-and-a-half years of joining 5K and 10K races, Dr. Yong Larrazabal completed his first-ever 42K race. For a long-distance runner, that’s a sprint.

Will you run again? I asked. “Yes! I plan to join the New York City Marathon on November and plan to join two to three marathons a year. I was particularly inspired when Fernando Zobel de Ayala (who I believe is in his early 50s) was featured last year after finishing the NYC Marathon in 4 hours 20 minutes.”

I asked Dr. Yong Larrazabal how he felt at the finish line. “Surprisingly, maybe because of the euphoria of finishing my first ever 42K, I was not exhausted. President Fidel Ramos, Former First Lady Ming Ramos and Sec. Angelo Reyes were at the finish line to greet all the successful runners. We all went home full-pledged marathoners.

“The next day both my legs were stiff and I was limping. But you know what? I still did my surgeries and finished my clinic. Two days after the race, I was back on the treadmill. MIND OVER BODY!”

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Exclusive! Yes, Dr. Yong Larrazabal is running

All three local newspapers have advertised his name and proclaimed his running. Radio broadcasts have trumpeted and shouted his running. Businessmen, public officials, his fellow doctors—everyone has speculated and debated and asked the question: Is the young Ophthalmologist and heir to the Cebu Doctors Hospital throne running?

Is Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III running?

In a series of text messages, talks, and E-mails with him the past two weeks, I have the inside scoop: Yes, he’s running.

For Cebu City Councilor? This May 14? Against Mayor Tommy Osmena? And his 16-person slate? His first-ever foray into politics? At the young age of 33 years old?

“I’ve been asked to run for mayor and councilor by several individuals,” he confessed. “At the moment, the only running I will be doing is the marathon!”

So, there it is. Sorry to disappoint the gossip-mongers, but it’s a different form of running. You see, Dr. Yong Larrazabal is too busy a physician, too busy a father to his seven-year-old daughter Belle and four-year-old son Cian, too busy a husband attending to his beauteous wife Donna Cruz, who’ll give birth to their second son in two months; too busy to run, dribble and shoot for the ballgame named Politics.

But running? The sport where your heart pumps 168 times in 60 seconds and your sweat drips and bounces off the cement road? Yes, that running.

“My sport was always basketball since my elementary days,” he told me. “But I knew because of it’s intense physical demands, it would just be a matter of time when I’d be injured. Being an Eye Surgeon, injury to any of my fingers could spell disaster. So I was looking for an alternative sport that would not involve my arms and hands too much.

“A year and a half ago, Dr. Douglas Del Prado (a good friend and an anesthesiologist), during surgery, invited me to a 10K marathon. I decided to join out of curiosity. I was not worried about training because I had been on the Treadmill 30 minutes a day for the past seven years. I caught the ‘running bug’ since then and have been joining all the races in Cebu.”

Why this sport? “It’s when I’m running that I feel free from the outside world. While running, I reflect on a lot of things. Things I’ve done wrong. My loved ones. My profession. And God. I have never felt better physically since I started running. Ever. My stamina now is terrific. I can work the whole day and never get tired. Lastly, I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight.

“I run an hour a day on the Treadmill four times a week. I run along the running path around my home twice a week and run with the Sight First Running Club members once a week at the Cebu City Sports Center. Cebu Doctors University is building a mini-oval this year in its new campus in Mandaue. I plan to run there, too.”

Though the young doctor prefers long-distance running, he has sprinted his way to collect trophies: 1st place (Doctors Category), the 1st University Run, World Heart Day Run, and Run for Guimaras; 9th place (Men’s Executive), the 1st 10K Asean Summit Run at 47 minutes; and 10th place (Men’s Open), Gawad Kalinga 10K Run at 44 minutes.

A 10K run at 44 minutes? Wow. That’s blistering fast.

Exactly two weeks ago today, Dr. Larrazabal joined a race that would kill a man unprepared. It’s 42.125 kms.—the distance from the Capitol to Carcar. It’s battling a God-given enemy named the heat of the sun. It’s bridges to climb and asphalt roads to conquer and Honda Civics that zoom past you at 89 kph. It’s your legs saying no, lungs saying no, mind saying no… but that muscle underneath the shirt saying yes. It’s the final thesis for the student named Runner.

The Marathon.

After only a year-and-a-half of joining 5K and 10K races, Dr. Yong took his thesis examination last February 25 at the 3rd Philippine International Marathon.

“We took the Saturday 5 pm flight from Cebu,” he said. “Upon arrival we went to the Mall of Asia to look for an Italian Restaurant. We found Italianni’s after 30 minutes of walking and feasted on pizza and pasta. Our racing coordinator handed out laxatives to each of us. All of us had a hard time sleeping because of the excitement (max two hours of sleep).

“We had to get up at 3 a.m. to get ready for the starting time at 4:30 a.m. There were nearly 1,000 runners for the marathon. There were a lot of VIPs in the race—thus the presence of policemen, traffic enforcers and even the SWAT. There were water stations (two per kilometer). It was very well-organized. We were even given a map and a survival handbook prior to the race. There were bicycle escorts for a fee. The support team of some runners was unbelievable.

“Imagine, one VIP runner was tailed by two SUVs. When he was tired, the trunk of one SUV would open and you could see food, Gatorade, mineral water, energy drinks. Two men from the other SUV would come out and massage each of his legs…”

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