‘One step at a time’: Jaja Santiago still considering naturalization offer

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 21 2021 03:18 PM | Updated as of Aug 21 2021 03:23 PM

Jaja Santiago in action for Chery Tiggo in the PVL Open Conference. PVL Media Bureau.
Jaja Santiago in action for Chery Tiggo in the PVL Open Conference. PVL Media Bureau.

MANILA, Philippines -- Jaja Santiago is still seriously considering the offer made to her by her Japanese club team, the Saitama Ageo Medics, to change her citizenship.

In April, the 25-year-old Santiago revealed that the Ageo Medics have offered to facilitate her naturalization. Changing her citizenship will allow Santiago to play as a local in Japan's volleyball league, and also open up a possible stint with Japan's national team.

At the time, Santiago admitted that the offer was tempting, especially as one of her dreams is to play in the Olympics -- where Japan has regularly competed. However, she also stressed that her focus was first on the upcoming campaign of Chery Tiggo in the Premier Volleyball League.

Now that she has led the Crossovers to the PVL championship, Santiago is set to return to Japan next month and play once again with Ageo for the upcoming V.League season, which starts in October.

And Santiago says the citizenship offer is still on the table.

"Yes. Actually, sabi ko nga after ng PVL, tine-take ko 'tong lahat ng 'to one step at a time, one day at a time. 'Pag andoon na ako sa Japan, or andoon na ako sa situation na 'yun, I will decide, and I will let everyone know talaga kung ano 'yung magiging decision ko," Santiago said on the "Post-Game" podcast.

"Hindi ko naman itatago na malaki talaga 'yung chance na kunin ko 'yung opportunity na 'yun," she admitted. "Kasi kumbaga, hindi naman natin alam kung hanggang saan pa tayo maglalaro, and ano pa 'yung mga opportunity na dadating sa atin."

"Minsan lang dumating ang mga pagkakataon so kailangan natin i-grab 'yun."

Santiago, who will be playing in the V.League for a fourth season, said she was very grateful for all the blessings that have come her way thanks to volleyball.

"Kahit ako, grateful ako and really blessed to have those opportunity, and ayaw kong masayang lahat ng 'yun," she said.

However, the president of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF), Ramon "Tats" Suzara, has previously warned that switching federations will not be a straightforward process for Santiago.

FIVB regulations require players who wish to change their federation of origin to first obtain citizenship of the country of their new federation, and to fulfill a two-year residency in that country.

Perhaps most crucially, the player's original federation must also agree to change. 

In an interview in May, Suzara did not say if they will or will not allow Santiago to switch federations.

"I think Jaja has a future also in Japan, but again, we need Jaja, of course, here in the Philippines, as a Filipina who really brings our flag and honor as a national team player for the Philippines," he said.

For more on Santiago's future plans, check out the "Post-Game" podcast, where she also discusses their run to the PVL Open Conference crown and how playing in Japan helped her prepare for their campaign.