You’re a Badminton Fanatic when…

Gina Juan with Men’s World No. 1 Lin Dan at the Aviva Super Series event in Singapore last May 6

One of the top female badminton club players in Cebu, Gina Juan (who plays regularly at the Casino Espanol de Cebu) sent me something hilarious. Question: Are you crazy about this sport? Like thousands of others are in the Philippines? Read on. This just might be you.,,

• Just a split-second before shaking someone’s hand, you think forehand or backhand grip.
• You form hundreds of shuttlecocks into a Christmas tree. At parties, you compare the calluses of friends.
• You buy a tennis racket to train your wrist strength.
• You buy college text books as weights for wrist training.
• You wish you lived in Malaysia or Indonesia.
• You own more than two rackets.
• You’d rather play than go on a dinner date. You call in sick at work to play.
• Your choice of boyfriend is based on his level of play.

Categorized as Badminton

Councilor Jack to the Rescue

“The Big Dome” in Quezon City… the Araneta Coliseum

The other day, May 15, I wrote a column in Sun.Star Cebu entitled, “Cebu Megadome: What We Needed Yesterday.”

Yesterday, I read good news. Sylvan “Jack” Jakosalem, the recently re-elected Councilor of Cebu City and the chairman of the games, amusement and professional sports committee at the City Council, announced very good news: “I guess it is the right time to build one for Cebu City,” he announced. “Actually, we had started to negotiate with the National Government and the deal is on, we will build a sports coliseum. We will call it the Megadome…”

That’s welcome news. Thanks, Jack. This proud city of ours deserves no less. How can we call ourselves to tourists and foreigners “better than Manila” if we can’t even build a sportsdome?

Read the full Sun.Star Cebu article (A ‘megadome’ for Cebu City: Councilor Jack”) penned yesterday by my colleague Rommel Manlosa.

Categorized as Cebu

Butch Bacani: Tennis Pros’ Pro

Coach Butch (right) with Michael Mora and Jana Pages

Last night, I had dinner with “The Coach.” If you’ve been in touch with Philippine tennis the past 30 years, you know him. Davis Cup captain. Mentor to dozens of RP’s finest. US-trained. Harry Hopman-tutored. Articulate. Passionate. Inspiring. There are many words to describe Coach Butch Bacani.

Here’s one more: Pete Sampras fan.

During last night’s dinner at the Cafe Laguna Garden with his assistant coach Michael Mora (a former top pro), my wife Jasmin, and our eight-year-old daughter Jana, I asked Butch: “I have this VCD of Sampras. One of the best matches I’ve ever seen. Can you guess what match it is?”

In a split-second, he replied: “Sampras versus Boris Becker, Germany, World Championships.”

I grinned from ear-to-ear. Couldn’t believe it. How did he get it? That quickly? In the split of a split-second? Well, because he’s breathed the tennis air for three decades now, “The Coach” knows the game. He knows the players. And he knows who’s the best ever. “Pete Sampras,” he tells me, “at his prime, will beat Roger Federer at his prime. Nobody has the serve, first or second serve. Nobody volleys as good. In grass and in fast hard-courts, Pete will beat Roger.” I didn’t argue. With a guru as knowledgeable as Butch Bacani, you perform one act: Nod your head.

In case you didn’t know, Butch Bacani is in Cebu for one month to teach tennis. Beginners. Adults. Advanced. Children. Parents. Grandparents. All interested, regardless of shape, age or color, are welcome to join the Monday-Wednesday-Friday sessions at the Cebu Country Club. Sessions end June 1. (Call Ging-Ging at 4161122 for more info.) All you need is your tennis racket, a pair of shorts and Tshirt and shoes… that’s it. Sponsored by SMART, this is–simply amazing–for free!

Categorized as Tennis

Cebu Megadome: What we needed yesterday

This is NOT the Cebu Coliseum

Last Saturday night, I parked near Colon Street, strolled about 157 meters, and stepped inside the Cebu Coliseum.

San Miguel Beer, the most famous bottle ever produced in this country, paraded 6-foot-6-tall giants who dribbled and dunked as the building’s parquet floor shook. It was the PBA—“Live In Cebu!”—and I arrived midway through the second quarter to watch the Don-Don Hotiveros-less SMB versus the Red Bull Barako contest.

