NU Lady Bulldogs' Jaja Santiago may be one of the hottest rising volleyball stars in the UAAP now, but her first ever volleyball game for the association was unforgettable, albeit in a very unpleasant way. Apart from losing a do-or-die semi-final match against Ateneo back in Season 77, she also had to face the untimely death of her father two days later. What made things worse was the fact that Santiago was not in good terms with her father when he passed away.
It was a moment seemingly like a scene straight out of Maalaala Mo Kaya, but it was that moment when this Lady Bulldog realized important lessons about about life and family, things that every one of us can also pick a thing or two from.
1. Cherish the people you love. “Nung bago din ako matulog nung gabi, sabi niya [her father] sakin, 'Nak, okay lang 'yan. Kahit 'di kayo nag-champion, champion pa rin kayo sakin. I love you.' 'Di ako nag-reply sa kanya, [kasi] lagi akong galit sa kanya. Parang nagsisi ako kasi 'di ko nasabi na 'I love you, tatay.' Nung nawala siya, sobrang pinagsisihan ko talaga,” Santiago shares. She stresses the importance of always telling our loved ones how much we care about them before it's too late.
2. Let the challenges you face make you wiser, not weaker. “Yung mga challenge na nakaharap ko dati, nagbigay lakas sakin ngayon kasi nga parang tinitingnan ko muna kung ano yung mga nangyari sa akin nung dati, para ‘di na ako magkamali," Santiago says.
3. Do not take your family for granted. “Ang importante sakin is yung family ko. Kasi kahit anong problema yung maranasan ko, nandiyan sila para sakin to support me and to guide,” Santiago says. And we couldn’t agree more! The least we can do is to value them the way they should be valued, spend time with them and not take their love for granted.
4. Make the pain your motivation. “Na-mo-motivate naman ako araw-araw, everyday 'pag lagi ko siyang kinakausap,” Santiago says, sharing that she continues to speak to her departed father, knowing that he is out there, listening. And while his passing has caused her much grief and pain, she uses it as an inspiration to do her best every time she plays, instead of letting her sorrows get the best of her.
Despite NU's less than stellar performance in Season 79, Santiago continues to solder on and trains even harder to reclaim their lost glory for the next season. With the memory of her father inspiring her to #DaretoDream, she'll soon be on the road to victory.
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Banner photograph from UAAP magazine.