By Trudy Allen
Trudy Allen, was a founding member of both the Boracay Dragonflies and Boracay Dragonflies teams, as well as the Dragonflies Team Manager from 2014 to 2017. Trudy took a break from paddling but will be joining the team again for races in 2020.
On the 25th of September 2019 many people were waking up to the news from the Philippine Coast Guard of a terrible accident involving one of the island’s dragon boat teams.
The day had started out with hot weather and a slight breeze. The team did their usual land training on Bulabog Beach, before getting into the boat for the morning training routine. No one could have imagined that a weather front would come up so suddenly, which would result in such a tragedy and loss of life.
Boracay is a close-knit community. It has its cliques but ultimately when anything befalls the island, everyone reacts. Tragically, the news filtering down was true and the boat that the Boracay Dragonforce team was training in had sunk.
Seven of its paddlers were dead, with fourteen distraught survivors. The team’s coach Von Navarossa, initially listed as the eighth person to die, was hospitalized and remained in hospital for nearly two weeks. Von had turned away one of the first rescue boats of nearby fishermen, insisting other teammates be rescued first, before they rescued him.
Boracay Dragonforce Boracay Dragonflies Team
Starting Out: Boracay Dragonflies is a women’s dragon boat team which formed in February 2013, with many of its paddlers coming from the 2012 Boracay Bumshells team. From the start the team was one to be reckoned with, completing races one or two boat lengths ahead of their competitors in the Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival and the Philippine National Games.
In 2014 the Dragonflies announced their first mixed team; a Masters Team of women and men over the age of 40, hastily named Boracay Dragonforce as Dragonflies was a bit too dainty for the men. Whilst this first incarnation of Boracay Dragonforce was a “just for fun” team, having done no race practice separately from the Dragonflies, they went on to take Gold in the 250m race, and Silver in the 500m race at the Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival. Boracay Dragonflies took Gold Small Boat 500m, Silver Small Boat 250m, and Bronze in the 250m and 500m Standard Boat races.
In 2015 Boracay Dragonforce saw an influx of male paddlers from another island team. This enabled the younger Dragonflies to also compete in mixed races, alongside their older team mates. The total tally at the Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival 2015 for both teams was 3 Gold Medals & 4 Silver Medals. This set the pattern for Boracay Dragonforce as a formidable and popular Mixed Team. The Dragonflies and Dragonforce also formed an alliance with The Philippine Titan’s in this year, fielding paddlers to complete a full boat and allowing members, from both teams, to compete in races in Manila and around the Philippines. The pattern of medals continued, and included Gold and Silver medals at International Festivals in Indonesia and Malaysia.
The International races were a wonderful opportunity for many of the team to secure their first passport and compete abroad for the first time. Firm friendships were forged with other teams and paddlers at these races, and at the Boracay International Dragon Boat Festivals. Boracay Dragonflies and Dragonforce are recognized as highly competitive on the water, but friendly and good fun on dry land.
The Boracay Dragonflies and Boracay Dragonforce Facebook pages have been inundated with messages and tributes from these dragon boat teams and friends, as well as other teams from around the world who had never even met the teams or paddlers; a testament to the unity and family of the Dragon Boat World.
The Boracay Dragonforce 7
Rose Antonette Supranes
Known as Tonet, she started her paddling life with Boracay Bumshells. Tonet was a founding member of the Boracay Dragonflies in 2013, as well as a founding member of the Boracay Sea Dragons the following year in 2014, for whom she was the Drummer. Tonet was quiet in a crowd, shying away from the spotlight but was so loved by everyone who knew her that she was always in the center of things. Even after moving over to Boracay Sea Dragons, Tonet would make sure to spend time in the Dragonflies team tent during competitions and join the team for any get-togethers or celebrations. Tonet recently re-joined Boracay Dragonflies and Boracay Dragonforce for their races abroad.
Tonet worked at Crimson Resort & Spa Boracay.
