VIC Manuel never imagined his name to ever be called up for national team duty.
He's also not losing sight that this 30th Southeast Asian Games stint might be very well just be a one-off.
"Di ko na ine-expect yun, pero sobrang masaya talaga ako," he said after winning a gold medal in his maiden Gilas duty. "Thankful talaga ako sa kanila kasi binigyan nila ako ng opportunity na makapaglaro sa SEA Games."
"Alam mo naman na yun yung goal namin kaya kami naglaro dito eh. Kaya nagpapasalamat talaga ako kay coach Tim (Cone) kasi dinala niya ako rito sa team na ito, sa mga coaching staff at sa Gilas management."
If it felt like Manuel's run with Gilas is just borrowed time, he made sure to make the most out of it.
Easily, the hardworking Alaska forward was the breakout star in this regional conclave, averaging 15.6 points and 4.2 rebounds, maximizing his time on the floor as he fully acknowledged the depth the Philippine side had.
Impressive as those numbers were, Manuel is also realistic enough that at 32, this might very well be his first and last Gilas run.
"Oo naman, syempre. Hindi naman na ako bumabata at matanda na rin ako. Yung iba siguro, maiiwan sa Gilas tapos kami one-and-done lang talaga eh. Pero talagang masaya na ko na ma-experience na makapaglaro sa national team," he said as the Licab, Nueva Ecija is already glad to count his blessings.
"Sobrang happy na ako. Kuntento na ako. Ma-experience ko lang, ayos na sa akin yun."