Life as it happens. Time as it passes.

Archive for December, 2011

Spurs Prove They Still Belong

The San Antonio Spurs are now up 2-0 after trampling the much-talked-about LA Clippers, 115-90.

Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 24 points, with a 5-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Richard Jefferson proved his doubters wrong and scored 19 with 3-for-4 from three point territory. DeJuan Blair, who had the unenviable task of guarding dunking phenom Blake Griffin, scored 20.

It was an impressive outing for the Spurs, despite the low output of their star player Tim Duncan, who only scored 10 points. Duncan, however, took command of the boards for the Spurs with 9. Point guard Tony Parker chipped in 14 for the team, but dropped 9 dimes out of San Antonio’s 27 assists.

The Clips’ new star Chris Paul was limited to only 3-10 field goal shooting, finishing the game with just 10 points and 9 assists. Blake Griffin led all scorers with 28 points and 9 boards. DeAndre Jordan was the only starter who was not in double digit scores with 8.

This has been relatively a good outing for the Spurs as they shot 52% from the field and a perfect 15-for-15 in the free throw line. The Clippers had a miserable 39% shooting percentage, and was out rebounded by the defensive side of San Antonio, whose big men were relatively shorter than either Griffin or Jordan.

The win gave the Spurs the continuous winning streak over the Clippers at the AT&T Center with 17 wins since January of 2002. The Spurs last won the first two games of the season in 2008.

The Spurs will hit the road for their game against Houston tomorrow, while Chicago will be visiting Los Angeles on Saturday, PST.


Duncan’s Last Dance?

When the San Antonio Spurs selected Tim Duncan in 1997, basketball life in the Alamo had changed forever. His tandem with David Robinson, brought the Spurs its first ever NBA title. And when the Admiral retired, Duncan carried on the winning legacy, along with the back court tandem of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and the Spurs earned three more championships in alternating seasons. For his own fair share of glory, Timmy was the Rookie of the year, won the MVP award back to back in 2002 and 2003, was three-time finals MVP. As an all-star, he has had 13 appearances. And as the “Big Fundamental” of the Spurs, Duncan helped lead the franchise with the longest streak of playoff appearances since he came over more than a decade ago.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end.

Duncan is now in the last year of his contract with the Spurs. And at 35, Duncan is “old” compared to the guys running up and down the court these days. The team has never added much of a younger line-up in their starters nor in their bench, with the exception of rookie Kawhi Leonard, who was the second highest pick of San Antonio next to Duncan. The combined age of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili is 98, more than thrice the combined age of some of NBA’s franchise trios.

It won’t be long before the curtains finally come down on these three.

Last year would have been the best shot for San Antonio for a championship. With a 61-21 record last season, the Spurs posted their second best regular season record on wins and losses. However, they were sent fishing early by the 8-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, laden with a much younger roster of players. The exit from contention last season was taken by many as the clearest and most latest indication that, indeed, the glory days of the Spurs are about to end.

The same can be said about Duncan as well.

But the fact that he’s returning for one final season clearly means one thing–Tim Duncan should never be written off just yet.

They just earned their first win on opening night against the very same Grizzlies they fought plus Rudy Gay. And their mettle will be further tested when they face off with the new-and-improved LA Clippers. With all the hype surrounding the Clippers, it seems the Spurs are in for a tough night when Blake Griffin’s squad visit them tomorrow.

But like any competitor who loves the challenge, Duncan can probably be heard saying “Bring it on!”

We may never know what Duncan has yet in store for us, if indeed he is about to wrap up his colorful career with the final 66 games of his NBA life.

One thing’s for sure–Tim Duncan’s games must never be missed this year.


The Champs Are Ailing: Dallas and Lakers Suffer Two Opening Losses

You’re probably right: it’s way too early to judge the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers for losing their first two assignments of the season.

But we’re not judging. We’re just saying… it’s too early for the Mavs and the Lakers to be losing this way.

Just when the Mavericks were fresh off the celebrations they had when they opened the season, the incurred their second straight loss in as many games. This time, the whipping got worse, as the Denver Nuggets beat them by 22, twice that of Miami’s win over them. Just when having Lamar Odom and Vince Carter was about to become the Mavs’ big jackpot, it is fast turning into a nightmarish decision of sorts for the defending champs.

