SINGAPORE — The country’s celebrated volleyball players will be put to a first test when they play Indonesia in their debut in the 28th Southeast Asian Games on Wednesday at the OCBC Arena Hall 2 of the Singapore National Stadium.
The highly-anticipated women’s game is set at high noon while the men battle Malaysia at 3 pm.
Team Philippines is composed of top collegiate and semi-professional players whose modest target is a bronze, the same finish a national team achieved when the Philippines last played in SEA Games volleyball in 2005 in Manila.
“Sinasabi ko sa mga bata na ibigay na lahat ng makakaya nila kasi matagal-tagal din tayong nawala sa SEA Games,” said national coach Roger Gorayeb. “Hindi man natin makuha ang ginto, ang importante ay makapagpakita tayo ng maganda sa ating pagbabalik. Malaking kasiyahan na ‘yun para sa ating mga kababayan."
The Filipinas, led by Alyssa Valdez, Rachel Anne Daquis, and Aby Marano, the most talked about players back home, will face an Indonesian side that includes Aprilia Santini Manganang, a 23-year-old power hitter who is believed to be hermaphrodite.
Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas Inc. (LVPI) president Joey Romasanta filed a protest against Manganang and is awaiting the result of tests to be by the SEA Games Medical Commission.
Gorayeb knows the threat but is unfazed.
"Napakalakas ‘nun. Para kang naglagay ng lalaki sa laro ng mga babae," said Gorayeb, who coach a team against a Manganang-led Indon side in the Asian qualifier for the world championship in Vietnam in 2009.
"Pero kahit anong mangyari — nandyan man siya o wala — lalaban pa din tayo. Paghahandaaan natin ‘yan.”