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, March 31, 2016

One Championship Global Rivals: Banario's Honor

Banario’s Honor
by rick olivares

Honorio Banario sat somewhat uncomfortably on the short podium erected at the Kamayan Sa EDSA where he was next to Eric Kelly. Both faced over 50 media people assembled who asked questions about their upcoming fights in One Championship: Global Rivals this mid-April.

At least six times, Banario was asked during the question and answer portion on how he is after his five-match losing streak, what his adjustments he will make after losing five straight, why he is still fighting after losing five straight when others would call it a career, and so on.

It stung every time the five-match losing streak — all in One Championship — was mentioned. “But those are the facts,” admitted the 26-year old from Baguio City. “I have to face it. I was a little uncomfortable doing this but I have to….”

Face my demons?

“Yes. And fears."

Ironically, Banario's last win in a MMA cage was against Eric Kelly during One Championship 7: Pride of a Nation. Since that TKO win over his compatriot on an August night in 2012, Banario has gone winless. There have been 36 One Championship events since and it is now April of 2016. It has been four years since he has lost known a win.

What was once a promising career that stood at an 8-1 win-loss card is now at a crossroads? Or really, is it?

“It’s all mental at this stage,” fessed up the 5’9” 145-pound fighter. “It’s a confidence problem.”

Honorio points to those back-to-back losses to Japanese featherweight Koji Oishi as those “demons” that have tormented him. “Akala ko kayang kaya ko. Kaya naman. But I made mistakes and he was a better fighter.”

If those wins over the Filipino were supposed to spur on the Japanese fighter to greater heights despite being an older fighter at (then) 36 years of age, that wasn’t the case. Oishi followed up those wins over Banario with a devastating loss Narantungalag Jadambaa of Mongolia in 2014. The Japanese fighter, who had fought in the UFC, struggled with injuries that escaped him for the most part of his career. In January of 2015, he called it a career.

Banario is surprised to hear of Oishi’s fate and hopes that there is still a happy ending on the horizon for him.

“Some people have said that I should quit. But no. I am a fighter. This is my life, my career, and in my blood. I cannot quit.”

And aside from his life, career, and blood, it is his work. Banario also coaches young mixed martial arts hopefuls in the Team Lakay Gym in Benguet, Mountain Province. “The training can be hard and there are times when the trainees want to quit. I tell them, ‘How can you quit? I have lost five straight matches but I haven’t quit? I am still here. Fighting. Teaching. Coaching.’”

On April 15, coincidentally once more, Banario will be facing a fellow Filipino in Vaughn Donayre, a fighter out of Cebu who is — coincidentally as well — battling his own losing streak. Donayre won his first seven matches then shockingly lost three of the next four including two in One Championship.

“Mahirap din kapag kapwa Pilipino ang kalaban mo. Pero tulad nga sa amin ni Eric (Kelly), trabaho lang.”

“But I have to win this April and regain my honor."

Charly Suarez went for broke for that Olympic slot

Charly Suarez went for broke for that Olympic slot
by rick olivares

Charly Suarez knew that he was in for a tough fight. The Filipino lightweight fighter up against Chinese fighter Shan Jun and a partisan home crowd.

At stake was a slot in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and at the very least a silver medal in the Asian-Oceanian Olympic Qualifiers at the Tangshan Sports Centre in Qian’An, China. 

When the Chinese fighter emerged from the locker rooms, he raised his hands to acknowledge the crowd that began to applaud and chant. Suarez came out with a peaceful but determined look on his face.

“Binigyan ako ng pagkakataon na makapunta sa Rio at mabigyan ng kaligayahan ang ating mga kababayan (I was given an opportunity to go to Rio and to bring some joy to our countrymen),” thought Suarez who is the Philippine delegation team captain. “Wala na makakapagpigil sa akin kahit homecrowd nila. Kukunin ko na ‘to. Bigay ko na ang lahat (No one was going to stop me from making it not even the Chinese home crowd. I was going to take this. I was going to give my all)."

While Shan Jun was buoyed by the crowd, it was Suarez who was energeized. “Lalo akong naging desidido manalo (All the more I became determined to win this),” he said of the jeers. His foe was largely uncoordinated in his attacks. The 27-year old Suarez was on target as he landed combinations and nasty shots that rocked the Chinese. In the second round, a powerful straight broke Shan Jun’s nose forcing him to quit sending the small Filipino group in a frenzy. 

Suarez was joining Rogen Ladon, who was the first from the Philippine team to book a ticket to the Olympic Games. “Laking pasasalamat ko kay Lord para sa pagkakataon na to. At ang laking tulong ng imagery techniques namin (I owe so much to God for this blessing. And the use of those imagery techniques greatly helped me in attaining this),” said the deeply religious Suarez.

