TOKYO — Sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat will always have each other’s backs as their volleyball careers continue to bloom in Japan.
For the second straight year, the Santiago Sisters are playing as imports in the prestigious Japan V. Premier League with Jaja re-signing with Ageo Medics for another season, and Dindin finding a new home in Kurobe.
Dindin has been enjoying more playing time with the Aqua Fairies, unlike in her first stint last year with Toray Arrows where she saw limited action.
“Last year kasi yung team ko is lumaban ng Finals. Siyempre lahat ng tao doon masyadong seryoso. Actually naadapt ko naman din yun, maiintindihan mo naman na may goal sila,” Manabat said. “This team naman is rebuilding team so nagstart din sila unti-unti lahat. Bago pero umaangat na rin kasi sila. Yung maganda na andun sila sa baba kasama ako sa pagaangat nila.”
The younger Santiago, on the other hand, continues to turn heads in her second season with Ageo Medics but she feels more pressure this year as she has to take her talent to the next level.
“Mas nakakaadjust pero mas malaki yung pressure,” Jaja said. “Hindi naman nila pinaparamdam yung pressure kasi dito sa Japan maglaro ka lang as in free ka kumilos, maglaro wala silang sasabihin sayo. Kumbaga ako naglalagay sa sarili ko ng pressure kasi siyempre second year ko na.”
In fact, the dream of the Santiago sisters to take on each other in the Japanese league finally happened last week.
“Actually kahit sa Pilipinas ang iniintay yung pagtatapat ng Santiago sisters, last year pa inaabangan nila yun,” said Dindin, who was benched when Toray faced Ageo last year. “Hindi rin kasi makapaniwala yung mga Japanese na magkapatid talaga kami, mas lalo na yung apelyido ko Santiago-Manabat tapos nung nalaman nila, gusto na nila magkakatapat kasi nga magkapatid prehas matangkad.”
Jaja powered Ageo Medics in beating Kurobe in four sets, but more than their victory, the younger Santiago was happier for Dindin, who played extended minutes in their showdown.
“Alam mo yung feeling na, nasa loob yung kapatid ko pumapalo na bumablock, naglalaro na siya eto na yun nakatapat ko na siya,” the 6-foot-5 middle blocker said. “Gusto ko ngumiti, gusto kong magcelebrate pero sa isip isip ko, ‘Hindi kalaban ko ‘to parang maaout of focus ako. Pero sobrang proud ako kasi nagstart na ulit siya maglaro tas international pa.”
“Masaya talaga ako na ginagamit siya kasi siyempre alam ko yung pinagdaanan niya before sa first team niya sa Japan,” she added.
Manabat also expressed how proud she is of her younger sister’s rise as one of the top imports in the Japan League.
“Sobrang happy ako kasi minsan lang mangyari yung mareretain mas lalo na dito sa Japan,” the 6-foot-3 opposite spiker said. “Kasi dito magaling sila magbasa ng bawat players so syempre yung iba madalas magpalit ng import. Si Jaja talaga nagampanan niya yung trabaho niya last year tas ngayon nagiimprove pa lalo siya.“
The towering sisters may be far from each other and playing for different clubs but they will be there to support each other as they continue to make the country proud.