Philippine Basketball in Review (Part 2 – The 60s)


In the 60s, it was Yco under coach Caloy Loyzaga against Ysmael Steel with Tito Eduque directing. There was Yco’s defensive wizard, Ed Ocampo, against Ysmael’s offensive guns, Narciso Bernardo and Jun Papa. Future senators Freddie Webb and Bobby Jaworski were manning the guard chores for Yco. The burly ‘Big Boy’ Reynoso patrolled Ysmael’s shaded line like a punked-out pitbull.
Come join me as we take a trip down memory lane.

Originally posted on charly's blog:

The 60s saw the Philippines still clinging on to basketball supremacy in Asia. We took the Asian Basketball Conference (ABC) crown in 1960, followed this up with a gold medal in the Asian Games in 1962, and topped that with another ABC gold in 1963. Among the standouts then, with Caloy Loyzaga’s exit from active cage service in 1960, were Carlos Badion, who was adjudged MVP in the 1960 ABC; the upcoming offensive machine, Narciso Bernardo; and his perennial arch-rival and defense specialist, Ed Ocampo.

However, it was now becoming clear that the taller and heftier quintets in the Asian region were beginning to learn the ropes and inching closer. Japan took first crack at the Philippines’ enviable record, upsetting our Nationals by taking the ABC crown in 1965. Philippines had earlier breezed through the Japanese squad 74-54 in the no-bearing preliminary round. In the all-important Championship Round however, the…

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August 27, 2015 · 9:22 pm

Philippine Basketball in Review


By popular demand, we are reblogging our series on Philippine Basketball. Today, we begin our journey back to the pre-war years, when the Philippines lorded it over the Asian cage world.

Originally posted on charly's blog:

Basketball was introduced to the Philippines in the early 1900s by our American colonizers. And for the longest time, the Philippines would be the dominant figure in Asian Basketball.

From the 1st Far Eastern Championship Games (later to be replaced by the Asian Games) in 1913, to its 10th and final Edition in 1934, the Philippines would capture the crown 9 out of 10 times, losing only to China in what was then considered a national disgrace in the 5th edition in 1921 by a score of 30-27. In the next Far Eastern Games in 1923, the Philippine team would come back with vengeance in their eyes. Lou Salvador would establish an all-time record by scoring 116 points (!!!) against a hapless Chinese team on the way to recapturing the gold medal.

In 1936, the Philippines proudly represented Asia in the first-ever Olympic basketball tournament held in then-Nazi Berlin. Unluckily…

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August 27, 2015 · 8:06 am

A Seafarer’s Wife Recounts Haiyan

Mrs Roseville Alon was a newly-designated Principal of the Obo-ob Integrated School in Bantayan Island, Cebu in November 7, 2013. She was still lactating for her 2-month old baby when the storm clouds of Super Typhoon Haiyan started gathering over the horizons of Bantayan Island, in northern Cebu. On top of that, her husband Samuel was a seafarer who had just left 4 days ago to board his ship, the Danish ship Kleivstrand, which was plying the Denmark – Norway route.

Rose knew her typhoon preparation drills well, so she went ahead to lead her teachers and students in securing the school. From November 6th to the 7th, the faculty, staff and students, together with some members of the Parents-Teachers Association, worked together to prepare the school.

First, she had all her important stuff such as electronic equipment plus books, important school records, etc transferred to the newly-repaired classroom which she felt would be the best place for protection against the storm. They had 12 classrooms in all, but all were old and needed repairs, except for one which was newly-renovated. She also made sure that the teachers took measures to waterproof their respective rooms as best they could, personally inspecting the rooms. Trees and plants – of which her school had plenty – had to be trimmed as well.

Rose then prepared her family at home. She bought some supplies, inspected the house for any exposed breakable materials, and instructed the family to sleep at the ground floor of their modest 2-story home. She had 4 kids, the eldest of whom was only 10 years of age. She also had two househelps, one of whom was dedicated to the baby alone.


People were warned that the storm would be a strong one. (courtesy of

Barangay officials started moving around telling the folks to avail of the town’s evacuation center. They warned that the storm appeared to be a strong one. For a while, Rose pondered on this, but decided to stay put at her house, confident that she had done everything to prepare for the worst, as she had done countless times before.

Times like this, she wished that her husband would be there to take on the role as the head of the family. But due to the fact that she had a seafaring husband, Rose knew she had to step up as she had been trained to do. She needed to be a ‘taynay’, which meant a father and a mother at the same time. But with 2 families to manage – her immediate family, and her school family – she simply had so much on her table to work on singlehandedly. But such was life, she thought. All she could do now, after reviewing her pre-typhoon routine, was to observe and pray.