“The game plan was to dominate and to not let the Chinese fighter dictate and finish the fight because we didn’t want the outcome to be at the mercy of the judges’ decision,” said Philippine Boxing National Team sports specialist Marcus Manalo. “Charly was very assertive all throughout the match and as a result was all over the Chinese boxer. He was very impressive.”

In spite of the Filipinos’ success with Ladon and Suarez now doubling the Philippine boxing contingent to the Olympics (Mark Anthony Barriga was the lone boxer during the 2012 London Olympics), there was equal hope and concern for Mario Fernandez and for Eumir Felix Marcial who both lost their semifinals matches. 

Between the two, Fernandez has a better chance of becoming of clinching an Olympic berth while bringing home a bronze medal. Marcial hurt his hand during his match against Iranian Sajjad Kazemzadeh Poshtiri resulting in swelling in his hand. And that was clearly evident in his match against Shakram Giyasov of Uzbekistan.  

“Sayang pero may laban pa (It’s unfortunate but we still have a fighting chance),” noted Suarez of his compatriots’ final hurdle.

“We will find out and hope and pray for a miracle,” hoped Manalo of the two remaining Filipino boxers who are in contention for an Olympic berth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Nesthy Petecio holds her head up high in spite of Olympic Qualifying loss

This appears on

Nesthy Petecio holds her head up high in spite of Olympic Qualifying loss
by rick olivares

Rappler spoke with Filipina boxer Nesthy Petecio a few hours after her painful loss to India’s Mery Kom Hmangte in the quarterfinals of the Asian-Oceanian Olympic Qualifiers at the Tangshan Sports Centre in Qian’An, China.

The Tuban, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur native was still in pain over the loss that eliminated her from making it to the 2016 Rio Summer Games in August of this year. But she gamely related her story to Rappler.

"Nung magsimula ako, hindi pa masyadong kilala si Manny Pacquiao, so yung boksing, sikat, pero hindi masyado para sa mga kababaihan,” recounted Petecio of her salad days. “Alam ko lang gusto ko mag-boksing at makapasok sa national team.”

Like most Filipinos, Nesthy gravitated towards basketball and she loved the sport as only a kid could. However, her father, Teodoro steered her at the tender age of seven towards the Sweet Science. “Hindi ko gusto ang boksing dahil basketbol yung nakahiligan ko sa iskwelahan. Ang Papa ko ang naghubog sa akin sa boksing. Umiiyak pa ako sa training dahil hindi ko gusto.”

That changed when she saw her older brother and some neighbours take up the sport under her father’s tutelage, that changed her perspective of the sport. “Nung makita ko yung kuya ko at ang mga kapitbahay ko nag-eensayo kasama ni Papa ay natuwa ako. Doon magsimula yung hilig ko sa boksing. I love boxing."

“Pero,” she adds, “nagba-basketbol pa rin ako."

The sport has governed over two-thirds of her 23 years on this planet and her father’s vision of the sport being good for his daughter is bearing fruit.

At the age of 15, she took part in the 2007 Smart National Youth and Women’s Open Boxing Championships in Cagayan De Oro. Competing in the women’s 50-kilogram category, Petecio won the gold and was named to the national team.  She has since brought home quite a medal haul — silver medals in the 2014 World Championships and the 2011 and 2013 Southeast Asian Games; a bronze medial in the 2012 Asian Championships; and a gold medal in the 2015 Indonesia President’s Cup — in both the featherweight and bantamweight women’s divisions.

And her prowess and success has allowed her to receive an education as she attended Rizal Technological University.

“Sobrang layo na ng women’s boxing ngayon. Ngayon nakikilala na yung sport,” she talked of the difference from the time she came up to how the sport is viewed today.

As for the Olympic Qualifiers, despite her going out in the quarterfinals, Nesthy has remained confidence of another opportunity to bring glory to the Philippines.

“Sobrang ganda ng experience ko rito sa Olympic qualifying. Talo man ako, nakataas pa rin yung ulo ko at proud ako sa lahat ng laro ko.”

However, the five-foot-two-inch Petecio couldn’t resist one last dig at the officiating that robber her of her chance to go to Rio. “Alam naman ng lahat ng nanood sa arena kung sino nanalo. Talo man ako pero hirap na hirap siya sa akin. It was a great experience na makalaban ang isa sa pinakakilala sa larangan ng women’s boxing."

Chatting with new Ateneo Blue Eagle Raffy Verano about off-court stuff.

Rick: Do you like music? If so, what recording artists, bands do you like? What's on heavy rotation on your music player?

Raffy: I love music! I would have to say my favorite artist right now would be Kendrick Lamar. I have a little bit of everything on my playlist: hip-hop, rap, R&B, and a lot of beat based songs. 

Rick: Your fave kicks? And why? Are they Air Jordans? If so, what is your fave and why?

