Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Do not believe if somebody would tell you that the first Filipino-American in the NBA is Miami Heat head coach Erik C. Spoelstra. But forgive them for they do not know their basketball too well. No doubt, Spoelstra is the first NBA coach with Filipino American roots. He is proud of his Filipino roots. His mother is Elisa Celino from San Pablo, Laguna. He occasionally visits his mother’s hometown and visit Manila to conduct clinics and other activities to basketball fans, especially children. Coach Spo undeniably made history as first Fil-Am coach to reach NBA Finals. But is he the first Fil-Am in the NBA? It’s “No” according to this site.

The first half-Pinoy in the US pay-for-play league is Raymond Anthony Townsend, a A 6’3″, 175-lb point guard from UCLA who was the last pick in the first round (22nd overall) of the 1978 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors. He concluded his NBA career in 1982 as a member of the Indiana Pacers. He also played in Italy for Banco Roma during the 1984-85 Season.

Raymond is the son of Ray Sr., (an American), and the former Virginia Marella, who happens to be a Filipina from Balayan, Batangas. This makes him a half-Filipino and the first in the NBA. Townsend (born December 20, 1955 in San Jose, California) is now a retired professional basketball player. At present, Townsend is the youth sports development coordinator in San Jose, California and was honored as UCLA Pilipino Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumnus of the Year on May 2, 2009.

Raymond Townsend reportedly explained, “I am a proud Filipino but in those days when I played, your culture or heritage were never an important issue because the game was dominated by the black athlete. Now with the influx of international players, the NBA is now commercializing the sport internationally with their marketing and taking their business into the world.” He further stressed that, “Little did the NBA know how much Basketball is the unifying factor for many of our people”. Aside from Townsend, Oklahoma City Thunder's ace guard Nate Robinson is also reportedly has 1/8th Filipino blood (Honestly, I do not know what that fraction means neither I am familiar with hematology!).

Townsend visited Batangas in the early 80s as a guest player in an exhibition game which was played by Freddie Hubalde, Terry Saldana, and other local players. He tried to apply in the PBA as import for two particular teams in the 90s but to no avail. Team officials said that Townsend was already “too old” for their teams.

Hey, the NBA Finals 2011 will begin tomorrow, June 1, Wednesday (Tuesday in the US) and just like 5 years ago, Miami and Dallas are the two teams that will be competing for the Championship. The rosters changed and no longer the same. Pat Riley handed the job to Erik Spoelstra and Avery Johnson to Rick Carlisle. Vengeance is ours, said the cowboys from Texas.

Call me an unpatriotic monster if you wish but I will not root for the Miami Heat in the Finals only because of Erik Spoelstra having a Filipino blood. Like Dirk, I am loyal to our team, the Dallas Mavericks. There are two questions heading for the series including my loyalist's reply:

Can the Mavs bounce back on Heat this time?

Can Dirk be stopped?

(Photo from Getty Images)

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Mutineer’s Wife

Despite of the bad weather, their plane landed safely at the runway of the San Jose Airport and that was early morning of Saturday. A little something for those who are not aware of this tiny trivia, our airport, also known as Thomas Mc. Guirre Airdrome got its name in memory of the US ace fighter pilot who crashed in Negros during the height of World War-II.

The couple came to Occidental Mindoro upon invitation of my elder (?) brothers and sisters in Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals or BCBP- San Jose Chapter. As I have told you before, I am an associate member of this community. They were invited as couple-sharer for our Grand Breakfast last May 28.

“Familiarity breeds contempt”, says an old idiom. With all honesty, aside from seeing our male guest in person, I am more interested in finding what his wife is made of. How she was able to stay behind her man during his time of trouble and chaos. Being once involved in the local media, I am already familiar with the life and struggles of Col. Ariel Querubin. How he took part in the 7-hour Fort Bonifacio Standoff, his protest against the irregularities in the 2004 presidential elections which was, according to him was “marred with fraud”. I read from all over about his achievements as a soldier. He graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1979, completed the Australian command and staff course, and received his master's degree in defense studies from the University of Canberra. He ran but lost in his senatorial bid last election.

