Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tiras Wade sacked; TNT to play All-Filipino vs Ginebra

Talk 'n Text import Tiras Wade was sent packing last night after a most shameful outburst during their game against league-leading San Miguel Beer.

It actually started two games ago when Wade began to not play well. Against the Beermen, he was scoreless, awful, and lethargic in the first 14 minutes before he was yanked by Coach Chot Reyes. That didn't sit well with the erstwhile likable import who began to complain and cuss. Reyes didn't back down and railed at him. And Wade then took it out on his other teammates which pissed them off all the more. They could have chalked it up to a bad game but after the match Wade even went after the ref.

That was it for team management. They sacked him right away and rightfully so. The team is focused and they all want to win again and damned if they're going to let an angry import torpedo their chances.

TNT will play All-Filipino vs Ginebra in their next game since the replacement isn't in yet.

Thursday musings

NBA Play-offs

The San Antonio Spurs were booted out of the first round; the first time that has happened since 2000. It also breaks that cycle of winning a championship every other year.

Does this mean that it's over for this team? Not really, they were hardly healthy but Manu Ginobili was out for a prolonged length of time; an injury that dated back all the way to the Beijing Olympics. The team would have to revamp somewhat I would imagine.

The Boston-Chicago series is a thoroughly enjoyable one. Seven games? Hope so with the Bulls turning up aces.

The Bulls have played a couple of memorable series in the last few years -- the Washington one where Agent Zero killed them and the one with Miami.

The media is making Ben Gordon out to be a petulant player who only cares for a big paycheck. It may be partly true but I'd love to see him re-sign with Chicago.

PBA Fiesta Conference
Watching the PBA last nite, what's up PBA fans? What's this extended booing of Mac Cardona? C'mon! Give the guy a break! I haven't seen anything like this prolonged booing. But give credit to the TNT gunner, he's learned how to deal with it.

San Miguel Beermen feature coming up!

Jurgen Klinsmann was fired from his position as coach of Bayern Munich the other day. And there are still five matches to go. Holy Cow! What a move by Franz Beckenbauer. The two never were really good friends and this just puts the whole relationship on ice forever.

Who do I see going next though not in football?

The New York Yankees' Joe Girardi. The New York Yankees are at 10-10 with a -13 deficit in runs scored. If they don't make any headway in the the couple of series, I have this feeling that he could go. Subpar baseball and falling gate reciepts? Not the way to go for this team which would want to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight year.

Speaking of the beautiful game here's some not so beautiful news:
This is why I dislike Man United. They made a deal with the (red) devil to win.

Ateneo Sports News
The Ateneo Men's Football Team with Coach Power and alum Zaldy Marañon bossting their line-up beat the Barotac Nuevo Open Selection over the weekend in Ateneo 3-2. No news yet on recruits.

As for the Ateneo Women's Team, Krissie Drilon won't be playing goalkeeper next year. The team wants her to concentrate on softball. Talking to Coach Buda yesterday, they are eyeing a few recruits from different schools some of who played in the 3-1 loss to Faith Academy yesterday.

Monica Santos is back and Tata Garcia played well also yesterday. No Tata just joined the team for a workout and wasn't in pain unlike during the last UAAP tourney. Yes, she learned how to play polo recently and it was thoroughly enjoyable she says. Alice de la Peña who was out with an ACL injury last year passed her first test on her knee. Now word on when she can start practicing.

Ateneo vs San Sebastian tday at 6pm in V-League action. Coach Mic Mic Laborte hopes to pull the rug from under Roger Gorayeb who is behind the Baste bench for this tournament. The two teams are friends and occasionally practice together.

There's going to be a cross-country event in ADMU soon. So all those who went to the AGS and AHS you know what that means. We're tapping the help of Track Program Head & Coach Mick Perez to handle this.

Hey, Mr. Palou... have a restful weekend. I know you got stressed out last week.

Ateneo Sesquicentennial
In case you're interested, there's an Ateneo Swatch as part of the Sesquicentennial celebration offerings that will be made available within a few months. I've seen the design but we're not going to post it just yet. It costs PhP 3,500. Interested parties let me know so we can send this straight to Ateneo.

Also other souvenir stuff: A silver coin made in Switzerland, stamps, a coffee table book of photographs that are so awesome. Everything will fetch for PhP 3,500 each.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bleachers' Brew #156 Detroit Rocked City

This appears in my column in the Monday May 4, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror.

Detroit Pistons' Richard Hamilton, right, and Will Bynum walk off the court late in the fourth quarter of their 99-78 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a first-round NBA playoff sweep. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Detroit Rocked City
Troubleshooting the Pistons? Detroit overlooked one man and history and that is their fatal flaw.
by rick olivares

The ride is over.

Even if you turned the key it still wouldn’t start.

Detroit General Manager Joe Dumars attempted to jumpstart the Pistons by trading Mr. Big Shot for Mr. Big Problem. And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out how that affects your starter, wiring, distributor, fuel pump ... could be a lot of things, but let at the end of the day, it all adds up to a dead battery from Motown.

One of the most feared and consistent franchises of the new millennium has gone the way of Tracy McGrady – out the first round with and questions that will haunt them for a long summer (and it still is spring time so that’s even longer).

And like McGrady, who will eat humble pie knowing that the Houston Rockets beat the talented Portland Trailblazers to move to the Western semis without him, Dumars will wonder if he should have started the rebuilding last year as everyone expected him to do.

It would be tempting to say that the end of this current team of Pistons began when Ben Wallace departed for Chicago except that this team remained an Eastern power for another year or two.

One can point to the early season trade of Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson as a huge breakdown for this team. Mr. Big Shot turned out to be the Real Answer for the Denver Nuggets that was immediately buoyed by the trade. Iverson threw a monkey wrench into the team’s cylinders and left Detroit with even more questions about its ability to compete with the likes of Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando.

The truth is it’s the aforementioned two and the merry-go-round of head coaches since 2004 – Larry Brown, Flip Saunders, and Michael Curry.

Those precise half-court sets – screen and roll or kick outs for three -- are long gone and with them went the effectiveness of team.

Dumars threats to blow up the team didn’t help any.

(Rodney Stuckey, from left, Tayshaun Prince and Walter Herrmann sit on the bench in the fourth quarter of a 99-78 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 of a first-round NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 26, 2009, in Auburn Hills, Mich. Prince, a starter, was held to just two points. The Cavaliers swept the best-of-seven series.)

Jason Maxiell wasn’t as energetic and explosive and Rodney Stuckey, who was supposed to make up for Billups was stuck on neutral. Rip Hamilton shot the daylights out on some days and shot blanks on others. Tayshaun Prince took his benchwarmer status in the Redeem Team in Beijing back to Detroit. Even Rasheed Wallace, able to attract “T” with a simple pained look in his face didn’t have that fire in him anymore.

Whatever happened to “Deee-troit baaasketball?

They went from second gen Bad Boys to baaad boys.

As much as all of that can be gleaned from troubleshooting these Pistons, most everyone has overlooked one glaring fact.

Their reign as Kings of the Eastern Conference interstate highways was carpet-bombed from up above.

The one thing that has greatly changed since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were playing in Converse Weapons is how much the game is played in the air right now. And when you talk about air supremacy there’s no foremost practitioner of the art than the soon to be crowned NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James.

Dumars should have learned from Pistons history. Back when his team of Bad Boys made the NBA Finals for three consecutive years they were holding back the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan from taking off. But when #23, His Airness, unshackled himself from the Jordan Rules that inspired the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat, there was no turning back.

And in the last couple of years, there was another #23 blocking the path of the Pistons… LeBron James.

Just like the Bulls did in 1991, the Cavaliers swept the Pistons except not in what they believe is their annual birthright that is the Eastern Conference Finals but in the first round which is reserved for the McGradys of this world.

When Jordan led the Bulls past the Pistons to a sweep after averaging 29.75ppg, 5.25 rpg, 7 apg, 2.25 spg, their fallen foes left the court without so much congratulating the new Eastern Champs.

