AS he emerged from the dugout and saw a scrum of reporters approaching him, Mac Cardona asked one scribe to take a picture of him while he was being interviewed.
The controversial guard seized his shot at the limelight as he embarked on a road to redemption with his return to the PBA on Sunday, suiting up for GlobalPort in its Governors’ Cup matchup against NLEX.
The Batang Pier lost to the Road Warriors, 109-99, but that hardly dampened the euphoria that Cardona is feeling after he stepped on the PBA court after a year away due to a family problem that led to a suicide attempt.
“Sobrang happy ko na nakapaglaro ulit ako ng basketball,” the 35-year-old cager said. "‘Di ko in-expect na makakapaglaro ako sa PBA since nung nangyari sa’kin last year. Di ko alam na may kukuha pa sa’kin.”
“Kaya thankful ako kay coach Franz, kay boss Mikee Romero, kay Erick Arejola na binigyan nila ako ng pagkakataon para mapakita ko na kaya ko pa maglaro,” he added.
Cardona made the first step in his return via Zark’s Burger in the D-League, then earned a tryout at GlobalPort.
“Parang it’s a sign na parang nung may tumawag sakin sa D-League na kung pwede maglaro ako, sabi ko baka ito na yung sign ni Lord na bumalik ako sa basketball,” the former La Salle star said.
Now, Cardona is reunited with college coach Franz Pumaren as well as Green Archers teammates Ryan Arana and Mike Cortez, signing a contract that runs through the end of the season.
“Kinikilabutan nga ako ngayon na parang feeling ko nasa UAAP ako,” Cardona said. “Nung nawala ako ng isang taon, nakapagpahinga ako, tapos pagkabalik ko, na-excite ulit ako maglaro.”
“Kung ano man nangyari sakin in the past, alam ko may pagkakamali ako dun,” he added. “For me, move on na lang kasi wala na ko magagawa.
“Naka-move on na ako sa lahat,” he continued. “Moving forward. Nagdadasal na lang ako, nagsi-simba.”
Cardona put up a decent performance in his return as he registered four points on 2-of-4 shooting, two boards against one turnover in eight minutes and five seconds on the court.
“Parang rookie talaga,” Cardona insisted. “Di ko nga alam ano itsura ko sa court, basta happy lang ako na nasa PBA ulit ako, nakita ko ulit yung mga tao na masaya sila na naglalaro ako.
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa support nila,” he added. “Kung ‘di dahil sa kanila, wala yung drive ko bumalik. Parang every day may nagme-message.”
And he’s eager to continue to repay the faith of Pumaren and the rest of the team.
“Gusto niya lang is maayos buhay ko ulit,” Cardona said of Pumaren. “Gusto niya maayos isip ko, gusto niya maging parang normal ulit ako na player. Gusto niya lang talaga matulungan ko.”
With all the support he has, it’s all on Cardona to make the most of this second chance.