Love Never Dies

Lucena City
February 11, 2017
Love Never Dies

“If people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them to live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but true love last forever.” The Crow

I saw people cry because of that recent Jollibee commercial that has gone viral on social media.
Truly it hurts.
But this one hurts more.
You see, Arellano U coach Obet Javier’s wife, Amy Marie, passed away due to cancer while he is steering the Lady Chiefs to two straight wins over the San Sebastian Lady Stags in the NCAA finals and one win closer from booking their second championship in the last three seasons.
On the outside, Javier was his usual fiery self that you couldn’t notice that his heart is bleeding. For the whole season, Javier has worn that same mask knowing his wife his suffering. Making it worse, as Meilin Lozada of Spin.ph reported, is that Javier is waiting for ashes of his beloved half from Spain where she worked as a caregiver.
It will be more painful the her passing came on Heart’s month. Valentines Day may never be the same for Javier again.
Death is just painful no matter what circumstances.
For the weak-hearted, it would be hard to keep that facade. But like a professional that he is, he soldiered on.
God moves in mysterious ways though. An NCAA championship would be God’s nice way of somehow soothing some of the pain Javier is feeling. It will surely serve as a balm.
So my prayers go to coach Obet Javier.
To close, let me offer this quote to Javier that is long been embalmed deep down in my heart when my little brother passed away six years ago.
“It can’t rain all the time.” The Crow.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photo courtesy of Jerome Ascano of Spin.ph)

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Ayo for Gilas Coach

Greenhills, San Juan
December 8, 2016
Ayo for Gilas Coach

Who is Aldin Ayo?
You’re a recluse if you still don’t know Aldin Ayo. I mean, he just won his second championship after steering La Salle to the UAAP Promised Land. It came a year after he also engineered an NCAA crown for Letran following a series victory to remember against a heavily favored San Beda. Who the heck can do that?
Two titles with different teams and two different leagues in two seasons? The late great Baby Dalupan perhaps.
Ayo is truly one of a kind.
There are doubters. Yes, there are. But you’re a miserable frig if you can’t appreciate greatness. Doubters argue that Ayo inherit a Ben Mbala, Jeron Teng and an ultra-deep team from June Sauler. But I think its full of garbage. It is hard to win a title out of a few talents (Letran) and harder handling a strong team that is either uninspired or bloated with egos (La Salle). But Ayo successfully weeded through the intricacies of both and ended up hoisting the championship trophy on both occassions. So let’s give Ayo that.
He did wonders that a lot of people didn’t expect when he came into the collegiate scene as its fair-haired boy seeking the big one.
And I think you will all agree with me that Aldin Ayo is for real. Pardon my French, the fucking real deal.
So I got this realization.
If Ayo can turn a no-star team like the Knights and a loaded but undisciplined Archers into champions, I think he can do well handling the national basketball program, specifically Gilas Pilipinas. I mean let’s admit it. Ayo has won in the NCAA and UAAP both. And expect more to come in the UAAP thanks to that Avengers-like team he got with La Salle. There are probably PBA teams out there salivating about getting Ayo. And I think Ayo will get to the PBA soon and eventually win there also, which is a huge possibility.
But I think Ayo is better fit with Gilas.
It excites me to think that Ayo’s “Mayhem” basketball will be applied to the regrouped Gilas cadet squad. Ayo’s basketball principle is a perfect fit to a Gilas team loaded with young talent.
Consider this also: Ayo beat Ateneo’s Tab Baldwin, former coach of Gilas.
So yes, I think it will be cool to have Ayo as the next Gilas coach. If not now, at least in the near future.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photo courtesy of Aldin Ayo)

The Legend of the ‘Kangkong’

ELJ Building, Quezon City
May 19, 2015
The Legend of the ‘Kangkong’

