Tag Archives: emerson obiena

An Adopted PPVC Member

I’ve always said that the guys of the Philippine Pole Vault Club (PPVC) are the closest I have to teammates. In the past months, they’ve welcomed me with open arms in the times our training sessions coincided. I’ve known Coach Emerson Obiena since I was a high school junior. The ageless pole vaulter has also been a coach for my old college team the past few years. Jerome Margallo, a former competitor from Adamson University, was there at that fateful Thursday afternoon when I broke my arm. A former college teammate, Zek Valera, and his brother E.J are also part of the tight knit training group.

At a time when I was nearing the psychological breaking point, thanks to my solo training routine, these guys have been instrumental in keeping my head from imploding.

With the Ateneo team opting to sit out the National Games, the next best option is to join the PPVC crew. Humbly, I asked Coach Emer and his wife, Coach Jeanette, of the possibility of including my name in their lineup for the PNG. They welcomed me with open arms, providing ample food and comfortable accommodations – thanks to the magnanimous Mr. Johnny Hwa Liong, fondly called “Amu” by the PPVC lads. The Bacolod Tay Tung School played gracious hosts.

 

With the PPVC crew (Photo from Zek Valera)

In the five nights I spent with the PPVC, I felt part of the family. Not once did I feel like an outsider. We talked endlessly about track & field. For someone who spends hours training alone and talking no one, such an atmosphere was a welcome change! Coach Emer and Coach Jeanette had loads of stories and anecdotes to share. I grew close with Tonio Chee, a thirty-something professional who still finds the time to compete. I found the masters athlete’s maturity particularly comforting. The oozing energy of Jerome was infectious, and did much in helping me get into the competition groove. Riezel Buenaventura, the Philippines’ premiere female pole vaulter, quiet in her ways yet intensely focused on the task at hand was likewise someone I looked up to. The Valera brothers, being part of the Ateneo track team, gave a touch of familiarity to my surroundings. And then there was the Obiena siblings, Ernest and Emily. I have long since admired how these youngsters conduct themselves in the sport. I’m very fortunate to be a witness to the development of the Philippines’ future giants in the sport.

When I was in the doldrums, sulking at my crappy comeback race, the guys did much in helping me get back on my feet. Contrary what I previously thought, I am not alone after all. Until the time when my dreams of a setting up an athletics club turns to reality, I’ll compete for the PPVC.

My PNG 2011 experience was similar and yet vastly different from my provincial competitions of the yester-years. Even if my friends from my old team have long since been retired, it’s good to know that I’ve found people passionate for the sport. It feels great to be part of something again.

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POC-PSC National Games Athletics Wrap-up (23-26 May 2011)

The annual Philippine National Open Invitational Athletics Championships was held in Bacolod, Negros Occidental; as part of the Olympic-style program of the POC-PSC National Games. The newly-renovated track of the Panaad Stadium, site of many an Azkals game, was the scene of battle. The event was an opportunity for aspiring elite athletes to showcase their talents. An amalgam of crack international campaigners, collegiate standouts, as well as promising grassroots talents comprised the lineup of athletes.

Aside from a few snags in the processing of the official ID cards, the athletics competition was fairly well-run. The technical officials, composed of both Manila-based and provincial personnel, were a well-drilled lot. The green-clad PSC volunteers, despite their inexperience, were exuberant in the way they did their jobs.

Panaad at Night (Photo from Zek Valera)

There were some instances when the start of a race was pushed back because of equipment breakdown, particularly with the automatic timing system. Nevertheless, it was a relatively well-organized local competition, according to a foreign coach.

The Sprints and Hurdles

In light of the oft-revised schedule, only a handful of foreign entries from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia made it to Bacolod. The most illustrious name among the visitors was Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian, the 2007 SEA Games gold medalist in the 110m high hurdles. The Malaysian did not disappoint, as he outclassed a lean local sprint hurdles field, stopping the clock in 14.1s. Laguna’s Robin Tuliao was a far second at 14.8s. Kota Kinobalu’s prolific Eddie Edward won over many-time UAAP seniors champion Romnick Herida of UAAP Athletics (11.19s), compatriot Fahrul Nazri (11.32s) and Australia-based Andrew Pirie of the Philippine Pole Vault Club (11.34s) in the century dash.

