The Grandest Granola of Them All

My eldest daughter, Bianca, is slowly making heads turn with her new creation, Wit’s Sweets and Savouries Granola. The snack was recently featured in a foodie blog in ‘When in Manila’. It has also been selected as one of only five fresh new products worth trying out in Manila Bulletin’s Lifestyle section under ‘Best Food Forward’ last November. And it also got great raves in a new product video advisory by Busyqueenphils.

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Introducing: the one, the only, the best, the grandest granola ever!!! I kid you not.

So what’s all the rave about this treat? If you’re looking for something new that’s delicious and healthy; something that surprises your palate, and then  leaves you craving for more; and if you’re looking for something that’s proudly Pinoy, then this granola’s got everything – and more – for you.

Now meticulously prepared in four different variations (spiced, tasty, zesty and tangy), it’s got an all-star line-up of ingredients which include dried mangoes from Cebu, crisped rice locally produced, rolled oats from Australia (the only import in our squad), chili flakes from the recently-flooded farms of Davao Oriental (we’re helping them get back on their feet too), and a bunch of other role-player ingredients all handpicked by food enthusiast Bianca. No nuts (perfect for those who have problems with uric acid like me), and even the sweetness is enhanced solely by brown sugar and honey.

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After you go through the different flavors and textures – sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy – a burst of piquancy startles you…

But the star of the show will have to be the cacao nibs. They are the very reason Bianca came up with the granola, as the beans are produced direct from Gran Verde, my wife Wit’s farm in Calinan, Davao. Wit and her siblings inherited the farm from their father, who was also cacao grower and a ‘sikwate’ aficionado. That makes three generations of cacao cultivation in the family. Besides the dried and roasted beans, the farm also offers quality seedlings, budwood and even cacao workshops by Wit herself. But that’s another story in itself.

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Cacao doctor Wit, with some of her cacao workshop studes.

An Indonesian cacao expert once pointed out that while Indonesia may have huge farms that produce great quantities of cacao for the world’s chocolate needs, the Philippines’ cacao farms are by far producing better quality cacao, and a lot of these farms are found in Mindanao, particularly in Davao.

If you’re fond of chocolates, but would like to acquire more of cacao’s health benefits, cacao nibs are the way to go. All the anti-aging, anti-oxidizing, brain-boosting, mood-enhancing and cardiovascular health perks championed by dark chocolate can be found even more potent in the roasted cacao nibs.

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A breakfast joy, an energy booster, a mood changer, a treat.

And that is what Wit’s Granola is all about. Hopelessly addictive, with a smooth slow blend of abundant flavors. With each bite, you wonder which part of your taste buds will celebrate next. Once you get to the heat, you’ll want to put it out with more. So what are you waiting for? Come and try it!!!

 

 

 

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Philippine Cage King Caloy Loyzaga Passes Away

 

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What Lies Ahead for Philippine Pro Boxing After Pacquiao

With the impending retirement of the country’s greatest boxing icon Manny Pacquiao drawing close, questions arise as to who shall take up the cudgels to keep the country among the world’s elite boxing circles. At 37, Pacquiao is getting ready to move on to his second career, after giving the country more than a decade of pride and glory.

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Manny with Money May in the richest fight ever in the history of Boxing. (courtesy of cebudavao.com)

Two veterans, Nonito ‘The Fighting Flash’ Donaire and Donnie ‘Ahas’ Nietes, stand ready to inherit the responsibility of leading the country’s best boxers. But with both past their prime at 33 years of age, they too are expected to step down the ring with finality in the next few years.

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Nonito Donaire Jr, for many years considered as Manny’s heir apparent. (courtesy of philboxing.com)

Donnie Nietes, the longest reigning champion in international boxing. (courtesy of Jay Directo, Getty Images.)

Looking into the future, there are some exciting prospects who should keep Pinoy fight fans glued to their seats.

Foremost among them are two brothers, ‘Prince’ Albert and Jason ‘El Nino’ Pagara.  The Leyte-raised siblings are products of the ALA Gym, arguably the country’s top boxing stable today.

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The Pagara brothers, Jason and Albert, getting ready for the big-times. (courtesy of inquirer.net)

‘Prince’ Albert is only 21 years old, and sports a spotless 25-0 win-loss card with 18 KOs. The younger of the Pagara duo, the ‘Prince’ copped the WBO Youth Intercontinental Super Bantamweight crown by punishing Nicaraguan William Gonzales to a 6th-round KO submission in California last October.

Albert has a strong personality that has made him an instant fan favorite. His KO rate has impressed international pug analysts who say it is only a matter of time before he gets pitted against the world’s marquee names. Albert will see action once again this February against a still unnamed opponent in Cebu.

