My Two Cent Thoughts on POC’s Move to Downgrade Dragon Boating

by: Anabelle Tario


Anabelle Tario was one of the vital cogs of the sensational Philippine National Dragon Boat Team which set 2 world records in 2007 – 2009.  This team would fall victim to sports politics as they were later disenfranchised by Peping Cojuangco. Coach Anabs, as she is fondly called, is now working in Macau, having moved there after being denied a chance for national pride and glory. This was her poignant piece some 7 years ago. We are reviving it now, if only to remind everyone of the injustice, the broken dreams, the denial of opportunities and monetary rewards that our top paddlers have suffered from the madness that is sports politics. 

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Canoe Kayak Federation (PCKF) persistently claim that IDBF has been put under the authority of the International Canoe Federation (ICF) which leaves PDBF without an international federation. However, the question whether the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF) is a legitimate National Sports Association (NSA) is non-debatable.

The General Assembly of International Sports Federations (GAISF) now known as SportAccord, has recognized dragon boating as distinct from canoe and kayak and also confirmed the authority of the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) over the sport. Furthermore, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) recognizes the Asian Dragon Boat Federation (ADBF) as having responsibility for Dragon Boat Sport in Asia and that Dragon Boating organised by the ADBF and conducted under IDBF Rules of Racing, provided technical and logistical assistance in the 2008 Bali Beach Games and the 2010 Asian Games. PDBF is a Full-Member of IDBF and ADBF. Thus, the claim that PDBF is not affiliated with an international federation is obviously without basis. POC should properly examine the facts before coming up with an official announcement on the news.

Wez Jizhong, the Honorary Secretary General of the Chinese Olympic Committee, stated in the GAISF 2007 General Assembly that dragon boating had its origins in China and that it had over 2000 years of history and IDBF had been established prior to the creation of any dragon boat committee within the ICF. Hence, Dragon Boat is not separated from canoeing, since the two sports had never been together. Mr. Dapeng, VP of the IAAF (athletics) further supported the view that sports linked with tradition and culture, such as dragon boat, should be preserved and developed. Mr. Dapeng felt that it would be more in the interest of the sport to be governed by this specific body, which would be more focused on the dragon boat sport[1].

Pool training for PDBF’s elite. (courtesy of Ranger Cabunsky)

Dragon boat racing in the Philippines would not have been popular if not for the relentless effort of PDBF. It had continuously promoted the sport, holding quarterly regattas; supporting affiliate members in organizing international races (Boracay International & Camarines Sur International Dragon Boat Races), seminars, corporate team building activities, and clinics.

I do not believe that this sport would have been popular and as progressive in the Philippines if it had been under PCKF. Their record had not shown much improvement for the past years and one would think that they will focus their energy on improving their athletes’ performance and the promotion of their sport.   Instead, they are busy trying to take over what is not theirs to begin with.   Canoeing started much later than dragon boat in the Philippines. Majority of their 1st batch National Team Members came from the dragon boat sport, including their current President who managed a club team prior to organizing and managing PCKF. Thus, canoe kayak in the Philippines was introduced much later than dragon boating, in fact, under the auspices of the Amateur Rowing Association of the Philippines (ARAP), dragon boating was an existent and an established sport in the country.

Coach Anabs is still remembered fondly in Bohol, where she pioneered the propagation of the sport.

The basic issue is whether who will control the sport of dragon boat racing in the Philippines. And this issue is an aftermath of the POC polls, in view of the fact that PDBF is identified with the opposition. POC’s assertion that dragon boating is a discipline of canoe is ethically dubious and ill-presumed. They are exhausting their efforts to downgrade PDBF which had brought so much honour to our country. Why is that? Am I wrong to presume this is all brought about by politics? Or would POC yet again, claim that they are simply following the rules? What rules?

Clearly, POC is in a time constraint to push for the downgrading of dragon boating. POC election is coming up in the year 2012, and obviously, PDBF’s choice still stands. POC, being the sports leader of our country should fully support an NSA that consistently performs and fulfils the criteria and conditions laid upon them instead of malign their efforts in bringing this sport towards a better ground.  Our dragon boat community should come together to resist in assisting their attempts to take dragon boat down. Using the words of a fellow (international) coach, I strongly believe that as a matter of principle, the PCKF should back off its attempts to take over the sport.  As a matter of honour and loyalty, paddlers, coaches and teams should not support POC’s suspect motive.  And as a matter of patriotism and a true sense of ‘Olympism’, POC leaders should put flag and country over themselves and their politics.  I still have hope and will continue to hope for a better future for this sport that is very close to my heart.

Once feared and well-respected, the Philippine dragon boat community dreams of retrieving past glory. (courtesy of weekend balita)

[1] Minutes of the GAISF General Assembly 2007, Agenda Item 15: New Membership Applications; 15.2 Candidate to Member Status; c) IDBF – International Dragon Boat Federation

It has been almost 8 years since the PCKF has taken over the reins of Dragon Boating in the Philippines. And they have only 1 measly bronze medal in the SEA Games to show for it. Please read: Exposing the Lies Peddled by the Philippine Canoe Kayak Dragon Boat Federation.


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