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Freeman Cebu Sports

Plan B

WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde - The Freeman

Japan offers the towering volleybelle Jaja Santiago to switch allegiance and be part of its national team. Now the collegiate standout is torn between her country of origin and the country with a big opportunity margin. If she gives up her Filipino citizenship for Japan, at 6’5” she becomes its tallest player. With such imposing vertical presence, she will have a shot at that once in a lifetime opportunity to play against world best in the ultimate amateur sports pinnacle – the Olympics in Tokyo this year.

Which will never happen if she sticks it out with her own nation where many lost good reasons to represent or even stay in, aside from losing some parts of it. But the National University attacker remains committed to the country and wants to play with the national team in the SEA games later this year. This despite certainty of penalty by the foreign professional volleyball league she is currently locked in. She must have agonized over that heartbreaker of a loss absorbed by the Philippine team for bronze against Indonesia in the last regional games where her erstwhile collegiate foes bungled a couple of match points and failed to make it to a podium finish. Her presence could have made a difference.

But the fact that she is torn spikes volumes of the sorry state of Philippine sports where the best intention of its officials mismatches the best interest of its athletes. But the country is still worth representing, despite everything. It is. It will always be. We don’t lack for Filipinos who would play and even die for flag and country, just as we don’t lack for Filipinos who betray national sovereignty. But where there is another country that values and appreciates athletes more, we cannot blame them for leaving. Wesley did it So, the rare find we lost and may never find again. Jaja could be next, a rare gem of a Filipina whose frame and game we may never find even if we turn the entire archipelago upside down.

But more understandable are parents constrained to leave their children of tender age behind, never mind their philandering spouses, to seek greener pasture somewhere else. These are parents who refuse to be enslaved by hunger in their own country, only to be enslaved by abuse in another.

 But curiously, why would Jordan Clarkson and Andray Blatche suit up for the country if it doesn’t take care of its athletes? Thank you, but while they are good enough to be in the ultimate basketball league in the world, they are not great enough to be given the playing time their body dies for to take center stage in the world stage. But elsewhere they are. And that’s where they are constrained to be. Welcome to the country just the same, to echo the words of a beauty queen that helped her capture the universe. That’s Filipino hospitality where defense of territory is called provocation instead of justification.

JAJA SANTIAGO
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