A Wish for Philippine Sports in the Hundredth Year Anniversary of the Far Eastern Championship Games

Boxing photo

Not many men can claim they’ve faced the best. Not many can say they grabbed hold of a doubting world’s attention, and for a few moments, humanity was gripped by their resolute exploits for a win, for grace or national pride, for the right to say I’ve faced the best. I have pulled off the unbelievable.

We saw in the 2012 London Summer Olympics the pure determination of 19-year-old boxer Mark Barriga. He was the shortest fighter in his division, and yet with brilliant footwork and a crisp right hook, he dropped his Italian opponent in the first round. Even when he was defeated by a single point by the Kazakh Birzhan Zhakypov, Barriga demonstrated the refusal to be dominated by ugly techniques that belonged more in a wrestling match. Despite losing, he was able to gain the crowd’s admiration with his resolve and clean punches. The audience made up mostly of people from foreign countries was won to his side. They started to chant “Phi-li-ppines! Phi-li-ppines!”

Our country’s campaign for athletic glory can be likened to Barriga’s Olympic story—an expedition fueled by an earnest passion for sports that has yet to make headway. The Philippines was the first nation from Southeast Asia to compete in the Olympics, the first Southeast Asian country to win an Olympic medal. And yet until now we only have two silver medals (boxer Mansueto Velasco in 1996 and swimmer Anthony Villanueva in 1964) and seven bronze medals.

In 2013, the task of gaining honor for Philippine sports is again upon us. This year brings about a milestone and an opportunity for Philippine sports as it marks the Hundredth Year Anniversary of the Far Eastern Championship Games—the very first international sports gathering in Asia, which was actually held in the country on February 4, 1913.

The Far Eastern Championship Games was a time of optimism and hope for Filipino athletes and sports lovers. It featured extraordinary performances from our athletes, including Luis Salvador’s 116-point effort to lead the Philippines over China to capture the gold medal in basketball. The Rizal Memorial Coliseum, which could hold 30,000 spectators, had also just been constructed to host the games. Gawking at the triumphant athletes and the newly built sports complex, one must have had this vision of the future of Philippine sports—brilliant, exciting, like sunlight illuminating a great trophy.

Our sports administrators

Olympic Council of Asia head Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait with global sports leaders

Nearly a century later, what has become of the hope and brilliance of the Far Eastern Games? 2012 was a year that brought both honor and defeat to Filipino athletes. What was the most striking Philippine sport experience in 2012? Was it our athletes’ gutsy though disappointing performances in the London Olympics? Manny Pacquiao’s unbelievable knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez? Or perhaps LA Tenorio’s clutch jump shot with just 20 seconds left to defeat the United States Team, 76-75, and win the William Jones Cup?

For this writer, an experience to remember was more educational than exciting as it provided the opportunity to see our country’s sports administrators at work at the Olympic Council of Asia General Assembly. The gathering of global sports leaders was held on October 8 last year at the Macau East Asia Games Dome.

Our country was represented by Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose Cojuangco, Jr., Robert “Dodot” Jaworski, Jr., and Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski. Known as a second generation sports hero, Jaworski is the son of basketball’s Living Legend, Sonny Jaworski, and was valuable member of the popular Ginebra/Gordon’s Gin basketball team in the 90s. His wife, Mikee, meanwhile is a popular television personality who won a gold medal for the country as an equestrian in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea.

The two athletes addressed an impressive gathering of 400 leaders of the world’s Olympic associations global decision makers in sports, including the Executive Board of the Olympic Council Asia (OCA) led by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah (former Minister of Oil of Kuwait and president of both the OCA and the Association of National Olympic Committees) and Lord Sebastian Coe (Life Peer of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, former Olympic Games world record holder for middle distance track events, and chairman of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games).


Jaworki’s address was a firm declaration of the Philippines’ resolve to stand out in sports. He reminded the sports leaders that international athletic competitions in Asia actually started in the Philippines with the Far Eastern Games. He said the 100th Anniversary of the Far Eastern Games was not only an occasion for us to prove our mettle in sports, but as a nation that was ready to rise with the rest of Asia. Jaworski also spoke as an envoy for our tourism industry when he showed off the venue of the Anniversary—the powdery white sands of Boracay.

A wish for Philippine Sports

Today marks the 100th Year Anniversary of the Far Eastern Games, the time when Filipinos first looked forward to the feats and victories of our athletes. Like Jaworski, we may also see this as time when we can revitalize our faith and aspirations for Philippine sports.

