It was life as usual for San Miguel Beer coach Siot Tanquingcen the morning after he delivered the PBA Fiesta Conference title to the league’s only remaining pioneer franchise and the bespectacled 36-year-old former UST guard couldn’t ask anything more.
“Both my kids were sick so my wife (Rica) and I were taking care of them,” he said the other day. “We were up at 3 a.m. then at 5 a.m., making sure they’re okay.” Tanquingcen was just happy to be home with his family after the gruelling grind. The celebration? That can wait, he said.
Zeke, 3, is the Tanquingcens’ first-born. The other child, also a boy, is Uchi, only eight months old.
“I’m really lucky because my wife grounds me,” said Tanquingcen of his UST accounting classmate. “She’s not really a basketball enthusiast so when I get home from a game, we don’t talk about the game much, just general things. She balances me. I’m basketball-oriented. I think if Rica was just as basketball-oriented, we’d have a problem. She’s a good complement for me. She doesn’t watch the games in the stadium because she gets more nervous than me.”
Tanquingcen, a CPA, confessed that some years back, he never paid too much attention to God.
“I’ve learned a lot during my coaching journey,” he said. “I got to know how important God is in our lives. When I moved to Ginebra, my welcome was five losses in a row. I was down. That was when I turned to God. Then, when I moved back to San Miguel, we lost six straight. God was teaching me a lesson. He wanted me to be patient, that the timetable wasn’t up to me but Him. That’s why when we went down 2-3 in the Finals, I wasn’t so worried. The things I could control, I would try to. But the things I couldn’t control, I left to God.”
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Tanquingcen said winning his first title for San Miguel, after bagging two with Ginebra, was something special.
“It’s a long time coming,” he went on. “I dedicate this victory to God, (San Miguel chairman) Mr. (Eduardo) Cojuangco, my dad (Wilson) and coach Ron (Jacobs). This is especially for Boss Danding who never lost faith in our team. He did everything to make us better, from bringing in Chip (Engelland) to improving our nutrition with Dr. (Sanirose) Orbeta. He gave us his personal moral support. He built this team. He’s the best team owner anyone could wish for.”
As for his father, Tanquingcen said his support has never waned through the years. “When I was a kid, he would always come to watch my games - he wouldn’t tell me he was there, he’d be somewhere in the back and he’d leave right after,” he said. “I know my dad is always there for me. He doesn’t watch in the stadium, just on TV like Rica, but I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”
Tanquingcen’s father is the long-time sports editor of the Chinese Commercial News.
Someone else whom Tanquingcen owes is Ambassador Cojuangco’s brother Henry. “I would like to thank Boss Henry as well for taking a chance on me when he batted for me to take over Ginebra in 2004,” he said.
The championship was San Miguel’s first since the 2005 Fiesta Conference and only second in the last 19 conferences.
“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence but I think this was destiny,” he said. “Our team finally came together as a unit. We went through a lot of adversity and that tested our character. Playing Ginebra in the Finals was a big challenge. We wanted to prove that we could uphold San Miguel’s tradition of excellence, that we could play with pride. San Miguel won its Grand Slam in 1989 then came the lean years. But in 1999, San Miguel was back with Danny Ildefonso and Danny Seigle. Things began to taper off again but now, in 2009, San Miguel is back as the PBA champion with a new group.”
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Tanquingcen said he saw the team mature not during the games but at practice.
“The glue was everyone’s willingness to sacrifice and help each other out,” he said. “This wasn’t about the guys who got playing time but how we prepared for every game. Take Wesley (Gonzales) who started out strong for us this conference but gave up his spot when (Marc) Pingris came back. Wesley proved his professionalism by sharing everything he knew with Ping, talking to him, motivating him. Then there’s Chris (Calaguio). He gave all our guards hell at practice because he’s physical and he shoots really well. He made everyone compete against him. Ken (Bono) and Sam (Eman) did their share, too. Ask Mick (Pennisi), Danny I, Dorian (Peña) and Jay-Wash (Washington), they’ll tell you from what they show at practice, they could start for any team in our league. They can contribute but they’ll just wait their time. We’ve got so much talent on this team that we just have to share minutes.”