DESPITE missing her first Southeast Asian Games, Jaja Santiago believes that the women’s national volleyball team has what it takes to end the 14-year medal drought.
“Ako nakikta ko sa national team natin sobrang laki ng possibility [na maka-medal] though wala kami ng ate ko,” said Santiago, who visited the Filipina Spikers on Monday night in Tokyo, Japan.
The 6-foot-5 national team mainstay won’t play in the 30th SEA Games appearance with elder sister Dindin Santiago-Manabat due to their commitment to respective Japanese club teams.
But Jaja said that the Philippines’ middle blocker position remained strong with the good showing of Majoy Baron and Maddie Madayag along with skipper Aby Marano and Mika Reyes.
“Ang dami namang potential na mga players sa atin. Yun nga sina Maddie at Majoy so pagkatiwalaan natin sila. At the same time maganda ang ipinapakita rin nila,” Santiago said.
“Ako feeling ko parang hindi naman kami nawala sa national team kasi same level kaming lahat. Parehas lang naman kami ng nilalaro and at the same time parehas lang din naman kami ng experience,” she added.
Based on Santiago’s experience, playing for Ageo Medics for the second straight Japan V.Premier League season, she knows that the Filipina Spikers will gain a lot of skills and experience in their 12-day training camp in Tokyo.
“Sa ilang days pa lang nila dito sa Japan maganda na rin ang ginagawa nila and malaki ang in-improve ng national team natin. Malaking possibility talaga na makuha natin ang medal sa SEA Games,” said the former National University star, who is always updated with her former teammates.
The former UAAP MVP also explained her series of tweets against the fans, who mocked her when she didn’t get the clearance from Ageo Medics to play in the SEA Games.
“Di ko naman masisisi ang ibang tao sa opinyon nila. Ang sa akin lang ayoko lang yung may mga comparison, mga ganun,” Santiago said. “Ang mga sagot ko sa Twitter ay not for me lang pero para sa lahat ng players din natin na siyempre nagsa-suffer din sila sa mga bashers. Nakakaawa rin naman kasi ang iba na tinitira nila na hindi naman karapa’t dapat na makatanggap ng ganun.”
“Actually lahat ng players hindi naman dapat nakakatanggap ng ganun kasi nagtatrabaho lang naman tayo and ginagawa natin ang passion natin,” she added.
For now, Jaja could only wish for the best for the Nationals as she continues to showcase her talent with Ageo Medics.
But she assures that she is going to don the Philippines jersey and play fully committed next time.
“Ako naman open naman ako. Willing ako na maglaro sa national team anytime. Maayos lang natin ang schedule,” Santiago said. “Para sa akin talaga kailangan mo ring i-priority ang bansa mo kaya sobrang hinayang ko na di ako makakalaro this SEA Games.”