MANILA, Philippines – Sisi Rondina's 2019 was one for the books.
The former University of Santo Tomas standout, who helped the Philippines gain its first medal in Southeast Asian Games beach volleyball since 2005, will cap her banner year by being named Miss Volleyball in the Philippine Sportswriters Association Annual Awards Night on March 6.
Rondina will also be honored by her hometown as a 37th SMB-SAC All-Cebu Sports Awardee, as she is set to receive the award on February 29 in Cebu City.
A native of Compostela, Cebu, the 23-year-old Rondina joins the ranks of Alyssa Valdez, Abigail Maraño, Jaja Santiago, and Dawn Macandili as previous awardees of the Miss Volleyball honor.
"For me, blessed sobra di ko naman din po inakala na ganito po ang ibabalik sa akin," said Rondina, who is now a member of the newly-formed Creamline beach volleyball team. "Minahal ko lang talaga mga committments ko and syempre putting efforts sa lahat ng mga ginagawa ko lalo sa paglalaro."
Prior to winning a bronze medal in the SEA Games, Rondina joined forces with her longtime partner, Bernadeth Pons, in steering the Philippines to a quarterfinals finish in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour 1-Star Boracay Open last May.
Rondina also shone in indoor volleyball. She won MVP honors in UAAP Season 81 after leading UST to a Finals appearance, their first in eight years.
In her last collegiate season in the sand court, Rondina teamed up with Babylove Barbon to cement UST's status as the most successful women's beach volleyball program while claiming her fourth MVP plum.
Throughout it all, Rondina took pride in her roots.
"People are treating me like that po pero di ko iniisip yang mga ganyan kasi everyone can be a pride of their town but thankful kasi isa ako sa mga nabiyayaan," said Rondina.
"Sana in some way maging tool ito to inspire young ones and syempre for those player na katulad ko kahit ano ka pa sino ka man pag may pangarap ka walang imposible," she added.
Rondina gave credit to Beach Volleyball Republic founder and national team manager Charo Soriano for what she is enjoying right now in her beach volleyball journey.
"I've been watching Sisi since her younger years. And I've seen her play with so much raw passion. And people love the way she plays. Kasi alam mo she’s giving her all every single time, for every single point. And combining her raw passion with exposure and maturity made her an even greater player," said Soriano.
"Her obstacles from when she was young up to today are her reason for wanting to be better. Her life experiences were tough; but she proved that she's tougher. And I love that about her. She has a big fight in her," she added.
Together with Pons, Dzi Gervacio and Dij Rodriguez, Rondina spearheaded the country's beach volleyball campaign in the SEA Games, where they ended the Philippines' 14-year medal drought in the sport.
As Rondina is trying to continue to grow the game of beach volleyball locally and internationally, she is determined to inspire further young and aspiring players, especially those from the province.
"I didn't expect na ganitong biyaya ang binigay sa akin, pero ang alam ko, pinagdadasal ko lahat para sa pamilya ko at para sa mga taong naniniwala sa akin," said Rondina.
"Actually, para sa akin, wala lang 'to. Kasi ang mas matimbang sa akin, kung ano 'yung mga behind ng awards ko – mga tulong at mga napasaya ko. 'Yun ang nagma-matter sa akin," she stressed.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.