FROM team spirit to Christmas spirit.
For many athletes, the Yuletide Season is a time when they hang up their uniforms, momentarily leave behind the locker room camaraderie, and step away from the blinding glare of the arena in favor of spending the holidays at home and be with the people that matter most to them – their families.
Talk 'N Text point guard Jimmy Alapag said Christmas allows him to push the "pause button" from the grind of his basketball career to be reunited with his loved ones.
“Christmas is having the opportunity to spend time with family, friends, and loved ones,” the Gilas Pilipinas team captain said. “That's the true spirit of Christmas - to have the time to be thankful with all the blessings and be with the people you love the most.”
Alapag’s Gilas Pilipinas teammate and Rain or Shine gunner Jeff Chan, considers an ideal Christmas when he can make his family happy.
“Spending time with family. Hindi naman kailangan bonggang celebration. Ako, basta kumpleto lang kaming family, masaya, makikita mo asawa mo at mga kids na nagbubukas ng regalo, 'yun na ang perfect Christmas ko,” he said.
For geographically-challenged players such as Talk `N Text’s Jayson Castro whose family is overseas, Christmas Day is a way of reconnecting with his mother and sisters via Skype before leaving for his home province.
“Ang perfect Christmas ko is makasama ang family ko this year kasi nasa States sila pero Skype-Skype na lang muna,” said the shooting guard out of Philippine Christian University. “Christmas kasi family time 'yan eh, small reunion lang and then uwi ako ng Pampanga sa mga relatives ko.”
For Castro, it's also the time to remember the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda where more than 6,000 people perished in the Visayas region.
He said this year’s holiday season should be meaningful among Filipinos in the light of the tragic fate suffered by the country in the last quarter of the season, saying, “This year siguro di kami makaka-celebrate dahil sa mga nasalanta (ng bagyo sa Visayas). Bawal muna mag-celebrate ng bongga.”
For Ateneo volleyball star Alyssa Valdez, Christmas is the time to give back the love she received throughout the year.
“Spending time with my family ang perfect Christmas for me,” she said. “It's also an opportunity of giving back and as in pag Christmas kasi, talaga mapi-feel mo ang love sa kahit kaninong tao, parang kahit sino family mo.”
Cagayan Valley’s Angge Tabaquero said it doesn’t matter if one has lavish gifts and food on the table on Christmas, the important thing is being together with the family and loved ones.
“Yung simple lang, may handa man o wala, basta `yung magkakasama ako ng pamilya na buo,” she said.
De La Salle coach Juno Sauler, who steered the Green Archers to a UAAP men’s basketball championship this year, said his Christmas is made perfect by being with his loved ones.
“Spending time together with your loved ones,” was the curt reply of the soft-spoken mentor.
While James Yap admittedly had a difficult year on and off the court, he still looks forward to be with his family on this special day.
“Perfect Christmas ko is makasama ang family. Kaya andito sila ngayon, although, di ko sila makakasama sa Christmas pero sa New Year andito sila, `yung parents ko,” he said.
For Gilas cadet and former Letran ace player Kevin Alas, having a complete family is already enough, saying, “Perfect Christmas for me is celebrating it with the whole family.”
“I really feel complete and happy when I'm with my family,” he added.
Meralco back-up Anjo Caram also said being with family is the perfect Christmas for him, adding, “yung kasama mo ang family mo at masaya kayo.”
National University Pep Squad coach Ghicka Bernabe said she has two reasons to celebrate the holiday season.
“Sharing of blessings, love and happiness, and getting in touch with the family,” she said.
Ateneo men’s basketball coach Bo Perasol, who had a rough maiden season calling the shots for the Blue Eagles, said he’ll spend Christmas time to reflect.
“(A) perfect Christmas for me is being an instrument of our Lord to get people whom I am in connection with in getting the message across.
Life is temporary and what kind of relationship we have with our Maker is going to determine where we will spend eternity,” he meaningfully said.
And finally, for Emilio Aguinaldo College coach Gerry Esplana, Christmas is all about one person.
“Christmas is focusing more on the giver (rather) than the gifts. It's ok to give gifts because it's part of the celebration but what are we celebrating? It's the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. It is the start of his mission on earth to pay for our sins,” the former PBA stalwart explained.