MANILA - Having last visited the Philippines when she was only 13 years old, Filipino-Aussie tennis player Lizette Cabrera is hopeful that she can visit her homeland once more to encourage Filipino children to take up her sport.
Born to Filipino parents in Townsville, Australia, Cabrera's lone visit to the Philippines came when she was 13 for a junior tennis tournament. Now 23, Cabrera still has fond memories of the visit and clearly recalls feeling "really at home" in Manila.
"I definitely wished I could have stayed longer and visited some of my family that are still over there, and also go on a bit of a holiday, 'cause I heard all the islands are so beautiful, and it's definitely somewhere I really wanna visit," she told Philippine media in a recent conference call.
Aside from wanting to see more of her motherland, Cabrera also wants to teach Filipino children about tennis. She is an ambassador for the Project 6 Foundation, a non-profit organization in Australia that "supports the development and growth of underprivileged children and youth in disadvantaged and remote communities across South East Asia through coaching, sports participation, physical and coach education programs."
"They donate rackets and balls and equipment. I always said that if I had a chance with my schedule, to kinda go back over there and try to get to the cities that they go to, I'd do that," said Cabrera.
Other Project 6 Foundation ambassadors include Filipino-American tennis player Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales. Cabrera is their first female ambassador.
While team sports like basketball and volleyball, and combat sports such as boxing, remain the most visible in the landscape of Philippine sports, tennis is getting its share of the spotlight thanks to Cabrera as well as young phenom Alex Eala.
Cabrera is hopeful that more Filipino children will take up the sport, touting the doors that it opened for her in her career.
"I think it just gave me another opportunity to do different things that many kids my age probably didn't have a chance to do," she explained. "So, I would say, if you really enjoy it and you love it, and you're willing to put in the work, I think it's definitely a great opportunity for young kids in the Philippines."
"If you believe in it and you really love it, just continue to do it and keep working hard, and don't let anyone tell you that you can't. That's my advice."
Cabrera, who is currently ranked No. 141 in the world, expects to return to action later this month in the Miami Open.