"Go ahead, you compete in Macau!"
I personally heard the go signal from Army chief Lt General Noel Coballes for us to participate in the highly-anticipated Macau International Dragon Boat Race that will be held in Nam Van Nautical Center in Macau, China on June 12, 2013.
I and my Scout Ranger Course mentor, Colonel Gene Ponio gladly saluted before departing from the good General's office. "Sir, yes sir! We will accomplish the mission."
It was like receiving the green light to attack an enemy force located in a jungle lair. The commander's intent and our mission are very clear: Fight to win!
Colonel Ponio, the head of the Army's Special Services Center would be the Head of Delegation. As usual, I am acting as the Team Manager.
Having worked together in our fight against bandits in Sirawai-Sibuco-Siocon (SSS) in 1995, we knew and trust each other in our past missions where lives of our people were at stake.
There may be no exploding bombs and whizzing bullets this time but the procedures in leading people are quite the same.
We will fight for our flag. We will represent our country in an international event.
The mission is to raise the Philippine flag over a foreign land. Nah, this is not an invasion of a foreign country.
Actually, we can also legally raise our flag through sporting events. If the team wins a medal, the flag will be raised.
The most coveted part is the Championship because the flag will be raised in the middle of the flags as the national anthem is played.
We did it in the US two years ago when we won gold medals in the World Dragon Boat Championships.
I have a winning team because it is fully committed, dedicated and well-disciplined.
Most importantly, it is well-led. After all, everything boils down to leadership. I hate bad leaders!
Like any Army unit, the team is ran by the 'non-coms', senior enlisted personnel who provide direction and motivation in their daily activities.
As club president, I monitor them from behind. I am more of a trouble shooter and an adviser.
I don't micro-manage the soldiers and instead, I empower the NCOs to do their job of providing hands-on leadership.
We practice transparency and accountability in the team. Our funds are open book. Well, most of the times we don't have funds to speak of.
Most of the times we perform practice sessions with only hot pandesal to fill our stomach. We drink tap water instead of mineral water every time we perspire heavily during training.
We occasionally forage for tahong that cling the concrete posts of Manila Ocean Park.
We don't complain but we solve problems in our own level.
Now you know. We remain committed because we are Army soldiers and we are proud in defending the country's flag!
A veteran in foreign engagements, I am very aware of our important role as the 'flag carriers' in an alien land.
My first reminder to the soldiers: "We are carrying the name of the Philippines. We must not put our country in a bad light."
"We are also Philippine Army soldiers," I told them.
"I don't like to see bandit-looking soldiers. We are soldiers before being paddlers."
I also told them to befriend everyone and avoid discussing sensitive issues that would affect our healthy relations as countries.
"Our brand is what they talk about us by the time we leave the place," I added. "We must always present ourselves as proud but disciplined Filipinos".
Lastly, I issued my stern warning: "We have trained hard and so we must fight hard. Let us fight to win in the race!"