MANILA, July 24, 2006 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - The day after tomorrow, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Most Valuable Player James Yap and his celebrity wife Kris Aquino take off for a second honeymoon in the US.

Yap, 24, was Purefoods’ most consistent scorer in the Chunkee Giants’ 4-2 conquest of Red Bull in the Philippine Cup best-of-7 Finals that ended at the Araneta Coliseum last Friday. He averaged 23.5 points and went over the 20-point mark in five of six games.

Yap has now scored in double figures in 26 straight outings. The former University of the East star hit a career-high 37 points against Barangay Ginebra last April.

On Friday, it’s Purefoods’ PBA Governor Rene Pardo’s turn to fly out. He and his wife Beth will go on their first trip abroad together. They’ll visit relatives in Seattle and Vancouver for a month. Pardo will be back for the PBA draft at Market! Market! in the Fort on Aug. 20.

Pardo, 56, retired as Purefoods-Hormel assistant vice president last May but San Miguel Corp. president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang asked him to finish his term in the PBA Board. Pardo’s term expires in December.

Pardo said he retired four years ahead of schedule to avail of a financially-attractive early retirement package he couldn’t refuse. He worked 21 years for the company and was involved in canning operations.

Pardo was appointed Purefoods team manager in 1999 and later representative to the PBA Board of Governors, yielding his former position to Alvin Patrimonio.

Purefoods won two championships with Pardo, both under coach Ryan Gregorio. The first came in the 2002 Governors Cup where Purefoods outlasted Alaska in seven games. Four players from that title squad–Kerby Raymundo, Richard Yee, Rey Evangelista and Roger Yap–were on the team that beat Red Bull for the Philippine Cup trophy last Friday. Two others are still with the organization–Patrimonio as team manager and Ronnie Magsanoc as assistant coach.

Roger Yap left Purefoods and joined FedEx in 2003 but not without a promise from Pardo that someday, he would return.

"Our backcourt was crowded with Noy Castillo, Rodney Santos, Gilbert Demape and Boyet Fernandez that season so there was no room for Roger to blossom," recalled Pardo. "I promised Roger that someday, I would get him back and I kept my promise."

Roger Yap is now a fixture at point guard for Purefoods and was named to the PBA’s Mythical First Team this season. He averaged 8.8 points in the playoffs against Alaska and Red Bull.

Another recruit whose arrival was described by Pardo as a blessing is Marc Pingris.

"Every time, I see (Air21 president) Lito Alvarez, I always thank him," said Pardo. "Actually, the trade to bring Marc to Purefoods worked out both ways because it gave Ranidel (de Ocampo) the opportunity to become a star."

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Purefoods’ surge wouldn’t have been possible without the support of San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo (Danding) Cojuangco and president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang.

"We owe a lot to Mr. Ang who gave us his all-out support," said Pardo.

After clinching the series last Friday, Pardo brought the team and relatives of the players and coaches to Dencio’s near the Celebrity Sports Plaza for a celebration until 3 a.m.

Tomorrow, the team will present the championship trophy to Ambassador Cojuangco and Ang after a thanksgiving Mass–officiated by Fr. Jojo Aguas, an ardent Purefoods supporter–at the San Miguel complex in Mandaluyong.

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When interviewed on TV after clinching the series last Friday, Raymundo brought out a piece of paper listing the special people to thank. He wanted to make sure he wouldn’t forget anyone.

Champagne didn’t flow in the Purefoods dressing room to celebrate the Giants’ victory. Instead, it was Viva Mineral Water that doused every player, coach and visitor in the dugout.

Water never felt better for Purefoods.

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Purefoods cager Eugene Tejada, who suffered a spinal injury in a bad fall during a game against Red Bull last May, said he was both happy and sad that the Giants won the crown.

Happy because Purefoods overcame all odds to capture the title and sad because he could’ve been on the court playing for the Giants if not for his injury.

Still confined in the hospital, Tejada made his first trip out to watch Game 5 of the Finals at the Big Dome last Wednesday. Doctors advised him to rest last Friday and skip going to the Araneta Coliseum for Game 6. He would’ve gone to watch Game 7 if Red Bull managed to extend the series.

When he was hurt in the game at Ynares Center last May, Tejada went straight from the court to the hospital. And last Wednesday, he went straight from the hospital back to the court.

Tejada’s contract expires this month but was renewed for six more months. He leaves for San Francisco to continue his rehabilitation in a few weeks.

Tejada, 25, averaged 7.1 points in 12 games, including eight starts, and shot a career-high 17 points before tragedy struck this conference. It was his most productive showing since breaking into the pros as Alaska’s second round draft pick in 2003.

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Pardo said the low point in his eight-year association with the Purefoods team came in 1999 when he disposed of bogus Fil-Am Al Segova.

"I kicked him out of our team and didn’t wait for the Bureau of Immigration to deport him," said Pardo. "We signed him up after he was cleared by immigration. He had a birth certificate showing his father was a Filipino born in Ilocos Norte. But coach Derick Pumaren took the initiative to verify his birth certificate. We got his authenticated certificate in San Diego showing his father was an African-American born in Mississippi. I confronted him, made him sign a letter of resignation and kicked him out."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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