Filipino PWD paddlers win gold in HK paradragon boat race
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Accessible Disability Services (PADS) adaptive dragon boat racing team, the country’s first-ever cross-disability dragon boat racing team, took home the gold medal from the Paradragon Division of the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races 2017 held from June 2 to 4.
Beating 6 other teams, the PADS dragonboat team finished the race with a speed of one minute and 43 seconds (ahead by 7 seconds of the second placer).
With 36 paddlers, the team is composed of several amputees, polio survivors, blind, and deaf. They hail from the cities of Mandaue, Cebu, and Lapu-Lapu. The team was formed around September 2016 and had their first dragon boat competition in Dumaguete City only in November.
In a statement, PADS dragonboat racing team founder and team manager John Paul Maunes shared the process of their rigorous training.
“We started the program on adaptive sports 9 months ago. We got an invitation from the organizers of the Hong Kong Dragon boat Carnival to represent our country. We started training last December. Yung training natin at least 5 times a week. Our training starts every 4 am,” he said. (We started training last December, at least 5 times a week, starting at 4 am.)
The road to the gold medal was littered with challenges, according to Maunes.
According to the team manager, since members have different kinds of disability, they all required individual training. This meant that the team had to undergo sports performance training with several specialists.
With lack of support from government, Maunes also said they had difficulty raising funds for their expenses.
“Actually out-of-pocket expenses ito. Struggle nga, pagdating namin sa Hong Kong, P50,000*($1,009.49) lang ang dala namin. Papunta nga ng Hong Kong, wala ngang pambayad ng terminal fee at travel tax so we made a post in Facebook na kung sino ang makakabigay ng support sa expenses ng team,” Maunes said.
(Actually, we paid for our own expenses. We had a difficult time when we arrived in Hong Kong because we only had P50,000. We were on the way to Hong Kong, but we didn't have the money to pay for our terminal fee and travel tax so we posted on Facebook asking for help to raise funds and support expenses of the team.)
Fortunately, a number of kindhearted individuals pitched in to partially fund their expenses.
Arnold Balais, team captain of the PADS dragon boat team, echoed Maunes, sharing the individual struggles of members.
“Number one talaga finances, alam mo naman mga athlete natin na PWDs, hindi lahat may trabaho. So tulungan talaga, ‘yung iba pino-provide namin pamasahe noong iba naming kasama na kapos talaga, tulungan lang talaga.”
(The number one problem that we face is really finances, as not all PWD athletes have jobs. So we really help each other. We provide transportation funds for our other members who really don't have enough, it's really helping each other.)
But despite all the difficulties, Balais and the whole team are glad that their hard work paid off.
"We are really happy with our victory because it’s an international competition and as the first PWD dragon boat team in the country, it’s a big honor for us to represent the country. We even won and defeated the defending champion from Hong Kong," Balais said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Maunes and Balais said they are excited to move forward as a team after their first international win.
“I-celebrate muna namin ‘yung win kasi we’ve been really working hard for this. Almost everything na nga eh, dito na buhay ng paddlers natin eh,” Maunes said. (We have to celebrate this victory first because we've been really working hard for this. This has been almost everything, this has been the life of our paddlers.)
After taking a quick break, Maunes said they we will resume their practice for another dragon boat competition in Manila – the Regatta Dragon Boat Festival.
In the very physically demanding sport of dragon boat racing, Maunes said they don't talk about disability. Instead they focus on how they can strengthen themselves to win the competition.
According to Maunes, this gave the team members a sense of empowerment and inclusion.
“Before, they were enclosed in the corners of their home. Now, they’re out here performing just like the other people without disabilities," Maunes added.
PADS or Philippine Accessible Disability Services Inc. is an independent non-governmental organization that aims to empower persons with disabilities to become independent and integrated citizens of society. – Rappler.com
For those interested in donating and supporting the team, you can visit their site at http://pads.org.ph/
*$1 = P49.53
Clyde Villanueva is a Rappler intern. He is studying Mass Communication at the San Pablo Colleges in Laguna.