Some 140 priests will be seeing action starting this afternoon in the 6th Father Suarez Cup, which will kickoff with an 11 a.m. mass at one of the venues—the Alta Vista Golf and Country Club at the hills of Pardo, Cebu City. The mass will be presided by Bishop Rick Baccay of Tuguegarao.
Matches will start this 2 p.m. Aside from Alta Vista, other playing venues are Citigreen Tennis Resort in Punta Princesa, Talisay Tennis Club, Pardo Tennis Club and La Paloma Tennis Club in Labangon.
This is the first time that this tennis tournament for all clergymen of the Philippines is held here in Cebu City. The first five previous editions were held at the Manila Polo Club in Metro Manila.
The brains behind this tournament, Fr. FernandoSuarez II, also known as the healing priest, said they decided to bring the event here in Cebu to provide the priests from other parts of the country the opportunity to see what Cebu can offer.
According to Fr. Suarez, Cebu has the facilities and exudes the hospitality and spirituality to be able to host the tournament, an idea which took root in 2010 during the National Congress of the Clergy.
“Hindi kami nahirapan talaga sa (We did not have any difficulties) pag-organize, we were surprised. Lahat nandito (Everything is here), accommodation, transportation and food,” said Fr. Suarez.
This year, the tournament has attracted priests from 19 provinces and 16 dioceses. Also to see action are priests from five religious congregations and three bishops—Baccay, Precioso Cantillas of Maasin, Southern Leyte and Antonio Palang of San Jose Occidental Mindoro.
It will have singles and doubles competitions. The singles will have three age categories—45 & Under, 46-55, and the 56 & Above. The doubles, on the other hand, will be an open competition.
Cebu will be represented by 31 priests headed by top player Fr. Antonio Zamora. Last year’s champions are back in this year’s competition– Fr. Joseph Larida in the 45 & Under, Fr. Suarez in the 46-55 and Fr. Tony Villanueva in the 56 & Above.
Aside from Cebu, the men of the cloth seeing action will be coming from Davao, Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro, Surigao, Tuguegarao, Nueva Ecija, Bicol and Aparri, among others.
This year, the singles champion will get a motorcycle and a trip to Rome. They will also get to automatically represent the Philippines in the annual International Tennis Championship for Priests, which the country hosted last year. This year, it will be held in Poland.
When asked why tennis, the 48-year-old healing priest said that he used to play basketball but since he lack the height, he switched to tennis. He used to go around playing the sport and he thought that setting up a tournament will give them priests an opportunity to meet each other.
From about 50 participants, the tournament has attracted a growing list of priests with more than 200 seeing action last year. Fr. Suarez said priests also get burnout but when they take part in the tournament, they go back to their parishes rejuvenated.
Fr. Suarez is still expecting participants to sign up today with the registration fee pegged at P1,000. This amount is doubled by donors, and proceeds are donated to parishes which are in need. They have already donated P1 million to typhoon Pablo victims, have helped build houses, churches and tennis courts in Tagum, Batangas and Mindoro. This year’s beneficiaries will be the victims of typhoon Ruby in Bicol.
Fr. Suarez also have plans of opening the tournament to include those in the other religions being one of those priests very much involved in ecumenism. “I have no problem with other religions, I deal with Muslims, Born-Again Christians.”
Through this tournament, Fr. Suarez said they also want to help in promoting the sport of tennis. According to Fr. Suarez, he has met many good and God-fearing people in the sport so he stuck with it.