At 6am on the fateful morning of the November 8, she watched the TV as the storm started devastating Tacloban. Within an hour, the strong winds would come howling like a banshee, giving her a chilling feeling she had never experienced before. Power went off, and she surmised that there probably were some trees, electric posts and lines already down.


Early morning coverage of Haiyan. (courtesy of

Outside the window, Rose saw the strong wind trying to uproot everything within her path.   Some trees were now down, and some houses had sustained some damages. She was lucky, she thought, that she had 2 big houses on both sides, which would somehow shield her home from the punishing winds.

And then, as suddenly as it came, the strong winds died down. People started to come out of their homes to assess the damage. They felt relieved that it was now all over.

Or so, they thought. After 10 minutes or so, the winds started building up once again. Only this time, the winds were stronger, noisier, and wilder. And it was now coming from the opposite direction. Within minutes, roofs started flying off like paper. Two neighboring families rushed to Rose’s home, as the winds had torn off their roofs easily.

Rose opened her home to her neighbors, even as she watched her children for any sign of fear or panic. She told her eldest daughter, Camille Grace, to lead the other 2 kids in playing and singing, just to get their minds off the ongoing onslaught outside. She did this while keeping her baby, Daniel, close to her lactating breasts.

And then their own roof started to pry loose as well. The noise became deafening now, and everything started to go crazy. Rose thought for a while of abandoning the house and proceeding to the evacuation center, but realized it would be even more dangerous now, with the debris flying everywhere. She started panicking. As if sensing her fear, her own baby started crying hard as well.


The view outside the window was terrifying. (courtesy of

Faced with the crescendoing dilemma, Rose decided to wait it out, holed up at the ground floor of her home, while praying that her roof would hold out. She kept the children busy playing and singing, keeping them away from the windows for the risk of flying debris.

Finally, at around 2:30pm, the winds started to die down. The worst was finally over. When the skies finally cleared, people came out reluctantly, fearful of what they would find outside. Without power, there was no news and no instructions coming from the authorities. With the unimaginable damage, they did not know where or how to begin the recovery process.

Outside, it became clear that the damage they had sustained would be very extensive. Roofs were strewn all over. Electric posts were down. The big trees were felled, and what was quite amazing was that there were some coconut trees that were cut in half like mere toothpicks. Crops were razed to the ground, while their bancas – the fishermen’s source of livelihood – were scattered all over, totally wrecked and irreparable.


Destroyed homes were strewn everywhere, (courtesy of

Some homes had collapsed, while some had sustained partial damages. Almost all wooden huts were razed to the ground. Rose was fortunate that there were 2 taller concrete homes sandwiching hers. Both houses had taken the brunt of the punishment, shielding her partially from the deadly winds. Both houses sustained greater damages, with their roofs almost ripped off completely.

Rose made a brief inspection and gave a sigh of relief as she saw only minor damages to her home. There was damage on the roof and some windows, but that was all. The important thing was that the family was intact, and that their house had sustained minor damages only. But there was no power, no communication (the communication towers must have been damaged, she surmised), and limited supplies. She needed help. But there was no way to get help from the outside world.

The following day, Rose then set forth to inspect her school. Along the road, she saw how destructive the storm had been. Debris was strewn all over. In many areas, the streets were closed due to fallen trees or electric poles. Hence, people had to walk for the most part. Homes had collapsed, with valuable appliances damaged beyond repair. There was destruction and despair, there was panic and fear written all over the faces of the typhoon victims.


Damages everywhere. (courtesy of

What Rose saw upon reaching the school moved her to tears. Only the newly renovated building escaped unscathed. The rest had either collapsed or had taken extensive damages, with most missing their roofs. The stage collapsed, some trees were down. Her treasured plants were strewn all over, as though ravaged by a pack of wild beasts. Many of the teachers lost valuable records as their files were totally drenched by the rains. Damage to the school was estimated at over P3M.

But even with the extensive damage, the school was still packed with families who elected to stay after their homes were wiped out by the storm. And Rose had no choice but to keep her gates open for the refugees of the disaster. Rose and her staff busied themselves converting the school into a temporary evacuation center, taking extra care of the old and the sick, the mothers and the babies. With 3 groups to take care of (her own immediate family, the school staff, and now, the refugees), Rose was being pulled in many directions. Without any contact with the outside world, she felt abandoned and lost. No matter, she thought, there was work to do.


More damage. (courtesy of

It would have been so easy for her to give up and cry. How she wished that Sam was there to help her out. But with the school staff looking up to her to provide leadership, and with her children needing her, she had to brace up and show strength of character. To her, there was simply no other option but to maintain a calm, straight face.

