FAMILY was the main reason why Jaja Santiago decided to stay with National University and decline an offer of an athletic scholarship from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), which would have given the volleyball rising star a chance to hone her game in the US NCAA.
While she understood that the Bruins offer would have given her the rare opportunity to play for a Division I school in the US, Santiago said she dreaded the thought of being alone in a foreign land.
“Maraming nagsasabi bakit pinag-iisipan ko pa,” Santiago told Spin.ph. “Hindi naman sa ayaw dahil ‘yun naman talaga ang isa sa mga priority ko. Kaso iniisip ko po, kapag pumunta ba ako doon, may tutulong ba sa akin at kapag nangailangan ba ako, may matatakbuhan ba ako?
“Ang hirap din na walang assurance lalo na ako lang ‘yung pupunta doon at minor pa po ako,” Santiago added.
After passing up on the offer relayed to her by UCLA assistant coach Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer last March, the 6-foot-4 Santiago said she decided to take up an Electronics and Communications Engineering course at NU.
“Iniisip ko rin ‘yung pag-aaral ko. Iba kasi doon. May mga subject doon na wala dito. Nag-aalangan din ako,” said Santiago.
Santiago said things would've been better if a family member accompanied her in the US.
“Siguro mas okay na kasama ko pamilya ko. Siyempre kapag nangailangan ako ng tulong, may malalapitan ako,” the 17-year-old said.
Santiago and older sister Dindin were a part of the V-League selection that represented the Philippines in the recent Women’s World Championship qualifiers in Vietnam.
The younger Santiago said it was an honor to don the Philippine colors.
“Masaya ako kasi naging part ako ng Philippine team and at the same time, nakatulong ako sa kanila,” said Santiago.
Even though the team was hastily formed, Santiago said that they were able to develop camaraderie so quickly.
“Kahit one week lang, nakita ko ‘yung tulungan namin sa laro,” said Santiago.