Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rising from the rubbles of defeat: Another Dragon Boat story

I was watching my favorite TV show yesterday (Saturday) when Ram Llano, one of my paddlers in the Army Dragon Boat team, rang me to deliver the startling news of the day.

"Sir, we lost to Lake Buhi Dragon Boat Team by split second!"

It was like a 220-volt electric shock that jolted me from my office chair. As they say, 'reality bites'. I became sad but tried not to show it.

Ramie said that Usman Anterola, the boat captain, and Sgt Bagni were still down with flu but attempted to join the heats. Usman ended up vomiting and physically drained, failing to join the finals.

I was 'remote-controlling' them because my conflicting schedules hindered me to join them in Zambales race.Though I was saddened by the news, I gave the team my morale support.

"Good luck to the second and last event. Just try your best!"

Then at around 3:45pm today (April 14), I received the final blow: "Sir, we lost the final race!"

Actually, it was the third time  that we lost to Lake Buhi, a team composed of fishermen from Camarines Sur. 

They had beaten us for the first time during the 1st National Dragon Boat Regatta in Manila Bay last month.

The first defeat in historic Manila Bay was a wake-upper. The next two defeats were like nightmares. We must really learn from them.

The winning team

The Philippine Army Dragon Boat team is  known to be the perennial winners in the past years. Now, you might ask, "Why are you losing?"

I have to brag that our team is not used to losing. We have dominated the local sport since 2010, capturing every Championship Trophy in various races. 

As the public affairs officer of the 9th Infantry Division in Bicol, I watched their awesome display of strength and determination during the Camsur International Dragon Boat Festival in September 2010. 

They displayed the same physical prowess and team work during another international race in Boracay.

Our players were highly confident especially that we have in our roster 7 World Champion paddlers of the Pinoy Dragon Warriors. 

The team is also led by non-commissioned officers who set the best examples in terms of professionalism, military discipline and love for the Dragon Boat sport.

Usman, the Boat Captain, is a veteran paddler since 2003 and  the man behind the team. He is not just an ordinary paddler but a leader.

Since I rarely see the team due to my office responsibilities, he normally takes charge of everything especially the daily training activities. In steering the team, he is ably supported by other NCOs like Romy Dionio and Ronald Tan.

But then, our players are not only paddlers. They are like any other soldiers who have duties and responsibilities when they are back in the office.

They perform tasks such as guard duties, escorting supplies, writing reports and cleaning the sports facilities of the Army Wellness Center. 

In most cases, their duties are during night time because our training normally starts at 5:00am. 

It is not easy to train for hours if you lack sleep the night before. Valid alibi? Yes.

Anyway, we removed this 'alibi' by negotiating with the unit to settle the guard duty schedule. 

Again, why are we losing? Hmmmm. We can present so many excuses that you might consider as mere alibis.

Two of our paddlers were down with flu including Usman. As you know, dragon boat racing is not an individual sport and I can truly say that 'Every soldier counts'.

Determined to win, he paddled in the elimination races despite his illness. Like any human being, he has limitations that are beyond his control regardless of his positive mental attitude.

The team lost its leader like a phalanx of Macedonian warriors sans the presence of the mighty Alexander the Great. We lost by a fraction of a second (It was still a stinging loss no matter what).
Well, I don't want to present alibis. As the leading officer of the group, I want to identify the problems and find the solutions.

I am aware that we need to recruit young blood who can be trained to become the next generation of champions. We need to expand the pool of players to select the best ones during the races. 

Since we just have enough number of players, we could not select the most motivated, the best disciplined athletes.

 Since the team was constantly winning anyway, some of them were inflicted with 'complacency' virus.  

Enjoying the accolades during the past wins, some would like to think that smoking, gaining weight, failing to cope up with the set standards, and staying up late are all okay.

We have to accept that there is something wrong and we have to make corrections.

As Napoleon Hill said, “When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.” 

I need to remind them that there are responsibilities that come with playing competitive sports like Dragon Boat, especially  for those who dream to compete a notch higher.

We need to act with dignity and class even in a time of adversity. We will learn more about every person who are in our boat during this painful defeat.

Also,  I need to remind them not to underestimate our adversaries. Lake Buhi for example has everything to gain in these races. They are the most determined and perhaps, the most motivated among the teams around. 

In one of our usual After Action Review (AAR), I commented: "Sino ba naman ang magpagod na magbyahe ng 10 hrs papuntang Maynila para magpatalo lang?" 

Just like in war, soldiers must really know their enemy in order to win. (Thank you Sun Tzu for telling us)

Together, we will rise again and show what the Army is all about: A team of winners!



  1. Greats words there Sir Cabunzky. Yet maybe the Lord just wants us to be taught some good wise lesson...

    "They say people learn little from victory, they learn more through losing."

    Totoo yang sinabi mo na we just have to learn our enemy.

    In my side, you guys were never defeated because you always showed a fighting spirit and threw back another chance of winning. You fought against physical limitations and you won.

    Let a better Dragon Boat team rise up after these events. So no reason to be disappointed.

    Best Regards!

  2. Thanks Drey!

    By losing this race, we are focused on our next objective: to regain our old glory during the Bohol International Dragon Boat race in Tagbilaran City. :-)