Excitement filled the air inside the Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte moments before the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) raised the curtains to the 2021 Open Conference with a showdown between Chery Tiggo and PLDT on Saturday.
After all, it was all systems go for Philippine volleyball following over a year of hiatus caused by the pandemic. But aside from that, though, there was one more thing Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat had anticipated, and it was their on-court reunion.
"Lagi kong hinahanap yung kapatid ko sa court and eto na magkasama na kami (I always yearned for my sister's presence on the court, and this time around we're reunited)," the elder Santiago-Manabat bared.
For the first time in almost two years, Santiago and Santiago-Manabat stood on the same side of the court, showcasing their tight-knit chemistry and dominance at the net in Chery Tiggo's three-set demolition of PLDT.
Santiago-Manabat showed the way with 12 points, all but two coming from attacks, as Santiago supplemented seven kills and four aces for 11 markers.
It may have taken quite some time before the reunion of the towering siblings pushed through but as soon as they shared the court, the bond proved to be as strong as ever.
"Nakikita ko naman na sa aming dalawa ni Ate Dindin talaga pag magkasama kami, 'yung pag alalay talagang gumaganda and all (I have always noticed that, whenever my sister Dindin and I share the court, the support for one another keeps getting better and all)," the younger Santiago beamed.
The two last suited up on the same team back in 2019 when Foton, which would soon rebrand into Chery Tiggo, settled for a bronze medal finish in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference.
They would then bring their sister act to Japan in the same year to participate as imports in the vaunted V. League, but on different club teams. Santiago served as the reinforcement for the Ageo Medics while Santiago-Manabat bannered the Kurobe Aqua Fairies.
Now that they have each other's back once more, the siblings could not help but relish the presence of one another.
As how Santiago put it, “Siyempre masaya kasi after ilang taon na hindi kami nagkasama sa loob ng court, andyan ulit 'yung taong umaalalay sakin at the same time ganun din ako sa kanya."
(Translation: Of course, we're happy because, after all these years that we haven't shared the court, the person whom I rely on the most is now by my side and we're able to support one another again.)
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
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