Finals Week

(written Nov. 29, 2018)

This year in UP, at least for one semester, “Finals week” has two different meanings: Utak and Puso. Mind and heart.

One in the classroom. And for the first time in 32 years, one in the basketball court.

Even before the Final Four round started, I already thought that if this will be a two-game series, Adamson has a weapon which any team in the UAAP would want to have: Franz Pumaren, one of the best tacticians in the game, who has previously led the De La Salle University to five Men’s Basketball championships including a four-peat from 1998 to 2001.

He is the perfect representation of utak, being the Adamson’s think-tank, making adjustments and strategies before, during, and after a game. His championships speak to his coaching acumen. His full-court pressure defense is feared across all schools. I said to myself that if this becomes a close series, to be decided by adjustments made, the edge belongs to Adamson.

Game 2 began the same way Game 1 did, with UP taking the early lead, continuing all the way to the third quarter. UP’s lead peaked at 16 points.

And then just like the first meeting between them in the first round of the tournament, as well as the first game of the playoff series, the Falcons clawed back. Their shots started to fall. The Maroons stopped converting baskets. League MVP Bright Akhuetie was not his usual effective self, turning the ball over possession after possession after painful possession, for a total of six turnovers. Then other Maroons joined in the turnover-fest. To make matters worse, UP missed free throw after free throw. Slowly, the 16-point lead was trimmed. Adamson eventually took the lead – and the momentum – into the fourth quarter.

Utak played a factor. Adamson’s Jerom Lastimosa and Jerick Ahanmisi started dropping threes. Their defense clamped down. UP made several bad decisions. Utak failed. Akhuetie drives to the basket and decides to pass the ball out instead of trying to convert a layup or draw the foul, only to fire a weak and easily pilferable pass? Utak. Leaving Adamson’s shooters open from three-point range, despite the shooter having the hot hand? Utak. Missed free throws? Utak.

All these mental mistakes, when added together, would have been fatal.

But UP is not defined by utak alone. Remember: Utak. Puso.

A human person who is brain dead is still alive because the person’s heart continues pumping blood for the body, providing oxygen to all its parts.

Without puso, that body is as good as dead.

In the second Final Four thriller against Adamson, UP would almost certainly have lost with all the utak mistakes. But puso, lots and lots of heart, hustle, grit, and determination, propelled them forward.

When Adamson cut into the 16-point UP lead and made it a close one, the Maroons’ defense did its job. An Adamson player blew by his defender for the layup? The next line of UP defenders would be there to force a tough shot. Puso.

Jun Manzo, the smallest guy on the court, jumping for the rebound in the midst of Adamson big men and – improbably – grabbing the ball or tipping it to his nearest teammate? Puso. Manzo coming up with a crucial steal and fastbreak layup late in the game? Puso.

Paul Desiderio stripping the ball away from Sean Manganti to prevent an easy layup, and diving for the ball? Puso.The same Desiderio in overtime, with the desire to go to the Finals, again diving for a loose ball – which got loose in the first place because Jaydee Tungcab stripped it from Ahanmisi – causing the ball to ricochet off Simon Camacho? Puso.

Akhuetie, pulling down a huge offensive rebound for the putback, coming up big in the clutch? Puso.

Desiderio, shooting 2-for-18 from the field, hitting a clutch go-ahead triple and the game-winning jumper in overtime? Puso.

Perhaps the best showing of puso? Overcoming Adamson’s twice-to-beat advantage to advance to the finals.

When the Falcons erased the deficit they were in, I remembered Game 1, as well as the very first meeting between the two teams in Season 81. Yesterday, in the most important game of the year for UP, utak and puso played big roles: when utak failed, puso remained. And just when it was needed most in that frantic finish, the mental toughness returned.

And these spelled all the difference between the Maroons going to two Finals, instead of one.

Utak. Puso.


Back in 2012, I wrote about #PacMay


Back in 2012, as a sophomore journalism student, we were tasked in our Feature Writing class to write a historical feature story. I wrote about the then-pending Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, in the context of big fights and old fighters fighting late in their careers. Now that the fight has happened, many were disappointed about it. Perhaps this is the reason why. Below is the article reproduced unedited.

Why Pacquiao-Mayweather Should Happen ASAP

Manny Pacquiao has been a professional boxer since he was 16. He started his career as a tiny 106-pounder, and has since moved up to be an elite welterweight fighter, while still maintaining an almost flawless 54-3-2 win-loss-draw record.

When he faced Erik Morales in 2006, he lost a close fight, bowing out to Morales via split decision. He hasn’t been defeated since then.

Floyd Mayweather has been a pro since 1996. As an amateur, his career began, like Manny, in the 106-pound division. Also, like Manny, he has also progressed into becoming a force to be reckoned with at 145.

