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Thanksgiving moments

Last Thursday, we celebrated Thanksgiving Day, a tradition borrowed from the US which makes it a national holiday on the fourth Thursday of every November. The US practice is family-oriented and today, more and more Filipinos are observing the tradition by gathering clans at the dinner table. Turkey and pumpkin pie are the US staples in a Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving is a sentimental occasion, it’s about coming home, being with family and sharing happy times. In the US, it’s up there in the list of most treasured holidays with Christmas and New Year’s Day. Airports, train stations and bus terminals are packed with travellers making their way home from ports of work for Thanksgiving dinner.

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Celebrating Thanksgiving in the Philippines isn’t as widespread but it’s slowly gaining ground. It’s a wonderful reason to get together with family, to reconcile if there is rancor, to rebond if there is detachment, to thank God for life. Giving thanks to the Lord on Thanksgiving Day for everything He has done is the highlight of the celebration. Yet we should remember to give thanks not just one day of the year but every day of the year, every day that we wake up to a new day. 

On a personal note, our family received a beautiful Thanksgiving message from my sister Irene and her husband Jordan who live in New Jersey. They’ve just survived a harrowing ordeal in coping with storm Sandy. Here’s their Thanksgiving message – “Happy moments, praise God…difficult moments, seek God…busy moments, believe God…quiet moments, worship God…waiting moments, trust God…painful moments, pray God…lovely moments, thank God – joy, happiness, health…all these and many more are my wishes for you.” These are Thanksgiving wishes we could share with all our loved ones.

The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday in the US and it signals the start of the Christmas shopping season. While not a national holiday, not too many show up for work on Black Friday because that’s when a lot of stores drop prices on items to ridiculously low levels. It’s called Black Friday to signify that businesses are “in the black” or turning a profit. This US tradition, however, hasn’t caught on locally. Consumers, of course, can’t wait for it to happen.

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Former PBA courtside reporter Ronith Ang’s daughter Buppy Cogswell, 15, is an example of a young athlete totally immersed in the sport she loves and there’s no substitute for passion in the pursuit of excellence. The Fil-Canadian keeper was recently in the country to play for the Philippines in the Asian Football Confederation under-16 women’s championship qualifiers for the World Cup in Costa Rica in 2014.

The Philippines finished last to Australia, Thailand and Myanmar in that order but scored at least one goal against every team. 

“Soccer is huge in North America and parents put their kids in programs as early as three years of age, in fact, this past summer, Buppy coached 5-6 year-old boys and girls through the University of British Columbia soccer school,” said Ronith. “When the kids get older and more serious, parents spend thousands of dollars on elite soccer programs and leagues so they can get the best professional coaching. The good thing is there’s a league for every level so there are tryouts every season in order to find players the highest level they can play at in their age group. There’s nothing more frustrating than being the best player and running circles around other players and scoring unchallenged goals and likewise, being the weakest player on a team that will eventually affect the player’s self-esteem and kill her passion for the game.”

Ronith said the key to promoting football is creating the environment that will encourage more Filipinos to play the game. Building a mass-based pool of players is critical. “Just to give you an example, Buppy, through her club and membership with the British Columbia Soccer Association, is part of a family in excess of 150,000 members province-wide and 1 million nation-wide, all of whom share a passion for soccer,” she said. 

As for the experience of playing on the national team with only 10 days of training, Ronith said her daughter will cherish it forever. “On the flight to Manila, I told Buppy you just have to be open-minded and remember that who we are is a result of what happens in our lives, whether planned or unplanned, and how we choose to react to things,” she continued. “I told her to stay positive and to always keep her goal in mind. We’re certain that Buppy can draw from this wonderful experience when she needs to…she’ll remember that she was able to join a group of girls she had never met before and come out with many friends and learn their language and be immersed in their culture and work together on a common goal. Most importantly, she learned more about herself and what she’s capable of, she is more mature and has gained self-confidence because of this experience.”

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The Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC) will mark its 10th year anniversary with a blockbuster 10-fight card called “Dekada” at the MOA Arena this Saturday and founder Alvin Aguilar, the country’s first Brazilian jiu jitsu black belter, promises an explosive night of fireworks featuring several foreign fighters.  One of the fighters in the undercard is Roy Doliguez who once battled Mexico’s Fernando Montiel for the WBO superflyweight championship.

Aguilar established URCC in 2002 and has so far produced 43 shows. From a fledgling organization a decade ago, URCC has grown to become the most prestigious mixed martial arts convenor in the country. URCC has produced events not only in Metro Manila but also in Davao, Cebu, Baguio and Bacolod. It is supervised by the Games and Amusements Board as a professional league.

The Guam-based Pacific Extreme Combat (PXC) also stages MMA events here and has so far produced six, the last at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Nov. 17. PXC was formed in 2004 by the Calvo family of Guam and has produced 40 events. The group has welcomed former UFC fighters to its ranks and proudly sent some of its own to UFC.

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