Pingris awaits family in Spain

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Gilas forward Marc Pingris will be reunited with wife Danica and their two children in Seville next week after a separation of over a month since the Philippine national team left Manila to embark on a training grind leading to the FIBA World Cup starting Aug. 30.

Danica will leave for Madrid with son Mik, six, and Caela, two, and mother Dina Bonnevie on Tuesday. They will take the train from Madrid to Seville on Friday. The Gilas team will end its warm-ups in Guadalajara tomorrow and move to Seville on Tuesday.

When Gilas played three warm-up games in Antibes, France, last week, Pingris’ father Jean Marc Sr. drove eight hours from Normandy to meet the San Mig Coffee star known as the Pinoy Sakuragi. Jean Marc Sr. came with wife Francoise. They met up in Cannes, about a 20-minute drive from Antibes. Pingris’ father is renting a place in Seville where he will host Danica, the children and her mother during the Gilas campaign in Group B.

Pingris’ mother Erlinda was pregnant when his father left Manila to go back to France in 1981. His father stayed in Manila about five years working as an engineer with the government waterworks system. When Pingris’ father left, his mother went back to Pozorrubio, Pangasinan, where he was born. It was Danica who eventually located Pingris’ father through embassy inquiries and in 2007, they met in France. Since then, Pingris’ father has taken at least five trips to Manila to visit his son. Nearly three years ago, he came for a week to visit Danica who had just given birth to Caela.

Pingris’ stepmother Francoise has two children from a previous marriage, Jeremy, 30, and Maxime, 28. The children look up to Jean Marc Sr. as their father because of their long relationship. Jean Marc Sr. has a son Dominic from a relationship before he went to Manila. Dominic is about 10 years older than Pingris. The half-brothers have yet to meet.

“It was Marc’s dad who convinced me to go to Spain,” said Danica. “Of course, he’s excited to see his grandchildren. He told me I have nothing to worry about because he’s renting a house and a car. Jimmy Alapag’s wife LJ also convinced me. At first, I was hesitant because of the logistics and besides, we really wouldn’t be able to be with Marc. But LJ explained that we would witness history, that just to be there would be an unforgettable experience, that this may never happen again. Win or lose, it would be historic to be there. So we decided to go. We won’t be able to stay long. Mik has school and my mom has taping commitments. We’re actually cutting our trip short by two days. We’re very excited to see Marc.”

Danica said separation anxiety has started to kick in for Pingris. “We’re thankful that we’re able to communicate through Viber and Face Time,” she said. “We talk every day. At first, I couldn’t get adjusted and Marc was busy. But now that I’m adjusted, it’s Marc’s turn to be kulit. I’ve told Marc to treasure this time with coach Chot (Reyes) and his teammates because when it’s over, he goes back to his mother team. This is his chance to mingle with the Gilas players.”

Danica said Pingris is determined to give it his all in Spain. “He’s been playing non-stop for over a year,” she said. “From FIBA-Asia to the Grand Slam, I know he’s tired and every day, I pray to God to give him strength. Marc wants to do well for our country. I pray for his strength emotionally and physically. He told me it doesn’t matter whom we play, that he’s out there to fight and give honor to our country.” It’s an added morale boost that Pingris’ father will be in the stands cheering for Gilas.

Danica said representing the country is a blessing. “My wish for Marc is to draw strength from God,” she continued. “They’re like soldiers in the team, they practice twice a day and basically, all they do is eat, sleep and practice. I’ve asked Marc to make the most of it, to enjoy the journey and thank God for the opportunity. It’s hard for us to be separated for so long. Marc is very clingy with his family and we miss him so much.”

As a boy, Pingris was often teased because due to his French lineage, he looked different from others in Pozorrubio. His mother has two children from a previous relationship and Pingris doesn’t resemble them at all. Growing up, he slept in a stall in the public market using a sack for a blanket because his mother would sell fruits early in the morning after coming from Urdaneta to load her stock. Pingris started playing basketball on his bare feet and used to sell ice cream in the streets to put a little more money on the table. It was difficult to explain to neighbors why Pingris looked different and he was called “Kano” by everyone. Hoping to play his way out of poverty, Pingris was brought to Manila to polish his skills in basketball because he was tall. He went from FEU to PSBA to the MBA before finding his way to the PBA. Today, Pingris is considered the PBA’s top defensive player and has now played on eight championship teams.

Danica said Pingris’ father dotes on his son. “When we connected, Marc and I flew to France to meet him in 2007,” she said. “It was the first time they ever saw each other. They actually look alike. One of his dad’s friends Pierre was with him in Manila and he was also with us when he met. Six months later, Marc’s dad came here. Once, he flew over twice in a year. He’s now semi-retired. We were supposed to visit last year but Marc was busy with Gilas. When Marc plays at the Asian Games, his mom and I will go to Incheon so she, too, can experience watching him in an international competition.”












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