PAINFUL as San Miguel's failed bid for a Grand Slam bid was, it doesn't mean that its players can't achieve glory before the year ends.
June Mar Fajardo, Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter were all named to the final 12 of Gilas Pilipinas which will compete in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games - giving the trio one last crack at ending the year on a sweet note after this bitter exit in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup.
"Doon na lang kami babawi," said Fajardo, who is looking to lead the Philippines to the top of the podium which would be more than enough of a consolation for the Beermen.
This will be the first time that the five-time PBA MVP will play in the biennial meet, and a chance to reassert the country's dominance in basketball excites the Cebuano giant.
"Gusto ko rin makakuha ng gold. Never pa ako nakasali sa SEA Games, never pa ako nagka-gold, so excited talaga ako," he said.
Fil-Am guard Chris Ross gets his first chance to don the national colors after finally being included in the Gilas Pilipinas pool.
"I told these players that making my Gilas debut at home, in front of everybody, in front of the fans, it's a blessing. It's a dream come true," said the two-time PBA Defensive Player of the Year who was in disbelief when his name was included in the final list.
"I was getting tweets telling me that I made the final 12, but I messaged a couple of people asking if that was official because I haven't gotten any confirmation and I didn't wanna jinx anything. But I just want to make everybody proud and just go out there and play like I play - play hard, play with passion, cause I don't know if I'll ever wear that jersey again. I'll definitely take advantage of the time when I do it."
It's also the same feeling for Lassiter, who missed out on the 2019 Fiba World Cup and is making the most of this SEA Games stint.
"I wanted to be there for that big one, but anytime you can represent the country, definitely I’m there," said the SMB sniper.
"Just humbly thankful for this opportunity. It’s kinda good to be back because I missed the biggest one out of all. If I could, I would, I wanted to be in that last one. It’s definitely an honor to be named as one of the top 12 players to represent the country."
Ross, though, anticipates the weirdness the Gilas practices would feel like with coach Tim Cone and Ginebra players, namely LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar and Stanley Pringle, as well as Joe Devance present, knowing that it was the Gin Kings who denied the Beermen of their Grand Slam aspirations.
But business is business, and whatever happens in the past stays in the past.
Para sa bayan, as they say.
"This SEA Games will kind of ease the burden. We'll get to be around coach Tim and those Ginebra guys and I'm sure we'll talk about it a little bit," said Ross. "But that will go out the window and we'll all be on the same team and competing for the country and try to bring home a gold."
Fajardo also promises the same grit and grind, not just from the San Miguel players, but from everyone who made the cut as they hope to deliver a show in front of their countrymen.
"Syempre kailangan all-out pa rin kami," he said. "Hindi ito madaling games para sa amin. Kailangan paghandaan namin ng husto. May one week pa kami na maghanda. Gagawin namin ang lahat, ibibigay namin ang lahat para makuha namin yung gold."