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Philippines' young dragon boat team paddling towards dreams in China

Updated: 2024-06-07 10:22 ( Xinhua )
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When Ronen Estoque, an 18-year-old paddler from the Philippines, finished the preliminary race at the 2024 China-ASEAN Dragon Boat Open, he was deeply impressed by the level of the Chinese dragon boat teams.

"They are very strong and fast. I know that China is the birthplace of dragon boat racing, so coming and competing in China is an opportunity for exchange," Estoque said.

The 2024 China-ASEAN Dragon Boat Open kicked off on Saturday in the city of Wuzhou, in South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and a total of 28 dragon boat teams, including four teams from ASEAN countries, participated in the two-day event.

As a young paddler of the Brgy Carmen Dragon team from Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines, Estoque has been training for two years, and this is his first international competition.

Estoque noted that he fell in love with dragon boating because he was born into a "dragon boat family".

His mother used to be a paddler on a women's dragon boat team, and his brother and a sister are also taking to the sport in the Philippines.

"China is the origin of dragon boat racing, so coming to China to participate in the dragon boat race is undoubtedly a dream come true for our young team members," said Sunny Raed Cahayag, leader of Brgy Carmen Dragon.

The team was only established in 2022 and the paddlers are all students, Cahayag added.

"This is the first time for this young team to go out of the Philippines to compete abroad. Today's race allows us to see the high-level dragon boat teams and gain experience," Cahayag said.

Cagayan de Oro is a port city in the Philippines. The integration of Chinese and Philippine cultures has influenced and shaped the unique Chinese community there, and dragon boat racing has become increasingly popular among locals.

Although it is a niche sport, dragon boat racing has developed rapidly in the area, and there are several dragon boat teams in Cagayan de Oro City, according to Cahayag.

Suhod Hakim, coach of Brgy Carmen Dragon, was once a player and coach of the Philippines national dragon boat team.

"My family is in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. I came to Cagayan de Oro City to coach because these children really love the sport of dragon boating. They have to get up at 4:30 every morning and train for more than two hours before going to school," Hakim said.

"There are elements of Chinese culture in many Philippine cities. Chinese restaurants and the Spring Festival are becoming more and more influential in the Philippines," Hakim added.

"I have been to Nanning twice to participate in dragon boat races. I have also been to Guangdong, Shanghai, Zhejiang and other places. Such competitions will not only help everyone improve their competitive level through exchanges, but also enable the people of the two countries to increase interaction and enhance people to people exchange," Hakim noted.

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