Chie Saet is not your average volleyball player.
During her reign as a premier setter in the early to mid 2000s, Saet masterminded La Salle’s overpowering offense which eventually led to a celebrated 3-peat in Season 68, her last year donning her green and white jersey.
Aside from being the queens of the UAAP, the Lady Spikers also ruled the V-League with yet another 3-peat run from the tournament’s second to third Conferences where Saet was at the helm of the squad’s then-unparalleled attacking.
Aside from multiple titles and Best Setter plums tucked under her belt, however, Saet’s huge difference from the rest of her peers back then was the fact that she accomplished these feats while having to deal with her role as a young mother.
In fact, in 2005, the same year when the Taft crew gunned for its fifth title in the women’s division against Adamson, she was already carrying her second baby in her womb, a stretch in her life brought about by her youthful and unfortunately carefree self which she now admits to be dangerous.
“Ito revelation: naglaro ako ng buntis ako,” she told FOX Sports almost looking like she wanted to take back what she just said.
With enough prodding, she continued telling her story, saying: “The reason na tinago ko, kasi pa-3-peat kami nun eh. Ayaw kong i-sacrifice ‘yung maganda na ‘yun na minsan lang makukuha. Isa-sacrifice ko talaga ‘yung sarili ko.”
While players who have discovered their pregnancy within an ongoing tournament is not unheard of, Saet once again proves she and her situation is completely different from the rest as the revelations kept piling on.
As it turns out, the Lady Spikers’ Game 2 battle against the Lady Falcons in October of 2005 was just a few days shy from her actual due date for giving birth.
“Dumating sa point na ‘yung Adamson fans habang nagse-serve ako, ‘Hoy, Saet. Gutom ka na ba? Ang laki ng tiyan mo.’ May naririnig pa ako outside na, ‘Uy, buntis naman ‘yan eh.’ Sobra talagang naging chismis siya,” shared the setter.
“Alam mo naman kasi pag mataba pero tiniis ko ‘yun para sa mga teammates ko. Sabi ko kaya namin ito,” she added.
But before you start pointing fingers at people responsible for allowing this to happen, Saet drops another bomb: aside from her mother who knew from the beginning, not one from the team was aware of her predicament.
Being a burly player since her childhood and a mother of one at the time, everyone just assumed that she gained more weight as she ate her way through the stress of being a student-athlete.
Hiding from everyone else
“Nag finals kami ng Adamson Game 2, Wednesday. Nanganak ako ng Sunday. Sabi ko hindi ko na kaya. That’s October 5 finals and then October 9 nanganak ako,” she recalled.
Though the UAAP was on break at the time, Saet still had volleyball duties for the country as she was tapped to join the SEA Games-bound national team under Ramil de Jesus.
After dropping from the face of the earth for a week, Saet returned to training looking a lot lighter which obviously shocked her teammates.
“After nun tawag sila ng tawag. Nagulat sila lahat nung nagpakita ako kasi from very mataba na 185 lbs. bumaba ako sa 150. Ganun ako nag lose,” shared the 3-time V-League Best Setter awardee. “Sabi nila Cha (Cruz) ang bilis ko daw mag diet. Wala na lang akong kibo.”
Explaining why she had to hide her situation from her mentor, de Jesus, she adds: “Ayaw ko mag worry si coach. Sa kabila nun, I know naman na nilagay ko siya sa alanganin. Pag may nangyari sa akin fault niya. Kaya humingi talaga ako ng sorry sa kanya nun.”
And though it was mission accomplished for Saet as they got they swept Adamson in the finale, she admits to having learned a huge lesson from it all: her life, the future of her baby, and the honor of her mentors should have been at the forefront of her messed up priorities in her younger years.
But with all these now behind her, Saet, who is now a mother of three, continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the club ranks where she is now playing for expansion team Laoag.
Saet may not have shed all her pregnancy weight but she can still give the younger and fitter setters in the local scene a run for their money with her precise setting skills and her jaw-dropping agility in floor defense.
How does she do it? It’s all in the mind, she says.
“I always consider myself sexy,” she said with a heart laugh.
“Gusto ko rin kasi ipakita na despite the age na kahit hindi na tayo bumabata, kaya ko pa rin sumabay. ‘Yun din kasi ang reason kung bakit gusto ko pa maglaro at makalaro ‘yung mga bata sa akin: para malaman ko kung hanggang saan ako,” she added.
She has been with different club teams including Cagayan Valley who completed a historic 16-0 run in the V-League and in spite of not getting recognized as the best setter in the club ranks anymore, the 31-year-old volleybelle is looking at playing for another decade before hanging her sneakers and bidding the sport adieu.
“Si Ate Tina (Salak) idol ko siya simula dati pa pero hanggang ngayon hinahangaan pa din siya ng mga fans ng volleyball,” she said. “Gusto ko siyang gayahin. Gusto ko kung magreretire man ako, maaalala at maaalala ako ng mga tao at ng bawat bata na naglalaro ng volleyball.”
Saet’s story could be about resilience. It could also be a lesson on how to properly handle teen pregnancy. It may even be about weight and height being just numbers. Or better yet, what she went through and how she got through it all should be a reminder for the young fans of the sport who continuously multiply by the minute.
Saet has embraced what has happened, learned from it all, moved on and held on to only the truly important ones in her one-of-a-kind life: her love for her three precious kids and the sport.
With all these in mind, don’t act surprised the next time you see her rolling or diving on the floor to save the ball from the vicious attacks of some of the strongest spikers of today.
She’s been through worse. — By Mac Dionisio