Finally, 2 days after the storm, a brother would arrive from mainland Cebu. With this development, she decided to evacuate her whole family back to her relatives in Compostela, Cebu. Besides, her helpers were also now insisting on leaving to take care of their respective families in Bantayan. She was lucky to be able to board her family in an overloaded ship ferrying evacuees back to mainland Cebu.

It was only upon reaching the mainland that she was able to get in touch with her husband. It was only now that she could finally let go of the facade of calmness and control. Sam had been worrying no end as the social media accounts of the storm had depicted a tale of terror in Bantayan. He had feared the worst. Hearing Rose’s voice and learning that everyone was safe was just a great relief for the harassed seafarer.

But this was not the end of their sacrifices yet. Rose had to leave behind her 4 kids – including the poor baby – with her sister in Compostela so she could rush back to help her beleaguered school. DepEd had declared a school holiday for 10 days in order to accommodate the homeless families that continued to occupy the school.

Upon her return to Bantayan, Rose worked feverishly to try to restore what was left of the school. She felt blessed that the families who were now staying in the school would help her clear the place of debris, and repair what was still reparable.

Mayor Chris Escario of Bantayan would help out as best he could, providing supplies. He requested for an extension of the school holiday to accommodate some families that had not been able to find a place to stay.


The road to recovery begins. (courtesy of

Classes would resume shortly. Sadly, two of her students would be so traumatized by the storm that they would refuse to go back to school. Hence, teachers were told to look for tell-tale signs of shock among the kids. Teachers strove to keep the students busy, to take their minds off the Haiyan Disaster. Classes then were held in makeshift rooms, tents or under the shade of fallen trees.

And so it was with great relief when Habitat for Humanity Philippines informed Rose that her school had been chosen to be one of the recipients of a school building courtesy of the Sailors’ Society. It was indeed an answered prayer, she cried. Everyday, she would witness the hardships her pupils were going through, and it was as difficult for her as well.

The Sailors’ Society donation of 1 Noah’s Ark classroom had 3 toilets, plus a kitchen. Habitat volunteered the design to be easily convertible into an evacuation center. Hence, it was a big boon in that it would now become the school’s Disaster Response center. It was also the first additional building given to the school, the others being simple repairs provided by the students, the PTA, and other well-meaning organizations.

This joint project from Habitat Philippines and the Sailors’ Society was the first of many more blessings that the school would receive. Rose felt proud that it had to be a group related to her husband that would be the first to extend help to her school. And she beams about this everytime she gets to talk about the classroom. Today, the school has grown in population, and its classrooms have increased as well. They even have a computer room complete with accessories, courtesy of other well-meaning friends of Habitat.


Rose in front of the Sailors’ Society gift.

At the homefront, Rose continued to struggle. Her kids remained with her sister in Compostela, and she would tirelessly take the long trip across sea to be with her children every Friday, before reluctantly returning back to Bantayan on Sunday afternoon. It would be a weekly ritual for her – even if she was sick or tired or busy – for she cherished every small opportunity to be with her kids. Besides, she no longer had any househelp with her in Bantayan, hence they felt it wise to have the kids stay with her sister in the meantime.

Six months after the calamity, in May 2014, Rose’s husband Sam finally had his vacation leave. His arrival in Compostela was a joyous, emotional occasion. The family was now reunited. It was only then that they would decide to bring back the family to Bantayan. Finally, their house in Bantayan had become a home once more.


Rose with her family a year after the storm.

For more related stories on Typhoon Haiyan:

A Survivor’s Story

‘A Survivor’s Story’: The Aftermath

Turning Life on the Flipside

Habitat’s Extraordinary Englishman


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Lexmark Flexes Muscles in ‘Enter the Dragons’

The Freeman, 12 August 2015

Team Lexmark, the new kids on the block, provided the pleasant surprise when it pushed the heavily-favored Bohol Paddlers to the limit at the recently concluded ‘Enter the Dragons’ dragonboat exhibition races last Saturday, August 8, at the Cebu Yacht Club in Lapulapu City.


Dragonboat action at the Cebu Yacht Club courtesy of Pons Alvarez)

The LXK Site Security Dragons, inspired by the presence of one of the company Directors, Mr Hamid Mati, showed no mercy in roaring ahead of the other more seasoned teams, capping second place honors in both the 200m short boat open and the 300m standard boat open categories. With the twin silver podium finishes, Lexmark was 2nd to the veteran paddlers of the Bohol Paddlers Association (BPA), which swept both races in a flawless display of speed and synchronization.

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Next stop: Danao. Coming this Sept 12. Be there. (courtesy of Ben Shang)

Coached by Marlon Mesina, the Security Dragons underwent a 3-day crash course in dragon-boating, before taking on the challenge in the waters of the Cebu Strait. The surprising speed in which they absorbed the lessons underscores the fact that the team has vast potentials for national – and eventually – international recognition. With constant practice, plus more race experience, Team Lexmark has definitely no place to go but up.