The first loss of his career has not come yet. He holds a perfect 42-0 win-loss record.
Both fighters’ camps claim that the number-one pound-for-pound fighter in the world belongs to their team. One is an eight-division world champion; the other, an undefeated champion of five weight classes.

Simply put, both are two of the best pugilists the boxing world has to offer today.
One problem remains: they still can’t figure out who the better man is. They can’t find a way to fight each other.

This is not the first time a mega-fight such as Pacquiao-Mayweather will be delayed. Boxing’s history is littered with fights involving big-time fighters that never happen at the right time. Sometimes they happen; it’s just that the fighters involved are past their prime, resulting in a lackluster battle.

The most recent example of this is the 2010 fight between Roy Jones, Jr. and Bernard Hopkins. Jones and Hopkins first squared off in 1993 in a middleweight championship fight. Jones walked away from that fight with the belt around his waist, defeating Hopkins via unanimous decision.

Their first fight was controversial, having a number of illegal blows. Also, a tussle involving the referee, ring entourage, and security guards ensued after the sixth round.

A rematch was imminent. However it happened a bit too late: 17 years later, on April 3, 2010.
The fight was hyped up by showing how much each fighter wanted to fight the other. Sadly, with all the promotion the match got, the fight did not live up to expectations.

Although Hopkins got his revenge by winning a unanimous decision, the fight was slow and dragging. The hype remained just as hype. There was no follow-up.

Evander Holyfield, a former heavyweight champion, was at his career’s best in the mid to late 1990s. Perhaps his most memorable moment in the ring was with Mike Tyson in 1997, when Tyson infamously bit Holyfield in the ear.

Later in his career in 2007, at age 45, he challenged Sultan Ibragimov for the WBO heavyweight championship. Ibragimov defeated Holyfield via unanimous decision.

Holyfield’s age showed in the fight, as it became a pretty boring match. Exchanges lasted only two to three punches long. Neither of the fighters actually dominated his opponent.

One would expect something more from a former heavyweight champion, even against a much younger fighter. In this fight, Holyfield disappointed.

“Sugar” Shane Mosley, who holds a 46-7-1 win-loss-draw record with one no-contest, also became a champion in three weight classes. Some of his notable feuds since turning pro in 1993 came against Oscar de la Hoya and Vernon Forrest. He has also defeated Antonio Margarito in 2009 for the WBA Super Welterweight title at age 38.

After that Margarito bout, he faced Floyd Mayweather Jr., Sergio Mora, and his most recent opponent Manny Pacquiao.

Mosley’s performance in his last three fights were underwhelming at best, losing unanimous decisions to Mayweather and Pacquiao, while fighting to a draw against Mora.

Not even the great Muhammad Ali was spared from this trend. Despite amassing a 56-5 win-loss record, three of those five defeats came in his final four fights.

His last two fights before retiring for good were losses. One of those was against Larry Holmes in 1980, 20 years after his first professional bout. This was the only time Ali was defeated by technical knockout (TKO), as his corner stopped the fight in after the 10th round.

Though these battles involve fighters from whom much are expected, not all delayed fights turn out terribly. Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns squared off first in 1981 for the welterweight championship. Leonard won that battle.

Eight years later in 1989, the two fighters had their rematch, a title fight now at 168 pounds. Promoters billed this contest as “The War”.

Both fighters provided a 12-round spectacle, with the final two rounds going back and forth. Hearns almost pulled of a win with his performance, but Leonard stole the 12th round, dominating Hearns, scoring a knockdown in the process.

The fight happened late in their careers, but they still delivered, putting on a show that made it enjoyable for viewers to watch. However, although the battle happened as their careers were winding down, they were still relatively young then, as both were in their early 30s.

The Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather bout, if it ever happens, may quite possibly be the biggest – and richest – fight in the history of boxing. As Francis Ochoa, assistant sports editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer said, it’s rare for the top-two pound-for-pound fighters to be able to face each other.
“Usually, for example, number one is a heavyweight, number two is a flyweight. In this case their both welterweights. [Pacquiao and Mayweather] belong to the same weight class and the same age category. How does that happen in history and you never get to see them fight at all? It’s a tragedy,” Ochoa said.

Which is why the fight must happen now. History suggests it. Older fighters in fights disappoint more often than not. These two boxers must square off sooner rather than later. It will be better for Manny, it will be better for Floyd, it will be better for everyone eagerly awaiting the fight.
In the end, everyone’s a winner, because even the loser of the fight will get a huge paycheck afterwards. #

Entrance music possibilities, if I were an MMA fighter/boxer

One of the biggest influences I had growing up was wrestling. When I was young (and even until now, sometimes), I always imagined being a fighter, entering the ring, walking down the ramp with my own entrance song. When glass shatters, it’s Stone Cold Steve Austin. ‘If you smell…” means The Rock. Screeching tires followed by a car crash means Mankind. The entrance music, in a way, is similar to the finishing move. It’s a signature. Once you hear the first sounds of it, you just know who’s coming out.