With his speed and power, ‘Prince’ Albert has been mowing down the opposition with deadly precision. (courtesy of sunstar.com)

Jason ‘El Nino’ Pagara is 23 years old, and has an impressive 37-2 record with 23 KOs. The elder and more mature Jason took only his second loss in 2010 against Mexican Rosbel Montoya, when they fought for the  WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight belt.

Since then, he has racked up 10 successive wins, with one of them a scintillating 6th round TKO to avenge his loss against Montoya, capturing the WBO International Light Welterweight title in the process.

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Jason avenges his loss and retires Montoya. (courtesy of philboxing.com)

Next on the list is Bohol’s very own Mark ‘Magnifico’ Magsayo. At 20, this exciting young knockout artist from Dauis has had more than 200 amateur bouts under his belt, sports a dazzling 12-0 pro record with 10 knockouts, and has annexed the IBF Youth Featherweight crown.

Magsayo’s most recent first round demolition of Yardley Suarez, an erstwhile unbeaten Mexican champion, is a preview of things to come. Mark stepped into the California ring oozing with confidence, immediately pummeling a clueless Suarez with a heavy artillery barrage from all angles. Smelling blood after his initial  foray, the power-hitting Magsayo wasted no time in launching a second wave of brutal head shots, wobbling the hexed Mex before finally toppling him and sending the referee to thankfully intervene at the two-minute mark of the very first round.

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The magnificent Mark Magsayo making short work of the opposition. (courtesy of rappler.com)

Despite his tender age of 20, Mark has already acquired the slick moves of a veteran, the speed and sting of a world-class fighter, and the uncanny killer instinct of a champion. Now, if he acquires the patience of a panther, we could be seeing the next big thing right here.

‘Marvelous’ Marvin Sonsona zoomed to the very top in 2009 at the tender age of 19, winning the WBO Super Flyweight crown in exciting fashion. His career would careen from good to bad due to an evident lack of discipline and focus. At 25, Marvin has been striving to check that flaw in his armor and now has a 20-1-1 win-loss-draw record. His only blemish was a 4th round KO loss to Puerto Rican Wilfredo Vasquez Jr  for the WBO Super Bantamweight title in February 2010.

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Marvelous Marvin took our breath away, before hitting some bumps on the road. courtesy of rappler.com)

He has since avenged that loss with a split decision win over Vasquez for the NABF Featherweight title last June 2014. Last year, Marvin teamed up with the controversial trainer, Angel Heredia, in California. But the partnership has not produced good results so far, as Marvin could only post an unimpressive majority decision win over an unheralded American fighter, Jonathan Arellano, last Jun 2015.

With Pacquiao getting ready to hang up his gloves for good once elected to the Senate this coming election, this next generation of promising pugilists will need to step up to keep Pinoy fan appetite whetted. Manny will definitely be missed. He has brought Philippine Boxing to greater heights, and for that, we are eternally grateful.

For more than a decade, Pacquiao gifted the country with so much pride and glory. (courtesy of Getty images.)

But as sure as Manny’s shining star will eventually fade, new stars will be discovered. They too will have their chance to twinkle and shine, to light up our worlds, and bring us more laughter as well as tears.

The next batch of world title hopefuls have their work cut out for them. Manny has set a bar almost impossible to reach. But with proper training and discipline, with dedication and focus, with proper motivation and plenty of inspiration, nothing is impossible. We can – and yes, we will – see the Philippines in the hunt for big-time boxing banners.

(More pictures courtesy of rappler.com, inquirer.net, philstar.com, huffingtonpost.com, youtube.com, dailymail.co.uk, ibtimes.co.uk, philboxing.com, alaboxing.com, boxingvideo.org)

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Philippine Sports 2015: The Year That Was

It’s the end of the year and it’s the time for us to sit back and take stock of what happened the past year. It is an important ritual among sports buffs and sports fans alike, as it provides us vital lessons to prepare us for the year ahead, even as it allows us to reminisce the highlights of the closing year.

So what stories stood out from this year’s sports calendar? What were the key drivers that should give us a glimpse of what to expect for 2016? Finally, what should we do this 2016? From the ‘feel-glad’ stories of inspiration and heroic triumphs, to the ‘feel-bad’ tales of heartbreak losses, to the outright ‘feel-mad’ nightmares of boners and dysfunctions, here are the top sports stories of the year:

The Gilas Surprise at the FIBA Asia 2015 Championship in China

Easily standing out among the year’s sports headlines would be the Gilas Team’s heroic campaign at the FIBA Asia Olympic Qualifier in China. They were given up for dead after an underachieving stint in the Asian Games in 2014 that led to the ouster of then-coach Chot Reyes. They endured the pull-out of some key players at the start of the tryouts and had to contend with a relatively lightweight line-up. Then they had to contend with a radically shorter preparation time. They then proceeded to choke on their very first game in the tournament, absorbing a heartbreak loss against a Palestinian team that was not even fancied as a contender for the crown.

