At such a young age, Jaja Santiago has already made several life-altering decisions
Five years ago, the six-foot-five middle blocker got an offer of a lifetime to study and hone her skills in famed US NCAA Division I volleyball program University of California-Los Angeles. She turned the opportunity down, deciding to stay at home to follow through on her commitment to the National University.
Five years later, Santiago has received another incredible offer, as she has been asked by top Thai club Bangkok Glass to be one of their foreign reinforcements in the Thailand Volleyball League.
It was another decision she mulled over, but ultimately had to turn down due to her commitment to the National University.
Had she played for Bangkok Glass, she would have had to skip her final UAAP playing year, leaving the Lady Bulldogs gutted of their team captain and primary offensive weapon. She would have also been the second Filipina to play in Thailand as an import.
“Nung una palang sobrang saya ko at gustong gusto ko na i-grab agad yung opportunity. Siyempre, Bangkok Glass ‘yon,” Santiago recalled, “Sobrang magandang experience ang makukuha ko doon, at the same time, sobrang lakas na team nito. Kaya I really felt blessed for that opportunity.
“Sobrang hirap, lagi ko siyang pinag-iisipan at lagi ko siyang binabalik-balikan sa isip ko,” she continued.
For the incoming fifth-year senior, she would prefer to graduate with a degree first before entering the real world.
“I know it’s a big opportunity for me as an athlete to represent our country pero hindi ko pa po talaga siya ma-gragrab ngayon kasi gusto ko muna tapusin yung pag-aaral ko and other commitments ko dito sa Pilipinas,” she furthered.
“Gusto ko rin na palakasin yung katawan ko at mag-gain pa ng maraming experience dito sa atin at mag-improve pa bago pumunta sa kanila or sa ibang teams man na kukuha sa akin sa international.”
For now, Santiago knows she will not have any regrets staying with NU. Currently, the Lady Bulldogs are on pace to win a third-straight PVL title. She also gets a chance at another PSL title when she suits up for Foton in the upcoming Grand Prix.
Perhaps no one is more elated over Jaja’s decision than NU head coach Babes Castillo.
“I think she showed a lot of maturity in her decision. She really thought of everyone around her and we’re very thankful na she stayed with NU,” Castillo said.
“Sobrang hirap sa UAAP kung wala siya, so I’m very thankful.”