THE little girl who used to play around at ringside and exchange high fives with Alaska Aces mascot 'Moo' has turned into stunner who on Sunday stood as the muse of the team she grew up rooting for.
"I can still remember when I was just six or seven, we have those flags, me and my mom and brother Kim. Alaska had a lot of fans talaga," shared Rizzini Alexis Gomez, daughter of former Alaska gunner Roel.
"Being with the team again brings a nostalgic feeling, a good one. The experience was all good."
Parading around the Smart Araneta Coliseum with the Alaska Aces during the PBA's opening ceremonies on Sunday was both a homecoming and a dream come true for Rizzi, the reigning Mutya ng Pilipinas-Tourism winner.
"I've thought about it before, like, 'When I grow up I might be a muse of Alaska'," said the 21-year-old Cebuana. "But I didn't think it would come true. It was just a mini dream to be a muse during the opening of the PBA. Now it's a dream come true for me."
It was her dad who broke to her the news that Alaska team manager Joaqui Trillo had asked that she be the Aces' muse. When she learned about it, she immediately said yes.
"I was very happy. It's a very good opportunity for me and it's a very fun experience that's why very, very thankful ako sa Alaska team," Rizzi said.
She savored the experience but was happier to have made her dad proud.
"Very very proud si daddy," she said happily. "He's very blessed, he told me kanina, and it's a good gift daw for his birthday. And that made the whole experience fun."
Rizzi recounted all the good times she had with the team as a kid - all those championship celebrations, the bonus trips overseas where she tagged along with her dad, and the friendship she forged with children of other players.
"During that time Alaska won a lot of championships, including the grand slam, so we used to travel a lot (as bonus from management). So I have those memories from Australia in Melbourne, and then sa Disneyland with all the players and the other kids," Rizzi said.
"I still remember them. Like 'yung mga daughters nina Tito Jojo (Lastimosa) na sina CD and Kitkat and we still see each other up to now," she recalled.
Even though he rooted for a team with so many great players, the self-confessed daddy's girl had only one hero.
"Naku that time it was only my dad," she said. "Si daddy ko lang ang idol ko noon, siya lang ang magaling para sa akin at wala na iba."