ABOUT once a year and with the permission of my wife (disclosure: Jasmin’s family operates the 1,000-guards-strong Centurion Security Agency), I engage in something that men would forever love to do: Stare at beautiful girls.

There were 18 of them. Tall, with waistlines averaging 28, their faces free of blemishes, their smiles like Angel Locsin’s. They walked like Gisele Bundchen, would stop a few meters to face you, locked eye-to-eye. No, it wasn’t a catwalk inside the KTV—Jasmin would have her blue guards shoot me—but last Saturday’s beauty contest called Miss Cesafi 2010.

I was one of the judges. Ten college campus queens and eight high school standouts paraded inside the Cebu Coliseum to sway our votes (my co-judges were Cebu City sports head Ed Hayco and Phil. Collegiate Champions League president Rey Gamboa).

The criteria: beauty (30 percent), figure (30), poise and deportment (30), and attire (10).

Given only a few minutes to appraise a woman’s glamour and symmetry—staring at each one from head to foot many times—is, like taking a time-pressured high school exam, difficult.

In the end, while all the 18 girls looked attractive, there had to be two winners. For the high school, it was Amanda Marie Booth (representing Sacred Heart School-Ateneo) and, for the collegiate division, Amelie Mira Grauel (SWU).

OPENING. Although the uppermost bleachers were empty (surprising for such a huge event), the Cesafi grand salvo last Saturday afternoon was impressive.

The UC dancers bounced on air. Confetti showered. Balloons sprinkled from the high ceiling. Junmar Fajardo, all of 7-feet-tall, towered above all the basketball players who gathered. Joe Lipa, a Filipino basketball icon, I was privileged to sit beside.

The top school officials were present: Oscar Tuason, Gus Go, Greg Escario, Fr. Manny Uy, Bernard Villamor and Cesafi President Rolly Villa.

The man who commanded the proceedings? Of course, the commissioner, Felix “Boy” Tiukinhoy. He was assisted by dozens, led by UC’s Bernard Ricablanca, Jr.

CEC. Sitting beside Jefferson Go, Cebu Eastern College’s top representative, during the opening, we talked about his team.

Last year, the CEC Dragons were the laughingstock of Cebu. In one game last season, they lost to UC, 159-28. Can you believe that? Losing by 131 points! Well, if that’s unbelievable, how about this: Less than 12 months after, the CEC Dragons are spewing fire—and burning the opposition.

During the off-season, they beat many top squads in exhibition games. Last Saturday, in Cesafi’s first-ever game, they dismantled Sacred Heart, 87-70. If the winning streak continues, this should be one of Cebu’s most amazing comebacks.

MANDAUE RUN. Congratulations to Eric Mendoza, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce Inc., and Stanley Go, the Mandaue Business Movement Chairman, for the “Mandaue: Run For Life” event. It was a top-notch race: the Parkmall start/finish area was huge, hundreds of policemen and marshals patrolled the supposedly-dangerous Mandaue Reclamation roads; water and 100Plus drinks deluged our stomachs; sponges cooled our overheating bodies; live drums/music invigorated us... in all, that was a superbly-organized race.

NOT SPORTS. Every so often, I’ll write a paragraph about a topic that’s not supposed to belong here. Today, the gadget-fanatic that I am, I talk about cellphones. Like you, my hands have passed through plenty. I’ve tried the Motorola StarTAC, an Ericsson unit, several Nokia phones, the Treo 650, a few days with the iPhone (after jail-breaking it, I sold the unit), and the latest, the BlackBerry 8520—until last week, when I switched to the Android Phone by Google. The brand/model is HTC Desire and, once you stare at the screen and toy with the iPhone-like applications, you’ll say, “Wow!” After a quick check with my tech consultants Dr. Ronald Eullaran and Max Limpag, I made the switch. What a smartphone! The HTC Desire, believe me, is to be desired.

(john@pages.ph)