Everyone thought that this team was going down with a whimper. But no, this spunky group of  international remakes and energized rookies had travelled to China with a serious intention to give everyone, most especially overwhelming favorite and host, China, a run for their hard-earned yuan.

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Gilas takes the silver medal. (courtesy of philstar.com)

In the absence of marquee behemoths Jun Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar, Coach Tab Baldwin had rebooted the 42-year-old vet, Asi Taulava, and Sonny Thoss to back-up Andray Blatche at the paint. Without deadly perimeter gunslingers and team leaders Jimmy Alapag, LA Tenorio,  Paul Lee and Jeff Chan, we had rookie internationalists Terrence Romeo, Matt Ganuelas, JC Intal, Calvin Abueva and another old reliable, Dondon Hontiveros. Those who remained to provide stability and continuity for the Gilas culture were super-guard Jayson Castro, Gabe Norwood, Ranidel De Ocampo and Marc Pingris. Still, the Gilas 2015 model was clearly no revved-up sedan compared to what it could have and should have been.

No matter!!! Despite the would’ve, the could’ve, and the should’ve beens that just didn’t work out for them, this Gilas model roared off and zoomed to the finish line to a dramatic 2nd place finish against a too-big, too-strong Chinese juggernaut in a too-hostile, too-partisan local environment that produced a too-biased, too-ridiculous hometown decision.

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Emotions ran high as charges of biased officiating marred the final game. (courtesy of philstar.com)

Kudos to coach Tab and the Gilas Team! For a brief period of time, you gave the country something rare nowadays, something to be truly proud of. And you showed our trying-too-hard leaders how hard-earned victories can bring the country to unite and work as one. Clearly, you are worth emulating.

What needs to be done now is to prepare for the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. With a heavyweight line-up that should include Jun Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar among others. With  Fajardo and Slaughter beefing up the middle, our Gilas team should have a better chance of competing for that coveted slot in the Olympics.

The Pacquiao-Mayweather Non-Fight of the Century

Billed as the biggest fight ever in the history of boxing, the hyped-up match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather failed to live up to expectations and simply fizzled out. Mayweather danced his way to an exquisite unanimous decision win, demonstrating superb skills in counter-punching and evasive action.

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Pacquiao pecked. (courtesy of cnn.com)

It was not so much the loss that Manny absorbed, but the lack of drama and decisive fistic action in the ring that made the fight a ho-hum downer to many fight fans.  Adding more controversy to that sleeper-of-a-match, it would later be revealed that Manny had an injured shoulder, but had decided against postponing the mega-fight. Be that as it may, the bout was a big win for Las Vegas business, with gate receipts and pay-per-view records reaching previously unheard-of highs.

After the non-event, Manny had his shoulder fixed. Now, he seems more focused on a possible seat in the Senate than on the boxing career that had lifted him to iconic status. Manny is poised to announce his last fight soon, to be unveiled before the May elections.

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A new frontier for Manny Pacquiao. (courtesy of theguardian.com)

What needs to be done now is to prepare for Philippine boxing’s post-Pacquiao era. With Manny getting ready to move on full-time to the political arena, will Nonito Donaire, Donnie Nietes and the Pagara brothers be ready to take the cudgels for Philippine professional boxing?

Women’s Volleyball on the Rise

The year saw the popularity of women’s volleyball soar even higher. With the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry spilling into the volleyball court, and the likes of poster girls Alyssa Valdez, Rachel Ann Daquis, Michelle Gumabao, Gretchen Ho, the Santiago sisters Jaja and Dindin, plus a bevy of lookers parading the courts, women’s volleyball never had it so good.

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NU takes the Shakeys crown, upsetting heavy-favorite Ateneo. (courtesy of inquirer.net)

Credit goes to the UAAP and Shakey’s for engineering the resurgence of the sport. Through the years, the school rivalries in the collegiate leagues have provided traction in developing a loyal volleyball fan base. Shakey’s would later respond to the call with regular tournament offerings to give our lady players hope for a career after college ball. With the popularity of women’s ball reaching the roof, a new league – the Philippine Super Liga (PSL) – has since followed suit. And with exciting beach volleyball tourneys driving interest further, there’s nowhere else to go but up. Today, women’s volleyball has towed its men’s counterpart, and appears to have overtaken football as the second most popular sport in the country.

