Posts Tagged ‘sports’

pop goes the world: b-ball and the bigger picture

I wrote a review of this book in 2010 for a PhD class and posted it in its full form on the blog here.

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  13 September 2012, Thursday

B-ball and the Bigger Picture

“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”

This is the standard safety warning on vehicle side mirrors, cautioning drivers who might be misled about the proximity of things around them on the road.

We could borrow this phrase to mean that people immersed in a certain culture might not be aware or take for granted certain nuances of detail in its usage, practice, and tradition that are glaring or obvious to foreigners.

In other words, to learn more about ourselves, it is also useful to find out what others think about us or how they perceive us.

Take writer Rafe Bartholomew’s basketball memoir “Pacific Rims” (2010).  A player and enthusiast of the game, Bartholomew (a Medill Journalism graduate) obtained a Fulbright grant to study basketball in the Philippines for one year. He ended up staying for three.

Rafe Bartholomew. Image here.

He played wherever he could, joining pickup games with kanto tambays in makeshift courts and in fully-maintained courts in the barangays in elite residential villages. He played with men wearing expensive trainers and men wearing worn flip-flops. He followed the fortunes of a professional basketball team – the Alaska Aces – and charted their triumphs and defeats until the exhilarating denouement of the season.

Bartholomew recounts his researches at the Ateneo de Manila University library and in newspaper and magazine morgues to trace the history of basketball in the country. The sport was introduced at the turn of the last century during the American colonial period, when the Americans taught the sport first to young women as a physical exercise, and later to men.

From that time, basketball captured the nation’s heart and became so embedded in the country’s psyche that it is nearly inextricable – so the author says – from its politics and other social elements.

A game on a barangay basketball court. Image here.

Evident in Bartholomew’s narrative is the importance of relationships within the collective consciousness of the Filipino. The relationships he observed between team owner and players, coaches and players, players and fans, and so on, were clearly delineated and nurtured. The depth of the level of interaction between the Filipino players and fans, he said, is something he felt would be impossible to achieve within the context of American basketball.

Bartholomew also noted differences between the Alaska team’s Filipino players, the Filipino-American players who grew up in the United States, and the lone American import with regard to personal space. He noticed how Filipinos are more disposed towards touching each other and are comfortable doing so, whereas Fil-Ams and Americans tend to keep distance from each other and observe a greater degree of private space, even in the context of social activities such as chatting and male-bonding rituals such as roughhousing.

Bartholomew perceived that people of all socio-economic backgrounds enjoy basketball, but based on social stratifications, their experiences of the sport were markedly different. Those of lower socio-economic status played on makeshift or barangay courts. The latter may be well-appointed – as the author remarks, some barangay courts are better than New York city public courts – but whether a barangay court is well-appointed or not depends on the political agendas of the barangayand local government officials. Those belonging to the elite of society play on school courts, some of which are so expensive that at one university, the hardwood was imported from a court played upon by NBA players.

This image by Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images was used as the cover for the book Pacific Rims. Image here. 

He also described the unano versus bading (yes, they are billed that way) exhibit games in the provinces. At first he was disgusted by what he perceived as a demeaning and humiliating activity. But upon his interviewing the people concerned, he was surprised to find that in fact the  players considered themselves performers, were glad of the opportunity to work, and can be seen as themselves having power over their audiences in the reactions they can elicit from spectators through their performances.

There are quite a few more cultural points that he observed, some of them norms related to racial biases, the celebrity culture, accommodative behavior, use of humor as a coping mechanism, and tacit collusion to achieve common goals, but I won’t preempt your enjoyment of the book.

I’ll end by saying that in this first-ever book-length work by a foreigner on Philippine basketball, Bartholomew confirms the universality of sport as a phenomenon. It is an activity that may be enjoyed across cultures, all around the world; and talent may come from anyone anywhere, especially with Filipino-style basketball being largely learn-as-you-go.

