Meet Bacolod City’s very own heroine, Maria Hannah Divinagracia, the 16-year-old tennis prodigy from the Unified Tennis Philippines (UTP) National Team.
She is fresh off the podium after winning two of the most coveted championship trophies in the prestigious 38th Penang Open International Juniors Age Group Tennis Championship.
The tournament ran from November 29 to December 3, 2023 in Penang, Malaysia, and was the toast of the international tennis community.
Maria, who was named after the retired Russian tennis sensation Maria Sharapova, bested competitors from more than a dozen countries, including Pakistan, Australia, and Papua New Guinea, to become the 16-Under Girls Singles champion and the 16-Under Girls Doubles champion with her doubles partner, Kimi Brodeth.
As of press time, she is en route to Perlis, Malaysia, for the Perlis Milo International Junior Tennis Championships. Her trohpy closet is already filled to the brim, but boy, she is just getting started.
Maria is a chip off the old block, having been trained by her parents, Coaches Juvan and Espie Divinagracia. They themselves were top Negros Occidental players during their time.
Her success is the culmination of years of rigorous repetition, balancing her studies as a Grade 11 student at Mansilingan Agro-Industrial High School and a resident athlete at Verde Aces Tennis Academy and Resort. All of that struggle for a 50-minute game.
What a wonderful time to be alive in the beautiful City of Smiles, to see an unassuming probinsayana rise from adversity, and to shatter so many glass ceilings. Our city is a charming little speck on the map, yet it is a place where women from all walks of life are thriving.
We have a growing number of female athletes, coaches, politicians, doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, musicians, writers, painters, journalists, homemakers, chefs, beauty queens, CEOs, chief editors, and a whole other spectrum of talents and skills that have been nurtured to the hilt.
Indeed, a society that supports its women is a society that’s ahead of its time.*
Nobe Cuatriz-Cantillas used to write as a part-time romance novelist for three wonderful publishing houses, but that was more than a decade ago. She hung up her pen to focus on raising her two sons, growing her small procurement business, and brewing coffee grounds and loose leaf-tea leaves on her down time.