When Kayla-Marie Tiangco-Williams told her grandparents about her desire to travel to the Philippines, they were hesitant at first.
“My lolo was nervous when I first told them I am going to fly all the way to the Philippines, and he was a bit apprehensive,” Tiangco-Williams, who has family ties in Pampanga, said.
An outside hitter, Tiangco-Williams was a star in the United States. Having played for Grambling State University, an NCAA Division I school, Tiangco-Williams was a standout. She played for four years before coaching indoor volleyball, while pursuing a Masters Degree in Sports Administration.
The 5-foot-10 Fil-Jamaican spiker based in Toronto, Canada also played for club teams in Latvia, Bahamas, Russia, and received an invite to play for the Jamaican National Volleyball Team.
Tiangco-Williams is already enjoying a great volleyball career, and could have just settled overseas, but decided to move to the Philippines after realizing how massive the sport is in the archipelago.
“When they knew I was going to be in good hands, they were very supportive of their grand daughter,” she shared. “It was a leap of faith. I was always asking for guidance. I have never been in the Philippines prior to this, but knowing that the game volleyball was growing so heavily, and I am half-Filipina, I said why not. I just figured everything was lining up perfectly, and things are falling into places. So when the opportunity came, I just said I am going for it.”
After convincing her grandparents it was something she “always wanted to do,” Tiangco-Williams finally embarked on a journey that would take her to the Philippines.
Tiangco-Williams describes her first month in the country like a student’s freshman year in college where she is in a getting-to-know stage and getting accustomed to the community. She was elated to see the turnout Filipinos have for the sport, whether indoor or beach.
“It’s been great so far. I was super excited to come here. It kind of feels like a dream come true because it doesn’t even feel real yet. I am just humbled and fortunate to be here. I am also focused on training for the PSL Grand Prix,” she said.
Williams competed in the Cagayan Friendship Games last month, and led Tuguegarao-Foton to the championship. She stays with Charo Soriano, whom she met along the way, and when not busy, Tiangco-Williams spends time with other volleyball players she has met. Sometimes, she even watches the PBA with her fellow Fil-foreigners.
Now preparing for the Grand Prix conference of the Philippine Super Liga, Tiangco-Williams says her immediate goal is just to be a team player who can help the team become a contender.
“It is huge. I love the energy the Filipino people have for volleyball. A lot of doors have been opening for me in 2015, and I am looking forward to play for the PSL. My no. 1 goal right now is to train hard and bring positive impact to my team. I am all about the team effort, and how my team can compete for a championship,” she shared.
Aside from volleyball, Tiangco-Williams also has an impressive background in Broadcast Journalism. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication in 2010, before working as a television reporter and radio host in Atlanta, Georgia. She also covered Atlanta Hawks basketball.
With such background and technical know-how as an athlete, Tiangco-Williams says one of her goals as well is to “break into the broadcasting scene” here.
“Hopefully, I bring my experience and talent from North America and see if I can do both. Play volleyball and report. I love the basketball here already too,” she said.
“I am excited to see what the next season of the PBA will entail. I am excited to see if I can possibly do reporting about volleyball and basketball. If I am asked to do analyzing for volleyball, at least it comes naturally and being a basketball fan for many years and having played it in my teenage years, I know the game pretty well.”
Right now, Tiangco-Williams is just enjoying the ride, which wouldn’t have been possible if she didn’t go for a “leap of faith.”
She looks forward to finding a niche in the Philippines where she can feel she belongs, and in the next few years, find a volleyball home.
“I love the game so much. If I can find a home here where I can really establish myself as a player and help teams build a championship foundation, and where I feel comfortable and people welcome me, I would love to stay.”