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This coming April, Boracay once again plays host to the Dragon Boat Festival.  This year’s festival is said to be bigger and better than its predecessors, with various race categories to participate in.  But how much do you know about the sport?

Here’s a lowdown on the sport that exemplifies teamwork, sportsmanship, and camaraderie.

What is a dragon boat?

boracay dragon boat

Photo courtesy of www.windsurfasia.com

Dragon boats are human-powered watercrafts made of different kinds of wood.  These long and intricately-carved boats are originally made with teak wood.  These days, however, the boats can be fashioned from different types of wood used to build boats and other watercrafts.

The dragon boat design

Dragon Boat Design

Photo courtesy of www.blazesports.org

As dragons have been deeply embedded in Chinese culture, the boats are designed to resemble these noble creatures.  During festivals and competitions, the dragon head and tail is attached to opposite ends of the boat.

How it works

dragon boat boracay

Photo courtesy of www.patriciahizon.com

A dragon boat team consists of 18-20 paddlers sitting side by side on the narrow boat, a drummer or caller who sets the pace of the paddling through rhythmic beats, and a Cox who steers the direction of the boat.  The team works in unison to propel the boat forward from the start of the race to the finish.

The challenge in dragon boat racing lies not just on the paddling technique and speed of the paddlers, but also the synchronicity of all members of the team.

Dragon boat races are participated in by 4-6 teams.

The origin of dragon boats

Dragon boats have been in existence in Ancient China and have been utilized for religious purposes.  It was said that boat racing ensures a bountiful harvest.

It wasn’t until the death of Qu Yuan, an ancient patriotic Chinese poet and minister, in 278 BC when dragon boat racing rose to prominence.  He was accused of treason and exiled by the king. 28 years into his exile, Qu Yuan fell into despair and committed suicide by drowning himself in the Mi Lo River.

The people of Chu loved Qu Yuan so much that they paddled their fishing boats around the river and beat drums to show their respects. To keep the fish from eating his body, they threw rice cakes into the river.

This was believed to be the precursor of the dragon boat festivals we celebrate today.

Dragon Boating in the Philippines

dragon boat champion

The Manila Dragons Dragon Boat Rowing team. Photo courtesy of papillon-imaging.blogspot.com

Dragon boat racing in the Philippines has been around for more than two decades and the Manila Dragons Dragon Boat Rowing team is one of the country’s pioneers.  Numerous dragon boat teams have been formed since then and the country has participated in various festivals and competitions here and abroad.

This year, you can witness some of these teams battle it out in the 9th Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival on April 23-25, 2015.  Book your accommodations now to watch this colourful annual event in Boracay.