KUALA LUMPUR - Carl Bryan Cruz celebrated his 26th birthday on Tuesday on a plane en route from Beirut to Kuala Lumpur to join Gilas Pilipinas in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games here.
Coming off a stint with Gilas in the Fiba Asia Cup, Cruz was supposed to be replaced by Mac Belo in the SEA Games team but had to rush to Malaysia when organizers took to long to process the switch.
The former Far Eastern University standout travelled for more than 12 hours from Beirut that included a connecting flight in Doha.
He also had to make a dash at Doha airport after his flight from Beirut got delayed, just so he can catch the plane for the final leg of the journey to Kuala Lumpur.
"Jetlag pa, wala pang maayos na tulog," said the Alaska rookie. "Delayed pa nga (Beirut to Doha), hinahabol ko. Tumakbo na ako, kala ko male-late ako."
All the while, Cruz thought he was no longer part of the SEA Games team. But the change of plans forced him to pack his bags immediately after Gilas' final game in Beirut against Jordan.
In one hour, he was bound for the airport.
"Yesterday (Monday), 3 p.m. arrival ko (sa Kuala Lumpur). Kahapon derecho ako sa team dinner tapos kaninang umaga, derecho shootaround kami," said Cruz.
Cruz said he wholeheartedly accepted the call to join Gilas in the SEA Games - his third straight for the national team after the Jones Cup in Taipei and the Fiba Asia Cup - and vowed to go all out.
"Pagod pero no excuses. Kailangan ko maglaro at saka go hard," said Cruz.