Archive for August, 2008


When muscle is not good for art

For some six hours or so, Francis Abelgas had the Argao church on his back, with all its invisible saints helping him get his editing work done before it cracked and crumbled and the white vintage car/hearse pulled away.

Regardless of whether this was an old limousine or a hearse, it was on his back, ominously waiting for its passengers and indifferent to the living and non-living alike.

The image painted on Francis’ back is copied from a picture taken of the Argao church by a photography hobbyist and submitted as an entry for a photo contest. The picture didn’t win but it got better appreciation from notable Cebu painters like Sio Montera.

Francis’ broad and non-muscular back is ideal for body canvass. Body painters prefer a non-muscular body to the corrugated posterior of a body builder because the former makes for even brush strokes.

The body painting lasted three hours with no snack breaks. Francis had to sit still and straight because any movement from his arms, say with the purpose of lifting food to his mouth, could send the church to ruins. Religious and fearful of the wrath of Michael the Archangel (Argao’s patron), Francis went along with the sitting with erotic thoughts streaming his consciousness. Given the opportunity, he’d like to hand-paint the body of a naked, boobsy woman.

It was just as well that Francis kept his stomach flat for four hours–three hours for the painting and an hour for the photography. Francis now felt the pressure of being a visual model.

Francis had praises for Sio and the two other painters who impressed the church and the car on his back. They put him at ease and asked him if he itched from the non-toxic, non-allergenic paint. He didn’t, owing probably to his having built up an immunity to itchiness from the seaweeds that cling to him during dives.

He lugged the church and the car on his back for five more hours, leaving telltale flakes of his whereabouts. It had been a long and erect day for Francis and he needed water to cleanse his body and mind.

In March 2008, Bite magazine put Francis’ back on the cover.


Your inner athlete

I don’t think anybody ever got past school without having engaged in sports. Sports was a requirement in school. Physical education, remember?

Unless we were in the varsity team, there was little sports training program made suitable for us. It was enough that we could run, did what we were supposed to do with the ball such as kick it, throw it, hit it or swallow it, that could make our team score.

I didn’t know what sport I would have been good at until I belatedly found out about my “inner athlete.” By answering questions such as whether I preferred hamburger and fries to sandwiches and tea and whether I was a blue or green person, I was revealed to be a BMX rider.

My inner athlete as a BMX rider (Photo from

Now, this explains my daredevil skills. I once crashed my racer bike under a parked 10-wheeler truck and I skidded into the gutter. At another time, I rode into trade baskets of vegetables that were being unloaded from a jeepney because I braked too late. I suddenly found myself wearing pechay for a helmet.

Click inner athlete and find out if you’re a sumo wrestler or a weightlifter.


Where is the armpit hair?

USA swimming team

The male athletes come in different physiques depending on their sport but one thing that has long kept me wondering me, is: Where is their armpit hair?

As they cross the finish line, they raise their arms to reveal: “Look, dude, no hair!”

Or in sports that require the function of the arms, the men expose armpits that look like they’ve been waxed at Facial Care.

Shot put gold medallist Tomasz Majewski of Poland

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt

German triathlete Jan Frodeno

Why don’t these men have hair in their armpits?

For one, some contact sports require that the players shave their armpits. Wrestling, for example. The wrestlers grapple each other and often find their face in just every nook and cranny of their opponent’s body, including of course the armpits. They wouldn’t want to gag on armpit hair, would they?

Wrestlers Buvaysa Saytiev of Russia and Soslan Tigiev of Uzbekistan

In swimming, the athletes can’t get distracted by some curly strands floating in the pool. Worse, those hair could get inside their noses. Being hairless makes them hydro-dynamic.

US swimmer Aaron Peirsol

Remember Andre Agassi when he shaved his entire body because he wanted to be more aerodynamic when he hit the ball? I don’t want to hurt the feelings of my friends Aimee and Debbie but this is the truth, Agassi was just preempting hairline recession.

