Balamban and Naga

I met Mayor Val Chiong last Wednesday in Naga City. Wearing shorts and wielding a tennis racket, he played doubles. A Class-A tennister who often represented Cebu in the PAL Interclub, Mayor Val plays nightly on the clay courts that he built. When I watched, he and his partner led 7-5 before the opponents won the next game to inch closer to a tiebreak. That’s when Val, armed with a topspin forehand, steady volleys and a forceful smash, attacked the next relentlessly to win the final point. Game, set, match, 8-6.

Naga City is active. In tennis, they’ve produced two national-caliber junior stars in Anday Alferez and Shyne Villareal. Of their two public courts, one was occupied by the adults while the other was reserved for young girls and boys.

Volleyball? A rectangle court sits across. Dozens of spikers and setters volleyed the ball back and forth. Badminton was played nearby, inside four indoor courts. Our most popular game, basketball, stood meters away. An oval, previously a cemented road that was closed to vehicular traffic so joggers can use it, circled this complex beside the boulevard. If I heard it right from the parents of Anday Alferez (Andoy and Nova), a swimming pool might be constructed in the newly-reclaimed land near the boulevard.

Here’s more: lights are for free until 10 p.m. Play all you want, dribble all that you can bounce, lob that shuttlecock, slice that backhand — you pay zero to exercise in Naga City.

“We’ll build a roof to cover the tennis courts,” said Mayor Val when we spoke, him all-sweating and all-smiling after his win. “It will not be as enclosed as Alta Vista but will be open so wind and air will come in.”

A lifelong tennis player, never mind if he had surgery a couple of years back and if his knees are wrapped with injury-preventive bands, Val has brought the game of “commercial” tennis to his city. Since Baseline has closed, the hordes of players there have traveled south to play in Naga. I saw several who came from Mandaue.

If the city is led by an active sportsman, the citizenry will follow the leader.

BALAMBAN. My daughter Jana and I traversed the Transcentral Highway to cross to the Western side of Cebu to watch the CVIRAA.

The “CV” stands for Central Visayas and an estimated 9,000 athletes and coaches from all over Region 7 were in the municipality that’s nicknamed “The Shipbuilding Capital of the Phils.” The regional meet is the final qualifying tournament where the winners will go on to the national event called the Palarong Pambansa (slated this May in Tagum City).

Last Saturday, Jana and I first visited the tennis venue, housed within the property of the Provincial Hospital, to watch the high school girls and boys. (Anday, whom I mentioned above, went on to win the gold in doubles with Beverly Enriquez.)

In the afternoon, we parked inside the church and visited numerous sites. First, we witnessed gymnastics. A line of judges sat on stage to score the girls who, one by one, would perform with a rubberized ball. Daniela de la Pisa, the Palaro’s multi-gold medalist, was there. As expected, she won gold. We also got to meet her mom and coach, Darlene.

Next, we walked towards the Experanza S. Binghay Memorial Sports Complex where the football games were played. A track oval encircled the complex. Though not rubberized in surface (it was anapog), the measurements were standard-size. When we watched, the 4 x 100 meter relay squads were getting ready.

Behind the grandstand was a covered court that housed the Futsal games. Futsal is indoor football played on a basketball court. The shoes don’t have spike soles. We watched the semifinal game between the Cebu City Ninos (represented mostly by players from STC) against Negros Oriental. Futsal is often more exciting than the 11-aside regular game on grass. Coached by my UP Cebu classmate Tirso Rio, himself a football star during our college days, the Cebu City girls would go on to win the gold.

For hosting the CVIRAA, kudos to Mayor Ace Binghay.

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