Standing at 6’ 2” and 6’5” respectively, it’s hard to miss statuesque volleyball prodigies Dindin and Jaja Santiago. What isn’t as readily apparent, however, is that their successes on the hard court make up more than just the story of a sport – it’s the story of their lives.
But it almost didn’t turn out this way.
Dindin had originally dreamt of becoming a track and field star like her idol, Lydia de Vega. However, the aspiring sprinter was singled out for her height and invited to try her hand at playing volleyball in high school. The rest, as they say, was history. As Dindin grew to love her new sport, she would eventually introduce it to younger sister Jaja, who was 11 at the time.
“When I was young, I did not play any sport, unlike Ate Dindin, who was into track and field…I only learned to play volleyball that time,” Jaja has been quoted as saying, “I wanted to follow Ate Dindin’s footsteps in volleyball.” And follow, she did, as Jaja ended up her sister’s teammate, on the University of Santo Tomas’ high school varsity squad.
When Dindin graduated from high school, she enrolled at National University, where she would establish herself on the NU Lady Bulldogs team as a bona fide sensation. And it wasn’t long before Jaja transferred schools to once again follow in her Ate’s footsteps.
With Dindin and Jaja on the team, the Lady Bulldogs fought their way to contend for the 2014 UAAP Women’s Volleyball crown, an honor the school hadn’t tasted in over half a century. But it wasn’t to be, as the Bulldogs’ championship journey would be cut short by the powerhouse Ateneo Lady Eagles in the semis. It was Dindin’s last game before graduating from college.
Despite the loss, the Santiago siblings’ collective passion for volleyball has continued, undiminished. Under the guidance of Dindin and elder brother Axel (who serves as a coach for NU’s volleyball program) Jaja has assumed the role of Lady Bulldogs star that Dindin once occupied.
Earlier this year, the two sisters and former teammates faced each other on opposite sides of the net, as the V-League tournament finals saw Dindin playing for the Philippine Army team, while Jaja was on the side of PLDT Home Ultera. Jaja’s team may have prevailed in that tournament, but things would come full circle as, not even a month later, Dindin and Jaja were suited up for the same squad once more, this time as members of the national women’s volleyball team to the 28th Southeast Asian Games.
Through pain, through glory, through every stage, volleyball has tied these siblings together. As life goes on, so too will the Santiagos.