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Kevin Alas (/a.las/) is king of NCAA, not Kevin Alás (/aˈlas/)

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I’m not a big fan of hoop games, but I do watch it on TV only when I chance upon family members playing live. I’m referring to multi-titled basketball head coach Louie Alas (dad’s younger brother) and his intimidating Letranista kids Junjun and Kevin. Their team, the formidable Letrán Knights, is currently vying for the final championship slot to conclude the 88th season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

My wife dwarfed by my cager cousins. Left to right: Junjun, Yeyette, Kevin, and Kenneth.

Last night, during the Final Four playoffs against the San Sebastián Stags, Kevin was waxing it hot for he was sinking treys from everywhere beyond the arc as if there’s no tomorrow. All throughout the game, he was a rampaging nightmare for the Stags, finishing a career-high 43 points. And hours after the game, he was still trending in Twitter and other social media, something extremely rare for a collegiate cager.

But no, this is not exactly the main reason why I’m writing about basketball. I just have to stroke a pet peeve of mine. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the commentating. Well, not the whole commentary per se. I’d care less for the whole world whether or not they’re speaking niceties towards each other or screaming in awe for every field goal and kicked groins during game time. What I don’t like is how they pronounce our last name: ALAS. For the record, our last name is Spanish, and in that language it means “wings”. Hence, it should be pronounced as AH-las (/a.las/) and not a-LAS (/aˈlas/). The latter pronunciation is used only during card games (in that sense, Alas means “Ace”). The broadcasting team must have been thinking of Tong-its all the time whenever my cousins are strutting their stuff on the hardcourt. Cayá lang ang saquít talagá sa teñga, eh. I’m pretty sure they’d feel the same way if I murder their last names too.

To all basketball commentators in both the NCAA and the PBA (for Uncle Louie is now part of Alaska Ace’s coaching staff), this is something for you to chew over.

On a side note, I was surprised that this season’s NCAA theme is in Spanish: ¡CELEBRAMOS 88! Conquistar por tu honor nuevas glorias (To conquer new glories for your honor). But all that wonderment ceased when I learned that the host school was Colegio de San Juan de Letrán, my Uncle and cousins’ team school.

Wow! I didn’t know that this season’s theme is in Spanish! Cool!

The theme is actually culled from the school’s hymn which is still in Spanish.

I’m glad that Letrán still keeps their Filipino Identity alive, albeit just the name and the school. Unlike the rather sorry case for Universidad de Santo Tomás. Some pathetic officials there in the past (and may God bless and forgive them for their linguistic and nationalistic treason) opted to anglicize the name of the university, thus the laughable change to University of Santo Tomas. The name is actually Spanglish, the next step towards pidginization, my golly! ¡Ang saquít sa teñga! And to think that this learning institution is Asia’s first university and was given the ever prestigious title La Real y Pontificia Universidad. :-(

If Rizal were alive today, he would have been thankful to have left that university abruptly.

¡ARRIBA LETRÁN!

Santacruzan sa Unisan 2011 (Unisan, Tayabas)

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The Philippines may have lost the Spanish language to some extent, but it has not lost contact with its Hispanic past. Our country’s Latin spirit has been kept alive by our culture itself as represented by numerous town fiestas and other Catholic events held almost every week.

Suffice it to say that Catholicism is almost synonymous to Hispanidad, at least, perhaps, in our country. After all, it was the Spaniards who brought the Catholic faith to these once heathen islands. But it can also be said that it was the Catholic faith which spurred the conquistadores (inspired by the zeal of the Catholic Spanish crown) to win new souls in Christ the Lord’s name.

In modern slang, the Catholic-Spanish influx to these islands which we now call the Philippines was a “double whammy” of sorts.

Take the month of May, for instance. Filipinos celebrate the famous Flores de Mayo with much pomp, grace, and grandeur. It has been deeply embedded in the Filipino psyche that it is not even considered Hispanic anymore. But it was and still is. Flores de Mayo is a true testament of what Hispanidad really is, aside from a linguistic point of view.

My cousins Jam Alas (Reina de las Flores) and Kevin Alas (escort).