These insights are relevant now that it is the height of the UAAP season. The games are so popular that tickets often go for high prices, more so when old school rivalries come into play at Ateneo vs. La Salle games. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook carry play-by-plays and score updates. School-themed merchandise fill stores so that fans can wear their pride colors. 

Competition is fierce at the 2012 UAAP games. Image here.

But in general our perception of all this is matter-of-fact. Such a response to a phenomenon speaks volumes about our society, in what it is we take for granted and others see as an uncommon or unusual thing.

As Bartholomew’s book explores the cross-cultural boundaries of communication, it also shows us that reflected in the mirror is one of things that makes up the heart and soul of the Filipino. *** 

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pop goes the world: have you hugged your kids today?

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  26 January 2012, Thursday

Have You Hugged Your Kids Today?

Last Saturday was an interesting time for our family as we went to support our youngest in her first cheerdance ever.

Erika is a high school freshman at Colegio de Santa Rosa-Makati, and she’d been waiting for this moment since she was in elementary school. My eldest, Alexandra, who graduated from the same school several years ago, was as intense about the annual experience as her sister.

Apparently it’s a big deal to kids nowadays, this cheerdance thing. It pits year levels (“batches”) against each other in about ten to fifteen minutes of competition, featuring new cheers authored by the batch incorporated into dance routines that blend jazz/funk/modern dance styles with gymnastics. The batch that has dancers and gymnasts has an edge in the competition.

We didn’t have this during our time, so I asked my kids, “It’s an event that brings batches together in unity and camaraderie while honing skills in friendly competition against the students of other years to build school spirit and sisterhood, right?”

They looked at each other and frowned at me. “No, Mama. Cheerdance is war.”

CSR Freshmen do their routine in the 2011 Cheerdance Competition. The dancers are in front, the pep squad in the back. An iPhone 4S image.

At CSR-Makati, elementary students perform simple dance/exercise routines called “field demonstrations”. The children wear costumes and dance to music in line with a theme for that year. Last year, when Ik was in sixth grade, they swung to 70s and 80s music while dressed in bellbottom jeans and platform shoes and let me tell you, the parents were dancing along with their daughters on the CSR field. It was that fun.

But field demos are for babies. Cheerdance is a whole ‘nother level, and it’s only for the high school. Students in each batch join one of three groups, according to skill and inclination – dancers, pep squad, and propsmen.

The “props” take care of physical requirements such as banners, boxes covered with glitter, cardboard motorbikes, and other accessories that the batch requires in its routine.

The pep squad comprises most of the students in a batch and they are backup dancers. The dancers are the stars of the show, and are chosen via auditions held by the choreographer hired for that year.

Yes, these competitions are serious enough to require the services of professional dance and cheerdance choreographers, who are often members of cheerdance squads in universities and colleges.

Each high school batch at CSR comes out on the field dressed in the colors assigned to that year level – freshmen green, sophomores yellow, juniors red, seniors blue. The propsmen and pep squad members wear jogging pants and batch t-shirts specially designed and printed for the occasion, often with the batch name. The dancers wear more elaborate costumes in keeping with the chosen theme or music. The parents and connections come wearing shirts in the colors of their daughters’ year levels.

 Cheerdance Competition 2012 at Colegio de Sta. Rosa-Makati. The batches assemble on the field to await the results of the contest. An iPhone 4S image.

Because it’s a contest, watching a cheerdance is more suspenseful and tense than watching a field demo. Parents crowd to be in the front, or stake out seats on the second floor of the school building and set up camera tripods. There’s play-by-play commentary from bystanders, more often than not school alumni who come to support their younger sisters, who have been preparing for this day through rigorous daily practice over a couple of months, and by watching videos of performances of previous years.

Originality of choreography, cheers, and costume; level of difficulty; energy level; and number of lifts, human pyramids, and tumbling runs are among the criteria used to judge the winners. Because they are older and bigger, first and second place usually go to either the juniors or seniors. This is something accepted by the freshmen and sophomores; they’re content with just not coming in last.

