MANILA, Philippines -- One of Jaja Santiago's most unforgettable moments in volleyball came in the wake of defeat.
It was in UAAP Season 76, Santiago's first year in National University (NU). They had just squandered a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semifinals of the women's volleyball tournament to Ateneo de Manila University. It marked a sad end for the collegiate career of her older sister, former NU captain Dindin Santiago.
As it turned out, it also proved to be the last time that their father, Jojo, would watch his daughters play the sport that made them into stars. Two days after that game, he died in the line of duty.
"'Yun ang huling panood sa amin ng tatay ko na maglaro ng volleyball," Santiago recalled in a discussion with Petro Gazz middle blocker Cherry Nunag in the latest Stay At Home edition of "Kalye Confessions."
The towering spiker remembered how she and her older sister hugged their father after the game, only for a heckler to ruin their moment.
"(May nagsabi), Santiago sisters, 'di naman kayo magagaling. Tapos sabi niya, 'Sino ka para sabihan ng ganyan?' Sabi ko, 'Tay tama na,' tapos lumabas na kami kasi may next game na," Santiago said.
"After noon, sinundan ng tatay ko 'yung nagsalita, kinausap niya," she added.
Her father continued to comfort them on their bus ride after the game, and even offered to treat them the next day.
"Sabi niya, uuwi lang muna ako sa Nueva Ecija. Babalik ako bukas, magse-celebrate tayo," Santiago said.
She remembers trying to dissuade her father from leaving, and chatting with him later that night with her sister. She recalls how her father lifted their spirits after the painful loss.
"(Sabi niya) huwag na kayong malungkot, para sa akin kayo ang champion," she said.
What made their father's death all the more painful for the Santiago sisters was that they were just beginning to get to know him.
"Broken family kasi kami," Santiago revealed. "'Yun 'yung time na bumabawi pa lang siya sa amin. Gumagawa siya ng way para mapalapit ang loob niya sa aming magkakapatid, and 'yun 'yung time na consistent na nanonood talaga siya ng game namin."
Thus, even though the game's result was painful for Santiago and the NU Lady Bulldogs, she wouldn't mind watching it all over again.
"Sana mapanood ko," she said. "Kasi nagre-replay sila ng mga games. Sana naman, Season 76, NU vs. Ateneo, 'yung twice beaten kami."
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