Flores de Mayo (translated as “Flowers of May” in English) is celebrated in honor of the Virgin Mary. At the end of the month, a religio-historical beauty pageant called the sagala, commonly known as the Santacruzan, is held in many towns all over the country. This Catholic tradition (perhaps endemic only to our country) can be traced to the epic journey of Saint Helena of Constantinople, the mother of Saint Constantine the Great (the first Roman Emperor who converted to Christianity), to locate the Vera Cruz (True Cross) of Jesus Christ. Actually, according to Catholic tradition, Saint Helena discovered the cross on 14 September 325; why the Santacruzan is held every May remains a puzzle to me.

The people of Unisan, Tayabas (now Quezon) may have not noticed it (particularly the younger generation), but these prying eyes did. The colorful mix of the procession, the devotees’ singing of Dios Te Salve María and other church songs in Latin, and the town’s various ancestral houses (bahay na bató) made the whole scene very Hispanic, indeed. After having attended Unisan’s Santacruzan and witnessed the Rigodón de Honor, I remarked that the only thing lacking to make the picture complete was the Spanish language.

But even without the Spanish language, for as long as the Philippines remains Christian, i.e. Catholic, complete with her traditions that were brought here by the friars, we shall continue living as a Hispanic country.

Santacruzan sa Unisan

Last 29 May, my cousins Josephine “Jam” Alas y Láus (one of Magic 89.9‘s youngest disc jocks) and up-and-coming basketball superstar Kevin Louie Alas y Platón (of Colegio de San Juan de Letrán Knights and PBA D-League‘s Cebuana Lhuillier Gems; son of famous multi-titled basketball coach Francisco Luis “Louie” Alas y Évora) participated in the annual Santacruzan, the culmination of the month-long Flores de Mayo. Jam represented the queen of May flowers, La Reina de las Flores; Kevin was her escort. Typhoon Chedeng was threatening to ruin the event all week. Surprisingly (or should I say miracurously), the typhoon suddenly veered its course, and that afternoon procession was greeted by sunny skies instead!

Below are photos of each queen with brief historical descriptions, but not wanting in criticisms. It is hoped that subsequent Santacruzan processions will strictly adhere to tradition, and that each representative queen must first be “indoctrinated” on the meaning and significance of this holy procession even before they participate. This is not merely a pagandahan affair. Each queen has meaning. That must be squarely emphasized so as not to forget the true value of this summertime Catholic procession.

¡Gracias a la Virgen María, la reina verdadera de las Flores de Mayo!


Reina de los Ángeles. Traditionally, this queen has a branch of white flowers.


Young girls clad in white carrying the letters A-V-E M-A-R-Í-A.


Reina Banderada.
Traditionally, this queen is a young girl dressed in a long red gown. She carries with her a triangular yellow flag. She represents the arrival of Christianity. But where is the yellow flag in this photo?


Buán (Moon) at mğa Bituín (Stars). Buán represents the Moon which is the throne of the Virgin Mary.


Another representative for Reina de los Ángeles.


Reina de la Fe symbolizes Faith, the first of the Theological Virtues. This queen should carry a crucifix (but the lady pictured above doesn’t have one).


Reina Esperanza symbolizes the second of the Theological Virtues: Hope. This representative should carry an anchor, the Christian symbol for Hope.


Reina de la Caridad symbolizes Charity, the last of the Theological Virtues. And this queen should carry an image of a red heart (Christian symbol for the virtue she represents). But instead of that, what she carries in this photo is an abanico (a local fan).


Reina Luwalhatì represents the Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary.


Reina Hapis represents the Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.


Reina Tuwâ represents the Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.


Reina Abogada (in front) represents the defender of the poor and the oppressed. Traditionally, she carries a large book and wears a toga similar to those worn during graduation ceremonies. Behind her is Reina Sentenciada. Traditionally, her hands are tied by a rope. She represents the First Christians, particularly the virgins who were martyred in the name of the Christian Faith.


Reina de la Justicia. She represents the “Mirror of Justice”, a personification of the Virgin Mary which is one of her titles in the Litany of Loreto (Letanías Lauretanas). Her symbols (again not shown in this procession) are the familiar images of justice: a weighing scale and a sword.


Reina Samaritana represents the biblical lady with whom our Lord Jesus Christ had a conversation with at the well (John 4:13-30). Her symbol is a water jug which the representative queen should carry on her shoulders. (not apparent in this photo).


Reina de Saba represents the queen who had a special friendship with the famous King Solomon (I Book of Kings 10:1-13).


