Michael Martinez comes home a superstar from Sochi, prepares for World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2014 and 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics

Filipino figure skater Michael Christian Martinez was bestowed the honors fit for a revered Olympian Sunday, with a motorcade around Pasay City and press conference at the SM Mall of Asia.

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The teener who placed 19th overall in Men’s Figure Skating in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia faced the media, his colleagues, supporters and fans fresh from his 30-hour journey from the Games location.

He was given a Lifetime Skating Privilege in all SM Skating Rinks and SM Prime Holdings Inc. president Hans Sy, also the first Philippine Skating Union (PSU) president, handed the athlete a US$10,000 check as bonus for his stellar and historic performance in the Games.

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Sy pledged further for continued and even stronger support for Michael’s bid in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in Korea.

“He is a shining example to the youth as someone who saw no limits to what he can achieve. He has already inspired millions by following his dream and by competing in the Winter Olympics,” said the SM Prime Holdings president.

Pasay City Mayor Tony Calixto likewise acknowledged Michael’s contribution to Philippine sports by giving him the symbolic key to the city, as MOA, where Michael does his practice, is located in Pasay.

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Business tycoon Manny Pangilinan of TV5, Smart Communications and PLDT pledged a US$10,000 bonus for Michael soon after the figure skating sensation finished his short program routine. TV5 was the exclusive broadcaster of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

In his speech, Michael said that he was sharing the honors to all Filipino Olympians before him.

“I’m not the first to represent the country in the world stage. So please don’t forget other athlete heroes. I share this moment with them,” he told the crowd and the media at MOA.

Although he is the first figure skater from the Philippines and Southeast Asia, the Philippines had entered the Winter Olympics thrice before.

Martinez qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics when he finished 7th in the Men’s Singles in the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy held in Oberstdorf, Germany in September last year.

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As to the issue of lack of support from the government, PSU president and Michael’s mentor Mr. Pocholo Veguillas clarified that the Philippine Sports Commission thru the Philippine Olympic Committee actually shouldered the US$7,200 training fund of Michael in Russia. He also said that SM is shouldering their protégé’s expenses as the budget from the national government could be used to fund other athletes’ needs.

And the mortgage issue that somehow became a controversy?

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His mother, Mrs. Maria Theresa Martinez, was supposed to answer a mediaman’s query, but was motioned by Mr. Veguillas and Mr. Sy there was no need for her to say anything about it. It’s actually immaterial, as any parent would do the same to be with her beloved son in his Olympic debut. The support SM had been extending, though, or the government for that matter, is only for the athlete and not his entire family. And that is quite understood.

The good thing is, with Michael’s inspiring performance, bonuses and gratuities are now coming from all directions.

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On Monday, Michael was also honored by the Muntinlupa City government with Mayor Jaime Fresnedi handing him a check of P100,000 bonus in recognition for the pride and honor he brought to the country and the city. Michael also visited the school where he finished elementary and high school.

Later that day he skated at SM Southmall, the place where he started his career nine years ago, to the delight of his fans and mall-goers.

At the Meet & Greet event, the screams and shouts every time he waved, smiled or spoke to the crowd only proved that he’s now the newest superstar, be it in sports or television.

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Aside from the numerous guestings on TV, the ice prince is also to receive a special honor during Game 6 of the PLDT Home DSL PBA Cup Finals (between San Mig and Rain Or Shine) aired live on TV5.

Men’s Figure Skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan is said to train further in Canada and one question was if Michael would follow suit to solidify his chances in the next Olympics.

He said that he’s staying put with his trainer, Russian 1998 Olympic champion Ilia Kulik, as they’ve been working together for so long and he’s confident with him. In fact, they have started training for quadruple axel in preparation for his bid in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in Korea.

Asked about what was running through his mind when he fell during his free skate routine, he said that he can’t allow a second fall as he was fighting for his mom, himself and his country.

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He also said that he’s so happy and could hardly believe he met and was actually competing along with his idol, Patrick Chan of Canada, who placed second to Hanyu.

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Michael will soon go back to the US to train for the World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2014 in Sofia, Bulgaria, happening on March 10-16.

