CALAMBA - International travel has proven to be difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. The risk involved coupled with ever-changing quarantine protocols in different countries have convinced many people to shelve travel.
Dwight Ramos is not one those people.
The 22-year-old member of the Gilas Pilipinas training pool has been flying between the U.S. and the Philippines to answer whenever the national team has called.
"I just feel like it's my duty to come when I'm called. Whenever they'll call me, as much as possible, I'm going to be there," expressed Ramos after practice inside the training 'bubble' in Calamba, Laguna.
While the Filipino-American acknowledges it would be much easier if he didn't travel as much, he also knows training would prove to be difficult by staying in the Philippines.
"Usually, when I go back home, it's just to continue training because it's a little more strict here because of the protocols and stuff so I can't train unless it was in the 'bubble,'" he said. "I continued training in the States so I was ready when I got back here when they called. Everything is pretty much open there so I get to work out a lot with my brother."
Safe to say, the process has not been easy for the incoming Ateneo Blue Eagle, but without a doubt, it has been all worth it.
"I went back home for Christmas then went back here. Then it got disbanded," explained Ramos, pointing to the time when the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas had to cancel its initial hosting of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in January due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
"After that, I got back here, but then the 'bubble' got stopped again. I went back home so I was there for a month where I also got my vaccine. That's a few trips," he continued.
Instead of feeling bad about the cancellations, Ramos chose to see the good side of things. "Whenever the games get cancelled, I just see it as more time to prepare," he explained.
Compared to when Ramos debuted for the national team last year against Indonesia, the Gilas pool Ramos joins this time around is much younger.
Back then, the nationals had PBA players and FIBA World Cup veterans such as Kiefer Ravena, RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, and CJ Perez. Now, he has no other choice but to step into a leadership role.
"When I first got here, I knew the team was going to be young. During the month that I was away, the coaches were bringing the new guys up to speed to everyone would be on the same level. We're progressing to the games now so we'll have to hope we're ready," shared the big guard.
The 6-foot-5 playmaker opened his Gilas career with a quiet five points, five rebounds, and two steals in a victory versus Indonesia.
The next time around, however, he made noise with a perfect game against Thailand, scoring 20 points without missing a single shot while also collecting seven rebounds and three steals in 20 minutes.
Even with all the praise he received, though, Ramos isn't allowing himself to enjoy too much.
"Of course, it feels good, but I try not to think too much about it because every game is different. We won against Thailand, but now we'll play Korea and Indonesia and those are very different games," he humbly explained.
"You can't measure anything on those couple of games that I played. I have not played enough games to have a measurement yet so I have to keep improving and playing so we'll see if I meet the expectations later on. I hear some of the stuff that people say and I feel it's something I have to rise to. I have to keep getting better. If that's what they see me as, then I guess I'll have to keep improving and get to the level where people want me to."