Reina Esther (sometimes spelled Ester) was a Jewish queen of Persia who saved her people from certain death at the hands of Haman the Agatite through her timely intervention. At the Flores de Mayo/Santacruzan procession, this queen is supposed to carry a scepter.


Reina Judit is the widow who saved her city from the Assyrians under the cruel general Holofernes. Her symbols: the severed head of Holofernes that she is supposed to carry in one hand and a sword in the other. Again, these props were not used.


Reina Elena III. There are usually three representatives for Reina Elena during the Santacruzan procession. But the escort particularly for Reina Elena III is traditionally a young boy, representing a young Emperor/Saint Constantine the Great.


Reina Elena II.


Reina Elena I.


Reina Elena, the mother of the emperor-saint, Constantine the Great. In Catholic tradition, she was the queen who looked for the relics of the Vera Cruz, or the True Cross, of our Lord Jesus Christ. Curiously, Vera Cruz is also a surname of one of the oldest families in Unisan.


Reina Emperatriz is actually the mother of Emperor/Saint Constantine the Great, none other than Reina Elena. The title emperatriz is derived from the Latin words Augusta Imperatrix, an honorific title given by the emperor to his mother.


The young escorts of the Reina de las Flores. The girls (left to right): my cousin Carmela and my niece Amber. Behind them are my cousins Rafaél (Carmela’s brother) and Joseph (Jam’s brother).


My cousins Jam and Kevin as the Reina de las Flores and her escort, respectively. La Reina de las Flores is considered the “Queen of Flores de Mayo“. From my observation, it seemed that Jam was the only queen who strictly continued the Santacruzan tradition that afternoon — because the Reina de las Flores should carry a bouquet of flowers in the procession, which she did. To paraphrase Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — FINALLY… something went right! :-)


Imagen de la Virgen María, la reina verdadera de las Flores de Mayo al regresar a la iglesia después de la procesión.


At the Rigodón de Honor in Parque de Tamesis. Kevin and Jam are at center.


Seated in front of me is family friend Mayor Calixto Catáquiz y Ramírez of San Pedro, La Laguna (his late father is from Unisan). To his right (in green shirt) is Tayabas/Quezon province’s 3rd district representative Danilo Suárez.


My dapper don dad (Sr. Don Josefino Alas y Évora) preparing for the Rigodón de Honor.


Capitana Gloria Alas (at the podium) giving a speech of acknowledgment.


The colorful and lively Rigodón de Honor. At photo is my cousin, Ate Mª Cecilia Alas de Órgano and her dance partner. This dance event was participated by many of my relatives (including dad) and former congresswoman Aleta Suárez (wife of incumbent congressman Suárez).


Left to right: Kevin, our niece Lía, Jam, Lía’s brother RR, and the preferred escort of all Flores de Mayo queens (who else?).


Alas Bratpack (left to right): RR, Kevin, Joycee, Lía, Jam, my wife Yeyette, Ate Glen, Emperor Pepe the Great, and Laiza.


Goofing around with Wifey (but lovely still). :D

*******

All photos in this article were taken by myself and my cousin Ate Lilet Alas de Fernández.

Nanay Norma’s critical condition

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I was supposed to share good tidings today, particularly about the meeting I had almost 24 hours ago with my compañeros regarding the founding of our new group/website. But that has to come later.

Because I think my abuelita‘s life is hanging on the balance.

Although bound to a wheelchair, she still looked rather healthy when I took this photo of her last 12/10/2010 in front of her house in Unisan, Tayabas/Quezon.

My dad’s mother, my beloved abuelita, is confined (for the nth time) in Makati Medical center, this time in the hospital’sintensive care unit (ICU).

According to mom, my dad (he’s been taking care of grandmother for the past few years in Unisan) has been sending SMS messages to her in Manila, telling her of abuela‘s worsening condition. She suddenly started to weaken right after the Holidays. She was sent promptly to Makati Med last Thursday (1/27/2010) Wednesday (1/26/2011).

My grandmother, affectionately called Nanay Norma by many people, is diabetic. Through the years, the dreaded disease has contributed much to her debilitation. And aside from old age, mobility changed abruptly by an accident last year; she fell from her bed, fracturing her hips.