Querubin, co-founder of the Young Officer’s Union or YOU, is the most bemedalled officer in Philippine history, earning practically every award that the Armed Forces could give, except the Wounded Personnel Medal, which he could have received in 1989 had he been on the government side during the December coup attempt against the Aquino administration. YOU is affiliated with the earlier established Reform the Armed Forces Movement or RAM. He was given Medal of Valor, AFP’s highest award given to a soldier for heroism, gallantry in action and sacrifice. Yap, Col. Querubin’s life is already an open book especially among those people who are into politics specifically those who advocate for good governance. Just like yours truly. What about his wife? I do not know her. While most of our members are very eager to see him in person and hear the good officer’s life testimony, I am more curious about his wife. I asked my self while I was inside the (that day) crowded Conference Hall of the Sikatuna Beach Hotel and Restaurant that day: “What is this woman made of?” And that isn’t a contemptuous question as far as I know.

Formerly known as Ma. Flor Palacio Azcarraga is the better half of Col. Ariel Querubin but she was introduced to us by Dr. Pabs Lazaro simply by her nickname: “Sister Pong”. She related to us the trials she had as a mother of their seven children and the agony of raising them when her husband was incarcerated. She added that, “I felt the agony, it’s every inch, of the soldier’s wives depicted in the movie ‘We Were Soldiers’ where Mel Gibson as lead actor.” She is referring to the motion picture in 2002 directed by Randall Wallace about the battle of la Drang in Vietnam in 1965.

“Mommy, why is Daddy in jail? Is he bad? If he isn’t bad, why he is in jail?” Whenever these questions are asked, she tried to explain to the younger kids that their father is a good man, a man of integrity and honor. Pong joined rallies and mass actions. She stood by his husband’s principles and legal quests through peaceful means. The challenge in James 5:13 became his refuge, “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.” Mrs. Querubin admitted that during those times, their BCBP brothers and sisters are always there to bring comfort, spiritually, physically and financially. “When is Daddy coming home?” this question now is no longer being asked by the young kids. Their Daddy is a freeman now after 4 years in prison. At present, he is San Miguel Corporation’s consultant.

Pong Querubin is one of the, in Blessed John Paul II’s words, “brave mothers who devote themselves to their own family without reserve, who suffer in giving birth to their children and who are ready to make effort, face any sacrifice, in order to pass on to them the best of themselves.” (Homily for Beatification, 1994) To emphasize (Though I am in no way comparing Col. Querubin to Christ, my aim here is to highlight women’s bravery in biblical times), Sister Pong, like the women disciples, bravely came out to the open. They followed Him up to Jerusalem and stood by Him in His hour of suffering. Unlike their men counterparts who ran and hide!

We Christians not to hide our face from evil, not walk or toy around it, or pretend that it is not there or it doesn’t exist. Face it and fight even if it’s almost impossible, in spite of our feelings of powerlessness or insignificance (Col. Querubin did not receive his stars, remember?) and to become involved in transforming it. If our couple-sharers did not suffer, they surely cannot have the privilege of finding God’s compassion and grace.

Well, to summarize, this is what I’ve learned from the Querubins : Each member of a Catholic charismatic community like BCBP, is faith-bound to be a “mutineer” (or wife of a “mutineer”for that matter!) against sinful structures of society, and vice-versa…

(Photo : Grabbed without permission from Ms. Ellen M. Calugay’s Facebook album at BCBP San Jose Group)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thy Temple, Thy Will

I was out for a couple of days for I was asked by Sr. Paz Duerme, MCJ, coordinator of the Catechetical Coordinating Office or CCO of our vicariate, to be one of the speakers for the Annual On-going Formation for Catechists held May 21 to 23, 2011 at San Isidro Labrador Formation Center here in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. Around 70 participants – fulltime and volunteer catechists - coming from all over Occidental Mindoro attended the gathering dubbed “Pantaunang Pagtitipon ng mga Katekista" or “PantapaK”. Among the participants were graduates of Sienna College who took up Bachelor in Secondary Education (BSE), major in Religious Education. “Pantapak” in English, as we all know, is “sandals”. The sandal,- by the way in Jesus’ time, was simply a sole, made of wood or palm-bark, fastened to the foot by leathern straps. In the Old Testament, sandals were proverbially a man's cheapest possession (Amos 2:6; 8:6), and therefore "a man without sandals" was the poorest of the poor. With this periodic formation, our catechists do not go down to their communities and classrooms "evangelically barefooted" each school year, hopefully.