Raffy: Yes, my favorite kicks have to be the Air Jordan 1's. My favorite pair of 1's are the royal and bred 1's, to me they have the cleanest and simple look to them and the color ways to it just pair well with a lot of clothes. 

Rick: Are you looking forward to Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice or Captain America: Civil War? Do you binge watch anything on Netflix? What would that be and why? Last film you saw in the theater and did you enjoy it?

Raffy: I am really looking forward to watching both Batman vs Superman and Captain America: Civil War both seem like great movies. I don't binge much on Netflix. I feel like if I start to binge I'll binge for awhile and not get anything done. The last film I saw in the theater was Deadpool and I really enjoyed that movie. It was packed with comedy and action. 

Rick: M&Ms or snickers? Or none of them? What is your fave snack?

Raffy: My favorite snack has to be oreos. Oreos are the best with milk but yet can also be too dangerous. 

Rick: Aside from clothes/shoes, what will you be packing with you when you come over?

Raffy: I’ll be packing pictures of both my family and friends and the little things that'll remind me of home. 


Additional reading: Q&A with Raffy Singson-Verano

I gotta get me a CM Punk UFC shirt!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Life's a beach for Bea Tan (and the creation of the Beach Volleyball Republic)

This appears on

Life’s a beach for Bea Tan
by rick olivares

Having watched, followed, and written extensively about the Ateneo Lady Eagles over the past 10 years, they have had so many personalities who have defined the team or given the sport a face. Some have even transcended the game and have become big names. 

One player I was fascinated with was Bea Tan. She came up from La Salle Bacolod to join a Lady Eagles team that was on the verge of winning a championship. However, because of the team’s depth, she couldn’t break into the starting six.

Several years ago, during the University Games held at Roxas City, the Lady Eagles were on a roll, defeating team after team when the starting six was sent back to Manila to play in a pocket tournament with foreign teams.  That left the reserves to hold the fort — Bea Tan, Mona Bagatsing, Tasha Faustino, and a few others. They faced Central Colleges of the Philippines out of Iloilo and their star Jovelyn Gonzaga. It was the reserves’ moment to shine, to show what they could do. Bea’s former high school teammates from La Salle Bacolod were on hand to cheer her on but the Lady Eagles were sent out of the quarterfinals with a three-set sweep.

The team was massively deflated. They knew they had a great chance but they blew it. I remember consoling Bea who assistant coach Parley Tupaz (head coach Roger Gorayeb flew back to Manila with the first six) constantly rode during the game. Bea took over Jem Ferrer’s slot as playmaker and she tried her best to get the team going. 

No one seemed more disappointed than Bea that day. 

Even before that match in far flung Capiz, I watched as Bea found herself niche in beach volleyball where interestingly, she teamed up with Alyssa Valdez who was serving out her residency. I thought that she was a totally different player on the sand. Maybe because there are only two players per team, they both had to set for one another, hit the ball and play defense. Maybe because she was in her element. 

Watching her play in the UAAP and Petron beach volleyball tourneys, there was a joy to her face that wasn’t evident in the sport’s indoor cousin. I recall telling myself that Bea Tan had found her passion. 

So when Beach Volleyball Republic came up, I wasn’t the least surprised that she was at the forefront along with some former teammates and colleagues in Charo Soriano, Angeline Gervacio, Fille Cayetano (nee Cainglet), and Gretchen Ho.

Watching Bea and her BVR colleagues, I told my oldest friend in the world, television host Boyet Sison that this is the line-up of the two-time V-League champions minus Jem Ferrer, Alyssa Valdez, and Denden Lazaro. I also pointed out that Fab Four of Fille, Dzi, Jem, and Gretchen who were a huge reason for the volleyball’s surge in popularity, here they were again helping spread the gospel of this fun and exciting sport.

And as much as I have tremendous respect for her BVR colleagues, I sought Bea out to congratulate her knowing this was her baby and advocacy. 

What follows is a short conversation I had with Bea Tan.

Rick: Congratulations on BVR and its partnership with ABS-CBN. You’ve been beaming non-stop today. How cool is this for you?

Bea: Oh, it’s the coolest ever! I have to pinch myself just to see if I am dreaming. But it’s for real. This is cool.

Rick: Then it’s all good. I know this has been your passion and advocacy but how did you convince your teammates to get into this?

Bea: It started out after I graduated from Ateneo in 2014. As athletes, we dream of playing in big tournaments and success on and off it. When your playing days are done, there’s this desire to continue playing. But more than playing, you want to grow the sport and create your own tournaments. I would go around the country just to look for beach volleyball tournaments to participate. I know for a fact that there are a lot of beach volleyball players but they transition into indoor volleyball because there aren’t enough tournaments for them to pay or get involved. 

