Limpag: Tabotabo: Cebu tennis legends

As the beat writer for tennis, the name Tabotabo is one that I regularly encountered in the hundreds of stories I’ve written in the past. From age group tourneys to inter-school meets, it’s a name that reporters regularly mention that sometimes in a rush to beat deadlines and submit stories for the other beats, when it comes to tennis, whenever we see a Tabotabo in the results, we lead with that.

Though I’ve written about them regularly, it was only when I picked up the sport during the pandemic that I learned how revered the Tabotabo family is when it comes to Cebu tennis.

Just imagine, an organizer of a local tennis derby advertised his event as one that Roy Tabotabo would be playing in. It sure drew in a large crowd.

When I heard who was playing, I thought the name sounded familiar and I sent a message to fellow columnist John Pages, who knows almost everyone in Cebu tennis.

“He’s one of Cebu’s best players many years ago,” said John, who’s a good friend of the Tabotabos.

And then it occurred to me that I’ve written a lot about Roy Tabotabo in the past, mostly when organizers thank supporters and other patrons.

Roy and his partner were playing kids young enough to be their grandsons and they were beating them soundly and my first thought was, if he is this good now, how good was he at his prime when he was one of Cebu’s best?

Life’s ironic, really. When I was actively writing stories about local tournaments, it was mostly based on results submitted. I only got to see a couple of men’s open events at Baseline and the Davis Cup at Plantation Bay. I even turned down an all-expenses-paid trip to cover the Philippine Mavericks home game in the IPTL in Manila. Now, I can’t get enough.

It’s how I learned how in local derbies, people almost always ask whether Roy won. Or if he loses, the blame is often passed on to an inexperienced partner, like the last time he lost in Moalboal. “Batan-on man gud, wa pa’y experience,” some in the crowd said after an unexpected, 8-0 loss.

Roy was in town recently with his brother Titus, who is now a licensed USTA trainer. Roy didn’t play as he was nursing an injury, but his brother Titus had a couple of games. I had a brief chat with him and told him I knew John and it was his turn to praise Mr. Match Point’s skills of yesteryears, saying, “Maayo kaayo na si John sa college sa una.”

They were here to check a parcel of land Titus bought where a tennis court will be put up.

Another one you say? Here’s what I learned in my brief sojourn in Cebu tennis. There are never enough tennis courts. Whenever I go to the city, we’d be lucky to book one. If it’s not tennis derbies, it is other groups who have booked it.

So yep, a tennis court attached to the legendary Tabotabo name down South is a welcome development.