MANILA, March 2, 2006
(STAR) By Aurea Calica - The country’s never-ending political troubles make World Boxing Council light flyweight champion Brian Viloria wish there is a match Filipinos can watch everyday and unite them for a single cause.

"The Hawaiian Punch" met with President Arroyo at the Palace yesterday and was treated with small pieces of sponge cakes with panda icing the shape of his championship belt as tribute for his successful fight last February.

The President’s gift to Viloria was presented by the Palace chefs.

Mrs. Arroyo congratulated Viloria as she told him "we’re proud of you." Viloria was able to defend his title after defeating Mexican Jose Antonio Aguirre in a bout in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Filipino-American told reporters said he was aware of the developments in the country and that he had been praying for an end to the political turmoil.

"Everyone’s praying for the Philippines…we don’t want any more political turmoil," he said.

Viloria expressed hopes the Filipinos could get together and forget about their political leanings like what they used to do to cheer for a Filipino athlete like him or the "people’s boxing champion" Manny Pacquiao.

"It (the situation) kinda makes us wish that we can fight everyday so everyone can just, you know, live in peace," Viloria said.

He said it would be best if Filipinos would think of the country most of the time just when athletes fight and do their best to represent the Philippines.

Viloria said like Pacquiao, he would not mind using his influence over people, like going to every military camp, to promote peace and unity. He said all sectors of society, including sports, get affected and pulled down by political turmoil.

On a lighter note, Viloria said he was happy to see the President’s surprise for him, referring to the cakes.

"It almost looks like my belt…I’m kinda hungry right now so I might take a bite," he said.

Pumaren says key is communication By Joaquin Henson The Philippine Star 03/02/2006

For newly appointed Talk ’N’ Text head coach Derick Pumaren, the key to the Phone Pals’ success in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) lies in communication.

"We can’t be out of the coverage area," Pumaren told The STAR yesterday. "It’s not a question of manpower because the talent in our team is a given. What’s important is the lines of communication are always open."

Pumaren said team effort will turn things around for Talk ‘N’ Text which failed to advance to the semifinals in the last conference.

"I can’t do it by myself," he stressed. "The players can’t do it by themselves. Management can’t do it by itself. But we can do it as a team–the management, the players and the coaching staff. We’ve got the right mix of veterans and young players. With the right chemistry and attitude, we’ll go far."

Pumaren said the Phone Pals’ immediate goal is to qualify for the semifinals in the Philippine Cup opening this Sunday.

"We’re not thinking of the finals, it’s too early for that," said Pumaren. "We don’t want to put too much pressure on the players. If and when we make it to the finals, then we’ll go for it. We’ve got a team that can go all the way. Panlaban itong team."

Pumaren initially considered submitting an 11-man roster for the coming conference but decided to make it 12, adding practice player Chris Cantonjos.

Aside from Cantonjos, other newcomers in the squad are Vergel Meneses, Poch Juinio, John Ferriols and Anton Viloria. Returning to the fold are Asi Taulava, Jimmy Alapag, Harvey Carey, Vic Pablo, Leo Avenido, Mac-Mac Cardona and Willie Miller.

Missing from last conference’s cast are Mark Telan (traded to Air21), Anthony Washington (recovering from shoulder injury), Donbel Belano (out for at least two months due to a partial tear in his hamstring), Allan Salangsang (released) and Nino Gelig (released).

"It was a tough decision to let go of Mark," said Pumaren who brought in Tonichi Yturri and Jun Tiongco as assistants. "I recruited Mark for La Salle although I never coached him. We brought in Ferriols and Juinio to complement Asi because we needed big men who can step out and hit the 15 to 17 footer. That way, defenders won’t just sag on us."

As for Meneses, Pumaren said he’ll back up Vic Pablo. "He’s in great shape," continued Pumaren. "Dan (Rose) pushed him hard. Vergel really wants to play again. I was surprised to see him at practice looking better than he ever did before."

Rose, who is Air21’s strength and conditioning coach, took Meneses under his wing to get him ready for his comeback.

Pumaren said some teams, including Alaska, inquired about the possibility of a Cardona trade but he was intent on keeping the former Green Archer as Miller’s backup at the two-spot. Pumaren also retained Avenido whom he described as his "insurance" point and two-guard.

Washington underwent shoulder surgery at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Inglewood, California, last December and sat out the Phone Pals’ last 11 games of the Fiesta Conference. His condition will be evaluated in May to determine when he can resume playing.

Pumaren said he couldn’t ask more support from Talk ‘N’ Text management.

"Management is hands-on," he noted. "Decisions are collegial. Management gives full support, does what is best for the team and takes good care of the players. It’s our turn to give back to management by playing hard and winning."

Former University of Nevada at Las Vegas coach and consultant Bill Bayno arrived here last week to assist in preparing the Phone Pals for the next conference. "Bayno observed it was great to see the guys working so hard in the gym," said Pumaren. Bayno is scheduled to leave tonight. To get the ball rolling in training camp, Pumaren put the players through a grueling grind that he called "hellweek." Pumaren began "hellweek" at the Sportskamp in the Fort last Feb. 20, calling two practices a day and working the players to the bone. Then the team went to Subic the last four days of "hellweek" for more playing, more drills, more training, some aqua exercises and more bonding.

"The guys are working hard," said Pumaren. "After practice, I talk to the players individually. We mingle and hang out with each other. We discuss issues. It’s all about communicating. After all, our team owner is PLDT, a communications company."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved