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by Andy Fiel
When the brightest stars shine on a clear night we admire their light. We also become aware of the distance between each one. Sometimes overlooking that these heavenly bodies have a connection. That each star is magnified by the other. Each a part of a constellation.
Alyssa Valdez shared her deep admiration for Jaja Santiago, her former teammate in past international tournaments. “The Phenom” congratulated Santiago on her incredible performance in the Japan V.League, helping the Ageo Medics dominate the NEC Red Rockets in the final match in Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan last March.
“I want to congratulate Jaja for representing our country and having that win (Japan V.League championship). Talagang pursigido, napakabait, napaka-determinado kaya patuloy nyang naaabot ang kanyang mga pangarap”, said the Creamline Cool Smasher ace.
Both have been familiar with each other since secondary school where they formed part of a talented and multi-champion UST juniors team along with Kim Fajardo (F2 Logistics) and DinDin Santiago (Chery Tiggo). They chose different paths in college but were reunited when they represented the Philippines, most recently in the 29th South East Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
At the end of the Japan V.League season, Santiago was offered Japanese citizenship and a chance to be part of the Japanese National Team. Although Jaja has her sights set on the coming PVL season and the 30th South East Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam at the end of the year, the offer may still be on the table.
Apprized about the recent developments in Santiago’s professional career Valdez gave her support to the Ageo Medics middle blocker in whatever she decides to do in the future.
“There are so many opportunities for Jaja. We can just imagine ano ung mga pinagiisipan nya. The decision naman nasa kanya no matter what. Kaming mga naging teammate nya we will always be here to support her,” said the former Lady Eagle.
During the early organization of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation Valdez was appointed to head the Athletes Commission alongside members Abigail Marano, Dennise Lazaro and Johnvic Remulla. Asked about her view on the state of Philippine volleyball she expressed optimism and the importance of giving players an international experience.
“I think they (PNVF) have great plans for the Philippine volleyball program and the volleyball community, so I am banking on that. As one of the members of the national team for the past few years definitely a great volleyball program and having a grass roots program will help the improvement of the national team. Syempre pag in-expose ang ating mga atleta doon tayo natututo, doon tayo gagaling. So mga kailangan natin siguro exposure and long term program, mapa-men, women, (indoor) or beach volleyball,” Valdez explained.
Earlier this month the Philippine National Volleyball Federation, Headed by Ramon “Tats” Suzara, sent invitations to 40 players for indoor volleyball and 20 players for beach volleyball to try out for the Women’s National Team starting April 28, 2021, in Subic. Valdez and Santiago were part of the list of players invited by the PNVF. Both will most likely be given a slot in the final cut and hopefully contribute not just as experienced players but also as mentors to the younger players.
Alyssa Valdez and Jaja Santiago, protagonists during their time in the UAAP and soon in the PVL, have been changed by the sport. Each one a significant figure in the landscape of Philippine volleyball. Together they may hold the key in changing the dynamic of the Philippine National Team and the way back to international prominence.