NOT since he won his second PBA MVP trophy in 2010 has James Yap felt so at peace with the world.
With his personal life finally in order after his reconciliation with ex-wife Kris Aquino and his career on the rise again with San Mig's success in the PBA, the popular basketball star said he is savoring a "new beginning" in more ways than one.
“Yes, brand-new start ito. Ganito naman ang pinagpe-pray ko lagi, na maging okay na lahat," Yap said inside San Mig's dugout at the Big Dome on Wednesday night after a 97-84 win over Air21. "So I thank God at okay na lahat. Sana tuloy-tuloy na.
“Sana wala nang maging problema."
That he added that one last line as some sort of addendum is understandable, considering the many controversies he got embroiled in during and after his high-profile marriage to Aquino that got annulled in 2012 - not to mention the injuries and failures he endured on the court during that time.
Now, the San Mig hotshot is ready to put all that behind him after making peace with his celebrity ex-wife, as seen by his presence during the seventh birthday of their son, James Junior (Bimby), last Tuesday where the ex-couple incidentally split the cost.
“Okay naman na kami. Nagmature na kaming dalawa. Na-realize namin sa isa’t isa yung mali naming before, mga pagkukulang,” said the 32-year-old player from Escalante, Negros Occidental.
Yap, however, tried to evade questions about Aquino’s new-found love in Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, which has been the talk of the town.
“Ayaw ko nang mag-comment 'dun. Masaya ako happy siya,” the two-time MVP said. “Okay naman kasi masaya na kami ngayon, masaya na siya may partner na siya. Siya rin masaya rin siya sa akin.”
Meanwhile, Yap bared how Kris also invited his current girlfriend, Michela Cazzola, to Bimby's birthday party, but the Italian stunner politely declined so as to allow the parents to share the moment with their child.
“Nag-text si Michela sa akin, parang pina-forwad na lang niya kay Kris. Nakalagay dun na hindi na lang daw siya muna pupunta, kasi gusto niya (Cazzola) na magka-full attention kami sa anak namin,” he said.
“Syempre, anak namin 'yun, kaya ayaw na niyang malagyan pa ng ibang bagay na pwedeng maka-distract,” Yap added.
The celebrated cager also did not deny reports that he was left flabbergasted by the cost of his son’s birthday party.
“(Laughing) Oo, nagulat nga ako 'dun sa halaga. Nalaglag talaga ako sa upuan ko,” he said in between laughs. “Pero okay lang sa akin 'yun. Para naman sa anak namin yun eh. Pag anak kasi gagawin mo lahat para mapasaya mo.”
Asked how much he and Aquino spent for the birthday blowout which was attended by a veritable who’s who in Philippine showbiz and politics, Yap said: ‘Secret. Basta, malaki nga. Nalaglag nga ako sa upuan ko eh, di ba?"
The tranquility of his personal life has also translated to a career resurgence for the former University of the East star, who, after battling an assortment of injuries over the past two years, is back in full fitness and enjoying his time again on the hard court.
Success has also followed, with San Mig looking good in its run for a third successive league championship and Yap looking like the Yap of old in some games - including the memorable Game Seven of the last Philippine Cup semifinal series against Ginebra where he erupted for 30 points including seven three-pointers.
Now all he's looking for is consistency in his games.
“Okay lang naman. Basta laro lang. Sana nga, mas gumanda pa at maging steady na,” he said as he walked out of the dugout and into a swarm of fans.