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.

Run For Your Life!

Last Sunday, I woke up at 2:20 a.m. I bit my lips, shut my eyes, and tried to return back to snoring. It didn’t work. My heart kept pounding. And so after a few minutes of counting sheep, I gave up. I unwrapped the blanket, headed out, checked my email, read the news, and sipped San Mig coffee.

By 4:45 a.m., the time had arrived. I shook my wife Jasmin to wake up, showered, changed to sleeveless T-shirt, packed the iPod Shuffle, then left.

At 5:30, the Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital was flooded. Over a hundred—maybe hundreds—in running shoes littered the side street. It was the “Run For Your Heart” campaign launched by Dr. Peter Mancao and his fellow doctors. What a fabulous idea! Never mind if these heart doctors lose patients because more people are fit and are less likely to suffer from heart ailments.

At 6 a.m., Councilor Yayoy Alcoseba fired the gun and hundreds trampled the asphalt. It was my first-ever attempt at the 10K. For Jasmin, the same—her first 5K. Since I’ve taken up running last year, I’ve loved every moment. Jogging along streets named Escario, Salinas, Mango and Osmena, you observe sights you’ll never see on a car.

At the finish line, it was exhilarating. Vice Mayor Mike Rama ran the 5K and never lost his smile from start to finish. Cesar Montano ran one kilometer then said a “Vote for Me” speech. Dr. Yong Larrazabal was, as expected, a cheetah in shorts—he won the 10K Doctors’ division in 40 minutes. Dr. Vic Verallo beat his personal record—he clocked 45 minutes. My time? I couldn’t—and still can’t—believe it: 47:49. Was the distance shortened or did my Timex malfunction? I expected to run one full hour but 47 mins? My wife Jasmin also out-sprinted herself. She ran the 5K in 30:40. Good speed!

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Categorized as Running

Tennis? This summer? Learn from RP’s best

Coach Butch Bacani (far right) with his Cebu students

Don’t miss this chance: One of RP’s top coaches is in town and he’s here only for a month. So, go!

Butch Bacani, with 30 years of experience tucked inside his tennis racket, is in Cebu. Dubbed the “Smart/Butch Bacani Tennis Camp,” this clinic is for free! Yes. Believe it or not in this day of commercialism, it’s for free. So, go!

Sessions are MWF. Time? Beginners (8 to 10am), Intermediate (10 to 12), Advanced (1 to 3 pm), and venue is Cebu Country Club. If you need more info, call Ging-Ging at 4161500 local 100. So, don’t delay, grab a racket, change to tennis shorts, and go!

 

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Categorized as Tennis

Boom! Boom! Boom!

“I couldn’t surrender,” said Rey Bautista. “I remembered my hardship when I was growing up, the time a bamboo pole was stuck in my head when I was a kid bleeding and walking 30 minutes before reaching home to find someone to remove it. I remembered my poor parents. I couldn’t let them down.”

Hooray for Boom-Boom! Wasn’t he amazing? Listening to Edito Villamor, his trainer, dishing out advice (“Ari sa tiyan!”) between rounds, didn’t you feel proud to be Bisaya? After Boom-Boom’s win, when he raised both arms, stared at the TV screen, and screamed “Para ni sa imo, ma!” or words to that effect, didn’t you want to shed a tear?

To me, the fight of the night was Bautista’s. De la Hoya vs. Mayweather? Nah. Lousy. I’m no boxing expert, but wasn’t that boring? Maybe it was the hype or the six months wait. But that was no classic. Sure, we saw jabs and jabs and jabs, and we saw Floyd sliding back and sliding back and sliding back. That’s it? That’s it. Was that what the world awaited?

Maybe that’s why I liked Mike Tyson and adore Manny Pacquiao. They jump on you, bloody you, rifle you with machine-gun punches, rarely on the defense, always on the offense, and when they smell defeat dripping off the enemy’s sweat, they bite, chew, and then kiss you. Yes. Kiss you with a KO.

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Categorized as Boxing

White Water Rafting in CDO

This summer, if you’re in search of an adrenaline-rush, take the 8pm Trans-Asia boat and hop on to Cagayan de Oro. It’s called “White-Water Rafting.” Sunday last week, I was with Dr. Ronnie Medalle, his wife Steph and son Santi; Jourdan and Jingle Polotan; and my wife Jasmin and our daughter Jana. For five hours under the sun’s umbrella, we fastened our life-vests, donned helmets, and carried smiles on our faces as we paddled across 13 kms. of water and hurdled 14 rapids. What an adventure!

Roger, Rafa on half-grass, half-clay?

Why not! Since Federer’s won 48 straight matches on grass and Nadal’s won 72 straight on clay, why not halve the rectangle?

Creative, unprecedented and, yes, with that $1.63 million court, it’s a very expensive idea—but it’s drawn world-wide acclaim. Sad to say it wasn’t shown on ESPN. But don’t despair… YouTube to the rescue! If you want to see footages, especially of the third-set tiebreak that ended 12-10, click on this.

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Categorized as Tennis

In golf, Montito Garcia has no par

All of 50 years old, Montito Garcia yesterday beat the defending champion Charles “Chuckie” Hong—who, at 18 years old is not even half his age—to win the Cebu Country Club 2006 Championships—for a record seventh time.

I watched the last seven holes of the match play finals alongside my tennis buddy Macky Michael and dozens of others that included former champions Eric Deen and Jovi Neri. Twenty golf carts trailed the pair until the championship ended at 4:30 p.m. on the 33rd hole when Montito won 5 and 3.

Wearing a yellow Nike shirt, Montito then embraced Chuckie on the Hole No. 15 green, took off his white cap, waved to the crowd, then basked in their thunderous applause.

Congratulations, Montito!

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Categorized as Golf

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.

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Categorized as Cycling