When James dismantled the Pistons for the only first round sweep this NBA post-season, he averaged 32.0 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 7.5 apg, and 1.5 spg and gave Dumars the impetus to finally rebuild the team after he declared so over a year ago.

That’s what the airpower of one man can do (although it can be argued that the Bulls of yesteryear and these Cavs have seen the supporting casts get better). And it recalls to mind of what Bobby Jones said about Julius Erving, the granddaddy of all high-flyers: "He destroys the adage I've always been taught -- that one man cannot do it alone.”

These guys did everything humanly possible to affect the game in all its aspects from offense to defense. Ditto for the intangibles and that greatly inspired their teammates to get over the hump.

So where does that leave the proud Detroit Pistons? In case they aren’t aware, General Motors has laid off a large number of employees in the wake of the current recession.

In the 90’s, Detroit figured that if they couldn’t beat Jordan then maybe they could draft their own high flyer -- and they did in the person of Grant Hill -- who could lead them to another plane; another plateau. Instead, after some initial success in the Palace of Auburn Hills, Hill took the high road for Orlando.

So will history repeat itself?

At this point, troubleshooting is over. It’s time to build from scratch.

Supplemental reading:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ateneo Heritage Series: An Old Soldier's Tribute

This is the fifth part of the Ateneo Heritage Series.

An Old Soldier’s Tribute
Fr. Richard O’Brien S.J. and the period of reconstruction
by rick olivares

Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.

General Douglas MacArthur softly bade goodbye when he uttered those words at a joint session of the United States House of Congress upon his recall as Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations forces in Korea.

There’s romanticism to it, but the truth is they don’t fade away; they are remembered forever.

Not long after Fr. Richard O’Brien S.J. passed away after he succumbed to a heart attack on December 6, 1933, the former Marine’s funeral cortege made its way through Plaza Lawton all the way through Taft Avenue to the good Jesuit’s resting place in the La Loma Cemetery.

Thousands – not just the student body, faculty, and alumni of Ateneo but even friends from the nearby colleges and universities -- who knew the good priest for his kind and encouraging heart, lined up the streets of Manila to pay their respects.

It takes an uncommon man to be able to rise above the carnage and hit the ground running.

In the charnel pit of World War I, Fr. Richard A. O’Brien S.J., a Chaplain in the United States Armed Forces, worked the trenches of France with the Marines as they attacked German positions in St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. He helped administer medical help, said last rites, and carried the wounded to safety. The Marine unit he served in was one of two that was awarded with the French Fourragere citation for gallantry by a unit of soldiers.

Upon his return to the United States after the war, Fr. Richard immediately took back his old position of Athletic Moderator for Boston College. O’Brien was an athlete who excelled in almost every sport save for tennis. Having sworn fealty to the King of Heaven, he still found a way to use sports as a means for developing the youth. In his capacity as Athletic Moderator, the BC Eagles won consecutive football titles on gridiron upon his return.

On August 11, 1927, Fr. O’Brien was appointed the third American rector of the Ateneo de Manila succeeding Fr. Francis Xavier Byrne and Fr. James Carlin. Almost immediately he made some bold and lasting changes.

The bivouac became a staple of the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

He was the guiding force behind the establishment in 1929 of The Guidon, the Ateneo newspaper. Fr. John O’Hara S.J. was named moderator while Manuel Colayco its first editor-in-chief.

The moves were both popular and immediately accepted. But the succeeding changes were any but highly controversial yet in hindsight were the stroke of genius and had lasting repercussions.

The third big change the Jesuit instituted was to discard the old seal of the school that had been around since the Spanish time.

The old seal contained seven elements: two ribbons that bore the Latin motto “Lux in Domino” that meant “Light in the Lord” and the name “Ateneo de Manila.”

The third element was the six-pointed star that to the Jewish people was the Star of David but was also the emblem of the Mother Mary, the Patroness of the school and the country.

Inside the star was the sigil – which contained the fourth, fifth, and sixth elements -- of Manila as was conferred by King Philip II of Spain to the city in 1596. The seal depicted a tower that was a symbol of Spain that stood above a blue portion that signified the ocean of which Espana was a seafaring colonial power. The lower portion featured a sea lion holding up a sword in its right paw.

Fr. O’Brien felt that since the Philippine Islands were under American domain it was time to change the old seal that reflected the new era of the school. But perhaps more importantly, there was nothing in the old seal that recognized the Society of Jesus and its founder St. Ignatius of Loyola.

It was one old soldier honoring an old soldier in Ignatius who was wounded in the Battle of Pamplona.

The new seal kept the circular shape with the two ribbons on the outward rim but the seal of the House of Loyola prominently in the middle but with the Jesuit monogram with “IHS” -- the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek – serving as a sunburst that empowers the Society and the school with God’s wisdom.

As Fr. Miguel A. Bernad S.J. wrote decades later, “Sixty years of history were brushed aside” in one swift gesture.

Fathers Joseph A. Mulry and John F. Hurley opposed the change arguing that the old seal was truly Filipino and not Castillan. Moreover, it was discarding the school’s continuity. Along with Fr. Horacio de la Costa, the three formed a panel to study the new seal and how it related to the other Ateneo schools that were put up in Zamboanga, Cagayan, and Naga.

If there was opposition to the change, it was diverted as the old school grounds in Intramuros burned down. With a clarity of mind borne out of the carnage of France, Fr. O’Brien quickly put in effect a transfer to Padre Faura in 1932. It was at this time that the school and the Manila Observatory were reunited in one area as the weather station had moved out of the Walled City earlier as it needed more space.

Even as the changes were made, Fr. O’Brien was always present during sporting events as he never failed to offer an encouraging word or pat on the back not just to Ateneo athletes but those from other schools as well.

Under his stewardship, Ateneo won three consecutive NCAA basketball championships from 1931-33; a feat the school has been unable to duplicate since.

Not soon after the move to Padre Faura, Fr. O’Brien fell ill but he continued his duties once even playing tennis as if he felt that he’d learn the sport before he moves on to the next stage of life.

On Wednesday, December 6, 1933, not long after Fr. O’Brien repaired to his quarters breakfast, the Ateneo Rector suffered a heart attack.

One orderly happened by the Rector’s quarters that had its door open and immediately sought. His two closest confidants, Fr. Hurley and Fr. Henry B. McCullough (who were both Ateneo’s first representatives to the NCAA Board in its inauguration) were summoned.

After the first bell an announcement was made throughout the school that the Rector was dying. Classes were immediately suspended as students, faculty, and administration staff knelt down in prayer. Many kept an eye on the Mission House where the Fr. O’Brien was and when they saw Fathers Hurley and McCullough descend the steps everyone knew that Fr. O’Brien, “the reconstruction Rector” as he was known, had passed away.

Fr. Hurley rang the church bell slowly.

After the funeral procession made its way to Fr. O’Brien’s final resting place in La Loma, Ateneo cadets in white military dress fired a gun salute that was followed by the mournful sounds of taps.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Buckets Full of Smiles

This will appear in the Tuesday April 27, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror.

Buckets Full of Smiles
by rick olivares

After days of rain providing relief from the summer heat, Sunday is every bit apt as the sun is out this day. Even in the supposed air-conditioned confines of the Araneta Coliseum, isn’t enough to counter the beads of sweat that trickle down the faces and backsides of the production crew of Solar Sports as they’re getting ready for the last leg of the Philippine Basketball Association’s All-Star Weekend.

When the 6’2” Anthony “Buckets” Blakes entered the media room, he was as cool as a cucumber. He flashed a megawatt smile and shook hands with PBA broadcasters Alex Compton and Richard Del Rosario.

Someone asked Blakes to compare the heat in Manila and Phoenix where he hails from. “It’s almost the same,” he said in such a friendly and disarming manner that would make one think it’s actually cool to sweat. “It’s humid in Phoenix but it’s sticky here. But I’ll manage.”

