Daily Archives: August 12, 2008

Galing Pinoys: Filipino Athletes Going for Gold in Olympics

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
WHEN pound-4-pound boxing great Manny Pacquiao waves the Philippine flag to the sound of Lupang Hinirang at the Olympics opening ceremony, he’ll be introducing the Philippines best athletes to the world.

For the next three weeks all eyes will be on Beijing, China as it host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. There are 15 athletes from the Philippines competing in the world’s grandest stage against the best the world has to offer.

Despite the fact that no Philippine athlete in 80 years has ever won Olympic gold, it’s not going to dissuade any of this year’s representatives from trying. As an incentive, it’s been reported that the Philippine government along with business leaders and other groups has offered a 15 million pesos ($340,000) cash prize to any Philippine Olympic athlete who receives a gold medal.

The last time the Philippines won a medal was in the Atlanta games in 1996. Light flyweight Mansueto Velasco captured the silver medal in boxing.

In total, the Philippines have won two silver and seven bronzes for a total of nine Olympic medals in its history. By far, the Philippines best sport is boxing, capturing five of its nine medals.

This year, the country’s best chance of a gold medal lies in the feats of these stellar athletes.

With the cash prize so lucrative and a chance for Olympic glory high, here is a list and brief bio of the Pinoy athletes going for gold in their respective event:


Mark Javier: This is the first Olympic games for the 27-year-old from Dumaguete City, Philippines. He earned an Olympic berth after placing first in the Asian Continental competition in Xian, China. He’s a 2005 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medalist and won a bronze medal in the 2007 SEA Games in Thailand.


Harry Tañamor: Tañamor is the country’s best chance for an Olympic medal perhaps even a gold, according to Sports Illustrated Olympic edition. This is Tañamor’s second Olympic berth. The 29-year-old southpaw boxer from Zamboanga City is competing in the Light Flyweight (48 kg) division. He placed ninth in the 2004 Olympics.


Rexel Ryan Fabriga: Fabriga is a 23-year-old diver from Zamboanga City. He qualified for the Beijing, Olympics after placing fourth in the 10-meter platform event at the FINA Diving World Cup competition in China. He’s a former SEA game gold medalist at the 10-meter platform event.

Sheila Mae Perez: This is the third time Perez has qualified for the Olympics. After placing 32nd in the 2000 Australia games, she qualified but did not compete in the 2004 Athens Olympics. She’s won a gold and a silver medal in the 2007 SEA games and is considered by many as one of the best divers in Southeast Asia.


Ryan Arabejo: The 19-year-old swimmer from Makati City overcame an asthmatic condition early in his life to become an Olympic athlete. Arabejo holds the Philippine record in the 400-meter freestyle (3:58.51) and the 50m backstroke (28.29). Arabejo earned a slot in the 2008 Beijing Olympics by finishing six seconds faster than the Olympic qualifying standard time of 15:45.12, according an Inquirer.net report.

Daniel Coakley: Coakley is a 19-year-old FilAm hailing from Hawaii. He holds the Philippine Record in the 50m freestyle (23.08 seconds) and the SEA Games Record in the same event (22.80 sec.). It’s been reported that Coakley is the grand nephew of the late Teofilo Yldefonso, who is considered by many as the greatest Philippine swimmer. Yldefonso won the Philippines first Olympic medal (bronze) in the 200m-breaststroke event at the 1928 Amsterdam Games.

Miguel Molina: This is the second Olympic berth for the former FilAm Cal Berkeley graduate. Molina is competing in the men’s 200m breaststroke and men’s 200m individual Medley. During the last Olympic, he posted a 2:05.28 time in the 200m individual medley.

Christel Simms: Simms is a 17-year-old FilAm also from Hawaii. Born and raised in the US, she almost did not have a chance to represent the Philippines but the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS) upheld her petition to represent her parent’s home country. She qualified for the Olympics after posting 57.17 seconds, the qualifying standard for the 100m freestyle swimming events, at the USA Junior National Swimming Championships.

J.B. Walsh: The 22-year-old University of Florida graduate is another FilAm swimmer competing for the Philippines in his second straight Olympics. In Athens, he finished 37th in the 200m butterfly. He’ll be hoping to do better this time around when he competes in that same event. He’s also the Philippine record holder clocking 2:00.42.


