THE PHILIPPINES is still Jaja Santiago’s safe haven as she returns home to rest amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
Santiago flew back to the Philippines early March, shortly after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mandated the closing of all schools.
The 6-foot-5 Santiago, however, is set to fly back to Japan by the end of the month to begin training with Japanese team Saitama Ageo Medics for a pocket tournament in May 2020.
“Syempre mas gusto ko mag-stay dito. Kaya rin ako bumalik dito kasi mas alam naming na mas safe kami rito sa Pilipinas. Ako kasi, mahina kasi ang baga ko so kailangan ko talagang maging safe, kaya sobrang alaga ko talaga sa sarili ko nu’ng bumibiyahe ako,” she said.
The National University graduate has helped to steer the Japanese team to a few podium finishes in different prestigious leagues since she first allied with them in 2018.
The pocket tournament, if it pushes through, is from May 1 to May 6 only, and after the week-long tournament, Santiago plans to return to the Philippines to join Chery Tiggo in their Super Liga Grand Prix run alongside her sister Dindin.
“Pagbalik ko dito, nag-training agad ako non, tuluy-tuloy ‘yung training ko. Hindi ko kasi pwedeng itigil kasi nga baka biglaan din akong pabalikin sa Japan so mas okay na ready ang katawan ko kaysa naman maghahabol ako sakanila,” she said.
Her stint with local club will have to wait a little longer, though, since PSL and other leagues in the country are cancelled indefinitely due to the global pandemic.
“Babalik pa ako by end of March siguro, depende pa kung matuloy ang tournament naming sa Japan by May,” she added.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr), however, released an advisory last Monday prohibiting outbound flight operations for Filipinos.
“Airport operation shall be limited to outgoing flights carrying foreigners and tourists. Filipinos are not allowed to go outside the country,” stated the guidelines.