Friday, September 30, 2011

Mr. Big...Big, Bigger, Biggest, Bestest!

Oldies still rock...and they rock hard! Mr. Big is back and boy are they better than ever! These were the boys who gave us the eternal song To Be With You which I bet everyone has heard for at least once since its debut in the early 90s. They broke up in 2002 due to internal conflicts but came back together (destiny?) in 2009 and released a new album late 2010. This year, they have been touring relentlessly all over the world, even in the US and they are rockin' the world one night at a time. 

It was a big surprise and delight to the Filipino fans, when they included our little country in their What If World Tour. I admit, their Bump Ahead album was one of the first cassette tapes that I first bought. I love their melodic rock music, how their songs are still melodic enough for fans to sing with, but with the right taste and mixture of rock. The first time they visited the Philippines, it was incidentally on my birthday, but I was not yet old enough to go to a rock concert then. And after 17 years, they have come back to Manila and the show was amazing! I actually didn't hear about the petition that the Mr. Big fans did online to bring the band here since their reunion tour in 2009. I accidentally saw their concert being advertised in Ticketnet and right then and there, I told myself, I GOTTA WATCH THIS!!! 

It was probably one of the most underrated concerts this year, especially since it was scheduled on the same day as Justin Bieber's concert! But who cares, I still went. Even Eric Martin didn't mind the clash of schedules and threw several Bieber jokes during the show to the delight of the crowd. As the advertisement said, be ready to sing big hit after big hit. And we did sing, danced and rocked during the concert! The venue was not sold out but the crowd was spectacular as you know that each one is a real fan of the band, who waited 17 loooong years for this comeback concert. It was a night to remember, cheesy as it may sound, but Eric, Billy, Pat and Paul didn't disappoint. They played classic Mr. Big songs as well as new songs from their new album and everyone was singing with them. Billy was so amazed at how Filipino fans just sing along with their songs, that he even tweeted about it and posted a fan video of how loud the fans sang. The atmosphere was really electrifying and what made us happier was that Eric said that they were amazed at how wonderful the crowd was and that they will sure be back sooner than before. 

The band played for more than 2 hours, but I know each one of us in the venue didn't want the night to end. Mr. Big performed so well, Eric's vocals and the boys' harmonies where impeccable. Billy and Pat showed the crowd why they are one of the best bassist and guitarist in the world. The long hair may be gone, but Mr. Big is definitely back. And thank you guys for including us in your world tour :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Back to Back Champs!

Yesterday, the University of the Philippines Pep Squad or simply UP Pep Squad defended their title in the UAAP Cheerdance competition, and boy, did they defend it well! They were head and shoulders above all the other schools complete with their Madonna-inspired blonde hair get up. The support from the crowd was electrifying, the performance was flawless, and thus, they were rewarded with their 7th UAAP Cheerdance crown.

UP may have the worst men's basketball team, but we are the team to beat when it comes to cheer dancing! One more title and we will be tying UST's 8 crowns. Let's go UP! UP FIGHT!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

1.5 Minutes

I actually wrote this article earlier this year and submitted it to the official Mercedes GP Petronas website when they asked for fan articles about experiences with the MercGP team. It is still published on the website until now :) I just added my own pictures and videos. Enjoy!

It was a once in a lifetime experience that I thought I would never achieve. Ever since I started following Formula One in the late 1990s, I have dreamed of watching races live at the track and meeting Michael Schumacher. Living in the Philippines, it was really not an easy dream to realise. Formula One in our country is not really a popular sport, with the races being broadcasted only by cable television channels, thus not much people, especially in the late 90s and early 2000s knew about the sport. But it is a sport that I fell in love with at first sight. I always loved cars and F1 has that. And I just adore Schumacher, who never ceases to amaze me by his never ending passion to bring out the best from himself and his team. I celebrated with him during the Ferrari glory years and stuck with him through the heavily criticized maneuvers and felt totally saddened, together with his millions of fans worldwide, when he announced in Monza last 2006, that he was hanging up his helmet. And so, I told myself, I promise to watch him live on track in my next lifetime.