It has been 18 years and a couple of generations since the Harlem Globetrotters last played in the Philippines and it’s time to get reacquainted with the new batch of the Clown Princes of Basketball. Buckets Blakes along with Big Easy Lofton, Handles Franklin, Hi-Rise Brown, and Skyscraper Alleyne among others will take the court where Curly Neal, Sweet Lou Dunbar, and Twiggy Sanders once trod – the Araneta Coliseum – for a three-game series on May 24 and 25, 2009. “We’re here to entertain,” pronounced Blakes who is all too aware of the Globetrotters’ legacy.

Formed in 1929 by Abe Saperstein and ironically in Chicago, Illinois, it took nearly four decades before the team played in their “homecourt” of Harlem, New York.

Harlem during the early 20th century was considered the mecca of African American culture in America. The Globetrotters in the meantime were a serious and competitive team early in their existence later but as the racial barriers were broken in professional sports they made the big shift to entertainment.

Arguably, the Globetrotters were the first pioneers of freestyling as trick and skills basketball is now called. And in the light of Barack Obama’s landmark election as the 44th President of the United States, the Globetrotters were actually one of the earliest ambassadors of African culture and for civil rights having played in almost every country in the world.

It’s a fact not lost on Blakes who was elated about Obama’s election more for his grandmother of 93 years. “She lived through some pretty tough times while us – my generation – didn’t have it as bad. She believed in a dream and that is now a reality.”

For Buckets, being a Globetrotter is also the culmination of a dream. After playing for the Wyoming Cowboys (that produced basketball greats like Kenny Sailors, Fennis Dembo, and Reggie Slater among others), he bounced around for a while playing for former Chicago Bulls center Stacey King in the Rockford Lightnings in the Continental Basketball Association before trying out Europe. After a while, he was invited to tryout for the Harlem Globetrotters; “A call-up from a boyhood dream,” he described.

I saw the Globetrotters on television watching Scooby Doo cartoons and it was only later when I joined the team that I actually got to see them up close. And that was a real highlight. I felt as if I joined history; am a part of history.”

Blakes was positively giddy recounting how he became a member of the world-famous team: “Not many get to become a member as one has to not only be skilled but he should be an entertainer as well while having a pleasing and fun personality. The last bit of criteria is important because people look up to us so we take being a role model very seriously. Believe me, that’s when all the fun starts and we (the team) genuinely like each other and have a blast making people laugh.

We’re doing the classic tricks while putting our personal stamp on the show.”

Bobby Dulle, the International Booking Coordinator for the Globetrotters who is also in town to help promote the upcoming event concurred. “I saw them as a kid. I mean, who didn’t? It sure is a kick getting to be a part of it now. And I see that smile I had on my face when I was young on the kids and folks who come to our shows. It’s like full circle.”

As for Blakes, an Arizona boy who went to school in Wyoming (“lots of beautiful spaces over there”), basketball has taken him to so many places and given him an opportunity to entertain and make people smile. “We played everywhere. Even on a nuclear aircraft carrier – the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). So playing in a famous place like the Araneta Coliseum is another blessing.”

But the biggest thrill about being a Harlem Globetrotter and entertaining people is that we are in the business of selling smiles. And a smile is something we can never get enough of.

Buckets Blakes facts:
Favorite Cereal: “Honey Nut Cheerios when I was younger but I lay off that now I am older. Gotta eat right.”
Favorite NBA team: “Los Angeles Lakers. They know how to play the game and are real fun to watch.”
Favorite Harlem Globetrotter: “Curly Neal. He is one of the most talented and funniest persons ever!”
Debut as a member of the Globetrotters: “Madison Square Garden. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Post script: Thanks to Solar Sports for the invite. I was one of two sportswriters granted an exclusive and one-on-one interview with Buckets Blakes (the other being Quinito Henson who unearthed some interesting Globetrotters stories). I'm so honored. Muchos gracias.

Ticket Prices for three shows @ Araneta Coliseum:
May 24 3pm
Gen. Ad = P105
Upper B = P420
Upper A = P840
Lower B = P1,050
Patron = P1,575

May 24 7pm
Gen Ad = P210
Upper B = P525
Upper A = P1,050
Lower B = P1,575
Patron = P2,100

May 25 7pm
Gen Ad = P105
Upper B = P420
Upper A = P840
Lower B = P1,050
Patron = P1,575

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bleachers' Brew #155 A Sort of Homecoming

This appears in my Monday column in the Monday April 27, 2009 edition of Business Mirror.
Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

A Sort of Homecoming
words & pictures by rick olivares

Home is not where you live but where they understand you.”
- Christian Morgenstern

The stall no bigger than four feet wide and atop it was a dispenser for a cold chocolate energy drink. The attendant brought a couple of thousand small cups and it looked that before noon, they’d be all out of it. After all, there were some 800 kids and about close to 60 adults on hand for the First Homeless Football Festival at La Salle Greenhills.

The line was at least 70 kids-long (while most everyone lined up for the packed meals being distributed by volunteers) and one boy of 14 summers when he got to the front of the queue asked if he could have two cups of the drink.

Dalawa?” asked the attendant who was on automatic mode handing over one cup for each child but momentarily stopped as if the request did not compute inside her head right away.

Masarap,” explained the boy who was already sipping and savoring the cool drink the way a wine connoisseur would to a chardonnay. “Minsan lang maka-inom ng ganito, eh.”

The attendant smiled broadly and handed over a second cup. Adjustment made as smiles were the order of the day.

Over by the main tent where the meals were being handed out, two men of obvious African heritage sat and observed the proceedings. A reporter from a television network asked them questions about their presence not just in the day’s event but also in the Philippines. It wasn’t exactly easy for Paul Kiyek to communicate because of his limited English-speaking skills and the same for his compatriot Alex Obiang; two Cameroonians marooned several continents away as they pursued a football dream. But try they did.

Kiyek and Obiang were duped by a sport agent who pilfered each man of $6,000 to play football in Uzbekistan. They were brought to Dubai and told to board a flight for Manila where another agent would meet them for the final transfer to Eastern Europe. Only no one ever came. The mobile phone number that once rang them incessantly was no longer in service and the email address the assured them safe passage and employment to play football in Europe was fictitious and no longer in use as well.

They can no longer go home as their families in Yaoumbe, Cameroon had to borrow money just to send them abroad. The creditors want their money back and failure to do so carries with it a penalty of the Tony Soprano kind.

There are times when they are depressed but they are grateful for the support and help given by Bill Shaw, the publisher of street magazine The Jeepney and a tireless social worker. Shaw is housing and feeding them in exchange for the Cameroonians’ service in their activities in Antipolo as well as teaching the homeless and street kids the game of football.

The rains were threatening to put a damper on the morning’s festivities and the Cameroonians stood up to check out their wards from the Kids International Ministries team that they help train.

We went out of our country to play football and now we are lost and far from home,” said Paul with imploring eyes. “Maybe God has a plan for us. I hope so.”

Fr. Antonio “Beng” Molavin, the Spiritual Director of Tuloy sa Don Bosco that helps street children reintegrate with society, sat in the rain. One of his boys teams had taken a beating in the first match. “You have to remember that these are kids who have been abandoned, lost, or abused. Hardship and loss is a concept they face at a very young age so it’s important that we be there to guide them. A setback like this doesn’t mean it’s the end and that it’s a challenge and opportunity to come back and build their confidence.

The First Homeless Football Festival was organized in part by former music impresario turned football advocate, Ed Formoso. Over the past several years, he has tirelessly campaigned for football-related events to heal fractured communities. In his days as a student, he embraced the music of the bands of his time like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin yet on a rainy Saturday morning, with a high school combo of La Salle Greenhills kids using improvised materials such as industrial-sized drum cans, bamboo, and other recycled materials to play tribal beats infused with hip hop sensibilities, it was music to his tired old ears. “Woodstock, baby. Woodstock. Except it is football,” beamed the proud papa as the football pitches of La Salle Greenhills were filled with children vying to represent the country in Milan, Italy later this year.

