FORMER University of Santo Tomas star Maruja Banaticla has been away from Philippine volleyball for six years.
Wondering where is she now?
Banaticla embraced her life as a career woman working at the Finance Department of PLDT. She seldom plays competitive volleyball nowadays, except for the Manny V. Pangilinan Olympics.
Since she decided to forgo her final playing year for the Tigresses in 2013, accepting a job offer at PLDT while playing for the company’s defunct club team in the Philippine Superliga, Banaticla has been missing in the volleyball scene for many years.
The former two-time UAAP Beach Volleyball champion, who won the tourney’s Season 72 rookie of the year and Season 75 MVP, finally got back on the court for one special reason.
Banaticla, together with other UST women’s volleyball legends, went back to their beloved alma mater on Wednesday as they tested the mettle and brought inspiration to the current Tigresses led by Sisi Rondina, Milena Alessandrini, and rookie sensation Eya Laure before the UAAP Season 81 opens next week.
The 28-year-old, who was part of UST’s last indoor volleyball championship in Season 72 with Angge Tabaquero, Aiza Maizo, Maika Ortiz, Judy Caballejo and Rhea Dimaculangan, may no longer be the athletic hitter and go-to-scorer she used to be, but she still received much love from the roaring UST students and Alumni, who evidently missed her.
For the former star Tigress, it felt great to be home to finally have the dream exhibition match between the Alumni and the Current players.
“Sobrang happy ko talaga na nangyari ito kasi it has been so many years na po,” Banaticla said. “Parang even before I graduated parang gusto na nilang magkaroon ng Alumni versus current players.”
“Given na naglalaro ng semi-pro volleyball ang mga kasama ko, talagang competitive pa rin sila and talagang pinrove nila na parang sila ay kondisyon,” she added. “Feeling ko naging inspiration din ito for them [current players] to give their best this coming UAAP.”
Banaticla is not closing the doors on her returning to action and is thinking of getting back in shape to make a comeback in the PSL or the PVL.
“Pero I’m looking forward na makapaglaro pa rin soon given na sobrang lumaki ako or something,” Banaticla said.
Banaticla knows it's a tough road ahead but she is willing to get back to her top form and live her volleyball dream again.
“We’ll see in the future leagues pero I’m hoping din talaga kasi I really have to make myself na sobrang condition before I decide to join a commercial league. For now nagwo-work lang ako sa PLDT,” she concluded.