Patrick Unso of TMS Ship-DLSU reigned supreme in both the junior 110m high hurdles (14.3s) and the 400m low hurdles (54.47s). Robert Francisco of Laguna (14.5s) came second to Unso in the boy’s sprint hurdles.

There was some controversy in the men’s hurdles races, as national team member Junrey Bano was disqualified moments before participating in the 400m low hurdles qualifying. Nevertheless, Bano was allowed to take part, in spite of being officially out of the competition. The country’s top low hurdler stopped the clock at a classy 52.80s. UAAP Athletics’ Jeson Ramil Cid officially won the event in 54.60s.

Isidro del Prado, Jr., whose illustrious father still holds the Philippine 400m national record, surprisingly false started in qualifying, meriting an instant disqualification for the talented quarter-miler. In the absence of Del Prado, 2007 SEA Games gold medalist Julius Nierras (48.55s) and 20-year old Christian Bagsit (49.03s) made it a one-two finish for the Philippine Air Force. Del Prado (22.05s) nipped Nierras in the half-lap, beating the veteran by a massive four-hundredths of a second. Zamboanga’s Noli Torres (50.79s) and Aldrin Gonzales (51.36s) ruled the boy’s 400m dash.

13-year old Mary Diesto, a student of nearby Bacolod Tay Tung High School, won the girls’ 100m dash with an impressive 13.20sc clocking. Filipino-American Princess Joy Griffey walloped FEU’s Hanelyn Loquinto in the 200m dash, 25.24s to 26.03s, despite being weakened by food poisoning.

National training pool member Zara dela Virgo, slowed down by a knee injury sustained at the recently-concluded Thailand Open, failed to finish the Women’s 100m hurdles. Jennylyn Progio ruled the poorly-attended two-woman final, stopping the clock in 15.8s. Nerve pain saw the withdrawal of national record holder Sheena Atilano from the sprint hurdles field. Capiz’ Jaycel Cabaguena (15.9s) was impressive in the girls’ race, romping to a commanding 1.3s gap over TMS Ship’s Lea Casilihan (16.6s).

FEU’s Josie Malacad (1:02.79s) edged out Laguna’s Keizel Pedrina in the one-lap hurdles race. Malacad won over her UST rival by almost two-seconds.

The Distance Events

The country’s long distance aces, Rene Herrera and Eduardo Buenavista were virtually untouchable in their respective events. Herrera (9:06), a many-time SEA Games champion, completely demolished UAAP Athletics’ Christopher Ulboc (9:18.22) in the 3,000m steeplechase. Similarly, Buenavista ran a punishing last lap to reign supreme in the 10,000m run.

Vertek in action at the 10,000m run (Photo from Zek Valera)

San Sebastian’s Mervin Guarte set a new national junior record in the 1,500m run, en route to winning the senior title. Guarte ran below 4:00 in the metric mile, notching a fine time of 3:57.83.

The Relays

 The United Track & Field Team, composed of Diesto, Shaira Hernandez, Raye Deanne Ferrer and Hannah Malate – all 13 year old’s from Bacolod Tay Tung – eked out a surprise win in the girls’ 4x100m relay. The Capiz team, the pre-race favorites, false started; hence, meriting instant disqualification.

The Men’s 4x100m relay proved exciting, as a fast-finishing Rayzam Shah of Kota Kinabalu almost ran down the locals on the home straight. The UAAP Athletics quartet of Jhon Rey Bardos, Abraham Alzona, Herida and Cid – a powerhouse lineup of UAAP foes – won first place in 42.05s. The PAF team, anchored by Bagsit, came in second place at 42.07s, three-hundredths of a second from the Malaysian team.