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Related stories: Filipinos proud of Michael Christian Martinez’s 2014 Olympics feat; Japanese wins Men’s Figure Skating gold https://arloc888.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/filipinos-proud-of-michael-christian-martinezs-2014-winter-olympics-feat-japanese-wins-mens-figure-skating-gold/ and Michael Christian Martinez banners Philippines in 2014 Winter Olympics https://arloc888.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/michael-christian-martinez-banners-philippines-in-2014-winter-olympics/

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Finding the sweetest watermelon in Bani Pakwan Festival

Situated between Alaminos (known for the Hundred Islands) and Bolinao (known for its pristine coastline), the town of Bani in Western Pangasinan is on the threshold of becoming a first class municipality from its present status of second class.

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The vibrant town with a population of 45,000 is also asserting itself to be the watermelon capital of the Philippines, what with its produce affirmed by tourists as the sweetest they’ve ever tasted.

To celebrate its reputation as such, the Pakwan Festival was held February 6-9. Basing on the turnout of people for the four-day festivities, this first only marks the entrance of Bani into the league of yearly feasts in the region.

A lot of the farmers turned to planting watermelon from the usual vegetables found in the diet of the townsfolk and many of them have become more financially stable because of it.

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It is said that the salty water from shallow wells used to irrigate farmlots is what makes Bani watermelon distinctly sweet.

An agriculturist said that the generally limestone-laden land attributes to the quality of the crop, as limestones function as natural filters for water.

The clean water both springing from the sprouts and its coast also makes the vegetables and fish tastier than what could be found in the rest of the country, said an old farmer who saw the progress and development in his hometown.

The growing of watermelon instead of vegetable after rice harvest started in the ‘80s, with around 200 hectares devoted to the crop.

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During the streetdancing phase of the festival, Mayor Gwen Palafox Yamamoto said she could not believe how the festival turned out to be. They just wanted it simple, but the participants made it grand with their costumes and performances as if they’ve been doing it for years.

“I could not help but cry when I watched every performance. You have become world-class,” she said, adding that the winners will be supported by the local government to be the town’s representatives in the festival in Bolinao in April and the Pistay Dayat in Lingayen in May.

The lady mayor, who is a first-termer and a political science graduate of the University of the Philippines-Baguio, is the first female executive of the town. She defeated a long-entrenched politician whose family ruled the town for more than 30 years.

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The first Bani Pakwan Festival also showcased the town’s big (kingkong) tomato variety. Food giant Jollibee is now largely using this produce as sauce for spaghetti, as well as the freshly cut tomato for salad and hamburger sandwiches.

Some 12 hectares are being tilled and cured by a group of farmers in Barangay Tugue Grande, using a special farming method that ensures the crop quality demanded by Jollibee Foods Corporation.

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The town’s other crops are special squash (malagkit variety), sweet sorghum, yellow corn and bell pepper, which all have attracted a good wholesale market.

Bani got its name from a tree that grows in the area. The town used to be called San Simon and was part of Zambales, but due to its distance from the capital, it was annexed to Pangasinan along with Alaminos, Bolinao, Burgos, Mabini, Anda and Infanta in 1903.

History relates, “When the image of the Immaculate Conception, the Patron Saint of the town disappeared from the church altar, the people and Spanish Authorities searched for the same. It was found on top of a tall Bani tree located in the vicinity of the present Roman Catholic Church of Namagbagan. Thereafter, on several occasions, the image would mysteriously disappear only to be found in the same place. With this, the inhabitants were convinced to leave their homes and to settle at the present site. From then on, the town was renamed Bani after the tree where the image of the Patroness was found.”

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There are also tourist spots in Bani that are worth visiting and exploring. In Barangay Colayo are the Nalsoc Cave, Abot Aso Cave, Nangadiyan Cave, and the Dumaloy Cave, and in its coastal areas are the Surip Beach in Sitio Olanen, Barangay Dacap Sur and Tobong Beach.

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There’s also the Crispina Mountain Resort (CMR). Located in the old town site in Namagbagan, Poblacion, a few minutes ride from the town proper, this privately-owned resort offers the following amenities: the largest swimming pool in Western Pangasinan, cottages and nipa huts for picnic goers, a six-unit apartelle, a fishpond for hook and line fishing, catering service, and activity area for darts, table tennis, billiards and similar recreation facilities.

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Added to these natural tourist attractions is the wonder of Baliwangga Falls in Barangay Ranao.

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And atop the rolling hills is the scenic view of lowland barangays overlooking the Hundred Islands in Lucap, Alaminos, the pride of the Province of Pangasinan.

