BITTERSWEET was the feeling for Jack Animam when National University completed the six-peat in UAAP Season 82.
Happy was the 21-year-old that the Lady Bulldogs rewrote history, but it crushed her that she couldn't be there on what would have been her final collegiate games as she was limited to a spectator via livestream.
Animam had to stay in Auckland after the 2019 Fiba Women's Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament after suffering an orbital fracture on her right eye, preventing her from rejoining the Lady Bulldogs.
But with the 30th Southeast Asian Games also set at Mall of Asia Arena, the former UAAP MVP has mapped out a plan of her own.
"Everyday, sabi ko sa MOA gaganapin yung SEA Games. Two weeks ago, nandito yung collegiate team ko kung saan nag-champion sila without me. Parang gusto ko din ma-emulate yung nagawa nila without me sa Gilas Womens," she said.
"Gustong gusto kong mag-gold para sa lahat ng taong sumusuporta sa amin, lalong lalo na sa hindi nagsawa na si boss Dioceldo at Ever Bilena. Gustong gusto naming makuha itong SEA Games ngayon."
Animam sure took step one in making those dreams reality with nine points, 12 rebounds and four blocks as the Philippines started its SEA Games campaign with a 63-56 escape from Indonesia on Thursday.
Never mind that she still needs to wear a protective mask just to play in the game. That's just the warrior in Animam.
"Hindi ko na iniisip na may injury ako eh. Parang kinalimutan ko na na meron akong injury," the 6-foot-2 center said, still exuding in confidence as always.
"Basta ako, binabalik ko lang kung ano yung tiwala na binigay sa akin ni coach Pat, kung bakit ni-line up pa rin niya ako in spite na nagkaroon nga ako ng injury. Ginagawa ko lang yung trabaho ko sa team na ito."
It's also a chance for Animam to show that she's a player the national team can lean on heading to the future.
"Hindi na pwedeng idahilan na ako ang pinakabata sa team," she said. "With all the experience ko from UAAP, from Fiba Asia qualifying, ito na yun. Sabi ko sa sarili ko na hindi lang ako nandito lang dahil malaki ako. Ipapakita ko kung bakit hanggang ngayon, nandito ako sa team na ito."
She quickly showed that, shying away from giving her usual guarantees with 2017 gold medalists Malaysia up next for Gilas Womens and rather, focusing on what they can control as a team.
"Basta ngayon, one game at a time kami. Di kami pwedeng maging complacent, di kami pwedeng maging relaxed," said Animam.
"One game at a time kami. Ipapakita namin kung bakit yung women's basketball nandito and we will stay."