Tshomlee Go: Besides Tañamor, the 27-year-old Go is also considered by many as one of the country’s best contenders for a gold medal in the Beijing Olympic games. The Taekwando jin made it to the Beijing Games via the World qualifying after beating six opponents in the 58-kg (127-pounds), the first Olympic weight category, according to the Inquirer.net report. It is Go’s second Olympic games. He competed in Athens but fell in the preliminary rounds.

Mary Antoinette Rivero: Rivero is also another gold medal hopeful. The 20-year-old student at Ateneo de Manila University nearly captured a silver medal four years ago in Athens. In the semifinals, she faced off against Greece’s Elizavet Mystakidou losing a close 2-3 decision. A win would have guaranteed Rivero a silver medal and a shot at gold. She got neither and lost the bronze medal match.


Henry Dagmil: The 27-year-old South Cotabato resident will compete in the long jump. He holds the Philippine long jump record at 7.99 meters. He’s a 2007 SEA games gold medalist.

Marestella Torres: Torres is a 27-year-old competing in the women’s long jump. She captured the gold medal at the 2005 SEA and 2007 SEA Games. The Philippine Track and Field Association (PATAFA) selected Torres to represent the country at the Beijing Games.


Eric Ang: At 37-years-old, Ang is the oldest athlete representing the Philippines. He earned a wildcard berth after posting convincing performances in the trap events of two international competitions, according to GMA-7.


Heidilyn Diaz: The 17-year-old Diaz is the youngest competitor for the Philippines. The Zamboanga City resident is also the first Filipino to compete in a weightlifting event. She earned a wild-card slot from the International Weightlifting Federation. She’ll compete in the 58-kilogram class (127 pounds).



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Pacquiao vs. De La Hoya Talks Stall: Golden Boy CEO says 75% Sure Fight will Happen

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
LOS ANGELES – Three key issues are stalling the proposed Manny Pacquiao vs. Oscar De La Hoya mega match up, according to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaeffer.

Schaeffer said he met with Top Rank President Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, for two hours Wednesday but both sides could not come up with a consensus agreement about the deals of the fight which would be slated for December 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The three issues stalling the deal are the size of the boxing gloves, De La Hoya’s weight limit, and the financial split.

“Oscar hasn’t made 147 pounds in almost ten years,” said Schaeffer to the Asian Journal during the Shane Mosley vs. Ricardo Mayorga press conference. “And we know from experience that a boxer could lose the match on the scales. The size of the gloves is also an issue. Oscar is used to wearing 10 ounce gloves while Manny usually wears 8 ounce gloves in his fights.”

“[And] the financial split is what it is,” he said. “Every time I negotiate a De La Hoya fight it’s the same thing. Suddenly the opponent feels they should make Oscar [big] money and I feel certain people have a market value.”

He declined to discuss the specifics of the proposed fight purse and other financial aspects, adding, “we guarantee a record purse for Manny Pacquiao, multiple times more than he has ever made so far. We think it’s a fair deal.”

Since winning his match against Steve Forbes in May, the Golden Boy De La Hoya has been looking for a grand finale fight before he rides off to the retirement sunset. A proposed re-match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. was rebuffed when Mayweather abruptly retired. Mexican counterpart Antonio Margarito lies waiting in the wings but after impressively thrashing Puerto Rican champion Miguel Cotto to a bloody pulp, De La Hoya would be best served to stay away from him.

Meanwhile, Pacquiao has also been looking for an opponent since his dominating performance against Mexican American David Diaz. That night, Pacquiao became the first Asian to capture four world titles in four different weight classes. The 29-year-old WBC Lightweight Champion’s first opponent choice was British contender Ricky Hatton at 140 pounds, but Hatton is already slated to fight New York champion Paulie Malignaggi in November.

Pacquiao’s other possible fights: a rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez would be out the door, Venezuelan knockout artist Edwin Valero is having a hard time getting medical clearance in Nevada and Humberto Soto lost his most recent match albeit by a technicality.

At first, a possible Pacquiao vs. De La Hoya bout was a only a pipe dream of fans and boxing enthusiasts wondering “what if” match ups but the idea began to pick up steam when Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach said Pacquiao could fight at 147 pounds, the welterweight class. In his last two matches, Pacquiao has weighed in the night of the fight at 146 and 147 pounds, respectively.

Schaeffer said that he’s confident that a Pacquiao vs. De La Hoya deal could be done.

