Will Jaja opt to be naturalized Japanese?

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    SANTIAGO: Staying a Pinoy, for now.

    FILIPINA volleyball standout Jaja Santiago is at a crossroads.

    After leading Saitama Ageo Medics to the title in the Japan V. League last month, the former National University star said she has received an offer to be naturalized as a Japanese.

    “Kalagitnaan pa lang ng liga, gusto na nila (Ageo) ako mag-stay. Gusto nilang palitan iyong nationality ko actually,” Santiago said last Saturday in an online interview on Volleyball DNA posted on YouTube.

    “Gusto nila ako mag-stay pa doon at tulungan palitan iyong nationality ko,” she added.

    The 6-foot-5 middle blocker said she yearns to play in the Olympics, adding that becoming a local in Japan should help her realize that goal.

    Santiago’s love for the country is stopping her from opting to get naturalized, at least for now.

    “May dream ako na makapaglaro sa Olympics pero siyempre may pride pa rin naman ako bilang Filipino,” Santiago said. “Gusto ko tulungan iyong bansa natin na doon sa goal ko na iyon, gusto ko kasama iyong kapwa Pilipino ko.”

    Santiago, 25, is keeping her options open.

    “Kung wala talagang chance, why not?” Santiago, who is also set to play for Chery Tiggo in the Premier Volleyball League, said. “Pero it’s on the back of my mind na puwede ako magpalit ng nationality.”

    A Tanza, Cavite native and a Philippine team mainstay, Santiago said while there are offers to move to other teams, she wants to continue playing for Ageo and her Brazilian coach Antonio Marcos Lerbach.

    “Gusto ko makuha iyong opportunity na makapaglaro sa mataas na team pero ayoko rin iwan iyong opportunity ng Brazilian coach ko sa Ageo,” Santiago said.

    “Bago lang siya. Sabi nga niya, may magandang plano siya sa akin kaya kailangan kong mag-stay.”

    Santiago is savoring what she has achieved overseas— becoming the first Filipino to win a crown.

    “Hindi ko ini-expect na mangyayari ito, na magcha-champion kami at ako ang makakakuha ng first Filipino to win a championship internationally. Nakaka-proud na kahit Filipino tayo,” she said.