LXK Site Security Dragons making waves in a new frontier. courtesy of Pons Alvarez)

The results of the races were as follows. For the 200m short boat open: 1st – BPA B 1:06.50; 2nd – Lemark B 1:14.08; 3rd – BPA A; 4th – Habagat A. For the 300m standard boat open: 1st – BPA 1:24.80; 2nd – Lexmark 1:38.48; 3rd – Habagat; 4th – Bogo.


The dragons rest. (courtesy of Dang De Larrazabal)

‘Enter the Dragons’ was made possible by the Cebu Provincial Sports Commission, International Pharmaceuticals Inc., Dragon Boat Cebu Central, Cebu Yacht Club, Bucket Shrimps, Habagat Outdoor Equipment, Bogo City Green Paddlers, Pacific Pensionne, and the Philippine Navy. Adding spice to the race was renowned radio DJ, Jiggy Serna, who wowed the crowd with his race announcer gig.

This September 12, the dragonboats will be found in the waters of Danao in time for the town fiesta celebrations. Another 3-day clinic will be conducted there before the exhibition races.  To join, interested individuals or groups may contact, and look us up on Facebook: Dragon Boat Cebu Central.

Photos courtesy of Pons Alvarez, Dang De Larrazabal, Ben Shang.

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Enter the Dragons

This Saturday, August 8, you are invited to the Cebu Yacht Club to witness exciting dragon boat action as the Cebu Provincial Sports Commission and the Dragon Boat Cebu Central (DBCC) proudly presents: ‘Enter the Dragons’, an introduction to dragon boating in Cebu.

Dragon Boat Poster

Come and join the party!!!

‘Enter the Dragons’ will showcase exhibition races at the Cebu Yacht Club this 8 August 2015. Expected to join the event are teams from the newly-minted Bogo Dragon Boat Club, Team Habagat, other new teams and groups in Cebu, plus guest teams from Bohol. It is part of a series of roadshows initiated by the Cebu Central Dragon Boat Association – with the full support of the Cebu Provincial Government – to introduce the sport of Dragon Boating in Cebu.

Last May, DBCC conducted its first dragonboat offering in Bogo City during its fiesta celebrations. Since then, there has been more awareness and appreciation for the sport as more and more groups have indicated interest in the paddling party event.


Dragon Boating, a sport where we have been excelling in.

Before the exhibition races, DBCC will conduct a free training-seminar for interested groups or individuals. The training will be held starting August 5 to 7 at the Cebu Yacht Club. The free training demonstrates the group’s collective commitment to promote the sport in Cebu and the region. Interested parties may call Pons Alvarez (09335076139), Randy Su (09176262621) or Charly Holganza (09999986550).

Come one, come all. Bring your friends, your families, have a picnic, have fun. This August 8, come join us at the Cebu Yacht Club in Lapu-Lapu City. We’re gonna have a blast!!!


See you at the Cebu Yacht Club this Saturday, 8 August.


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Philippine Azkals Living the Dream

(Photos courtesy of sherwin vardeleon, mary ann collantes, inquirer,net,,,


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Celebrating Cebu’s Sensational Centers of Attraction

Decades ago, Cebu produced arguably the most celebrated center rivalry ever produced in Philippine Basketball when the dominating duo of Mon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben banged bodies under the basket for arch-rivals Toyota and Crispa respectively. So intense was the duel between the two teams – and their colossal slotmen – that fans would fill the Araneta Coliseum to the rafters everytime the rivals bared their fangs on each other in the hardcourt.


The Fernandez-Guidaben rivalry played a big role in PBA’s golden years. (courtesy of video48)

Not a lot of today’s PBA fans would know that Mon ‘El Presidente’ Fernandez was a proud product of Cebu City’s University of San Carlos; and that Abet Guidaben had been discovered while playing for the neighboring Colegio de San Jose Recoletos. From their humble beginnings in the hardcourts of Cebu, both behemoths would go eyeball-to-eyeball countless times, trading elbows in the prestigious arenas in Manila and abroad, regaling the crowd with a Philippine brand of center play that was more finesse than fury, more beauty than brawn.

Regarded by most as the greatest player ever produced by the PBA, Fernandez would cap his glorious professional career with impressive records, most of which have remained unchallenged by the present crop of PBA stars today. Mon was a reed-thin 6′ 5″ beanpole who retired in 1990 with 4 MVP awards and a record of 19 PBA championships. He was the all-time leader in most points scored with 18,996 points; was 1st in overall rebounds with 8,652; 1st in defensive rebounds with 6,435; 1st in minutes played with 36,624 minutes; and 1st in blocks with 1,853. He was 2nd in assists with 5,220; 2nd in offensive rebounds with 2,217; 2nd in games played; and 2nd in steals with 1,302. Steals and assists are normally the enclave of guards, but Mon showed what a complete player he was by figuring high on the list for both.