“We have to do a lot of work on those three issues: the size of gloves, the weight – either at 149 or 150 pounds and financial split,” said Schaeffer. “I’ll say I’m cautiously optimistic. If I were to use percentages, I would say there’s a 75 percent chance a deal will be done in the next few weeks. I’ll be sitting down with Oscar next week. Arum will discuss this with Manny [when he gets back from the Olympics] and I’m sure in a few weeks everybody will know the outcome.”


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Remembering the Manongs of Manilatown

by Miko Santos/AJPress
SAN FRANCISCO – As you come in to the exhibit area of Manilatown Heritage Foundation in the International Hotel in downtown San Francisco, an overwhelming sense of history, both beautiful and sad hangs in the air.

Haunting black and white photographs line the gallery depicting the life and struggle of Manilatown’s former denizens centering on the tenants of the old International Hotel.

The photos include some very beautiful and sad images and stories in the captions: a photo of a distinguished Filipino gentleman and his band, an old man waiting by the stairs, photos of the elderly folk just ravaged with decades of labor and illness.

The exhibit entitled Manongs of Manilatown: The Inspiration of Al Robles, displays rarely seen photographs of Filipino elders by Tony Remington, Chris Huie and others.

Robles, renowned FilAm poet and activist, has dedicated his life to these elderly veteran community members, roaming single occupancy hotels and taking manongs to appointments, bringing them lunch and listening to their stories. He is the link to the disappearing “manong” generation, the bachelor society that came from the Philippines in the 1920s and ’30s as workers. He records, interprets, and channels their stories.

Throughout the mid-twentieth century, the International Hotel was home to elderly “manong” Filipino soldiers who served the United States in World War II and farm workers from Salinas, Watsonville, Stockton and Delano.

In 1977, after almost nine years of court battles and community protests, the manongs were evicted from the I-Hotel leaving many of them with nowhere to live. The event became a kind of civil rights struggle that galvanized Filipinos and other Asian-Americans. Thousands protested to block the eviction.

The show will run from July 26 through September 6 during regular gallery hours Tuesday to Saturday, 1:00 to 6:00 p.m.

The next event, at the International Hotel on August 9, will feature a poetic documentary, Time Travel with Al Robles, by Curtis Choy.


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Olympic Medalists and Other Notable Finishes

by Joseph Peralta/AJPress
Since the Philippines started its participation in the Summer Olympics in 1924 in Paris, France, it has only captured a total of nine medals in three disciplines (Athletics, Swimming and Boxing).

None of these is a gold, however. The country is still looking for its first gold medalist and will be relying on the 15 athletes it is sending to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. As an incentive, an athlete who wins a gold medal will receive a cash prize of Php15 million (or about $342,309, based on a Php43.82 to $1 exchange rate), which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced recently.

Here are a few facts: The Philippines has captured silver medals twice, both in boxing. Only once has the country had multiple medalists in an edition of the Olympics. Up to now, only one athlete – Teofilo Yldefonso – holds the distinction of being a multiple medal winner. Boxing continues to be the sport that gives the Philippines a good chance for medals (five in all – two silvers, three bronzes).

In two instances, members from the same family have won medals in the same sport in the Olympics. This would be Jose Villanueva and his son Anthony Villanueva, and the Velasco brothers (Roel and Mansueto).

The country has actually won a gold medal, although it did not count in the official tally. That was in the 1988 Seoul Olympics when bowler Arianne Cerdena captured the gold in Women’s Bowling which was a demonstration sport. Bowling, unfortunately, was dropped in subsequent editions of the Olympics.

Additionally, two athletes copped bronzes in Taekwondo (Stephen Fernandez and Bea Lucero) in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when Taekwondo was also still a demonstration sport.

As far as highest finishes in other disciplines in the Summer Olympics, here are a few notables: a) The Philippines finished in 5th place in Men’s Basketball in the 1936 Berlin Olympics; b) Anthony Naranjilla finished in 37th place in the Men’s Individual Competition in Archery in the 1972 Munich Olympics; c) Hector Begeo made the Semifinals of the 3,000m Steeplechase in the 1988 Seoul Olympics; and d) Herman Suizo finished in 52nd place in the Men’s Marathon event in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Here is the list of Filipino medalists in the Summer Olympics:

1928 Amsterdam Olympics: Teofilo Yldefonso, Bronze, Men’s 200m Breaststroke

1932 Los Angeles Olympics: Teofilo Yldefonso, Bronze, Men’s 200m Breaststroke; Simeon Toribio, Bronze, Men’s High Jump; Jose Villanueva, Bronze, Men’s Bantamweight (Boxing)