Eight participants will be chosen from the 800 to don the national colors. “It isn’t simply about representing the Philippines and playing football,” underscored Shaw. “It’s also creating awareness about the plight of the homeless of which there are about 200,000 in Metro Manila alone. It’s a very real concern with a lot of implications on society. And the Homeless World Cup, this festival, is all about hope.”

There were dozens of volunteers who were on hand to not only personally prepare home cooked food for the children but also hand them out. Some worked as match officials and some as secretariat. Those with football backgrounds helped some of the kids on the finer points of kicking penalties or even ball control.

Marlon Maro, former Head Coach of the National Women’s Football Team knows what it is like to not have enough and live in hardship. The sport was his ticket to school and later a livelihood. He has given much of his time not only to the national team but also the squads from Gawad Kalinga, Tuloy sa Don Bosco, and the Homeless World Cup Team.

It is far from the glamorous position of handling the men’s team of De La Salle but he confessed that it brings a different kind of fulfillment. He says it may sound cliché-ish but it’s all about trying to make the world a better place. This act of compassion might in turn beget more people being selfless and helping out.

Ria Tanjangco was the captain of the National Women’s Futsal Team that recently resigned after a row with Philippine Football Federation officials. Weary of the politics of it all, she has been searching for things like this to help out. “There are bigger concerns than quarreling over what one didn’t do and what one did in playing for a team. This is as real as it gets.” Just like that, she’s off to help assemble the packed meals for the participants with teammate Aimee Limketee.

As the rains began to fall, a few sought shelter in the organizer’s tents. One young boy found refuge in the area where Paul Kiyek sat. The boy who probably had never seen a large black man like the Cameroonian before looked at Kiyek with curious eyes.

Paul seemed to understand and stood up to offer his chair. “Yes, I am homeless too. But this is our home now.”

He then headed out to the rain-soaked pitch.

Author's Note: Thanks to Ed Formoso, Bill Shaw, and Jeff Long. Thanks for asking me to emcee the program at LSGH last Saturday, April 25. I look forward to the same program next month in Ateneo.

From left to right: Danny Moran, Bill and Debbie Shaw, Arch Peter Moran, me, and Bro. Felipe Belleza.

You can see the rain-soaked field here. No one left their assignments and the games went on.

April 25-May 30

Manila Polo Club, Makati City.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Collegiate pre-season musings Part 2

Several years ago when the Ateneo Blue Eagles first played the current incarnation of the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers in an off-season tune up match, the blues lost as the physical nature of their opponent threw them off guard.

They've met up on a number of occasions since and although Ateneo has beaten them every time since, the battles have been no less intense. The Blue Eagles have learned how to handle a team that not only plays overly physical but is talented at the same time. It's a good match up but it does present a tantalizing view of the team. And IMHO, there are two teams that are a very good guage of the Blue Eagles... La Salle and JRU.

And so the two teams met at the 2009 Fil Oil Pre-Season Tournament. Each was a man down: Ateneo without Ryan Buenafe and JRU without Joe Etame who was out with an injury.

Marvin Hayes, now in superb shape used his athleticism to drive on consecutive possessions for JRU over Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Nonoy Baclao. I was telling Chris Soler that Hayes will not lay the ball up on Baclao again. The next time Hayes tried it the ball was damn near deposited to the upper box section and he stopped being a threat.

So far this looks to be the rotation:
Rabeh Al-Husseini - Justin Chua - Vince Burke - Frank Golla
Nonoy Baclao - Nico Salva - Mike Baldos
without Ryan Buenafe, something akin to a three-guard line-up (?)
Eric Salamat - Kirk Long - Oping Sumalinog
Chris De Chavez - Tonino Gonzaga - Bacon Austria
Jai Reyes - Juami Tiongson

When Ryan returns to the line-up, does Chris start? Or is it Eric?

Tonino could be the X-factor for Ateneo because he is growing in confidence with his all-around hustle, shooting, and slashing moves. He could spell Eric when the Man of Steal goes to the bench.

Look for Justin Chua to get more minutes. The playing time is helping and he should gain more confidence with every game.

Chris Sumalinog rifled in a trifecta. Yeah, we know he can shoot but take a look now... he inherited the #17 from another guy named Chris. The second coming? Hmm. I'll settle with seeing him play more.

Man, Eric... when he wants that ball.. it's like taking candy from a baby. He can take over a game with his defense and score when he wants to. Wait til he rounds out into game shape.

Nonoy Baclao... this guy should be the Number Over-all Draft Pick of the PBA in 2010. What an incredible player -- excellent attitude, good game inside, plays defense, can pass the ball, knows how to bring it down... Chris Soler and I have been discussing it... who cares if there are a bunch of Fil-Ams for that draft -- Nonoy is the Man!

But what happened during the game? Ateneo just played better than JRU. But please Blue Eagles... tone down the bitching to the refs. Just play the game. And JM Wilson should just play and stop complaining too.

The jury is out whether pointsguard Mark Cagoco should continue to bomb away with impunity or concentrate on being a point guard. Methinks, JR Bulangis as point guard and Cagoco at the two-spot might help but where does that leave Nchotu Njei? Is that like Ryan Roose Garcia and Mark Andy Barroca at the starting guard positions for FEU?

Look, I just want to know.... what in the blue hell is an ILLEGAL ELBOW?

Please tell me there is a LEGAL ELBOW then I will mop the Arena for the rest of the entire tournament.

And calling those fake fouls? I think it is not only stupid and difficult to call. Now if they want to call that they they should introduce INSTANT REPLAY to tell whether the refs got the call right or not. That should reduce bogus calls and erring refs and penalize erring players. Will it slow down the game? Sure it will but it will help prevent game fixing or even point shaving.

Fake fouls? Then they should call fouls on that fake timeout (hey you know who you are) and pump fakes. And those who cross-over well for faking guards out of their high tops... yeah, that should merit a technical. Anything that is fake. Including those who wear knock-offs of Nike, adidas, Reebok etc. on the court.

Coach Leo Austria told us that Bacon's younger brother is known as Bacon Bits! Bwahahaha!

Sabi ko kay Coach, he should get Purefoods to sponsor his son. Reply ni Coach Leo, "Pag sumikat!"

On the game between Perpetual Help and Letran: congrats to Boris Aldeguer. Great win!

On Kevin Alas missing that last shot... here's a guy who will step into Letran starting line-up and contribute right away.

He missed and that reminded me of a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs during Kobe Bryant's rookie season where Black Mamba airballed a last shot that could have won it for the purple and gold. Said Chick Hearn almost immediately after: "Don't worry, young man. You'll be making many more of that in years to come."

Ain't that the truth. So Kev, don't worry about it.

Hey, why didn't we try to get this guy to play for Ateneo?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Off to Boston

It's off thataway!

A 4-2 homestand with a game-winning homer by Melky Cabrera gives the New York Yankees a 9-7 win over Oakland, a 4-2 homestand, and a 9-9 record.

Now they're off to Fenway Park where the Boston Red Sox, like the Yankees, are starting to round out into form. Just as the Celtics leave town for Chicago, the Yankees fly in for a big match-up.

Both teams are at 9-6 and the three-game series is crucial as they try to stay close to Toronto which at 11-5 is atop the American League East standings.

Funny how things work out for some people. At first Nick Swisher was supposed to be a bench player but he's been playing so well that he's given the chance to play even more.

As for Cabrera, he lost out the starting spot in the outfield to Brett Garnder, and now he's back in the outfield.

In the six games at Yankee Stadium, attendance has been less than stellar. Even as plans were made to move to the new stadium, there were concerns about filling up the cavernous and expensive venue.

At this point, I would attribute that to the increase in ticket prices at a time when there's an economic crisis. Yankee management misjudged their fan base would fill it up.

Well, they will eventually.

At the start of the recent economic crisis, it was postulated that sports fans would rather watch events on television rather than go out where they have to pay for gas, parking, food etc. Easily whenever I would go to the old Yankee Stadium, my Upper Tier tickets cost $20 then my food another $10 and it wasn't like I was full after that. If I bought a Yankees program (usually once a month) that was another $10. Subway was $4 so that was like $44 max.