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Women’s volleyball is definitely on a roll! (courtesy pf inquirer.net)

What’s needed now is a coordinated schedule of tournaments so that players are not pulled in different directions, and ensure that fan appetite is maintained. With conflicting tournament schedules, fans get confused to the point that some even give up on the sport. There has to be a higher body that will regulate and pace the schedule of tournaments. There has to be a steady group of teams that fans can identify with, so they can grow their loyalties slowly. That said, players should refrain from jumping from one team to another, as it hinders the development of a solid fan base which is vital in nurturing the sport.

The SEA Games Debacle in Singapore

No matter how the PSC and the POC try to sugar-coat their performance in the latest SEA Games in Singapore, the country’s haul of 29 gold medals was way short of its modest target of 41 to 50 golds. This can only be classified as another dismal performance and another failed mission. The country fell flat at 6th overall; last among the original 5 countries (Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia), and even overtaken by a relative newcomer, Vietnam.

The Philippine contingent takes 6th overall. (courtesy of gmanetwork.com)

In 2005, we were SEA Games champions, although this was obviously helped by the fact that the Games were held in the Philippines then. By 2013 however, we had tumbled down to 7th place, the first time we had gone so low in the medal tally. In this year’s SEA Games episode in Singapore, we improved slightly to 6th place, overtaking Myanmar.

There are traditional parameters with which we can gauge a country’s sports potential and relative strength. There’s population size (the bigger the population, the more the potential); and economic capacity (the richer the country, the more potential). But then, Singapore’s population pales in comparison to that of the Philippines. So with Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Vietnam’s economy is not as robust as that of the Philippines. In 2013, cash-strapped Myanmar even overtook the Philippines in the medal standings.

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Philippine sports fans have upgraded as well. (courtesy of philstar.com)

Something is clearly wrong with the country’s sports direction, and if the PSC and POC continue to cover up our mediocre performance and heap false praises, then that complacency will only lead to bigger embarrassments in the future. There is a problem in our national sports program, and our sports leader are simply blind or refuse to see it for what it truly is. What is obvious right now is that it is not just the lack of economic resources that is clearly hampering our sporting bodies.

What needs to be done is an honest-to-goodness performance evaluation of all National Sports Associations (NSAs), to be made by an outside unit not affiliated with the POC and the PSC. The leadership of all non-performing NSAs will have to be relieved. As they have been found sleeping on post, they must be replaced by young, dynamic sportsmen who could bring in better ideas to get us on the right track. So with the PSC and POC. Both are peopled by senior citizens with antiquated senior ideas and frequent senior moments. The sad fact is that many of our athletes harbor the impression that the present leadership is more concerned with perpetuating themselves in power rather than in genuinely developing the country’s sports talents. This has spawned a growing insensitivity among athletes and a lack of trust among would-be donors and corporate sponsors.  Clearly, in order to get us out of that quicksand of failures and mediocre standards, there is a need to infuse new ideas, new direction and a new drive – in short, a new leadership – in both the POC and PSC.

Azkals’ Brief Fling with Glory

Our souped-up Azkals took a fast 2-win, 1-draw start; beating Yemen, upsetting Bahrain and drawing against a strong North Korean squad; to get everyone excited over the prospect of advancing in the 2018 World Cup Qualifying Round.  But hopes for a grand entrance to the next round were dashed when the Azkals suffered consecutive losses to Uzbekistan, Yemen and North Korea.

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Our Azkals gave us something to dream of before a string of losses took them out of contention. (courtesy of inquirer.net)

Still, the international seasoning has definitely elevated the game of our local booters. Previously suppressed by the POC, this international experience will bear fruit in the years to come. If only for that, football’s development in the country is slowly being achieved.

What needs to be done now is to infuse more grass roots development for football. While it is good to spot Fil-Euro talents to beef up the Azkals’ line-up, the development of home-grown talents will have an even bigger long-term effect on the country’s football program.

Triumphs and Debacles

There were other feel-glad stories that provided our athletes and kids golden opportunities to shine. The PBA continues to grow, with its wonderful outreach programs that have endeared the league with the masses. Following the footsteps of former top big men from the south, Mon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben, the duo of Jun Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter are ready to provide an exciting rivalry in the PBA. Eric Cray and Kayla Richardson were the fastest man and woman in the SEA Games. Thrilling championship series placed the FEU Tamaraws and the Letran Knights on top of the UAAP and NCAA cage kingdoms. The Philippine Volcanoes also made waves in the recent SEA Games. Nikko Huelgas and Claire Adorna ruled the SEA Games men’s and women’s triathlon. Our Boxing Team regained its spot as boxing’s best in the region. The UAAP and NCAA games are bringing in more interest in the Philippine sporting arenas.

