ARYA! Enter the Dragon

by Amihan Ruiz

— from the Bohol Chronicle’s Lifestyle Bohol (Mar 24, 2013)

Dauis dragon boat

This article almost never happened.

Why? Here’s why. At 9pm last night, March 233, 2013, I was blacked out on the beachfront of Sea Corrals Resort, curled on the sand, dead-tired. All around me were my teammates and their families, having friendly drinks and excited banter about the revelry of this morning and the day before. At 11pm, I get a text from the editor: “Can the story push through?” And amidst my exhaustion, and against all odds of being ion the right mind to do it, I text “Yes.” For this story is too precious not to share.

The Inato -First Bohol Club Crew Challenge at Dauis yesterday, and Friday, March 22-23, 2013, was like a whirlwind romance.

One fine day, in January, Gen Charly Holganza (ret) of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation came to Mayor Jaime Jimenez of Dauis with the proposition to hold an international dragon boat competition in Dauis, later in April this year. Apparently, the Dragon Boat Federation traveled around the Philippines looking for the perfect venue to host this activity. Their itinerary of ocular tours stopped upon reaching Tagbilaran Strait. It was perfect. No strong currents. Near a main thoroughfare, and just the right size for all kinds of paddling sports.

Mayor Jimenez seemed iffy at first, thinking of how the municipal budget couldn’t possibly catch up with the counterparts needed from them – but he was enthusiastic, as he was a paddler once before. His previous paddling buddy, now Dr. Theodore “Doyet” Dumaluan, Bohol’s water sports guru, quickly responded to the enthusiasm, and formed the Bohol Paddlers Association.

Through the major efforts of these three pioneers, a new long term vision was born. Bohol would not only host the International Dragon Boating Competition, but would strive to be a capital of paddling sports in the Philippines. Not only is its countryside tours, nor its white beaches – Bohol would be known for the sportiness of its citizens, its glistening silken traits and rivers perfect for paddling sports.

The Inato Local Dragon Boating Competition is only the first of many phases to promote this new side of Bohol Tourism. The Bohol Paddlers Association, the organizers of the event, was challenged to come up with teams, boats and competition mechanics in a span of just two months. Mr. Bai Magallanes under Gen. Holganza served as the Team Marshall. The Chief Judge was Aries Andrei of 2Go, who is, incidentally, a former competitive paddler of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation. Taking the role of Technician Director was water sports enthusiast, Atty. Rain Calimbayan, while Dr. Doyet Dumaluan took the lead as head organizer. These different personalities faced constraints in time and money to put the competition together. Not only were there not enough people to run this event, all efforts were voluntary.

With the exception of Teams Bugsay Maribojoc and Tribu Maribojoc who trained in their locality, all the other teams of this competition trained for almost only two months. The Provincial Government of Bohol treated athletes from various disciples to a month of free training from veteran Coach Annabelle Tario of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation.

In the first weeks of February, paddlers and would-be paddlers of different ages and from various groups made their way to the grandstand aka the CPG Sports Complex at 5:30 am every morning to face a routine of interval trainings, core strengthening, and plyometrics (jump training or plyos). Coach Anabelle trained, rain or shine, and made sure that all the teams got their fair share of sheer exhaustion. The last two weeks, trainees had a taste of the water. Water training was conducted in Kaingget and K of C. The boats came last. The LGU of Maribojoc lent its long red dragon boat in the last stretch of February. Teams shared the 20-seater boat to train in the proper form and different strokes of dragon boating.

In that short span of time, 11 teams were formed. Team Baji was an all women’s team sprung from an arts group of the same name. Bodybuilders formed Team Big J, all members of said gym. The tourist police of Panglao formed their own team as well, while Team Antonov Drago was composed of employees of 2Go, inspired by their Sir Aries. Members of the popular Daganista de Bohol formed Team Dragonistas, while airsoft enthusiasts formed the Sandugo Airsoft Warriors. The Bohol Island Lion Paddlers was pulled from the Lion’s Club membership. Not to miss the action, the host LGU, Dauis, assembled the Dauis Wild Dragons, the team manager of which is yours truly.

I am not from Dauis. Neither am I from Bohol, originally. But as an adopted daughter of this beloved island, I could not help but say “Yes!” when the tourism officer of Dauis, Mr. Chris Nistal, invited me. The recruits to the team were barkadas from the Totolan area where Mayor Jimenez resides – and not surprisingly so, since the formation of the teams was so rushed. We started as a rag tag bunch of ten – fishermen, construction workers, LGU employees – the kind you’d not imagine to get together and form a dragon boat team. From a simple mixed team, friends and family joined the trainings.

Then the members kept growing. Our two teams, the mixed and all men’s team, ended up having 28 persons total. Every morning for two months seemed an endless litany of waking early, fatigue in the mornings, and going to work late. Many an instance have I slept on a computer keyboard wore down by the rigid training.

As a team, we shared everything. We swapped stories, exchanged favors, fed each other and even got to know each other’s families. We trained everyday at Miramar at 5:30 am, paddling till we had to run back to the shore and get to our jobs. (Yes, we had actual jobs, us all.) On Sundays, the families had breakfast at the cottages facing the strait, cheering us on as we trained. But don’t be fooled.

This doesn’t mean we all got along swimmingly. We fought and bickered like toddlers over the smallest things, like what we would have for breakfast, or who sat on which side of the boat. We almost never had a full team during training. We struggled with getting by with the little budget we collected from solicitations. Our cheers and jeers to each other seem to depict the situation accurately: “Bira Gahig, Dakong Kaon, Sigeng Lalis, Team Dauis!” But amidst all the exhaustion, the conflicts and eating tulingan, day in day out for breakfast, we pulled through.

The Inato Local Dragon Boat Competition featured not only dragon boat tournaments, but also contests in kayaking, swimming and stand up paddling. Spectators lost their voices as they cheered on the racing teams. Families and friends gathered around the players to feed them, and rush ice water and energy drinks to the camps. As the competition intensified into the second day, Teams Maribojoc and Team Dauis were left to battle it out in the championships for the open and mixed categories.

dragonboating in dauis

Team Dauis Wild Dragons emerged as the champions for both categories, while Team Tribu Maribojoc placed second in the Open Category and Team Bugsay Maribojoc second in the Mixed Category. Here we were, once just a bunch of recruited strangers, now a team. In the simple awarding ceremony that followed, we stood burnt but smiling, not only as a team, but as comrades, as friends, as brothers and sisters.

As for the celebrations, we all decided to have drinks at Sea Corals Resort. While my teammates were exchanging battle stories, green jokes and gulps of alcohol, here I was blacking out on the sea, oblivious to the festivities. And if it weren’t for the need to write this article, I’d have stayed blacked out all night! But I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I said “Yes!” to writing this article, the same way I said “Yes” to being a part of this dragon boating saga. It may have been a haphazard decision, but one I simply won’t regret. For all of us involved in the Inato Dragon Boating Competition emerged victorious at all levels.

Bohol successfully displayed its potential as paddling sports capital. Bohol now has new opportunities for reinforcing our sense of place, for paddlers rowing to the beat of the drum, boats bedecked in feisty dragonfare, slicing smoothly through the waters of the Tagbilaran-Dauis strait, harking back ancient eastern traditions but sailing forward to bigger seas, a sense of place for “us”, and then some, for tourism (for not all we do should be for tourists). The teams now have this new athletic prowess – and I, this adopted daughter of Bohol, feels like she has a family.

the champs!!!

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