PAF’s Bagsit in the 4x400m relay (Photo from Zek Valera)

The Philippine Air Force foursome of Nierras, Eduardo Alejan, Christopher Demata and Bagsit proved too much for the fancied UAAP squad. The Ernie Candelario-trained Airmen built up an insurmountable 5 second lead, stopping the clock in 3:14.42.

The Decathlon and the Field Events

The indefatigable Cid, the national junior record holder, scored 6,287 points in the Men’s Decathlon, propped up by dominating performances in the 110m high hurdles, 400m dash and the 1,500m run. National training pool member Manuel Lasangue was a far second with 5,670 points.

National team stalwarts Arniel Ferrera and Rosie Villarito each grabbed double golds, with the former taking titles in his best event, the hammer throw (57.55m), and the discus throw (43.23m). Villarito, competing for Laguna, won both the women’s shot put and javelin throw.

Despite being six meters off his personal best, national record holder Danilo Fresnido (64.20m) easily won over SEA Games medalist Dandy Gallenero (61.40m). Baguio-based Eleazer Sunang almost broke the long-standing shot put national record, heaving the implement to a distance of 15.57m. In frustration, the burly Sunang threw the shot from a standing position after the competition, easily reaching 16.00m!

Negros Occidental’s Maika de Oro handily won the Girls’ Discus Throw with her 37.36m heave. The hometown bet also struck gold in the shot up with her 10.18m throw.

Jerome Margallo of Team Hua Liong topped the Men’s Pole Vault. The national pool member cleared 4.25m, way off his 4.64m best, but more than enough to edge out Laguna’s Robin Bunda, the ageless Emerson Obiena and UAAP Athletics’ Zek Valera. Bunda, Obiena and Valera all cleared 4.15m. On the distaff side, Riezel Buenaventura – another Obiena protege – was virtually unopposed. The FEU alumna flew to a new personal best of 3.81m. TMS Ships’ Alex Smith, the national junior record holder, was a far second at 2.70m.

The come-backing Benigno Marayag narrowly lost to Nino Espinosa of Laguna in the Men’s long jump. Both jumpers had best jumps of 7.21m, but the latter won over the triple jump specialist on count-back.

Baguio’s Catherine Kay Bautista twice finished second behind Marestella Torres. Torres, the national record holder for both the long jump and the triple jump, was in a class of her own, notching winning leaps of 6.38m and 12.55m. The exuberant Bautista leaped 6.09m and 12.09m, on top of winning the 100m dash (12.58s) over national training pool member Loquinto. Bautista, who is coached by former jumps queen Lerma Baluaitan-Gabito, is a sure cinch to be bumped up to the training pool, in light of her performance in the horizontal jumps.

Additional links:

View the complete athletics results from the PSC website

Videos:

From the UAAP Athletics Facebook page

Fr0m the PATAFA Facebook page

Pictures:

From the PSC Facebook page

Alonzo Jardin: The Hurdling Artist

I had my first taste of national level competition back in May 2003. I was 17 years old, barely out of high school. I shaved off 1.44s off my personal best over the high hurdles, qualifying for the semis with a time of 17.55s. The 2003 Nationals was also the first time I encountered the Philippine national record holder for the sprint hurdles, Alonzo “Dudoy” Jardin.

More than 7 years since that day, my recollections are just vague flashbacks. But one instance stood out. At the dugout of the Rizal Memorial Stadium, I wished him the best of luck as he went head-to-head against Thailand’s Suphan Wongsriphuck, then Southeast Asia’s best sprint hurdler.

The Philippines is not known for its athletics tradition, much less the high hurdles. Aside from notable exceptions like Lydia de Vega-Mercado, Elma Muros-Posadas, Isidro del Prado and Marestella Torres, most of our athletes wilt under Asian-level competition. The Philippines’ last Olympic medals in athletics were won way back in the 1930’s (Miguel White in the 400m low hurdles and Simeon Toribio in the High Jump). Hence, it is not surprising that Dudoy’s 14.75s national record is light-years away from the Olympic “B” standard of 13.72s.

