It has been two years since Jaja Santiago left National University’s fold, but her presence still lingers with the Lady Bulldogs up to this day.
Leadership and the discipline to make the most of out her God-given potential have been Santiago’s main ingredients for her lasting legacy in NU.
And now, the youthful Lady Bulldogs are taking cues from Santiago, who is easily one of the best athletes in the country.
“Halos three years ko ata nakasama. Si Ate Jaja talaga is someone I look up to in terms of leadership, in terms of skills lahat talaga,” NU senior Audrey Paran admitted moments after leading her side’s rout of Adamson on Saturday. “Tsaka noong time niya talaga, lahat kami, si Ate Ja ‘yung sandalan. This time, na-inspire ako parang… Ate Ja, ito ‘yung natutunan ko sa kanya, ito ‘yung pinapakita mo before.
“Ako naman time ko naman ngayon.”
But besides the intangibles etched into NU’s volleyball program, Santiago makes sure to pay her knowledge forward in her own way.
After making a historical stint in the vaunted Japan V. Premiere League with the Saitama Ageo Medics, the 6-foot-5 middle blocker returned to the Philippines.
Of course, she has plenty of responsibilities to attend to, but she always makes it a point to give NU some time.
“Si Jaja, after her Japan stint niya, she went back to the Philippines. Pumupunta siya sa training, binibisita niya ‘yung girls,” NU head coach Norman Miguel shared. “Then nagi-impart siya ng techniques kung pa’no sa blocking, pa’no magri-read and react.
“Sumasabay siya sa practice namin. She did that ng three visits para mag-impart,” he added.
“Nakakatuwa talaga na may spot pa rin sila kay Jaja.”
For her part, Santiago lauded the youthful NU’s improvements. She also pointed out that the Lady Bulldogs have added ceiling to their roster and have become well-disciplined.
“So far, nakikita ko ang ganda ng improvement,” she remarked.
“Ang tatangkad ng mga players and well-disciplined ang mga bata ngayon.”
In particular, Santiago is all praises for Ivy Lacsina and Risa Sato, whom she believes have been growing into their own.
“Ang ganda ng improvement in Ivy from outside to middle, nakapag-adjust na kaagad siya. Kasi nung last time na punta ko dun sa training, nahihirapan talaga siya. Inaangal niya na parang, ‘Ate, ‘di ko talaga ito pwesto,” Santiago recalled of the 6-foot-2 stalwart. “Pero sinabihan ko siya na, ‘Ivy, kung ‘di mo minahal kasi ang ginagawa mo, ‘di mo talaga makukuha. Kung palagi mong tatanungin sa sarili mo na ‘Kaya ko ba? Ito ba talaga ang pwesto na lalaruin ko? ”Di mo matututunan.’
She then continued, “So nakita ko ngayon na ang ganda ng blockings niya, nakakapalo siya. Sabi ko, ‘Kaya mo pala eh.’ Nakakatuwa lang sa bata kasi tinanggap na niya. In-adjust na niya ang sarili niya.”
For Sato, Santiago has always been a fan of the Japanese-bred middle blocker’s strong character.
“Ang maganda naman kay Risa, ‘di siya sumusuko na matuto talagang mag-Tagalog,” she gushed.
“Dati kasi natatandaan ko ‘yan, lagi siyang umiiyak. Kasi may gusto siyang sabihin, gusto niyang matutunan ang ganitong skills, pero ‘di niya ma-express ang sarili niya,” Santiago continued.
“Pero ngayon makikita mo siya na siya na ang nagga-guide sa players, siya ang kumakausap sa mga players. Happy ako nakaka-adapt na siya sa Pilipinas.”
Santiago has long since left NU’s fold, but there’s no doubt that the legacy she has imparted in the present will always be remembered in the future.
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