MANILA, Philippines -- Despite all she has achieved this year alone, Jaja Santiago does not think that she is the Philippines' best player.
The towering middle blocker made history in March when she won the V.Cup with the Saitama Ageo Medics in Japan, then went home and promptly powered the Chery Tiggo Crossovers to the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference championship.
Santiago was named Most Valuable Player both of the regular season and the finals, and in the do-or-die Game 3 against erstwhile champions Creamline, she shook off a slow start to score 26 points including the title-clinching kill.
Yet in an appearance on the "Post-Game" podcast, Santiago said this does not automatically make her the top player in the Philippines.
"Ako, I can't say na ako na 'yung top player ng bansa, because I still have a lot of things to improve talaga. Hindi ko masabi na ako na 'yung pinaka, kumbaga, malakas or something, na best of the best," said Santiago.
"Kasi, I know naman na lahat ng players, lahat ng teams, kumbaga, nagta-trabaho para makalaro ng maayos," she explained. "I think all the players are the same, talagang naglalaro dahil passion nila, dahil love nila 'yung volleyball."
Santiago's focus, she stressed, is on her improvement. As terrific as she was during the PVL Open Conference, she was still critical of certain aspects of her game.
In particular, Santiago remains determined to improve her net defense, and to work on her digging and receiving as well.
"Personally talaga, gusto ko pang mag-improve sa blockings. Kasi kumbaga, nakita naman natin noong PVL talaga, kulang na kulang ako sa blockings," she admitted.
"Kumbaga, may palo, nakaka-check ng bola. Pero iba pa rin kasi 'yung magaling kang magbasa," she explained. "At the same time, gusto kong makuha 'yung skills din sa floor defense."
"Pero sabi ko nga, unti-unti. Unahin ko muna 'yung blockings, kasi 'yun naman 'yung pinaka magiging key para sa akin pagdating sa international, and dito sa Pilipinas," she added.
Santiago is hopeful that in working on these skills, she will be able to reach her full potential as a player.
"For me, there is no best of the best," she stressed. "It's just, alam mo 'yun, best of you."
For more of Santiago's thoughts on the recently-concluded PVL season as well as her future plans, listen to "Post-Game," the sports podcast of ABS-CBN News.