IT took a couple of seconds before it finally sank on Jaja Santiago that she’s the Most Valuable Player of the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix.
The 6-foot-5 do-it-all volleybelle couldn’t believe when her name was called out to receive the league’s highest individual award shortly after Foton scored back-to-back championships at the expense of last year’s victim Petron, 25-20, 25-20, 22-25, 25-17, on Saturday at the PhilSports Arena.
“Hindi ko rin alam (ang mararamdaman ko), ‘yun ‘yung iniisip ko kanina nung tinawag ako ‘Ako? Parang ako?” she said.
Santiago revealed she didn’t expect the award after all Foton has been through.
After a runner up finish in the All Filipino last August, management decided to replace head coach Vilet Ponce de Leon and tap Italian mentor Fabio Menta for the 2016 AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship in September.
However, the working relationship with Menta didn’t go well and management had to fire the foreign coach and hire Serbian mentor Moro Branislav for the Grand Prix.
“Para sakin unexpected (itong award). Noong una nagkakagulo ‘yung team naming, tapos nitong Grand Prix biglang naging maayos kaya ko siya nasabing unexpected kasi nga ‘yung nangyari samin nung past,” she said.
A natural middle blocker before she was converted to an opposite spiker and outside hitter, Santiago believes it was Foton’s American import and last year’s MVP Lindsay Stalzer who deserves the award.
At the same time, the National University star had to miss a couple of games with Foton due to a team building in Japan with the Lady Bulldogs.
“Hindi ko ini-expect na mag-MVP ako kasi ilang games din ako nawala, tapos sobrang baba din ng nilaro ko nitong past few games namin. Sabi ko nga kay Lindsay, ‘you deserved this’ hindi ko deserved ito kasi sa kanya talaga ‘to,” she said.
“Hind sa sobrang humble, kasi nakita ko naman ‘yung paghihirap ni Lindsay at Ariel (Usher) talaga, so gusto ko ibigay sa kanila tong award na ‘to,” she added