The 6-foot-5 local volleyball wunderkind Jaja Santiago recently ended her stint as an import with the Ageo Medics in Japan’s V-Premiere League.
Santiago, a key member of the Medics’ starting six, saw her team all the way to the Group-of-8 stage where they were eliminated. Santiago, however, made sure to make a splash before leaving, scoring her tournament-best 23 points in Ageo’s last match last Sunday against the Denso Bees.
“First of all, masaya ako kasi nakauwi na ako sa wakas. Hindi kasi ganoong kadali na maglaro doon. Iba ‘yung culture nila, iba ‘yung system nila,” shared Santiago, who arrived in the Philippines earlier this week.
“Ang rami kong kailangan natutunan. One thing na natutunan ko is iba talaga kapag may good system ka kasi kapag may ganoon na, all will follow. Lahat magiging maayos. Sa skills, ang natutunan ko is speed, lalo na sa block, and trajectory ng bola. Sobrang saya ko na doon ako sa team na ‘yun nadala kasi ‘yung coach namin, naka-focus talaga siya sa akin,” she continued.
“Kumbaga, sinusulit nila ‘yung bayad sa akin. Grabe ‘yung tutok niya sa akin. Ang dami niyang binago sa akin.”
Santiago is interested in hopping straight into the 2019 Philippine Superliga Grand Prix with the Foton Tornadoes, but is still uncertain as the tournament winds down to the quarterfinals. Santiago still has to hash out her contract situation with Ageo, who wants her to come back on May to play in a pocket tournament.
“‘Yung coach ko (Toshi Yoshida), gusto niya akong palaruin sa isang liga pa sa May. Sabi ko, kailangan ko munang tapusin ‘yung school ko kasi may naiwan pa nga akong papers ko. Sabi nga nila kailangan ko bumalik after ng exam,” said Santiago, who is finishing her BS Psychology degree with National University.
“Sabi ko nga na baka di ako makalaro for them. Pero, sabi niya your contract is until May so you need to go back. Hindi ko alam kung makakabalik pa ako or irerelease nila ako and makaabot pa ako sa Foton.”
Whether she returns to Japan or not, Santiago has a lot on her plate with the National Team gearing up for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games on December. With how she shined in Japan, Santiago is expected to be one of the country’s pillars in regaining a spot on the podium.
“Pressure, but somehow challenge talaga siya kasi kailangan ko maipakita ‘yung nag-gain ko sa Japan,” she expressed.
“Kung ano ‘yung ine-expect nila, pressure ‘yun. Naipakita ko naman sa Japan, bakit hindi ko magagawa dito? Siguro, bibigay ko na lang ‘yung best ko.”