MANILA, Philippines — They may be living thousands of miles apart, but Nxled Japanese coach Taka Minowa and volleyball player Jaja Santiago are finding all sorts of ways to make their long-distance relationship a little bit easier.
From getting a dog to constant calls, the volleyball couple is embracing their lives away from each other with Minowa plying his trade as a Premier Volleyball League (PVL) coach in Manila and Santiago shining as an import in Japan V.League, her husband’s home country.
Minowa shared that Santiago recently gifted him a dog, whom they named Ahava–which means love–and the new pet has helped the 32-year-old coach find comfort while away from his hometown and wife.
“Now, I have a dog. Jaja bought me a dog. And I’m very happy to see it. I spent my past time with the dog,” Minowa told Inquirer Sports after leading Nxled to its first franchise winning streak in the second PVL All-Filipino Conference on Thursday at FilOil EcoOil Centre.
Minowa and Jaja met when the former was an assistant coach for Saitama Ageo Medics, Santiago’s first team in the Japan league.
It’s only natural that their conversations often center around volleyball, but they also often talk about each other cultures with Santiago playing her sixth season in Japan with a new team and Minowa still getting used to the being in the Philippines as a first-time coach here.
“After [our] practice and also Jaja’s practice, we always call each other through FaceTime. We’re always talking. Sometimes when she’s sleeping, I’m already working but we always have a connection. When she always asks a question. I will answer it and also I have a lot of questions because I don’t know the Filipino culture. I’m always asking her,” Minowa said.
Minowa, a coaching staff of the Japanese women’s volleyball team, said that Santiago is respectful and easy to get along–just few of the many reasons why he fell for the Filipino middle blocker.
“As a player, she always respects the coaching staff and teammates. That’s why any team in Japan she’s having a good time. She’s a fast learner, too,” he said.
Home away from home
A month after living in Manila, Minowa is already getting used to the Filipino culture. He shared that he has already learned to cook sinigang–a Filipino food staple.
It also helps that Minowa has family here along with Jaja’s.
“I already know how to cook sinigang. Sinigang, nilaga, and monggo are my favorite food here,” he said. “I have a family here, too. I don’t feel that I am a foreigner here because I can meet some family and they are always helping me. That’s why I felt that this is actually my home country.”
Aside from the Filipino culture, the Japanese tactician enjoys the competition in the PVL.
“I think you have a good potential more than Japan. You have powerful attackers and taller players and they are very good. It’s nice to see the players in the PVL,” Minowa said.
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