MANILA, Philippines -- Former National University (NU) star Afril Bernardino has no doubt that her collegiate teammate, Jack Animam, will make a mark in Taiwan where she is set to play as an import.
Animam, a five-time UAAP champion with the Lady Bulldogs, is following in the footsteps of other Filipina standouts as she takes her talent abroad. She will play for Shih Hsin University in Taiwan's University Basketball Association.
Bernardino is already a veteran of the import life, having played for the Malaysian Women's Basketball League since 2018, after the end of her historic career in the UAAP.
"Alam ko naman na mage-enjoy (si Jack) doon eh," Bernardino said of Animam. "Alam ko excited ka na rin pumunta doon."
"'Pag may dumating na challenges sa buhay mo doon, lakasan mo lang 'yung loob mo," she advised. "Alam kong kayang-kaya mo 'yung training doon, at magaling ka rin naman makipag-communicate sa mga tao and masayahin kang tao."
"Siguro hindi ka naman malulungkot doon," she added. "Nakasuporta lang kami dito sa 'yo. Isang tawag mo lang, sasagot agad kami."
Bernardino is no stranger to the challenges of playing as an import. She recalled how in her early days in Malaysia, the strange schedule of practices and the language barrier would get to her at times.
"Noong unang dating ko doon, nakakapagod, as in," she said. "Sobrang layo, 'yung time, 'yung language nila, 'yung strategy nilang magturo… Actually, maganda naman 'yung pagtuturo nila. Minsan, meron silang translator doon so nagkakaintindihan kami."
But it took her awhile to understand her teammates, most of whom did not speak English. The training style was also different from what she had gotten used to in the Philippines.
"Sobrang bilis ng practice nila, ng conditioning," she said. "As in, ang time ng training namin doon is 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. Mga ganoong time, dito sa Pilipinas tulog na ko. Eh doon sa kanila, parang gising ka pa."
"After ng practice, siyempre hindi mo maf-feel na aantukin ka. Parang mas feel ko pa na sobrang hyper ko after practice. Medyo late na ako nakakatulog, tapos gumigising ako mga lunch," she added. "Parang bumaligtad 'yung time ko doon."
Bernardino followed her own advice to Animam, as she stayed strong despite the initial hardships and eventually made her mark in the MWBL.
"May kasamang hirap, lungkot," she said. "Pero wala, nandoon ka mag-isa. Wala ka namang kayang gawin kung hindi lakasan lang 'yung loob mo and tanggapin lahat ng challenges na darating sa 'yo."
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