The game was hot! Oven hot. You see, while the Cebu Coliseum is no longer called just “Cebu Coliseum”—they’ve added a first-name and named it “NEW” Cebu Coliseum—I couldn’t figure out what was new about our city’s only sports arena. New? Ha-ha. Instead, I suggest to replace that word with another three-letter word: Hot.

The “Hot Cebu Coliseum.”

Barely seven minutes after I sat down on the front row of the Lower Box, trickles of sweat slipped down my cheeks. And they said this place had air-conditioning? I wonder if those cooling units were the same ones from 1879—the year the Cebu Coliseum was born. (Just kidding. I tried to research when it was built but couldn’t find the answer. But this I’m sure: it was decades and decades and decades ago…)

Isn’t it time for Cebu to have a real NEW COLISEUM?

Imagine with me. Imagine if this proud land of ours, if this city and province that we call “RP’s Best” while those from Manila call “taga-probinsya,” imagine if we had a 25,000-seater arena?

Where to hold Dennis Rodman and his Bad Boys? No problem. Where to stage a future Madonna concert? No problem. Where to hold a Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal exhibition? No problem. Where to hold the Binibing Pilipinas? No problem. Where to hold the World Wrestling Federation rumble?

Sayang. Remember then-governor Pabling Garcia proposed that we build the Cebu Megadome? Where the CICC is now located? Remember that? Had that pushed through—at only a fraction of the CICC’s cost, P250 million—Cebu would be a world-class sports destination today. We’d bring in more tourists. We’d bring in more of our neighbors from Bohol and Cagayan de Oro and Dumaguete to watch and applaud and scream from the stands. And best of all, we’d have no problem where to hold the World Cup of Boxing.

Two months ago, I spoke to Michael Aldeguer, the dashing young son of Antonio Lopez Aldeguer (ALA) who wore a black suit with a silver tie during the Boom-Boom Bautista and AJ Banal fights in Las Vegas. You know what, according to Michael, is Cebu’s problem with the World Cup?

It’s not the fighters. Boom-Boom and AJ won and they’re hungry to gobble nachos and enchiladas with the Mexicans. It’s not the money. Aldeguer has lots and the Cebu City government, with the backing of Mayor Tommy and Councilor Jack Jakosalem, has lots. It’s not the Cebuano audience. There’ll be more of us spectators than there are seats. Remember “Moment of Truth” last March? The Cebu City Sports Center bleachers overflowed. So what’s the problem?

The venue. Why? Because the World Cup of Boxing has to be fought on Saturday night in the US. And Saturday night there means, to us here, Sunday morning. Now. Can you hold a Sunday morning fight—from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.—at the open-air Cebu City Sports Center? Sure you can. But the spectators around the boxing ring will be fried, cooked, torched by the sun. And the whole Sports Center will flood with sweat.

The World Cup of Boxing needs an indoor arena.

The New Cebu Coliseum? Don’t make me laugh. Or sweat.

The PBA in Cebu is hot? Yes and No

Last night, I watched San Miguel Beer come-from-behind to beat Red Bull Barako, 98-93, in a PBA game at the Cebu Coliseum.

The game was hot!

Sitting inside the Cebu Coliseum felt like you were being cooked inside a La Germania oven. It was that hot. And they said it had air-conditioning? I’ve been to both venues and must say, though it’s smaller, the Mandaue Coliseum is better: you don’t have to sweat as much as Olsen Racela.

The San Miguel-Red Bull game? It wasn’t hot. The stadium wasn’t 75 percent full. The Lower and Upper Box bleachers were crowded but in the General Admission section, it was mostly vacant. The game itself was unexciting. Maybe because Don-Don Hontiveros (who’s with the RP National team) wasn’t playing. And isn’t Don-Don the Cebuano Idol of this land, ever since the days of the Cebu Gems?

The game lacked the moments when your palm would turn moist, when your neck will loom out and your eyes enlarge, when your heart pumped 128 times per 60 seconds.