If I can choose one compatriot whom I look up to in the sprint hurdles, I can only name one – Alonzo Jardin. Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate Coach Nonoy Unso’s hurdling prowess, but since I haven’t seen any footage of his best years, I cannot make an honest assessment of the athletics legend. The same reasoning applies to my mentor, national decathlon record holder Fidel Gallenero. Although he taught me the fundamentals of hurdling form, I haven’t seen him race.

In order for me to look up to someone – as a hurdler to another hurdler, I have to base my standards on more than just times and reputation.

Dudoy was different. Even if he shifted to the decathlon in the twilight of his competitive years, I had much respect for his hurdling technique. As a sprint hurdler myself, I put more importance in one’s efficiency of clearance than to brute sprinting power. Yes, the 110m high hurdles is a sprint race. But in order to fully appreciate this wonderful event, one must look at it beyond sprinting alone.

Hence, for me, hurdling is an art form. Everytime I watch Liu Xiang, Allen Johnson and Colin Jackson race clips, my jaws drop in awe at the symphony of speed. As a student of the event, I take much aesthetic pleasure from watching these great technicians demonstrate their craft.

In the past 10 years I spent as a sprint hurdler, Dudoy is – without a doubt – the best exemplar of the Filipino hurdling artist.

I had the privilege of racing the Filipino champion twice in my career. The first time was during the 2006 National Open. It was the finals of the sprint hurdles, Dudoy was at the lane beside mine.

I wound up a far fourth place (15.65s – a new PB) behind Romel of TMS Ship (15.1), Joemary Padilla (15.1) and Orlando Soriano (15.5s). It turned out that Dudoy didn’t even finish clearing the 1st hurdle, to save his legs for the grueling decathlon.

Months later, we went at it again. This time, he emphatically stamped his class, edging out Padilla of Mapua. I placed a distant 3rd (15.6). Dudoy ran a 15.1, if I’m not mistaken.

Emer Obiena and Fidel Gallenero once told me about an Australian trainer’s awe at learning that Dudoy is only a a high 14 second sprint hurdler. With his hurdling proficiency, the Australian reasoned, Dudoy should be running in the 13 seconds. Perhaps it was his lack of flat out speed (he ran the 100m in around 11.3 to 11.4). An Olympic-level hurdler should be able to run the 100m in at least 10.5s.

The last time I saw Dudoy was in 2009. I was in the midst of my first, ill-fated comeback. He was training again after tearing the ligaments in his knee after a freak javelin training incident.

Alonzo Jardin’s 14.75s national record is bound to be broken one of these days. The younger Unso has the most potential to reclaim the national mark of his illustrious father. In a country where athletes from the less popular sports tend to get marginalized, Jardin will probably be forgotten by the generations of tomorrow.

Writing this piece is the least I can do for a fellow hurdler. Never mind the results; never mind the accolades.

Alonzo Jardin is one of the best, if not the best, hurdling technicians this country of ours had ever produced.

Glory Days

The ageless Emerson Obiena uploaded an old photo to his Facebook account a while back. Judging from the designs of the Philippine team uniform, I figured that the picture was taken sometime during the early to mid-1990’s.

Photo from Emerson Obiena

Coach Emer’s subtitles confirmed my hypothesis. The bespectacled Filipino-Chinese athlete on the left is non-other than Coach Emer himself, the founder of the Philippine Pole Vault Club and a many-time international campaigner for the Philippines. On the rightmost side of the photo is Bruce Ventura, the Philippine national record holder for the shot put at 15.83m. Then Senator Joey Lina is at the center, beside the spunky-looking Edward Lasquette, the pole vault national record holder at 5.00m.

Obiena is the only holdover from that by-gone era. In his late 30’s, the father of two is still the best Filipino pole vaulter. Coach Emer is a two-time SEA Games Pole Vault silver medalist (1993 and 1999). He has a personal best of 4.95m, set during the 1999 National Open.