When our delegates to the 2012 London Olympics returned with no medals last year, most Filipinos were not surprised—it was as if they had expected our athletes to lose. When Manny Pacquiao, our greatest sports hero, was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez, some of the most disheartening remarks came from our countrymen. There were even some who said he deserved the defeat. These discouraging words prompted kickboxing champion Jerson Estoro to post on Facebook: “Ngayon maglalabasan na naman ang mga utak talangka.”

Estoro’s observation perhaps represents how Filipino athletes feel about their countrymen. Being an athlete is a lonesome endeavor—most days are spent at the sports center, tiring and pushing one’s self without anyone knowing. What our athletes yearn for are not the ostentatious celebrations that come after winning, but the steady source of inspiration and support whether they are just training, when they winning, and even when they are losing.

In the many years after the Far Eastern Games, we have criticized different people for our losses. We have blamed athletes; we have blamed sports administrators. We have not recognized the successes they have attained despite their meager resources. In 2011, the Philippine Sports Commission received a P400 million budget to support the programs of sports associations and athletes nationwide. In contrast, our neighbor Singapore had a sports budget of P7.4 billion. Our athletes have been competing each year against opponents who receive more than ten times their financial provision.

And yet, despite this obstacle, Filipino athletes have forged on with exemplary performances though it has not been recognized. For instance not a lot of people know that our athletes and sports and administrators have been delivering great results during Cojuangco’s term as POC president. In 2005 we won for the first time the Southeast Asian Games Championship. We have also been receiving the best results in terms of medals in the Asian Games, and have attained victories in global Muay Thai and Dragon Boat competitions. It is very disheartening that their hard work and successes have not been acknowledged, let alone appreciated.

This year provides an occasion for us to show our appreciation for our athletes, and renew our belief in their ability to succeed. POC president Cojuangco is organizing a celebration for our athletes in the Hundredth Year Anniversary of the Far Eastern Games. We must take part in this event to honor them and recognize their efforts. Another way for us to show support is by joining Gawad Kalinga volunteers who are building a retirement village for them this year.

This writer’s personal wish for Philippine sports in the Hundredth Year Anniversary of the Far Eastern Championship Games, however, is perhaps harder and more important than the construction of a retirement village, or an increase in our sports budget—it is for us to cast off the “utak talangka,” for us to stand again with, and believe our athletes. Our players also need the daily pat on the back, a smile when we see them jogging on the road.

Most of us have been fans of Philippine sports for a lifetime. We have been rooting for Team Pilipinas since we watched our first basketball game on TV, the day we first saw the wide breadth of a soccer field, the instance we first laced gloves. We have placed bets on teams, argued with supporters of other countries, prayed for sports miracles as if our lives depended on it. We are part of their expedition towards glory and Olympic gold.

If there is something that we can learn from our athletes, it is that we must stay the course despite bleak odds. Despite being shorter and having less resources, our resolve and faith in them can win medals and other countries’ respect. Much like Pacquiao or Donaire, our small, plain gloves can be the center of attention in a global arena of big names and glittering lights.

The three languages we all must learn at the Homeless World Cup

At the Homeless World Cup, people of all colors, shapes, and sizes converge under different flags that represent different languages, political systems, ideologies, and religions. There are teams from 48 countries in six continents, some belonging to global superpowers whose flags have instant recall and recognition, others to little-known states that are still seeking recognition. Read more

Homeless World Cup Team Philippines now with 3 wins; founder writes letter of gratitude

As of press time, Homeless World Cup Team Philippines has already scored three wins: the first, against Ghana (3-2); the next, a stunning upset against the United States (4-3); and, this just in, another upset over a strong team, Switzerland (8-2). According to one administrator of the Kaholeros Official Facebook page, “The win gives the team 9 points with 4 games played and places them in 2nd place after Netherlands.”

Just shortly before the win over Switzerland was announced, we received this letter from Bill Shaw, founder of Urban Opportunities for Change, which started Jeepney Magazine and Homeless World Cup in the Philippines. We are reprinting this letter with his permission.


A foreigner holds up the Philippine flag for Team Philippines during the Homeless World Cup, held at Champs de Mars, Paris, France | Photo by Ramon Hikboy Lecomberie
A foreigner holds up the Philippine flag for Team Philippines during the Homeless World Cup, held at Champs de Mars, Paris, France | Photo by Ramon Hikboy Lecomberie

Dear Friends,

This is a wonderful report from Paris, where the Homeless World Cup is in full swing. As are most of you, I am watching the games from a distance. Urban is represented by our board menbers Baste and Amor Quiniores, and staff member Cecill Artates.