Back when Michael Jordan was playing, I would look at his armpits as he flew to shoot the ball. He had cropped, kinky armpit hair. I had a closer look of his armpit hair in the many MJ books that I bought.

Javelin thrower Breaux Greer

Next to pubic hair, armpit hair is the most unhygienic part of the human body, male or female. Majority of the bodily bacteria are found in pubic and armpit hairs, which emit odors that, depending on their strength, can make people giddy or knock them out. So how one can stand the odor is a matter of self preference.

Growing armpit hair is a matter of choice for men. In Europe, men shave their armpits but many of their women don’t. In America, men keep their armpit hair. In Asia, men braid theirs.

All photos from


Federer’s Olympic gold & its domestic effects

Federer & Wawrinka (Photo from AFP)

Today ends the reign of Roger Federer as the top-ranked player. He had held on to the number one spot for a record of 237 uninterrupted weeks and his successor, a certain Rafael Nadal, exasperatedly had been trailing behind him for a record of 160 consecutive weeks.

Federer, the classy guy that he is, ended his ATP rule with an Olympic gold.

Playing with Stanislas Wawrinka in the doubles championship against Sweden’s Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson last Aug. 16, RF showed to the world his versatility as a tennis player. He and Wawrinka were so attuned to each other’s moves that I think made Mirka, RF’s girlfriend of eight years, jealous. They were enjoying every bit of the match, shielding their lips from being read by their opponents as they strategized.

And so they won in four sets: 6-3 6-4 7-6 6-3.

Feast for the eyes (Photo from AFP)

Federer and Wawrinka jumped for joy and hugged each other. I, too, jumped up and down for joy, screamed and socked my unsuspecting sister with a throw pillow several times. Brad Pit, awoken by the commotion, jumped and barked at me. It was now the two of us jumping and barking (Brad Pit) and screaming (me) at 11:25 p.m. All this roused my mom from her sleep. She screamed, “What happened?! What happened?!”

“Federer won the gold! Federer won the gold!”

I answered a call from Kate, who also had been watching the game. If I was incomprehensible on the phone, I trust Kate to understand. I shared my elation with friends and texted them, including a judge who said the night before that RF was on his way down because he had been losing to unseeded players this year. Eat that, Judge.

Federer had long quested for an Olympic gold. He missed his chance in Sydney in 2000 and again in Athens in 2004. In Beijing, he missed out on the singles gold, having been beaten by James Blake in the quarterfinals. Putting this unpleasant memory behind him, Federer focused on his doubles play and got the gold, the second for Switzerland in Beijing. That they beat the top-ranked Bryan brothers in the semifinals showed what Federer and Wawrinka could do.

Too brokeback for comfort (Photo from

That was the first time I saw RF play doubles and I loved him even more. In their red and white colors, Roger and Stan were a feast for the eyes. Wawrinka, with his round face and sideburns, reminds me of an Ewok, cute and huggable.

Federer needed that gold to buoy his spirits. It made up for the absence of a Grand Slam championship this year as well as for the end of his ATP reign for four-and-a-half years.

I was so high and happy with Federer’s Olympic gold that I couldn’t sleep and I resorted to cleaning the house and my room at 2 a.m. Heaven knows what I’ll clean if he wins his fifth US Open later this month.


Dara Torres wins silver by .01 second

Torres, Steffen, Campbell (Photo from

The numbers behind the medals tell much of the kind of swimmer Dara Torres is.

In the 50-meter freestyle finals last Aug. 17, Britta Steffen (Germany) won the gold, Dara Torres (USA) the silver, and Cate Campbell (Australia) the bronze. These three women had topped their heats in the elimination and semifinal rounds, splashing and dashing the length of the pool in less than 25 seconds.

Here are their numbers:

Britta Steffen is 24 years old, stands 5’11 and weighs 132 pounds. Her swimming time in the 50m freestyle is as follows: 24.90 (elimination), 24.43 (semifinals), 24.06 (finals).

