PVL: Dindin Santiago-Manabat hopes to guide her younger teammates at Akari
MANILA, Philippines — Akari had three-time Olympian Prisilla Rivera of the Dominican Republic when it paraded its young players in its debut tournament in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference last year.
From having Mama Pris on their side, the Chargers will now bank on a new leader in Dindin Santiago-Manabat, who decided to get a fresh start with the young squad ahead of the 2023 PVL All-Filipino Conference.
The star wing spiker got used to having veteran teammates with her former club Chery Tiggo like Mylene Paat. But playing for a new and younger team adds more excitement for ‘Mama D’ in leading her teammates like Trisha Genesis, Lycha Ebon, Michelle Cobb, Jaja Maraguinot, Erika Raagas, and Dani Ravena.
“I will be more of a mommy and ate [to my teammates],” said Manabat in Filipino. “Genesis calls me Mama D because they got used to calling [Pris Rivera] as their Mama Pri. So they call me Mama D because I will be the team’s new mama.”
Playing for a new team for the first time in six years, the 29-year-old Manabat said her game stays the same but expect her to be more patient in leading her younger teammates.
“Si Mama D palaban. Walang bago palaban, more on nakasmile. Sana mabago ko yung pagsimangot siyempre maraming mga bata sa teammates ko so feeling ko more on nakangiti ngayon si Mama D,” said the multi-awarded spiker, who is bringing her experience from international leagues when she played in Japan V.League for the Toray Arrows in 2018 and Kurobe AquaFairies in 2019 as well as with Nakhon Ratchasima in the Volleyball Thailand League early 2022.
[They will see the same fighter Mama D. But I’ll try my best to avoid frowning [during the game]. I’ll smile more for my younger teammates.]
After a few training sessions and signing her contract last week, the 6-foot-2 spiker already felt at home with the Chargers giving her a warm welcome and treating her like family.
“My younger teammates are fun to be with. I feel no pressure playing with them and I also learn a lot of new things from them, especially their experience with Mama Pris,” Manabat said. “They are easy to get along with. They have a lot of energy even after our training. Our communication is there. And communication is the key for us [this season].”
Manabat is also reuniting with Philippine women’s volleyball team coach Jorge Souza de Brito after playing under him in the 2021 AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship in Nakhon Ratchasima.
“I still don’t know if I’ll play opposite or open. But I’m ready for whatever position Coach Jorge wants me to play,” she said.
“It’s not hard to play under coach Jorge. He’s approachable and he always makes sure his players are all healthy like ‘How are you?’ He keeps on reminding us to tell him right away when we feel pain. He is really concerned when it comes to health. He is hands-on with everyone.”
Last season, the former National University stalwart was leading the way for the Crossovers in last year’s Open Conference but she suffered an ankle injury, missing the whole Invitationals and playing sparingly in the Reinforced Conference, where she also entered the health and safety protocols that caused her to miss some games.
Manabat doesn’t want to gauge her recovery as she wants to let her game do the talking once she debuts as an Akari Charger in the 2023 All-Filipino Conference, which opens on February 4.
“I don’t want to say that I’m already 100 percent [healthy] because I want my game to answer that question. Let’s wait for the season to start and you’ll be the judge if I’m fully recovered, 80 or 70 percent,” she said. “I don’t want to put pressure on myself and set expectations.”
The veteran spiker is just raring to play for her new team, which finished eighth in its first PVL tournament, winning three of its eight matches last year, including Rivera’s record-setting 44 points against Choco Mucho in five sets and a four-set stunner that shattered F2 Logistics’ semifinal bid.