But there too were stories that surfaced other emotions. The lost bid to host the FIBA World 2019 was one such feel-bad number. The controversial win by NU in the UAAP cheerdance competition brought in mixed reactions. The shortfalls in such sports as dragon boating, where our crews have always been considered as world-class; or swimming, rowing, canoeing and sailing, with our vast expanse of seas; or other medal-rich sports such as taekwondo, shooting and gymnastics; it is such a pity and a mystery that we cannot cash in on such events. Which is why, not a few sports buffs say that our sports leaders have not really been paying too much attention on charting a course for the future of Philippine sports.

As 2015 draws to a close, we pray that ‘The Force Awakens’ soon so that a clear focus, and sincere and deliberate steps are made to finally bring us back to the correct path to sports advancement.

Happy New Year, everyone, and may the Force be with us this year!

 

 

 

 

 

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Explore Our ReStore

Check this out.  Last September, Habitat for Humanity Philippines opened the first-ever ReStore facility in the Philippines – and in Asia for that matter – in Las Pinas. ReStore is a home appliance store with a twist. It offers new and slightly-used appliances, furniture, home accessories and building materials at significantly-reduced rates. Prices are so atrociously low that the store items such as furniture, electronic appliances, linens and other home fixtures have been selling like hotcakes.

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Great home stuff. You name it, we have it!!!  (courtesy of jen rodil)

How does Habitat get to sell stuff at such low, low prices? These items are donations from Habitat families and friends – from used appliances and furniture to slightly-used linens to unsold construction materials, to unwanted or duplicate accessories, etc – home stuff that would have been disposed of in another way. Everything, including  literally, the kitchen sink!!! That said, Habitat can therefore dispose of them at reasonable or very friendly rates and still make a small profit. And the proceeds of whatever sale Habitat gets are then used in accordance with Habitat’s advocacy. Which is: to build decent and affordable homes for our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

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Habitat’s ReStore is at the Alabang-Zapote Road, Las Pinas City.

Some people will ask: “If store items are getting sold out fast, how do you maintain your inventory?” Because the proceeds go to a noble cause, more and more people have been coming in to give donations. From private individuals to families to appliance store owners to hotel owners or department store managers to construction builders  – people have been flocking to the ReStore not just to buy but to unload stuff that have otherwise been eating up valuable space in their homes, offices or stores. And when they part with their stuff with such love knowing that it is for a noble cause, the positive energy permeates and brings forth more of the same. Like the story of how Jesus fed the multitude with only seven loaves of bread and fish in Matthew 15:32-39, ReStore has been finding miraculous ways to keep a good inventory of items.

Thus, Habitat has been able to bring in a great opportunity for both donors and buyers. On one hand, you see a noble way to unload stuff that would otherwise be unused and unappreciated; and you also find an opportunity to but needed home requirements at a very, very decent price.

Come, check us out! We can be found at G-3 Alabang Zapote Road, Almanza Uno, Las Pinas, City.  We also continue to accept donations.

Need we say more? Here are some more videos for you:

Home is Where the Start is

Habitat Philippines

Have a merry and blessed Christmas, everyone!!!

(Thanks, Francis! Thanks, Jen! And thanks, Michael! You are all heavensent!)

 

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Philippine Basketball in Review (Part 7 – Good Karma Propels the PBA to Greater Heights)

At the start of the century, the Philippine Basketball Association  (PBA) got mired in a big scandal that threatened to dismember the league. In answer to the threat posed by the entry of the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA), foreign players with Filipino blood were being recruited to play in the PBA, making the league far more exciting than it had ever been. Guys like the Seigle siblings – Danny and Andy – plus Asi Taulava and Eric Menk were infusing  more excitement with the needed height and heft into the local league.sp7

Things were looking pretty good then, with the level of play in the PBA leaping clear off the scales. People were salivating over the fact  that the average height of the national team would go up by as much as 3 inches with the entry of this classy batch of Fil-Ams. And thus, the elusive international recognition – by way of a regional crown perhaps – was once again tantalizingly close at hand. Action in the hardcourt was full of color and highlight moves, to the oohs and ahhs of the basketball fanatics and new converts. Added to this, the hardcourt drama was now far more accessible to the fans in the farthest corners of the country with the power of technology and cable television.

That is, until an investigation would later reveal that many of the supposed Fil-Ams were FAKEs. And that teams had actually condoned the act of hiring these Fil-sham artists in an effort to stay competitive. What a shameful, odious scandal it was. To the dismay and embarrassment of many loyal PBA followers who felt betrayed by their favorite league. The ill-advised cheating caper would erode the confidence of fans, not just on the players, but on the league itself. Suddenly, the PBA’s credibility was in question, and consequently was being clobbered black and blue. This was how the league looked like at the start of the century.