Mon was a hybrid center with point guard skills. (courtesy of

His most brilliant performance transpired in 1984, when  he turned in an unforgettable season average of 27 points, 15 rebounds and 9.9 assists, almost a triple double season! Triple double games are celebrated because they show the clear dominance of a player in a single game. But to have a triple-double season requires a consistency to perform at high levels all season long, and this feat may never be approximated by any player – local or import.

Not to be outdone, the 6′ 6″ Guidaben would also figure prominently in the record books, clearly demonstrating how their regular face-offs had brought out the best in each one of them. Before finally hanging up his jersey in 1995, Abet would wrack up 2 MVP trophies; was 1st in games played with 1,081; 1st in offensive rebounds with 2,373; was 2nd all-time leading scorer with 15,775 points; 2nd in total rebounds with 8,570; 2nd in defensive rebounds with 6,197; and was also prominent in the top ten in the other key categories.


Guidaben’s numbers were also as impressive, particularly on the defensive end. (courtesy of

The Fernandez-Guidaben center struggle will always be remembered for its finesse, its fine artistry and its intensity. No center rivalry has ever made the fans come alive as much as this pair of Southern slot keepers.

Or so it seemed. Today, another set of Southern stars are threatening to dominate the shaded lane and make fans forget the quintessential center sensations of yesteryears. Enter: two Cebu-toughened keyhole enforcers with scary nicknames such as the Kraken and Gregzilla.


The PBA’s new center sensations. (courtesy of

June Mar ‘The Kraken’ Fajardo is today’s toast of the PBA, having copped the MVP award in the recent PBA Philippine Cup Conference. The 6′ 11″ June Mar played college ball at the University of Cebu, where he first matched wits with Gregory ‘Gregzilla’ Slaughter. Slaughter donned the colors of the University of Visayas, before he was plucked by Ateneo to play in Manila’s more prestigious UAAP collegiate wars.

Truth to tell, Gregzilla – at 7′ 1″ – used to regularly lord it over the Kraken in Cebu, collecting 3 consecutive college MVPs before flying off to Ateneo. The Kraken would get his taste of 3 MVPs only after his arch-rival, Gregzilla, had left for Manila. Greg would school June Mar at the perimeter in these clashes, with June Mar trying to lure Greg out where his better mobility could negate Greg’s size advantage.


The two giants during their college clashes in Cebu. (courtesy of

In Manila, Greg would continue to reap accolades, giving the Ateneo Blue Eagles the UAAP crown twice during his 2-year stint there. The Kraken, in the meantime, would have a not-so-impressive stint with the San Miguel Beermen in the Asian Basketball League (ABL).

In 2013 however, June Mar would get the break that would later send his career zooming skyhigh. Chosen to be a part of the Smart Gilas Team that would play for the 2013 Fiba Asia, the 2014 Fiba World and the 2014 Asian Games, Jun Mar would get the golden opportunity to test the finest big men in the Asian region and in the world.


The Kraken improved his game in forays against the best centers of the world. (courtesy of

Greg had opted to stay home, despite the invitation to join the team for the Fiba World. It was more of a calculated move; to rest his body for the next PBA conference and to avoid the possibility of an injury.

But, as if on cue, the basketball gods would reward June Mar for his selflessness in risking life and limb, manning the Philippine trenches against the  bigger, bulkier bullies from across the globe. June Mar would come home a wiser, more confident man from the experience, and this would bode well for the San Miguel Beermen.


The Kraken snared the MVP crown in the latest PBA coference. (courtesy of

For now, the positive karma has placed June Mar on the driver’s seat of this developing rivalry. But it is an unlikely situation that could however be reversed soon.

With the league’s winningest and most respected coach, Tim Cone, now moving over to Barangay Ginebra, expect some changes in the Gin Kings’ style of play. Coach Tim’s philosophy is known to put premium on order and discipline. It will be interesting to see how Ginebra’s razzle-dazzle guards – traditionally the senior partners in the team – adjust.


Gregzilla on the verge of stardom. (courtesy of

Greg’s size will be a big asset, should Coach Tim elect to use the triangle offense again. And given more ball touches this time around, Gregzilla will certainly give The Kraken a serious run for his money.

