April 25, 2024

Volleyball star Jaja Santiago and other top Filipino athletes who switched citizenships

Volleyball star Jaja Santiago and other top Filipino athletes who switched citizenships

Switching nationalities isn’t something new to the sporting world. We’ve seen it a lot, especially in basketball. Case in point: Justin Brownlee. Of course, we can’t blame anyone for jumping at an opportunity that would be great not only for themselves but also for their families. That being said, the Philippines has its share of top athletes from different fields who have decided to offer their services to other countries.  

Here are a few of them.

Jaja Santiago – PH to JPN

The latest to join this list is multi-awarded middle blocker Jaja Santiago, who is currently in the process of becoming a Japanese citizen, according to Philippine women’s volleyball team coach Jorge Edson Souza De Brito. Aside from possible benefits that the National University product will receive in suiting up for Team Japan, the move is not as surprising due to a few reasons. First off, Santiago has has been playing professionally in Japan since 2018, particularly for the Saitama Ageo Medics. Secondly, the 6-foot-4 sensation is already engaged to her Japanese team’s assistant coach Taka Minowa.

Yuka Saso – PH to JPN

In 2021, Women’s golf standout Yuka Saso made a decision to represent Japan after suiting up for Team Philippines in the previous years. Due to the Japan nationality law, the Fil-Japanese golfer, who was born in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, had to make a decision on which country she’ll banner before turning 22 years old.

As a member of the Philippine contingent, she competed in the Tokyo Olympics, and had also won gold medals in the individual and team competitions in the 2018 Asian Games. Further proof of Saso’s immense talent is her winning the 2021 US Women’s Open, which helped her reach as high as no. 5 in the world rankings.

Wesley So – PH to USA

Chess grandmaster Wesley So is undoubtedly one of his sport’s very best talents. While with Team Philippines, the Cavite-native captured gold medals in the 2013 Summer Universiade in Russia and in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games. A year earlier he was a silver medalist at the Guangzhou Asian Games. Recently, he’s been making noise in the international circuit, winning the US Chess Championship three times (2017, 2020 and 2021).

Back in 2013, So started to make the transition to becoming an American. Citing his frustrations with how things were being run within the country’s sports governing bodies, as well as better opportunities overseas opening up, the current world no. 8 chess player had to make the leap. So's transfer to the US became official in 2014. He also became a citizen of the United States in 2021. 

Alex Pagulayan – PH to CAN

Filipino sports fans started to take notice of Fil-Canadian cue legend Alex Pagulayan when he won the 2004 World Pool Championship in Taiwan. Soon he was able to deliver three gold medals as a member of the Philippine squad in the 2005 Southeast Asian Games. But similar to the Wesley So situation, politics within his sport and a few other controversies he was involved in pushed him back to representing Canada.

In 2012, the Isabela native and US Billiards hall-of-famer began carrying the Canadian flag in international tournaments.