Forging Unity through Sports

From: Philippine Star Sports

By: Philip Ella Juico

Date: December 17, 2008

A few days before the historic dream match between Manny Pacquiao and Osacar de la Hoya, we witnessed what turned out to be, on hindsign, a run-up to Pacquiao’s stunning victory in Las Vegas.

The occasion marked the launch at the Mandarin Oriental in Makati of the book of Art Valdez, “Live the Dream,” and the Philippine Everest Team’s new project, the Voyage of the Balangay. Valdez, a former Department of Transportation and Communications undersecretary, was the expedition leader of the Everest team that scaled the world’s talled mountain on May 16 and 17, 2007. The May 16 team consisted of Janet Belarmino-Sardena, Carina Dayondon and Noelle Wenceslao. The May 17 group was made up of Valdez, Fred Jamili, Dr. Ted Esquerra, Voltaire Velasco, Leo Oracion and Pasto Emata.

Valdez’s book narrated the adventure of the Filipino Mt. Everest climbers.

The voyage of the Balangay, on the other hand, aims to rebuild the balangay or the “Butuan boat”, an ancient boat that was found in Butuan City in 1978. It was carbon-dated to have been constructed in 320 A.D. The balangay was used by the early Filipino seafarers for maritime trade and migration from mainland Asia to nearby islands.

The authentic balangay will be crafted by master boat builders from the islands of Sibutu and Sitangkay in Tawi-Tawi whose skills have been handed down through generations. Valdez says the builders will use the same shipbuilding techniques and raw materials to build the boat. Once recreated, it will travel in every major port of the Philippines and later around Southeast Asia stirring up awareness about the country’s rich maritime heritage and campaign for the preservation of the environment and vanishing natural resources.

Set to sail in 2009, the balangay seeks to promote unity among Filipinos and its neighboring Asian countries. In exhorting the Philippine team to achieve a new record – breaking feat through the balangay, Valdez says, “In these times, we need to extol Filipino virtues, go back to our roots and show to the world na Kaya ng Pinoy (Yes, the Filipino can!). We plan to achieve this through the Voyage of Balangay just like what we did in Mt. Everest.”

United did the Filipinos stand during the Pacquiao-De la Hoya “Dream Match” on Dec. 7. We watched the live telecast of the fight at the invitation of businessman-car enthusiast-sportsman and former Quezon City second district Congressman Antonio (Tony) Aquino at the Zeno Bar which is just behind the BMW show room in Libis/C-5.

Aquino, 60, was one of the founders and major backers of the Corporate Cup, a popular marathon for executives in the 70’s, and has made it a practice to invite friends and close associates to Zeno and the BMW showroom every time there is a live telecast of a Pacquiao bout. Aquino’s support for Pacquiao’s fights has attracted so much attention that it has grown from a small gathering of friends, car and motorcycle enthusiasts and BMW clients to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 500.

Aquino, who is chairman of BMW Autohaus and Autohaus president Bobby Rosales, do not charge entrance fees since the telecast seeks to cement goodwill between Autohaus and the fast-growing community of BMW owners in the country.

The big crowd that came to view the telecast in the showroom, which had its own wide screen, prompted Aquino to remove his expensive BMW sedans and motorcycles to give way to chairs and tables. Inside the Zeno bar, which serves delectable Filipino and western cuisine, some 70 people were packed inside the lounge frequented by top executives and government functionaries.

Aside from the Corporate Cup, Aquino’s earlier car dealership, Toyota Autosphere, was a sponsor of the classic Korchnoi-Karpov world chess championship in Baguio City in the late 70’s. The major sports activity that occupies Aquino’s attention nowadays is the BMW Open which is an international competition among BMW owners all over the world.

Sharing a table with me, together with my son, Vincent, and daughter, Mayen, were Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila. Both hardworking technocrats, Duque, who had been interviewed by media just before coming over to Zeno, and Favila, who had just recovered from a bout with flu, no doubt due to a punishing schedule, confessed to be avid boxing aficionados and fans of Pacquiao.

Aquino, who once played basketball for the San Beda Red Lions in the NCAA in the 60’s and was with the Red and White track and field team, aside from being basketball team manager when he graduated from college, says he and Rosales will continue to hold this public service for sports fans as BMW Autohaus’ contribution to sports development and forging national unity.