This year’s cheerdance winner at CSR turned out to be the Juniors, who rocked an exotic Bollywood theme with the dancers dressed in “Princess Jasmine”-inspired bodices and sheer headdresses. Their advantage was that they had a former UP Pep Squad member as their coach.

The University of the Philippines Varsity Pep Squad is perhaps the most famous university cheerdance group today. They have won seven UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines) Cheerdance Competitions, the most recent in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. The UP Pep Squad led Team Philippines in the 6th Cheerleading Worlds held last November 2011 in Hongkong, placing third in the Cheer Mixed category.

UP Pep Squad winning the 2011 UAAP Cheerdance. Image here.

Cheerdance combines the athleticism of gymnastics with the aesthetics of dance, and it’s also an enjoyable exercise for teaching the values of teamwork and harmony. I hope other schools that don’t have this yet will consider it for their students. Government and non-government organizations could look into this for their youth programs. What better way for kids to spend the afternoon than tumbling with each other in the grass, rather than being stuck indoors playing video games?

This entire cheerdance thing also reminds me of a couple of things. The first – a bumper sticker that my former father-in-law, a veterinarian and racehorse trainer, used to have on his old car – “Have you hugged your horse today?”

The second – the way my father showed his affection for my sister and me. When he’d come home in the late afternoon, he’d greet us by planting sniff-kisses on our heads and saying, “Olor del sol!” And off we’d go for our evening baths.

Our children are special. Let them know. Gather them in the circle of your arms right now, kiss them on the top of their heads that smell like our tropical sun, and share the warmth of your love for and pride in them.

* * * * *

The National Youth Commission announced the opening of applications to the 9th Parliament of Youth Leaders.

The parliament, which was started in 1996, gathers young people from around the country to brainstorm policy recommendations for youth issues. The recommendations are sent to government leaders to be considered as proposed bills and administrative policies.

This year’s theme is “Revolutionizing Youth Development”. The event hopes to expose young people to how political and organizational procedures and mechanisms may be used to effect positive changes in society.

Scheduled for the first week of May 2012, the parliament is expected to have over 200 youth leaders 15-30 years old as participants. Learn about the qualifications and download application forms at or email The deadline for applications is February 29.

* * * * *

The Carlos Palanca Foundation is accepting entries to its Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature from February 1 to April 30. Contest rules and forms will soon be released at its website,  * * *

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pop goes the world: pacman and pinoy pride

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 18 November 2010, Thursday

Pacman and Pinoy Pride

Galit talaga si Pacman sa guwapo. When he’s up against handsome foes, he rearranges their faces into less attractive patterns.

That’s one of the many witticisms buzzing in the grapevines after Sarangani congressman and champion boxer Manny Pacquiao’s latest victory in the ring. His masterful control of the prizefight againstAntonio Margarito of Mexico impressed the denizens of spectators at the Texas venue and all around the world.

The event promotional poster. Image from here.

And Filipinos, true to form, busted out with the wisecracks after the win. (It would have been a different story if Pacquiao had lost.) Upon seeing Margarito’s face swell to twice normal size during the beating he took from Pacquiao, friends I watched the fight with said, “His last name suits him – maga ritoAt maga roon.”

Kidding aside, it was obvious before the fight that Pacquiao would have to work hard for this win. Kibitzing with officemates last Friday, I predicted that it would be a Pacquiao win by unanimous decision in 12 rounds. My friends were all for KO or TKO. But Margarito had the weight and height advantage, and was sturdy and robust compared to that peanut brittle Ricky Hatton, who went down under Pacquiao’s pokes – those weren’t even serious punches – in the second round.

At the pre-fight weigh-in. Image from here.

Manny would have to wear down the Tijuana Tornado; and he did it like the worst tropical typhoon that ever devastated a landscape, drowning Margarito under a barrage of blows to the kisser and quenching the fire of his long-armed jabs.

