PH dragon boat team takes silver in Long Beach, California race
LOS ANGELES — The Philippines Dragon Boat Alliance Team (Alliance) took silver in both the Men’s and Women’s 500-meter events and placed 6th overall in the Toyota Super Dragon Final during the annual 2017 Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival.
The 2017 Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival took place on July 29-30 at Marine Stadium in Long Beach, California, where local and international dragon boat teams from various age groups came together to compete in the annual dragon boat races.
“Over 200 teams from different countries competed in 18 different divisions,” Dr. Howard Chen, the festival’s founder and organizer, told the Asian Journal.
Included in the international lineup were teams from Taiwan, Canada, and Singapore, among others, added Chen. Representing the Philippines for the first time in the festival was Alliance.
Established in 2016, the team consists of Filipino paddlers from different parts of the world including the U.S., Qatar, Dubai, Singapore, Canada, and the Philippines.
All were former members of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF) teams, the governing body for dragon boating in the Philippines as recognized by the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF).
Support from Fi-Ams
Although it was Alliance’s first time competing at the festival, which started in 2003, the team was welcomed with a lot of support from the Filipino American community, including Filipino paddlers from other teams.
“Racing with Alliance is like you are part of [the] Justice League,” Benj Rodrigo, one of the team’s rowers, shared with the Asian Journal. “We support each other and fight together.”
With members from all over the world, Alliance only trained together as a boat for a couple of days before the festival, but have been communicating regularly via group chat.
“We were competing with teams who trained together the whole year round,” Alliance Team Captain John Panuelos told the Asian Journal. Because Alliance consists of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the team was only able to squeeze in around two hours of practice together total. Rodrigo is based in Singapore, Panuelos in Abu Dhabi, their co-captain from Qatar, and their coach from the Philippines.
Nevertheless, they were able to pull through, bagging two silver medals and placing 6th overall in the Toyota Super Dragon. Among their competitors were national teams from the U.S. and Taiwan.
Rodrigo, who started rowing in 2014 back in the Philippines, was glad to be representing the country at the festival.
“It was my first time pacing in a big event while representing our country,” he shared. “I kept reminding myself that every stroke of my paddle was for my country.”
Dragon boat festivals, or Duanwu Jie, have many origin stories. One, which the Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival refers to, goes back to Qu Yuan, an ancient poet who served as a top advisor to the Chu state’s king during the Warring States period of China. Slandered by jealous officials upon advice he gave to the king, he was sent into exile where he wrote poems.
In 278 BC, the capital of Chu was conquered by the Qin state. This lead Qu Yuan to commit suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. Saddened by his death, locals began to row out searching for his body. This eventually became a festival commemorating his death spanning over 2,000 years throughout southern China. The water sport gradually gained popularity abroad including in the Philippines.
“Dragon boat racing has been popular in the Philippines for some time,” said Panuelos. The country holds many dragon boat festivals and regattas with the biggest being the Cherifer Premium-PDBF Dragon Boat Regatta in Manila Bay. Rodrigo’s Philippine home team, Triton Dragon Boat Racing Team, just recently held its first-ever Triton PCL Dragonboat Cup in July, which he said was a success.
According to the PDBF, more than 30 teams have been organized in the Philippines, comprising of students, professionals, businessmen, and military personnel. Aside from the country’s National Team, which holds many world records, club teams have been active in dragon boat races across Asia, Australia, Europe, the U.S., and Canada.
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