The crowds will come back eventually especially when the team gets hot or when maybe the Red Sox, the Mets, or the Dodgers are in town.

Back when the Izod Center was called the Continental Airlines Arena, the public announcer would ask fans from the upper boxes to come down either at the half or the third quarter. It would look so bad on television and to the corporate sponsors to see all those empty seats on the tube so they filled it up with fans.

Of course it didn't sit well with those patrons who paid top dollar to get the expensive seats so they didn't do this all the time.

When the New Jersey Nets announced that they were going to move to Brooklyn, then the fans came back. But that was also because the team was headed for the NBA Finals with Jason Kidd leading the way.

As for the Stadium, I'm not worried. As for some, now's the time to get tickets. It's always a blast watching live matches.

Miami redux?

When was the last time the Chicago Bulls were said to be a young powerhouse on the rise?

That was a couple of years ago when the knocked off the defending champion Miami Heat in the first round. Since then, they've underachieved, missed the playoffs, and broke up the nucleus of what could have been a contender.

Again, there are several factors why the Bulls floundered -- bad moves in the front office, a loss of respect for Scott Skiles, and the greediness of some players.

Yet here they are again in the first round of the playoffs. As much as they've taken Game 1 and lost by a whisker in Game 2, many are already pronouncing Boston as dead and the suddenly youthful Bulls as a giant killer.

It all boils down to Game 3 when Chicago holds serve for the next two games. Maybe if they can take care of business there then we can probably assume they're ready. But if the Celtics take one of two then anything can happen.

That they picked up John Salmons and Brad Miller is huge and the current Bulls roster almost doesn't resemble the one that shocked Miami three years ago.

Even as Cleveland's Mike Brown was named the Coach of the Year, one still wonders about Vinny Del Negro's stewardship.

For one, they didn't exactly play well and it was only late in the season after the trade for Salmons and Miller, that Chicago went on a roll.

I also said at the start of the season -- Vinny who? Just kidding. But I did say that maybe John Paxson found a diamond in the rough in the former Spur.

His real coaching job starts with the playoffs and when they come out next season. So I'd give him a pat on the back for now and cheer on this team which could use some wins. But I still miss Andres Nocioni as a Chicago Bull. He was the wild Bull from the Pampas (talk about cliches).

Earlier in the year, when Boston was pulling off long win streaks no one questioned their age. How can a team age so quickly in a matter of months?

I think injuries have really hurt their campaign. Even without Leon Powe or Kevin Garnett, Boston can still reasonably beat Chicago... as long as they keep the game close (if the Bulls are off to the races then that might be another story). But if they advance further, they'll find it tougher. But advancing gives Garnett a chance to come back.

And Chicago isn't exactly injury free. They are already without Luol Deng and Salmons is nursing a groin injury.

So Game 3. If the Bulls sustain their energy and burst out of the gates, they'll take this, but if it goes down to the last shot I'd say Boston will gain homecourt advantage.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

LFC's Southeast Asian Tour 2009

Liverpool Commercial Director Ian Ayre today spoke of his delight after the Reds confirmed a two-game tour of South-East Asia this summer.

Rafael Benitez will take his players to play games in Thailand on July 22 and Singapore on July 26 as the Reds continue their preparations for the 2009-10 season.Justify Full
Having not been to Thailand since 2003, and with the Reds' last trip to Singapore stretching even further back to 2001, excitement levels among the club's passionate fan base are sure to reach fever-pitch when British football's most successful club take on the national teams of each country.

"Asia is such a hotbed of football, particularly for Liverpool fans," said Ayre. "We played in Hong Kong a few years ago and the turn out was amazing. I think it was the first time that the Premier League's tournament had sold out. It was a sea of red and white. Both Thailand and Singapore are great markets and it's a nice opportunity to go and showcase the team.

"We have a massive appeal that has just grown and grown over the years and so to be able to take the team out there will get a lot of people excited. I don't think the fans will let us down in terms of the welcome they will give the players."

While recognising the importance of taking the club to meet its supporters in different parts of the world, Ayre also insists crucial pre-season planning will shape the Reds' plans during their stay in the Far East.

He added: "We will work with the promoters and our supporters clubs to try and give them as much access to meet the players, or interact with them, as possible.

"It's important we find a balance between that and team preparation. Rafa and the coaches have had as much say as anyone in our schedule, which is right, because while we want to give the fans a chance to see them, we also want to make sure we are prepared for the season ahead."

I hope to attend LFC's match in Singapore in July. It's all about getting tickets. I'm going with a friend, Carl. Any other LFC fans who want to go well, let's!

What are Liverpool's chances of still winning the Premiership?

Their last two matches were downers and the defense was suspect. So the Reds have 71 points on 32 matches.

But on hand are :
Hull, Newcastle United, West Ham United, West Bromwich Albion, and Tottenham Hotspur.

Two of those matches are at home: Newcastle and Tottenham. The Magpies and Albion are battling relegation and since they will be playing at home, expect them to redouble their efforts.

If LFC wins all 5 games then they could hike their points total to 86.

Now if Manchester United stumbles twice and draws one match then by goal difference, LFC could win.

The Red Devils have played 32 games and have come away with 74 points.

On hand are: Tottenham Hotspur H, Middlesbrough A, Manchester City H, Wigan A, Arsenal H, and Hull City A.

If they win all six matches = 92 points

MUFC could, I repeat could, have four tough matches out of their remaining six. Middlesbrough and Hull would like to avoid relegation and they'll be playing at their home fields.

Manchester City and Arsenal, although playing at Old Trafford could give the Red Devils fits.

Chelsea's Guus Hiddink says the Blues are out of it. Not really. It depends on how MUFC fares. But clearly, Alex Ferguson's lads are in the driver's seat.

And it's going to be a mighty wind up.

NBA stuff

This is hilarious. Check this out. Nice to see Chris Weber in the broadcast panel. It was tough to see him not win an NBA championship or at least play in the Finals.

Then take a gander at this vid featuring the Houston Rockets making fun of Deke Mutombo. We'll miss the Big Fella.

And yes, Derrick Rose wins the NBA's Rookie of the Year plum.

Now it's on to the Windy City to defend the homecourt from the defending champs.

Air Pacman

Look at Manny Pacquiao's new kicks. And Tinker Hatfield helped design it too. Awesome.

Collegiate pre-season musings Part 1

The thing about the pre-season is it is simply... the pre-season. It doesn't follow that if one plays well then that means it will carry over to a team's main collegiate league.

For example, watching San Beda skewer Mapua doesn't gauge how good exactly the three-peat champs are because they faced totally inferior competition. But then again, it does say a lot about what the Cardinals will be like in the NCAA -- bottom feeders. What does that say about Mapua? They were ill-prepared and ill-equipped when they ran a small rotation that hardly gave confidence to the bench warmers.

As for San Beda, the Ogie Menor saga is officially over. After leaving the team (over alleged disputes with the SBP contract and pressure from team officials), he decided to make a comeback. The as of two days ago, he's gone again and will apply for the PBA Draft. There are supposed to be several reasons why he decided not to but at this point it doesn't matter.

Word is they'll try to get Borgie Hermida back as soon as possible but that doesn't seem possible. So the Red Lions will play without two offensive threats. But they will find some firepower from guys like JR Tecson (who doesn't know the meaning of asisst), Mar Villahermosa who was in the UE camp until they decided that the current exchange rate is more to their liking, Jake Pascual, Dave Marcelo, and Sudan Daniels.

The current Fil Oil roster lists Sudan's surnames sans the "s." I figure they'll get it right when he struts his Superman stuff. Wala palang "s" sabi ni Mike Abasolo.

But the Red Lions... sana they ran out clock in those last few seconds to Mapua. Chico Tirona was already waving off his teammates to kill the clock but instead the team ran a play when they were up by 30 points and JR Taganas launch a trey that hit the bottom of the net. Talo na naman di ba?

To the Bedans who took affront to the earlier post, apologies for that. But it is not an indictment of SBC hoops but simply the two evens I previously pointed out.

