After just a few months of hectic preparation, Bohol is gearing to host its first-ever International Dragon Boat competition. The event has been ticked for Apr 28-29 at the picturesque Tagbilaran Strait separating the island of Panglao from the main island of Bohol. The 2nd Cobra-PDBF International Club Crew Challenge is an eagerly-awaited event, particularly among the veteran paddlers of Philippine Dragon Boating.
Last week, for the first time, perennial champion Army was finally dislodged by an irreverent Lake Buhi crew in the 300-meters open event at the recently-concluded Manila Bay Regatta. The Army had long been the main source for our national players’ pool. In fact, majority of those who represented the country in that triumphant Tampa Games in 2011 came from the Army. And it was in Tampa where the Philippines gained international acclaim, winning the open category in record time, a record that has not been broken until now. Lake Buhi, on the other hand, had always been the heartbreak bridesmaid to the ever-victorious Army paddlers in past duels.
But Lake Buhi would not allow itself to be intimidated by all these dazzling credentials and past results. Composed of a lightweight crew of fishermen, Lake Buhi dug deep inside for more speed and stamina, and summoned superior spirit to nip Army for the very first time. Before thousands of noisy spectators who eagerly watched this clash of titans at the Manila Bay, Lake Buhi displayed nerves of steel to finish ahead by almost a second – or half a boat-length – at the finish. Humiliated for the first time after so many hotly-contested die-ins, the Army is raring to return the favor. Surely, this has got to be akin to the proposed 5th Pacquiao-Marquez clash, but this time, in the Philippine Dragon Boating arena!!! Will it be the Army/Pacquiao once again tangling with Lake Buhi/Marquez then?
And that’s not all!! Before you get all excited over this collosal Pacquiao-Marquez rematch in the paddlefest arena, there used to be a much-awaited dream match between the Army and the Navy, which were undeniably the two best ‘paddle-pushers’ in the country a few years back. This match never materialized as the Navy was affiliated with the Philippine Canoe-Kayak Federation, while the Army was with the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation. (Whew!!! Shades of the Pacman going with Top Rank Promotions, not coming to terms with Floyd Mayweather and Golden Boy Promotions, don’t you think?) And yes, Virginia, the Navy wants in on the big event this time!!
But before I hear the fan in you shrieking, let me tell you that we have other contenders who are equally capable of upsetting these three heavyweights on a good day! There’s Lake Buhi CamSur, a sister team of Lake Buhi with the same pedigree, the same style and temperament. They landed a close 3rd in the Manila Bay race. And then there’s the ever-improving Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), which has strong connections with the gods of the seas. PCG boasts of having the most complete team. In the Manila race, PCG won the mixed, garnered 2nd in the women’s, and placed 4th in the open 300-meter categories.
As if that weren’t enough, Macau’s SJM Warriors are known to have beaten the best of China’s paddlers as well!! The SJM is composed of an elite selection of Pinoy OFWs working in the casinos of Macau. Macau’s hotels and casinos have their own highly-rated Dragon Boat teams, and SJM formed the best from among these teams. This selection is going to be a strong contender for the open crown as well, having given the Army a run for their money in their past confrontations.
So there you have it, folks! A star-studded, best-of-the-best, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners style paddlefight! Will we see Army/Pacquiao regaining the throne? Or will Lake Buhi/Marquez come to prove that its victory was no fluke? Will Navy/Mayweather’s long absence from tough competition affect its performance? And the rest? Will they be able to stage a surprise? Or do they stand a fighting chance? Your guess is as good as mine.
Gentlemen, it’s time to place your bets!!!