EVERY Filipino basketball player still aspires to make it to the PBA.
But for Gab Banal, he's at peace with where his hoops journey has taken him and is doing quite good despite not being a part of Asia's oldest professional league.
"Being not in the PBA, there are still lots of things you could do," he said in Cedelf Tupas' Crossover Podcast.
Banal, 29, is a firm believer of the old adage that when one door closes, another one opens.
Picked 22nd in the 2014 PBA Draft, the Mapua product has had scarce chances, sparingly playing for GlobalPort as he last played in the league back in 2017.
Despite those circumstances, Banal still did quite well.
He was the Finals MVP for the Go for Gold Scratchers team which won the 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup, as well as becoming the MVP of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Rajah Cup last year as the main man for the Bacoor City Strikers.
Aside from those, he was also a fixture in the 3x3 game and was included in the Mighty Sports Philippines team for the past two years, winning the 2020 Dubai International Basketball Tournament last January.
To Banal, he wouldn't have done tthose had he been in the PBA.
"Kung nag-PBA ako nung August, hindi sana ako nakapunta ng Mongolia at hindi sana ako nakapunta ng Dubai to win the championship," he said.
The 6-foot-3 winger was actually enlisted to be a part of TNT KaTropa in The Terrific 12 competition in Macau last year until circumstances beyond his control stopped that from happening.
He holds no regrets on how things transpired, though.
"It has its pros and cons and it depends what you're after eh," he said.
"Some people are chasing that PBA dream. Pero mahirap sa PBA pag di ka nagagamit and na-experience ko na yun. There's no joy in not playing. So it depends why you're playing basketball. If you're in there just for the status and not playing, might as well go to the PBA. But if you're for the fun and you're not playing, go to some place where you can play. Depende sa anong purpose mo why you play basketball."
That's why Banal is perfectly fine showing his wares in MPBL, where he feels he could connect more with the masses with how his basketball journey has been.
"For me, it's for the love of the game. I feel like I can connect more in MPBL especially you're representing the city, so you're connecting more with the people and be an anchor of hope to them," he said. "I want to share my story kasi it's a roller coaster, hindi siya magandang tignan from the outside. I have to go through stuff that people can relate after, going through life na mahirap. I want to tell them na there's always hope."
"I became the MVP of the MPBL out of nowhere, out of not having a team, being the last team to be formed. Especially for Filipinos, I'm pretty sure they can relate and I want to be an inspiration to them, that anything is possible when you have faith in God and like now, makakaraos din tayo."
Banal, however, isn't shutting his door on the PBA, if that opportunity presents itself.
For now, he's just raring to get back to action as he begins a new chapter with the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards.
"The most important thing is where your joy is. I'm having so much joy in MPBL now," he said.
"If the right time comes, if it's God-willing na may magandang offer, good team, good coach, good environment, we'll see and I'll entertain it. But right now, I'm really happy where I am right now. Basketball is fun for me right now."