The Lessons to be Learned from the Recent ‘Battle of Champions’ in Bohol

We promised you a ‘Battle of Champions’. We promised you nothing but the best. We promised you red-hot cliff-hangers. And we delivered. We brought in the best dragonistas in the Philippines. We brought in teams ready to compete. We brought in the ‘creme de la creme’. For the 2nd Cobra – PDBF International Club Crew Challenge was indeed the “Battle of Champions’, folks. And you deserve nothing less.

The Army – The Fastest Crew in the Country Today

The Army’s gut-wrenching down-the-wire win in the 200-meter standard open category was the showcase battle of the games. And we saw salt and sea spraying, whipped up like crazy by world-class paddlers in a grueling fight to be crowned – however unofficially – as the fastest crew in the Philippines. The Army came in with a time of 41.27 seconds, a time that has never been attained by paddlers across the globe for the past two years. The fast clip is a testament to the extremely high level of competition the teams had brought to the table, with each team pushing the others to the limit. Lake Buhi, erstwhile champions on the PDBF side, came in second; with the Navy, carrying the hopes and prayers of the entire Philippine Canoe Kayak Federation (PCKF), coming in a close third. For now, the Army regains bragging rights as the fastest crew in the country. And perhaps, in the world as well.

The Coast Guard – Practice is the Main Ingredient to Victory

The Philippine Coast Guard’s steady-but-sure approach to win the championship trophy – if one had been at stake – is a testament to hard work and constant practice. The Coast Guard was not considered a strong competitor in the open category, but their consistency in annexing the golds in the women’s and the mixed categories found them in the enviable position as the tournament’s kings and queens. The Coast Guard proved that there is no secret to success; except tough, constant, and scientific practice, practice, and more practice. Expect the Coast Guard Team to be even more competitive, not only in the mixed and women’s, but in the open categories in the tourneys ahead.

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Lake Buhi – Doesn’t Matter if You’re Tall or Short, Fat or Thin; What Matters is Your Grit and Determination

A feel-good story we can take inspiration from is the enigma of the Lake Buhi Team. Lake Buhi totally destroyed all popular notions of how a top-caliber athlete should look like. The Buhi Team, composed mostly of ordinary fisherfolks, didn’t have the brawn nor the scientific pedigree. They didn’t have the height nor were they endowed with extra-ordinary physical attributes. They didn’t have a sizeable budget either, and, as a matter of fact, weren’t even sure to compete up to the last minute due to financial difficulties. No matter!!! Lake Buhi’s ragtag army of paddlers – short and tall, fat and thin – showed absolutely no fear in bringing the fight to their more organized, more muscular opponents. If there is something we can take-away from the pride of Cam Sur, it is that victory cannot be measured by the bench-presses one can make, nor by the perfectly-sculpted Adonis-inspired physical specimen that fitness gurus would have us believe. Rather, it is pure grit and dogged determination – it is that inner strength – that will spell the difference between victory and defeat.

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Bohol and FSUU – Irreverent, Ambitious, Astounding!!!

The next feel-good story perhaps is the emergence of new teams that have immediately challenged! Like immodest kids who don’t care about paying their dues in the dragon boat community, the pleasantly-surprising Bohol teams, and Mindanao-based Fr Saturnino Urios University (FSUU) served notice to the fact that, as an archipelagic nation, there really is a wealth of talent in the Philippines for paddlers. Our paddlers are so talented, in fact, that we send different teams to different world championships; and yet, we are able to win in both arenas! Truly, this is one sport that we can excel in. And therefore, we must nurture and develop it, so that we can all reap the benefits that go with being adjudged the best among the world’s best dragon boat paddlers.

