By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Philippine sports is set to lose another star athlete.
Jaja Santiago, one of the best Filipina volleyball superstars of the modern era, is already undergoing the process of acquiring Japanese citizenship.
The development was revealed by Philippine women’s national volleyball head coach Jorge Souza de Brito during the build-up of the roster for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games.
Santiago has been playing in the Japan Volleyball League since 2018 and has already marked her name as the league’s best middle blocker a couple of times.
The six-foot-five veteran is still under contract with the volleyball club Saitama Ageo Medics and is one of the core pieces of the team who are gunning for a championship title.
“I don’t think she can play for our national team. When she finishes the process there in Japan, she can play for the national team for Japan,” said Souza de Brito.
With Santiago’s absence from the national team, the legendary Brazilian chief tactician said that they are still looking for more players to fill in the void in the middle-blocking department.
Part of the shortlist of the national team composed that is set to replace Santiago are MJ Phillips, Mika Reyes, Dell Palomata, and Chery Nunag.
“Because she has started the process for Japanese citizenship. Bad for us, good for them. Good for her also,” added Souza de Brito.
The former Chery Tiggo Pro Crossovers leader last joined the Filipinas during the 31st SEA Games held in Vietnam last year and may not reunite with the squad anymore once she wraps up her Japanese citizenship process.