THERE was a lot of positives that Philippines got in the loss to Thailand that eliminated the hosts in the 30th Southeast Asian Games women’s volleyball gold medal match.
For skipper Aby Maraño, the gap between the Filipinas and the Thais has gotten closer, as proven by last Thursday’s 16-25, 22-25, 32-34 defeat, where they gave the visitors stiff challenge to the delight of the near-capacity crowd at the Philsports Arena.
“Since 2015, talagang halos parang hindi kami maka-block, hindi kami makahawak ng bola nila. Minsan mapapa-‘Ay, nandoon na yung bola!’ Parang pinaglalaruan kami, para kaming ginagawang tanga talaga, parang ‘di kami marunong mag-volleyball — ganun ‘yung feeling. Parang ginagawa kaming hindi volleyball player nung nagsisimula kami,” said Maraño.
“Siguro nasa pro na sila, kami elementary.”
The Philippines’ determination to be at par with Thailand, which is not only a regional powerhouse but also a continental contender, has slowly bore fruit. The Thais used to toy around the Filipinas in international competitions.
“Pero ngayon, napakalaki na ng naitakbo ng volleyball sa Pilipinas. Simula nung four years ago up to now, nakita niyo naman ang konti ng preparasyon na talagang naibigay sa amin. Kung baga sa Thailand na magkakasama sila… Dekada na siguro sila magkakasama, nakita mo ‘yung improvement in four years,” said Maraño.
With the unwavering support of the local volleyball community, the Philippines, even though it missed a chance of battling it out for the gold, will continue to strive hard to get better and compete against the best in Southeast Asia. That one day, the Filipinas will ultimately beat the Thais.
“‘Di kami nawawalan ng pag-asa kasi sila nga naniniwala sa amin, bakit ‘di kami maniniwala sa sarili namin?” said Maraño..
“Kahit natalo tayo ngayon, ‘wag lang kayong susuko na maniwala sa amin dito. Kasi binabalakang na kami pero go pa rin kami kahit gaano kahirap. Kahit gaano kasakit, tuloy lang.“Ganyan ang mga Pilipino eh, mga atletang Pilipino — kahit masakit na, banat pa rin,” she added.
Aside from Alyssa Valdez, who led the Philippines with 14 points and 12 digs, setter Jia Morado also shone the brightest against her idol Nootsara Tomkom, tossing in 14 of the Filipinas’ 19 excellent sets.
The Philippines will play Indonesia today at 6 p.m. in a warm-up for their bronze medal match on Monday afternoon.
Thailand and Vietnam, undefeated in two matches, will cross paths in a championship preview at 3:30 p.m.