After more than a month inside the PBA bubble, TerraFirma Dyip’s do-it-all second year forward CJ Perez has been reunited with his family Thursday.
Perez left the bubble in the morning, and by afternoon, he arrived at the home province of wife Sienna, who was with their little daughters Ciana Tanisha and Teyana Laquisha, in Rizal, Nueva Ecija.
“Sobrang miss ko sila,” said Perez when contacted by Manila Bulletin.
“Nauna lang ako sa kanila, yung mga teammates ko bukas pa luluwas from Pampanga. Kaya masaya – lagpas isang buwas din – kasama ko na ang family ko,” said the 2019 PBA Rookie of the Year.
TerraFirma was among the four teams booted out after the elimination round following a disappointing 1-10 record, which tied the team with NorthPort at the bottom of the standings.
NLEX (5-6) and Blackwater (2-9) were the other two teams eliminated in the league’s long conference this season.
TerraFirma started 0-7 before it finally scored a win in the tournament against Blackwater 110-101. Perez led the team with 27 points, four rebounds and three assists.
After that victory, the team dropped its next three assignments – the last was opposite NLEX 127-101 last Wednesday despite a 27-point, 10-rebound effort from the 26-year-old former No. 1 overall selection of TerraFirma during the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft.
Despite the team’s struggles, Perez was a force to reckon as the onetime Lyceum of the Philippines University stalwart averaged nearly 25 points per game in the restart with 6.82 boards and 4.27 assists.
Perez said that while it was disappointing not to advance in the playoffs, his sophomore campaign is a learning lesson – not only for him, but also for the entire team with young players.
“Malaking bagay yung experience, saka yung preparation time. Maikli e para sa batang team na kagaya namin. Pero hindi lang naman ito ang conference, or season. May mga kasunod pa so babawi kami,” said Perez.
“After ng game namin (against NLEX) nag-bonding kami ng team, napag-usapan namin na babawi kami next season. Paghahandaan namin ng mabuti yun ng buong team,” he said.
Perez said that being inside the bubble is not a bad thing, as he and teammates enjoyed every moment there in Clark, Pampanga. From games, to practice sessions and even the leisure time, he said it was memorable.
But if there is one thing he missed from the outside world – aside from family – is the food.
“Hindi naman kasi lahat makakain sa loob ng bubble. Kaya na-miss ko talaga ang lutong bahay,” said Perez, adding that he already requested his wife Tinolang Manok at Monggo for lunch Friday.
“Pero memorable na talaga yung bubble… ilang years from now paguusapan yun and masaya ako na na-experience ko siya,” added Perez as the league opted to have a bubble for the resumption of the games for the safety of everyone from the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the ultimate consolation on being eliminated early, Perez said, is that he is now with his family.
“Actually win-win naman… kung naka-pasok kami sa playoffs, malaking bagay talaga. Pero dahil out na kami, eto kasama ko na family ko na sobrang na-miss ko. Walang talo sa ganung sitwasyon,” said Perez.