I don’t usually write two straight blogs about the same topic in a span of hours.
On this day, I will make an exception.
You see, sports anchor Aaron Atayde made this “kangkong” joke that has enraged the Barangay Ginebra fandom. And it happened while Atayde was interviewing Dylan Ababou in his TV5 show Sports 360. It came after Atayde waved kangkong when Ababou was about to answer an online query if the latter would still return to Ginebra if given a chance. Atayde was actually alluding to Ginebra being in the gutter, or to borrow it from Atayde, kangkungan, which means in the bottom or being dead last.
Ababou, who was traded by Ginebra to unbeaten Barako Bull, found Atayde’s joke funny.
The Ginebra multitudes aren’t laughing though.
But let’s give it to Atayde. It’s his show. And this is a democratic country. And, we have to admit it, he’s right. Ginebra is down there with recent conqueror Blackwater (Yes, Blackwater!), polishing all the other team’s shoes. And Ababou is up there with Barako Bull, the last remaining unbeaten team after prevailing in its first three games, and probably thankful he was traded to a winning club.
Truth hurts, I guess. Sarcasm too.
Here’s a piece of advice though.
Instead of making a furor out of Atayde’s joke, why not make this a personal challenge. To Frankie Lim. To Mark Caguioa. To the whole Ginebra team. And yes, to us, dear Kings fans. Channel it by keeping the faith, staying patient, strengthening our resolve and praying harder that things are going to change for the better.
And it will.
After all, life is like a wheel. Always turning, always evolving. Sometimes you fall down, sometimes you deflate, but you always manage to keep going, supporting others, and staying strong. Some journeys are longer than others. Some are bumpier than others. But the load of life is a lot easier to bear with a few friends helping out. And those friends are you and I, Ginebra diehards.
So let’s turn this around.
It can’t rain all the time.
We will just all wake up one day with Ginebra hoisting that PBA championship trophy.
And if Ginebra’s time comes, let’s give it back to Atayde and thank him. Because if he hadn’t made the kangkong joke, it wouldn’t have spurred this legend.
Again, relax and stay calm. Someday, somehow Aaron Atayde will eat his words. Or shall we say, his kangkong, adobo-style.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photo courtesy of spin.ph and TV5)

Why People Didn’t Wear Black

MOA Arena
October 5, 2016
Why People Didn’t Wear Black

I was close to writing a basketball blog about Ginebra turning kangkong into gold. Or Norman Black and his overachieving Meralco Bolts finding their way back to the PBA Finals. Or Jamike Jarin silencing his detractors, mostly Bedans who can’t be satisfied nor be pleased no matter what good you do with the Lions. Or about Jio Jalalon and the menacing Arellano U Chiefs who could be on the verge of winning their first ever NCAA championship. Or Ben Mbala being the most dominant force in the UAAP planet today.
But I decided not to.
Because when I woke up on this one gloomy October morning while reading news online, which has become my daily habit, I ran into this fan article why he was glad to have worn black.
For those hiding in their mama’s skirts, there was this circular released on social media by officials of bitter rivals Ateneo and La Salle right before their game just this last weekend encouraging their throngs of fans to wear black in protest of what they perceived as extrajudicial killings and the possible burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
We all know what happened, right? Only about 20-percent of the 16,000-plus paying patrons wore black, most of them from Ateneo including the Eagles of Tab Baldwin. They were utterly drowned by a tidal wave of green, La Salle’s colors.

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I will not stoop down and mock the Eagles and the people who decided to wear black to make a stand because I love people who make a stand and fight for something they believed in. Ours is a democratic country, anyway.
In fact, I admired the Black Power Salute in the 1968 Olympics where Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists with a black gloves on the podium right after the two took the gold and silver in the 200-meter dash to protest against African-American oppression back home in the United States.
I admired the Toronto Raptors for linking their arms together and some even bowing their heads during the singing of both the Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada ahead of the NBA’s first pre-season game versus the Golden State Warriors in Vancouver as a sign of protest to the recent shooting that is happening in the US. It was an offshoot of NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s protest a few weeks back. Interestingly, the Warriors showed apathy by not joining in the protest.
I also respected Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, formerly Chris Jackson before converting to Islam in 1993, and his decision to not stand during the national anthem in 1996 because he has this personal belief that doing so was a form of “nationalistic ritualism.” He was eventually suspended since the NBA forbids it. But he sent his message and the NBA heard him and the two ended up with a compromise.
Who would forget Muhammad Ali? He who began the separatist stand that marked his storied career. He who chose to glorify his blackness, to revel in the darkness of his skin and accentuate the difference it caused. He who refusted to be drafted in protest of the Vietnam War.
I mean, we all have this right to protest as mandated by the Constitution. That’s democracy, my friends.
But you got it all wrong.
Protest you want. Wear black all UAAP game and the rest of your lives. Go ahead. Do it. It’s your right. Fight for something. I encourage you. Make the most out of the democratic process we’re enjoying. You will not be mocked. For those mocked these people, be ashamed of yourself. You are vile, miserable creatures.
But you see, people are just plain tired. Tired of the prolifiration of drugs, “Tanim Bala,” corruption in government, heavy traffic, poverty, and just the unforgivable indifference by the past administrations to these problems that people are willing to accept sacrifices just to make this world a better place to live in.
And that is the reason they didn’t wear black.
It’s also a form of protesting. Only the opposite or “anti-black.” Or call it acceptance. I think its a triumph of the spirit because, finally, someone like President Duterte dared the establishment and made a move to change our lives for the better. Duterte is no Saint but people, at least majority of the Filipinos, think he has good intentions and are embracing what he is doing. Because admit it or not, things are getting better.
Change has indeed come.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photos courtesy of veteran Philippine Star lens man Jun Mendoza)

