The Desires of My Heart

Praise to the LORD Jesus Christ, who is risen from the dead and reigns forever and ever. Amen!

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3)

My college graduation is coming near, and I have the urge to seek what the desires of my heart are, according to what the Lord has planned for me. All these years I have sought for a solution to ease my doubts and strengthen my faith. As of now, all my search end up with more questions in my mind:

Will I be able to attend a Christian church that does not demand much my presence nor my money?

Can I safely join a Christian congregation that my family may not approve of, even if my conviction thinks otherwise because they serve the Lord in truth?

Will I be bothered when my family demands my presence in their religious activities even if the Lord tells me it’s wrong?

Can I stand the demands of my work which may include that my personal time with the Lord is lessened?

Can I live a healthy Christian life even if I may be diagnosed with something I haven’t known for years?

There are even more of these questions coming into my mind right now as I go through this journey. But for now, I have the Lord Jesus Christ who will help me as I commit my plans to Him. I know it will be a difficult journey for me, but I know Jesus and His Father in heaven will guide me through.

I thank the Lord for this wonderful journey I had in the six years I had in college. As I transition to the bigger challenges ahead, may He guide me to deliver me the desires of my heart according to His will.

“To Thee, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For Thou hast given me wisdom and power; Even now Thou hast made known to me what we requested of Thee, For Thou hast made known to us the king’s matter.” (Daniel 2:23)

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What If the Azkals Did Not Qualify for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup (part 3)

Image(photo from interaksyon.com)

Here’s a photo of Angel Guirado hugging a sobbing Misagh Bahadoran when they lost qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup last July 2011 when they faced Kuwait at home in Rizal Memorial Stadium.

It was painful indeed to lose that World Cup dream. But they moved on. There is still the 2018 World Cup to look forward to.

But when you lose qualification to a tournament in which winning it gives you an automatic entry to a continental competition – the AFC Asian Cup, well that’s equally painful too.

But how long will they move on, when losing the chance will give the Philippine national football team, known as the Azkals, a lull of a year and eight months before they can prepare for another major tournament, the AFF Suzuki Cup? In a time that this national team is grabbing headlines around the world and has given hopes to every Filipino and South East Asian everywhere to dream big, losing an AFC Challenge Cup spot isn’t the best way for Philippine football to maintain composure.

Yes, I believe the Azkals will indeed qualify for the AFC Challenge Cup in 2014, and win it and proceed to the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. And I believe football will be here to stay in this country. But what if losing that chance would happen? How would you cope?

If ever they will have that lull, we may then say we move on and focus on what’s inside our football scene.

Yes, we would see Hans Michael Weiss being kicked out of the national team. We would have a new coach. Back to square one again. But here we should welcome that coach with open arms, and believe on what he can do during that very long lull. The least thing that the new coach could do is to focus on winning the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup and then looking to qualify for the 2016 AFC Challenge Cup, and letting the team reach the 3rd round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. It will be normal to criticize this coach, but it would be a healthy relationship.

At least we can say they will rise again.

Yes, the FIFA ranking of the Philippines will drop dramatically, but we won’t mind. Football fans here may then see themselves support the local club sides and the United Football League.

Out of frustration of not seeing the Azkals play matches often, they would see UFL matches as alternatives. Maybe appreciate this team, and join the club’s supporters group. Another way to enjoy football. Smiles will be seen again on the fans and to the national team players. At least they not ignored anymore.

It would not be a total meltdown of Philippine football, mind you. But would you be prepared when the crabs – the detractors who want to bring the sport of football to its knees again, attack the hearts and minds of the national team players and the PFF?