As for the L.A. Lakers, the rumors about their decline are growing. And while Kobe Bryant’s swagger and skills have yet to be proven outdated, his shot at winning another championship ring is getting dimmer and dimmer, courtesy of guys like Derrick Rose, whose game-winning floater cost LA’s opening night win, or perhaps Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans, two of Sacramento’s young guns who helped propel the Kings over the Lakers with a 100-91 win. Not to mention the cannot-be-ignored aging of Derek Fisher, and the new-and-yet-to-prove-himself Mike Brown as the Lakers’new coach. How much tougher can you get?

But of course, as I said, it’s way too early.

What we’re just saying here is that this is no way to start your campaign for a return to the NBA’s mount Olympus. Maybe the losses of Dallas to Miami and LA to Chicago were bearable. But for the Lakers to lose to Sacramento? Dallas to Denver?

Has pigs started flying already?

But again, we’re not judging.

Just saying.


Land of Sand: You and Me, UAE

I am right now in the United Arab Emirates, the second in my three-country itinerary for two months. I will be spending a month and twenty days here, going around Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Kaima, Sharjah and Al Ain, visiting our works and ministering to them.

We arrived at Dubai last November 28. Pr. Nonoy Nacion, our congregation preacher in Al Ghusais, picked us up, together with Ms. Leny Cruz from our Sharjah congregation. They brought us to an Italian restaurant that was still open at that time (it was already 11PM), and had a light dinner just before we went to our villa and retire for the night.

The following night, our beloved pastor spoke before the joint crowd of our UAE congregations for the weekly Bible Institute. He began a series of lectures on Biblical worship, and also tackled the importance of following a Bible-based pattern for worshipping God in His church.  Thursday that week was a declared holiday, as it also happened to be UAE’s 40th National Day, and so the BP and the brethren took the opportunity to hold an MBBC UAE Workers’ Conference at the Al Ghusais Congregation. More than 100 members were there to hear the BP speak and give the continuing lecture on Biblical worship.

The following day, Friday, was the 13th Foundation Day Celebration of MBBC Al Ghusais, where they had more than 400 in attendance. I was assigned to speak to our Al Satwa Congregation, led by Ptr. Raul Nazaret, who had just arrived from his vacation in the Philippines. We had a great time that morning, and later in the afternoon, we had another joint service at the Al Ghusais’ foundation day venue, where our BP gave a powerful message before the people just before leaving for the Philippines.

That night after the service, we were busy putting some items into the balikbayan boxes set to be sent to the Philippines. Our beloved pastor was leaving early morning at 5AM and so we had to prep things up so we can still catch some winks before we bring him over to the airport. We finished packing at around 2AM.

The alarm woke me up at 3AM. A few more preparations and we were soon off to the airport, where we accompanied the BP to the check-in area. I gave him a big hug and thanked him for the opportunity of representing him here to our people. He gave me a few final instructions and challenges before he went on to board his flight back to Manila.

Now begins my official tour of duty here in the UAE. Check out the story on our next post, where you’ll here about my first few days in Dubai, Al Ghusais, and then my stay in Abu Dhabi.

 


Land of Sand: The Kuwait Leg of My Trip

For my 65-day trip to the lands of sands, my first stop was Kuwait. We were scheduled there for five days in time for the celebration of the MBBC South Congregation’s 4th Foundation Day. It was the first time that our BP would be present for the South Congregation’s anniversary, as he would usually be with the Kuwait Central’s birthday during summer time.

Just before we headed out of the immigration to the waiting area, my pastor quipped to me “you’re lucky you came here at this time of the year. It’s cooler here now than if you went here last summer.” A few more steps nearing the exit doors, I felt for myself how true his words were. But I soon found out it wasn’t the exit door yet–it was just the doors heading to the airport mall. The closer we were getting to the actual exit doors, it was getting cooler and cooler. It wasn’t long before cool became cold. As in literally cold!

I remember Cess telling me to bring two jackets, preempting for the cold climate of the middle east during this season. I told her one would just be enough.

We were both wrong. We should have brought three.

Ptr. Allen Belwa, the designated resident pastor-in-charge there, picked us up at the Kuwait International Airport. As our pastor was staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, a car from the hotel was on hand to pick him up. We dropped by the hotel first to check if the BP had any instructions for us, and when we were cleared to go, we first went to the congregation’s villa, where I spent the remainder of the wee hours of the morning to get some winks, before we checked in at the Safir Hotel at 10 AM.

