HISTORY MAKERS: FILIPINO ATHLETES THAT MADE WAVES IN THE INTERNATIONAL SCENE
There’s no denying the sheer willpower, hard work, determination, and passion of Filipino athletes in sports. What has been their primary goal is to attain victory but things change. The sporting world is very complex—athletes now value growth and development which is needed to conquer international arenas and consequently, represent their countries.
The fact that Filipino talent is starting to be recognized internationally, various athletes paved their way to show their prowess not just in local courts but also in dominating foreign arenas. Attaining victory locally is a hell of an achievement but having the privilege of being an import and making headlines is another deal. c
Here are some of the Filipino athletes of recent that are currently making names and making history in international competitions;
Jaja Santiago is definitely one of the most dominating volleyball player in the country. With her height and amazing skills, this 6-foot-5 middle blocker broke the stereotype of small Filipino athletes while making waves in the international scene.
The former NU skipper has not just shown prowess in the local scene but has declared dominance in the international court, specifically in the Japan Volleyball League. Last season, she ended with a proud podium finish for the Ageo Medics—the first Filipino import to land a medal in the international court as an import.
Showing brilliance and hard work in the court, she is once again suited in the Japan V.League. With her experience and residency in the league, she had grown into a different athlete with character and skills.
“Kasi di ba before sa college team ko and sa Foton, parang lagi nilang sinasabi na ako lang yung madalas go-to nila sa pagdating sa loob ng court. Parang doon [sa Japan], natutunan ko na maging kumbaga trust sa lahat ng teammate ko and parang hindi selfish,” said Santiago during an interview.
“Pinakamahalaga kong natutunan ‘yung professionalism kasi sobrang focused sila lagi sa ginagawa nila walang ibang other activities talagang volleyball ganon,” Santiago added.
National University star Bryan Bagunas has joined the names that made waves in the Japan V.League. The name “Bryan Bagunas” has been lauded since his UAAP volleyball career, but Filipinos admired him more in the 30th Southeast Asian Games which the Philippine national team finished second ending the medal drought.
Now, he is a member of the Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler in the Japan V.League for the second time. He expects to level up his game and just enjoy improving and learning from the players in the league.
In an interview, he shared that he is glad to return to Japan and back into action once again as it was months that he did not play the sport.
“Finally nakabalik na nga dito sa Japan. Simula na ulit. Sobrang masaya na parang bigla ko na-feel ulit yung volleyball kasi almost five months ata ako di nakakapag laro ng volleyball. Usually lang ginagawa ko dyan sa Pinas is weights training lang,” he said in an interview last October.
Now, Bryan Bagunas sets dreams and goals in mind for the present and in the time coming.
“As a professional athlete and national team player, my goal at the moment is to continue playing in foreign club leagues like the V.League and to win more medals. It is every athlete’s objective to have a successful career and to bring honor not just for themselves but also for their country. In the future, when it is time to retire from volleyball, I would like to have my own business—a franchise maybe.”
The volleyball men’s phenom is soaring high as the former Ateneo star is turning heads in the international leagues.
There is no denying Espejo’s dominance in the local scene where he won multiple championships. After being hailed as the king of UAAP volleyball with five MVP titles on his belt it is no surprise that the next stage to exert prowess is outside the country.
This year, Marck Espejo has taken flight to Bahrain League, becoming the first Filipino volleyball player to play in three different countries.
First, he was the import of Oita Miyoshi in the Japan V.League, then was suited in the Thailand League for Visakha Volleyball Club but was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Espejo sees this opportunity to make his own mark in the gulf area saying, “Itong league siguro sobrang mag-boost ng career ko ito if mag-boom ako doon. Kasi gulf area magandang exposure yon para sa akin.”
Former Ateneo star takes his talents to the next level in the 2020-21 season of the Japanese B.League, being the first player under the Asian player quotas.
In fact, Ravena receives a lot of praises and expectations from his team in Japan; team officials see Ravena as a key player to the NeoPhoenix’s goal of improving on their 2019-2020 season performance.
Moreover, Kenjiro Hongo, CEO of the San-en NeoPhoenix team expressed that Ravena is the best player in the country.
With the tournament ongoing, the 23-year-old highflyer vows to play like an import in the Japanese B. League.
“I definitely want to help them out and make sure to have a better record next season. They have great people in the organization. I can’t wait to play. I don’t want to say any promises,” Ravena said.
The six-peat titleholder in the UAAP Women’s Basketball and Gilas Pilipinas standout continues to run her successes as an import in Taiwan for the Shih Hsin University for the upcoming University Basketball Association (UBA) season.
This girl is literally on fire as she continues to detonate other teams which recently made an impressive mark for the team with a 71-point deficit, 115-44.
Animam scored a whopping 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, with six steals, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
In the beginning, Animam could not hide the pressure she felt saying, “Medyo pressure talaga kasi syempre may expectations na sila agad and yun nga, champion team din.”
Although a long time had passed after her last competitive game, the 21-year-old immediately show off her skills in leading the Shih Hsin campaign.
Jarvey Gayoso & Mar Diano
Not just on basketball or volleyball that other countries see potential in our Filipino athletes, but also in the field of football.
Subsequent to their performance in the 2020 PFL Season, Thai clubs have extended invites to the Azkals star-studded players Jarvey Gayoso and Mar Diano.
“He won’t tell you this now, but at the end of the season, I got two or three teams in Thailand wanting to sign Jarvey Gayoso, wanting to sign Diano,” coach Scott Cooper shared.
Gayoso also has shown interest in the offer and was inclined to accept the Thailand offer if there is one but will continue his studies in Ateneo through online learning.
“If there is an offer then I’d leave as soon as I can,” said Gayoso.
Our Filipino athletes are beginning to show prodigious skills in other countries competing with big names and highly skilled athletes. This means that other countries are starting to see what Filipino athletes are capable of. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, let us still show support and laud our sensational athletes—mabuhay ang mga atletang Pilipino!