Dara Torres is 41 years old, stands 6’0 and weighs 150 pounds. Her swimming time: 24.58 (elimination), 24.27 (semifinals), 24.07 (finals).

Cate Campbell is 16 years old, stands 6’0 and weighs 130 pounds. Her swimming time: 24.20 (elimination), 24.42 (semifinals), 24.17 (finals).

In the finals, Torres was behind Steffen by .01 seconds! She was just as fast as the swimmer 17 years younger than she was and still faster than Campbell who wasn’t born yet when Torres began her Olympic career in Los Angeles in 1984. Competing against them, Torres showed no sign of age strain.

At the medal awarding, Torres suppressed a tear. It was an emotional moment for her. It was her fifth Olympic, at age 41, and she won a silver. But then, she could have won the gold.

In her website, Dara Torres says: “If I can inspire both women and men in anything it would be that age is just a number, not a death sentence.”

She truly inspires.


`I beat the best of all time’

Coming out of the moviehouse last night, I checked my phone and found three messages from Rianne.

8:10 p.m. First set, Blake-Federer, 3-3.

8:24 p.m. Roger lost. First set. Hmp.

9:36 p.m. Lost!!! Waaaaah!

As in 2 sets, lost?

Yep. 6-4, 7-6. Huhuhu.

Sheyts!!! Aaaaaaaargh!

(A minute later.)

What about Nadal-Djokovic matches?

Haven’t started. Nadal vs Melzer, Djokovic vs Monfils later.

Hokeh. Thanks. Am crying now.

Don’t cry because Roger will need you. Hahaha.


I texted Chinggay: Federer lost to Blake, 4-6 6-7. There goes RF’s Olympic quest.

Since the tennis matches are not shown on the two pay-per-view channels that air the Olympic games, we resort to keeping track of the results on the Beijing Olympics website. Live results are provided but the page has to be refreshed every now and then.

I texted Rianne again: Try refreshing the Beijing Olympics website. The scores might have been erroneous.

Rianne: Hahaha. I have let go. Mike will run the story in sports pages. But I’m still happy because the foto he will use is one of Roger taking off his shirt. Hay!

I texted Mike: Re Federer loss, soften the blow. PLEASE. When I read the story tomorrow, it will feel like my heart is being cut.

Mike: Hehe. OK.

I lost the appetite to have dinner and went to bed just before midnight. At 8:10 a.m. today, I woke up with a barbell-heavy heart. When I read the story in the paper, it did feel like my heart was being cut open without anesthesia.

A few hours later, I sent Federer a message in his website: You remain my champion, Roger.

Aaack! (AFP foto)

His last hope for an Olympic medal will be in the doubles with Stanislas Wawrinka. They have advanced to the quarterfinal round and are to face India’s Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati.

James Blake, who was 0-8 to Federer until their Olympic 2008 faceoff, said of his win: “One day I’ll be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I beat the best of all time.”



I feel I am about to develop hemorrhoids from watching the weightlifting events of the Beijing Olympics.

The barbell looks harmless and passive until a burly athlete lifts it with the concentration and will of someone trying to fit into a pair of jeans two sizes smaller.

The weightlifters are the least telegenic athletes, being caught on camera when their faces contort as they snatch or clean and jerk 75-, 94-, 105-, 148-kilo barbells.

Sketch by Josua Cabrera

They source their strength from their legs, back and shoulders. Among athletes, they have the biggest and sturdiest legs, and next to swimmers, have the most developed back and shoulders. Like discus throwers, they are heavy, hard and strong. Heaven forbid if a weightlifter throws another weightlifter at me.

As one weightlifter after another snatches the barbell and holds it above his head, I tense up, cringe and tightly grip the remote control as I feel his strength and the weight of the barbell.

Better to switch channels.

Wait. A news report says a Hungarian weightlifter, Janos Baranyai, couldn’t support the weight of the 148-kilo barbell and bent his forearm backward, causing his elbow to pop out of the socket. Oh my.

August 2008
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