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Navy – Back to the Drawing Boards

After 12 consecutive championship trophies, the Navy went home without a single gold medal. Disappointing perhaps, if we are to be downright simplistic about it. But the good thing about losing is that it gives you a wake-up call. It tells you that you cannot rest on your laurels, and that there will always be room for improvement. Losing also makes us realize that to be the best, one has to compete with the highest levels of competition. Could it have been complacency, after getting used to winning so much? In fairness to the Navy, they reached the Finals in 7 out of 9 championships at stake, which tell us that their team is solid in all categories, and in all distances.DSC_2791 DSC_2549 The PDBF-PCKF Struggle

In this rare clash of champions, the PDBF showed that they had the better players, hence the better results. And the win somehow vindicates their decision to stay on course. PCKF must now show that they can improve their teams’ performance or they will end up ridiculed and disrespected by the country’s sporting community. Their reaction to this debacle in Bohol will show us the character of the PCKF. They can lick their wounds and try again – as is the mark of great victors; or they could shy away, never to compete again – which is the more convenient, yet less manly thing to do. Which will it be?

The PDBF, on the other hand, has been able to prove their point. Temporarily. It must show that it has more focus in developing the sport. It must stay dynamic and aggressive in upholding a more targeted vision for dragon boating in the country.

The ‘Way Forward’ for Philippine Dragon Boating

Firstly, there is a need for unity in the sport. Talking to the athletes, it was clear that they just wanted to compete. They didn’t care about the politics, they simply wanted to compete. And they want to cry out to the powers-that-be to please make it happen. During the closing ceremony, amidst the loud vibrant joyful music, someone started humming a popular Peaches and Herb song: “Reunited, and it feels so good…” Indeed, a united Philippine Dragon Boat community would be so powerful, we could rule the world.

Second, a more focused, more deliberate approach into developing the sport must be organized. We have just seen the fruition of two good templates with the development of dragon boating in Bohol and Butuan. This can be emulated, improved and initiated in other areas, particularly in the Visayas and Mindanao. Dragon Boating can be a country unifier – if we continue to reap recognition and success in international competitions. The benefits will be immense. It will not only be seen in the tourist industry, it will be seen in the sports and youth development program of the country. And the leadership, discipline and professionalism acquired from playing the sport will undoubtedly infect the different sectors that make our country’s engines run. This potential can be harnessed. But only if we have a leadership that has nothing but the best of intentions for the country and for the sport. The question now is: are we up to it?


The last four months have been a hectic, yet fulfilling time for me. It has provided me many lessons that will help me chart the future episodes of my life. I am thankful to PDBF for this wonderful opportunity to bring a wonderful sport to my home province. I am also thankful to the Provincial Government under the able leadership of Gov Edgar Chatto. Thanks too to Cobra for the great support they provided. Along with Smart Communications, Philex and Cetaphil. So much to be thankful for, bros. My salute goes to everyone else who, in one way or the other, have helped us out.

The 2nd Cobra – PDBF International Club Crew Challenge was produced by the Provincial Government of Bohol, the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation, and Tapok Tapok Bol-anon, together with Cobra, Philex, Smart Communications and Cetaphil. Co-producing the event were LJ Lumayag of K & N Productions, Bohol Paddlers Association, and the municipalities of Dauis and Maribojoc, Rotary Tagbilaran, JCI Bohol Kisses and JCI Chocolate Hills.

The major sponsors were: Bluewater Panglao, Bellevue Hotel, First Consolidated Bank, TIEZA, Zoocolate Thrills, and the Department of Tourism (DOT). Other sponsors include: Dep Comm Danny Lim, Oishi, 2Go, Adnama Mining, Hyundai, Danao Adventure Park, Starlite, Eskaya, Ramasola Studios, Truckworld, Lite Shipping, Island Prints and Cong Rene Relampagos.

The media partners include: the Manila Bulletin, Sports Digest, Philippine Star, Business Mirror, TV5, Solar Sports, Sports Unlimited, BCCTV, Bohol Chronicle, DYRD, and Xync Magazine.


      1. my question now, jan, is: how do we help the paddlers with their dream of unification? we really need to get this in the consciousness of the powers-that-be. how do we get buy-in for this noble idea?


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