Beauty queen emerging as face of PH netball hopes Pinoys embrace other hoop game

Brian Yalung

Posted at May 05 2021 09:56 AM

For a basketball-crazed country, some people have the skills to play the game at a certain level. Some end up trying alternative sports, and one interesting avenue that most may have not heard of is netball.

Curiously, netball is one of the early versions of basketball that has evolved into a full fledged sport. Thanks to Netball Singapore, the Philippines put up its own governing body for the sport in 2014, a game tailored for women for the time being.

The Philippine Netball Federation Inc. is led by president Charlie Ho and general secretary Bea Gonzales. The team has had its highs and lows in international competitions, the first of which was during the 2015 Southeast Asian Games in Singapore where the Philippines finished 6th.

Being a developmental team, the Philippine Netball Federation Inc. is a work in progress. A sport designed for women, the team has had several familiar names try it. That includes former La Salle Lady Spiker Michelle Datuin and beauty queen Ana Thea Cenarosa.

Cenarosa is probably best known by most as a runner-up in the 2019 Miss Earth Philippines and a former candidate of the 2020 Binibining Pilipinas pageant. She is also a former National University Lady Bulldog, where she once teamed up with Jack Aminam.

In an interview, Cenarosa acknowledged she tried to divide her time between netball and beauty pageants. Now, she is devoting her time to the sport as she tries to do her part in making netball relevant.

Given that she weathered adversity and defied the odds in the beauty pageant scene, she is probably the best person to lift awareness for netball in the Philippines. She came into her own establishing a name there, meaning the 29-year-old can adopt the same formula to make the sport relevant, an interesting alternative for this basketball-crazed country.

The Iloilo native is the team captain for the Philippines national netball team and is embracing the challenge. But given that the world remains under the mercy of the coronavirus, the squad is using the lull to go back to the basics.

“Right now, we are trying to train three times a week via home workout. We went back to basics, building our body and muscles to keep ourselves in condition. Even with no court or physical activities allowed, we are trying to execute plays just in case everything gets back to normal,” Cenarosa said.

She added that the team is doing its part to build the proper foundation for netball, including attending umpiring courses, coaching and table officials for this year since competitions are unlikely to happen in 2021.

Cenarosa said it wasn’t easy in 2020, as she and her teammates dealt with the mental stress tied to staying at home during the pandemic. But having adjusted to that, Cenarosa is upbeat about what the future holds for the sport.

Moreover, it is now the beauty queen’s advocacy to help build awareness in sports. Being an athlete, she believes sport can make an impact on anyone’s life. She explains how it made a difference in her life.

“The impact that sports can give to our lives is very different. I apply it to myself, I try to encourage youth to play sports since it can help anyone grow as a disciplined and mentally tough individual to face reality,” Cenarosa explained.

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Like most sports that are limited right now, all the Philippine netball team can do right is try to stay in shape and hope that the world normalizes and competitions start once more. 

But as far as Cenarosa is concerned, the pandemic has helped her squad be more ready as it allows them to plan ahead and hopefully raise awareness of the sport, particularly for women who are looking for an alternative to basketball.