I like UP's build-up though. Pretty impressive. Now Coach Aboy has the team he wants so the pressure is on.

Holy Guacamole. No Migs De Asis in the line-up. But this team will not only be competitive but they'll even get better next season.

As for the Ateneo Blue Eagles... too many bigs and non-performing assets. Jai Reyes has filled the role of Chris Tiu by showing his leadership on the floor, rebouding, and hustling. That's all good but he is and will be overworked. I like Juami Tiongson as the back-up but this team needs a third PG. Don't even tell me that Eric Salamat or Ryan Buenafe will carry the ballhandling chores. That's not saying they can't but it is not their natural position.

I wish they had another forward or even a pure shooter who will open things up for the bigs. De Chavez, you say? Well, oks lang but when we say pure shooter who can rifle it out like nobody's business then let's talk Clark Bautista or Martin Reyes. And for the second straight year, two players who might have been a player for the Blue Eagles has gone on to UST (Bautista and Jeric Teng). We're doing Pido's recruiting for him!

The presence of someone who can light it up will help Rabeh Al-Husseini who should just play the game rather than exchanged barbs and elbows with everyone else. When you just get locked in, no one can stop you, Big Fella. You're the reigning MVP, everyone will be gunning for you including idiot fans especially the Dickhead Coaching Staff.

Back to outside shooting, I said last season that we got away without bombarding too much from the arc and without that, teams will double Rabeh every chance they get.

If they can get out to the races then they'll be hard to stop.

Looking at good teams, there are usually two or three players who average double-digits to lead their squad with the bonus points spread from the bench mob.

At this point, the team has four players who can pump in double-digits on any given day: Al-Husseini, Salamat, Reyes, and Buenafe. Ateneo will be tough but they'll need De Chavez, Salva, Baclao, and Tiongson to score.

Well, they have about a month more before they submit their UAAP line-up (barring an injury then the Fil Oil squad is it). Those NPAs should either be put on Team B.

I'm voting for no more cameos for Oping Sumalinog but playing time and an opportunity to score. If he and Tonino Gonzaga can add some points then that's good.

I'm all for dropping someone in favor of Alec Rivera as third guard.

And Mike, Vince, Nico, Frank, and Justin, no time to caddy to Rabs, you gotta step up now and put up points when the Big Guy is on the bench.

Again, it's the pre-season but so far the perimeter defense isn't in sync yet. Gotta get that fixed and I'm sure they'll address that.

Okay here's that fixed poster for the Ateneo-Simon Fraser U game up in the Great White North.

Hey, Eddie! Anything else wrong with this?

Ateneo news

Pacquiao-Hatton live viewing at the Ateneo Grade School Auditorium
Watch the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton live with no commercials breaks or interruptions on May 3, 2009 at the Ateneo Grade School Auditorium.

Proceeds of the live viewing event are for the benefit of the Ateneo Scholarship Fund.

Concessionaires will be available on site. Tickets are PhP 600/pax.

For ticket inquiries and sales contact Jonah De Lumen at 0917 552 0441.

Ateneo vs La Salle… in New York
The Ateneo Alumni Northeast Inc is planning an Ateneo & La Salle project that will feature a men’s basketball and a mixed volleyball game that will be one of the activities of a Family Day event. It will be a fundraising event for both sides.

Proposed Dream Games would be sometime in the fall (the target dates are either September 19, 26 or October 3, depending on venue availability.)
· Need male basketball players.
· We also need male and/or female volleyball players
· The criteria that is a player (either basketball or volleyball) must have studied in any of the Ateneo schools in the Philippines (Manila, Naga, Cagayan, San Pablo, Zamboanga, etc…) ..there is no need to have graduated in any of the Ateneo schools. We will take your word that you studied there…there is no need to present a diploma or transcript (or PEP Test results).
· Participants must not varsity-level experience, but must have a competitive spirit and are willing to commit to some practice time.
· At this point there is no age limit, for as long as you are more than 21 years of age.
For now, Ateneo and La Salle has initially agreed to build one team. However, if there are sufficient players for a Juniors and Seniors team, then we will organize it as such.

Interested Ateneans may email Mike Ruivivar at

Former Ateneo Team Managers, Blue Babble Battalion, Ateneo Band, and Cheerdancers are very much invited.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Updated WTA Singles Top 20 as of April 20, 2009

1 Dinara Safina (Rus)
2 Serena Williams (USA)
3 Elena Dementieva (Rus)
4 Jelena Jankovic (Srb)
5 Venus Williams (USA)
6 Vera Zvonareva (Rus)
7 Ana Ivanovic (Srb)
8 Victoria Azarenka (Blr)
9 Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus)
10 Nadia Petrova (Rus)
11 Caroline Wozniacki (Den)
12 Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol)
13 Marion Bartoli (Fra)
14 Flavia Pennetta (Ita)
15 Alize Cornet (Fra)
16 Jie Zheng (Chn)
17 Dominika Cibulkova (Svk)
18 Anabel Medina Garrigues (Esp)
19 Kaia Kanepi (Est)
20 Patty Schnyder (Sui)

A Slice of Heaven Part 3: Barotac Nuevo

A Slice of Heaven Part 3: Barotac Nuevo
words and pictures by rick olivares

April 18, 2009
When you talk about football in the Philippines, well there are only two places that you should consider – Metro Manila and Iloilo. Anyone who says otherwise should stick to Playstation.

In Iloilo there are several places that are known for its football: Santa Barbara, La Paz, and newcomers Aniway and Calinog. And there’s Barotac Nuevo which is a republic unto its own.

Collectively, they’ve developed a rep much like the Brazilians have when it comes to football. They’re the best bar none.

I wondered if Santa Barbara’s red water was any source of their talent. You know much like that secret drink that Bugs Bunny foisted upon the Loony Toons characters in Space Jam. Except that what makes people think the people of Santa Barbara will want to share that with their forever rival Barotac Nuevo.

They’re like Manchester United and Liverpool, France and England, AC Milan and Internazionale.

They’re fierce rivals but with a healthy respect for one another. Except it wasn’t always that way. After years of fraternization and recruitment, they keep their battles to the pitch then go about their business in a normal way.

During our third and final day, we got up at the crack of dawn to begin shooting along the highway before heading out to the plaza where there would be some players already working out.

Weekends are the most anticipated here. It brings out so many people to the plaza for football.

But wait… so why are Barotacnans so good at the game?

Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.

The walk from Aragrace to the plaza is like five minutes away. But it takes us some 20-plus minutes as we’re filming people along the highway.

By the time we get to the plaza, we see the horse that has a statue in the middle of the plaza. How many animals are honored with statues?

The only one I can think of is Balto in Central Park.

Anyways, the story goes – some say its folklore while others swear its history but whichever it is, that’s the official story everyone is stick to so chill – that a Spanish governor was distressed that his horse died. And while riding through the town of Malutac (which means muddy or swampy area in the native dialect), he saw a magnificent white horse. When he inquired about the availability of the horse, he found out that the horse, named Tamasac, was owned by a rich landowner who refused any monetary exchange for the horse.

The only thing he asked for in return is that Malutac become a municipality. The governor agreed and the town was renamed Barotac Nuevo since there was another town known as Barotac Viejo.

It cuts an imposing sight to see a football field in front of St. Anthony of Padua Church. On game days, especially big matches, the surrounding bleachers are packed. Even the top most area of the church has fans dangling rather precariously.

I didn't take interior shots of the church as there was a flurry of activity inside. Besides we were busy on the pitch. But the church looked beautiful as well.

A town fiesta here is composed of three parts: a Mass, a parade or procession, and a football match. No need for entertainment. The game is the main event.

And people know if there’s a sucky game; they don’t watch.

But football was brought to this town by the Monfort brothers who learned the game from the Augustinian priests at the Colegio de San Agustin in Iloilo City. When they returned to Barotac Nuevo, the townsfolk quickly embraced the sport. And since then, they’ve been kicking butt and taking names.