But when I was little, my father’s sandals on my behind at night were reminders of his orders I have forgotten to obey. But hey, before I forget, the topic I and the catechists dwelled was about the Catholic Social Teaching or CST.

The social doctrine of the Church proposes a set of principles for reflection, criteria for judgment and direction for action. And in this particular juncture, the topic is addressed to the untiring and dedicated (mostly) women in the base communities of our local Church, the catechists. It is important that the faithful engaged in evangelization effort should have a firm grasp of this precious body of teaching and make this integral part of their pastoral work, specifically in catechesis.

Here’s the theme of the formation activity: “Buhay…Biyaya… Alagaan, Ingatan at Mahalin”. Taking a clue from its theme, all of the topics are anchored on the most controversial issue that divides our nation today, the Reproductive Health Bill.

In discussing the CST, I focused mainly on the Catholic hierarchies’ understanding of human freedom. And this is more or less a run-down on that particular canto of my sharing:

The Catholic Church teaches that freedom, including freedom of choice, is not a license to do whatever we like. It is not a license, indeed, to do evil. And freedom of choice, even over one’s own body, is not merely a right that one claims for oneself neither merely a drive inspired by an ideology or sentiment but ALSO a duty that one undertakes with regards to the wisdom and will of God and serving our neighbors. So, that “pro-choice” slogan that firmly states “My Body, My Choice” may sound sensible if one uses his/her legal and ideological spectacles and biases but there’s another theme/slogan that is worth discerning employing our biblical lenses: “Thy Temple, Thy Will”. Although both may be correct to some degree, while taking the risk of being accused as using biblical passages to strengthen my position, Jesus said in 1 Cor. 6:19-20, “You are not your own. You were bought with a price. So glorify God in you bodies.” Believing to any of the two themes or slogans I have cited above depends on how we understand the radical ontological difference between good and evil as thought to us by the culture of whatever country that we are in, the faith that we believe in, the ideology that we embrace, and other external factors that surround us. And let us not count out our biases against certain religious groups’ dogma, tenets and doctrines, including its office holders and pastors, whether we are a member of that congregation or an outsider, or even if we already loose faith in any religion.

When we view our freedom not coming from God and for God, when it is not lived in service and charity for others, then we make choices that cater our own will and not anymore of God’s, we abuse our freedom and pursue what we want, we disobey Him.

Pope Benedict XVI states that the root cause of abuse of freedom is the “dictatorship of relativism”. In such self-styled post-modern philosophy, the ultimate goal is solely one’s own ego and desires as the measure of all things and not God. This made it contrary to CST. He’s the very same Pope who urged Filipino faithful not to give up fight against RH Bill.

Before we closed the session, we prayed together that may the freedom that we receive as gift live in the hearts and minds of every Catholic in whatever field of endeavors they are in. Wherever soil they are planted and expected to bear fruits. For in our different capability and capacity, just like Mary, the apostles and the Christian martyrs of yore and in our midst and the early Christian community, it is Thy temple that we are building and it is Thy will that we must follow.

Not ours and the worldly gods, certainly…

(Photo: cccooperagency.com)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pacquiao’s Abstinence

Chances are, as I am dipping my fingers into the computer keyboard at this very moment, Sarangani Rep.Manny Pacquiao is having his audience with the Catholic bishops. Members of the CBCP Permanent Council are expected to meet the boxer-turned-legislator today. CBCP Secretary General Msgr. Juanito Figura said that the church is not using Pacquiao in its campaign against the Reproductive Health (RH) bill and added further that the gathering is the champ’s “personal initiative" to meet with the bishops.

Just recently, Pacquiao said in an interview: “As a couple, we practice abstinence. Discipline. It’s just like boxing, you must exercise self-discipline.” But I would like to sway away from discussing the RH Bill for every discussion about it ends with immaturity, if not sacrilege, subjectivity and arrogance from both sides. We will be answering a more exciting question related to sex and boxers: “Is sexual abstinence before a boxing bout (or any physical competition) has a proven physiological effect?” The Ancient Greeks believed so.