In Chess We Trust

Malate, Manila
September 14, 2016
In Chess We Trust

It’s a happy and sad day for Philippine chess.
Sad because our men’s and women’s teams lost their 11th and final round matches in the just concluded 42nd World Chess Olympiad.
Our men’s team fell to Australia, 1.5-2.5, and into 58th place with 12 match points, one of the worst performances by the country in the biennial meet considered as the strongest chess team tournament in the world.
Our women’s squad bowed to 12th seed Lithuania, 1-3, and skidded to 34th place with 13 points.
But I will not dwell on the bad and just talk about the good, which I feel are many.
Janelle Mae Frayna, for one, is the best thing that ever happened to Philippine women chess. Frayna has left her mark by becoming the first ever Woman Grandmaster from our country. Not yet contented, she clinched the men’s International Master the next day. That’s another first, actually, since no Filipina has ever accomplished such feat.

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Let’s talk about the women’s team.
Had the squad won in their last round match, we would have finished 10th at best and 18th at worst. We came just a one stroke of luck of making it that far. Imagine that. This same bunch of lady woodpushers have the talent. In case you’re hiding in a cave, these same team stunned fourth seed Georgia and faced several other teams in the Top 10 and 20 in the world like India, Hungary, Italy, Mongolia and Lithuania. Given the proper support, training and international exposures, we could make it to the Top 10. The cornerstone is Frayna. Count in Jodilyn Fronda, who held her own on second board. And this 19-year-old girl named Shania Mae Mendoza, who impressed with her attacking flare and daredevil style of play. We could build on these three players, whose average age is on the early 20s. Catherine Perena-Secopito is 32 years old but she’s good for many more Olympiads to come after she scored seven points of the possible 10.

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Oh blessed Julio Catalino Sadorra.

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He showed he could stand his ground against the best of them. He sent reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway backpedalling before settling for a draw in the end.
Saving the best for last is Eugene Torre.
He who scored a scintillating 10 points out of a possible 11 on eight spectacular wins and two fighting draws. And at age 64. Who could do that? For his feat, he took the bronze medal on board three, his first medal since snaring a silver in the 1974 Nice Olympiad where he also became Asia’s first ever GM.

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Proud also of all the players, the captains and the delegation team members for just going there and wearing the flag on their blue jackets and shirts and just representing us.
Thank you all.
Don’t mind the doubters, whiners and doomsayers who ridiculed the team and hoped and prayed for a worst finish. You got your wish now and I hope you are all happy.
But no matter what they say, I will always keep my faith on Philippine chess. Because I know there is hope. And hope springs eternal.

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(Photos courtesy of Bakuchessolympiad.com)

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

When She Cries

Microtel, MOA
Aug. 3, 2016
When She Cries

It was one lonely, rainy Monday night.
Alyssa Valdez was crying.
You could see it in her eyes, the tears that flowed, the sadness.
She was hurt from the social media bashing she received from some sectors blaming her for allegedly turning her back on an opportunity to play for a club team representing the country in two international events–the Asian Volleyball Confederation and FIVB Club Championships in the coming months. She knows it was far from the truth. Way, way far from it.
It was actually the opposite.
She wants to play for flag and country.
Just look at her eyes. Hear her heartbeat. It beats Philippines, Philippines, Philippines.
She was there last year against the LVPI’s predecessor, the Phl Volleyball Federation, when none was brave enough to stand up and in a heartbeat willingly volunteered to represent the country in the Asian Women’s under-23 Championship and eventually the Southeast Asian Games.
Without question.
Without condition.
Nevermind that the team didn’t have pre-game and post-game food and uniform. Heck, they have to bring their own water. And she did it for the love of the game. And country.
So it breaks her heart to be told a lie and her devotion to country questioned.
The last one was the most painful.
Ask Ricky Palou, who was there when Alyssa cried.
Palou have already told everyone that Alyssa Valdez was ready to play for Foton, the club team the Phl will send in the AVC tilt.
Ask Foton team manager Alvin Lu, who asked Palou if Alyssa can play for the team. Alyssa readily said yes. Without question, condition. She just did.
But, as Camille Naredo of ABS-CBN news reported, the invitation “was withdrawn a few days later, because of a rule imposed by the Philippine Superliga (PSL) wherein a player should have competed in the PSL for at least one conference before taking part in the team that will compete in the AVC tilt.”
So there.
Yes, Alyssa Valdez cried a river.
That was Monday night.
Now, Alyssa Valdez, as good-natured as she is, is smiling as if life is beautiful again.
For her, life is always beautiful.
The storm is over.
She knows there will always be a rainbow after it.
And hope that someday, she would get that chance to wear the white, blue and red uniform with the country’s flag emblazoned on it.
It will come.