1936 Berlin Olympics: Miguel White, Bronze, Men’s 400m Hurdles

1964 Tokyo Olympics: Anthony Villanueva, Silver, Men’s Featherweight (Boxing)

1988 Seoul Olympics: Leopoldo Serrantes, Bronze, Men’s Light Flyweight (Boxing)

1992 Barcelona Olympics: Roel Velasco, Bronze, Men’s Light Flyweight (Boxing)

1996 Atlanta Olympics: Mansueto Velasco, Silver, Men’s Light Flyweight (Boxing).

(Source: Wikipedia)


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Natalie Coughlin: Like Fish to Olympic Waters

by Momar Visaya/AJPress
There are a few celebrities in sports whose presence at the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing is both widely and wildly anticipated. Natalie Coughlin is one of them.

Her path to Olympic fame and glory began when she was just a young kid swimming in her parents’ backyard pool. Her dad Jim, a Vallejo police officer and mom Zennie, a Kaiser paralegal, also enrolled Natalie and her sister Megan in swimming classes.

This path however was not paved with the proverbial gold. She was a swimming prodigy at 15, and at the age of 17, she missed, by two seconds, the last spot for the swim team then, which was set to compete at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Instead of sulking, Natalie began her rehabilitation plan and trained harder than usual. Four short years later, she reaped her rewards.

Natalie was propelled to superstardom when she won five medals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Then 21 years old, she won golds in the 100-meter backstroke and the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, silvers in the 4×100 freestyle and medley relays and a bronze medal in the 100-meter freestyle.

In 2006, Natalie wrote a book with Sports Illustrated’s Michael Silver entitled, Golden Girl: How Natalie Coughlin Fought Back, Challenged Conventional Wisdom, and Became America’s Olympic Champion.

A psychology graduate from UC Berkeley, Coughlin (pronounced cog-lin) will be one of 10,500 athletes to compete in 302 events in 28 sports during the Olympics.

In an exclusive interview with the Asian Journal, Natalie shared her training regimen, her lola’s chicken adobo and her wish to learn Tagalog in the future.

Asked to describe herself in three words, Natalie responded: “Perfectionist, realist, stubborn.”

Here are excerpts from the interview.

Asian Journal (AJ): How is your training regimen these days? Do you have a pre-competition routine?

Natalie Coughlin (NC): My daily routine is really no different than it usually is. I still maintain my swimming, weights, and Pilates schedule. Since I’m in training camp, there is a lot more rest time (a.k.a. nothing to do). My pre-competition routine is always the same and it involves a lot of stretching and a little bit of swimming.

AJ: You are looked upon as a role model by the youth, what is your message to them?

NC: Be active! Get involved in some sort of sport or other activity and have fun with it. H2O Audio’s waterproof mp3 case is a way to make sports more fun by allowing you to swim, surf or run while listening to your favorite music.

(Editor’s Note: Natalie is one of the endorsers of H20 Audio, the leading brand of waterproof and ruggedized sports accessories. She is also the company’s swim gear design and development advisor.)

AJ: Not a lot of people know that you have Filipino blood. How many percent Filipino are you?

NC: I’m a quarter-Filipino.

AJ: Did you grow up eating Filipino food? Do you still eat Filipino food? What are your favorites?

NC: Yes, I grew up eating a lot of Filipino food. My family blends Filipino food and American food at all of our gatherings.  Halo-halo is one of my favorite treats. And I’m sure everyone says this, but my grandma’s Chicken Adobo is by far the best I have ever tasted.

AJ: Have you been to the Philippines?

NC: Unfortunately I haven’t been there yet. My family is from Cavite.

AJ: Did your lola (grandmother) teach you how to speak tagalog?

NC: Although my family speaks Tagalog amongst themselves, I was never taught. I am using a computer program called Rosetta Stone that is helping me learn Tagalog…maybe now I’ll know what my family is saying about me!

AJ: How is your diet like these days? What are your favorite foods?

NC: I eat a lot of organic fruits and vegetables. I try to fill my plate mostly with vegetables in a variety of different colors. My favorite foods are Vietnamese and Peruvian.

AJ: What is the best thing about swimming?

NC: I love being in the sun and in the fresh air. I am passionate about swimming and thrilled to have the opportunity to help people throughout the swimming community experience the fun of listening to quality music while enjoying a swim or participating in other water sports.

AJ: What is your favorite event? How many events will you be competing in?

