Photo from PBA

Ian Sangalang turned emotional the moment Magnolia Pambansang Manok secured its place in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals amid difficult circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sangalang said the huge sacrifice of being away from his family for close to two months was something that made the Hotshots’ semifinal series victory over the Meralco Bolts in Bacolor, Pampanga more meaningful.

“Sobrang sarap lang na makabalik ulit sa finals,” said Sangalang after Magnolia’s series-clinching 93-85 win over Meralco in Game 6. “Kasi grabe yung pinagdadaanan namin dito, away kami from family tapos hindi namin kasama yung pamilya namin pag natatalo kami.

“Sobrang sakit sa amin kasi hindi namin nakakausap yung family namin. Ang sarap talaga makabalik sa finals, at least nagawa namin ulit.”

The Magnolia center also said the disappointment of last year’s early exit in the Clark bubble make the team’s third appearance in the Philippine Cup Finals in the four seasons doubly sweet.

Magnolia was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Phoenix Super LPG on Matthew Wright’s running three-pointer in the final seconds.

Losing to the Fuel Masters was also the third straight conference that the Hotshots failed to reach the semis, a rare drought since Chito Victolero took over as coach.

But Calvin Abueva’s arrival, incidentally from Phoenix in an offseason trade, plus the consistent showing of Sangalang, to name a few, enabled Magnolia to redeem itself and become the first team to reach the culminating stage of the PBA’s most important tournament.

“Last conference, na-out kami agad. Sabi ko na itong bubble na ito, pinaghandaan namin. Alam namin kung paano mananalo na kasi naranasan na namin last conference,” said Sangalang.

“Sobrang sarap lang talaga makapasok sa finals kasi ang tagal na rin kami wala sa finals. Gagawin namin lahat yung best namin para makuha namin ito.”

He had 16.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in the six-game semis, capping off with a 19-point, 14-rebound, six-assist, two-steal, three-block performance in the clincher.

But a tough championship series awaits Sangalang, who’ll have his hands full as Magnolia hopes to finally win the Philippine Cup after two unsuccessful tries in 2018 and 2019.

“Siguro stay positive lang, enjoy lang yung game, tanggalin yung pressure sa bawat isa, maglaro kami ng hard sa game na ito, and then yung result lalabas e,” he said.

“Once kasi na pine-pressure mo yung sarili mo, lalo ka lang mahihirapan e,” added Sangalang.

Source: Manila Bulletin (