(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - The Manila Polo Club will never be the same again after today as healing priest Fr. Fernando Suarez celebrates the Holy Mass in the open field at 9 this morning then joins a host of tennis enthusiasts in an inter-color doubles tournament to raise awareness for the Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation from 1 to 5 this afternoon.

Attendance for the Mass is by invitation only as the club is not able to accommodate more than 800. Former Davis Cupper Raymond Suarez, who’s organizing the whole-day affair for Fr. Suarez (no relation), said since an internet source identified him as the chief coordinator, he’s received over a thousand text messages on his cellphone asking if the Mass is open to the public. Some messages were from Zamboanga City, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro and other cities far away from Metro Manila.

“We’re very grateful to the Manila Polo Club Board, particularly the president Mrs. Isabel Wilson, for allowing us to stage this event,” said Suarez. “We’ve arranged for a tent in the open field where the Mass will be celebrated and five courts are reserved for the tournament.”

Fr. Suarez arrived here from his base in Ottawa, Canada, last Dec. 18 and has been celebrating healing Masses for thousands wherever he is invited. The other day, he was at the SM Megamall where a sea of over 5,000 faithful came for his Mass. In this trip so far, Fr. Suarez has reached out to believers in Lipa, Tarlac, Dagupan, Agoo, San Fernando, Baguio, La Paz, Jaro, Roxas City and even Boracay.

The word has spread far and wide about Fr. Suarez’ healing powers. But he insists the powers aren’t his but that he is only an instrument of the Lord. The power of faith is what drives everyone to be healed and it is a power that Fr. Suarez preaches for all to embrace in God’s love.

Fr. Suarez refuses to take credit for the thousands who have been healed by his touch and his words. But wherever he goes, a flock gathers as he brings hope and faith to those who believe in God’s infinite goodness.

But it’s not all work for Fr. Suarez who loves to play tennis.

That’s why Raymond has organized a tournament where Fr. Suarez can play and meet those who share his passion for the game. At the same time, Raymond hopes to introduce the sports community to the foundation, which Fr. Suarez established to spearhead the construction of the oratory of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Montemaria, a 20-hectare property overlooking Batangas Bay.

Fr. Suarez’ vision is for Montemaria to be a haven for pilgrims, a place of prayer and a refuge for the faithful. To rise at Montemaria like a beacon light in the tip of the Batangas peninsula is a 117-meter high statue of Mary Mother of the Poor. It will stand higher than the Statue of Liberty in New York City and the statue of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro.

“The statue will serve as the proclamation of love and faith, a steadfast companion and guide for the traveler on earth,” said businessman and Couples for Christ convenor Greg Monteclaro, the foundation’s executive director. “It presents the Blessed Mother’s journey as a model of an integrated faith and life-action in proclaiming the greatness of the Lord.”

The haven will include a sanctuary for healing and spiritual rejuvenation, a retreat house for self-examination, a center of apostolate for the poor, an adoration chapel, a rosary garden, a way of the cross, the St. Joseph Chapel, the Divine Mercy Chapel, a columbarium and a way station for pilgrims with board and lodging, conference rooms and other facilities.

Fr. Suarez will relocate to Montemaria for good starting September this year.

As for this afternoon’s tournament, Fr. Suarez will team with Roland So against Fr. Jeff Shannon and Felix Barrientos in a straight-to-six doubles match to start off hostilities. Also expected to play in the inter-color competition sponsored mainly by Jean Henri Lhuillier and Nene Chan are Ronald Kraut, Randy Villanueva, Chris Cuarto, Romy Chan and Rina Ceniza.

Raymond said Fr. Suarez will play for the Blue squad and Fr. Jeff, his colleague with the Canada-based congregation Companions of the Cross, for the Red. Raymond and Roland will skipper the opposing teams.

At dawn this morning, Fr. Suarez will complete a 40-hour vigil in Montemaria then go to the Manila Polo Club for the 9 a.m. Mass. Tomorrow, he flies to the US to celebrate healing Masses in Houston then will visit Hong Kong to reach out to OFWs on the invitation of DBP president Rey David on Jan. 19.

Fr. Suarez, who was named one of the country’s Outstanding Young Men for religious service in awarding rites at Malacañang last Dec. 8 (he was represented by his mother Azucena), will return to Manila on Jan. 21 and celebrate a healing Mass at Sts. Peter and John Parish in Potrero at 4 p.m. that day.

Other healing Masses in Fr. Suarez’ schedule are:

Jan. 22 – Antipolo Cathedral, 9 a.m. Jan. 23 – St. Jude Parish, Manila, 9 a.m. Jan. 24 – National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, Posadas Village, Sucat, 9 a.m. Jan. 25 – National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, Marilao, 9 a.m. Jan. 26 – Holy Trinity Parish, Olongapo City, 1 p.m. Jan. 28 – Lakeshore Tent, Mexico, Pampanga, 2 p.m. Jan. 29 – Immaculate Conception Parish, Guagua, 9 a.m. Jan. 30 – Sta. Rita Parish, Bulacan, 2 p.m. Jan. 31 – Divine Mercy Shrine, Mandaluyong, 9 a.m.

Feb. 1 – Mary Mother of Good Counsel Parish, Marcelo Green Village, 9 a.m. Feb. 2 – Rockwell Tent fund-raiser for the foundation on Fr. Suarez’ 41st birthday, 8 p.m. Feb. 3 – Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, Daet, Camarines Norte, 9 a.m. Feb. 6 – St. Francis Church, Shaw Boulevard, 4 p.m.

Bustamante settles for third in One Pocket tiff Sunday, January 13, 2008

Former world No. 1 Francisco “Django” Bustamante bowed to Larry Nevel in the semifinal round and settled for third place in the 10th Derby City Classic “One Pocket” division at the Executive West Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.

Bustamante earlier beat Shannon Daulton in the 10th round then eliminated compatriot Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan in the 11th before yielding to Nevel.

Nevel arranged a rematch with Gabe Owen for the one pocket crown.

Owen, a former US Open 9-ball titlist, beat Nevel in the 10th, ousted former four-time one pocket crown winner Efren “Bata” Reyes in the 11th and luckily took a bye in the 12th to face Nevel for the title.

Interestingly, Bustamante also finished third in last year’s one pocket and 9-ball division that put him in third place in the Master of the Table Bonus crown behind compatriots Reyes and Rodolfo “Boy Samson” Luat.

After settling for third in the one pocket division, Bustamante bounced back in the 9-ball division, posting four consecutive wins against Norman McKinley, Josh Roberts, Curtist Dehart and another world pool champion Mika Immonen of Finland.

Bustamante, who beat Ron Beard in the opening round of Derby’s 9-ball, will face Gus Briseno in the sixth round.

Reyes, Luat, Pagulayan and Jose “Amang” Parica are also still in contention in the 9-ball event.

Reyes nipped Mark Boros, Thomas Miller, Corey Deuel and Landon Shuffett from rounds 2 to 5; while Luat smashed John Smith, Ernesto Dominguez, Joseph Kluka and Tom Spencer; Pagulayan crushed George McLanahan, Chuck Gregg, Bobby McGrath and Rafael Martinez; and Parica bowed to Huidji See then beat Jason Klatt, Freddie Boggs and John Brumback.

Santos “The Saint” Sambajon was the lone Filipino casualty in the 9-ball event.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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