The part when the crowd got most excited? No, not during the game. But during break time when T-shirts were hurled via slingshot to the hungry and sweaty Cebuanos.

Now. Was this a PBA game or a carnival?

The Philippine Basketball Association, in my opinion, has to reinvent itself. Popularity has dwindled. Fans no longer scream as loud. The game has to regain its dribble.

Cebu City Councilor and most-bemedalled coach Yayoy Alcoseba (right) with Patrick Gregorio, the man groomed to head the Samahang Basketbol Pilipinas (SBP)-BAP

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.

Jack the Football Giant

With TV host Bobby Inoferio in Cebu last year

Jack Biantan is a giant. He stands six-foot-one. Weighs 330 lbs. Three hundred thirty pounds? “Actually, I’ve lost count on how much weight I carry,” Jack once told me. “Because every time I step on my weighing scale it says…… Error!”

Hehehe. Jack and I laughed.  Sure, he’s a giant. But Jack’s also a giant on another scale: The Literary World. With Sun.Star Cebu, he was the assistant sports editor from 1998 to 2001, covering boxing, basketball, volleyball, and swimming.

The sport Jack loved most? Football. His credentials are impressive: coach, Don Bosco Boys Home (1986-1990); coach, USC college varsity team (1990-1994); coach, SWU college varsity team (1998-2001); Cebu coordinator, Coke Go-For-Goal (1989-1996); secretary general, Cebu Football Association (1989-1996).

Jack is now an Englishman. Yes. (Ever wonder why the flag of UK is called Union Jack?) Seven years ago, Jack left Cebu for London. Today, he works in a hospital, same with his wife, a manager of nurses. They have a one-year-old son, Ethan Luke.

Jack emailed me a couple weeks ago to announce the good news: He’s back into writing. Check out Jack’s columns on English football at

Categorized as Football

Mr. Federer is on time and in vogue


ROGER FEDERER, the undisputed world No.1 on all tennis surfaces except clay, is on two current publications: Time and Men’s Vogue.

In Time magazine, the 25-year-old Swiss is counted as one of “100 Most Influential People In The World.” Wow! For the winner of 10 major titles, that’s major. Guess who penned the piece on the man destined to be The Greatest Ever… of course, who else but the current Greatest Ever himself: two-time Grand Slam winner Rod Laver.

“Every time I speak to Roger,” writes Rod Laver, “I sense no ego on his part. He asks me questions about how I prepared for big matches—Roger has a clear appreciation for the history of tennis. (Plus, these days, I should be the one peppering him with questions. He’s the big star!) When you’re talking to Roger, he makes you feel important—whether you’re a fan, an opposing player or an old geezer like me.”

Laver said not to crown Federer as the best ever — not yet. But, he said, “One thing is for sure: he’s the best player of his time and one of the most admirable champions on the planet.”

Read the whole Rod on Roger piece here.

IN MEN’S VOGUE, you’ll not only be entertained by a terrific write-up, but also by some fabulous pictures. Read the Men’s Vogue article here and see all the seven pictures here

Categorized as Tennis

Cebu to host 30th PAL Intersports

THIS August 30 to September 1, Cebu City will host the 30th PAL Intersports. Over 1,000 executives from 16 cities — this will be the biggest-ever PAL Intersports — including four delegations from the United States and one from Australia, are expected to arrive in Cebu for this annual meet.

The photo was taken last April 20 at the Casino Espanol de Cebu when we hosted the first President’s Coordination Meeting.

This will be a grand event by PAL to fly and land in Cebu!

Categorized as Cebu

Rey Pages: Our Family Superstar

LAST April 29 in Valencia, Bukidnon, our family held a reunion in honor of my grandmother, Dr. Paulina “Bing” Pages, who celebrated her 84th birthday. In attendance were my dad and his brothers and sisters, including the most known “Pages” in our clan… Rey Pages.

Here’s an article I wrote about my uncle in September of last year for Sun.Star Cebu…

He is the most famous member of the family. Up until today, over three decades after he first slipped on that green jersey named Crispa Redmanizers, whenever I introduce myself, people always stop to ask, “Are you related to Rey Pages?”