Our morning and afternoon schedules were free for that day, so I had some time to prepare some of the lectures I compiled for the Preachers’ Conference that the Kuwait brethren will be hosting among our preachers from the GCC countries the day after their anniversary festivities. Later that night, the brethren treated us for an all-fish dinner fellowship.

Just as the evening gathering was progressing, I felt my eyes were getting heavy. I checked on my cellphone clock and saw that it was 9PM in Kuwait–which means it’s already 2AM in the morning in Manila. That was my very first encounter with jetlag.

My seatmate in the dinner table, Bro. Jojo, was trying to jolt me out of my dreariness, noticing that I wasn’t returning to the buffet table anymore for seconds. I was telling him that my body is telling me to find a bed and get some sleep. He laughed and told me it will be a full week before you get to adjust to the whole time difference thing.

After the dinner, we headed back to the hotel. I actually didn’t notice that we’ve arrived already, because I was totally knocked out during the travel from Crowne Plaza to Safir. I went inside my room and just dropped like a log into the bed.

The following day was the 4th Foundation day Celebrations of the Kuwait South. We had a great time, where more than 600 adults and young people came and attended to hear our beloved pastor preach the Gospel. The Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait, who happens to be a  relative of the BP, came and attended to address the Filipinos who attended the event. After our BP’s preaching, more than 100 people came forward to receive Christ as their Savior. Since it was a whole day of set activities, the members did not leave the venue anymore, where they had prepared lunch for everyone, by 3PM the service resumed, where the BP preached a message that has yet to be heard by the main church. It was a challenging message that saw three couples coming forward to surrender their lives to the Lord.

The following day, the Preachers’ Conference pushed through, where I was also slated as the kick-off lecturer on the music ministry. I spent almost an hour discussing the details of the music ministry, before our BP took on the pulpit and preached for the next five hours.

Later that evening, a victory banquet was set in a hotel, where the members were treated to an almost acoustic concert by our beloved pastor, who sang songs and played the guitar to the delight of his people. He gave an inspirational message to challenge the brethren to keep on keeping on for the Lord in Kuwait.

On our last night in Kuwait, the BP got another chance to talk to the brethren during their Sunday evening service. There were a few visitors who attended also, who were later on dealt with the Gospel. After the service, I got a chance to do a hands on rehearsal with the Kuwait choir on how they should do their vocalizations and pre-rehearsal routines. And then finally, for the last time, the BP and the brethren went out for a fellowship dinner, where he had a wonderful time telling jokes and funny stories to the brethren, who just can’t resist laughing out loud in the restaurant over the BP’s humorous tales.

Our trip going to Dubai was slated in the afternoon, and so several of the members who were already off from work joined in accompanying us to the airport. We had a few more chats in the airport mall just before our flight number was announced ready for boarding. We said our goodbyes and ’til thens to the brethren, who are anticipating the BP’s next trip there next year, probably August or November.

I had a great five-day trip in Kuwait. I enjoyed the fellowship we had with our BP and the brethren there. The experience with them is something that I will cherish and remember as well for a very long time.

But this was just the first leg of my 65-day trip, and soon we were bound for Dubai.

(To be continued)


Land Of Sand: My Two-Month Trip To Kuwait, UAE and Qatar (preface)

Preface

It’s been 24 days already since I left the Philippines for a 65-day ministerial trip here in the Middle East. This is one of the very rare privileges that our senior pastor, Dr. BMA, gives to a select few of his pastoral staff to go around our foreign congregations and minister to them for a minimum of 9 weeks. I thank him very much for the opportunity to represent him among God’s people here abroad.

This is my second time to be out of the country–more than a year ago, our BP sent me to Brunei for a two-week ministerial visit as well. It was a trip of many firsts for me–my first time of putting my passport into good use, my first time to be in a place where I was the foreigner, and my first time to be away from my wife by being in another country. The experience taught me a lot of beautiful and wonder things, as well as the intricacies and details of traveling outside the Philippines.

When our BP confirmed my trip to our Middle East congregations for two months, I had mixed emotions about it–happy to be going abroad, excited to meet our brethren and minister to them, but also quite sad that I will be away from my wife, and this time, from my daughter as well. Nonetheless, this was a rare opportunity, and so I prepped up everything I can before I left.

It’s only now that I thought of putting up a journal post about this trip–after all, it might be a very long time after this that I get to go out again for a trip abroad. So, I might as well record a journal about this trip and share to you the many wonderful experiences I have gathered and will continue to gather for the remainder of this trip.

