Friday, April 20, 2007

Lucio Tan One of the Richest Persons in the World

( - A local entrepreneur is among three Filipinos listed as the richest people in the world, according to Forbes Magazine. Lucio Tan, the self-made tobacco proprietor turned business tycoon, is ranked 407th out of 946 recognized people from 53 different countries on the prestigious and notorious Forbes roster of global billionaires. Tan's net worth is estimated at being US$2.3 billion.

Tan's family's business local private sector endeavors include Benson's Hardware, SM Mart and the Fiesta Resort hotel. Described as being "frugal and low-key" and "at times controversial", the 72-year-old Tan has invested heavily in several Asian interests like Philippine Airlines, the Philippine National Bank and fortune tobacco. Forbes also cites Tan as owning a large portfolio of real estate in Hong Kong.

Tan is joined by two of his countrymen, industrialist Jaime Zobel de Ayala and retail giant Henry Sy.

Four Filipinos Die in Crash in Mid East

( - One of the survivors of a horrific van crash on the Riyadh-Dammam highway, in which four Filipinos died last Friday night, is to undergo surgery on his spine in Hofuf soon.

Alan Castaٌeda who was driving the van, told Arab News, in a phone interview from Riyadh Central Hospital yesterday, that he cannot remember what caused the accident.

According to community leaders based in Riyadh, among the fatalities were the couple Edimar and Rojani Abragante and their 7-year-old son, Neil.

Elien Bantay also died in the accident, according to sources. However, her husband Edmar Bantay and their son, Lemuel, survived in the accident.

Macky, the 10-year-old son of the Abragantes, also survived.

Traveling with them in the same van were four members of the Castaٌeda family. Miraculously, the driver Alan, his wife Daisy Castaٌeda and their two children Jordan, 4-years-old, and Janayah, 1-year-old, all survived in that tragic accident.

Daniel Vallestero, an officer of the Master Builders Association of the Philippines (MBAP) based in Riyadh, told Arab News that the three families had just attended the celebration of the MBAP Foundation Day in Riyadh and were returning to the Eastern Province when the tragic accident happened.

All the fatalities were brought to Riyadh Central Hospital while the survivors were treated at the King Fahd Hospital in Hofuf.

According to Alan, they flipped over several times and some of the passengers were thrown out, including the 4-year-old boy, Lemuel.

Other survivors only got minor injuries and are recovering well. But, Lemuel Bantay, who was rushed to the National Guard Hospital in Riyadh, was initially in critical condition and is under observation.

The teachers and students of the Philippine School in Dammam, where the children of Abragante and Castaٌeda studied, were shocked on hearing the tragic news. Classmates of Neil cried upon hearing that their jolly friend was already gone.

RP Basketball Team in the Olympics

by Joseph Pimentel/

LOS ANGELES - The last time the Philippine National basketball team reached the Olympics in 1972, most of the players on the current roster were not born yet.

Inside the Home Depot Center in Carson, excitement fills the air. Predominantly white jerseys with a shield-crest of the Philippine flag adorn a new generation of Filipino national basketball players.

The RP team arrived in Los Angeles during the last week of March and started training at the Home Depot ADT Event Center on Monday, April 2.

The group is hoping to be the first Philippine team in 36 years and eighth RP National basketball team to qualify for the Olympics. Next year, Beijing, China is hosting the 2008 summer Olympics.

"We want to create history by being the first Philippine team in 36 years to reach the Olympics," said RP National Coach Vincent "Chot" Reyes.

After the Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) lifted its suspension against the Philippines in February, Coach Chot Reyes quickly assembled the "best of the best" 12 players from the Philippine Basketball Association.

"We have a group of players that could play a lot of different positions. The guards are quick and the team as a whole could shoot the ball pretty well," said Coach Reyes. "More importantly is the excitement. These guys want to be here. They are a group of the highest paid professionals in the Philippines who are giving up their family time, vacation and rest time to come and represent the country."

