Even with UAAP Season 78 in full swing, one of Ara Galang’s biggest concerns these days is SPEECOM. It isn’t so much as it is about finishing her remaining classes before graduating, but more on speaking in front of a crowd. Playing in front of 20,000 plus people? Not a problem. Speaking in front of 40-plus students on a given topic? Well that’s something else.
“Kasi ako yung tipong tao [na] hindi masalita or ayokong nagsasalita sa crowd eh,” she explains. “Honestly, mas kabado ako dun kaysa sa game. Kasi pag sa game, sa una lang yung kaba. After nagamay ko na at [tumatagal] yung game, wala na yung kaba as in nag-eenjoy nalang [ako]. Eh sa speech, parang hanggang hindi mo natapos, hindi matatanggal yung kaba mo eh.”
She had a lot of help as her teammates and friends helped her put her thoughts together into one eight-minute speech. As grim as it may seem, her experience with a serious injury made it easier for her since it was a topic that was pretty close to home.
“Oo pero hindi ako happy masyado kasi feeling ko hindi pa yun yung best ko,” Galang says about her speech. “Feeling ko kaya ko pang [magbigay] pa ng mas magandang speech.”
Her self-assessment is quite similar to what she or any other athlete would say after a game. Even in a different environment like the classroom, the feeling of constant improvement still remains. In her speech, Galang talked about overcoming injuries, a familiar topic for her given that exactly a year ago today, she suffered anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and medial meniscus tears that, along with a bone bruise, ended her season prematurely.
“Yung talagang na feel ko is yung pain, physically,” Galang recounts. “Siyempre yung sakit ng tuhod and yung sakit na alam ko siyempre hindi na ako makakalaro. Parang nag-doubt na ako na makakalaro pa ako agad and makakabalik agad for [the] championship. Yun, so yung pain talaga is hindi lang yun dun sa tuhod ko mismo pero yung napaisip na ako siyempre wala na akong magagawa.”
What happened after that was obvious, as the Lady Spikers could not overcome the Ateneo Lady Eagles in the Finals, getting swept in the process. From the sidelines, the Season 75 co-MVP could only coach her teammates and remind them of the things they learned in practice, as her injury limited her to becoming a spectator in the championship round.
As the offseason and preseason tournaments began, hints of Galang’s road to recovery reached mainstream media, with the focus of Lasallian fans shifting to the Lady Spikers’ success in the Philippine National Games and the UAAP Season 78 Beach Volleyball Tournament. Of course, one of her motivations was to make up for not being able to help her teammates physically, but it wasn’t an easy path for the Lady Spiker as she had some obstacles to overcome as well.
“Unang una kasi siguro yung acceptance sa nangyari,” she says when asked about the early stages of the recovery process. “Parang ang tagal kong bumangon. Ang tagal kong mapaniwala sa nangyari. Parang di ako makapaniwala na nangyari sa akin yun.”
Athletes in both the collegiate and professional levels understand that recovering from a serious injury is more difficult than getting out of bed. Though Galang mentioned the difficulty of accepting her fate, being limited in terms of mobility and doing less even in rehab made it feel all the more depressing for the senior player. Thankfully, her family and teammates were there every step of the way, not to mention various people who she didn’t personally know but nevertheless supported and trusted her through what was a tough time for her as an athlete.
When the doctors gave the go signal for her to resume playing volleyball, she was excited to finally return to the court and to her teammates. But jumping back into the practices and tune-up games is easier said than done, as Galang had to initially skip some drills she would normally dive into with ease. More than anything, it was a precaution for her to adjust back into the form that made her one of the country’s brightest collegiate stars.
“Siyempre hindi ko siya pwede biglian,” she says. “Kailangan ko siyang tantiyahin kung kaya ko na ba to, gagawin ko na ba to. Like pag sa training noon, pag minsan, di ako sumasama sa mga ibang drills. Pero pag sa mga drills na tingin ko kaya ko, like sa mga defense na hindi pa jumping sumasali ako para at least mapractice na ako at para mawork na ulit yung galaw ko sa loob ng court.”
Through eight games, Galang has amassed a total of 90 points, good for second in the team behind Mary Joy Baron, who has 94 points. There were obvious signs of rust in the opening games of the season, but midway through the elimination round, the Season 74 Rookie of the Year once again emerged as a reliable scorer for DLSU, scoring under 10 points only once this season. On the court, Galang can be seen as one of the team’s more active players, at times receiving spikes and serves while still contributing on the offensive end, signs that point to her returning to her old form.
“For me, parang mga 95 to 100 pero yun naman yung wino-work on ko siyempre pero gusto ko talaga is hindi lang 100 percent,” she says on her recent performances. “Gusto ko ma-exceed ko pa yung level ko last year.”
In achieving that, she has taken steps to become a more efficient player. This includes unlearning her old habit of landing on one leg, a move she describes as a “bad habit” she has had with her since high school. She believes it may have played a part in her getting injured, which is why she has resorted to correcting it in her rehab.
“Dapat sa approach ko kailangan yung tuhod ko hindi papasok, and then sa landing ko, kailangan sabay both legs,” she explains. “Kasi yung dating nangyayari is pumapasok tuhod ko pag-approach and pag landing more on left lang talaga as in nahuhuli kaya isa na yun naging cause [ng injury] eh pero kasi yun talaga yung sanay ako ever since as in pati high school ganun na ako. And then ngayon, sobrang yun yung winowork on ko kasi sobrang hirap baguhin yung habit eh. So sa rehab ko, sobrang approach lang ako, jump, land ko dapat both [feet], paulit ulit, repetition lang din haggang sa masanay ako hangggang ngayon, na hindi na rin akong masayadong kino-correct doon kasi parang instinct ko na, na ganun na yung habit ko nabago ko na yung bad habit.”
Moving forward, Galang is looking to complete her degree, with only two terms left before she marches. Though she welcomes the opportunity to play even after the UAAP, her personal goal remains to be opening her own business, something she plans to give her full attention to when all her commitments are done.
“Gusto ko ng iba eh, bago talaga kaya di pa ako nagstart kasi gusto ko talagang may bagong pakuno or basta mixed din siya,” she says, when asked if the business is similar to that of former Lady Spiker Aby Marano. “Pero ngayon meron na akong dapat winowork with my friends pero hindi pa nautloy since lahat kami busy and di rin ako makatulong dahil mas busy rin ako.”
With her focus on the season, Galang looks to put a fitting end to her storied collegiate career. Even with all the awards she has received, her team-oriented mindset has her looking at things beyond what the eyes can see, something that separates the good from the game’s true elite.
“Siguro yung akin lang, every game, parang gusto ko na tumataas yung level ko,” the former captian says. “Yun yung inaachieve ko. Yun yung goal ko. Every game, kailangan yung mapapakita ko is all out yung lahat ng kaya ko.”