National Heroes

Lapu Lapu, Cebu
August 2, 2014
National Heroes

“Tonight the hopes and dreams of an entire planet are focused on the 14 brave souls traveling into the heavens.”
Remember this one? Remember Bruce Willis? Ben Affleck? Lyv Tyler? Steve Buscemi? I don’t want to miss a thing? Space Shuttle Atlantis? Armadillos? American Components… Russian Components… All made in Taiwan? This is a line from the movie Armaggedon. It’s one my all-time favorites.
Actually, this quote is the one I used in a blog I’ve written here in Sportsmaryosep last year titled “Twelve Brave Souls.” And I’m not shy to use this again because if you ask, this just fits perfectly. You see, our beloved Philippine chess team left the country a few days ago for a treacherous journey called the 41st World Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway. It will start Saturday night (Phl time) with our men’s team, seeded 52nd, playing Afghanistan and our women’s squad taking on Palau.
A total of 10 players answered the call. Grandmasters Julio Catalino Sadorra, John Paul Gomez, Eugene Torre and Jayson Gonzales and International Master Paulo Bersamina in the men’s side Cheradine Camacho, Janelle Mae Frayna, Jan Jodilyn Fronda, Catherine Perena and Christy Lamiel Bernales in women’s category. They will plunge into action without two of our best players, Wesley So and Oliver Barbosa. As we all know by now, So has switch allegiance and will coach the Americans while Barbosa could not join our team because of visa delays. GM Banjo Barcenilla was supposed to come in as replacement to Barbosa but begged off due to terror threat in Tromso, then changed his mind and decided to come the next day before finally deciding not to come at all.
So we’re left with Sadorra, the University of Texas-Dallas standout who was thrust into manning the top board against heavyweights of the sport including Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, the reigning world champion. Gomez will play Board Two instead of the fourth board where he will be more effective. Torre, 63, has always defied time. It is impossible to have an Olympiad team with the vintage Torre, who by the way will make a historic 22nd Olympiad appearance, a record which will be unmatched perhaps for a long time. Untested but big-hearted Bersamina should be a player to watch. He could be our next Wesley So with a prayer that he will not “So Long Wesley” us in the future. Gonzales will need to shrug off the rust in a hurry. His last competitive tournament was probably years back, six years ago perhaps. He may be rusty, but he’s armed with heart and love of country, like every else in the team. It will be a tough task for our Filipino players. Losing So and Barbosa is like running out there with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury on the right leg and a fractured finger bone on the left hand. It is that devastating magnifying the absences of the two.
But knowing us Filipinos, we don’t easily give up. We fight through adversity. Nevermind So choosing a different path and Barbosa stranded in the US. Forget about the terror threat too because we’re probably used to it here in our country. Our Tromso team will not be judged by the results of their games but how they carry themselves against the world’s best. And we have judged you, our beloved Phl team. Because by just stepping on that plane to Tromso, you’ve already defined yourselves.
So stand proud Filipinos.
These are men and women of the Phl flag.
Our 10 brave souls.
Heroes.

Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

chess
(Photo by Chris de Guzman)

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