A Los Angeles-based Filipino friend, Ray San Juan, said of the fight: “It was like Zen watching Manny control the game. He was like water, just flowing with the energies of the match, as opposed to Margarito’s listless flat-footedness.”

Margarito tried to defend himself, but in vain; the accuracy of Manny’s punches were such that his glove would ram in between Margarito’s arms that were shielding his face.

First one of Margarito’s eyes swelled, then blood flowed from a cut, then the other eye ballooned, as did his bruised cheeks. After a Pacquiao makeover, Margarito’s own mother wouldn’t have recognized him.

“I really punished his face,” said Manny in the after-fight interview. Yet Manny had no stomach for his handiwork; he looked pleadingly at the referee to end the fight, full of pity for his determined foe, but Margarito, peeking through puffy eyelids, declared he would soldier on. Pacquiao would have wanted a fight stoppage to spare Margarito any further injury. “Boxing is not for killing each other,” he declared.

The Pacman Makeover: De La Hoya, Diaz, Hatton, Cotto, and Margarito after their bouts with Pacquiao. Image from here.

They fought a good fight. Both are valiant warriors, excellent examples of specialists of the sweet science. They persevered though beset with challenges – Margarito and his obvious dehydration, a factor that contributed to his weakness and slowness; Pacquiao and his weight gain to move up a class.

At the finish, viewers were left with admiration for Margarito’s grit and Pacquiao’s matchless strength, speed, and skill. Ray added, “Even the Mexicans at the sportsbar where we viewed it cheered for Pacquiao.”It’s great to hear about them cheering for the Pinoy Mexicutioner. It’s obvious they know a great thing when they see it. The admiration for the strong, speedy, and skillful transcends national boundaries.

Margarito cowers beneath the onslaught of Pacquiao’s punches. Image from here.

But Margarito didn’t let Manny get off unscathed. Pacquiao had to see a doctor after the fight to have his ribs checked out, the area Margarito kept raining with blows. The physician gave him a clean bill of health, but this is a lesson to Manny not to be complacent. He said in an interview that as early as the second round, he knew he could control the fight.

If so, then he should have finished it early, to reduce the risk of injury to himself and to his opponent. I met the great heavyweight prizefighter Muhammad Ali some years back, and he was a pitiful sight, hands shaking from Parkinson’s, unable to make eye contact. I’d rather not see Manny reduced to that. His own coach, Freddie Roach, a competent boxer himself, also suffers from that disease, which commonly afflicts boxers; if Manny would spare himself that by retiring soon his millions of fans would be happy. Anyway, he has a new job as a politician; why not settle into that?

Once again, Pacquiao has made the Philippines proud. But let us ask ourselves how much of our pride in Manny is genuine happiness for an extraordinarily talented individual, and how much of it is vicarious satisfaction. Manny works very hard for the fame and fortune he now enjoys; is it fair for an entire nation to ride on his coattails?

Let us, in our own various ways, eke out achievements that in themselves will bring honor to the country. I agree with my friend Ray when he says, “Manny will teach us one thing, [and that is] to push the envelope beyond our preconceived borders.”

I started my career as a sportswriter, and even back in the day, the local boxing stables were already full of pugilistic talent – Luisito Espinosa, Rolando Navarrete, and others. Perhaps all they needed was a Freddie Roach; if they had a coach as good, who truly cares for the wellbeing and success of his fighters, who knows what heights they could have reached?

Manny and Freddie after the 19 November 2009 fight against Miguel Cotto. Manny’s face is practically unmarred after going twelve rounds with Cotto; Freddie’s face shines with joy. Image from here.

In the same manner, stellar songbird Charice, another source of Filipino pride, had the good fortune of being discovered on Youtube and of being taken under the wing of starmaker David Foster.

But those are the breaks of the game, and it does not fall to everyone to enjoy such opportunities. Still, you’re one up on the competition when you’re prepared, therefore the extreme importance of a quality education and proper training for those seeking employment and entrepreneurship chances.