What I didn’t know was that better times are ahead. Who would have thought that the Meister would return to racing? He left the sport in 2006, when he was still a member of Ferrari, a team rich with racing history. He joined the sport again in 2010 to race for a team that is also overflowing with racing history. It was a dream Christmas present to his fans when Ross Brawn announced that they have indeed signed Michael for three years! I told myself, this is my second chance in making my dream come true! I have to watch Michael in one of his races this time!

And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I have just finished studying and finally graduated from medical school and thus I have the time and saved enough money to go to Sepang. I purchased my tickets so early in the season that I was able to take advantage of the early bird promo! Arriving in Malaysia, I still couldn’t believe I was actually living my dream. Good things just kept on happening. The week before the race, I was already in Malaysia and I was ecstatic to find out that the MERCEDES GP PETRONAS team would have an appearance in the streets of Kuala Lumpur to do a street demonstration! They have lots of activities for the fans because the Malaysian Grand Prix is considered as one of their home races due to their title partner, PETRONAS. I didn’t know this when I purchased the ticket! All I was thinking was that, Malaysia is the best venue for me to watch because the tickets are cheaper and it is near the Philippines. Being a home race is a superb bonus for me!

The street demo day finally arrived and it was a BLAST! We got to sit very near the demo area, and were really close to the cars, and of course to the team including Michael, Nico and Ross. The demo was in the afternoon at around 3pm and we braved the torrential rain just to be able to get a great view for the demo. Donning our PETRONAS ponchos, which they gave away for free, we sat on the wet bleachers and waited for the drivers. When Michael and Nico first appeared, I was so excited, I couldn’t believe I was actually seeing Michael and Nico in the flesh! 

The atmosphere was very exciting, everyone was shouting their names and to please the crowd, Michael and Nico waved and gave the thumbs up sign to the fans at every opportunity. The street demo did not disappoint. Nico went first, then Michael. Michael did several donuts in front of us, despite the wet tarmac. 

The Mercedes engine was loud but it was like music to my ears! It was unbelievable that I was actually just several feet away from the car and from my sporting hero. It was exhilarating! At the end of the demo, we were even allowed to go and touch the Mercedes Safety Car! It was unbelievable!

But what would top all of those was race day on Sunday. It was the day of the official autograph signing by the drivers. We found out that Michael and Nico would be one of the first drivers to sign autographs and so by 8am, we were already lining up in the meet and greet area. I was probably the 15th person to fall in line. 

We all sat down on the ground, shielded ourselves from the sun, made ourselves comfortable because we still have four hours to wait for Schumi and Nico! Yes! Four hours! The signing was scheduled at 12 noon, but people had started to line up as early as 8am. I told myself that I couldn’t miss this opportunity and so it wasn’t hard for me to endure the heat for four hours!

And it was well worth it! When they announced that the drivers were already here, I craned my neck to see Michael and Nico. And indeed they were there! Waving to the crowd, then they sat down on the tables to start the session. 
Not taken by me (was too excited to click the camera!). Kudos to the photographer who took this!

The line incredibly moved briskly once the session started and sooner rather than later, I found myself face to face with the drivers! First it was the Toro Rosso drivers, then the Sauber drivers… it was happening so fast. But at the end of the table, the line went a little slower. Nico was the second to the last driver, then saving the best for last was Michael. When I reached Nico, he smiled and signed a postcard and gave it to me. I was thrilled and said thank you and he was very gracious to smile back. Then it was Michael’s turn. I held out my old 2002 Schumi World Champion cap and asked him if he could sign it for me. I was so nervous that I gave the cap to him with the back side facing him! He nodded and smiled and rotated the cap to sign the front end. Honestly, I was so star-struck that I think I forgot how to speak or smile or move! When he finished signing, he took one of his postcards and handed it to me together with the cap.

I think I remembered saying thank you and wishing him luck on his race that afternoon. I don’t think he heard me with all the commotion going on around us, but he smiled at me and that simple smile and his nod at the beginning was enough to make my day... it was the happiest day of my life! I waited four hours outside under the sun, add to that the years I have been dreaming about meeting Michael, and meeting him for 1.5 minutes made all the waiting worthwhile! I was on cloud nine after that for several days.