The PBA did try hard to erase the stigma of that mess. To celebrate its 25th Anniversary in 2000, the PBA came up with the “25th Anniversary All-Time Team”, a list of the top 25 Pinoy players to have graced the PBA hardcourt. Included in this exciting list of elite hardcourt magicians were: Johnny “The Flying A” Abarrientos, William “Bogs” Adornado, Ato “The Atom Bomb” Agustin, Francis “Mr Clutch” Arnaiz, Lim Eng Beng, Ricky “The Quick Brown Fox” Brown, Allan “The Triggerman” Caidic, Hector “The Director” Calma, Philip “Tapal King” Cesar, Atoy “The Fortune Cookie” Co, Jerry “The Defense Minister” Codinera, Kenneth “Captain Marbel” Duremdes, Bernie “The Sultan of Swipe” Fabiosa, Mon “El Presidente” Fernandez, Danny “The Daredevil” Florencio, Alberto “Abet” Guidaben, Alfredo “Freddie”  Hubalde, Bobby “The Big J” Jaworski, Jojo “Mr Fourth Quarter”” Lastimosa, Samboy “The Skywalker” Lim, Ronnie “The Point Laureate” Magsanoc, Vergel “The Aerial Voyager” Meneses, Manuel “Manny” Paner, Benjie “Tower of Power” Paras, and Alvin “The Captain” Patrimonio. The best of the best, the creme de la creme, these 25 hardcourt heroes were household names that had brought the PBA to starry heights.

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The PBA’s 25th Anniversary Greatest Players, the cream of the crop. (courtesy of kalongkong.wordpress.com)

But despite the dazzling 25th Anniversary celebrations, the PBA was clearly losing many of its loyal followers. And even with the fold-up of the MBA in 2002, PBA’s attendance didn’t improve significantly as many had expected. Something was definitely amiss. To top it all, with local TV finally able to showcase NBA games on a live or slightly delayed basis, the PBA’s drawing power was seriously challenged. By 2005, only 9 PBA teams were ready to suit up, even lesser than the original 10 when the PBA opened in 1975.

A new breed would eventually take over the reins of the league. With the originals such as Sonny Jaworski, Mon Fernandez, Atoy Co and company gone, and the previous decade’s stars led by Alvin Patrimonio, Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim, Benjie Paras, Johnny Abarrientos, Hec Calma and company also fading out fast, it was time for a new batch of hardcourt super-heroes to step forward. Sadly however, it seemed like no one was ready to match the popularity and charisma of the previous decades’ hardcourt heroes.

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Stars of a faded era: Atoy Co, Hector Calma and Johnny abarrientos. (courtesy of istorya.net)

Leading the charge of this 3rd generation stars would be the likes of the court generals Willie Miller and Jimmy Alapag, the twin gunslingers of Ginebra – Mark Caguiao and Jayjay Helterbrand, Fil-foreigners Taulava, Menk and Danny Seigle, defenders Danny Ildefonso and Arwind Santos, and shooters James Yap, Dondon Hontiveros and Gary David.

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The stars of the Decade: Danny Ildefonso, Mark Caguiao, Danny Seigle, James Yap and Asi Taulava. (courtesy of spin.ph)

Danny ‘The Demolition Man’ Ildefonso was the decade’s first legitimate star, taking back-to-back league MVP titles in the 2000 and 2001 seasons. In doing so, the San Miguel slotman would become only the third player – after William Adornado and Alvin Patrimonio – to have won the MVP on back-to-back seasons.

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Demolition Danny. (courtesy of sydrified.org)

The wily Willie Miller, the top draft pick in 2001, would move out from under the shadow of erstwhile top point guard Jimwell Torion of Batang Red Bull with a scintillating MVP performance in 2002. Willie was coming off 2 stellar seasons as the Nueva Ecija Patriots’ franchise player in the rival MBA league before transferring to the PBA. Willie would raise his second MVP trophy in the ’06-07 season, making him only the second 2-time MVP of the decade.

Fil-Tongan man-mountain Asi Taulava would perennially challenge the Demolition Man at the slot, but unlike Danny, who had a steady crew to back him up, Asi was without a steady supporting cast in the Mobiline Phone Pals’ line-up. Asi would only bag the MVP in 2003, when Rookie of the Year Jimmy Alapag joined the Phone Pals to become the team’s stabilizing point guard. As a measure of his durability, Asi ‘The Rock’ Taulava would be named to the PBA All-Star team 13 times. He would eventually strut his stuff – and win the MVP – in the fledgeling Asian Basketball League (ABL) in 2013.

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Mobiline’s 1-2 punch: Asi and Jimmy. (courtesy of bworldonline)

Barangay Ginebra’s Mark ‘The Spark’ Caguiao and Jayjay ‘Helter Skelter’ Helterbrand provided much excitement for the decade. Taking off from the original Batman and Robin partnership of Sonny Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz, this decade’s dynamic duo – also known as “The Fast and the Furious” – would bring their speed-and-spunk culture straight into the hearts of many PBA fans.