P. S.
She’s eager to play in no other league but the Shakey’s V-League sooner than expected. With more fervor and renewed joy.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photo by Spin.ph)

A V-League of Their Own

Philsports Arena
July 18, 2016
A V-League of Their Own

The Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors beat the Air Force Lady Jet Spikers, 29-27, 18-25, 25-21, 25-19 Monday night to clinch their first ever Shakey’s V-League championship on their very first conference. It was an epic battle as the two protagonists needed a deciding game to settle the score. In the end, it was Pocari that sweated it out to capture the title.
So Congratulations.
The victory also capped a Season 13-Open Conference full of highs. And I will mention one by one below what they are.
1. Pocari’s jump to the V-League from the rival Philippine Superliga is providential as it did not only grab a title, it also gained instant heavy exposure from No. 2.

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2. The league’s partnership with television giant ABS-CBN is a game-changer. After 13 years of irregular TV broadcast, fans will get to watch all V-League games on free channel (ABS-CBN Sports and Action Channel 23) live plus free, clear livestream on the side. There is a chance that somewhere along the road that the Spikers’ Turf, the V-League’s men counterpart, will also get their fair share of coverage. Just be patient. It will come.
3. If Air Force had won, I would have named this blog Air Force One. But it fell short. Nonetheless, the Lady Jet Spikers were a pleasant surprise after not only making it to the finals for the first time, it also almost won it. I got to give it to these valiant players for fighting the good fight. If I’m the Air Force Commanding General, Lt Gen Edgar R Fallorina AFP, I would be darn proud of them. Wait, Fallorina was actually there to personally congratulate his brave soldiers.

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4. Speaking of Air Force, no one really believed it would reach that far considering that its best effort was a pair of fourth place finishes in 2013 and 2014. And Rhea Dimaculangan and Maika Ortiz, the team’s heart and soul, left for greener pastures. But it was a blessing in disguise as players like Wendy Ann Semana, Judy Ann Caballejo, May Ann Tapic, Jocemer Tapic and Joy Cases defied the odds and shamed the doubters with a performance to remember. And by the way, Semana is best setter. Won it against younger, quicker foes.

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5. Bali Pure, a team that was tipped to challenge for the title because of Alyssa Valdez and a star-studded cast, ended up clinching third place by sweeping a Nes Pamilar-mentored Laoag City side. Whatever we all say, a medal is a medal and playing coach Charo Soriano is just as pleased. And so are we.
6. But admit it, Pocari and Bali Pure have got to be the most popular teams today. Whenever the two play, they drew league-record attendance. It’s like Ateneo vs La Salle all over again. Or battle of the galactic stars. Imagine Alyssa Valdez teaming up with Soriano, Amy Ahomiro, Denden Lazaro, Jem Ferrer, Ella de Jesus, May Tajima, Dzi Gervacio, Bea Tan Grethcel Soltones against Michele Gumabao, Melissa Gohing, Myla Pablo, Elaine Kasilag, Gyzelle Sy and Siemens Dadang. What a match. Hope they play again in the Reinforced Conference late this year.

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7. Speaking of Soltones, she won her first V-League MVP. And deservingly. Whoever said otherwise had probably sneezed out his brain. Here are the rules in determining the MVP. Only elimination round stats count. Only players who made the semifinals qualify for the award. National U’s Jaja Santiago would have ran away with the honor had the Lady Bulldogs made it. Soltones was No. 2. Her team made it. So guess who’s the MVP? Soltones. You want to plead your case for Pablo, Gumabao? They missed two games. Soltones missed just one. Judy Caballejo or any Air Force players? They’re too team oriented to concern themselves of an individual award. They’re an unselfish squad. Period. And oh, Alyssa Valdez. She missed three games. And yes, bless her heart, Alyssa is happy for Soltones. Did I make myself clear? So congrats Grethcel!

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8. Oh Myla Pablo. You blew us all away. She just stepped up in the playoffs, averaging 26 in the semis and 19 in the finals. What a performance. She deserves the Finals MVP trophy. Standing ovation for you Myla.
9. Alyssa Valdez is STILL the FACE of Philippine Volleyball.

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Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

(Photos courtesy of Shakeys V-League, Fox News Philippines, Spin.ph.)