MANILA, Philippines – Making it to the finals of any PBA conference is always a special achievement, even for someone like Ranidel de Ocampo, who has played in 11 championship series in his glittering professional career.
Yet, there is something special about this most recent finals appearance for de Ocampo.
"Ito 'yung first time na back-to-back (finals) with different teams," said the 35-year-old veteran, who has won six PBA championships.
De Ocampo was a fixture in the Talk 'N Text franchise for nine highly successful seasons, and he even helped the KaTropa make it to the finals of the 2017 Commissioner's Cup, where they lost to San Miguel in six games.
However, the franchise has decided to move in another direction, and De Ocampo was shockingly traded to the Meralco Bolts in September. A consummate professional, De Ocampo thanked TNT for all it has done for him, then went to work with his new team.
Though he is still adjusting to Meralco, De Ocampo has already proven his worth as he helped the Bolts advance to the finals of the PBA Governors' Cup, where they will take on Barangay Ginebra in a highly anticipated rematch.
Thus, De Ocampo has the distinction of being the only player in the PBA to compete in the finals of both the Commissioners Cup and the Governors' Cup, though he is wearing a different uniform this time around.
"Nagpapasalamat nga ako din ako sa Meralco, kasi kinuha nila ako from TNT," De Ocampo said in a press conference last Tuesday ahead of the best-of-seven championship series.
"Ngayon, nasa finals ako, 'yung TNT wala," he added, drawing laughter from his teammates and media. "So swerte, 'di ba? Swerte rin."
Indeed, De Ocampo repeatedly said that he feels quite blessed to have made back-to-back finals appearances, even as he approaches the tail end of his PBA career.
"Noong nakakausap ko si Danny Seigle noong nasa TNT pa ako, 'yun din 'yung gusto niyang mangyari eh. Kasi 'di ba, ilang taon na siya. Gusto niyang maka-champion ulit, pero limitadong-limitado na siya," De Ocampo shared.
"Ako, malapit na dun eh," he admitted. "So sobrang blessing na mayroon ulit akong opportunity, na kahit papaliit na papaliit na 'yung tsansa, andito pa rin – may blessing pa rin na dumating."
Knowing this makes De Ocampo even more determined to make the most out of the opportunity that he has with the Bolts.
"Pipilitin kong hindi ito masayang," said De Ocampo, whose last PBA title came in the 2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup – where he also won Finals MVP honors.
"'Yung mga naging experience ko sa playoffs, finals series, sana ma-contribute ko or ma-provide ko sa Meralco," he added. "At the same time, mabigyan ko rin ng reminders 'yung mga mas bata, kahit papaano."
Game 1 of the best-of-seven Finals is on Friday at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City.
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