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?


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?


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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!”

Categorized as Running

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…”

Categorized as Running

For Z, more Zzzz’s before The Dream

The last time I saw Manny Pacquiao at the Cebu City Sports Center, it was one year ago—February 24, 2006—during the Cebu City Charter Day celebration. Manny was greeted by thousands who overflowed the grandstand bleachers to clap and cheer and wave at our RP hero. Manny sang his sentimental song, “Laban Ko ‘To.” He braved the crowds swarmed with Pacman fanatics. During the formal introductions emceed by Councilor Jack Jakosalem, he upstaged our land’s two highest leaders—President GMA and Cardinal Vidal—with a standing ovation.

This was then.

Last Saturday—exactly 12 months later—at 8:15 in the evening, Manny Pacquiao once more entered our Sports Center. Clad in a pink-striped, short-sleeves polo shirt, he wore a shining pair of black leather shoes and an even shinier Rolex watch studded with gold and diamonds. Pacquiao entered the right side of the complex and when the tens of thousands spotted the man, they zoomed on him like a spotlight. People rose. Eyes enlarged. Mouths opened. The speakers blared. But, guess what—something unbelievable and shocking happened next…

Manny Pacquiao was booed!

No kidding. The reigning world champion. The Superman who put Erik Morales to sleep in Las Vegas. RP’s greatest-ever boxer—and yes, that includes Flash Elorde and Pancho Villa.

Manny Pacquiao was booed!

Embarrassing? Nah. Shameful? Nah. Demeaning? Nah. It was much more than that. It was a lesson. A warning. A message. A signal to Mr. Pacquiao that he ought to stick with the first name “Mister” and not change it to “Congressman.”

Seconds after Pacquiao was jeered, thousands screamed in unison, “CONGRESSMAN! CONGRESSMAN!”

And then another round of boos…

Boo, Manny!

You know what? I hope Pacquiao hears more boos. I hope he listens. I hope he hears the message clear and loud, “Back to the gym, not the political ring!”

“Moment of Truth” was, to say the least, a huge, huge success. I’ve been to dozens of events at the Sports Center but I’ve never seen the grandstand as jam-packed as three nights ago.

Cebuanos love boxing. We know that. From Cebu Coliseum to the Waterfront Lahug ballroom to the Mandaue Coliseum to the Gaisano Country Mall parking lot—Cebuanos always paid money, lined up, and watched. But last Saturday was different. It was HUGE. From the boxing ring that loomed at the center with a giant tent—it was Cebu’s first world boxing championship in 10 years—the last time was in Mactan back in 1997 when Gerry Penalosa defended his crown.

The “Moment of Truth” was a moment of success. Even the seats marked P5,000 and P2,000—very expensive tickets based on how “tihik” Cebuanos are—were packed.

To ALA himself, Antonio L. Aldeguer; to his partner and the event promoter, Sammy Gello-ani; to ALA’s heir apparent and boxing’s newest manager, Michael Aldeguer; to Golden Boy Promotions and ABS-CBN—you’ve done Cebu proud.

Z Gorres? Wow. He gave it everything. He punched. He jabbed. He absorbed punches thrown by Fernando Montiel that would have wobbled a lesser being. Behind every “GORRES! GORRES! GORRES!” chant of the thousands from the bleachers, Z Gorres fought. He never backed away. He had Montiel on the ropes, he had Montiel’s left eye bleeding and swollen, he had Montiel’s mouth open and his teeth guard hanging on the 12th round.

He had Montiel him. Almost.

Two points. Those two point deductions he received were painful. Was the referee correct on those? Why wasn’t Z given enough warnings? Did those deductions dampen Z and make a difference at the later rounds?

We don’t know. What we know is this: Z’s time as world champion will soon arrive. But for now, Z’s dream will have to wait. And sleep.

Boom-Boom Bautista? Wow. Wow. Wow. Before the first round bell rang, everybody knew the Boholano would win. It was never a question of “If” but “What round.”

Not only was Boom-Boom in excellent shape, but his opponent was the opposite. From where I sat about 30 feet from the ring, Marino Gonzales never owned the required “six-pack” abs of a boxer. In our words, “naa siya’y bil-bil.” No kidding. You could see fat smiling naked above his shorts. And wasn’t it the first time he’s ever stepped outside Mexico? And didn’t he arrive the day before the fight?

