MANILA, Philippines – As tragic as it may seem, National University stalwart Jaja Santiago will graduate from the school and the UAAP without a title after 5 years.
However, with her 6-foot-5 height advantage, Santiago’s volleyball career is far from over as there are many local and international opportunities that await her.
National team head coach Ramil de Jesus invited Santiago to the tryouts and she was able to show up on the first day, but was not able to suit up for the scrimmages due to her UAAP commitments.
Aside from pursuing her national team duties, Santiago still has a chance of playing in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix semi-finals with her current club Foton Tornadoes.
“Feeling ko PSL kasi ongoing pa depende pa kung ipapasok nila ako or hindi,” said Santiago.
(I think what’s next for me will be the PSL, which will depend if they will put me in or not.)
Once the local professional league concludes, Santiago is keen on finally grabbing the opportunity that might allow her to play for the Korean Volleyball League. The league will be holding tryouts for international players in Italy this coming May.
“After siguro ng PSL ko, opportunity naman ako outside the country. Siyempre sana makita pa rin nila yung [actual] performance [ko], iba kasi yung actual sa videos,” said Santiago.
(Maybe after the PSL, I will pursue my opportunies outside the country. Of course I hope that they can see my actual performance because the actual is different from the videos.)
The 22-year-old has turned down opportunities to play abroad throughout her UAAP career, including the recruitment of US NCAA team University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2013 and Thailand League team Bangkok Glass before the start of Season 80.
However, Santiago does not regret choosing to play for National University until the end.
“Wala akong pinanghinayangan kasi sabi ko nga ginusto ko naman lahat ng desisyon ko, pinagtrabahuhan ko, pinaghirapan ko, lahat ng desisyonan ko and siguro kung iniwanan ko teammates ko this season then babalik next season mas parang feeling ko pagsisisihan ko kasi konti lang kami ngayon,” explained Santiago.
(I don’t regret anything because I stand firm on my decisions, I worked hard in every decision I made, and if I left my teammates this season then go back in the next season, I would regret it more because we’re undermanned.)
Santiago ended her UAAP career watching her teammates from the bench as the Lady Bulldogs lost to defending champion De La Salle University.
The middle blocker took home the Rookie of the Year award in Season 76 and is a 3-time Best Attacker since Season 77. In Season 79, Santiago added the Best Scorer and Best Blocker awards to her indiviual accolades. – Rappler.com