Did you know that Jerrili Malabanan was a two-time MVP in high school?

Did you know that Malabanan was a two-time high school MVP?
The FEU player remembers her early years in volleyball—and compares it to the situation now. (Photo courtesy of Malabanan)

Sweet and shy in person despite her towering height and supposedly liberated environment she grew in, FEU Lady Tamaraw Jerrili Malabanan has always possessed the makings of a champion player. Right now, she is one of the most reliable attackers and net defenders on the team, along with Bernadeth Pons, Remy Palma, and Toni Basas—she adds to the strong core easily propelling them as a dark horse in the race to the Season 79 trophy, especially after having beaten early favorites UP Wednesday afternoon. Before the collegiate rounds, Malabanan was a two-time volleyball MVP herself.

Of Filipino-American lineage, Malabanan went to Sunny Hill High School in California. Her school is small in size, but is a multi-accredited institution whose main programs focus on fine arts and engineering. The FEU player herself obsessed over Math and Science (why else would she find herself in Biology as her course now in college?), but chose to omit either program because of volleyball.

Malabanan easily became a part of the varsity team. She has always been sporty, as “My mom really wanted me to try sports because I was shy when I was younger so, she wanted me to find something that would help me come out of my shell.”

“First, I tried basketball but then I didn’t like it, so I ended up playing volleyball.”

True, the soft-spoken volleybelle has previously shared via our Dare To Be True featurette how she was bullied back in high school for her mixed roots. But she has since found refuge in volleyball, even showing us a #throwback photo of her way back.

She contextualizes the photo, “So, this was in my freshman year in high school! And every year we have our pictures taken individually and for team photos. Then there are like three poses you can choose from, and this is the ‘mermaid pose’ that I chose.”

“It's the pose that's supposed to be like Ariel, The Little Mermaid when she's on the rock but instead of a rock it's a volleyball!”

Malabanan has always come back and forth to the Philippines courtesy of those family vacays once every two years. How exactly did she find her way back to the Philippines and stay for longer than that? Her standout height and game play drew in her uncle who was a former Ateneo volleyball player. He turned out to be a friend of FEU’s athletic director Mark Molina. Put two and two together—it didn’t take long before Malabanan to sign up for a varsity scholarship with FEU and play for the biggest collegiate league back in her homeland.

The difference in culture between her former life and her career here was stark. Malabanan grew homesick every now and then and could only thank Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, plus teammate Kyle Negrito to drive away the blues.

But the biggest difference? For Malabanan TBH, it’s the volleyball situation, which she is completely fine with.

“(The Filipinos here are very much) supportive of and interested in volleyball here,” she can only say to compare the difference between playing in the UAAP and back home. “So, being able to play here is definitely something I will remember forever!”

She’s so amazed at how gigantic volleyball is here in the country the sight of fans never fails to tickle her, “It’s weird for me having fans, but I know that’s something that comes with playing in the UAAP. It’s really motivating knowing that some people look up to you!”

—With an interview by Mark Escarlote for Chalk Magazine

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