We cannot let the successes of individuals be our only source of national pride. When our entire country, through collective effort, has lifted itself up from the muck of corruption, complacency, and poverty; when consistency and fairness mark the justice system; when human rights are respected and all are deemed equal under the law; when all that’s amiss is fixed, then we can truly be proud of ourselves as Filipinos.  ***

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communication environment series part 3: santa ana park in naic, cavite

This article is the third in a series of research studies about Philippine communication environments. See Part 1 for an introduction to the topic of the communication environment and its relationship to culture. Read Part 2 to know more.

As part of the requirements for our Communication Environment PhD class, I took my professor and classmates to the horse races.

Santa Ana Park: A Day at the Races

January 6, 2009 was a monumental day for Philippine horseracing fans.  It was the day the first races were held at the new Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite. While the new place is extensive and spacious, capable of holding the sport’s growing number of racehorses, many miss the old venue once located in Makati City, close to the boundary of Manila.

The old Santa Ana Park was built in 1937 in the Art Deco style popular at the time. Among its contemporaries in architecture were the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Hippodrome in Sta. Cruz, Manila, and the Jai Alai building along Taft Avenue, both torn down some years ago to make way for modern edifices; and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office building, formerly the Quezon Institute, which the Department of Public Works and Highways has ordered demolished due to structural unsoundness.

In the case of horseracing, the buildings go, but the sport stays. It is flourishing at the new site in Naic chosen by the Philippine Racing Club.

The Architecture

The new track at Naic covers around 70 hectares, nearly three times as large as the 25-hectare facility at Makati. The old venue was cramped, unable to accommodate the horses enthusiastic players were breeding and buying, resulting in stables being built nearly on top of one another, affecting the horses’ health. Today there are clean stables arranged behind the far turn and home turn (the red roofs in picture above), with hotwalking areas inside each stable and easy access to the track for morning workouts and races.

The grandstand is of modest size compared to the old ones at Makati, but then the number of visitors here is not expected to be as high as at the old place, where track attendance was booming especially during big racing festivals and stakes race days.

The place is tall and white, looking very clean against the blue sky. Painting the edifice white connotes not only cleanliness but also purity; on a semiotic level, it could be seen as an attempt to ‘whitewash’ the sport, which suffers a degree of stigma in mainstream Philippine society because of its wagering aspect.

With lots of open seating, there’s a feeling of airiness and freedom. Leeway is given to patrons to walk all the way up to the plants edging the rail of the parade ground, which is just several feet away from the track itself. During mile races, the starting gate is right in front of the finish line, in full view from the parade ground allowing close scrutiny of the warm-up, loading, and jump-out.

The rest of the building is nondescript, with VIP rooms on the third floor, huge green-tinted glass windows overlooking the track, while the fourth floor houses racing officials – race stewards, judges, and racecallers. The spatial orientation of the building forces everyone to face towards the track and observe the activity there, reinforcing the concept that it is the sport that is the reason for the facility’s existence and the racing community’s continued sustenance over time and in different places.

The Artifacts

For visitors who know nothing about the sport, the track is a sensory overload. One can barely keep up with the barrage of information that, without a framework, is often difficult to interpret and may leave people overwhelmed, unless they have a friend in the know to explain things to them. Starting gate. Rails. Finish line. Racing programs. Jockeys. Betting matrix. And so on. The language – salitang karera - is also an artifact, one unique to this milieu.

Trophies deserve special mention here. As an artifact, for owners and trainers they symbolize more than a victory gained by one horse, one rider, in one race – they are also bragging rights and a reminder of the accomplishments of their stable. For the jockey, they commemorate personal triumphs along the timeline of his life. In other words, trophies orient achievements in spatial and temporal dimensions.