I am. I’m proud to call him “Tito Rey,” the younger brother of my dad who once stood as Cebuano Idol, more famous than any other sportsman during his time.

Last June of this year, we were at the San Remigio Beach Resort for the family’s biennial reunion. After the usual “hello’s,” we escaped to a familiar scene: that tall circular steel rim hanging with the net and, on his hands, an orange ball.

“How many can you shoot?” I asked. He smiled. And went to work… “One, two, three…” I counted. “Four, five, six…” Every smooth release of the ball, every follow-through, every swoosh of the ball to the bucket, he stood relaxed. “Seven, eight, nine…” 10!

An hour or so later, the boys had crowded the court and a four-on-four ensued. Drilling 20-footers as effortlessly as a little boy would throwing pebbles into the lake, guess who scored the most points?

Rey Pages’ story began in the mid-1960s at the University of San Carlos. He scored the most points. People clapped. They screamed. He moved to the Colegio de San Jose-Recoletos and averaged more than 18 points, back when they had no three-pointers. For two years, he played Batman-and-Robin on the rectangle floor with his best friend, Bernard Fabiosa.

Rey Pages, a star? No. Superstar.

In college, he was plucked from Cebu and asked to strip and wear all-green. At La Salle, he became the team’s second-highest scorer (behind Lim Eng Beng). Next, he hopped to the Concepcion team before moving to the squad that immortalized his name…

Crispa. To those who followed the PBA in the ‘70s and ‘80s, didn’t you just love those days? I miss those days when you only chose between two: green or red, Crispa or Toyota.

From 1974 to 1981, Rey Pages donned the Crispa uniform. You know his friends. Atoy Co. Philip Cesar. Bogs Adornado. Abet Guidaben. Bernie Fabiosa. Johnny Revilla. Rudy Soriano. Freddie Hubalde. You also remember Team Toyota: Robert Jaworski, Abe King, Francis Arnaiz, Ompong Segura and, of course, Ramon Fernandez.

“What reminds you most of those days?” I asked.

“1976,” he said. “The year we scored a grand slam. As prize, we joined the Goodwill Games. We went to Hong Kong, then to Hawaii.”

Back then, Rey Pages, all of 6-foot-1, stood tall. Twice they traveled to Hawaii, four times to Hong Kong. He owned a brand-new Mitsubishi Galant, then later a hatchback two-door Toyota Corolla SR, then a sporty Mitsubishi Celeste.

He was so popular that his younger sister Grace (Vargas) became well-known at her Insular Life office because “she’s the sister of Rey Pages.”

In my case, I was barely 10 years old then but I recall that whenever he’d visit Bacolod, our house grew chaotic and people crammed to see him throw hoops at our backyard court.

My uncle Rey (left) with my father Bunny and my little brother Charlie


After eight years with Crispa, Rey moved to Utex Wrangler in 1982. As fate would have it, he dislocated his shoulder. It turned so painful that, at a youthful age of 29, he quit.

Today, almost 25 years since, Rey Pages has lived the non-pro basketball life. He relocated to Los Banos, Laguna, where my grandmother, Dr. Paulina “Bing” Pages, was a top botanist at U.P. He went into business: from landscaping to the supplying of plants (you see those coconut trees at Shangri-La in Mactan, many were supplied and planted by his men). Now, he’s into the selling of vehicles in Calamba, Laguna. He lives with his wife Gloria and they have many children. No, not the ones born by them but those in four legs. “We have 30 dogs and cats,” he said. “They climb the table, sit beside and eat with us. They sleep with us.”

Basketball? In smaller leagues, he played on. When called to play a Crispa exhibition game against Manny Victorino and Jimmy Santos, in six minutes he drilled 12 points. In their league in Laguna, he would score 30-plus points. And this was against 20-year-olds. He is 53.

Last year, he received news from the doctor that tore him: “Stop playing!” he was told, after he tore ligaments in his left knee. “Play and you’ll be in a wheelchair for life.”

Rey Pages? Quitting basketball? Is this possible?

Not during our reunion. Not when that basketball continues to dribble inside disguised as his heartbeat. Not when you score 10 out of 10.