This is just to wet your appetite guys! And I hope I can get to compress on the next post, everything that has happened in the last 24 days of may stay here already. With 41 days left on my schedule here, we’ll all be in for a lot more of surprises!

Keep it locked in here!

 


On Paper: Clippers Hit Jackpot With Landing CP3

Chris Paul is set to help the LA Clippers contend for the playoffs this season

All of a sudden, the NBA’s perennial whipping boys for the last three decades are set to remake their image into contenders, as the LA Clippers landed a deal with the league-owned New Orleans Hornets, acquiring 4-time NBA All Star Chris Paul.

A few weeks ago, it seemed Paul was headed to the other LA Team–the Lakers–which would have pushed a deal between the Hornets and the Houston Rockets. That is, until NBA Commissioner David Stern stepped in and killed the trade for “basketball reasons.” The Clippers joined in the trading fray after the three-team deal collapsed. The Clippers sent guard Eric Gordon, big man Chris Kaman and his soon-to-expire $12.7-million contract to the Hornets, along with sophomore forward Al-Farouq Aminu and the 2012 unprotected first-round draft pick the Clippers acquired from the also-rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005.

The Lakers, obviously, are utterly upset with the turn of events. Just recently, the Lakers let lose Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks, and may lose the chance to acquire Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. The pressure adds up especially if you see that the team sharing the Staples Center with your team has transformed from all-time cellar-dweller to playoff contender. And, did I mention the Lakers have a new coach?

On paper, the Clips have all the reason to smile with the acquisition they’ve had in the past weeks. But to reach the playoffs–or at least to finally bolt out of the bottom of the standings–have yet to be seen when the season tips off on the 25th. And so the proverbial “wait and see.”

Nonetheless, the excitement and enthusiasm of seeing Paul wearing a jersey that looks like that of Griffin is something to be really joyous about. Brace yourselves for a lot of nifty passes and high-flying dunks as the Clippers flaunt their new line-up when the season kicks off soon.


On Paper: The Mavs and the New Pieces of Their Puzzle

Getting that elusive championship even just once is good enough for any franchise in the NBA.

The Dallas Mavericks beg to disagree

As of this writing, I am watching an NBA TV interview with Vince Carter, who’s already wearing jersey no. 25 for the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. A couple of days back, we saw Lamar Odom donning the Mavericks’ uniform as well. All these movements tell you that the Mavs are not stopping at just one championship banner being holstered up their rafters. They want one more.

And if not them, for sure Mark Cuban wants one more.

While some see these movements as the Dallas owner’s uncanny way of clearing enough cap space for next year’s free agency, acquiring Carter and Odom, two veterans who’ve done their fair share in lifting their previous teams to higher levels of playing, was also a smart move as far as keeping their championship repeat hopes alive. Losing Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea was something that seemed inevitable, thus the imperative of plugging the holes they have left. For the Dallas squad to maneuver their way through the free agency traffic, landing these two players into their team, is something to give careful consideration, especially for those teams who are sketching their own paths to snatching the crown away from the Mavs.

And do not, even for a single second, be tempted to check Carter’s or Odom’s age. They maybe thirtysomethings, but they’ll just fit well into the system that Dallas coach Rick Carlisle has set up in the last four seasons. Just look at the reunion of Jason Kidd and Carter, whose duo was one among many highlighted tandems, especially during their run with the Nets. Kidd, after three trips to the Finals, finally got his championship last year. Hopefully, him getting together with VC will give Air Canada his first championship as well.

As for Odom, remember he’s the reigning sixth man. To have him along with Jason Terry as first options off the bench gives Dallas a formidable force. With Barea already out of the circulation, Terry will get more playing minutes in the guard spot, while Odom will most likely be the shooting end of the plays that either of the two Jasons will be setting up. Odom’s got two championship belts under him as well, giving him the experience leverage. If Odom were to teach a basketball class, his subject would be “How To Win Back-to-Back.”

But Vince Carter himself declared the ultimate disclaimer of them all, when he said “on paper, we’re a very capable team. But the ultimate goal is to win it all.” Carter hit the nail on the head. If Dallas wants to win another trophy, they’ll have to maximize whatever remaining days are left for them to gel and get along before tip off on Christmas Day. Everything on paper must be translated on the court when they play ball. If all goes well, you might find Dallas playing in June.

Otherwise, Dallas’ chase for the crown will be nothing more than a drawn play on the whiteboard.