Dragon boating in Bohol

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013


TWO Decembers ago in Singapore, my friend Brandy Llenos brought me to a party hosted by his German friend. The guests were of various nationalities and quite a number of them were of European descent.

That party stuck in my memory for two reasons: spicy brewed wine and the toned women. The women, who were quite fond of Brandy, were members of dragon boat teams in Singapore. I had just run the marathon that morning but I felt physically inadequate among the female paddlers.

To address my physical inferiority, I helped myself to another glass of the brewed wine.

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The women had upper back and shoulders that can carry the world, Atlas-style.

I bring this up because of a dragon boat race coming up next month not too far from Cebu. For the novelty of it, let's go to Dauis, Bohol on April 28-29 and watch colorful and noisy paddling teams race in the tranquil waters of one of the most scenic towns in the Philippines.

This is the first time that dragon boating is going to be held outside Manila, thanks largely to retired general Charly Holganza, who heads the organizing committee of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF).

Why Bohol? Why not Cebu?

Because Charly is a Bol-anon and he believes it is time Bohol was introduced to the world as a venue for a team water sport such as dragon boating. Dauis is a town in Panglao Island, which bears no introduction as the place where time ceases except when you're paddling for a one-minute finish or less.

Charly, who just retired from the Army, says the PDBF was looking for a new venue for the dragon boat race. Bohol was an answer to their search.

He mentions the benefits a dragon boat race will bring to Bohol. The boost in tourism and commerce is an apparent and immediate effect. One dragon boat team has 40 or so paddlers, and many of them are from places outside Bohol.

In the Dauis race, 13 teams have registered. There's one from Macau, quite a number from Luzon, three from Bohol. Champion teams like the Army, which won in the Tampa Games in 2011, and Lake Buhi, will be competing.

There are three distances--200 meters, 500 meters and two kilometers--having three categories each men's, women's and mixed.

Since dragon boat racing is not a neighborhood sport like basketball or Dota, the local teams had to be trained. PBDF had sent one of its best paddlers and coaches, Annabelle Tario, to Bohol for one month to train those with stamina and commitment. Women signed up. Fishermen signed up.

Had I known about this in January, I might have signed up too. I haven't forgotten Brandy's paddler-friends, or to be precise, their upper back and shoulders.

Charly says holding the 2nd Cobra-PBDF International Club Crew-Challenge in Bohol will eventually enhance youth and sports development, social responsibility and cultural awarenesss. Holding it close to the Tagbilaran fiesta is timely when more people can be there to watch the races.

It's a public event so anyone can watch it. No entrance fees. Just find your own shade. Best spots to watch it though would be the Dauis wharf and the causeway.

Let's go to Bohol and watch the dragon boats and their paddlers on April 28-29 and then mamista ta sa Tagbilaran on May 1. The Tagbilaran fiesta is one of a kind, like those paddler-friends of Brandy.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 28, 2013.

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