"The team was put together three weeks ago [March 12] but as a group they have been playing with or against each other in the PBA for the past two years. It's going to be really exciting to see how they continue to gel," added Aboy Castro, Assistant Coach and Scout of the RP team.

The task to qualify will not be easy. The Chinese National Basketball team led by 7'6" center Yao Ming of the NBA Houston Rockets has dominated the FIBA Asia Championship for Men the past three tournaments. The tallest player on the RP team is 6'9" Asi Taulava of the PBA Talk N Text team.

"Our biggest weakness is going to be [going against] the size of China, Qatar, and Lebanon - the bigger teams in Asia. That's our biggest concern," said Coach Reyes.

Despite the odds, the coaches and players are set out to regain the dominance over Asia that once was Philippines basketball of the 1950's and 60's. But first, they have to compete against other players in tune-up games.

The RP team on Monday April 2 and Tuesday April 3 scrimmaged at the Home Depot Center against a compilation of American players who play international basketball professionally, ABA Hollywood Fame players, and Bryon Russell, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers.

After being down by as much as 18 points on Monday, the RP National team came back and defeated the group of rogue players much to the dismay of Russell on the final score of 98-81.

"It was fun everybody had a good time. Both teams competed," said Russell. "And [on Monday] we lost to the Filipino National team. They started off slow but their very competitive and they stepped their level of play up."

Coach Hernando Planells, also of Filipino-American descent, coach of the ABA Hollywood Fame and the scrimmage, said the RP team doesn't appear to have a lot of size but they have a lot of speed that could carry them to an Olympic berth.

"From a talent perspective, and I've seen a lot of other national teams, I think they are very talented," said Coach Planells. "I truly believe they do have a great shot in qualifying for the Olympics."

Planell's rogue team with Russell blew out the RP National team by more than 20 points in the second game on Tuesday.

Jayjay Helterbrand of the PBA Barangay Ginebra Kings and member of the RP National team said after the lost that this is a learning opportunity but no reason to worry.

"We can't get down on this lost. We have to make sure we learn from it. Hopefully, we can improve and get ready for the upcoming tournament. We're playing guys that are bigger and stronger than us and just as quick so it's definitely going to help us get ready in our upcoming games versus China, and the best of Asia."

Helterbrand right now doesn't care about winning or losing games. He knows it's still early in the training process and the chemistry of the team is not there yet.

"This is only our second game we played together as a group," said Helterbrand. "Chemistry is built on playing together repeatedly. It's going to come with a lot of playing time and training together. We are the best in the Philippines but if we don't work together, we're not going to beat anybody."

Coach Reyes after the defeat said, "We're not in game shape right now."

To prepare for the rigorous training and conditioning regiment that the upcoming tournaments will require, Coach Reyes asked the assistance of the Abunassar Impact Basketball camp, which has trained NBA players Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups and other prominent professional players.

Joe Abunassar, President of the Abunassar camp, said the training regiment for the RP National players start their day at 8 a.m. where they do "performance training," a series of exercises including two hours of weights training, balance and body control, and nutritional information before hitting the basketball court for another two hours to work on individual skills. After they grab lunch, the players end their day playing an intra-squad or exhibition match.

"What the games are great for is it allows you to see strengths and weaknesses. Not winning or losing but seeing where the team is at right now," said Abunassar. "These are a group of guys that really play well with each other."

The Philippine National team will continue to work out at the Home Depot Center until they depart back to the Philippines on April 13 to prepare for competition tournaments in Iraq, Thailand, Qatar, and Europe. Most importantly, the team has the date circled for the FIBA 2007 Southeast Asia Basketball Association (SEABA) tournament and The FIBA Asia Championship for Men, the Olympic qualifying tournament.

Coach Reyes is hoping to see more Filipinos in the stands cheer them on for their next few exhibition games scheduled on Saturday April 7, Tuesday April 10 and Wednesday April 11. All games start at 2 p.m.

"We need all the support we can get," said Coach Reyes.