The Racegoers

People travel all the way to Naic for one reason, and that is to watch races and bet on them. Thus their activities at the venue are in line with this purpose. They may be seen studying racing programs (Dividendazo, Silip sa Tiyempo, Winning Time), texting sources such as horseowners, trainers, jockeys, grooms, and tipsters for racing tips, and scribbling their ruta (betting combinations) on scraps of paper. From time to time they glance up at the many monitors that line the interior walls of the building to view the betting matrix ( a grid of numbers that show estimated dividends for betting combinations).

When the patrons are ready, they line up in front of the betting windows to place their bets, then watch the race from the viewing area beside the track or on the monitors.

The exchange of money through betting is a significant activity in this sport; economics, therefore, is very much a key concept in this context, to a greater degree than in other sports that have no formal betting element. Racegoers communicate to each other, in words and actions, their excitement and anticipation upon placing their bets, suspense while watching the race, and elation upon winning or disappointment upon loss.

Since horseracing is not a mere game of chance that relies on the turn of the card or roll of the die, as in casino gambling, but a sport that requires knowledge about a myriad factors, being able to apply analytical methods to come up with winners leads to a feeling of vindication and even smugness when one is proven right and goes to the betting window to collect dividends. Losing a bet is equated not only with the loss of money, but also with being wrong, with error. Then the tendency is to try, try again.

At the track, there is camaraderie among the patrons, of belonging to a special group – kami (us) – na taga-karera or karerista, who are not understood by sila (them) – but then that is one of the draws of the sport, the sense of the arcane and mysterious, a flavor of the forbidden.

Click on a picture, then click again to see a full-size image.

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back on air

After a hiatus of a year and four months, I’m back on air doing the live horseracing coverage for Viva-Prime Channel at the Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite.

With sports writer Barry Pascua last 22 March 2009, on standby to do the opening of the day’s live coverage of the races half an hour before the parade for Race 1. This was my first weekend back. Barry and I are at the grandstand.


The last two horses cross the finish line after Race 1.


Racing fans pack the grandstand at Santa Ana Park on Sundays.

I started my broadcast career in racing in 2002, when I was tapped by PRC’s then-vice president of administration Fulton Su to be a panelist for PRC’s coverage, then handled by production outfit Creative Station for Pro-Ads Marketing, the actual contractor.

Boss Fulton took a leap of faith with me, as I had no experience at all doing live racing coverage. Despite being a jockey’s wife, I didn’t have much knowledge of betting or how to do race analysis.

I did have prior on-camera experience as a segment presenter and later co-host of “Karera 2000″, a horseracing show that aired over the government station, PTV (People’s Television) in 1997. For that show, I also wrote the script for my own segment, “Karera 101″, occasionally did the script for the entire show, and directed my own segment and others like the “Jockey’s Tips” presented by rider Dhunoy Raquel.

That’s where I learned to work under intense pressure – imagine showing up at on location at a ranch, only to be told by the scriptwriter/director that he had not written a script for that day’s shooting, and having to scribble the spiels for that episode right there and then while the hosts Jackie Castillejo andYeng Guiao (professional basketball coach and current vice governor of Pampanga province) waited.

But taped shows are easy because you can do over with takes. Live coverage is fast-paced with no room for errors.

Over time, and again under pressure, I learned to analyze races and and discuss the betting with the help of my fellow panelists during the early days at PRC – racecallers Ricardo “Carding” de Zuñiga, Ernie Enriquez (brother of GMA Network’s famed newscaster Mike Enriquez), Ira Herrera (racecaller and now a panelist for MJC’s new in-house production team, San Lazaro Broadcast Network), and former star jockey and current Philracom commissioner Eduardo “Boboc” Domingo Jr. (also now the anchor for SLBN).

I stayed with PRC from March 2002 to January 2005, then I hosted for Winner’s Circle Productions at the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Leisure Park from August 2005 until August 2007, when Makisig Network took over MJC’s production and I was dropped from the roster of talents as they had their own.

The break of almost a year and a half was a welcome development as I got to rest, return to graduate school, put up my website, become a fountain pen and ink collector, and do other things that interested me.

