Annabelle Tario was one of the finest athlete/coaches the country has ever had in Dragon Boating. She was the national team drummer for so many years, and she provided the field leadership that catapulted the Philippine Dragon Boat Team to unprecedented heights in 2007-10, leading to 2 world records that astounded the international dragon boat community. Coach Annabs, as she is fondly called, set high physical standards, causing our paddlers – both from the men’s and the women’s side – to raise their performance levels even higher than everyone thought possible, leading to the stunning world record performances. That said, our confident Dragon Boat national team prepared for the Asian Games of 2010 for a chance to give more glory to the country.
Unfortunately, fate would play a painful joke on the team. Asked to undergo time trials, the team’s results were questioned, and then, there were insinuations that the players were on steroids! To make matters worse, instead of ordering a re-run to clarify questions raised and having the paddlers tested for drugs, they were simply automatically disallowed from representing the country.
These athletes lost years of their lives, practicing, toiling, enduring, only to be denied the chance for glory and gold, by Peping’s Mafia. Col Jeff Tamayo, a Peping lackey and the architect of the team’s demolition job, did not even have the guts to face the team when the decision to disqualify them was handed down. No questions on his onerous report could be raised, no howl of protest could be heard. The PDBF would later answer the allegations point-by-point but the high-and-mighty POC would hear none of it. Their minds were already made up. Instead, the players were urged to change the leadership in the PDBF, a clear message that the decision to disqualify them was not based on their performance, but based on the non-affiliation of the PDBF leadership to Peping’s evil empire.
For all of Tamayo’s spiel about integrity, fair play, sportsmanship, etc, the fact that he did not give the athletes any chance to respond to the questions he raised, plus the fact that he insinuated the players’ drug use and never even had it verified, makes him the very monster who has no right to talk about integrity, fair play and all. Tamayo, whose own NSA of Soft Tennis (say that again?) has not even been able to produce a single medal for the country – ever, has clearly been a mere hachetman for the Peping Mafia. The regular membership of his close-to-non-existent sport should be questioned. He is simply another extra vote for the Mafia, nothing else. His refusal to resign from the Executive Board in the present POC fiasco is another big anomaly.
There are no words to describe the frustration, the heartaches the Peping Mafia has dealt these athletes with the unjust cancellation of their right to compete. They lost the best years of their lives, they lost opportunities for monetary benefits, all because they did not fit into Peping’s grand plan of dominating Philippine Sports. For Peping, it was better to get no gold medals at all, if those golds were the product of sports federations not aligned to his empire.
In Chapter 1 of Storyline: Dragon, Coach Annabs recalls those dark, painful days, when their world was crushed by the dirty politics that Peping, Tamayo and their Mafia had dealt unfairly on them.
“After so many years, I watched it again … I have almost forgotten how it felt back then…. the pain we went through, the frustration, the anger, the whirl of events towards the World Championships in Tampa Florida.”
“I think this video is one of many that summarizes what transpired in 2011. When we were disqualified to participate in the 2010 Asian Games na 100% sure kami na hahakot kami ng medalya (which we were 100% sure we were going to rake in medals,) and at the very least a silver medal, and a new World record, sa womens naman that time around…. pero hindi nangyari dahil nga sinipa kami ng POC palabas ng Rizal at wala silang balak humakot ng medalya para sa bansa natin (in the women’s category at that time… but it didn’t happen because POC kicked us out of Rizal and they did not have any intentions of getting medals for the country). When PDBF was unjustly stripped of its NSA status. It will describe, at least yung surface ng emotional roller coaster that we went through, kasi mahirap talagang i-explain how it felt. Kayo na lang mag judge. (It is just so hard to explain how it felt. You be the judge).”
However, a year after these paddlers were denied their chance to compete in the Asian Games, the dragon boat world itself would provide them an opportunity for vindication. Invited to compete to defend their title in the IDBF World Championship in Tampa, Florida, the team hunkered down to train with a vengeance. Despite the lack of support from government, ridiculed by people including the same Col Tamayo who denied them the chance for an Asian gold, they were more than motivated to give it their best. Wala yan, matatanda na yan, ampaw yan. (They’re nothing. They’re old already. They’re like ampaw, a chinese snack that’s all hollow inside.) They would continue to endure the ridicule, and they would vow to show the non-believers what they were made of.
Here are some excerpts of Chapter 2 of Storyline: Dragon.
