Tennis in Moalboal

This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s May 5 edition

Getting stuck here in Moalboal has its perks, and among them is tennis in this tourist town. I’ve been a regular visitor to this southern town ever since I moved to Cebu for college from a sleepy Mindanao town, but it was only during the pandemic that I learned Moalboal has quite a tennis pedigree.

There are three tennis clubs—a couple of clay courts and a hard court—and of the three, the Moalboal Parish Tennis Club is the biggest. Like in all Spanish-era towns, the local church is just in front of the municipal hall and the tennis court lies in between.

It’s a clay court established in the early ‘90s, one of the regulars here told me.

“I was still in Grade 4 then, sir Mike,” he told me when I asked when the court was established.

Though it’s near the shoreline, one advantage is that it’s surrounded by trees, so it’s a bit shaded. And one disadvantage? It’s surrounded by trees, so you get a lot of dry brown leaves.

There are three groups who play in the parish club, one who call themselves the sunrisers club since they greet the sun on the court, and another who plays starting at 4 p.m. Me? I got to join the group who plays in between.

And it’s all fun, whatever group you belong to.

“Everything happens here from the wacky to the serious,” Vice Mayor Titing Cabaron said during a chance conversation.

I’ve covered a lot of tennis in my career. From local club plays, to the Palaro and to the Davis Cup. It’s only here that I saw guys making serious wagers and ignoring serious game violations.

Serena Williams lost a grand slam because of a foot-fault. Here, it’s normal for guys to serve a foot, or sometimes two feet, into the baseline. It’s part of the appeal and the fun.

Which reminds me of another surprise, this town is a perfect host for the age group tournaments of Cebuana Lhuillier and Palawan Pawnshop but based on talks I’ve had with locals, they haven’t hosted it.

I guess, being on the outside of the tennis authorities’ radar has its drawback.

Why do I think it’s the perfect host? Well, when I was in the tennis beat, I remember talking to a parent in the sideline. She was from Mindanao and she told me the downside in all the tennis tournaments her child joined was the waiting game.

EMGEN. Members of the Emgen Tennis Club pose before the start of their tournament. Emgen is one of the three tennis clubs in Moalboal.

“It’s tiring just waiting for games and doing nothing,” she told me.

An age group tournament in a tourist town that boasts of beaches five to 10 minutes away from the court? I think you’ll have parents who will stick around even if their kids get eliminated.

The local tennis community here is an interesting and vibrant group. I hope the national age group tournaments will consider having one of their legs here should their tournaments resume.

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