NC: My favorite event is probably the 100 back. I will compete in up to six events in Beijing, including relays. My individual events are the 100 back, 200 IM and 100 free.

(Editor’s Note: Natalie is the American record-holder in four events on the Olympic schedule.)

AJ: You now lead the 58 club, how did you prepare for that?

NC: Lots of hard training!

(Natalie broke the 59-second mark with a time of 58.97 seconds. She was also the first woman to break the one minute mark in the 100-meter backstroke.)

AJ: What do you do when you are not swimming?

NC: I really enjoy cooking and eating.

AJ: What are your other favorite sports?

NC: I enjoy watching track & field, I personally like to surf and run for cross-training.

AJ: Who was your role model as a child growing up? Has that changed?

NC: I didn’t really have any specific role models. However, I did enjoy watching Summer Sanders and Janet Evans.

AJ: What’s your favorite song to listen to underwater?

NC:  Any Jack Johnson song.

AJ: What is the best part about swimming with music?

NC: It puts me in tune with both the music and the water.

AJ: What’s your advice to the next generation of world record swimmers?

NC: Don’t take anything too seriously.

AJ: If you weren’t an Olympic swimmer what would you be?

NC:  A professional dancer but I have no experience.

(Special thanks to Tom Harvey of H20 Audio for facilitating the interview. For more information about the Natalie Coughlin Signature Series, visit http://www.h2oaudio.com/)


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The promised land: I-Hotel’s legacy lives

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress
During the mid 1960s, the I-Hotel, officially known as the International Hotel was targeted for demolition because of the urban renewal and redevelopment movement. The first eviction notices were issued to residents in 1968, but nine years of litigation, public protests and disagreements ensued.

A home, a community
Built in 1907, the I-Hotel was a low-cost residential hotel located at the corner of Kearny and Jackson Streets in the Manilatown section of San Francisco.   It was not only a home to many Asian Americans, but a community, specifically to the Filipino American population. But San Francisco’s growing financial district has made the land a prime piece of real estate.

The I-Hotel was a place to thousands of seasonal Asian laborers in the 1920s and 1930s  — many who were young Filipino and Chinese men who worked as laborers, dishwashers, messengers and other jobs that were referred to as “appropriate for Orientals.”  There were also the “old-timers,” those who settled in San Francisco after years of working in seasonal harvests, on merchant ships and canneries in Alaska and Washington.

For the most part also, Asian women were excluded from entering the US until 1965, preventing most men in Chinatown and Manilatown from having their own families.  According to Roots of Justice:  Stories of Organizing in Communities of Color by Larry R. Solomon, California’s antimiscegenation laws prevented Filipinos and other Asians from marrying outside their race, and the white elite pushed “race preservation” by bringing the issue before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization.

Still, life persisted, and the neighborhood grew to a community filled with camaraderie.

Lost, but not beaten
After WWII, plans were made to expand the downtown business center in San Francisco.  Low-cost housing, restaurants, barber shops, markets, clubs and other businesses that benefited the Filipino community were destroyed.  One of the hotels slated for demolition was the I-Hotel.  In March 1968, business magnate Walter Shorenstein bought the I-Hotel and made plans to construct a multilevel parking lot on the site.  Securing a demolition permit, he ordered the evictions of the 196 tenants.

But the word was put out – the battle cry was to “Fight to Save the I-Hotel.”  Students, community leaders and activists were up for the fight, a long one.  The final residents were evicted on August 4, 1977. In 1978, then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein created an International Hotel Citizens Advisory Committee, which was unable to break the deadlock between low-cost housing advocates and the property owner. The building stood empty while the fate of the site continued to be debated, but was finally demolished in 1981.

The site was acquired by St. Mary’s in 1994, but the air rights was later sold to Chinatown Community Development Center which planned to build a replacement low-cost residential project. Construction began on the new I-Hotel in 2003, and the building was completed on August 26, 2005. The new building contains 105 apartments of senior housing. A lottery was held to determine priority for occupancy, with 2 residents of the original I-Hotel given priority. Occupancy started in October 2005. The Manilatown Heritage Foundation now sits in the area, with a historical display commemorating the original I-Hotel.

(Editor’s note:  Last August 4, 2008 was the commemoration of the final eviction of the tenants of I-Hotel.  Various activities are scheduled including a film showing of Manilatown is in the Heart, a time travel documentary, on August 9.  For more information, log on to http://www.manilatown.org)


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