MANILA, Philippines -- The president of the country's national volleyball federation has no doubt that more Filipino players will follow in the footsteps of Jaja Santiago, Marck Espejo, and Bryan Bagunas, all of whom are now playing their trade abroad.
Santiago is about to play in her fourth season with the Saitama Ageo Medics in Japan's V. League, while Bagunas has returned to Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler and Espejo will soon debut for FC Tokyo.
"I think maybe in the next two years, we could have more players playing in other countries," said Ramon "Tats" Suzara, president of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF), on Tuesday's Philippine Sportswriters Association forum.
"I'm very optimistic there will be more opportunities for our players, especially that we have a lot of tall players," he added. "When I saw them last week sa training, sabi ko ang lalaki pala ng mga player na 'to. If you can imagine, they're like basketball players na ang lalaki."
"Maybe in two years' time, honing their skills and to prepare them for the next two years, it's a big factor."
Suzara's hope is that opportunities will emerge for Filipinos not just in Japan's V. League, but also in other countries.
Espejo, for instance, has already played for Visakha in Thailand and Bani Jamra in Bahrain. Creamline's Alyssa Valdez previously suited up for 3BB Nakornnont in Thailand and Attack Line in Taiwan before focusing on her club career with the Cool Smashers.
The PNVF chief noted that former UAAP Most Valuable Player Majoy Baron also had an offer to play in Taiwan, but it was scuppered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"But these are things that we are looking forward [to], more opportunities for our players to play internationally. It will be good also for our national team," he said.
Recently, more and more Filipino athletes have been heading abroad to play professionally. Aside from Santiago, Espejo and Bagunas, there will be eight Filipino players in Japan's professional basketball league, and two Filipina football players in the pioneering WE League.