The race suddenly just became a bonus for me as the highlight was really meeting Michael. The race did turn out to be one of the best for the MERCEDES GP PETRONAS team because Nico was able to finish on the podium for the first time in the season. When he took the chequered flag, I cheered with all the other Mercedes fans and it was a wonderful feeling to share the enthusiasm with other people! 

Our view of lap 2 of the Malaysian GP 2010. Wonderful sounds!

All in all, I still can’t believe that I have achieved a dream that I thought I never had a chance of reaching. It goes to show that if you dream it, work hard for it, and see yourself in it, you can achieve it.

Good luck to the whole MERCEDES GP PETRONAS team for the 2011 season! We are all behind you whatever happens. Let’s all keep moving forward!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Maraming Salamat Tim Cone

After 22 years of coaching the Alaska Aces, winning 13 championships including 1 rare Grand Slam feat and 25 Finals appearance,Tim Cone bids farewell to Alaska in a quest for new challenges in the future. 

The announcement, even though it has been in the rumor mill for quite some weeks now, still came as a shock to the fans of this basketball team that has always been known as the team with the triangle offense and Tim Cone. If other teams have franchise players, Alaska has a franchise coach. Players have come and gone, but Tim always remains with Alaska, thru thick and thin. And so, when Alaska management sent a note that an emergency press conference was to be held on Sept 1, 2011, everyone started to speculate that something big is brewing behind the scenes of one of the PBA's most successful teams. Alaska never holds press conferences and so this one must be for something pretty big. 

And it was as big as can owner Wilfred Uytengsu, started the press conference by saying that they have released Coach Tim Cone despite a live contract that runs till the end of 2013. An era has suddenly ended, with the players and fans shell-shocked with the announcement. According to the Aces' Website
It came as quite a surprise to me when Tim asked me for his release last week.” Uytengsu stated. “We talked about his reasons and discussed the past and what had been accomplished. I thought he gave this more thought after we first met and felt Tim believed there was still more to do with Alaska. So when he came back after just a couple of days and said he felt he needed a new challenge and wanted to do something different and really stretch himself, I just couldn’t reconcile it. Despite having a live contract with two remaining years, the Alaska Aces have released Cone upon his request.
Cone then gathered his Aces for the last time and bid farewell to the players. He hasn't told the players about his decision before the official announcement. 
“I can’t explain it, I can’t explain why, but it just came,” he said, as the players listened intently, as if they were in a huddle in the middle of the arena instead of a posh cafe in Makati. “This is the right time. You’re not gonna miss a beat without me.”
Tim made it clear that the decision was "a leap of faith and not because of another offer." He also said that the "hardest part of the decision was also leaving the players. I don't want them to feel I'm abandoning them. It's a truly difficult process."

Uytengsu tapped first assistant coach Joel Banal to replace Tim. He is, in my opinion, the one who deserves to replace Coach Tim and I believe that the Aces will succeed with him. Add to that the intact lineup with four possible new rookies, as Tim Cone said, he is leaving the Aces in good hands.

But still, it was a heartbreaker because Tim has been the face of Alaska since 1989. Some fans even thought he was the young Alaska boy in the cans of Alaska Milk! We will miss his presence in the Alaska bench, his temper tantrums over non-calls and bad calls, his technical fouls, his "Alright..." that starts in every huddle during a time out. If he is to coach another team, I can't imagine Tim wearing those uniform shirts of the coaches instead of his long-sleeved and neck tie outfit that has been an Alaska tradition. But we all respect Tim's decision and it is true, that all good things must come to an end. I bid him farewell and good luck with his future endeavors. May he find the right path that will enable him to grow some more. As team manager Joaqui Trillo said, 
"He's one of the best coaches ever. I won't put him on that level yet, HE CAN DO MORE."
And so another chapter in the history of the Alaska team ends...a door closes but with this, a new window opens, a new era begins. But what stays the same is the tradition of the Aces. And that tradition is a winning tradition. 

 The 13th Championship (2010), the last under Coach Tim Cone where the Aces, being the underdog from the quarterfinals to the Finals, beat all the big named teams of MVP and SMC.