MANILA, Philippines – Sisi Rondina, the high-leaping outside spiker of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses Volleyball Team, first found her love for volleyball when she was only in Grade 3.
At the time, she was still pursuing track and field as a sport.
“May tryouts sa school, Grade 3 ako nun. Sinabi na may potensyal daw ako. So ayun, dun ko din nagustuhan kasi 'yung mga nagtuturo sa akin, positive 'yung sinasabi nila. Siguro nakapag-decide ako na mag-pursue ng volleyball, hindi na 'yung takbo,” she said.
Rondina, who hails from Compostela, Cebu, graduated high school from Compostela National High School.
UST coaches discovered Rondina in the Palarong Pambansa, representing Central Visayas. In 2013, she was named as the Best Attacker in the Palaro.
Rondina said UST felt like home the moment she first stepped foot inside its gates. She was already committed to enter another school, but her coach decided to take a risk and let her tour UST to decide for herself.
“Ayun, pinag-tour ako, ‘tas parang ang ganda ng ambiance sa 'kin. Wow, ang ganda dito. Parang ang dami ding Bisaya like me. Ang una ko sigurong nagustuhan is madaming Bisaya, madaming kakilala,” she said.
A family reunion
Since then, Rondina has experienced great success in both indoor and beach volleyball. She has gained plenty of fans and supporters for her exciting, fearless game, and brought honor to UST with a couple of beach volleyball championships.
Yet more than the awards or the titles, what makes volleyball so important to Rondina is that the sport played a huge role in bringing her family together again.
"Pinaka-best reward na natanggap ko is nakumpleto 'yung family ko dahil sa volleyball. Kasi 14 years wala 'yung mother ko, nasa Brunei lang siya. Alam mo 'yung feeling na 14 years ka ding walang nanay sa Pasko, on New year, sa birthday mo?" Rondina recalled.
"Gusto ko ma-experience ano feeling nang kumpleto 'yung pamilya ko sa Pasko. Pray lang ako ng pray,” she added.
Rondina’s mother was a preschool teacher before going to Brunei for 14 years to work as a dressmaker.
“Bata pa kasi ako nun, ang alam ko, may opportunity siya dun. Kasi si mama, dressmaker. Ayun may communication naman kami. 'Yung Facebook 'yung nagsisilbing tulay para magkausap kami," Rondina revealed.
On March 29, however, the Facebook conversations with her mother became unnecessary, as they reunited following the Tigresses' game against De La Salle University.
“La Salle kalaban nun. I was shocked talaga. Kasi di ko talaga alam na uuwi siya,” she said.
Indescribable was how Rondina put it when her mother was finally with her family again after 14 years of being separated.
“I’m so happy kasi natupad yung 14 years ‘kong pag-aantay sa kanya. 'Yung sobrang gutom ako sa yakap niya, gusto kong ma-feed niya ako, paglutuan. Masaya kasi mafi-feel ko na kung ano 'yung feeling nang may nanay,” said Rondina.
“Kumpleto na 'yung family ko, 'yun na 'yung pinaka best reward na natanggap ko. Parang ma-le-less na lang 'yung goals ko na gagawin,” she said.
Rondina is grateful that because of volleyball, she was given the chance to help her family, and ultimately bring her mother back to the Philippines for good.
"Ang masasabi ko, through volleyball, sa career ko, 'di ko na siya pinabalik (sa Brunei)," she revealed.
"Since may pro leagues, nakakatanggap naman kami. Inipon ko 'yun para sa kanila," Rondina added.
Rondina said her mother still has the opportunity to work abroad, but would very much rather have her stay in the country.
"Kahit sabihin na nating mas malaki pa yung opportunity niya dun kung babalik siya. Pero sabi ko, since andito ka na lang din, wag na (bumalik). Kasi parang sobrang gutom kami sa paghahanap sa nanay," she said.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.