PJ Simon has always been a steady presence for San Mig in his entire PBA career, but there was an extra bounce in his step on this particular night.
A 43rd pick in the 2001 PBA rookie draft who rose to become one of the most reliable scorers in the pro league, Simon scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds, issued two assists, and had two steals in an all-around performance against Barangay Ginebra.
The Makilala, North Cotabato native later said it was the urgency of San Mig's situation that spurred him to play undoubtedly his finest game of the season. People close to him, however, say it was because of a girl sitting at courtside who they say is the apple of PJ's eye.
Who is she? Television commercial and print ad model Monique Manuel.
Sought out by Spin.ph after the game, Manuel admitted enjoying her blossoming friendship with Simon, who remains an eligible bachelor at the ripe age of 33, but proved elusive as we probed deeper.
“I cannot say (anything like a relationship). But it’s like, friends. I cannot say. It’s fine, like friends. Okay na,” Manuel said in between giggles.
Asked if she’ll be surprised if Simon courts her one day, Manuel laughed out loud.
“Tatlo kami? (while pointing to her friend and fellow TV host Denise Salang). Hindi naman pwede yun. Siya M-W-F, ako T-TH-S?” she laughed before turning serious.
“Well, I cannot say a thing. I don’t know, pero I don’t know,” she said while hinting that she knows about Simon’s colorful lovelife.
Simon and Manuel were introduced to each other by former PBA cager Wesley Gonzales. Though they have been friends for several months now, Manuel admitted she has yet to see the high-scoring guard make the move.
“I don’t know. Pero guys nowadays, generally, they are not really into courting,” said the eloquent events personality.
“What works for modern day is not really courting, it’s like getting to know each other and let any attraction unfold in itself. With that … I cannot say eh,” added Manuel.
But the gorgeous model said she can sense Simon is ready to enter in a relationship at this point in his life.
“May nililgawan ba siya ngayon? Hindi ko siya masyadong pinakikialaman when it comes to his personal life eh. Feeling ko naghahanap siya eh. Open naman siya (sa relationship). He’s very open,” she added.
Despite their closeness, Manuel said Simon's fans should not feel threatened by her.
“Ha? Maiingiit? Bakit sa akin? Pero sana hindi. Kasi normal person din naman siya eh. Just like any other person he too can, you know. Pero yun nga. He is human too,” she said with a wink.