After graduating, I took it upon myself to plan a small tournament in Bacolod. I tapped my immediate circle of friends within the Ateneo Lady Eagles to help me out. And it transitioned from there to a tournament in Manila. Gretchen (Ho) was another person who wanted to carve out her own niche and was wiling to help out. She too found her passion in the sport. From there it was easy to get everyone else.

BVR is the vision of having players play out their passion for the sport. BVR is planning to get players to play and focus on their skills and to grow the sport. Ours is a country with long coastlines. People play the sport everywhere. It’s a matter of giving it more focus and attention so it will grow.

Rick: Since the sport only features two players per team where each one has to set, hit, and play defense, has this improved your skills as a player?

Bea: Most definitely it has. You learn how to do everything. And you have to do it well. If you look at Alyssa Valdez, it really helped her game where she has become a more complete player. And it’s the same for UST’s Cherry Rondina and many others. It has also boosted my confidence not only in the sport but also as a person.

Rick: Here’s the odd question. Is it easy to get people to play in swimsuits? Or are young girls conscious about it?

Bea: Believe it or not, it is the young girls who are fine playing in swimsuits or bikinis. They are more comfortable with their bodies. It’s the older players who have a few reservations as they have gained a little bit of weight after their playing days were over. They feel shy to wear bikinis. Before they would bring their own gear, usually cycling shorts. We’ve remedied that by providing them gear that will be comfortable to wear. I think that after watching the girls play and show off their skills, people will develop a genuine love for the sport more than the superficial. 

Rick: As you’ve been around, do you see people view beach volleyball through different eyes. 

Bea: Yes! While you have to credit the success and popularity of indoor volleyball in opening eyes to the sport, beach volleyball has gained a lot of popularity throughout the country. More and more people are getting into it. Before, in Metro Manila, it was only in UE Caloocan that had a beach volleyball court. Now they have in other schools as well and it event places like SM. And there are now more and more tournaments around the country.

It is an exciting time for the sport of beach volleyball.

With Bea, Fille, Gretchen, and Dzi.


BVR is the brain trust of former collegiate volleyball stars and current beach volleyball stalwarts Bea Tan, Charo Soriano, Dzi Gervacio, Fille Cayetano, and Gretchen Ho who all used to play volleyball for the Ateneo De Manila University. Their passion for the sport has spread from the indoor courts to the outdoors, and through BVR, they hope the rest of the country will get into the exciting and entertaining 2-on-2 sport as well.

As the official broadcast partner, ABS-CBN through ABS-CBN Sports + Action and ABS-CBN Sports + Action HD Ch166, will cover BVR's events all over the nation, starting with their star-studded beach volleyball tournament at the White House, Boracay on April 27 and 28. Three semifinal matches and three finals matches will be aired on ABS-CBN Sports + Action and ABS-CBN Sports + Action HD Ch166 on April 28. ABS-CBN Sports + Action will also feature highlights of BVR tourneys at San Juan, La Union, Anguib Beach, Sta. Ana, Cagayan Region, and Lakawon Island, Negros Occidental.

“Beach Volleyball Republic is here to stay and we will do our best to bring to every Kapamilya,” exclaimed ABS-CBN Integrated Sports head Dino Laurena, adding, “ABS-CBN, in its continued dedication to bring sports events closer to Filipinos, sees BVR as another sport in which we can all excel and a sport whose popularity is on the rise, the same way it happened for indoor volleyball.”

BVR aims to promote the beach volleyball lifestyle in the Philippines through providing an avenue for athletes to train, develop their skills, build a community, and compete in high-level exhibition tournaments all over the country. Together with ABS-CBN, BVR will be at the forefront of promoting the sport towards the goal of making the Philippines a competitive force in the world of beach volleyball in the future.

“It is a humbling experience for us at BVR to be partnered with ABS-CBN, through ABS-CBN’s Integrated Sports division, to be able to provide an avenue for talented players,” said Soriano, which Gretchen Ho echoed, adding, “we are so happy that a major stakeholder like ABS-CBN believes in us so we get to share our passion for beach volleyball.”

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Bleachers Brew: On taking those last shots and some sportsmanship

This appears in the Monday, March 28, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

Last Shots
by rick olivares

Duke University Coach Mike Krzyzewski came under fire for his post-match talk with Oregon forward Dillon Brooks after the latter threw up a three-point shot from Steph Curry range with eight seconds left despite leading 79-68.

Brooks and Coach K post-match.
After the match, Coach K told Brooks that he was “too good of a player to do that” in reference to the late shot. Brooks apologized but the next day felt he didn’t do anything wrong.

Now some quarters including Oregon coach Dana Altman say that Coach K should have spoken to the proper people and not the player. Krzyzewski apologized later for reacting incorrectly and distracting the Ducks before facing their next opponent.