If you have read some comments on my fellow UsapangFootball member Jonny’s Filipino Football blog/news aggregator, you would see detractors attacking PFF and national team staff including Michael Weiss, Dan Palami, and Nonong Araneta over their unsavoury decisions. Even on those articles on Global FC, which Palami owns, detractors spew him complaints complete with profanities over the club’s championship in the 2012 UFL league season, arguing over the “illegal use” of Juan Luis Guirado to play for the club (which they had said was a “short loan deal” from his mother club Racing Lermeño for him to play for the NT in the 2012 Challenge Cup), and they accuse them of “cheating.” Plus they argue on the loaning of Jason de Jong from Stallion FC as an “amateurish” move to make the club look like the national team.

Bad tactics? I don’t think so. It’s the best they can do – for now.

So why the anger? Is it time that the fans get their heads together and help the country’s football scene settle themselves? If the loss happens, will they cope well? They should and they must.

We can move on. Please, please, help ourselves while we can.

Azkals Jerseys on Shelf

Azkals Jerseys on Shelf

Puma Store, Gaisano Mall of Davao, February 2013.

Currently a hot item all across the Philippines, Azkals jerseys made by Puma are sold in their concept stores nationwide.

The ones sold currently in this branch are the training jerseys, but they will have the 2012 Suzuki Cup jerseys soon.

I’ll just earn some more moolah before I can buy one of these soon.

What If the Azkals Did Not Qualify for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup (part 2)

(This is a continuation of the first part.)

Even with all the positive remarks about the players that have been coming in for the team during the past two years since the Miracle in Hanoi, things have still not been looking good with the controversial moves of the head coach Hans Michael Weiss, Dan Palami and the PFF. The starting line-ups and the tactics employed by Weiss still screams out “incapacity” and “inexperience,” critics on the Web argue, as his only experience were with club sides and youth national teams. Dan Palami putting most of the foreign-born and raised Filipino players into Global FC have raised accusations on bias over the club to be a “gateway” to the national team. The apparent lack of defensive players in the national team still persist and have made some UFL clubs cringe on why their potential players aren’t called up. Finally, the lack of practice sessions leading up to the tournament have brought several problems on how will the team, with its best European-based players, settle themselves together.

But Weiss himself has said that he is trying to cope up and is asking for patience and understanding from Filipino fans.

“It’s important now that we work… time is running out,” Weiss said, “which is of course not too easy. In an environment where you will still have to look for a pitch for training, and players are not available all the time.” (Source)

Fans will have to understand this situation – on how Weiss has to put himself on the sentiments of the critical Filipino public. Things will be hard for the team if they don’t advance. That’s why their presence in their matches in the Rizal Memorial Stadium will be important.

Sure, Neil Etheridge won’t be in the Brunei match, serving his suspension for last year’s altercations. But be warned, Brunei, especially with their young players who played for the U23s in the 2011 SEA Games, may have already known the weaknesses of Roland Mueller – his inability to do block out shots from a narrow angle and his poor organization of defense, as what has been exposed during the match against them. The same goes for Eduard Sacapaño, whose weakness exposed during the 2012 Suzuki Cup semis against Singapore and the 4-3 victory over Palestine – his inability to overcome one-on-one situations.

Cambodia must have known how the team can lose their attacking flair, as shown in their friendly last year which was invalidated by FIFA, when the home team used more substitutions than what was required. By double-teaming Phil Younghusband and blocking every ground pass by the attacking midfield, their attack would break down as easily. But will OJ Porteria and Javier Patiño save their day? If you ask me, I say it will be very difficult.

The most well known highlight on the 2012 Challenge Cup semi-finals against Turkmenistan was the inadvised kick of Neil Etheridge against a Turkmeni player when the other team the 2nd goal. Another reason for that loss is Weiss’ fielding of Army player Roel Gener – which angered critical fans over his apparent defensive mistakes even at club level at the increasingly professional UFL. Will Etheridge’s indiscipline persist in their re-match on 26th March or will Weiss insist on Mueller instead? Will Weiss include Gener in the final lineup and bring trouble to the team again?

Let’s see for ourselves.

How then will the audience in Rizal and the million watchers on TV react when the team performed well, but get embarrassed by losing or drawing to Brunei and Cambodia? And repeat their loss to Turkmenistan, even with Stephan Schroeck and Javier Patiño available?