“What can we do?…. umiyak na lang kami” (What can we do? … We could only cry.) – Coach Annabs
“Naghirap kami, pinaghandaan namin… yung nagfocus kami sa isang bagay lang, ang goal lang namin dun, mag GOLD sa Asian Games” (We suffered, but we trained… we focused on one thing alone… our only goal then, to get the Gold medal in the Asian Games.)- Amina B Anuddin-Manuel
“Hindi mo pwede sabihin sa kanila, I’m sorry. Wala…. There are no words to describe yung lungkot ng lahat, yung frustration” (You cannot simply tell them, I’m sorry. Nothing… there are no words to describe the grief, the frustration.) – Coach Annabs
“Nag try naman ako (she’s refering to PCKF), i tried yung systema na meron sila….. hindi kasi mawawala ang comparison eh…. kung maghihirap ako, alam kong may mapupuntahan ang sakripisyo at paghihirap ko, kung pa-petiks petiks lang ang program mo, wala kang makukuhang medalya. Gusto ko manalo!” – (I tried, referring to her inclusion in the PCKF team. I tried their system… but you cannot compare… if I were to really train hard, I should know that my sacrifices will amount to something, but if the program is easy-easy, you won’t get any medals. I wanted to win!) – Amina
“Nagresign ako dahil alam kong mali… mali lahat ng nangyayari, mali yung ginawa nila, yung pagkuha sa National Team, sa dragon boat federation” (I resigned because I knew it was wrong… everything was wrong, what they did was wrong, taking away the National Team from the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation.) – Tere Realizan
“Alam ko pag umalis ako dun (she means PCKF as they were absorbed after kicking us out) wala akong makukuhang allowance, ayokong kumuha o magnakaw ng pera ng taong bayan na wala akong maibibigay sa bansa natin.” (I knew that if I left the PCKF, I would not be entitled to any more allowance, but I don’t want to get or steal from the people’s money if I cannot give back anything to the country.) – Amina
“After ng lahat na nangyari sa amin last year, for the Asian Games, we were feeling hopeless. We were asking ourselves, may ginawa ba kaming mali?!…. bumabalik kami because we want to fight, we want to prove to everyone that we can do it… WE WILL MEDAL, we will win the GOLD no matter what” – (After everything that happened to us last year, for the Asian Games, we were feeling hopeless. We were asking ourselves, did we do anything wrong? We are coming back because we want to fight, we want to prove to everyone that we can do it… we will get medals, we will win the gold no matter what. – Coach Annabs
“Ang pinaglalaban namin sa World (Championships) yung Gold” The only thing we are fighting for in the World Championships is the Gold! – Tere
Marcia Cristobal, the PDBF President at that time, tried hard to get the resources, the funds to make the trip happen. But without government support, the funds simply were not enough. Unable to bring in a larger crew to be able to join the standard race (20-seater combo) due to lack of funds, the team was entered in the newest events in the tourney, the small-boat competitions (10-seater combo).
Here are some excerpts of Chapter 3 of Storyline: Dragon.
“Iisa lang kami ng goal eh, gusto namin maka-medalya” (We only have 1 goal: we want to have a medal.) – Caoch Anabs
“Ang team namin ngayon, kahit sa small boat kami lalaban, masasabi kong mas malakas sa una namin World, kasi confident kami na mananalo kami, kahit konti lang ensayo namin, at least, binubuhos namin lahat…” (Even if we are competing in the small-boat category, we know our team is better than in the previous World Championship. We are confident of winning, even with the minimum practice, because at least we know we poured everything into it.) – Tere Realizan
“Yung makukuha naming medal, Gold talaga, kung maglalaro ka lang din naman, kunin mo na yung pinaka best” (We are targetting the Gold Medal, nothing else. If you compete, you might as well go for the best, go for the gold.) – Tere
“Andun na lahat sa GOLD na yun (voice quivering, seems she is trying to control not to cry 😂), yung sa coaches namin, yung PDBF pati lahat ng sinayang kong oras, yung 5 years namin (she meant, she and maybe all of us, we were only eyeing for that Gold in the Asian Games, that we were denied) dun ko ibubuhos (her sacrifices) sa Gold na yun!” (Everything we worked hard for is in that Gold (Voice quivering, trying not to cry), that is for our coaches, for the PDBF, for all the lost hours, the 5 years I wasted, I will pour everything here for the Gold Medal!) – Tere
“Itong World Championships na paglalabanan namin, for our country pa din naman toh eh, pag pumunta kami sa ibang bansa, Pilipinas pa din naman ang dala namin” (This World Championship we are competing in, this is for our country. If we go out to play elsewhere, we always play for the country.) – Amina
“Para sa akin, mananalo kami, kahit ano mangyari, mananalo kami!” (For me, I think we will win. Whatever happens, WE WILL WIN!)- Tere
The team would go on to win in five events they competed in: the 1000-m men’s event, the 200-m men’s event, the 500-m men’s event, the 200-m mixed event, and the 500-m mixed event. They would do it with fire in their eyes, with no bigger motivation than to prove their critics back home wrong. What an irony! Acknowledged by the international dragon boat community as world champions, treated as rock stars and idolized by other teams; and yet they were ridiculed and shamed as alleged steroid users back home. What a shame. But what poignant vindication for the team.
The team has since moved on from the devastation that the disqualification from the Asian Games brought them. The Tampa triumph that vindicated them drew attention to the POC’s decision to exclude them from the Asian Games. Then President Aquino honored them at Malacanang and vowed to clean Philippine Sports of dirty partisan politics. Peping would later state in a Senate Inquiry that there was a directive from the IOC to place dragon boating under the PCKF, a claim that would later be denied by the IOC itself. Todate, justice remains elusive for the PDBF and these world-champion athletes. (Please read: Restoring Dragon Boat)
Coach Annabs would continue to coach and teach dragon boating all over the country. (Please read: Coach Annabs Wows the Paddlers of Bohol) Unfortunately, without the government recognition and the chance to represent the country in prestigious events abroad, all her work with the sport in the country seemed hollow. It was time to move on. Coach Annabs has since moved to Macau, where she is developing new talents in a less complicated, unpoliticized dragon boat world. Coach Annabs is just one of the many talented Filipino athletes whose careers have been wasted, and have since left the country, due to the dirty politics that continues to hostage Philippine Sports. Such a pity.
Videos courtesy of Storyline, cover photo courtesy of Ranger Carbunzky’s Blog.