THE day after announcing his retirement from the PBA, Chris Tiu found himself faced with a dilemma.
He didn't know what to do.
“It’s something that was totally new to me. I’ve never in my life had a moment where I’ve not been training with a team or individually," said the retired basketball star, looking back on that strange morning back in January when he had no idea what to do with all the free time suddenly in his hands.
Since he was a kid, Christopher John Alandy-Dy Tiu had grown accustomed to a life that revolved around practices, training, and games, from his elementary and high school days at Xavier School to college at Ateneo de Manila and finally to his six seasons as a PBA pro, all with Rain or Shine.
It wasn't exactly all about basketball, as he devoted as much time as he could to his other pursuits - golf, music, start-up businesses, a television career. But ever the consummate professional, his basketball schedule inevitably dictated how the rest of his life would go.
So Tiu went out with family and friends knowing he had to be in bed early to get his seven, eight hours of sleep, so he won't be sluggish in games or injury-prone in practices. Family vacations, both domestic and overseas, are planned around a busy PBA schedule that practically runs an entire year.
“Basketball has been part of my life forever ever since I was a kid. Being part of a professional team needs a lot of determination and commitment personally, just to stay in shape and keep getting better to help the team," Tiu said.
"When I was still in the PBA, our season practically runs 10 months in a year and during the offseason, that’s when you train. So araw-araw you have to be physically fit and well-rested so you can train hard everyday and be ready for the games also.
"Plus the unpredictability of the schedule, like minsan may game once a week or twice a week, sometimes out of town, may tuneup games. So your schedule really depends on the team schedule. So it’s hard to plan ahead," he said.
All that changed on January 8 when he finally clicked the 'Tweet' button on a Twitter post formally announcing his retirement, which he had put off time and again over the past three years.
When the finality of retirement struck him, Tiu found himself wandering into uncharted territory.
“Before pressing the ‘Tweet’ button, I was kinda nervous,” Tiu recalled. “I kept asking my wife who was beside me, ‘Sure na ba tayo?’ I mean, I thought about it for years, prayed about it. I’m very sure. But when you are right here at that moment and you are about to make it official, you still feel apprehensive and unsure because this is it."
Two months after that viral tweet, Tiu looked more relaxed and so sure of himself when SPIN.ph checked on him as he held court in the conference room of the main office of the family-owned corporation, where he now spends most of his time on an 8-to-5 basis, unless he had to attend meetings elsewhere.
Tiu's days normally goes like this: he wakes up around seven, or a little earlier in days when he works out, but only to stay fit; by eight, he's in the office which is only a short drive away; and he's excited to be home the soonest so he can spend time with wife Clarisse and daughters Amanda (two years old) and Mari (turning one).
If routines like this one are boring for most, it's a whole new experience for the 33-year old former national player.
"It’s different," Tiu said when asked about his new life. "Mas naka-develop ako ng routine because now I go to the office and I’m able to plan things ahead more. I’m able to have weekends with my family and I’m less physically tired. I can plan trips domestically and overseas with the family, for business, or golf games once in a while.
"Mas relaxed din ako in a way kasi hindi ako parating nagmamadali umuwi para magpahinga kasi alam ko may training pa ako tomorrow. I can spend time with the kids or my friends na hindi nagmamadali. ‘Yan I think is ‘yung biggest, more rewarding adjustments or changes."
There's a whole new world out there for the former Ateneo star. For Tiu, that means more quality time with family and perhaps more time for his golf game, where he now channels his competitive drive.
And new worlds to conquer, of course.
For SPIN Life's maiden Leaderboard feature, Tiu sits down to discuss the five things that are expected to keep him preoccupied for the rest of his post-basketball life: family, golf, music, businesses, and his advocacies. As he himself said, "I’m just retired from professional basketball. I'm not retired from life."
Chris Tiu on his golf game: "I’ve been playing since I was a kid, nine or 10 years old. But I never really had formal training. Dad ko kasi naglalaro pero hindi naman siya professional, and siya na ang nagturo sa akin and na-enjoy ko. Sinasama niya ako sa driving range, sa fairways. And I tried to learn it on my own, which is a bad move kasi golf is so technical - angles, timing, details are so important and you have to develop good habits when you’re young and ang dami ko nang bad habits. And I understood the science behind it later on na and ang hirap nang i-correct. So doon ako nacha-challenge, I want to improve and now doon ko china-channel ‘yung aking competitive drive. I try to play once a week. Kasi dati when I was playing basketball, once a quarter lang akong nakakapaglaro eh. But now I try once a week."
