The last time Romeo Travis was in Manila, he was heartbroken. Three years later, it was the exact opposite.
Beaming with joy and pride, Travis hoisted the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup championship trophy as the Hotshots celebrated their 14th championship in the league at the expense of Alaska on Wednesday.
It was something he failed to do in 2015 as he went home empty-handed when the San Miguel Beermen swept his former team Alaska. This championship was a vindication of sorts for LeBron James' high school buddy.
"I'm very happy. My face might not show it, but I'm very happy. It's just a great feeling to win it with this group of guys. We have a great group of guys," he said after the 102-86 win in Game 6 over the Aces at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo.
"Like I said before, they accepted me as one of their own, and I'm just thankful. I can't say anything else but I'm thankful. I'm thankful for the guys, I'm thankful for Coach Chito (Victolero), for the coaching staff, everybody who just kept talking to me, kept coaching me up, and kept keeping me calm and all the other things. So I can't say anything but I'm just thankful."
For Travis, the road to success was not a cakewalk - it was a story of resilience.
He endured a hamstring injury in the semifinals, slipped into obscurity with a 10-point output in Game 5 of the finals, before putting up a performance worth remembering that sealed the win for the team that had long been craving for a title.
He finished with 32 points, including 15 in the opening quarter which set the tone for the Hotshots. He also had 17 rebounds, six assists, and three steals.
"It was up and down. A lot of good things happen but some bad things happened, too," said Travis, who bared he even hurt his ankle. "In my life, I've noticed that if you stay positive, and you stay upbeat through the bad times, then good things are gonna happen, and that's what I tried to do."
This conquest, the first of the franchise since the famed Grand Slam in 2014 under legendary coach Tim Cone, was not just about him.
Travis was surrounded by players who know how to win, like Mark Barroca (who was hailed Finals MVP), Paul Lee (who won his first championship for the team), and Rafi Reavis (who won his 11th title, the most among active players).
"I mean, we just didn't wanna play a Game 7. I know I didn't wanna play a Game 7. I wanna go home. I wanna be home for Christmas," he said. "I just wanted to finish it now, and we all had the mindset. We just came out, we played aggressive, we played together, and we got a win."
Travis can go home now and celebrate the Yuletide season with a smile on his face.