THE diplomatic tension between the Philippines and Chinese-Taipei has not stopped Taiwanese cage star Lu Cheng-du from enjoying Manila's malls and trying out the culinary fare in the city.
And he has vowed to come back for more.
"I feel very safe here (in the Philippines)," Lu told Spin.ph during a break in action in the Fiba-Asia championships ahead of the knockout rounds beginning on Friday. "It's okay."
Lu and the rest of the Taipei squad have been in the country for a week, their arrival causing concern among organizers amid the rift caused by the death of a Taiwanese fisherman off the coast of Batanes last May.
Adding to the animosity was the Taiwanese organizers' decision to "uninvite" Gilas Pilipinas from the Jones Cup tournament in Taipei where the national team was the defending champion.
The heartbreaking 79-84 defeat Taiwan dealt Gilas in their group stage clash also hasn't helped ease the tension, for sure.
Other Taiwanese players have been clamming up before local mediamen but not Lu, who said he feels safe enough to roam in the malls near the hotel where they are billeted to shop and eat.
"It's great, I can go to the mall, it's very near, I can go shopping or eat," he said. "It's very safe here, there is no harm. I enjoy my stay (here)."
Lu said he was amazed with the Filipinos' passion for basketball, and was surprised to see some local fans recognize him at the malls and ask to have pictures taken with him.
"It's interesting because in Taiwan it's not like that, basketball is not as popular as here, so we enjoy very much the game here (in the Philippines)," said the 27-year old forward.
"I may have (fans) or maybe not," he added laughing. "But there are people who always say, 'Picture (please),' so okay, okay, fine, it's okay with me."
As the tournament hits its final stretch, Lu said he would like to come back for a vacation in the future.
"I enjoy my stay (here)," he said. "Maybe (I will) come back for vacation. I like the beaches."