What an exciting, amazing and heart-pounding big-day race-event in Naga City, Camarines Sur – the Camsur International Dragonboat Festival, with such unforgettable highlights for every event of the race until the very last day!
I, Shari and her husband Sol hurriedly headed for a Ro-Ro ferry ship to Manila for our travel sports assignment. After a long 13-hour sea trip, we took a night-bus for Naga and traveled another 8 hours, fortunately catching the last trip at the terminal. Arriving in Naga City at dawn, we were ushered into nice room accommodations for three nights at the Villa LRay Resort in what are called Tiki Huts.
The exact location for the Camsur Dragonboat Festival is at Lago del Ray Boat Lake, where we also learned that this vast place is owned by a prominent clan and that Governor LRay Villafuerte usually held all kinds of sports events and competitions here. We have seen other kinds of sports here, such as one called wakeboarding (which moves are similar to our kite-boarding in Boracay, save for the kites), and we could see all boards had been attached to cables to follow and do an athlete’s own moves, tricks and techniques. It seems easy to play in, but wow! One really needs proper training to learn these kinds of sports, which I am looking forward to someday learn and compete in. By the way, there will be a wakeboarding competition here this coming January and we hope to be back to witness the events.
Registration started at the lobby of the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC) lobby, alongside the distribution of singlets (the Cobra yellow-printed shirts to be used for each race, with the energy drink among the biggest sponsors), the distribution of sports magazines and program details, the distribution of competitors’ IDs, a team managerss meeting, and discussions on the rules and regulations for the race events.
We woke up early to drums beating and music playing loudly from the sound system. All dragonboat competitors were in a hurry preparing themselves for the events. A team in our neighboring room was first to be in its tent by the boat lake to gather and prepare for the big parade to be participated in by all the competing teams, all 63 of them. Every one got set and lined up to be introduced, with each competing team donning its own uniforms marked with the team’s name. Such a fun, entertaining and proud moment for us all.
Then, the official program began with the singing of our National Anthem by a Philippine National Team member, followed by a Sportsmanship Prayer led by a Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF) official, and entertaining dance numbers by the LRay Dancers. An inspirational message delivered by Gov. Villafuerte and Hubert Tan preceded one of the most awaited program part – the official “opening of the eyes” for all the champion boats done by PDBF officials to start this year’s Camsur International Dragon Boat Festival.
The competition’s opening salvo was the elimination rounds for the men’s and women’s open and 400-meter mixed categories. Unexpectedly, Sol Villagante was requested to row with one of the competitors, Manila’s Onslaught team, which missed one member who couldn’t make it to the province. Though not physically prepared for it, Sol gamely joined the team solely on the basis of his love and passion for water sports. He and this newly formed but tough team managed to finish on top in their first and second hits.
Though eventually losing out in the final round, the team made a good impression on every one, being new in this new type of sport. Congratulations to Sol and the Onslaught Team for a job well done!
The finals for the men’s and women’s open, and the 250-meter mixed events were the most awaited and heart-pounding races I have witnessed. The remaining best-of-the-best teams, like the Camsur Team, Fleet Marines, Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and the Philippine National Team put up a neck-to-neck battle to the finish line, sending the crowd into loud cheering and shouting. A total prize money of $19,000 was given to all the winners, with the first 30 teams receiving P10,000 each.
I quietly wished our Bugsay Boracay Team was here to compete. If you may recall, Bugsay won silver in the mixed team open 200-meter race (with a time of 50.4 seconds) and bronze in the men’s team open 200 meters race (47.3 seconds) at the 25th Sabah Dragonboat Race in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; and, the championship gold in Penang, Malaysia.
There were assorted souvenir items on sale from each team as part of their fund-raising, mostly printed Dragonboat t-shirts, keychains, necklaces, pendants, anklets and wrist-bands. Most of the items were made from native materials. I bought a few I found rare, like a paddle- chain made from white carabao tusk. Among the various t-shirts, what I liked most was the Camsur black t-shirt being offered sale at the registration area and the Philippine Dragonboat shirt from the Philippine Navy and National teams.
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