Obiena’s 4.93m clearance (Taipei, 2008)

The Herculean Bruce Ventura won silver in the shot during the 1993 SEA Games in Singapore. The Filipino-American Lasquette, who set the now 18-year old Philippine record in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, is a three-time SEA Games champion (1991, 1993 and 1995).

Filipino SEA Games Medalists since 1991

During the early years of my track days, I could barely find write-ups about the Gintong Alay days. I was fortunate to stumble upon an old book, Philippine Sports Greats, which featured a lengthy piece on the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics High Jump bronze medalist, Simeon Toribio. Articles about the resurgence of Philippine athletics during the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s are also hard to come by. Looking for actual clips of those storied races online is an impossibility! And don’t expect our sensationalist TV networks to air replays of past Philippine track & field campaigns.

Hence, I had to make do with meager competition results available in the world wide web, taking pride in the fact that a handful of my compatriots had distinguished themselves in international competition. Yell Carreon’s insightful interviews with Hector Begeo and John Lozada and Zytrexx’s nostalgic historical piece on Toribio and Miguel White are rare informative examples.

It’s quite unfortunate how Filipinos today hardly even remember the sporting heroes of our past. Aside from big names like Lydia de Vega-Mercado and Elma Muros-Posadas, most of our local athletics greats have been almost forgotten by the very people – the very country – they fought so hard for.

If archived footage or even detailed write-ups somehow find its way into the mainstream, perhaps a new generation of Filipino athletes – not just track & field athletes – will be inspired by those feats of greatness to do better than their forebears. Indeed, Filipino sports has so much more to offer.

Video credit:

mjuo1969

Barefoot Running

The Men’s pole vault in the 2004 National Open was a hotly contested three-pronged duel between two Thais and the Philippines’ top vaulter, Emerson Obiena. Obiena fought valiantly against the younger Thais, but ended up in third place. After the event, the Thais took off their spikes and ran barefoot on the field. I was puzzled, for at that time, I was unaware of the benefits of barefoot running for cool down purposes. I did my research. Soon enough, running barefoot after an especially hard training session or a grueling meet became the norm. The cool feeling of the wet grass (or the hot track!) was refreshing for my tired feet.

At home, I rarely wear slippers. Unless the floor gets too dirty or my feet too caked in dust, I almost always walk around barefoot inside the house. Come to think of it, prehistoric men roamed their harsh environs barefoot. This genetic predisposition, no matter how dormant, probably explains my preference for walking unshod!

Back in 2006, Nike released the Nike Free line of shoes.  It was a catchy campaign, all right, but I just did not like the lack of support it provided. Being a track athlete – a cash-strapped student-athlete at that! – I needed shoes that can provide much needed support in running/hurdling drills, weight training and plyometric exercises. I’m a traditional sort of guy; hence, I preferred my regular running shoes to those expensive alternatives.

Months ago, I saw ads of the Vibram Five Fingers. The innovative shoes reminded me of legendary distance runners like Abebe Bikila and Zola Budd (who ran barefoot at the Olympics!).  For those who want to try barefoot running in the harsh, city streets of Manila, trying out those Vibram footwear is good insurance – if you want to err at the side of caution! The bare soles of a city dwellers’ feet aren’t used to running without shoes.  I have yet to try Vibram, but the shoes really do look interesting.

I guess the safest way to start running barefoot would be after a workout on a soft, grassy field or on a synthetic track – and to read up on the pros and cons of such such an unorthodox move.

The following sites seem reputable enough. See for yourself:

http://www.posetech.com/training/archives/000198.html

http://www.sportsci.org/jour/0103/mw.htm

Wouldn’t it be nice if your feet get calloused enough to run barefoot all the time? At least you’ll save up on loads cash spent on running shoes!

Additional link:

Barefootwearinc.com

Photo credits:

http://fatkenyanrunner.wordpress.com

http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/

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