LEILA Barros fondly remembers the time the Philippines showered her with love 16 years ago, and the Brazilian volleyball sensation would be more than happy to come back soon if given the opportunity.
A dream return for Barros, who first set foot in the Philippines for the 2000 World Grand Prix, just might happen soon.
According to volleyverse.com, the former Brazilian national player may come over in October when the country hosts the 2016 FIVB World Club Championship, where Brazilian team Rexona Ades is expected to see action.
Barros ended her playing career with the squad in 2005, and will likely act as one of the team's consultants if the trip pushes through.
"I have so many Filipino friends on Facebook. They are warm and affectionate. If ever I will be given a chance to return to Manila, I will go. But so far, no plans yet," she said.
Way before Alyssa Valdez, Ara Galang, Jovelyn Gonzaga and other hard-hitting spikers became popular in volleyball, there was Barros, who captivared the hearts of the Filipinos because of her skill and good looks, as well as her uncanny resemblance to Mexican telenovela queen Thalia.
"I know that after we came over, Philippine volleyball has evolved and I am one of those responsible for this," said Barros, whose jersey No. 8 was the reason why some Filipino volleyball players like Charo Soriano picked the same number.
"That’s why I feel honored by all these love and affection. I am eager to go back to reconnect with the people who made my stay there very memorable," Barros, 44, said.
Barros, who is now the Secretary of State for Sports, Tourism and Leisure in her hometown, Brasilia, is happily married to Emanuel Rego, a gold medalist in the beach volleyball competition of the 2004 Athens Olympics.
"We already have six wonderful years of marriage and was blessed with a five-year old son named Lukas," she shared.