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Marc Pingris, June Mar Fajardo excited but wary about PBA's return to play

PBA players are excited at the prospect of returning to practices soon, but there is still a prevailing sense of worry among many as the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines continues to soar.

"Nae-excite sila na pwede nang bumalik ng practice, pero at the same time siguro nangangamba rin sila. Syempre 'di pa naman totally nawawala 'yung COVID eh. Delikado pa rin. Ayun, mixed emotions," San Miguel star June Mar Fajardo said about his Beermen teammates' sentiments on Tuesday's episode of Sports Page.

"Hinahanap-hanap din talaga namin 'yung laro kasi mula pagkabata at college, talagang basketball 'yung nakasanayan namin. But andun talaga 'yung pangangamba," Magnolia veteran Marc Pingris added. "For me -- para sa'kin po 'yun ha, 'di ko alam sa ibang mga player -- medyo natatakot din ako."

In order to curb any complications, the two said that all players are willing to adapt any and every health protocol that the league will institute upon the resumption of training.

Last Monday, the PBA and other professional sports received formal clearance to hold sessions after the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Department of Health (DOH) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB) released a joint administrative order (JAO) outlining all governing guidelines.

Part of the prerequisites set to be instituted by the league is swab testing for all players and coaches -- an ordeal that Fajardo and Pingris said everyone will willingly comply with despite some small discomfort.

"Para sa'kin OK 'yung testing kahit masakit 'yung swab. Kung gusto natin maglaro, OK lang," said Fajardo. "Kung para naman sa ikabubuti ng lahat 'yun, para malaman kung sino man (infected). Para makaiwas din tayo at para maagapan agad kasi delikado kapag walang test. Kahit sino naman pwede maging carrier."

Testing will prove vital since the Philippines, as of July 28, has the highest-number of active cases in the Southeast Asian region with 55,109 and is second only to Indonesia in total cases recorded with 83,673. "Natatakot din ako kasi lumolobo 'yung bilang ng COVID (cases) natin dito sa bansa eh," Pingris said. "Kailangan may magawa tayong paraan para maging safe rin talaga, kasi mas marami 'yung asymptomatic din talaga eh. 'Di mo alam kung sino na meron or wala eh."

Players are also willing to track each other's visits and are open to having a designated person who will enforce the league's health protocols within the team.

"Payag din naman talaga ako doon," said Pingris. "Kapag pinagawa niya 'yon, for me it's OK para mabantayan niya rin talaga kung saan pumupunta 'yung mga players."

"Wala namang problema sa akin kung para naman sa kapakanan ko at kapakanan ng lahat. Hindi big deal sa'kin 'yun. Mas OK nga 'yun sa'kin na alam ng iba kung saan ako pupunta, kung sino nakaka-interact ko. At the same time, alam ko rin kung saan nagpunta 'yung iba," said Fajardo.

However, Pingris said that players can hold themselves accountable owing to the level of commitment that they have allotted to their respective jobs.

"As a professional, alam na rin namin ang ginagawa namin. OK lang din naman 'yon kasi kaming mga basketball player din naman, hindi naman namin kailangan dayain 'yung sarili namin. May pumunta man or wala, kung ano 'yung sinasabi kasi minsan ng coach, talagang ginagawa rin namin. Bilang professional [kami] as a basketball player, gagawin talaga namin 'yung trabaho namin," he said.

Pingris also shared how he and Barangay Ginebra's LA Tenorio have kept fellow players in check during the pandemic.

"Nag-uusap kami ni LA at pinagsasabihan din namin 'yung ibang player na, 'You know as a professional, tutulungan din natin 'yung pamilya natin. Kailangan maging maingat din talaga tayo sa lahat,'" bared Pingris.

Though the PBA has yet to settle on a return date pending testing among all teams, Pingris said he and all his colleagues have put their trust on the league and commissioner Willie Marcial in ensuring the safety of everyone involved.

"Si commissioner, alam ko naman na ginagawa niya rin lahat para maging safe 'yung lahat ng players. Kasi hindi naman basta-basta 'to eh," he expressed. "Alam ni commissioner 'yan, 'yung sitwasyon ng Pilipinas ngayon, sitwasyon ng buong mundo. Makikita niya rin naman talaga' yun, kung igo-go niya or hindi."

"Kinakamusta niya 'yung team, kinakamusta niya 'yung family, and then tinatanong niya rin kung kamusta, kung babalik ba [kami], kung OK ba [sa'min] or what. For me kapag tinanong talaga ako, andun talaga 'yung gusto kong bumalik, and then pray na lang talaga," Pingris added.