Filipinos proud of Michael Christian Martinez’s 2014 Winter Olympics feat; Japanese wins Men’s Figure Skating gold

Considering that the Philippines is a tropical country, producing a Winter Olympian in the person of Michael Christian Martinez is indeed remarkable.

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Not only is the teener from Muntinlupa City the first-ever Filipino figure skater in the Olympic Games but also the first from Southeast Asia (composed of 11 countries).

At 17, he’s also the youngest entrant in the event, and one of the youngest in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

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After the short program preliminaries on February 13, where he placed 19th overall in the Top 24 among 30 contestants, Michael has become a media darling, not only at home but much so for international journalists covering the event.

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As lone representative of a country of 100 million people, his flexibility on the ice rink was enough reason for the audience to be in awe, adding to the fact that snow and sleet exist only in the minds of those in the tropics.

One of the questions always posed is how did he practice and how has he become so good in figure skating.

For answers, see related story Michael Christian Martinez banners Philippines in 2014 Winter Olympics https://arloc888.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/michael-christian-martinez-banners-philippines-in-2014-winter-olympics/ posted as early as December 1, 2013.

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During the finals on February 14, Michael enjoyed the lead for some time. He was the third to perform and emerged on top with a total score of 184.25 (64.81 for the short program, and 119.44 for the final free skate routine), until the 7th entrant.

When the other groups performed, Michael’s ranking lowered and lowered, until he ended 19th overall, with Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan emerging #1 for the gold, Patrick Chan of Canada #2 for silver and Denis Ten, representing Kazakhstan at third for the bronze.

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Hanyu is the 2013 Grand Prix winner while Chan is 3-time World Champion. The Japanese also set a world record for earning more than 100 points in the short program. Ten, meanwhile, came from 9th in the short program to 3rd overall, snatching the bronze from Spain’s Javier Fernandez.

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Michael may have not won a medal in the Games but he has won the hearts and support of Filipinos scattered all over the globe and the admiration and attention of people around the world.

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Past midnight on February 15, before the culmination of the event, Chot Reyes, coach of Gilas Pilipinas, the Philippine team to the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, and also the executive director of MVPSF (Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation), tweeted that business tycoon Manny Pangilinan is giving Michael a bonus of US$10,000 for his historic performance.

Some of the skaters were as old as 29, and at 17, Michael can still look up to 3 more Winter Olympics.

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Although he said that he wants to eventually become a doctor, this early he is already ecstatic for his bid in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Republic Of Korea.

Filipinos will be more supportive, especially that they are now familiar with the term triple axel.

Michael Christian Martinez banners Philippines in 2014 Winter Olympics

Updated 02/08/14

Feelin'Free

It does not snow in the Philippines, being a tropical country. It doesn’t rain ice, either (except on very rare occurences in Baguio City and other areas). But with built-in ice skating rinks at choice SM malls, many young people have taken the sport seriously. Individual and team players have made good impressions in international events.

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None have qualified for the Winter Olympics, though, until Michael Christian Martinez of Muntinlupa City ranked 7th in the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy held last September 25-28 in Obersdorf, Germany. The Nebelhorn Trophy was  the last qualifying event for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

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Prior to the Nebelhorn ranking, Michael was Champion in the Crystal Skate 2012 in Brasov, Romania and seventh placer in the first Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. He’s 19th in the International Skating Union (ISU) Season’s Best World Rankings.

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He debuted  in the Junior Grand Prix series in…

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Rediscovering the Christian faith: Jesus reveals the most astonishing and most profound aspect of his being in John 17

More than 2,000 years since the mortality of Jesus Christ people still debate his divinity.

The Jews, until now, are still waiting for the Messiah – for they could not accept that Jesus of Nazareth, who lived among their forebears, was the prophesied Redeemer of Israel.

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Christianity – the religion that bases its beliefs on the birth, mission and resurrection of the Lord is itself divided into hundreds of denominations and sects.

Christians, or those who profess to be, can’t agree on many points, thus they created their own groups or churches based on their understanding of the Scriptures.

One denomination agrees that Jesus is the Son of God, but he can’t be God. When he showed himself to his disciples after his resurrection, he was a spirit as Heavenly Father hid his body. Arguably they say that flesh and blood can’t enter the kingdom of God. Jesus, however, said “… that a ghost has no flesh and bones as I have…”  (Luke 24:39). In effect, this group who calls themselves Witnesses, actually debunks the doctrine of resurrection – where the body and the spirit are reunited but glorified and perfected – making its claim to be branch of Christianity questionable.

