wellness by Alyssa Castillo

Start Something: Dragon Boat

Learning to move as one has reaped benefits in and out of the water for the Manila Dragons

It’s the break of dawn on a Sunday morning and most of Manila is still asleep. But the members of the Manila Dragons are already wide awake, ready for rigorous training at 5:30 am.dragon-5One of the pioneering dragon boat teams in the Philippines, the Manila Dragons has been around since 1991. The group prides itself for being hardworking and disciplined, contributing to the country’s growing reputation as being one global force in the sport. Our national team has won multiple championships competing against the likes of China, Canada, the US, and European nations throughout the years. Through this growing competence and popularity as well as word-of-mouth referrals and social media, the Manila Dragons have also increased in number.dragon-6The team’s profile today is very dynamic. From former athletes, cancer survivors, teenagers and seniors citizens, students and corporate executives, gay and straight, the group is a melting pot of sorts. With such diversity, overall team manager Gelo Cimagala and liaison officer Paul Velasquez claim that there’s not a hint of discrimination in this family. They welcome anyone regardless of fitness level because they believe that anyone can cope with the training; it just takes time, adjustment, and patience to get everyone to the same level.dragon-10“There are no superstars in this sport,” Cimagala says. It doesn’t matter how strong you are because what counts is how you row and move as one, with the same goal in mind. Velasquez likes the fact that everybody in the team for having a sense of community and espousing the behavior of helping each other become stronger every training day.manila-dragons-6Their main gurus are Agot Dequilla, a SEAgames-level frontiersman, and Sid Isidro, a member-coach of the national team coach. For their land training, which is integral to getting better at the sport, they have JC Santos, a certified high intensity interval training (HIIT) to improve their stamina.dragon-9As a sport, dragon boat gives you that level of discipline you can apply to your daily life. It’s not just about making it to training on time, it’s also about dealing with a diverse set personalities that will help you understand others more. You become competitive, but you are fulfilled at the same time because you are trying to achieve a goal together; realizing that not everything is about you is a universally satisfying and productive lesson.dragon-7And, in starting every training early in the morning, the sport builds you a strong base you can stand on for the rest of the day, a foundation that gets you through every and any difficulty.dragon-8Photography by Renzo Navarro
Art direction by Mags Ocampo
Special thanks to Victor Platon



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Alyssa Castillo
Alyssa Castillo is a freelance writer and is concurrently Rogue Media's Editorial Assistant for The NBHD. She reads for fun, writes for a living, and wastes too much time entertaining the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. Find her on Instagram as @lysscstll.
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