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Mark and Jayjay: The Fast and the Furious. (courtesy of interaksyon.com)

A third 2-time MVP would emerge before the end of the decade when Purefoods’ sweet-shooting James Yap, who had earlier clinched his first MVP in season 2005-06, would retake the crown in the 2009-10 season.

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James Yap covers another gunslinger, Dondon Hontiveros. (courtesy of PBA images)

Eic Menk would be a resident enforcer on the inside, while Danny Seigle and Gary David would shoot the lights out from afar. Arwind Santos would be a steadying factor both on the offense and defense. Kelly Williams would shine as a rookie, but after capturing the MVP trophy the year after, things would go downhill. Guys like Marc Pingris, Gabe Norwood, LA Tenorio and Jayson Castro would step on the dance floor for the first time.

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Upcoming stars Marc Pingris, Ranidel De Ocampo and Jayson Castro start to win the crowd. (courtesy of gmanews online)

Meanwhile, the Basketball Association of the Philippines would be briefly suspended by the FIBA in 2005 due to its political in-fighting. As a result, basketball was not included in the South East Asian Games held in Manila in 2005, further dragging down basketball’s popularity in the country.

This would be lifted in 2007 with the formation of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and a pledge to send more competitive teams in FIBA-sanctioned tournaments. With the formation of the SBP – and the backing of business icon, Manny Pangilinan –  the outlook for Philippine Basketball would finally start to look bright.

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The venerable MVP resuscitates Philippine Basketball. (courtesy of aksyon TV)

But the big event that would turn the tide for the PBA would happen outside the squared arena. In September 2009, Typhoon Ondoy devastated Manila and its adjoining provinces. Floods reached a record high and damages were substantial. PBA players were very visible distributing relief goods, providing cheer and hope among the poor victims, many of whom were still temporarily housed in the evacuation centers. For most of the victims, this would be their first time to see these gentle giants in the flesh.

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The gentle giants of the PBA. (courtesy of spin.ph)

The goodwill the players developed in their relief and rehab forays was just incredible. From unreachable stars, the players were now ‘humanized’, a welcome consequence as a result of the devastation of Ondoy. Players were no longer simply seen in the boob-tube; they were right there in the flesh; sympathizing, caring, listening, reaching out with a helping hand.

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A grateful fandom. Good karma triggers more growth for the PBA. (courtesy of inquirer.net)

Slowly, the PBA’s fan popularity would build up once again. The players’ accessibility, it seems, was the magic formula that would turn the tide for the PBA. After a bleak, stormy start of the decade, things were finally looking sunny and bright.

For Part 1, how it all begun, read: Philippine Basketball In Review Part 1

For Part 2, go to: Philippine Basketball In Review Part 2: The 60s

For Part 3, the pre-PBA days, pls go to: Philippine Basketball In Review Part 3: The MICAA Days

For Part 4 on the turbulent 70s, read: Philippine Basketball In Review Part 4: The Birth of the PBA

For Part 5, as the 2nd generation stars started to assert themselves, pls read: Philippine Basketball In Review Part 5: The 80s Usher in a New Breed

And for Part 6: Philippine Basketball in Review Part 6: Fusing the old With the New

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All in God’s Time

 

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Bangkok Briefly

We had a brief stint in beautiful Bangkok recently. It was for a week-long Seminar-Workshop conducted by Habitat For Humanity International (Asia-Pacific) for operations and construction reps in the Asia-Pacific region. The week-long course was entitled: Disaster Risk Reduction and Response & Construction and Appropriate Technologies Workshop. And we had a great time learning, bonding and seeing the sights of Bangkok. Mixing business with pleasure, that’s such a great way to learn.

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A beautiful sunrise by the Chao Phraya River that slices through Bangkok.

Habitat’s main mandate is to address the problem of substandard or poverty housing that is prevalent in Third World countries around the globe. However, it not only seeks to address this deficiency, it also seeks to reduce disaster risk, and have thus committed to build back better and safer shelters and homes. Over the years, Habitat has been building homes in more than 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. But with the uptrend in disaster risks, plus the rising problems associated with climate change and rapid urbanization, Habitat recognizes the need to scale up the quality and impact of its programs, as well as the need to strengthen the capacities of the Asia-Pacific organization.

With the two recent disasters in the region necessitating big disaster response operations – the Nepal earthquake and Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu – it is imperative that we prepare accordingly for the possibility of such calamities.  The scale of the incoming tragedies may vary, but the preparations will have to be in place early on in order to save time and effort, and ultimately, save precious lives. Hence, Habitat International is striving to scale up the quality and impact of its programs by seeking to acquire an integrated approach to build safer homes and resilient communities in the region.

