SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — Many wondered why Justine Baltazar had to beg off from Gilas Pilipinas but was still playing for the Pampanga Delta in the 2022 National Basketball League-Pilipinas.
Well, unlike the other Filipinos that have served as imports overseas, Baltazar’s case was special as he not only needed to fix his documents but also the visa applications of his wife Chik and their son Zeus.
Yes, the 25-year-old Kabalen was allowed by Hiroshima to bring his family and live with him in Japan.
“Oo, ‘yun ang maganda. Kasi di ako ma-homesick, parang ‘yun ‘yung nagiging inspiration ko pa rin sa kanila ngayon,” Baltazar told Tiebreaker Times after the Delta’s sweep of the NBL President’s Cup finals.
“Kaya di ako naka-punta sa Gilas, kasi may mga ina-asikaso pa ako para sa Japan e. Naging busy lang so yon.”
Baltazar and his wife need to be hands-on in fixing the documents of their son, making numerous appearances at the embassy for vouching.
On the other hand, joining this batch of Gilas meant that he would have to travel to Korea for a pair of friendlies, then to New Zealand for the first game of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, and, finally, to Indonesia for the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup.
At the same time, Baltazar also used this time to give back to his second father, Gov. Dennis “Delta” Pineda.
Since his last UAAP game with La Salle back on May 7, Baltazar played for Delta, making his professional league debut last May 15.
“Sumali rin ako rito para matulungan si Gov. Kasi paparating na ako sa professional eh, so ‘yung mga tinunlong niya sa akin ‘yon kailangan ko i-sukli sa kanya,” continued the 6-foot-8 Kabalen, who was hailed as the Finals MVP of the league.
“Binigay ko lang ‘yung gusto niya, ‘yung three-peat na maka-pag-champion, matulungan ko siya. Ayun, nag champion naman.”
“Si Balti, dahil Kapampangan yan, ‘yung obligasyon niya sa Pampanga gagawin niya. Kaya kung titignan ninyo kahit naging FIBA player yan, eto pa rin ‘yung obligasyon niya sa Pampanga ‘yun pa rin ang inuna niya,” expressed Pineda.
In just a few days’ time, Baltazar will leave the country and head to Japan.
And as he embarks on a new journey, Baltazar hopes for understanding as he is doing this for his family.
“Kaya naman ako nag-laro dito, para di rin ako ma-istuck. Kasi ‘yung Japan, ang alis ko na itong July na rin e, so ‘yun talagang pinag-hahandaan ko talaga ‘yung Japan, and ‘yun lang para sa pamilya ko rin, and para sa mga ‘yung sumu-supporta sa’kin, sa mga kapatid ko ito.”