LIZETTE Cabrera may be representing Australia, but wherever she's playing, her heart definitely screams "I am Filipina."
Born in Townsville, she grew up in a Filipino household together with her two other siblings. Her parents Ronnie and Maria migrated to Oz in their early 20's. Her dad was born in Basilan, but died in September of last year. Her mom is from Angeles, Pampanga.
Lizette first held a tennis racket when she was just four years old. She shared that it was her parents who introduced her to the sport, and with Ronnie's death last year, the memory of her father continues to inspire her.
"Both my mom and dad loved tennis, so they [tried[ to put a racket in my hand whenever they [could]. I just fell in love with the sport. Fast forward to today, it is also already my job," she told SPIN Life.
At 23 years old, she's vying for her first Grand Slam title as a fourth-timer in the Australian Open. Her first match would be against world No. 2 Simona Halep.
She's currently at No. 140 in the Women's Tennis Association World rankings, with hundreds of matches' worth of professional experience under her belt. She first entered the WTA in 2017, and recorded a career-high No. 119.
For the record, no Filipina has ever made it to the WTA rankings. But the Philippines has high hopes for 15-year-old ace, Alex Eala, an International Tennis Federation Juniors World No. 3.
Having grown up in Australia, Cabrera admitted that she's only gone to the country once. But she respects her roots.
"I visited the country when I was 13. It was a short stay, but I am so proud to be a Filipina. My parents occasionally speak their native language at home, so I can really understand Tagalog, but cannot speak fluently," she shared.
She continued: "My parents were good cooks, [and] we eat Filipino dishes like sinigang, adobo, and arroz caldo. I even just started learning how to cook pancit. I know how much Filipinos love their food. Especially on occasions, we loved singing and dancing, we always have the karaoke."
Adobo, sinigang, and karaoke? Those Pinoy credentials check out.
Kidding aside, Cabrera, who is an Australian citizen, is eager to get more in touch with her roots... especially now that she has a strong professional career that she hopes would encourage even more young women in the country to pursue sports.
"I definitely love the Philippines. I grew up watching Filipino TV drama with my parents. Hopefully, I can visit in a few years after the virus. I [would] love to build my brand in the country as well," she said.
She added, "I've always wanted to connect with the Filipino community, I just didn't know how. I really wanted to inspire young girls in the Philippines to engage and invest in sports since it really opens a lot of opportunities to meet people, travel, and even have a profession you enjoy."
Cabrera revealed that if she wasn't a tennis player, she might have pursued dancing —another one of her passions.
But for Lizette, who's been in the industry for almost 20 years now, the commitment she's poured into her chosen sport has entailed many sacrifices.
"Being here, you're gonna be missing a lot, birthday parties, going out with friends, time with your loved ones. But it's all worth it to be here," she said.