Nowadays, the wrestling dream is gone. Wrestling has been replaced by mixed martial arts and the occasional boxing fight (read: Manny Pacquiao versus anybody). And even here, the entrance music plays a big role. Manny Pacquiao, for a long stretch, walked in to Survivor’s classic ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ UFC fighter Chael Sonnen always entered to that cowboy/western-ish song. Benson Henderson always came out to the hip-hop version of ‘Awesome God.’ Mark Muñoz always used ‘Bebot.’ Brock Lesnar always used ‘Enter Sandman.’

So if I were a fighter, what song would welcome me to the ring? My only criteria is the song must be a pumper-up, to boost both me and the crowd. Here are my top 5 choices:


1. You Could Be Mine – Guns N Roses

If this song’s drum intro does not pump you up, I don’t know what will. Every time I hear that drum line, followed by the guitar lines that follow, my senses never fail to be awakened. Then I find my head bobbing to the beat. Then my foot follows. Soon, my hands start air drumming. Give it a listen:


2. The Way I Am – Eminem

The best thing about this song is the interplay of all the musical elements present: the bass, the keyboards, the beat, the bell sound, all working together with the anapestic tetrameter Eminem uses in delivering the verses of the song. Plus, the song is about saying “F*** off” to those expecting too much. I think it’s perfect for a fighter.


3. Three Stars and a Sun – Francis M.

If I were to be a fighter, I’d be representing the Philippines. This song is not only a pumper-up song, it also is nationalistic. Pretty much like how angry and aggressive Eminem is in ‘The Way I Am,’ Francis M. has the same kind of anger in him in his delivery of this song. The rough, dark, ominous guitar line to begin the song, plus the heavy riff that follows after further intensifies the song’s strong feel.


4. Boom – P.O.D.

The song begins with a fast guitar riff and heavy drum beats, and it’s perfect for fighters, especially for young and new ones, because the lyrics talk about catching people by surprise, BOOM, and about exceeding others’ expectations. The bridge of the song, “Is that all you got? I’ll take your best shot,” is also perfect for competition.

5. Anastasia – Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators

As you may have seen, the song’s intro is of paramount importance in picking an entrance song to accompany ring entrance. Anastasia is no different. The song begins with a plucked acoustic guitar, dark and Western-y. I can see two cowboys meeting from a distance, preparing to draw their guns during this part. Then when the full band comes in, a metalized, classical music-inspired guitar line from Slash comes in, followed by a pumpy riff sure to make heads bounce. Myles Kennedy then comes in with his vocals and the song’s beauty is complete.



Honorable mentions:

Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N Roses


Bulls on Parade – Rage Against the Machine


It’s been a while since I wrote about a dream. Maybe this was triggered by an question I received about dreams. The second professor mentioned here was probably present because I was trying to remember a previous interesting lesson we had late this semester.
It was the first day of class in a subject that seems like a feature writing class or something similar. The professor, seated in front, was the same professor I had for my feature writing subject. You know what happens during the first meeting: syllabus is explained, assignments and requirements are given..
The professor had with her a bowl. She stood up, walked towards the middle of the room, right beside me, and placed the small, a-little-over-palm-sized bowl in front of me. I had no idea what the content was. It looked like hot prawn salad, but I couldn’t be sure. Then finally, the prof told the class to draw lots to determine the story assignments, and that the bowl was in front of me. Ahh. So that’s what it was.
I got a number, so has everyone else in class. Yet there was still A LOT of numbers left in the bowl. Prof probably prepared hundreds of numbers for a class of less than 30.
The professor wrote on the board what each number or range of numbers meant, what stories corresponded to them.
Strangely, the professor, a female, became a male, the same one I had in one of my classes this year.
He asked who got the first story written on the board. The student was named “Dos” and he wrote this on the board He then called for the second student. “Juan” was his name, and wrote it on the board as well. “Una si Dos, ngayon Juan,” professor said. It was a one-two punch, if you know what I mean.
Trying to avoid a “Tres” or a similar name, prof called on the student seated front row, leftmost. “Okay, miss, what number did you get?”
And she said the number.
“Okay. What’s you name?”
“Naples,” she said (pronounced “ney-pols”). I forgot the last name. 
I silently laughed in my mind. It sounds like a body part, nipple. I thought of how funny it would be if the professor actually wrote “Nipples” as her name.
He wrote an N on the board. Then an I.
Oh my goodness it will come true.
At this point, one student towards the front who had his head down sleeping, rose up shocked at what he was seeing as I was. The students beside me were suppressing laughter. I was looking around and a great majority were doing this.
I was preventing it from coming out, lowering my head, my face was buried in my bag laughing so hard. Then the inevitable happened. The whole room burst in laughter. Naples was trying to hold it back. Laughing in shame, she called the prof’s attention.
He wrote over the I and P with an A, and continued the discussion, as if nothing happened. But the mishap had been done. And it gave the class a lot of joy.