Photos courtesy of,,,,,,,,,,,

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Canyoneering Downstream in Badian: A Perfect Extreme Adventure for Aspiring Adventurers


My wife and I were supposed to try this adventure this week, but due to the bad weather conditions, canyoneering in Badian has been temporarily suspended. This one’s for the adventurous types. Check-out the 20-foot shame dive. If you don’t dive, you’re shamed for life!!! Kung kaya sa uban, kaya na nimo!!!

Thanks, Gian and Sheila, for this great blog!

Originally posted on Adrenaline Romance:

Downstream Canyoneering in Badian

The idea of engaging in extreme adventures seems to be fun and exciting. After all, who wouldn’t be excited at seeing breathtaking scenes, experiencing adrenaline-pumping activities, or sharing death-defying experiences with friends? However, based on our experiences, many people find out the hard and painful way that the world of adventure is not as easy as described in blogs or seen in photos and videos.

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Assessing the Philippine Campaign in the 28th SEA Games in Singapore

Nothing’s changed. After the Philippines’ dismal performance in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar during the 27th South East Asian (SEA) Games last 2013, our contingent returns home from the 28th edition of the SEA Games in Singapore minus a favorable result once again.

28th SEA Games Singapore 2015 - National Stadium, Singapore - 16/6/15  Closing Ceremony - Volunteers and athletes dance  SEAGAMES28 TEAMSINGAPORE Mandatory Credit: Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee / Action Images via Reuters

Closing Ceremony at the SEA Games in Singapore. (courtesy of SINGSOC)

Our athletes landed 6th overall in Singapore with a tally of 29 Gold, 36 Silver and 66 Bronze medals, a slight improvement from the 7th place finish in 2013 in Myanmar where we also had 29 Gs, but only 34 Ss and 38 Bs. The jump from 6th to 7th was largely on account of Myanmar’s plummeting fortunes from having a host country’s bonanza of medals in 2013, to an ordinary competitor .

Prior to jumping off to do battle in Singapore, our sports leaders trumpeted a projected output of 41 to 50 golds. Not surprisingly, they were way off the mark.

Here are the medal standings for the last SEA Games:


The 28th SEA Games Medal Tally (courtesy of SINGSOC)

Singapore, with a population of only 5.4 million people, beat the Philippines, a country with over 100 million people, for the third straight time in the medal tally. Since the 2011 Games in Palembang, the Philippines has logged behind Singapore by at least five gold medals. Sure, Singapore was due for an avalanche of additional medals, as hosts of the Games. But the difference in medal output is simply appalling. Others will say that the tiny nation has the economic resources to train and develop their athletes.

If economic resource is the answer, Vietnam has a per capita income of $3.5T; while the Philippines has a better per capita with $4.5T (2014 IMF figures). Vietnam joined the Games only in the 90s, after years of devastation caused by war. Vietnam has a population of 93M (again much less than the Philippines). Vietnam had more golds and has consistently outscored the Philippines in the medal race since 2005. This tells us that economic resource bogey cannot be entirely true.

Malaysia has a population of only 30 million. It has consistently outscored the Philippines in the medal tally since 2005. So with Thailand with a population of 67 million.

In Singapore, we failed to win a single event in 51 gold medals at stake in aquatics (38 in swimming, 8 in diving, 3 in synchronized swimming and two in water polo). It is simply unthinkable for a country surrounded by water not to win a single gold in aquatics.

We were previous world champions and current record holders in three showcase events in dragon boat (traditional boat race), and yet we didn’t win a single gold (there were eight gold medals offered) in the event.

We also failed to win any of the 17 golds in canoeing. We only scored four bronze medals.

In athletics, we won 5 golds. However, 4 of these came from Fil-Ams based in the USA. This clearly illustrates that the grassroots development program for track and field is practically non-existent, unlike the times we had the likes of Lydia De Vega, Isidro Del Prado and Elma Muros in the Gintong Alay program.

All sports failed to meet their medal predictions, except for triathlon, boxing, taekwondo, table tennis, softball, billiards, rugby 7s and basketball. The Philippines participated in 35 of the 36 sports in Singapore.

Chef de mission Julian Camacho initially predicted 50 gold medals, then lowered his expectations to 41 in a bid to match the country’s gold output in 2007 Thailand. He later thanked the athletes for doing a good job after bringing home only 29 gold medals, the exact same output in 2013 in Myanmar, but with more athletes competing this time.

We competed in only three team sports in Myanmar (men’s and women’s basketball and women’s football), as opposed to the several team sports in Singapore (men’s and women’s softball, basketball, rugby 7s and volleyball, women’s football, netball and floorball) where a total of 158 Filipino athletes competed.