But back to Boom-Boom, I’ve seen him fight in person twice before and, I must say, there’s something different about the Boom-Boom I saw at 10:30 last Saturday night.

Swagger. Yes. He’s got it. That inside-the-chest, Sorry, no chance-you-can-beat-me attitude that resides deep inside every title-holder. In Boom-Boom, you can see it in his eyes. You can see it in the way he prances around the stage. You can see it with our own bare eyes and say, “Future world champion.”

Categorized as Boxing

In this bad news world, it’s good to do good

Past 1 p.m. last Thursday, four good people landed at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. They wore T-shirts and shorts, carried 11 oversize bags loaded with yellow Penn balls, and they each hand-carried a special gift for us: their big, warm smiles.

Elmer Dolera, Ted Sayrahder, Kevin Young, and Joy Riley are good. They’re so good that they flew thousands of miles from their homeland—the United States—to be with us. Here on vacation? On a business venture? Arrived to invade the dark, smoke-infested bars in search of topless girls? No. They’re good, remember?

These four good visitors landed in Cebu for a different swing: To teach tennis. Yes. Tennis. In the U.S., they’re what you call “tennis pros.” And they’re not just ordinary pros—they’re some of the best from the West to the East Coast.

Did they arrive to get paid green bucks? Thousands of dollars deposited in their bank accounts for this trip? No. They’re good, remember?

They came to Cebu on their own, without pay, leaving behind their spouses and children, losing hundreds of dollars of income during their several weeks-long stay here—to teach tennis, to share their expertise, to do good.

Isn’t that good? Yes, very good. No wonder they’re called the “Goodwill Tennis Tours.” Their objective is to promote friendship and closer ties between the U.S. and our country through tennis.

Elmer Dolera started it all back in 1999. A Filipino-American born and raised in California but whose parents originated from Tubigon, Bohol, Elmer had visited Cebu thrice before ’99 and, each time he arrived, longed for a project to help his native land.

Why not tennis? he asked. Why not import a top U.S. coach for a few weeks, find some local trainers, and mix them? Why not do good?

So Elmer contacted Ted Sayrahder, a USPTA P1 and USA High Performance Coach—one of the top in the whole of America—they flew together and, since 1999, have been back and forth several times and visited places like Boracay, Palawan, Bohol, and Iloilo.

Fast forward to last Thursday. The coaches arrived in Cebu after conducting workshops in Gingoog City, Butuan, Camuguin Island, Malaybalay, and Davao. But this time, instead of just Elmer and Ted, they invaded Cebu with two more top pros, Joy Riley and Kevin Young.

Kevin Young? Man, he’s good. He’s a good man. And, he’s a very, very good tennis coach. Back in Washington State, he runs a huge 12-court facility in Vancouver with hundreds of children and adult netters. His official title? Master RCW (Recreational Coaches Workshop) National Trainer—one of only six in the whole United States!

Good? Nah. Very, very good.

Joy Riley is a beauty. She stands over 5-foot-10 with long, flowing blonde hair and the body of a Steffi Graf. A varsity swimmer in college, she has since shifted to tennis and is an RCW National Trainer and PTR Pro.

What did the Goodwill Tennis Tours do? From Friday to Sunday last week, each morning from 8:30 to 11:30 they taught Cebu’s top coaches. Nearly 60 locals showed up wearing tennis shorts and tennis shoes and tennis rackets. They trooped to the Casino Espanol and joined the Recreational Coaches Workshop. On court, they danced, sprinted for bouncing balls, smacked forehands. They listened, laughed, learned.

In the afternoons, it was all-children. Twenty of Cebu’s best juniors participated—including names you read each week on this space: Sally Mae Siso (who, this year, is the youngest Cebu City Charter Day awardee), her brother Nino Siso, No.1 junior star Jacob Lagman, and 16-year-old champ Francis Largo. For over two hours each afternoon, they joined the Elite Juniors Program. They sprinted for drop shots, smashed lobs, and sweated enough sweat to transform the tennis court into a swimming pool.

I spent hours watching. What single lesson, in my opinion, did I learn most? Three letters: FUN.

Those three letters are the most important letters in the sports alphabet. Think about it. In golf, for example, what use is teaching a child the proper grip if she’s not having fun? In basketball, what use is teaching the behind-the-back dribble is he’s not smiling?

Fun, Fun, Fun. Coaches, remember that.

Back to Joy, Kevin, Ted and Elmer: these are good guys. Really good guys. They’re passionate. They laugh on court and dance with the children and jump for joy. They’re in love with tennis, with life, and, from what I’ve heard them say, with Cebu.