While I agree Coach K should have not talked to Brooks but to Altman instead, I think Oregon was wrong for rubbing it in. Now, if there is such a thing as a quotient in determining who moves on, then it is justified. Besides, no way is Duke going to catch up with eight seconds left in the match. 

Now if there was a good one minute then fine. Fire away.

It might have been inadvertent but still it can cause problems down the road because the other team will want to get back and you can be sure some of those Blue Devils will want to settle that score.

I’ve seen it happen locally. Five years ago, en route to their fourth consecutive UAAP championship, Ateneo Blue Eagle Chris De Chavez threw up an underhanded shot with about a second left from about 30 feet away. It went it further burying National University. Ateneo coach Norman Black was furious at De Chavez.

About a month later, during the University Games, NU had its revenge when Jean Mbe swooped in for a dunk with seconds left in the game and the Bulldogs way way ahead. There was a near fight as some Ateneo coaches charged the NU side. One Bulldogs’ assistant mentioned the De Chavez shot. Since then, the battles between the two teams have been hotly contested.

And more than a decade ago, there was a similar ending during a match between San Beda and Philippine Christian University with a Red Lions player jacking up a trey towards the match’s end. Harsh words were exchanged and that nearly led to a fight. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed.

Because of today’s intense level of competition, it is easy to forget sportsmanship that is oft lacking these days. Sometimes, in the heat of the battle, people lose it or forget themselves. 

Also recently, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was too down following their Super Bowl loss to Denver that while addressing the media post-match, he used mono-syllabic answers and walked out after hearing the Broncos’ Chris Harris talk about their game plan and how they stopped the potent Panthers team.

I think that just as there are preparations for post-game victories so must there be for losses. Especially the painful ones.

I recall how during the finals of UAAP Season 77, NU head coach Eric Altamirano made a mental note of shaking FEU counterpart Nash Racela’s hands with seconds left to spare during their historic championship. “I knew when that buzzer sounded, everyone will be trying to hug one another and so on so I made sure that even before the game ended, I shook Coach Nash’s hand.”

Sometimes the best end to any game, no matter how hard fought, is that gesture of class. A handshake. Consoling a vanquished opponent. Taking a knee. Or even not taking that inadvertent last shot (or not) just to pad one’s stats. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

I grew up watching Johan Cruyff

As a youngster, there were three footballers I who I watched if they were on television -- Franz Beckenbauer, Pele, and Johan Cruyff. 

Beckenbauer was fundamentally sound and played simple but effective football. Pele had great skill and he played with a lot of flair. Johan... was doing things we didn't see anyone do. That Cruyff Turn? That was just one of them. His uncanny dribbling skills. Wow. He played with great intelligence, a keen understanding of the game. If others used speed and strength to get by defenders, Cruyff used guile, smarts, and lots of crafty dribbling. He was amazing to watch. 

Even as I began to root for Liverpool, I also liked watched Ajax Amsterdam. I never got a LFC shirt as a youngster but the first ever football shirt that I bought? Ajax. And I still have that to this day even if it doesn't fit me at all.

I tried my best to copy him on the pitch but well... let's leave it at that.

But Johan Cruyff... total football indeed. 

Rest in Peace, Mr. Cruyff. Thanks for the great memories.

Friday, March 25, 2016

On Filipino boxing: Working on Rogen Ladon’s mental edge

The Philippine boxing team visualzing their competition to come.
This appears on

Working on Rogen Ladon’s mental edge
by rick olivares

You oft hear athletes say that a lot of what they do in trying to achieve their goals is mental.

For boxer and Olympic hopeful Rogen Ladon, it was overcoming being just a substitute for Mark Anthony Barriga and his nerves.

When sports specialist Marcus Manalo joined the boxing national team in 2013, it wasn’t easy gaining the trust and confidence of not only Ladon but also of other boxers and their coaches as well. “The perception is when you talk about sports psychology is they have pyschological disorders,” explained Manalo who works with the softball and women’s basketball teams of the University of the Philippines as well as the Philippine Army women’s volleyball team that competes in the V-League. “I have to explain to them that my role is to enhance their performance.”

Added Manalo, “When you ask a boxer how much of the sport is mental, the figure they will give you is anywhere between 50%-90%. They have lots of skills and performance training but mental — that is where they are lacking.”

It took some time before Manalo was able to build rapport with Ladon and the other boxers who are currently competing in China for the Olympic Qualifiers.

For Ladon, he was a bundle of nerves every time he competed internationally. When at home in the Philippines, the familiar surroundings relaxed him. But abroad, going up against boxers ranked higher than himself, some with a name for themselves, or worrying about biased judging, that was his stumbling block. And it affected the light flyweight pugilist's performance.