Plato, yap that famous Greek philosopher, was first to tackle the issue when he wrote about an Olympic champion, Ikkos of Tarentum, joined the 84th Olympiad in 444 B.C. Based on Plato’s narrative, Ikkos’ training regimen includes eating large quantities of wild boar, cheese and goat meat, but restrained from sexual activity, fearing it could diminish his strength. So it goes to conclude that the notion that a bed “fight” the night before + a ring fight the next day = poor performance in the boxing arena, is older than the Olympics itself!

The male hormone called testosterone is responsible both for sexual desire and aggression are reduced when man had an ejaculation, according to experts of yore. Ergo, trainers, coaches and supporters of this belief are firm in saying that every time a man ejaculates, he looses his energy and strength.

Boxing greats Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali followed abstinence months before each fight. The former became the only heavyweight who retired undefeated while the latter is considered one of the best fighters of all time; his record stands at an impressive 56 wins in 61 fights, with 37 knockouts.

Our very own Manny Pacquiao publicly admitted time and again that he separates himself from Jinkee whenever he’s inside the training camp. Unless of course during her brief (no pun intended!) visit.

But modern-day scientists belied what they call myth about sex and training. According to them, there is no critical evidence to suggest that sex has repercussion on any athletic ability. Want to know my opinion on this? Sorry I am no (s)expert. All I know is this: Sex can easily help someone go to sleep, and wake up early the following morning, actively doing household chores and whistling his or her favourite song!

For example, a study in Geneva in 2000 (published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness) reported sex had "no detrimental influence on the maximal workload achieved or on the athletes' mental concentration." Here’s another : A study at Rutgers University in NJ credited sexual activity before an event as beneficial for combating muscle pain and other sports injuries.

But while it has “no approved physiological claim”, for a boxer who practices abstinence, has the mental edge, the psychological advantage. For those great fighters in training, it’s the spirit more than science, mind more than body.

You may call Manny Pacquiao a "religious freak" or fanatic, "superstitious nut" or “Uto-uto sa mga Damaso” because of his recent stand and I don’t care. All I know is as a boxer (not as a politician, mind you!), this combination of his became his effective formula for success: discipline con hard work.

Well, generally people are going to believe what they want to believe, based in good part on what they are taught. Just like their stand on the issues of sex while on training and the RH Bill...

(Photo: cosmo.image)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Brutal Than Boxing, Part 2

My eldest, straight from Saint Joseph College Seminary (SJCS) for a long vacation landed at the Wesmin Hospital here in San Jose last May 5 due to pneumonia. Together with Dr. Rosendo Nueve, MD and the rest of the nurses and staffs, he watched the Pacquiao-Mosley fight live on television right at personnel quarters of said nursing home. With a dextrose attached to his right arm and his left hand pressing the nebulizer mouthpiece into his mouth, they watched the fight direct from the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.

I told you once in a blog entry that my son loves boxing and he seldom skipped Al Bernstein show on TV before he entered the seminary and his favorite boxing hall- of- famer is Tommy Hearns. He was second year high school when he KOed a rascal classmate using a flicker jab, Hearn’s favorite weapon. Like how Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez advised his parishioner Manny Pacquiao to retire from the ring, Dra. Eleanor Sy-Costibolo, MD also advised my son to go into swimming and she said it is good for the respiratory system than any other sport, perhaps, including boxing.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, DD of Marbel and former chairman of the National Secretariat for Social Action or CBCP-NASSA, said he has advised boxing legend and Saranggani Representative Manny Pacquiao to retire from the ring. The prelate reportedly reminded Catholics that the Church considers a person’s body as the “temple of the Holy Spirit” and that it should not be abused or harmed. But the good bishop seemed to forget that here in the Philippines, how politics is practiced, how graft and corruption put many of us into poverty are more brutal than boxing thus do more harm to the “temple of the Holy Spirit”. Only some old fashioned members of the clergy could insist that boxing is indeed a sin.

All I can say is, any professional athlete needs to be concerned with how his profession might best glorify God. Is he a good Christian model to all, specially those people around him? Is he a good example for kids who idolize him and his family? Is he doing the right thing with his talents and abilities? Any sport is liberating as long as you are humble in victory and gracious in defeat. What’s un-Godly with that? You, kill joys and OAs!

