Pages: EMitch Albom lands in Cebu

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Sunday, February 23, 2014


I WAS in Manila the past couple of days. I wanted to watch last Friday’s Game 4 of the PBA Finals between San Mig Coffee and Rain or Shine but the traffic in Metro Manila has become worse — no thanks to the closure of several major roadways.

One “sports activity” I did get to watch was in Glorietta yesterday afternoon when the entire Activity Area of the Ayala mall was flooded. Not with water — but with Mitch Albom fans. Yes. The best-selling author who’s sold more than 35 million books is in the Philippines — for the first time.

The past few days, Albom has stayed in our nation’s capital. Today, he’s here in Cebu to provide us with a rare meet-and-greet session. Thanks to National Book Store and Ayala Center Cebu, the author of “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” and “Have A Little Faith” will join us in person.

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I’ve been a Mitch Albom fan for the past two decades. And, surprisingly, it’s not because of his books. (I’ve only read one: “Tuesdays With Morrie.”) I’ve been a follower of Mitch Albom because he’s the world’s greatest sportswriter.

Unknown to most of the world, he’s won the “best sports columnist of America” title a record 13 times, given by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has won over 200 writing awards, many of them because of his sports stories. His weekly sports articles in the Detroit Free Press — which started in 1985 — are the best stories in all of sports. He’s funny and witty and is able to capture stories that go beyond the scoreline.

While in Manila during this trip, he has spent time with numerous journalists, including The Philippine Star’s Quinito Henson, whose recent article, “The Renaissance Man,” was a terrific read.

“Albom said he never could find the time to visit the Philippines even as invitations came his way the last 10 to 15 years until Typhoon Yolanda struck and his heart went out to the Filipino victims,” Henson wrote. “He’s been involved in a lot of charity work and he found the right opportunity to visit the Philippines in the wake of the Yolanda tragedy. On Monday, Albom and his wife will go to Tacloban and dedicate a new library for the local folk.”

Salven Lagumbay, my fellow writer, and I have always called Albom our all-time favorite sportswriter.

To have the chance — just like everybody else will today at 2 p.m. at the Ayala Center Cebu — to meet him in person is a great honor. Welcome to Cebu, Mitch!
ICE SKATING.

In Manila, we also got to visit two of SM’s biggest malls: Mall Of Asia and Megamall. While inside MOA, I got to spend half an hour staring at the oval-shaped arena that’s been the focus of the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Michael Christian Martinez, who placed a very respectable 19th place at XXII Winter Olympics, was not inside the MOA skating rink to perform his triple-axels. He’s scheduled to arrive in Manila today and will be given a sports-hero’s welcome.

While in MOA, we got to witness a few teenagers who performed spins and jumps. I’m sure Martinez inspired them. I’m sure that SM will ask Martinez to showcase his talent in front of eager audiences.

With the SM Megamall, I noticed that their skating rink has been transferred. While it used to be near the Food Court, now it’s at the top-most Fashing Wing of the mall. Right at the edge of the rink was an all-glass enclosure — with a full view of the Manila skyline.

Imagine skating with a view.

My hope? With this renewed interest in ice skating because of Martinez’s achievements, that SM will consider bringing back the skating rink to the SM Seaside City.

Twenty years ago when the skating rink was at the SM City Cebu, maybe the Cebuanos were not that ready yet to fill the ice. But now, the Cebuano public is more than ready and eager. Hoping that Ms. Marissa Fernan can convince Hans Sy to bring Michael Martinez to perform at the SM Seaside City.

(john@pages.ph)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 23, 2014.

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