My iPhone starts blaring U2’s Beautiful Day at 3:45 AM. It’s supposed to be telling me to wake up. But I’ve beaten it by a good twenty minutes yet again. I take a quick shower, brush my teeth (and tits) and apply my moisturizer and sunscreen. Senna Enna’s roosters haven’t even started crowing but here I am, waiting for my Uber (arriving in 8 mins.) and raring to head to the bay. Because today, I will paddle with my beloved team, the Manila Dragons.
What should have been a one-off assignment for TEAM Magazine has already become a lifestyle choice. I was just supposed to do some research on the dragonboat team whose men’s crew is a great example of diversity – approximately 50% of the male paddlers identify as gay, with more probably just waiting for the right time to come out. Six months have passed and here I am still paddling alongside some of the most outstanding people I have met in my adult life. (Key word is some.)
Being someone who has always been athletic (and competitive), shifting to dragonboat as a sport has not been that hard. Some consider our rigorous trainings on land and on the water to be arduous but I think it’s actually fun. (Except for burpees. Burpees are the Mocha Uson of exercises.) While being relatively new in my team, I would like to believe I am one of its strongest members – or at least its most delusional. What I lack in form (my elbow still fails to push out correctly when my blade exits the water), I make up for in FIERCE. After all, I am the prettiest one among all our gay paddlers. That, or I’m actually the most delusional.
In my six months paddling with Manila Dragons, I realized that the physical toll of our rigorous training isn’t actually the hardest part of dragonboat. We have female members who are in their fifties and sixties who can do our high intensity interval trainings like the rest (and best) of us. I am so proud of all of them. The hardest part? The actual commitment.
Since February of this year, I have cut back on my nights out, cut back on my alcohol consumption and cut back on my smoking. (I will, however, still cut a bitch.) Those times when I would be arriving home at 4 AM from an alcohol binge wearing the shortest of shorts have been replaced by me leaving the house at 4 AM so I will be at the docksite in time for training. It goes without saying that I paddle in my trademark short shorts.
There would be days when I would rather sleep in, comfortably surrounded by all my stuffed toys – I’m kidding; I’m not THAT gay to actually have stuffed toys – but something undefinable drives me to get out of bed and head to Manila Bay. I’ve trained under the rain, under the intense heat of the sun, and while under the weather. I am under the influence of the paddle.
Some of my closest friends in the team and I would oftentimes discuss why we would wake up at an ungodly hour and paddle in the (not-so-dirty) waters of Manila Bay. To this day, we cannot come up with an answer that even closely captures why we paddle. While I can’t fully articulate it, I would not continue doing something if I don’t get anything out of it. And with Manila Dragons, the dividends sure outweigh my investment:
Dragonboat ignited in me a competitive drive. Manila Dragons instilled in me a communal spirit. Dragonboat challenges me to strive for excellence. Manila Dragons encourages me to practice empathy for my teammates. The sport has taught me how to be a better athlete. My team, the Manila Dragons, has taught me how to be a better person.
Heraclitus said, “No man steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and it’s not the same man.” I could not agree with Tito Clit more. Every time I step on the boat and paddle on the (not-so-dirty) waters of Manila Bay, I return to the docksite a changed man, and thanks to Manila Dragons, it’s most likely for the better.
Also, Manila Dragons has hot guys, y’alls.
© 2017 Victor John Platon
All Rights Reserved.
Special thanks to TEAM Magazine, Paolo Lorenzana, Bea Faicol and JL Javier for the photos.