Bill Shaw


Our Gracious Donors,

Day 3 was fantastic! The TV crews here from GMA 7 and ABS CBN and the overwhelming support we are getting from the Filipino community is so uplifting. Everyone knows when the Philippine team is playing by the roar of the Pinoys!

God granted us two wins: Ghana (3-2) and USA (4-3)! More than that though the Filipino community was touched by the stories of hardships of the boys and are pledging support. Our meals are sponsored by different groups: Hiligaynon (Illongos), Batanguenos, Mindorenos and even Dan Palami, the manager of Team Azkals is in town to give support. The team starts all things with prayers, their games, our meals, their briefings…. God is great!

We have games today, Suisse and Nederlands, both very strong teams. Another win and we advance to the higher levels.

Our voices are hoarse, our feet are aching but we have good food, great company with the Filipinos and everyone else and absolutely great pride on being able represent our country! Please also note that none of our players has been given a blue card (suspension). France got 2 in one game and thus immediately lost the match!

Savor this shot of a goal by the team!

HWC Team Philippines scores a goal! (Photo courtesy of Urban Opportunities for Change Foundation/Homeless World Cup Team Philippines)
HWC Team Philippines scores a goal! (Photo courtesy of Urban Opportunities for Change Foundation/Homeless World Cup Team Philippines)

Urban Board in Paris

Viloria wins by unanimous decision

Filipino-American fighter Brian Viloria got a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Julio Cesar Miranda on Saturday night to win the World Boxing Organization (WBO) flyweight championship bout.

Vi lor ia, the “Hawai ian Punch, ” jumped and pumped his fist in the air when he was announced the new world champion.

The former Olympian was in tears as his father gave him a bearhug and proudly lifted his son as the crowd roared.

The 30-year-old Viloria controlled the fight from the start, flooring Miranda in the opening minutes and landing body blow after body blow throughout the fight.

“I started off quick and I think Miranda got caught by surprise. But like a champion, he came back,” Viloria said of the fight which was aired over TV5 in the Philippines. “I give him a lot of credit. He fought his heart out and I also fought my heart out because I really wanted this.”

Read more at Manila Bulletin

The Philippine Azkals’ Victory: A cinematic moment, a template for the Philippines at its best


Under the Philippine flag at the football game between Philippine Azkals and Sri Lanka
Proudly holding up the country's colors at the Philippine Azkals game vs Sri Lanka

I was literally right under the Philippine flag when the National Anthem started playing to signify the beginning of the second match between the Philippines and Sri Lanka for the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Everyone stood at attention, with some holding the flag up above their heads with their left arms, while their right hands were on their chests. It’s been a while since I last heard the National Anthem sung this loud and, this time, I knew that everyone sang it with pride.

Just as the game started, rain started to pour. What we at first thought would be a drizzle or a light shower quickly turned into an all-out downpour, and some of those who were out on the Kaholeros’ side of the stadium started jumping and dancing, welcoming the water and relishing in the drama of it all. The OC side of me wanted to take cover, but I let my inner child out and danced around in the rain as well, remembering the good ol’ days when it was safe to do that, and allowing myself to just live in the moment. The rain and the accompanying wind were refreshing—the perfect setup to what would be a remarkable afternoon.

Panning around the unfolding events in the Rizal Memorial Stadium, the scene looked straight out of a Hollywood movie. There was the audience enduring the rain for the sake of their beloved team, the drummers intensifying the beating of their drums, and the team swishing and sliding but still managing to maintain great footwork and control. If someone were to shoot a movie in one take, this would have been the perfect moment for it.

Early on in the game it was apparent that the Azkals were in fine form. The “lay” football fan in me noticed a lot of great footwork and passing among the team and a lot of goal attempts early on in the first half. According the football chronicler @roymondous’s blog entry, “The Perfect Moment in Football History”, we had 13 attempts in the first half, versus Sri Lanka’s two. The action was almost always on the Philippine goal side, while whatever attempts Sri Lanka had made to get control of the ball were easily squashed by great offensive playing as well. Chieffy Caligdong, who had given us the historic Mongolia goal, as well as the set-up for Nate Burkey’s goal in Sri Lanka, was a strong, consistent player. I also noticed that Ángel Guirado y Aldeguer, who until this game seemed to just have been waiting for his moment to shine, turned in a great performance, with a lot of goal attempts.

