DECEMBER 4, 2006
(STAR) By Joey Villar - Mark Caguioa and Jay Jay Helterbrand went on a scoring spree as Barangay Ginebra drove past Air21, 116-105, yesterday to seize the lead in the Talk N’ Text PBA Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.

Caguioa and Helterbrand, known in the PBA as the "Bandana Boys," accounted for more than half of the Kings’ total output and powered the league’s most popular team to a fourth straight victory and 10th in 14 games overall.

Caguioa fired a conference-high 35 points while Helterbrand booked his own high of 25 points on top of 11 assists and four steals as they took the sting out of the Express, who have the league-best average of 103.2 points per game.

"They’re just great," said Ginebra coach Jong Uichico of his high-scoring tandem.

Gary David came off the bench to score 28 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter for Air 21. But he failed to keep up for the Express when Caguioa and Helterbrand stepped on the gas in the stretch and deal the Express their eighth loss against six wins.

"They were playing their game in the first half," said Uichico. "But my players did a good job in putting a stop to their offense with an aggressive defense."

Niño Canaleta scattered 15 points early on as the Express seized a 39-26 lead in the second quarter. But the Kings, egged on by the crowd, clawed back to cut their deficit to just six points, 48-54, at the break.

An 11-2 blast had Air21 erecting a 65-50 advantage, its biggest of the game. Again, Ginebra roared back to tie the count at 81-all with a quarter to go.

After a seesaw battle in the first five minutes of the final canto, Caguioa and Helterbrand just took over to lead the crowd favorites to victory.

Robin Padilla’s new love THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco The Philippine Star 12/04/2006

Action star Robin Padilla is one of the giants of Philippine cinema. He has portrayed many underdogs and sympathetic rogues throughout a long, solid career of blockbuster films. Always the lovable rogue and ruffian, Padilla has been known for his intense passions, passions that have, on occasion, flared up into a few untoward incidents when he firmly believed that he was wronged.

Robin, who is now heavily into shooting his new adventure series Asian Treasures with Angel Locsin, has always been known to throw everything he has into what he believes in. Now, he has a new love, and it isn’t what (or even who) you expect.

Robin Padilla is in love, with muay thai.

"I don’t pass up on any martial arts," Padilla told The STAR in the vernacular. "I love the intensity, the action. But with muay thai, I found something else also."

Aside from the terrific contact of the traditional Thai sport (which allows use of not only the fists, but elbows, knees and feet), Padilla realized the rich, cultural heritage that has made the unconquered Thais so proud of their sport. A great example is the elaborate Buddhist dance that goes on when the boxers enter the ring.

"They really value their culture," says Padilla, a devout Muslim. "Through the traditional prayers and way kru dance, they honor thr spirit of the ring, and pay homage to parents and trainers. It is one sport that is very spiritual."

Much of the early history of the sport was lost when the Burmese army razed Ayutthaya to the ground centuries ago. But gradually, writings of the Burmese, Cambodian and early European settlers helped reconstruct it. It has now evolved into a structured, ritualistic highly traditional sport.

The rituals begin in the backroom, where amulets blessed by monks are placed around a participant’s biceps. These amulets are believed to protect a fighter from injury, Lastly, a headpiece, made up of prayer scrolls and also blessed by monks, is placed over the combatant’s head. These head bands are passed on from boxer to boxer, and remind them that they are fighting not just for themselves, but for their families, trainers, and camps. Lastly, of course, is the lengthy

way kru, which varies from one training camp to the other. Some gamblers even claim they can predict who will win a fight based on who does a better way kru. Even foreigners who learn the sport take it upon themselves to master their own version of the way kru. But outside of Thailand, others abandon the way kru, considering it too feminine for their own taste.

Since fighters are paired according to weight, bigger, non-Asian fighters seek success in professional circuits in Europe, because it is difficult to find someone to fight in the higher weight classes. But this is precisely what gives the Filipino an even chance to dominate this indigenous Southeast Asian sport.

"There is nothing like the courage of the Filipino fighter," says Padilla, the chairman of the Muaythai Association of the Philippines. "The more he gets hit, the tougher he gets. You would have to do so much just to stop him from coming at you."

"We are so grateful that there are people like Robin who can make a difference in the sport," says Robert Valdez, the president of the national sports association. "We have been working hard to convince people that Filipinos can be world-class in this sport."

In the last Southeast Asian Games, five championship bouts featured Filipinos facing Thais, and battling them on equal footing. The Thais were surprised at the dramatic improvement of our boxers, impressive considering the fact that the association has only been around since 1999.

"Hopefully, this will also be an instrument for Filipinos to be more in harmony with each other," Padilla claims. "We often have intense feelings. We can take them out in the ring. And I hope that we may also learn to value our culture, the way the Thais do."

Padilla’s group is now negotiating with a television network to produce a weekly television show featuring international fights in the sport. Called "King of the Rings: Matira ang Matibay", the sport will feature international pro bouts. The Viva Films star has acquired the rights to show even world championship fights in the Philippines, with the aim of luring more sponsors and viewers to a sport where his countrymen can be world champions in.

"I know Filipinos can be world champions here," Padilla claims. "We’ve already shown we can beat the Thais at their own game. Now, we just need support to take muay thai all over the Philippines, and seek out our best fighters."

Knowing the passion and intensity of Robin Padilla, this is one quest he will succeed in.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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