IN the din of the party inside the San Miguel Beer dugout that’s reeking of SMB Pale Pilsen on Friday night, team staff Gani Malindog’s voice could still be heard as he let out a sigh of relief.
“Hindi totoo ang sumpa,” Malindog shouted.
After all, the curse of Chico Lanete’s decade-long PBA career was finally exorcised when the veteran playmaker grabbed that elusive first championship following SMB’s 108-99 double-overtime win over Magnolia that completed their historic all-Filipino four-peat bid.
“Sobrang saya ko kasi sa 11 years ko sa PBA, nakatikim din ako ng championship. Overwhelmed ako,” Lanete said. “Wala akong masabi. Sobrang saya lang talaga.”
At 38, the 11-year veteran had been the oldest player without a ring among active players as thoughts crept in that he would end his pro career without winning a title after failing to get a contract renewal from Phoenix last offseason.
But the Lyceum product gained a call-up for a tryout at SMB and made the most out of it, edging out rookie picks to make the curt for the team’s Philippine Cup roster along with Billy Mamaril and Louie Vigi.
“Nung wala akong team, naisip ko, hindi na siguro ako makakatikim ng championship ever,” Lanete admitted. “Pero nung time na tumawag SMB sa akin, nagkaroon ako ng chance, ‘Uy baka may chance na ko kako kasi syempre San Miguel eh.'
“Simula noong nakapasok ako sa San Miguel, lagi ako nagdadasal. Ngayon, eto na. eto na yung sagot sa mga dasal ko. Sobra. Thankful talaga ako,” he added.
Lanete played just one game and less than three minutes in the finals, but has done his part to get them to where they were. He was best remembered for hitting the go-ahead triple in their 77-76 win, coincidentally against Magnolia in the eliminations that allowed them to wrest the top spot from the Hotshots all the way to the playoffs.
And now, Lanete is as deserving to win the crown even as SMB’s Fab Five did most of the work in the deciding game.
“Syempre family ko (ang motivation),” said the older brother of Meralco gunner Garvo. “Hindi ako nag-give up kasi andyan family ko, lagi silang nakasuporta sa akin. Para sa kanila itong championship na ito.”
After it finally rained for Lanete, will it continue to pour for him?
“Oo naman. Sana. Syempre, andito tayo sa SMB. Hoping for more championships,” he said. “Tiwala lang sa team.”