“What Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) and the coaches do for the boxers is to expose them to a lot of foreign competition. The two-week camp in the United States helped for sure but we came up with a program or techniques for Rogen to use,” said Manalo.

“During competition, there are a lot of distractions and with that come negative thoughts. You have to be aware of them. You have to be aware when they occur? Does it happen during the day or five minutes before the fight? When that happens, Rogen taps his thigh and after that cue, we have taught him to erase those thoughts by thinking, ‘Pinaghirapan ko to ng husto. Pakita ko lang yung kailangan kong gawin. Para sa akin ‘to at sa bayan. Dadaanin ko sa bilis at tiyaga.”

The result?

In 2015, Ladon won a pair of silver medals in the Southeast Asian Games Singapore and the Asian boxing championships. Furthermore, he was named “Discovery of the Year” by the Asian Boxing Confederation. 

“I tell you a story about Rogen,” shared Manalo. “During the 2015 SEA Games, a Malaysian boxing official was relieved not to see Barriga on the list of Philippine boxers. AIBA Pro boxers aren’t allowed to compete in small tournaments like the SEA Games but are allowed to compete in the Olympics, the Asian Games, or World Championships. Then Rogen flat out performed during the SEA Games. The Malaysian official just shook his head because he realized we had another potent boxer in Ladon.”

Manalo believes that Ladon has a huge chance of bringing home a medal in the Olympics. “A lot of the competition he will go up against, he has faced in Asia and in the World Championships. His confidence is soaring.”

In spite of his success, Ladon looks forward to Rio and beyond with a humbling perspective.

“He isn’t high on his achievements at all,” summed up Manalo. “In fact, after his last medal, he asked, “Anong aspeto ng aking laro ang kailangan ko i-improve?”

Now that is the sound of a man looking for more things to conquer.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Looking at the UST Golden Tigresses loss and its implications

This appears on the Thursday, March 24, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

Looking at the UST Golden Tigresses loss and its implications
by rick olivares

With their three-set loss to Ateneo last Saturday, the UST Golden Tigresses fell to sixth place.

While mathematically, they can still make the Final Four, their fate isn’t entirely in their hands. For one, they have to win all three remaining matches — against FEU (March 30), NU (April 3), and UP (April 10). Second, they have to hope that UP and FEU, currently at third and fourth respectively, drop some matches. 

The dangerous UP Lady Maroons took a huge loss to La Salle for the crucial twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four. At this point, UP would like to consolidate their position when they face NU (March 30), FEU (April 3), and UST (April 10), and hope that any of the top two squads drop games. UP could finish at 10-4, its best record in a long time, and give any of the top two teams a run for their money. 

Speaking of the top two teams, they would like to keep stick to the top two spots. Two wins will ensure them a twice-to-beat advantage. Two losses will put them in a tie with UP. While it is unlikely that resurgent Ateneo will drop any two of their remaining three matches when they face Adamson, UE, and La Salle in that order, a second loss to La Salle will drop them to second where they could face UP in the Final Four. Ditto with La Salle as they face UE (April 2), Ateneo (April 10), and NU (April 13). You can make a case that NU is playing La Salle; of course, but not with the way they have floundered.

FEU needs to solidify their position at fourth with at most two wins in their three remaining matches — UST, UP (April 3), and Adamson (April 6). 

NU is on the outside looking in as they play UP, FEU, and La Salle. But the Lady Bulldogs are 2-2 this second round, 2-5 in their last seven matches. To say that they are reeling is an understatement.

Again, they would have been better served had they played their current UAAP team in the V-League rather than let guest players bail them out. 

Back to the UST Golden Tigresses.

They looked they righted their shaky ship after their three-set upset win over La Salle to close out their first round. They followed that up with another sweep of the hapless UE squad after which the Lady Spikers returned the favor with a three-set sweep of their own.

Then they battled Adamson in a five-setter before prevailing then dropped three sets to Ateneo in a match where they were never in the game.

Looking at the loss to the Lady Eagles, the young Tigresses clearly lacked maturity and big game experience while their veterans were a no show. Chloe Cortez had three points, Carmela Tunay finished with two, and Jessey De Leon ended up with one point. Marivic Meneses played better than she did in previous games but it wasn’t anywhere near enough. After Alyssa Teople faltered as starting setter, UST Coach Kungfu Reyes sent in veteran Alex Cabanos but she wasn’t able to give the team a lift.

With Cherry Rondina mostly contained, UST’s only other option was EJ Laure who had problems defensively. 

Listening to Reyes during their huddles, he expressed disappointment that his girls didn’t seem like they were hungry for the win. He tried everything from the simple reminders to the words of encouragement to even angrily issuing instructions. At this point, it’s a maturity issue or even a leadership. With Rondina more or less contained, it fell upon the others to contribute. When it didn’t happen, they fell apart.