That would be the most embarassing moment for Philippine football. And fans must cope if and when it happens.

The fans should be aware that losing qualification to the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup will have a massive impact to Philippine football – from the PFF, to the national team, to the clubs, to the players themselves. Losing qualification to the tournament will mean that there will be no major tournament that the team would focus in the next year and 4 months. After such a long lull they will hastily prepare for the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup in November of that year – which they luckily qualified after reaching the semi-finals again in 2012. That will be such a long lull.

Surely, it won’t help if the national team will just play friendly matches and minor tournaments during that period if the Challenge Cup, and consequently the Asian Cup, has been out of reach. That, I think, would present a bad image to all who have put the team in their radar. ASEAN neighbours, especially qualified side Myanmar, might then be open to think that the Philippines will less likely to improve until a few months before the 2014 Suzuki Cup. Interested nations and foreign clubs might even refuse offers to play the Azkals for a friendly match. The country’s FIFA ranking will plunge down dramatically and will help return the perception of the team to be “minnows.”

Consequently, it will lower morale of local club sides, especially Global FC in their maiden run for the AFC President’s Cup. UFL matches will lose audiences. Interested players will think twice to join or remain in the league in the next transfer window.

Losing qualification to the AFC Challenge Cup will definitely have a domino effect across the Philippine football scene. And it will be painful.

Just imagine if the team lose qualification after the final whistle against Turkmenistan on the 26th. Imagine the good-looking faces of our players, which have been an admiration for many Filipino fans, turn into a sulking, weeping picture of pain, frustration and despair. Compared to losing the chance for the finals of 2012 Challenge Cup and Suzuki Cup, and losing qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, this will be different. Having the best European-based players whom have been an envy of ASEAN neighbours, yet getting an embarassing loss, will be a bitter pill to swallow for the team and for Philippine football. You just can’t imagine how will the players, Coach Weiss, Dan Palami and the PFF appeal to the Filipino public that they will move on from this painful loss.

Can they move on? Yes, they will. But for how long?

So, I wish the team well in this tournament. Let’s hope for the best, but let’s prepare for the worst.

What if the Azkals Did Not Qualify for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup (part 1)

Image

(photo from interaksyon.com)

The fixtures for Group E of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup qualification round is getting near. And it will be held in Manila. And expectations are high for the Philippine national football team, also known as the Azkals, who won Third Place in the 2012 Challenge cup main tournament. And it will be no easy task.

In anticipation of the tournament, many Filipino football fans are getting excited to see their own team take on the challenge again for the 2014 edition of the tournament.

I may be excited as well, but as my fellows at usapangfootball.com have argued, failing to qualify for the 2014 main draw will have a massive impact, not just for the team, but for Philippine football in general.

So I present to you a worst-case scenario that every Pinoy football fan must prepare if the Azkals won’t qualifyBut please, don’t take it seriously, yet.

But first, critics on the media and on the Web have pointed out the blunders of Hans Michael Weiss during his first two years as head coach of the Azkals. They have blamed on his tactical and relationship incapacity for the bad things the team had experienced in the last two years. If you want to see the longest, the most comprehensive and the most heated discussion over the Web about him, read through the Is there a need to replace Coach Weiss thread on UsapangFootball.

Weiss was given a contract extension six weeks after he his previous contract expired. And that transition period was filled with mud-slinging, cussing, and accusation against Weiss for his “bad performance,” based on the words of PFF Chair Nonong Araneta he gave out early this year. Many critical fans on the interwebs have been joyous of the six-month extension he was offered. Other supporters were not.

Weiss gave this statement when he signed the extension and leading the team to a win against Myanmar last February 6th:

“People here rather than seeing the positive, they are criticizing. We are doing everything to bring football on a higher level,” Weiss said.