When me and Yeyette visited her this evening, I was shocked with what I saw. I immediately placed myself in self-denial. This could not be my grandmother who showered me with so much affection and love… for why couldn’t she speak to me (when she was hospitalized last year, she could still talk coherently)?! Also, it was my first time inside an intensive care unit. Many “hoses and wires” were connected to her semi-bloated right arm and nostrils; she was undergoing intravenous therapy. And worse, she was moaning. She could hardly speak anymore, as if she’s suffering from “reverse trismus”: her jaw won’t shut. And I could hardly understand what she was saying. She was moaning because of breathing difficulties. And she appeared to be in so much pain. It all appeared so surreal, so unreal. It was just a month ago that I was talking to her! I so could not believe what I was seeing that all the tears that supposed to well up in me fell instead from Yeyette’s eyes.

Thankfully, my grandmother immediately recognized me in spite of her drowsiness caused by drugs.

I later learned that she has pneumonia, the same ailment that killed her husband, my late grandfather Godofredo Alas y Sarmiento, in 1997.

Dad is the only one there at the hospital who is taking care of her when we arrived. Uncle Louie was also there, paying a visit. Soon, my mom and two sisters arrived.

For the benefit of all Alas and Évora family members, below is a photo of grandma’s cardiac monitor (a usual fixature in many a hospital scene in the country, especially when one of the film’s character is about to give up the ghost). Her status will also be described below the photo:

My grandmother's cardiac monitor. This is a necessary equipment in intensive care units.

My wife took the above photo of my grandmother’s cardiac monitor before we left last night. The green graph represents her pulse rate; the normal rate is from 60 to 100. The yellow graph represents her respiratory rate; the normal rate is from 20 to 25. 102/46 (the numbers in red) represents her blood pressure. Her blood sugar is (59), but it should be maintained at 80.

However, when we got home (a few hours ago), we received an SMS (11:26 PM) from my sister Jessica: abuela‘s blood pressure worsened — it dropped to 68/46!

It’s now 4:16 AM. Time to go to sleep. We plan to go back there this afternoon; it’s dad’s 59th birthday today. Such a bad timing to cheer him up. Nevertheless, we’ll be there. We should be there.

And I’d like to whisper to Nanay Norma’s large Hispanic ears that we will attend her 81st birthday in Unisan. And that she should be there to host it.

*******

A thousand thanks to our relatives who already visited. Thank you for your prayers and moral support:
Captain Ernesto Alas
Tito Monching Alas
Ate Lilet Alas de Fernández
Uncle Paul Évora III
Tita Corina Unson (Thank you so much for Saint Anne’s oil!)

May God bless you every single day of your lives. =)

PBA vs NBA Tonight At The Big Dome

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NBA

Let’s forget the tragedy of 9/11 even for just a short while.

Tonight is going to be an exciting Friday night for this basketball-crazed country.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) hoop legends will strut their stuff against their local counterparts from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) tonight at the Araneta Coliseum, Cubáo, Quezon City.

The NBA squad will be headlined by a who’s who in the world of basketball: two-time slam dunk champion Dominique Wilkins, Robert “Big Shot Bob” Horry (who has more NBA championship rings than His Airness Michael Jordan), Serbian giant Vlade Divac, and crossover master Tim Hardaway. They will be supported by cagers from the NBA’s developmental department. Coach Rory White will be assisted by the biggest NBA scorer in history: the charismatic Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. There might even be a chance for the ageing but still healthy Abdul-Jabbar to play.

Meanwhile, the PBA has prepared for this “US invasion” by fielding its roster with some of the most illustrious names to have recently graced the local professional hoop league: four-time Most Valuable Player “The Captain” Alvin Patrimonio, three-point master “Triggerman” Allan Caidic, “The Tower of Power” Benjie Parás, and “The Point Laureate” Ronnie Magsánoc. They will be joined by other younger PBA players such as Wynne Arboleda, Arwind Santos, Asi Taulava (who used to play under my uncle, multi-titled Coach Louie Alas of the Letrán Knights), Rico Villanueva, Sonny Thoss, and many more. Yeng Guiao will be at the coaching helm.

Game time is at 7:30 PM.

PBA

Related links:
NBA-PBA duel erupts at the Big Dome
NBA greats – PBA legends duel
PBA legends excited in stint vs NBA heroes
Fun and nostalgia in Friday’s NBA vs PBA
NBA vs PBA

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