The Holy Week break will allow them to mend bruised feelings and to get over their last loss. It will also allow time to heal niggling injuries and offer some badly needed rest. Mentally, though… that’s another concern.

UST is still in the hunt for the fourth spot. The sad thing is — it is out of their hands. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

ABAP: Quality not quantity for Rio qualifiers

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ABAP: Quality not quantity for Rio qualifiers
by rick olivares

The Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) is confident that a larger contingent of Philippine boxers to the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualifying tournament in Qian' An, China that begins Wednesday, March 23, 
will increase the country’s chances of booking slots to 2016 Summer Olympics Qualifiers.

“More than quantity, I think we have a lot of quality in our boxers in this qualification tournament,” said Edgar E. Picson, ABAP Executive Director. “It is easy to say our boxers are trained and fit but I think this particular group is well motivated.”

The national boxers who will vie for one of three male slots and one of two female slots in their respective weight categories are: Rogen Ladon (light flyweight, 49 kg.), Roldan Boncales Jr. (flyweight, 52 kg.), Mario Fernandez (bantamweight, 56 kg.), Charly Suarez (60 kg.), Eumir Felix Marcial (welterweight, 69 kg.) and Nesthy Petecio (women's flyweight, 51 kg.). All six were part of a group of 14 boxers who went on a whirlwind 18-day training camp in four cities in the West Coast of the United States: Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“Rogen is a silver medalist from the recent Asian Confederation Boxing Championships as well as a silver medalist in the SEA Games in Singapore,” described Picson. “He is really hungry to prove himself."

“Now Boncales is coming off a long lay-off after he suffered a hairline fracture after a fight in Indonesia in 2014. He was mostly inactive last year but towards the end, he came back with a vengeance,” divulged Picson about the General Santos native. “He showed a lot of energy and determination when he edged Ian Clark Bautista who is better known as our “Heartbreak Kid” after he knocked down a Korean in the 2014 Asian Games but went on to lose the fight."

According to the ABAP Executive Director, Bautista has been complaining about pain in his shoulder. “We had him checked and the results showed there was no serious injury. However, Bautista kept saying his shoulder was bothering him so we had no choice but to replace him with Boncales."

“Our other boxers like Fernandez, Marcial, and Suarez are all SEA and Asian Games veterans who are also winners. Our lobe female bet, Nesthy Petecio is a silver medalist in the SEA and Asian Games.”

“The line-up was arrived at upon consultation with the coaches who traveled with the boxers for their American trip,” bared Picson. “And that is quite a competent bunch who knows a thing or two about qualifying for the Olympics. The coach include deputy head coach Nolito Velasco, women's head coach Roel Velasco, 3-star AIBA coach and 3-time Olympian Romeo Brin, and the only female coach in ABAP, Mitchel Martinez.

ABAP Secretary-General Patrick Gregorio agreed that he thinks that the current contingent holds a lot of promise. “We have winners in our boxers but they have also been denied glory in some of their competitions. They are well motivated to advance and represent our country in the Olympics in Rio.” 

The China tournament has a total of 242 male boxers and 55 female pugilists from Asian countries and Oceania which is composed, among others, of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and other Pacific islands.

Picson clarified that those who were not named to the China tourney are not out of the running yet: "There are three more qualifiers the other boxers may be entered in: the Women's World Championships (Kazakhstan) and APB/WSB qualifiers (Bulgaria) in May and the Final AOB qualifiers (Azerbaijan) in June. We will send participants there", he said.

Should more than one Filipino boxer qualify in a particular weight category, ABAP will have to choose only one entry to the Summer Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro in August as mandated by the International Boxing Association (AIBA).

Sunday, March 20, 2016

NU Pep Squad defends National Cheerleading Championship

NU Pep Squad defends National Cheerleading Championship
by rick olivares

The National University Pep Squad successfully defended its National Cheerleading Championship (NCC) last Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

NU emerged triumphant in a field of 16 collegiate teams in the Coed College Cheer competition tallying a whopping 340.5 points; 23 points ahead of first runner-up University of Perpetual Help System Dalta that finished with 317.5 points. Far Eastern University was named second runner-up with 301.5 points.

It was NU’s third NCC title over-all and it caps their scholastic calendar that began with a bronze finish at the International Cheerleading Union (ICU) World Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Florida in April of 2015 and their third consecutive UAAP CDC championship.

“It has been an unbelievable year,” said NU Pep Squad head coach Ghicka Bernabe. “There is always pressure to deliver and I am pleased to see the team make good on its promise and potential. The pressure is good because it keeps us from being complacent. It is also a good way for many of our seniors to graduate — with a championship.”

NU will be losing 10 seniors to graduation by school year’s end.