It’s 6:30am and the U17 team of Barotac is already on the pitch for a meeting with their coach and some drills. They’ll be off in a few days to compete in Bacolod.

On the opposite side of the field are the kids who taught the rudiments of the game. Even at that age, the philosophy of Barotac football is taught – one touch passing (predicated on knowing where teammates are at all times) and quick attacks. They are the Phoenix Suns of football.

Basketball sounds like a bad analogy.

But there’s no truth that there are no basketball courts here. There are several and in act, there’s an ongoing tournament here as well. It just doesn’t draw the crowds.

And there are makeshift volleyball courts in almost every field however it is football that rules.

Whether authentic or knock-offs, football jerseys are part of the garden-variety fashion here. In the three days we’ve been here, outside the basketball courts, I have yet to see anyone in a hoops tank top. And we went to SM City twice already at night.

My unofficial poll had the Barcelona and AC Milan kits as the most popular closely followed by Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Other kits I saw: Chivas America, USA, Liverpool, Galatasaray, Uruguay, Arsenal, Santos FC, Boca Juniors, Lyon, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Juventus, Newcastle United, and Korea to name a few.

We interviewed a bunch of former players and FIFA referees, and a few kids; one of them, a kid named Jed who will be a prize catch for major colleges and universities in a few years’ time (should he continue his rate of improvement and gain from a burst of height).

From there we made a trip to a nearby field where we hoped to catch a game of sinike, where kids play barefoot. Playing barefoot on a quick patch rice field isn’t easy yet these kids beat the better players from the nearby areas. I’m told that playing barefoot and on a rice field at hat is an art form and if one isn’t used to it then it’s difficult not to mention a bit painful.

Unfortunately, the rains the day before made the pitch a little unplayable and the only ones we found there was a carabao and a pair of goats. The barangay captain says we should try to come back around 2pm.

Sometimes these games have bets going up to several thousand pesos, I’m told.

Aside from the football, the other thing that has really impressed us is the hospitality and friendliness of the people here. I figure they know us to be tourists and quite a few come over to ask about our doings. Some offer advice and share anecdotes. But all have a smile and a warm handshake for us.

We had breakfast at a nearby restaurant owned by the sister of the current PFF Gen-Sec Cyrill Dofitas. Several townsfolk including some former players join us and regale us with their exploits.

It made for a fun morning eat except for the fact that I couldn’t eat several of the dishes (seafoods of which I am allergic to).

We had a few hours to kill so we went back to the hotel to catch some zzzs. I was asleep almost instantly.

Around 1230 we went back to the plaza for a quick lunch. By the time we finished, the first game between U17 Barotac was playing the wimp-ass Angelicum team. If they got their asses handed back to them by Calinog think of what Barotac would do to them.

To make things worse, Angelicum showed up with only nine players. It was another eyesore as they were destroyed 20-0. By the second half, the Barotac players were instructed to take shots only from outside the box. If they scored from within, their coach asked them to do push ups and run a few suicides. As much as it was a mismatch, it was hard to tell the players not to score.

At the half, I spoke to Angelicum’s goalkeeper who had been thoroughly embarrassed. If anything this is their coach’s fault because the kids are in such poor form and have zero strategies. The keeper rarely ventures from out from the goal line to be aggressive. When he attempts to block a shot or even parry one away he doesn’t get his body behind his hand for support and firmness. He bats the ball away flailing like a drowning man.

I felt so bad for him as the crowd would laugh and chide him.

He wasn’t even squared at all. One needs to have his feet apart with the knees bent for quick darting left or right. He just stood there like some damn pole!

Well, he did listen for he stopped the next few shots but that was like trying to stop the rain from getting through with a cardboard box.

I was actually rooting for the underdog but there was no hope for this team. Even a couple of deflections by Barotac found the back of the net.

We left after a bit to try and catch the game of sinike in the nearby rice fields but they were still empty. Another time then when we come back.

So we caught the final game in the Open Division between Barotac and CPU; both undefeated at this point.

The pressing game of the Jaro-based eleven gave the home team a lot of fits in the first 10 minutes. But Barotac’s defense held. One former player told me that they weren’t worried; their team was far superior. I wondered if they were being boastful but they actually spoke because they knew the truth – CPU couldn’t hang with these guys.

One mistake, off a corner shot by Barotac and CPU unraveled. No one contested the corner in the air for the defensive team – a cardinal mistake – and a Barotac play simply chipped in the ball as the keeper stood helplessly by.

The momentum shifted massively as CPU couldn’t get the ball past their middle third from there.

Right before the half, off another cross from outside the box, one Barotac player form the right wing blasted in – in one touch – the ball the found the back of the net with a defender all over him. The keeper didn’t even move once more. Two-nil Barotac.

The game would end 4-0. A masterful triumph of skill and teamwork.

We only had a few minutes for a quick shower if we wanted to make it to the airport in time. I re-booked an earlier flight to Manila (615pm) because I was going to attend an important business meeting.

But I was dead tired and the number of equipment we brought with us made it impossible to head for Greenbelt.

On the flight back home, I kept thinking back to the past three days of what an enriching experience it was – soaking in all he culture and history. Making new friends and getting to see first-hand what Iloilo football was all about. I had no idea of what to expect prior to coming over. I’m always like that so things don’t fall flat should they not meet expectations.

It was great and if anything, for three days, perhaps next to being with your girl, I found a slice of heaven in this part of the world.

Post-script: I’m going back by the third week of May. Ideally it should be by mid-month but I’m off to Jakarta for about a week to ten days. When we head back we’ll revisit Santa Barbara then zip off to Aniway and Calinog before going back to Barotac to catch the finals of the IFA Cup.


Here are more shots I took. Here's another of St. Anthony of Padua church against the blue skies. I just love it when subjects lend to a god backdrop of a blue sky.

This was taken outside Molly's Bar where we had breakfast and lunch (outside the sign says Friends KTV). It's beside a small river that has had the life choked out of it by all these water lilys. I saw this house at the edge of the banks and I kinda looked picturesque.

Here's a shot of the town hall which is across the plaza and the football field. I suddenyl realized that I didn't take any photos of Tamasac the horse. But Tamasac is in the town logo.

This last shot is of a bamboo walkway right before a bridge that is the border between Barotac and the next town of which I forget the name.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness

As we got out of the Iloilo Airport, I plugged in my iPod and got the camera ready to roll. As we drove through the road out and into Santa Barbara, the first song I played was the Verve's "Lucky Man" from their great album Urban Hymns.

It's a nice driving song too and with a sense of purpose, well it makes for a beautiful soundtrack.

My other fave songs on the album including "Bittersweet Symphony," "The Rolling People," "Sonnet," and "Weeping Willow" with its fuzz and psychedelic haze.

Last year, after a three year wait, I got to do the Ateneo Sports calendar with a great bunch of guys and this year after another three-year wait, I'm doing that football documentary.

The pursuit of happiness is in a three-year cycle.

More or less
It's just a change in me
Something in my liberty
Oh, my, my
Coming and going
I watch you look at me
Watch my fever growing
I know just where I am

But how many corners do I have to turn?
How many times do I have to learn
All the love I have is in my mind?

But I'm a lucky man
With fire in my hands

A Slice of Heaven Part 2: La Paz & Jaro

I went to Iloilo to do a documentary about football and strangely enough, I found a slice of heaven over there. What follows is my three-part diary of Iloilo and my eternal fascination for the beautiful game. Be sure to also check out the companion piece posts to this at Thanks!

A Slice of Heaven Part 2: La Paz & Jaro
words & pictures by rick olivares

Friday, April 17, 2009
I had trouble with my mobile phone the night before. Damn Samsung phone has been giving me all sorts of trouble.

As a result, I didn’t know what time we were to be picked up Friday morning.

Normally that isn’t a problem since I get up kinda early. I was up at 5am as usual. I showered a couple of times again. Even with the cool of the air conditioner, I could feel the heat and grime on my skin the day before.

Around 830am there was a knock on the door. It was Engineer Duffie who was there to pick us up. God, I was so ashamed. We quickly dressed up and grabbed our gear.