Further from Roy’s blog:

“The team really showed their class, putting together several smart passing moves throughout the game. Chieffy Caligdong set the team on their way after dribbling in the area past several defenders before firing into the bottom left corner on the 19th minute. Controlling much of the possession the team had several chances with James Younghusband forcing the Sri Lankan goalkeeper into a fine fingertip save. Despite the chances it seemed like the Philippines would take a slender lead into half-time until Phil Younghusband beat the Sri Lankan defence for strength and rounded the goalkeeper to score the Philippines’ second goal of the game on the 43rd minute.”

Out on the stands, in the heart of the booster squad called the Kaholeros, the energy was palpable. Football fans, musicians, footballers, and novices (like me) alike were all one in chanting, drumming (some with the “aquadrums”—five-gallon water bottles—that had been used particularly for this game, others with whatever they had on their hands), shouting, dancing, and simply having a good time. After the 40th minute in the first half, the crowd decided to make its first big wave, and just as the wave had passed our area—SWOOSH! In came the second, albeit controversial, goal from Phil Younghusband, as if right on cue! It was unbelievable! That made me think that there really might have been a Big Omnipresent Director out there this afternoon, adding the Hollywood effects to this beautiful game.

The second half proved to be just as exciting, with every member of the team showing full control and great teamwork. James Younghusband set up that wide open goal that allowed Ángel Guirado to score the Philippines’ third goal, and Neil Etheridge was in top form all throughout, crushing every attempt by Sri Lanka to score even just one goal. It was evident that Sri Lanka was panicking under the pressure to score, and a penalty kick awarded to Phil Younghusband allowed him to score his second goal and clinch our decisive victory.

We WON!!! The crowd was jubilant, and after the formalities were over, the Azkals paraded around the stadium, waving at their countrymen in pride, and dancing to the beat of the drums when they headed over to our side. At one point, Ángel Guirado, a Filipino Spanish born in Malaga, kissed the flag that he was holding, looking grateful for this country that embraced him and his playing.

And just as the day was ending, the sun came out to complement the lights in the stadium, casting a slight orange glow, as if crowning our country’s victory with some light from above. It was again another cinematic moment, but one that could no longer be captured by even the best cameras and best experienced live. This is how things should be here, I thought. From the beginning ‘till the end, we all showed up and participated with pride. We proudly held up our country’s colors, we sang the National Anthem, we helped to create an environment that was positive and festive—and we even made sure to avoid jeering when one of the opponent’s men went down. There was fair play, there was positive energy, there was hard work, there was cooperation, there was teamwork. It was a moment that truly showed the Philippines at its best, and if this could be the template for everything else that we would be doing henceforth, I don’t see why we can’t step out of the doldrums and capture the world’s attention—not just for playing great football (or boxing, or music)—but more importantly, for being the little country that truly could.


Juan Manuel Marquez ‘now ready’ for Pacquiao

Hall of fame trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain believes he has devised a fight plan to finally shame Manny Pacquiao.

He said all his prized ward Juan Manuel Marquez needs to do is execute the strategy perfectly to exact revenge on the Filipino pound-for-pound king in their third showdown on Nov. 12 in Las Vegas.

In a recent interview with FightHub TV, Beristain surmised that it would take a “quick fighter, not fast with the hands and feet, but with the mind and reflexes” to solve the Pacquiao riddle.

Read more at Philippine Daily Inquirer

SEAG team gets football advisor

Veteran German coach Erich Rutemoller has been named advisor for the soon-to-be formed Under-23 squad national football team to the Southeast Asian Games.


He will assist Azkals coach Michael Weiss in preparing the team to a competition where the Philippines has established a reputation as the tournament’s whipping boy.


Since competing in the regional meet for over two decades, the country has never contended for a SEAG football medal.


The Philippine Football Association hopes to change all that with Wiess at the helm and Rutemoller backing him up.


“He’s coming over because I want to make sure the team (U-23) will be given the same appreciation and attention like the Azkals,” Weiss said of his mentor.


The SEA Games will be held in Indonesia from Nov. 11 to 25 in Palembang and the capital city of Jakarta.

Read more at Manila Bulletin

GBP executive denies $65-M Pacman offer

Rumors of the world’s richest man offering Manny Pacquiao $65 million to fight in Mexico will remain as that – rumors.

This after Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Shaefer, in a report by Ring Magazine’s Michael Rosenthal, claimed to have spoken directly with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, who denied offering such a deal to Pacquiao.

“I have a nice relationship with the Slim people and I talked directly to Mr. Slim. It’s not true,” Schaefer told Rosenthal.

The GBP chief’s statement came a few days after reports on Slim allegedly dangling a $65 million purse on Pacquiao to fight in Mexico appeared over the Internet.

Read more at Philippine Star