There was a time when Ara Galang was considered the best all-around volleyball in the Philippines.
During the UAAP Season 77 Women’s Volleyball Tournament, the Angeles, Pampanga native was in scintillating form, carrying the De La Salle University Lady Spikers on offense and defense – almost single-handedly bringing the Lady Spikers to the Finals.
But, right when she was flourishing, Galang crashed with a gruesome left knee injury in their semifinals meeting with the National University Lady Bulldogs.
She returned to volleyball after more than a year of rehab.
But the old Ara Galang – the domineering open hitter with the near-effortless leap and horizontal quickness – did not.
Up to 2016 and 2017, when she started playing for F2 Logistics, Galang underwent grueling procedures to keep her knee healthy. The upkeep was almost too much for the UAAP Season 75 Women’s Volleyball Most Valuable Player.
She wanted to quit volleyball.
“Siguro kasi noong time na ‘yun, hindi naman siya giving up. Parang nile-let go ko na ‘yung volleyball. Mentally and physically drained na ako,” the 23-year-old recalled.
“Ubos na ako noong time na ‘yun.”
“Last time, ‘yung bata na ‘yan gusto na mag-quit din. Siguro nga, kakaiba ‘yung injury na nakuha niya noong Season 77,” shared F2 Logistics and La Salle head coach Ramil De Jesus about his ward, who missed the 2017 PSL Grand Prix.
“Nagkaroon ng bone bruise. Sabi nga noong doctor, hindi ‘yun gagaling ng months lang. It takes time talaga. Hindi parang ACL lang. Ito kasi, tapyas na ‘yung buto.”
It took some convincing, but Galang ultimately changed her mind thanks to a conversation with her longtime coach.
“Parang tinry ko rin sabihin kila coach na magki-quit na nga ako, mag-stop na ko mag-volleyball. Sa totoo lang, siya rin lang naman ‘yung nakapagpabalik sa akin,” the 5-foot-8 spiker added.
“Noong nag-usap kami, bumalik na agad ‘yung puso ko sa volleyball. Sa simpleng heart-to-heart talk namin, nabuhay ‘yung passion. Nangibabaw ‘yun.”
De Jesus, as he is with many things, was right to persuade Galang to continue playing. In the 2018 Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga Invitational Cup, Galang was the star among stars. She totaled 33 points and 26 excellent receptions en route to the championship and the MVP.
Galang was grateful that De Jesus never lost hope in her.
“‘Di ko rin ma-explain. Sobrang sarap lang sa feeling. Hindi ko iniisip ‘yung MVP, championship kasi talaga gusto ko. Kung nabigay sa akin ‘yung MVP, extra lang talaga. Hindi lang naman ako ‘yung gumawa, lahat kami may contribution doon kaya deserve ng lahat,” she admitted.
“Si coach Ramil talaga, ever since college hanggang ngayon, father figure siya sa amin. Sa totoo lang, hindi kami masyadong close. Madalang kami mag-usap, pero kapag nag-usap kami, may laman.
“Kilala niya kasi kaming lahat, individually. Ganoon siya kagaling; alam niya kaming basahin o sabihin kung hindi kami ‘yung pinapakita namin. Kahit kaunting galaw lang namin, alam niya na kami,” she declared.
As a coach, De Jesus could not just let a generational talent like Galang give up.
“‘Yung bata na ‘yan, wala akong masabi. Kahit may masakit, hindi dadaing ‘yan. Kahit mag-practice, kahit may masakit, gagawa pa rin ‘yan. Ang pumipigil na lang sa akin diyan is ‘yung PT. Minsan, nakakatakot kasi kahit may masakit, hindi magsasabi,” an emotional De Jesus confessed.
“Sabi ko sa kanya, mag-tiyaga lang siya. After lahat ng pinagdaanan niya, nandito na siya so very proud ako sa kanya. Hindi mo kasi makikita ‘yung ganyang klase ng talent sa player.”