Monday July 23, 2018

Paddling with dragons

IF YOU were to observe Cagayan River at dawn or dusk, you will undoubtedly notice twenty two people on an elongated boat swiftly cruising the waters. You would notice the group rhythmically paddling through the length of the river. You would notice because they have been doing this everyday for the past three years. They are the Liceo U Dragonoid dragonboat team, Cagayan de Oro's very own river dragon.

However, unlike the dragons of stories, the Liceo U Dragonoids is not powered by magic nor myths but of the well-trained student athletes of Liceo de Cagayan University. This group of paddlers have paddled way beyond the limits of the city's Cagayan River. Through the years, the group of paddlers have become one of the city's legends as the first to represent the city in the sport, hoarding gold medals in various tournaments.

Team work is key to the success of the Liceo U Dragonoids according to their Men's Team Captain Clifford Paderanga. Whenever they take their respective places in their boats and hold their paddles to the waters, the Dragonoids put all of their focus in making sure that their bodies are in complete sync with each other.

Much like in any other sport, it is not easy to equate being part of the dragonboat team to student life. The athletes of the Liceo U Dragonoids religiously practice every day in the Cagayan River.

"It is not exactly something that you do seasonally or something that you can do whenever you feel like it. We have to practice everyday to make sure that our bodies stay in the condition for the sport," Ney Acain, the Dragonoids Women Team Captain explained.

While Paderanga said that the sport does not require any specific body build for its athletes, it does demand not only patience, hard work, and a ton of dedication to be officially authorized to participate as a Dragonoid.

"Of course we accept any body build be it fat, thin, young, old, middle age, teenagers, men, women, anyone really. But, you just have to make sure that you do not have any heart complications nor do you have an unhealthy lifestyle. You can be a part of the team as long as you are willing to practice every day," Paderanga said.

Each boat of the Liceo U Dragonoids require a total of twenty paddlers, half of which are left-handed and the other half right-handed members. Paderanga explained that hand orientation is important when the team is assembling. He said that if the boat requires ten left-handed paddlers, then ten of their members really have to orient their hands to be left-handed to be able to paddle with the whole boat.

Aside from the twenty paddlers, one members sits in the very front of the boat and serves as the drummer. This member is responsible for shouting orders and leading the whole team, making sure that they are all in harmony when the boat is moving through water. Facing this member is another Dragonoid seated at the very end of the boat. This member is responsible in making sure that the tide is favorable and that the boat is racing in a straight line, towards a goal.

"This is why it is important for us to create team work. Because when we get out there, the boat must move in one single movement under one force. That force comes from us and if even on of us stops or rests while the whole team is still paddling, then the whole sync will get destroyed," Paderanga explained.

Since 2014, the Liceo U Dragonoids have been taking home gold, silver, and bronze awards from the prestigious Bugsay Mindanao annual boat race. Last May, they got four golds and one bronze award from the said competition which was held in Surigao City.

Aside from that, the Dragonoids have also been able to participate in other big time boat-raceing events such as the Dipolog Dragonboat Race in June 2016, the Kagayhaan Gold Cup last August 2016, and the Cebu Dragonboat Fiesta last April 2017. Paderanga said that their up and coming conquest would be the 2017 International Dragonboat in Taiwan.

"Our best experience in this is the bonding that we have when we practice or when we participate in every event. Especially when we are complete and when we win in the contests that we participate in," Paderanga said.