(STAR) By Joey Villar – The second Philippine Olympic Festival, featuring over 3,000 athletes and officials from 11 participating regions, unfolds today with the staging of the central northern Luzon qualifier at the newly refurbished Quirino Stadium here.

Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, Jr., POC chair and organizing committee chief Robert Aventajado and Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson will usher in the weeklong event staged to discover talents who could be tapped, trained and developed into future national athletes.

"We don’t know, maybe someone here would be playing for flag and country in future Olympics, particularly in the 2012 Games in London," said Aventajado.

Joining Aventajado, Cojuangco and Singson in the opening rites are Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Ting Ting Cojuangco, Vigan Mayor Ferdinand Medina, Bantay Mayor Chenita Padilla, International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Frank Elizalde and heads of the various NSAs (national sports associations) who have thrown their all-out support to the annual sporting meet.

Games in basketball at the UNP Gym will kick off hostilities while the 16 other events, including 11 Olympic sports, will be played at nine venues in this city rich in historical landmarks and nearby Bantay town.

Other events on tap are athletics, swimming, archery, taekwondo, wushu, badminton, billiards, football, karatedo, baseball, boxing, table tennis, chess, gymnastics, arnis and sepak takraw.

Ilocos Sur officials spruced up the venues to the delight of the POF organizers.

"When we came here three months ago, the complex was in bad shape," said Aventajado. "Now, the tiles at the pool are sparkling, the track venue is completely renovated and everything is ready."

A torch relay will spice up the inaugurals with 15 officials and athletes from participating LGUs (local government units), including Aventajado, Cojuangco, Singson and the host mayors passing the traditional torch from the capitol to the venue’s huge Olympic style cauldron.

After the singing of the National Anthem at 3 p.m., the POC and POF flags will be raised for the first time since the Olympic Festival was put up last year.

Pacman opts to train minus Roach By Abac Cordero The Philippine Star 03/05/2007

For the first time in so many fights, Manny Pacquiao is busy preparing for a fight without his American trainer, Freddie Roach, in sight.

Pacquiao is scheduled to face Mexico’s Jorge Solis at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on April 14, and is now entering his third week of training in Gen. Santos City.

In his previous fights, the 28-year-old Pacquiao has flown to Los Angeles and trained at the Wild Card Gym, which is owned by Roach, at least eight weeks before the fight.

But Pacquiao has opted to train in Gen. Santos City this time, under his local trainers Buboy Fernandez and Nonoy Neri. He trains at the gym owned by his old friend Rey Golingan.

No fight has ever been easy for Pacquiao. And the coming one won’t be an exception as Solis, at 5’10 enjoying at least three inches in height advantage, is undefeated after 32 pro fights.

Pacquiao started fighting under Roach since 2001and in 14 fights had missed the celebrated American trainer only once or at most twice — winning both.

Roach is busy preparing Oscar dela Hoya for his May 5 encounter with Floyd Mayweather Jr., and won’t be around at Wild Card by the time Pacquiao comes in no later than March 14.

Roach will train dela Hoya in Puerto Rico but should be in Texas for Pacquiao by fight time. In his absence, former heavyweight boxer Justin Fortune will look after Pacquiao at the Wild Card gym.

Pacquiao was originally scheduled to leave for Los Angeles today but again has opted to stay. He’d rather train in Gen. Santos City and at the same time look after his political plans.

But Pacquiao has been training so hard the past two weeks, and even planned to hit the bags yesterday, a Sunday, which is normally his only rest day of the week.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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