Another sect delves so much on the proclamation that Jesus is the Son of Man, making him as mortal as we all are, and he can’t be God or has godly attributes. Could it be that followers of this Church are the antichrists among us? (1 John 4:1-3)

Those who protested the practices of the Catholic (Universal) Church, believed to be founded by Apostle Peter in Rome, established their own, taking one or some fundamental beliefs to be their core – that’s why we have the Baptists, Anglicans, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Four Square, Methodists, Presbyterians, Charismatics, Adventists, among many others, or those named after secessionists like Lutheran, Wesleyan, etc.

Taking all these considerations, we took the pain of reexamining the Scriptures once more – starting one late night towards the end of January 2014.

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We’ve read the Bible from cover to cover – from Genesis to Revelation – a number of times before. The first two times were to fulfill a goal. The second two times were a requirement. The next two times were reviews.

After that, we opened the Bible from time to time and read the books according to our interest and need at the moment – like the lives of King David and his son Solomon, learning that even if God already gave them more than what they needed and asked for, they still stumbled because they could not rein in their carnal desires; the poetic truths contained in Proverbs, Psalms and Ecclesiastes; the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles; Revelation, on what’s going to happen in the last days.

We have also used different versions of the Bible in our search for knowledge and clarifications.

The King James Version is the only one accepted, used and endorsed by the saints in the later-days (that’s how they’re formally called but have a nickname for believing in another book that, according to them, testifies of the divinity of Jesus the Christ).

Our only concern in using KJV is that the language used was good during the Medieval Period, or maybe until the Renaissance, but in the 21st Century it needs to be updated, for God certainly wants to speak to us in a way that his people understand.

The New World Translation, as we find, is full of biases. It’s been updated to suit the beliefs of the Society that printed it.

We also used The Way during our college days. But for convenience we carried the New Testament (with Psalms and Proverbs) published by the Gideons. It’s still KJV but it’s not bulky to take it along wherever anyone wants to go.

When we were with Radio Veritas as anchor/host somebody gifted us a copy of the Christian Community Bible Catholic Pastoral Edition, published by Claretian Publications. The Foreword says, “Complete original text translated from Hebrew and Greek, presented and commented for the Christian Communities and for those who seek God.”

We’ve been using this version in our review of the Scriptures and relish the fact that it contains the apocryphal books – Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Wisdom, Sirach – which added much insight to those seeking godly wisdom.

In our interactions with members of different religions, including Islamists, Buddhists and Hinduists, the truth remains that we are all God’s creation and bears his likeness. (Genesis 1:26-27)

The beliefs that we have are what has been formed in our minds thru indoctrinations or teachings handed down to us by our forefathers.

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Some people find it easy to accept that Jesus Christ is the Savior – born of Mary, baptized by John, personally taught the people for three years, was crucified, died and rose from the dead, and that he is to come again in the last days.

Certain aspects in the Christian belief, though, may be missing.

During his discourse about the kingdom and children of God (John 8:30-59), the Jews were so incensed, they said, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” (v. 57)

Jesus spoke of his being, which is indeed astonishing. “And Jesus said ‘Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’” (v. 58)

For the Jews, that was too much.

Jesus proclaimed at that very moment he is in fact, Yahweh or Jehovah.

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Moses, in his conversation with God, asked, “…If I go to the Israelites and say to them: ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ they will ask me: ‘What is his name?’ What shall I answer them?” (Exodus 3:13)

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you will say to the sons of Israel: ‘I AM sent me to you.’ God then said to Moses, ‘You will say to the Israelites: YAHWEH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me.’ That will be my name forever, and by this name they shall call upon me for all generations to come.” (Exodus 3:14)

In John 17, we read Jesus’ relationship with the Father, and maybe, a lot of Christians have overlooked this:

“I have glorified you on earth and finished the work that you gave me to do. Now, Father, give me in your presence the same Glory I had with you before the world began.” (v. 4)

For years, we’ve been wondering about creation. The photos we see of the galaxy and the worlds out there firmly testifies of our belief in a Supreme Being, that things did not happen because of a Big Bang, but things came about for a purpose and that is to give glory to God, our Heavenly Father.

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This is our testimony that God lives and Jesus Christ is our Savior. Amen and Amen.

May you also find wisdom in your search, as James admonished: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God who gives to all easily and unconditionally. But ask with faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave driven and tossed on the sea by the wind.” (James 1:5-6)