Is Manny Pacquiao a bad Catholic? I doubt it. The Pacman is pious not only because he has no qualms about wearing a rosary around his neck before and after a match or of making a sign of the cross at the start of a round, but because he entrusts himself and his professional work, his training, his family, to God. He regularly attends Mass and he kneels down before acknowledging the cheers of the gone-crazy and ecstatic crowd. Most of all, Manny is not there to humiliate and destroy his opponent. Remember this incident in his fight against Ricky Hatton (which I featured in “Brutal Than Boxing, Part 1”), as soon as Hatton staggered to his feet, Manny extended a helping hand. He even expressed gratitude. "I thanked Ricky for giving me the opportunity to fight him because he put his championship at stake. I told him it’s nothing personal, that I just had to do my job, like he has to do his. I’m only a boxer so this is my job." That’s how humble is our boxing hero. Unlike the politician I know who take every criticism against him personally.

Returning to the Philippines after his victorious dream match against the Golden Boy Oscar Dela Hoya, Manny went to the popular Black Nazarene Church in Manila and attended the Mass. After the priest gave his final blessings, Pacquiao according to reports, was asked to give a message to the people. And it is there Manny Pacquiao gave this quote and my favorite from him: "Don't tell God you have a big problem. Tell your problem you have a big God.” That’s what I kept in mind and in my prayers when my kid had a 6-day bout with pneumonia and with the help of the Almighty- including people in the hospital- he was released just a couple of hours ago.

By the way, I know priests who were good amateur boxers during their seminary days but they remained non-violent. Likewise in my son’s school, they have Tae Kwon Doo and other martial arts for PE classes…

(Photo from pinoyofw.com)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Aromatic Questions

Tourism is expected to be one of the lifeblood of San Jose that is why the Municipal Tourism Council is created and rejuvenated. The renovation and beautification of our famous Aroma Beach is now halfway and expected to be over soon. It is projected as one of the main sources of income for the residents and additional revenue for the local government. While I have no problem with that, my utmost concern here is the issue of uncontrolled sewage discharges. Key persons from the Municipal Health Office say nothing about it even in their radio program. But in the first place, do I have really something to worry about?

I am not a sanitary engineer or a medical and health practitioner but being an ordinary beach lover and self-proclaimed environmentalist, I am bothered by fears of bacteriological contamination of this beach closest to our hearts. May I know from our authorities if we have a plan for sewage collection and treatment system ready for implementation? What shall we do with the wastewater elements coming from the mushrooming commercial establishments along Aroma Beach and nearby locations? Have we already put measures on the possible fecal coliform contamination that may include ear infections, dysentery, typhoid fever, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, and hepatitis A? Coliform is a group of bacteria indicating the state of salubriousness of seawater or shellfish. They are germs present in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and, when present in water in large numbers, they often reveal contamination by excrement and the possible presence of other disease-bearing pathogens. Another question: Do these clusters of cottages and other buildings along the beach have quality septic tanks and once full they will not overflow into the sewage lines running onto the beach?

I am just a citizen who loves to watch sunset at the beach whenever I’m down, all I know is that wastewater elements - are excreta, urine, sewage, sullage, storm water and other liquid wastes – are hazards to health and environment. Epidemics, fish kills, floods, and other related problems proved the menace brought by poor management of wastewater which claimed several lives and debilitated a number of people mostly affecting children. The tourist destinations that we try to imitate like those beaches in Puerto Galera and Boracay have been victimized by said health threatening situation.

I just wish that the Municipal Engineering Office have sanitary engineers to fully take care of the matter for they are the professionals mandated by law, specifically RA 1364, to deal with wastewater disposal. These engineers have the express authority to survey, design, direct, manage, be consulted, and investigate any activity pertaining and related to pollution, whether in water, air and land. I am not sure if they have.

In PD 856 or Philippine Sanitation Code, specifically Chapter XVII or the Sewage Collection and Disposal, it pretty much say the same thing. And to public health officers of my hometown, please tell me if my fears are baseless and unfounded or valid and relevant, aromatic or fishy…

(Photo from SanJoseOccMindoro)