Everything was fully charged from the previous night.

The first stop was to pick up Engineer Carlos “Boy” Somosierra, the President of the Jaro Football Club. Mang Boy was to be our guide for the whole day while Tito Duffie was off to some meetings.

We went to the capitol where the Governor of Iloilo held office. It is situated right where the old Spanish governors once ran the region.

On display in the lobby were pictures from an incident a couple of years ago when enraged citizens tried to forcibly oust the governor due to alleged charges of corruption. I don’t know the whole story and talking about the government makes me ill and violent. Seriously.

(PICTURE: from ground floor the upper floors and the ceiling of the Capitol building)

This being a story about football in the area, one of the first things we tried to trace was FC Barcelona great Paulino Alcantara who is said to hail from La Paz.

Incredibly, no one here really knows of Alcantara (I must have asked at least 30 people). What they know is only what they’ve read online. Some even ask if he is playing alongside Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, and Sam Eto’o right now in Camp Nou in the Spanish Primera Liga.

There are Alcantaras in La Paz but no one is sure if they are still around. We tried asking but we will have to pursue that when we come back next.

From the capitol we were able to get info about Iloilo that would help in the making of the documentary. I accidentally left the microphones inside the SUV and were unable to conduct any interviews. Bonehead. Tito Duffie was in the Governor’s office and there was no way we could get the keys to the car. So we took a few shots of delicacies and sat down to chat with Mang Boy. And we got to compare the various flavors of La Paz batchoy. There was the special, extra special, and the extra extra special.

The difference was in the amount of the ingredients obviously.

It’s always good to learn new things every day and after the La Paz batchoy which originated from La Paz, I learned that pancit molo had its roots in… you guessed it, Molo, Iloilo. Fascinating!

By the time Tito Duffie finished his meeting, we had wasted our morning, but it didn’t put too much of a crimp on our plans.

From there since it was roundabout noon, we went to Tatoy’s, the famous eatery by the seaside. As the saying goes, “If you’ve not been to Tatoy’s you’ve not been to Iloilo.”

The story of Tatoy is fascinating as he used to sell he was dirt poor and he would sell fried chicken by the beach much to the consternation of nearby eateries since he did pretty well. He would be shooed away by other storeowners. When the opportunity arose to purchase a piece of land just across the beach, Tatoy bought it with a huge assist from a bank loan. His business has since grown as it now occupies a sizeable portion of the area. There’s even a convention center and it was Tito Duffie who first made use of it.

Now they even send food all over the world via parcel. It’s that big that even the president (small caps for small folk) has her party motor straight there when in Iloilo.

I think Tito Duffie ordered seven different kinds of food. The talaba looked appealing but I wasn’t going to risk a bum stomach killing our shooting sked. As I’ve said before, I’m allergic to seafoods. Most of them actually. If I can ever eat something it has to be fried but fried stuff doesn’t sit well with me all the time too. What a sucky eating life. So I stick to the chicken, liempo, and veggies.

Since we’re close to the beach (the waves were high) there was a breeze that somewhat stamped out the oppressive heat. The skies were cloudy and there was a hint of rain. As much as I thought that would be nice, we were worried about it canceling out the afternoon’s games.

In Jaro Park every afternoon, there were kids, most playing barefoot, who engaged in a game of football under the tutelage of Mang Boy. The Engineer is now retired from his work and he spends his free time if not tending to his family then teaching kids. Once more, like his Santa Barbara friends, without a fee.

We hoped to catch a game.

While in Tatoy’s I pull out the video cam and start taking footage. In one table where there looked to be plenty of food, I asked permission to take vids of them. They acquiesced but when they found out it was for football, they introduced me to one of their party, It turned out that Perforio J. Barlas Jr. was a registered FIFA Futsal Referee and had played football at CPU.

When I told him I was with Engineers Duffie and Boy, he said they were friends. And when Tito Duffie and Mang Boy saw me chatting with Mr. Barlas, they asked him over. So I interviewed him on cam in our table. It all turned out cool!

When it was over, we had our lunch but Tito Duffie like our hosts from Santa Barbara the day before, must have ordered the entire inventory for I almost gagged at all the food and yet there were only five of us in the table.

Just when I thought that the heat would perspire all the fat out of me, we were having another pig out.

After lunch where we were regaled with more stories such as the game at Barotac Nuevo that unofficially broke the Guinness World Record for the longest football match ever played.

That game was held last January 16 and 17 and involved 36 players and 9 referees who played for 35 hours straight that featured 19 complete games!

They began at 830am of January 16 and finished at 8:40pm the following day.

The game was played by the high school and college teams of Barotac Nuevo and the HS won 8-7-4 (8 wins, 7 losses, and 4 draws) while scoring 137 goals to the 134 by the college team. And no, they went at each other full tilt.

Dear God!

One of the major TV networks was able to film the whole event but I’m not sure if it ever was shown. It was however mentioned in Pinoy Records, that show hosted by Manny Pacquiao and Chris Tiu.

After the match all the players had to go through a medical exam. For about a week they were prepped for the “record-breaking matches” on the nutrition side. “No need for the skill part,” said Tito Duffie. “They already have that. It was nutrition and fitness that we were more concerned about.”

Holy shit, dudes. What a feat!

It has been an incredible experience thus far and it was getting better by the minute.

From there we did a few more interviews around the Jaro area including Ramsey “Nono” Padernilla who once played for UP and the National Team. Padernilla who now works for San Miguel Corporation, once scored a hat trick against Indonesia in a 4-3 win at the 2nd Asian Youth Football Tournament in the University of Life stadium (now Philsports) in 1980.

One of his Iloilo teammates then is current FEU football coach Adolfo Alicante who is a friend of mine. In UP, he was also teammates with some other friends of mine in Nonong Araneta, former Ateneo coach Bert Honasan, Hans Smit, and the late Chris Monfort – so it was something in common that helped break the ice.

(PICTURE: Raph who ate the entire inventory at Tatoy's, Mang Boy, Ramsey, me, and Tito Duffie)

By the time we left the San Miguel offices the rains began to fall. By the time we got to Jaro Park, there were some 12 kids still kicking the ball around. I joined them for a 20-minute workout and man, I just loved it. The abject joy I felt as a kid playing football in the rain and mud was brought back. I was drenched in the rain but it did not matter at all. I totally had a blast.

Of course, we had to protect the cameras with our extra clothing so by the time we were done, we boarded the car with our clothes wet.

Because of the rains, our day was done shooting. We went to pick up Tito Duffie’s wife then we went to SM City. He banked at Banco De Oro and the late closing was really a plus for him. we had some coffee then went back to Barotac.

Last night it seemed that the trip took forever but since we now knew more or less how to get there we were no longer – for lack of a better term – impatient about the ride. We dropped off Mang Boy before heading out of the city.

When we got home, we were given 30 minutes to shower up. We were attending a town fiesta.

And like our first trip to Barotac, the road to the fiesta was long, winding, and off-road. And it was bleeping dark. In this part of town there are no lampposts so people walked great distances to get home in the dark. I asked about the crime situation here and Tito Duffie said it wasn’t bad at all.

After a long stretch of darkness, we arrived but most people were walking to and from the fiesta. There were games, karaokes, food stalls, and billiard tables. There was a square for dancing but rather than join the crush we went to the house of a friend of his who once played for the Air Force.

He had quite a house as he was able to send his kids to America who in return sent him money to build a slightly lavish home. When we entered the living room, there were about a dozen boys watching the Arsenal-Villareal Champions League match.

Since I’m allergic to most seafoods, I had some pasta and a little cake. With all the kwentuhan in our table, the host brought out some beer.

I can’t even remember the last time I drank Pale Pilsen and I first declined. But towards the end, I downed the beer in a few seconds. That’s it. There was work the following day as we hoped to get up before daybreak.

We got back to the hotel around 1030pm and after another quick bath, I charged the cams and dived onto the bed.

I said a quick prayer and I was out like a light.

Next: Barotac Nuevo