Now I’m back, refreshed, with new ideas, and ready to resume active broadcasting again.


View from my seat at the studio: on the table are racecards, pens, favorite purple Fino pencase from Leigh, Nokia Xpress Music mobile phone, Denman hairbrush, and Starbucks “Philippines” tumbler filled with coffee. (“No coffee, no workee!”) The larger monitor displays the actual cable TV broadcast feed; the smaller one, the pool totals and odds.


Coverage essentials: racecards (Winning Time for past performances, useful for race analysis, and Dividendazo for the schedule and for marking the horses on parade, winner, time, order of arrival, and other information that I relay to viewers) and pens (Preppy ED highlighter filled with Noodler’s Year of the Golden Pig, Waterman Hemisphere, Lamy Safari 1.1 italic, Taccia Ta-ke).

As a mass communication practitioner, I’m fortunate to have the opportunities I do, in that I am doing both broadcast and print (I write a Wednesday column on racing, “The Hoarse Whisperer” for Manila Standard-Today).

Broadcasting has always been a significant part of my life because of my father’s influence.

My father, Valentino Araneta Ortuoste, started his career as a disc jockey in the 1960s in Bacolod City, playing The Beatles and The Ventures. (He didn’t like pop music, though, preferring classical, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole).

Later he became a newscaster for ABS-CBN network in Manila; I was a toddler then, and he would sometimes take me with him to the studio. I don’t remember that, of course, but I have pictures, in black-and-white, me looking up at him almost adoringly, he with a smile and looking dapper in high-necked Vonnel shirts.

Pops also did commercials (a series for Palmolive shampoo with the characters “Sonia” and “Ana”) and bit parts in movies (in the 1990 film Anak ni Baby Ama, he played the wealthy businessman who gets ambushed in his car at the beginning of the film). He also performed voice-overs for radio commercials and even cut a spoken record in the late ’70s, “Happy Birthday, Love”.

I was ten or eleven when he encouraged my sister Aileen and I to do radio commercials. I remember one of them was an English cough syrup plug where I had to cough on cue. I got paid extra for doing the Cebuano version when the kid who was hired couldn’t do what the director wanted and wouldn’t stop crying. I don’t understand Cebuano very well, but was able to mimic a native speaker who read my lines to me. After that I was given more work doing dialects.

When I was in college, in the mid- to late-’80s, Pops was the anchor of “The UN Hour”, a television show broadcast on the government channel, PTV (People’s Television), during the administration of Pres. Corazon Aquino. He asked me and one of my friends from school to act as student interviewers. We met with the ambassador of Namibia; my friend was so nervous, he stuttered over his lines (“Nami-Nami-Namibia?”) but it turned out quite charming and was not edited out from the final version.

I owe my father for giving me the knowledge for this kind of work; it prepared me for when fate gave me the chance to do this. I never thought I would follow in his footsteps. But I look back now and feel grateful for the coaching he gave on how to modulate our voices and act in front of a camera, things we didn’t really understand back then, but proved useful when we needed it.

However, I’d say the most valuable lesson he taught me about broadcasting was this: “Be confident. You can do it. It seems hard at first, but it’s really not – it’s just like talking to a friend.” That’s become my broadcasting philosophy and overall approach to media work.

Another lesson is: information of any kind is welcome, because you’ll never know what might be useful to you later on. So I’m passing on the lessons learned to my daughters, knowing that they don’t appreciate or fully understand these things now, but which perhaps may serve them later on in life.

It’s important, though, to be prepared with data. Oh, and coffee helps too.

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demolition permit

After 72 years on this site, the Santa Ana Park of the Philippine Racing Club is being razed to make way for new developments on the prime property in Makati City, the country’s premier business and commercial district.

Racing operations were transferred to a new facility at Naic, Cavite, last January 6. Today, structures at the old track are coming down – grandstands, betting windows, paddocks, stables. Everything is being reduced to piles of rubble and stacks of wood.

