AS Rain or Shine celebrated the second championship in franchise history last week, Jervy Cruz was on the outside looking in, having been out of the E-Painters lineup since the start of the season.
But that doesn't mean he's not happy for his former teammates.
“Nagkakausap rin kami, after nga nila manalo, nag-congratulate pa ko sa iba sa kanila. Si Paul (Lee) nga nakausap ko pa at sabi nga niya sa akin, sawa na raw sila maging bridesmaid,” said the sweet-shooting big man out of University of Santo Tomas, an integral part of the Rain or Shine champion team in the 2012 Governors Cup.
“Nabanggit rin ni Paul na grabe rin talaga pinagdaanan nila, kasi kahit nung time na andun ako, alam ko frustrations kasi ilang finals rin nilaruan namin, lagging kinakapos,” added Cruz, who was also with the Rain or Shine side that lost a heartbreaking Game Seven to Talk 'N Text in the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
Cruz said he's genuinely happy for his former teammates, having forged deep bonds with guys like Ronnie Matias, Beau Belga, Jericho Cruz and Lee who called themselves 'Tropang Dulo,' since they spend most of the games seated at the farthest end of the Rain or Shine bench.
He also had no doubt that Rain or Shine was bound to win another championship with a deep, intact lineup.
“Hindi naman ako naiinggit o nalulungkot. Kasi alam ko naman na contender talaga lagi ang Rain or Shine. Lagi sila sa playoffs kahit nung time na andun pa ko, so expected mo talaga na time will come magcha-champion ulit sila,” said the 29-year-old pride of Guimba, Nueva Ecija.
“Halos intact kasi lineup nila, may mabago man, kaunti lang tapos nag-i-step up agad (yung mga bago),” he added.
And how has he been since the trade Cruz out of Rain or Shine which saw him join GlobalPort before being shipped to Barako Bull and later Barangay Ginebra right at the start of the 41stseason?
Cruz said he is more motivated than ever to fight for a spot in the regular rotation of Ginebra coach Tim Cone, his confidence high despite averaging only 5.88 minutes per game with the Kings - a big drop from his near 20 minutes per game when he was still with the E-Painters.
“Okay naman ako rito (sa Ginebra). Aminado naman ako na nangangapa pa ko sa sistema at ginagawa ang lahat para magkaroon ulit ng playing time. Hindi naman basta-basta inaani yun,” said Rain or Shine's fourth pick overall in the 2009 rookie draft.
Ginebra supporters like Glenn Calayag, a Lenovo Australia senior account manager, can’t help but express some feeling of regret for Cruz, who he believes is one of the most underrated big men in the PBA.
“Sayang si Jervy, sana ma-utilize nang maayos at sana lumabas laro niya kay Coach Tim. Nanghihinayang ako sa kanya kasi bilang true old school Ginebra fan, nakakahinayang meron talent at sipag yung bata,” said Calayag.
“Merung pusong Tigre (UST Almnus) at tapang siya, kaya sayang talaga,” added the Australian-based Ginebra fan who still monitors the games through internet streaming and SPIN.ph stories.
Cruz, however, is far from dispirited, convinced his time will come at Ginebra.
“Alam ko darating din time namin dito sa Ginebra, unti-unti naman nang nakukuha ng team ang mga dapat gawin," he said. "Magsisikap na lang kami lalo para sa mga fans."