Here is the Philippines medal tally by sport in the 28th SEA Games:

Sport No of Events Gold Silver Bronze
Aquatics 38 0 2 11
Archery 10 0 1 3
Athletics 46 5 7 9
Basketball 2 1 0 0
Badminton 7 0 0 1
Billiards and Snooker 10 3 1 5
Bowling 10 0 0 2
Boxing 11 5 3 2
Canoeing 17 0 0 4
Cycling 6 1 0 0
Fencing 12 0 4 2
Gymnastics 17 1 1 2
Judo 12 1 0 2
Pencak Silat 13 0 0 3
Rowing 18 0 1 1
Rugby 7s 2 1 0 1
Sailing 20 1 2 0
Sepak Takraw 10 0 1 1
Shooting 26 1 1 3
Softball 2 2 0 0
Squash 5 0 0 3
Table Tennis 7 0 1 0
Taekwondo 15 3 3 2
Tennis 7 1 3 4
Traditional Boat Race 8 0 0 1
Triathlon 2 2 1 0
Water Skiing 11 0 0 3
Wushu 20 1 4 3
No Medals:
Aquatics-Diving 8 0 0 0
Aquatics-Synchronized Swimming 3 0 0 0
Aquatics-Water Polo 2 0 0 0
Equestrian 4 0 0 0
Floorball 2 0 0 0
Football 1 0 0 0
Golf 4 0 0 0
Netball 1 0 0 0
Volleyball 2 0 0 0

POC Vice President and Volleyball Head Joey Romasanta ventured that there is a lesson to be learned from the medal standings. He said that we should concentrate on medal-rich events such as aquatics, athletics, canoeing, boxing, etc. to score high in the medal race. This is not a lesson learned, but rather a lesson unlearned as this has been a known fact since the early days of the Olympics. To say now that we should start to focus on these events is to actually say that we have not learned these lessons from long ago.

PSC chairman Richie Garcia said that there is a need to entice coaches to go full time on training the national athletes. Most coaches, he said, do odd jobs on the side, like coaching and training collegiate athletes and teaching kids. Garcia said the coaches produce the athletes so they should be paid better in order for them to stay. Case in point is the former track icon Lydia de Vega who now works in Singapore as a college coach. Again, this is nothing new. Everybody knows that to get quality performance, we need quality coaches. And quality coaches need quality incentives.

Garcia further added that our athletes performed well in some and had narrow defeats that could had been won. He earlier predicted a sixth overall finish without the number of gold medals. He decried the lack of foreign training opportunities for the coaches and the athletes as the bane in Philippine sports. Nothing new again. If we want our athletes to learn and grow in their respective fields, give them more opportunities to pit talents and bloody their noses in international competitions and training.

POC president Peping Cojuangco Jr said the national athletes should be housed in a training center where everything is controlled and strictly monitored— diet, conditioning, mind-set and training. He hopes to build the training center in Clark Air Base, Pampanga (projected to cost around P2 billion) as soon as possible. Again, this has been articulated a million times before. Gintong Alay’s successful program had our athletes train in Baguio, where the thin air helped their lungs develop the capacity to acquire more oxygen, hence more stamina. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel here.

Cojuangco also mentioned that athletes from other countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and even Malaysia got ample financial support from the government. He said these countries spent at least five times the money that the Philippines had invested on its athletes. This is the same song, with the same refrain all over again. And no one has done anything about it.

Based on the POC and PSC leadership, the following broad strokes were given: the need for full-time coaches, the need for foreign training opportunities, the need for a national sports training facility, the need for more government financial support. Bottomline here is the lack of support from government for a comprehensive national sports and youth program.

But other than that, there is a glaring lack of a grassroots development program for many of our sports associations. This is evident in the lack of quality performance, the lack of publicity and excitement generated from our Palarong Pambansa or other national sports competitions of the recent past.

There is the growing popularity of taking short cuts, of mining for gold opportunities among Fil-foreigners, instead of developing our native talents. It is apparently more fun for officials to look for talents abroad, than to find diamonds in the rough in the hinterlands of Mindanao or elsewhere.

Many of our National Sports Associations (NSAs) have not demonstrated the initiative and creativity to find other sources of support for their athletes. Everyone cries out for lack of resources when there are hundreds of companies that are willing to assist given the right opportunity. Companies will want to be identified with winners, thus an ill-planned program will definitely not get the desired support.

Finally, there is the perceived sports politics that has stymied the development of many sports associations not properly connected with the POC. Some sports associations are favored, while some are not.

Many of our NSAs have become NPAs (non-performing assets). The medal tally above should tell us which Associations have been napping. These NSAs must be held accountable for their actions (or inactions). If we continue the same programs, the same activities, at the same pace, with the same faces, we are sure to have the same results. New standards, new initiatives, new leadership is needed to inject dynamism, trust and a deeper understanding of the challenges of the new sports environment.