The Workshop was a wonderful eye-opener for us. It increased our understanding on the concepts and framework on safer and resilient housing, and its corelation with Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) measures. It provided us more insights on new and appropriate technologies in construction, with emphasis on the use of indigenous materials. It enhanced our understanding on Habitat SOPs and DR practices, particularly in situations that need urgency and immediate action. It appraised us on Habitat’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Response (DR3) strategy: Pathways to Permanence. Finally, it provided us a great venue to exchange ideas, learn from each other’s experiences and prepare together for any disaster that may occur in the Asia Pacific Region.

Thanks, Habitat, for the great learning experience! Thanks too to everyone for the warmth of your friendship, and the great insights. Till we meet again.

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Philippines Bows to China in FIBA Asia Championship

It was just too good a dream to come true. The supremely confident Chinese basketball squad outplayed our gallant Gilas warriors  78-67  to reclaim bragging rights as Asia’s Cage Kings, and in the process, gain an outright seat to the Olympic Basketball program next year in Brazil.

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The Chinese team celebrate after being awarded the crown.

So devastating were the Chinese as they brought in wave upon wave of talents in its 9-game unbeaten run on the way to the crown. The game against Iran in the semis was a portent of things to come as they high-geared their transition game, leaving star center Hamed Ehadadi visibly exhausted and too tired to contribute on the offensive end.

In the final game against Gilas, China would deploy 2 7-footers simultaneously, making Andray Blatche’s life miserable under the paint. They also had 3 fresh guards rotating on Jason Castro, making Jason bleed for every single point he dished out. Simply put, China was just too big, too strong, too many and hence too much for the game, but totally outclassed Philippine Team.

The Philippines paraded a 2-3 zone at the start, to offset China’s huge 3-inch height advantage. They took an early 15-10 lead before Zhou Qi, only 19 years of age, started wreaking havoc from the top of the key. China never trailed after that, although Gilas had a lot of wasted opportunities in the  2nd half. While their defense was able to provide occasional stops, the Gilas offense just wasn’t there. In the end, the Chinese fresh troops would break down the Gilas defense.

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The battle of the bigs: Yi Jian Lian goes against Andray Blatche.

But even in defeat, the Gilas team can raise their heads high. For despite the distractions, the absence of some quality players, the lack of preparation time, they were able to give a good account of themselves, even surprising many cage pundits by reaching all the way to the Finals, giving the host China a good fight, and making the country proud.

For more on this year’s FIBA Asia Championships, pls read:

It’s Philippines Versus China for All the Marbles Tonight

Philippines on Inevitable Collision Course with Formidable China

 

Pics courtesy of Fibaasia.com

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It’s Philippines Versus China For All The Marbles Tonight!!!

Tonight, the Philippines’ over-achieving Gilas Team goes to war against the bigger, badder behemoths of China. As expected, the Philippines and China stopped their respective semifinals adversaries to book identical tickets to the FIBA Asia finals. China took the first finals slot with a masterful display of cage wizardry, upending the defending champs Iran 70-57. Two hours later, the Philippines followed suit by dispatching a tough-as-nails Japanese five 81-70. With the 2 contrasting wins, host China and the Philippines move to within a tantalizing game of assuming bragging rights as the kingpins of Asian Basketball and annexing a slot at the Olympic Basketball tournament next year.

China brought down the reigning champs Iran with a strong offensive transition game that left Iran’s main man, Hamed Ehadadi, huffing and puffing in the last two frames. When their transition game was checked, China rolled out a nifty inside game featuring waves of slashers and burly rebounders ready for the put-back. China has demonstrated a growing maturity and is oozing with confidence as they step on the court with a highly partisan crowd egging them on tonight.

Our Gilas warriors on the other hand had to fight tooth-and-nail against a worthy Japanese adversary, finally finding the good breaks in the last 2 minutes to break open a very close game. With the dynamic duo of Andray Blatche and Jason Castro leading the Pinoy charge, the Gilas team has also slowly acquired valuable tournament savvy in time for tonight’s finals. Expect them to put their hearts on the line as they do battle against the Great Wall of China. Gilas will be the big underdogs tonight, spotting China’s 3-inch average height advantage, plus the hometown crowd.

I’m sure that so much have been said on how the Chinese behemoths can be cut down to size. So for tonight, it’s ‘No guts, no glory’ time. To inspire our players as well as our fans, allow me to invite you to read an article I did 2 years ago, on glory nights for our Philippine team: ‘No Guts, No Glory’ Nights Recalled.

For more on our FIBA Asia campaign this year, pls read: Philippines on Inevitable Collision Course Against Formidable China.

Pics courtesy of Fibaasia.com, smartgilasbasketball.com, cnnphilippines.com

 

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