AFTER making history as the fastest paradragon boat team that joined the International Dragon Boat Federation-Dragon Boat World Championship in Pattaya, Thailand in August 2019, the Philippine Accessible Disability Services Inc. (Pads) Adaptive Dragon Boat team is once again bracing for another title, this time in the IDBF 13th Club Crew World Championships, which will be held in Sarasota, Florida, USA on July 18-26, 2022.

Pads Adaptive Dragon Boat team manager John Paul Maunes told SunStar that they have been preparing for this race since the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic started.

Since May 2022, the team has been training twice a day, six days a week with the actual supervision of their head coach, Ma. Ailene Padrones.

They assess and monitor each athlete's conditioning, nutrition and weight limit through the guidance of their sports medical officer, Dr. Bong Adorable, in partnership with Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.

"We make sure that the spiritual and mental preparation of each athlete [is] aligned with our goals. We wanted to maintain a high morale and confidence coming to the world championships," Maunes said in a virtual interview with SunStar Wednesday, June 29, 2022.

"We are truly blessed to be under the guidance of a great coach under the brilliant mind of Coach Ailene Padrones of the Philippine Air Force PAFCMOG through the endorsement of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF)," he added.

Padrones, for his part, said that as they started their training earlier this year, even when she was still in Manila, she finds ways to oversee the team virtually.

"...[earlier] this year, nagstart na ng training ang team, even nasa Manila ako, ina-assist ko sila through the training programs na binibigay [ko]. [In return], they keep sending videos to me para mai-correct ko po ang technique nila," Padrones said.

The Cebuano paddlers aim to have an exemplary performance as the competition nears.

Padrones said that by representing the Philippines, the team can bring pride and glory to the country. They want to show the world that Filipinos excel in dragon boat racing.

In order to realize their goal, the team is working as one. They have been doing intensive trainings these days in preparation for the race.

Padrones said that everyone must be present at 4 a.m. at their training area in Pajara Park, Barangay Umapad, Mandaue City. The formal training starts at 4:30 a.m. with a warm-up and land training workout for an hour. Their boat training lasts for two hours.

Because of personal necessities of the paddlers to support themselves and their families, they have to take a pause and resume their training at 5 p.m. every day.

But behind their fiery souls are struggles the team members are trying to conquer.

Maunes said they have been striving to make their competition successful, stressing that one of their challenges is finding sponsorships and support from local government units, as they lack funds.

"We sent letters already to Cebu City Government, Talisay City [and] Lapu-Lapu City but we still have to get their response," Maunes said.

He added that they are on debt just to sustain their needs for transportation expenses.

Maunes also said that he is struggling in terms of managing his time for himself, his family and Pads.

According to him, since Pads is a non-profit organization, managing the finances of the team is quiet a big challenge for him.

Maunes appealed the local government units of Cebu and national agencies to support them in their upcoming battle.

"I am calling our local government, national agencies and generous sponsors to support the financial needs of our athletes who have been working hard and sacrificing a lot to bring pride and glory to our country and to our cities. May they get the moral and financial support they deserve," said Maunes.

Despite being in a tight spot, the paddlers have not lost hope, as they showed eagerness to win in the US competition.

A rookie paddler, Police Staff Sergeant Sidney De Jesus Alisoso, 34, from Talisay City, said that because of what happened to him, he was drawn closer to Pads and was given the opportunity to join the team as a paddler.

Alisoso lost his leg after he was shot during a buy-bust operation.

He said that before the shooting incident, he was an athletic person, so losing his leg deprived him from doing any other sports.

"I [was] invited by [one of the members] of Pads to join the paradragon boat. That's why I immediately joined the dragon boat because for me, it's another sport to fit my situation," Alisoso said.

Alisoso added that being part of the team was not easy for him at first, but he was able to cope with other senior paddlers. He has been paddling for about six months already and he is one of the members who will compete in Sarasota.

Arnold “Kap A” Balais, the team captain and one of the pioneers of the dragon boat team, said he is proud of the team.

He said being challenged physically is “not a reason to stop doing your passion.”

Kap A thanked Maunes and Reynante Mangayao, co-founder of Pads, for their vision to help persons with disability.

Maunes called on differently-abled individuals who are afraid to show their abilities in sports to come out.

"Daghang maayong tao pareha sa Pads nga willing mo tabang ninyo kung ikaw willing nimo tabangan imohang kaugalingon. Kung nakaya sa Pads, makaya sad na ninyo. This is the new normal. Gone are the days, we still hide under the shadows of our own disability. Come out in the open. Go out there and play," Maunes said. (Jeanie Mea Pitor, CNU intern)