Sisi Rondina's remarkable life story has caught the attention of FIVB, as the world's governing body for volleyball shared her journey on its website over the weekend.
Rondina, who starred for University of Santo Tomas (UST) in college and won a bronze medal in the Southeast Asian Games last year, has become one of the most recognizable players in the country and arguably the face of beach volleyball in the Philippines.
In her story for FIVB, Rondina recalled her humble beginnings in Compostela, Cebu, where her mother is a housewife and her father is a driver.
"Life in the province is far from any comfort given my parents' unstable jobs, but I will always be proud of where I came from," said Rondina.
"We may not have an abundance of luxury, but our family has richness in love. Despite our situation, it did not stop me from pursuing my dreams in life," she added.
Rondina also revealed her doubts about pursuing a volleyball career, believing she did not have the height to stand out in the sport. Yet she accepted a scholarship to play for UST, and from there she developed into one of the country's best players.
Rondina was the UAAP MVP in Season 81, leading the Golden Tigresses to the finals.
But it was in the sand court where she truly dominated. She won four beach volleyball champions and four MVP trophies to go with them. In the SEA Games, she and her collegiate rival-turned-partner Bernadeth Pons helped the Philippines win bronze, together with Dzi Gervacio and Floremel Rodriguez.
"I cannot help but be overwhelmed as I look back at all the feats that I have achieved as a player," said Rondina. "All I can do is to sit down and thank God for helping me give so much to my university, my family and everyone who has been there along the way, even those who doubted me."
Rondina put special importance on their SEA Games bronze medal, stressing that it "felt like gold."
"We showed a lot of grit, we put our hearts in each match and we took advantage of every opportunity given to us. This experience pushed me to be even more serious in my pursuit of success in beach volleyball," she said.
The 23-year-old also expressed her dream of seeing "Philippine sports in harmony."
"I always pray for all Filipino athletes across all sports to have the opportunity to show our talent and passion to the world," she said.
Previously, FIVB also highlighted Jaja Santiago's journey as an import in Japan.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).