To you guys: Thank you… Salamat!

Categorized as Tennis

Be the world champ, not a chump

Manny Pacquiao is joining politics. Can you believe that? He said so himself: “It’s no longer a question of ‘If,’” he was quoted as saying, “it’s a question of ‘What position.’” Can you believe that?

I can’t. As much as I try to decipher what’s ticking inside Manny’s brain, I can’t understand it. I mean, why would a very young man, in a decent profession making decent money, run for a position salivated at by old men? Is it because, as some say, “Time’s running out?” Time’s not running out. Manny’s only 29 years old! That’s young. Too young, in fact, for public office. Why be in such a hurry?

The worse thing is, as we all know, running for politics and running for boxing isn’t the same running. They clash. Like Rum and Milo, they don’t mix. One running forces you to smile, the other forces you to cry. And here’s the truth: If you run for politics, you can’t run on the road. You can’t focus. You’ll spend all your time shaking people’s hands, delivering speeches, creating TV commercials, plugging yourself on radio ads. You’ll spend hours and days and weeks and months running for politics. Not running on the road. Not jabbing at those mitts. Not working on upper-cuts. Not pummeling the bags. Not boxing.

And isn’t Manny a boxer?

To start with, what qualifies him to run for office? His school background? Ha-ha. His oratorical skills? He-he. His decades in public service? Ho-ho.

His name. Oh, yeah, his name! How can I forget his name. That’s what qualifies Manny to be a mayor. His name. Well, here’s my advice. Since he’s got such a powerful name (some same stronger than the letters GMA), then why doesn’t he just run for the highest position vacant on May 14…

Senator Emmanuel Dapigran Pacquaio. Doesn’t it sound good? And fitting? Doesn’t it befit a world-champion? If I were Manny, becoming mayor of GenSan, the tuna capital of this part of the earth, why, that’s small fish. Go for the whale. The Great White Whale position. Run for senator!

Running for senator entails cash, lots of cash. Money. Does money need Manny? Manny need money? No, Manny doesn’t need money. He’s got many. With Danding Cojuangco and San Miguel Beer filling his barrel, with Motolite behind his behind, with Burlington on his feet—how can Manny lose?

Senator Emmanuel Dapigran Pacquaio. I like it.

But back to running for GenSan mayor, which Manny appears to aspire for. You know what he’s doing? He’s doing the same thing to the Pedro Acharon, the incumbent GenSan mayor, that he did to Oscar de la Hoya. Remember the Golden Boy?

Here’s what Manny did: Months back, he sat down with Oscar over a steak dinner, listened to him, nodded his head, they shook hands, he signed the contract, and promised to be Golden Boy’s “Golden Boy.” Then—only weeks after—Manny punched Oscar. (Good thing it wasn’t, literally, a punch or else Manny would have been KO’d.)

Back to Mayor Acharon, if Manny runs against him, he’s doing the same thing. You see, Manny was like the mayor’s adopted son. He was the sponsor during his wedding to Jinkee. He sat at ringside in Las Vegas—upon Manny’s personal invitation, of course—to cheer. He was at the blessing of his mansion and at the baptism of his daughter.

And then Manny punches the mayor by running against him? Ouch! Is that how Manny is now? Just because he’s world champ?

Bad, bad decision. And hasn’t our hero been making bad decision after bad decision lately? Signing with Bob Arum instead of Oscar? Bad decision. He knows it. We know it. Had he signed with Oscar, he’d be fighting at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas against Marco Antonio Barrero. But because he signed with Arum, Manny’s fighting we-don’t-know-who on we-don’t-know-when at we-don’t-know-where.

Macau? Is that where he’s fighting? There’s no ready coliseum there. Only slot machines. Texas? Is that the new venue? Ha-ha-ha. Will George W. Bush be at attendance? The last time I heard of a fight in Texas, it was ‘em cowboys.

Here’s my point: I love Manny. You love Manny. Every single being on this planet with Filipino blood circulating in his system loves Manny. Is he going to throw it all away because he wants to shift careers and join the dirty, pollution-infested politics?

Manny, please: Forget politics. Forget it. No one’s stopping you from jumping into that foray—but do it later. Not now. Not when you ought to be inside the gym and not on the podium, not when we need a hero and not a thief, not when you’re, lest you forget, the world boxing champion.