MANILA, Philippines – The blockbuster trade that sent Terrence Romeo to San Miguel Beer has been approved since December 19 of last year. Yet it was still jarring to see the PBA's resident scoring dynamo at the Acropolis Gym on Thursday, when he joined the Beermen in practice for the very first time.
He still had no official SMB gear: Romeo attended practice wearing a grey-and-black ensemble, his long hair tied in a messy ponytail. He was formally introduced to the team by San Miguel governor Robert Non, and was given a warm welcome.
"Ganoon naman ang mga players namin eh," SMB coach Leo Austria later said. "They are very professional. And every time there's a new player, even the import, alam nila kung paano makisama."
Austria did not bother easing Romeo into the team slowly. They plunged right into action; after all, there are only 10 days before the opening of the new PBA season, and they are integrating not just Romeo but also Paul Zamar into their system.
Romeo was given a crash course into San Miguel's defensive schemes and offensive sets and he put his learnings to the test in a quick scrimmage to end Thursday's practice.
Afterward, he told reporters that he enjoyed his first day as a Beerman.
"Ayun, masaya. Sobrang winelcome nila ako," said Romeo. "Lahat mababait. 'Yun nga, sobrang winelcome nila ako."
It was just his first day, so he is still not entirely comfortable with the system, and with how he fits into a stacked San Miguel team that is gunning for a fifth consecutive championship in the All-Filipino Conference.
"Nag-aadjust pa ko kasi 'yun nga, bago eh," he admitted. "Bago pa 'yung mga plays sakin so pinag-aaralan ko pa."
"Pero siyempre… gusto ko mapadali 'yung basketball din para sa kanila," Romeo also said. "At the same time, gusto kong maging effective 'pag kasama ko sila. So siguro kung paano kami magje-gel… Ako mismo 'yung dapat lumapit sa kanila kasi solid na sila eh."
It's the second time in less than a year that Romeo has found himself needing to adjust to a new team. In April 2018, he was sent from GlobalPort to TNT, but that relationship soured in less than a season, and in December the KaTropa shipped him to San Miguel.
Romeo knows his move to San Miguel – a team that has won six titles in the past five years – is a new chapter in his career, a fresh start that he needs after a turbulent end to his stint in TNT.
"Panibagong journey na naman," he said. "So kailangan siguro, mas pagbutihan ko."
Romeo was reluctant to discuss the details of how his stint with TNT ended. The KaTropa placed the high-scoring guard on the trading block midway through December, hinting that Romeo had not been showing up at their practices. His former teammates in TNT reportedly wanted him out of the squad as well.
"Kung sasabihin ko 'yung totoong dahilan, hahaba lang 'yung usapan eh," said Romeo. "So magmu-move on na lang ako."
"Kung ganon nila 'yun pinalabas, wala na kong magagawa. Ngayon move on na ko. Kumbaga, pagbubutihan ko na lang sa bago kong team," he added.
Yet he also dropped some cryptic statements that hinted at his feelings toward his former squad.
"Ako, nasa mundo kami ng sitwasyon na minsan hindi namin hawak eh. So 'yung mga bagay-bagay na mangyayari, hindi natin hawak," said Romeo. "Minsan pwedeng ibang tao 'yung magdesisyon sa 'yo. Minsan pwedeng teammate mo 'yung sumira sa 'yo, may mga ganun."
"Basta maraming case na pwedeng maging dahilan eh. So ang mahirap lang na part, 'yung nakikita lang ng tao is kung ano lang 'yung nababasa nila. Hindi nila nakikita 'yung totoong nangyayari," he added.
Romeo insists he holds no ill will towards the TNT franchise, or team owner Manny V. Pangilinan. He further insists that he has no grudge against his former teammates. "Okay naman lahat," he says.
Rather than look back on his disappointing campaign in TNT, Romeo would much rather focus on what he can do in San Miguel. He is well aware that the Beermen had tremendous success before he came into the team, and their starting five is acknowledged as the best in the league.
And even with Romeo now in the fold, there is still no doubt that SMB's success remains rooted in reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo.
"Wala talaga akong maipagmamalaki sa kahit kanino sa team na 'to," Romeo admits.
"Ang sa akin lang, gagawin ko 'yung best ko para matulungan sila," he adds. "So kung ano man 'yung alam kong tama, and I’m sure makikita naman nila eh. Kung nakikita nila na tama 'yung ginagawa ko then siguro, magiging maganda."
"Pero kung nakikita nila na hindi tama, syempre mag-a-adjust naman sila eh. So 'yun, ang gusto ko lang talaga makatulong sa team."
Yet even as he expressed his excitement for his new team, Romeo still made one last cryptic statement.
"Para sa akin, masaya ako dahil nasa team ako ngayon na alam kong parang hindi hilahan pababa eh. Dito sa team na to, hindi hilahan pababa eh," said Romeo.
"Marami kasi akong naging encounter na 'yun nga, may mga players na sabihin na lang natin na hindi masaya kapag... siguro kapag nag-e-excel ako," he revealed. "Eh since bata pa naman ako, ganoon na, ganoon na 'yung nangyayari."
He does not expect to have that kind of experience in San Miguel, a team that features a handful of All-Stars and Mythical Team members, but still play with superb cohesion and chemistry.
The one thing he does expect to experience in San Miguel is success.
"Gusto ko matuto sa kanila kung paano mag-champion," Romeo said of his new team.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.