Chris Tiu on his love for music: "Well when I was younger, maybe I was seven years old pa lang, my mom already enrolled us in piano class. We had several teachers, and I distinctly remember not wanting to wake up on a Saturday morning and my piano teacher was at home downstairs and my mom had to literally drag me out of bed para mag-lesson and I was so mad, nagwawala talaga ako and I literally dragged myself to play and it was classical piano. We had baby grand piano. One thing now, looking back, I’m really thankful to my mom for forcing me to learn. But I regret not really concentrating pursuing classical piano because, eventually, what I did was to play the songs that I knew. So I learned by myself na naman, I read books and I asked other people to teach me, so hindi na siya formal piano [lessons]. I can read notes but I’m not really good at it and then I played by ear ... I like playing musicals, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, now I play a lot of Disney [songs] for my kids syempre and nursery rhymes. Pop, ballads, old school ballads, I like the composition of the music before better than the ones now, and I like playing Mando Pop, Mandarin, because I like this artist, Jay Chou. And what I like about him is the message of his songs, not the typical Western music, which speaks about violence, drugs or sex and money, ‘di ba? ‘Yung title ng songs niya is Listen to Mother’s Words or about love, very positive values ang tinuturo niya sa followers and listeners niya, which is a huge community who follow him ... Dati, at one point, when my wife was pregnant with our first, Amanda, of course we couldn’t go anywhere so we spend most of our time at home. So my mother in law, she also doesn’t watch a lot of TV, but she told us na 'Oh, why don’t you try looking for this streaming.' So na hook kami and I loved the soundtrack [of Descendants of the Sun]. Actually I like the Korean teleserye ba ‘yun?"
Chris Tiu on what he yearns to do with his family: "Kaya rin ako nag-retire kasi nga ayaw kong ma-miss out itong pinaka-formative at pinakamasarap na years na two years old and one-year old [ng mga bata], ‘di ba? They’re very sweet, they’re very affectionate and they’re always looking for me and they’re eager to learn. Everything we say, they absorb. So it’s important to be physically with them and have our full attention eh. ‘Yung feeling mo na pagbukas mo ng pinto, tumatakbo na sila and sisigaw ng “Daddy! Daddy!” and magha-hug. Hay, ang sarap. Sana … sana forever ganyan. ‘Yan ang ine-enjoy ko rin ngayon, ‘yung period na ‘yun, kasi everybody tells me na ang bilis lang niyan, i-cherish mo ‘yan kasi the next thing you know ang lalaki na niyan. So I’m just really trying to enjoy this moment with them and my wife, too.
"I want to take them [family] to Disneyland because I’m sure Amanda loves princess, she loves Disney and ‘pag nakita nila ang mga princesses na ‘yan, they’re gonna go wild. And as a father just to see your kids happy it makes you happy already eh kahit anong bakasyon pa basta masaya sila, masaya na rin ako. I like to take them out more on nature trips so they can enjoy the natural beauty of the planet. Ako hindi ako masyadong city person eh, I like the comfort of the city, the hotels and stuff. But I’m really more of a nature person, the rivers, the mountains, the lagoons, the glaciers, safari so hopefully I can bring them when they get a little bigger. Kasi ngayon mahilig sa animals si Amanda so for sure mae-enjoy din niya ‘yun."
Chris Tiu on his business pursuits: "I’m an investor [at Happy Lemon] but I’m not involved in the day-to-day operations. The bakery, Eric Kayser, part-owner. We have some restaurants here and there. Out-of-home advertising and the renewable energy, these are my personal [businesses]. Now I joined the family [business] recently and I’m helping out anywhere needed sa hospitality, real estate, wherever help is needed."
Chris Tiu on his biggest advocacy as a businessman: "I want to be able to create projects or businesses that would uplift the lives of people. Kasi I really want to help, pero hindi ako pwedeng mag-pulitiko eh. That’s not my calling, I don’t think I’m cut out for that either. So that’s what I’m trying to do in the private sector kahit papaano. The one that I’m currently pursuing now is very challenging, it’s my personal advocacy also and my passion for the environment that made me venture in this challenging field of renewable energy. I’ve been doing it for years ever since I started in the PBA and until now it’s still an ongoing process. The returns are not fantastic, it’s very capital intensive, the risk is high, but because of my love for the environment I pursued it and I’m trying to see it through. You’ll be frustrated with the different agencies that you deal with, the LGU’s and even government policies that are changing, they don’t realize that people are investing ‘cause you set this direction and pumasok ‘yung mga tao biglang papalitan mo ‘yung direction. So it’s challenging but then that’s what we started."
Even with so much to do, he hasn't completely turned his back on basketball. Or sports for that matter. He isn't even completely closing the door on a coaching role, just not in the near future.
“Yeah, but definitely not in the near future because I have commitments and things that I feel strongly about that I want to pursue that are not basketball related," he said. "Maybe in the future. Maybe I want to coach collegiate or high school level, ‘yung formative stage kasi, the coaches’ role is so important. They can really influence and inspire the young kids into their adulthood."
But more than that, he'd love to be part of a program that would encourage kids to take up sports.
“I'd like be part of certain grassroots programs or NSAs (national sports associations), not necessarily basketball but in any sport. That’s my advocacy – to promote sports and encourage the young to be involved in sports. If there is an opportunity or there is help that is asked of me, I would definitely consider it,” Tiu said.