MANILA, Philippines -- Before he made his retirement official, Marc Pingris prayed, consulted his mentors -- and climbed a mountain.
"Umuwi ako ng Pangasinan last week tapos parang pumunta ako sa isang bundok. Namundok ako eh, mag-isa," the veteran forward recalled. "Nag-isip-isip talaga ako na ano 'yung gagawin ko. Ano 'yung priority ko ngayon?"
Pingris had played in the PBA for 16 years, having been drafted third overall by the FedEx franchise in 2004. Outside of a brief stint in San Miguel in 2008, the bulk of his career has been with the Purefoods organization, and Pingris has been the team's heart and soul through the years.
But injuries have kept him off the court for the past couple of PBA seasons. An ACL tear that he suffered in the 2018 All-Filipino Cup kept him out of action for a long stretch, and he managed to return for just a few games in 2019.
Pingris did not play for the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup, held in a bubble in Clark, Pampanga. In February, Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said they were giving the 39-year-old forward time to decide on his future.
Pingris made his decision public on Tuesday night, announcing on Instagram that "Pinoy Sakuragi" is signing off after a stellar career that included nine PBA titles (including a Grand Slam), two Finals MVPs, and unforgettable stints with the Philippine national team.
"Nakapag-isip ako at pinag-pray ko naman," he said of his decision.
"Pinag-pray ko siya ng mga ilang weeks. Tapos naramdaman ko na siguro na this is it na talaga."
But Pingris didn't make his decision alone. He also talked to older players, his teammates and friends, to ask for their advice. He approached his mentor, Kerby Raymundo, as well as Danny Ildefonso. He texted Johnny Abarrientos for his thoughts. And, of course, Pingris asked Purefoods icon Alvin Patrimonio, their team manager, for his insight as well.
According to Pingris, their advice to him was simple -- that he would soon be able to adjust to retirement.
"Iisa lang naman 'yung sinasabi nila eh – makaka-adjust ka rin diyan," he said. "'Yun lang naman eh. Sa umpisa lang 'yan nakaka-sad."
A former Purefoods teammate, Peter June Simon, had retired in September 2020, and he was one of the people whom Pingris called. Simon told Pingris that retirement is difficult at first; as athletes they have gotten used to a certain routine and a certain rhythm in their life, and retirement marks the end of that routine and rhythm.
"Hinahanap-hanap mo 'yung mga teammates mo rin, but you know, kailangan din talaga i-adjust mo 'yung sarili mo unti-unti," said Pingris. "Hindi naman kasi bigla-bigla 'yan. 'Pag may siguro iano mo lang 'yung sarili mo, ibuhos mo lang din sa trabaho, parang ganoon, mawawala din 'yan."
It was Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso who offered some advice that Pingris also took to heart.
"Alam mo, sabi niya, sa una lang sobrang sakit talaga niyan. Kasi, sanay na tayo, sanay tayong gumising ng maaga, pumunta ng practice, tapos nage-enjoy ka sa buhay, ganoon," Pingris said of Cariaso's words.
"But, unti-unti mong maa-accept 'yan. Unti-unti mo maa-accept, tapos may panibagong journey na naga-antay sa'yo, so 'yun ang hanapin mo, sabi niya sa akin," he added. "So 'yun ang hinahanap ko ngayon."
For so long, Pingris' journey had been about basketball. It took him from Pangasinan to Metro Manila and all over the world. It helped transform a "batang palengke," in his own words, into one of the 40 greatest players in the history of the PBA.
Pingris knows he is blessed to have had this journey. Through basketball, he lifted his family out of poverty and repaid his mother for all the sacrifices that she made for him and his siblings. Through basketball, he made a name for himself, represented the Philippines at the highest level, and left an everlasting impact on the national team program.
But he also knows that it's time for him to move on to the next journey, even though he doesn't know what that is, just yet.
"Dinadahan-dahan ko 'yun," he said.
Pingris has many plans. He wants to expand his business interests. He wants to spend more quality time with his family. And he wants to, one day, give back to the next generation and become a coach.
But there's also one thing on his mind that he is determined to do.
"Pingarap ko na, balang araw, kami ng utol ko, gusto ko magawa namin 'yung mga hindi namin nagagawa dati noong wala kaming pera," he said. "Kasi siya 'yung kumbaga, siya 'yung tipong, naging tatay ko, noong hindi ko pa nami-meet 'yung daddy ko."
"So pinramis ko sa kanya 'yun, na pag nag-retire ako 'tol, gusto ko puntahan natin 'yung mga lugar na hindi natin napupuntahan dati noong wala pa tayong pera. So 'yun 'yung gusto kong gawin ngayon," he added.
He expects to return to basketball, in some way or another, in the future. It will be too difficult, after all, to walk away from something that Pingris has loved for so much of his life. But for now, he wants to take care of other priorities first -- to chart a different journey.
"'Yun ang gusto ko lang talaga na, 'yung pinromise ko na pag nag-retire talaga ako, pupuntahan natin 'yung mga lugar na hindi natin napuntahan," he said.
"So, 'yun, inuunti-unti ko 'yun, paisa-isa. 'Yun 'yong gusto ko muna, and then, business, and then balik sa basketball," Pingris added. "So right now, family first muna. Family, quality time muna sa family."
For now, however, Pingris will take the time to come to terms with his decision, before taking the first steps in that next journey.
"Sobrang miss na miss ko ang basketball ko, nami-miss ko. Actually kaya ko pang maglaro eh. May ano lang talaga, kailangan lang, priority," he said.