“The NCC is just getting bigger,” said NCC President Carlos Valdez. “We started out before with only a few schools. This year, over 300 schools participated in the competition. Every year, we see teams levelling up in terms of skill and performance. As for NU, I think they responded well to the challenge of other schools like Perpetual Help, FEU, UST, and Arellano University. For sure next year will be even more exciting."

NU Pep Squad wins the 2016 National Cheerleading Championships

The National University Pep Squad successfully defended its National Cheerleading Championship this afternoon at the MOA Arena. 

In the Co-Ed College Cheer Division, NU scored an impressive 340.5 total points; 23 ahead of first runner-up University of Perpetual Help that finished with 317.5 points. Far Eastern University was second runner-up with a total of 301.5 points.

The NCC title is NU's third overall.

Four points from Ateneo Lady Eagles’ three-set sweep over UST

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Four points from Ateneo’s three-set sweep over UST
by rick olivares

There were questions about the Ateneo Lady Eagles heading into their second round match versus UST. The sudden injury to middle hitter/blocker Maddie Madayag is a huge loss for the two-time defending champions. However, adversity is something this team is used to.

Two years ago, they libero Denden Lazaro got injured. Last season, Bea De Leon and Aerieal Patnongon also got injured. Although all three came back to play, this is the first time the team has lost someone for the remainder of the season. When you think about it, that’s two they lost. Katrina Tolentino got injured during the team’s first match of the collegiate conference of the Shakey’s V-League season. And Michelle Morente was knocked out on account of academics. So technically, that’s two out because of knee injuries and one due to studies. Two are key players while one is an up-and-coming one.

Even before the start of Season 78, the Ateneo Lady Eagles were dealt a bad hand.

It makes it harder but when has something worthwhile been easy? It never is.

They haven’t played that intense since Opening Day against NU.
My gripe this year is that the team has lacked that killer instinct. Last season, they simply inflicted one beating after another on foes. This year, because Ateneo isn’t as good defensively, they haven’t looked sharp. There are stretches where they are back to their devastating selves but never for an entire game maybe except against UE but come on. That’s UE! You’re expected to do that against a team that has been winless in the past four seasons.

 Of course, a lot of other teams have leveled up. But that isn’t the point. It’s about intensity.

Following the consecutive losses to La Salle and UP, I was somewhat disappointed that they didn’t throttle fragile NU from the start of the match. 

Against UST, they stepped on the gas pedal and mostly never took their foot off. And for the first time this season, those devastating serves were back. They were better defensively. And they also played Cherry Rondina much better than their first meeting.

Defensively, they were so much better. Eight huge block points against UST? And UST is rated higher defensively than Ateneo. Bea De Leon and Amy Ahomiro came up big! This is the time for the two of them to reassert themselves. As a team, the Lady Eagles also received and dug much better as well this time around.

Jia Morado is bringing it.
After Maddie went down, Jia Morado was thinking of her offensive options. But good and smart players find ways. For the third consecutive match, Morado had over 30 excellent sets.
33 NU
37 FEU
31 UST

She had 27 in the losing effort against UP.

The balance in the scoring with three players in double figures is just as much a testament to her diversifying the offense. Since she joined the team in Season 76, she’s played with a lot of composure and a degree of level-headedness. Against a tough and dangerous UST team, she showed how huge a part she is in Anusorn Bundit’s 

Two key moves: Kim Gequillana returned to the starting lineup while Amy Ahomiro slid back into to occupy Maddie Madayag’s spot.
When Jhoana Maraguinot finally got to play last season, it was Kim Gequillana who sort of lost playing time. There was the main weapon in Alyssa Valdez with Bea De Leon, Amy Ahomiro, Morente, and Maraguinot who provided able support. Gequillana became a bit play. A tactical substitution if you will.

In Season 77, after a bit, Maraguinot began to start over Morente who became inconsistent. Maybe this is that time of the year…. Gequillana came in and served and received well. With more minutes, figure her to contribute more.

This past season, it was Ahomiro who has been rather quiet. To make room for the vastly improved Madayag, she went to a utility position. While she played that part under Roger Gorayeb, that was a different Amy as she lacked confidence and conviction. The version of the past two and a half years is one who is fully confident in what she can do. Sliding her into the middle was as natural as anything.

They played like they did during Season 77.
Yes, they did. Smiling. Happy. Just focused on the game without having to answer taunts. The back-to-back losses were painful but they sure were wake up calls. Of course, this season isn’t over by a longshot.

The win over UST gave them that first semifinals slot and the schedule is rather kind to them over the next couple of weeks — faltering Adamson and luckless UE with dangerous La Salle to close out the elimination round. This doesn’t mean they should take Adamson and UE lightly. 

But for now, losses and injuries aside, it was a big win and an even bigger response to the challenges. And they have something to smile about.