The same should hold true for our POC and PSC. After 2005, we have been consistently underachieving. The broad strokes given by our sports leaders have been the same complaints which they themselves should have addressed long time ago. To say that we are happy with the results is to say that we are happy with mediocrity and dismal performance. That is precisely the kind of attitude that will keep our people mired in the quicksand of failure.

Perhaps it is time to change the old guards. There are passionate leaders who can better address the country’s hemorrhaging sports program. There are young, innovative sportsmen who have a better appreciation for sports in general; new leaders who can shine under the new sports dynamics at the national and international level.

As for the perennial problem of ‘lack of government support’,  it is time for the whole sporting community to make its voice heard. It is clear that the President is not keen on supporting the present POC leadership. What he doesn’t realize is that by withholding support for the POC, he is actually denying support for our athletes, and the country’s sports and youth program.

The country’s leadership must understand the critical role of sports in the development of the nation. The President must wake up to his responsibility to get the wheel moving. Investing in sports among the youth is an important first step in the stairway to success. It makes our people stronger physically, mentally and psychologically. It is a culture changer.

Sports builds the character of our youth. It develops the basics of discipline, sacrifice, professionalism, teamwork, fair play, unity, leadership, etc. These character traits produce the bedrock to success. Success provides the impetus for more support to be poured back into the system. Once that cycle is completed, once the movement has gained momentum, that perennial nuisance called ‘lack of government support’ becomes a thing of the past.

But first we have to take the first step.

Pics courtesy of,,,, SINGSOC, gma network.




Filed under Sports

Turning Life on the Flipside

– a story from Habitat For Humanity Philippines

I met Ben and Rhodes from a high school classmate, Rose Marie Sabangan, who is Rhodes’ mom. Imagine two young scholarly dudes, suddenly thrust in an alien situation, in a less than ideal environment. It is to the credit of these two young gentlemen that, despite the many challenges, they took on the challenge and persevered. 


Ben and Rhodes, two classy dudes willing to dirty their hands for a good cause.

Study. Internet. Repeat. Multiply that by four years.

That was life then for Ben Ros and Rhodes Sabangan, two (2) New Yorkers who recently graduated from college in Ohio, until they decided there’s more to life than complacency and comfort.

“We wanted to put away the cerebral halves of ourselves,” Rhodes explained, “You become complacent and you stop taking risks. You stop moving forward. You stop trying to meet new people.”


Deciding to turn life on its flipside, they came to the Philippines on September 2014, for five (5) months of travel; meeting new people, trying new things, and along with it, to build homes with Habitat for Humanity Philippines, empowering both themselves and the lives of others in need.

hab15“Last November (2013), we had obviously heard about Yolanda (international name: Haiyan)… and so it just became clear that we were killing multiple birds with one stone,” Rhodes said.

From there, the two became the most-travelled volunteers within Habitat Philippines’ sites, volunteering to build homes in Bistekville 4 in Quezon City,  Pinamalayan in Mindoro, Daanbantayan and Bantayan Island, in Cebu, and finally, Bohol.

The two friends even stayed in an empty unit at Bistekville 4 while they were building on-site.


At Habitat’s Bistekville 4, volunteers get ready to build.

“Staying in one of the houses that we were building for other people, was a profound experience,” Rhodes said.

“It was comfortable too. It’s a nice house!” Ben added.

Ben also said another notable experience on their journey was building for earthquake-affected families in Bohol, as each house is built on the home partners own land, from the ground up.

“By the end of the first week in Bohol, it was like, “oh, I dug the foundation for this house four days ago and now they’re putting the roof on it’ and it’s really gratifying,” Ben said.


The Bohol model using bamboo instead of hollow blocks.

This fulfillment, derived from four years of straight studying and a life they’d wanted to shake-up, Ben and Rhodes traded typing on keyboards and  tapping on their smart phones,  to mixing cement, hauling thousands of concrete hollow blocks and laying them brick by brick; building the foundations to homes and lives of informal settlers and disaster-affected families.

“Digging holes or foundations and hauling cement back and forth, just doing it without pay, is very different from something I’ve done before… rewarding of course, and in multiple different ways,” Ben continued.


Building new homes for the victims of Haiyan,

Rhodes agreed, saying, “I think what Ben and I were scared of – which is why we wanted to get out of what we were doing – was this ‘computer routine’, this screen-life that we were living, is a loss of energy.

“(Now) I just feel so full of energy, so ready to be like “let’s do something!” whatever and wherever it is… this trip has provided me with a tremendous amount of energy,” Rhodes concluded.

(Pics courtesy of,, habitatphils, cbh)



Filed under Advocacies, Family and Friends