A Battle of Redemption

(This was originally submitted as a requirement for my Sports Journalism class, J196, when we were asked to write a sports column.)

When the two fighters square off April 13, it won’t be just another big fight for them. For Manny Pacquiao, it is a shot at redeeming the loss he suffered in 2012 against his current opponent. For Timothy Bradley, it is a chance to prove that he really can beat Pacquiao, after their first tiff ended controversially.

As for me, I’m still waiting for the Pacman to unleash his inner animal; the instinct that brought him the fame and fortune. The instinct that made him almost undefeated in close to a decade. The instinct that allowed him to topple Mexican pugilists Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Antonio Margarito, Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, and Brit Ricky Hatton.

The instinct that, sadly, has been missing since 2010.

His last win by knockout or TKO came in November 2009 against Miguel Cotto, where he won via 12th round TKO.

But after that, beginning with his next bout, the Joshua Clottey snoozefest, Manny Pacquiao won fights by decision. It became the norm. He still is a very elusive fighter, very quick, very agile. He still had the high-level skill set enough for him to remain at least a top-five pound-for-pound boxer.

But he hasn’t finished anyone since Cotto.

How many times has it been reported in the news that Pacquiao will win via knockout in x number of rounds?

Rappler reported last week that Pacquiao’s sparring partner Julian Rodriguez predicted a fifth round knockout for the Saranggani province congressman. In Manny’s previous fight against Brandon Rios, Freddie Roach said the Filipino will triumph in six rounds. He won the fight, but he did so via unanimous decision. He didn’t even get a knockdown.

In his previous fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, his trainer predicted a win for him, tweeting, “See @MannyPacquiao put the rivalry to rest with a KO.” He didn’t specify a round, but he saw a win in sight.

We all know how that turned out: Manny’s worst loss after eating a solid counter right hook from Marquez which resulted in a knockout.

Even Roach himself said after the Rios fight that Manny could have won via knockout or TKO, but Pacquiao took it easy in round 12. The article’s headline was “No KO? ‘Pacquiao’s compassion got in the way – Roach’”.

Manny’s string of lacklustre performances – at least by Manny Pacquiao standards – has led analysts and other boxers, most notably the pompous Floyd Mayweather Jr., to write him off, to call him washed up, a has-been, a shell of his former self. They’ve said that the sun is setting on Manny Pacquiao’s career.

I see two reasons for the decline: one is age, the other is politicking. Reason number 2 seems most plausible.

Maybe the compassion he has shown for his opponents since 2010 is linked with his being a congressman. Who would want a public official who pulverizes and knocks people unconscious? Perhaps Manny was trying to preserve that image. Look at his timeline of fights. His run of underwhelming fights began the year he won a seat in Congress. It couldn’t have been age because it would be too fast a decline if age were the reason.

Politics turned Pacquiao from one-man wrecking crew, out to crush all who stand in his way, to a too-nice guy. He might be forgetting that fans are entertained by knockouts and TKOs, not lopsided unanimous decision wins. Close contests, those that may go either fighter’s way, are fun to watch as well, but those are the most controversial fights. One only has to look at Pacquiao’s history with Marquez.

A win is a win, anyway it comes. But right now, Manny Pacquiao needs a definitive win because he is at that stage where he has a lot to prove: that he is still a legitimate top pound-for-pound fighter, that he still has that killer instinct, and that he is the rightful winner of his 2012 robbery versus Timothy Bradley.

For Bradley, a definitive win is needed, or else he will just be a fighter who had his win over Pacquiao handed to him, who didn’t really win their previous encounter

For Pacquiao, a knockout alone will be his redemption ticket.

Come April 13, it will be a battle of redemption.

Solo: my Holi Festival adventure

Ito marahil ang pinakamalungkot na biyahe ko sa buong buhay ko so far. At ang pinuntahan ko pang lugar ay matao at napaka-festive. Feeling ko talaga wala ako sa lugar!

Ito ang Holi Festival ng India na ginanap sa SM Mall of Asia by the Bay. 200 pesos ang entrance fee. Sa loob, maraming mga Indian (malamang, dahil festival nila ito). Pero marami ring mga dayuhang puti. May nakausap akong isang Swiss na arkitektong tatlong taon nang naninirahan sa Pilipinas. Ngunit tumanggi siyang magpa-interview on camera.

Ang nainterview ko lamang ay si Raklesh, ‘yung nagsasalita tungkol sa chaat items o Indian street food sa kalagitnaan ng video. Ngunit kahit siya ay ayaw magpa-on camera. Boses lang.

Panoorin niyo na lang ang solitary adventure ko: