WHAT a difference seven years can make.
Former University of Santo Tomas Venus Bernal was simply amazed at how big women’s volleyball has grown in a country known more for its love for basketball from the time she stopped playing competitively in 2007.
“Happy ako ngayon kasi nakikita ko na nakikilala na (ang volleyball)," said the former University of Santo Tomas star and the UAAP Season 69 Most Valuable Player.
“Ngayon dumating pa itong liga na ito para mabigyan ng chance 'yung iba na makapaglaro ulit," she added.
Proof of women’s volleyball's unprecedented popularity was the big crowd that graced the recent launching of the Philippine Super Liga, a league that showcases former stars of the country's collegiate leagues.
Among those who seized the opportunity was Bernal, who is back on the court following a long hibernation as she currently suits up for Cignal HD in the league that got underway on Sunday at the Philsports Arena.
She couldn't hide her joy over the warm reception given her, more so after coming through with 17 points – on 14 hits and three service aces – in leading her team to a stunning victory over crowd favorite Petron during the opener.
Bernal proved she remains at the top of her game despite being idle for a long while.
“Nakakatuwa kasi kahit years ka na nila 'di nakita (ng mga tao) ang ganda pa din ng welcome nila sa iyo at saka nire-recognize ka pa 'din,” she related to Spin.ph.
She recalled how the sport was just starting to gain attention at the time she was still wearing the white and gold uniform of the Tigresses, somehow playing a part in the game's rise to new heights.
Bernal last played for UST in 2007 where she teamed up with Mary Jean Balse, Aiza Maizo, Angge Tabaquero, Denise Tan, and Lilet Mabbayad in steering the Tigresses to the UAAP championship.
And after being inactive the past few years, the former Queen Tigress is just thankful for the new opportunity that has been given to former college stars like her.
“Happy na ako kasi time namin doon na nag-start sumikat ang voleyball,” said the 5-foot-7 spiker.
Volleyball fans get to see more of Bernal and the HD Spikers when they face heavily favored Philippine Army on Wednesday in the first game of another triple-header at The Arena in San Juan.