“They shouldn’t say we’re just lucky and all these stuff. A little bit more positive approach from the public and fans will be appreciated.” (Source)

But we cannot help but see a reality that the innate ability of the Filipino to be very critical vocal, speculative and frank, which have been beneficial most of the time. Many Filipinos are seen to go beyond the face value when it comes to critical decisions by anyone who holds a high-profile position in the country, including in sports. And it includes Coach Weiss.

Now we move on to our main discussion.

You may have seen how other teams in Group E have been preparing for the qualification tourney, and how strong they are now, at least on paper. And you should have seen how the teams in recently-concluded Groups A, C and D have fared.

If you did see the previous performances of the recently concluded fixtures of Groups A, C and D, most of them were either high-scoring (mostly against Guam and Northern Mariana Islands) or close (1-0, 1-1 or 0-0). Bangladesh and India enjoy their healthy goal differential after their good performances. I’d still think India might qualify if the 2nd place from Group B has a worse goal difference, but then again, I cannot count Pakistan off, and how will they conquer Tajikistan and how much will they score against Macau.

The recent training camp of Turkmenistan shows that they can overcome teams with high defensive pressing, or teams high on attack. Cambodia did not look that good in the last Suzuki Cup, but at least they managed to win against strong teams like Malaysia’s U23s in a recent friendly, which look like they’re still a team that might give the Philippines a run for their money (remember the goalless draw on September last year? Many of the European-based players were there.) Brunei may look like inexperienced at some point, but because the fixtures happen to fall on FIFA match dates, their strongest players from DPMM FC could raise questions if how more (or how less) Turkmenistan and the Philippines can score against them.

So, what would be the worst case to make the Azkals receive a massive humiliation from the football community? Lose or draw against Brunei and Cambodia, let alone what happens against Turkmenistan.

The 2011 SEA Games match between the U23’s of Philippines and Brunei, in which the latter won, and the senior team’s goalless draw against Cambodia in September 2012 can set as an example. Both had European-based players. Both were coached by Weiss. Both were deemed to be the strongest squad on paper. Yet circumstances let them down. A bad pitch. Players failing to gel. Weiss’s apparent tantrums. Stephan Schroeck and Jason De Jong getting fouls. All these have happened.

Will these happen again during this year’s tournament? Some would say yes, some would say no.

But apparent in the team under Weiss, critics argue, was that the team underachieved and underperformedEven with the strongest players available, they depended on long balls, having a high backline, less ground passing, and such others. Winning Third Place in the 2012 Challenge Cup, winning the 2012 Peace Cup and getting to the semi-finals of the Suzuki Cup for the 2nd time, they argued, was an underachievement, they say, as these were tainted with controversy – Neil Etheridge getting suspended by kicking a Turkmeni player and shouting foul words on the sidelines during the match against Palestine, Phil and James Younghusband not in the lineup due to an accusation of being “prima donnas,” and the complaints from local-based players for not being included in the final squad of the Suzuki Cup.

And that’s not even the whole story yet.

(to be continued)

Padyak

Padyak

Agdao, Davao City. January 2013.

When you want to go around some of the suburbs and slums in Davao City, you may want to ride the “padyak” (also called a “sikad”), a bicycle-driven tricycle. The vehicle can only occupy two persons, and is driven manually. It’s slow speed can give time-conscious guys a headache, but it can make a very unique experience for first-timers.

On a very mundane day, riding a “padyak” gives a slow moving view of the suburbs which can make a wonder for the first-time rider – things seem to move naturally.

Maybe you want to ride these someday.

When Simple Things Become Adorable

When Simple Things Become Adorable

Sometimes you have to appreciate those little things in life. That short text message from your friend, the hotdog you ate for breakfast, the short quiz you passed this morning, the exact change the jeepney driver returned to you as you went home, and even your dog that wants to be cuddled on your lap.

When these things make you smile, that you know they are indeed adorable.

(The dog in this photo is our pet female Japanese spitz named “Kigay.” Isn’t she adorable?)