The turnstiles at the pedestrian entrance (Gate 3).


The right-hand grandstand (facing the track). It used to have badminton courts and a Savory Restaurant. Before that, there were rows of betting windows and open-air canteens.



The bridgeway between the two grandstand buildings. The structure behind it had the weighing scale, viewing deck, racecaller’s booth, and stewards’ stand.


The main grandstand, with the ballroom with the painted horses on the wall and the VIP boxes for horseowners and well-heeled patrons.


You can still see the green staircase to the upper floor, now choked with rocks and leading to nowhere.

My children and I live just behind this former racetrack, on my father-in-law’s property, most of it given over to a twelve-stall stable, now empty, as the horses have all been moved to Naic.

The once-vibrant and noisy neighborhood is quieter. Yes, that’s a good thing, but we were used to the racket – the chatter of grooms and their families, the neighing and snorting of horses, the clatter of hooves on the street in the morning, the faintly-heard voice of the racecaller over the PA system during race meetings.

All gone from here, now.

PRC management says that part of the property, around four hectares, has been purchased by taipan Lucio Tan’s group, perhaps for an Allied Bank data center, or some other  purpose. The rest of the property, maybe 21 hectares, will also be developed in time, into a mixed-use residential and commercial area much like the Rockwell area, also in Makati.

It’s hard to imagine a Rockwell here, but if it does happen, it’ll be good for the ‘hood. Property prices will rise. There’ll be jobs and other economic benefits.

Call me a sentimental fool, but I’ll miss the old track. It’s where I trained every morning for two months back in 1990 as the country’s first female apprentice jockey. It’s where my husband asked me on our very first date, to marry five months later. It’s where I sunned my babies; it’s where they learned to walk, on the strip of grass beside the rail, while their father exercised horses in the mornings, all of us coming home smelling of sun and dust and the sweat of horses. It’s where I picked up my career when I had to go back to work after my marriage faltered.


Murals still on the wall, barely glimpsed.


Murals of  Gypsy Grey and Little Morning, champions my father-in-law trained.


The jockeys’ quarters, once so noisy and alive, now silent, yawning, empty.

When a mall or condo is built here, right on the track, will the ghosts of gone horses still race, silently, where they used to run free? Shall phantasms of riders and horses, or their manifestations of psychic energy remaining in the rocks, in the soil, and carried on the breeze, still run races until entropy consumes the sun and time runs backward?

Now my eldest, Alex, is nearly 18, and in college; she took these pictures. Erika is 10. Where did time go?

And the racetrack, that stood here for many generations, and that some thought would never be torn down in our lifetime, is no more. You know what they say about change. And in fact, it’s for the better – the new Santa Ana Park in Naic is modern, roomy, and with an excellent cushiony track.

But I never thought, when I married a jockey almost twenty years ago, that the time would ever come that I would be a historian of this track’s demise.


The far end of the main building.


The white stripe divides the part that the Lucio Tan group bought (the right) from the Prime Channel and PRC corporate offices, and the rest of the property. The line extends to where the outer rail of the track used to be.


PRC corporate offices; on the left, what used to be the PRC Motorpool.


Lush vegetation frames a view of the bridgeway.


The side of the main grandstand. Here used to be carinderias (eateries) with tables, chairs, and cases of San Miguel beer.


The side of the grandstands facing the track. People used to stand and watch races from here.


The tote board gapes with holes. Well, it hadn’t been working properly for years, anyway. The rails beside the track have been removed and taken to Naic. This grassy area, where my children learned to walk, is now overgrown and unkempt.


The saddling paddock, with the jockeys’ quarters at the end.


Right across the saddling paddock was this viewing area where horses were walked for warmup/cool down. People came right up to the fence, where the stacks of wood are now.


This is what it looks like from the other side of the fence.


Open-air grandstand and private boxes being stripped of anything usable.

Photo credit: All photos taken by Alex Alcasid with a Nikon D60.

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