Like Tonet, Richel started out paddling with Boracay Bumshells, and was among the first members of the Boracay Dragonflies. Richel’s nickname was Bebe, and she paddled beside her sister Cristine as the Dragonflies Pacers; paddlers at the front of the boat who set the pace for the rest of the team. Bebe moved to Boracay Sea Dragons in 2014; the Iglesia ni Cristo Dragon Boat team, formed by her brother Dodoy. Bebe paddled with Dragonforce and Dragonflies for races abroad and local races where the Sea Dragons weren’t competing. Bebe was a gifted hair braider, working on the beach at Station 2. An incredibly gifted hair braider! Her braids were always creative and distinctive and easy to spot.
Bebe had a quiet dignity which was lit by a spiritual heart and a stunning smile, readily given.
Maricel and Johann Tan
Maricel Tan was dragged reluctantly into the Boracay Dragonflies in 2017, by her husband Johann, and given the challenge by the girls, “give it two weeks. If you hate it fine but if you love it, you’ll always love it”. It turned out that Maricel loved dragon boat. She formed strong bonds with her teammates, loved paddling and most of all, loved competing. She worked tirelessly, behind the scenes, as a Team Officer with her husband, assisting with what was often a complicated process of securing flights for races abroad for teammates. Maricel was already beautiful but she blossomed even more as an athlete. With each win her self-confidence grew and she just developed a permanent glow of happiness.
Johann Tan joined the Dragonforce team in 2015 competing in the men’s and mixed races. Like his wife Maricel who joined two years later, Johann was addicted to dragon boat from the start. Maybe it is more correct to say, he was obsessed with dragon boat! Johann was a committed team member and team officer early on, rarely missing a training session unless he was in Manila, and competing in the Men’s, Mixed and Masters races during competitions. Johann had a quiet voice and a gentle personality with a delightful giggle, which would always make his teammates smile. Johann was the GM at Boracay Summer Palaceand also oversaw the souvenir stalls of the Bamboo Market.
Maricel and Johann leave behind a son, Joaquin.
Comar Reyes Acob
Comar joined Dragonforce in 2018 and had already competed successfully in a number of local races around the Philippines with the team. Comar had left his hometown of Puerto Princesa to join his cousin Jenny on Boracay, for better work opportunities. Jenny is also a paddler with both Dragonforce and Dragonflies. Comar loved dragon boat, both training and competing. Comar was working at Tita Magz Home Kitchen as a cook and was well loved by the regulars there, who enjoyed both his food and his conversation.
Comar leaves behind an 8-year-old daughter, Marysherlyn “Kena” Acob.
Mark Vincent Navarrete
Mark was very well known around the island, and was an avid photographer and diver. Mark Vincent was the founding Activities Director with My Boracay Guide, helping the company to gain its stellar reputation. Mark was also the Founding Partner of Boracay Heat Hot Sauce, as well as a regular organizer at Two Brown Boys for Thursday Acoustic Nights. Mark always put his whole heart and soul into whatever he decided to undertake.
He always went out of his way to help others and always left a lasting, and memorable impression, spreading good vibes with whomever he encountered.
Jan Vincent Pascual Natividad
Vince joined the team in 2019 in order to get fit after being ill for two years. His joining the team was also partly on account of his ‘bromance’ with Mark Vincent, who he’d met through his wife Ayn (Arlyn), also working with My Boracay Guide. Mark and Vince had nicknamed themselves the “2 V’s” and were in the process of commissioning themselves matching paddles. Vince was excited to learn he was to be a father, only shortly before the tragedy. Vince may have only recently joined the team but he was planning to compete in Taiwan, in early November, and had already found his place among the Dragonforce crew.
Vince leaves behind a wife who is newly pregnant.
The reality is that Boracay Dragonforce and Boracay Dragonflies will never be the same again.
The team remains in mourning for their dragon boat brothers and sisters. The survivors of the tragedy in particular face a hard journey coming to terms with their experiences that day, the feelings of helplessness and horror of what they witnessed and survived. Healing and recovery will certainly take time, for those who directly survived the tragedy, the families, friends and remaining crew near and far.
The team will rise again; we will train and compete together and we will carry the loss of Bebe, Tonet, Comar, Vince, Mark, Maricel and Johann throughout the rest of our lives. We will endeavor to live the best lives that we can, for those whose lives ended on 25th September 2019.
Boracay Dragonforce and Boracay Dragonflies would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has provided emotional support to the survivors, and to all those who donated to the fundraising account for the families of the paddlers who died.
Particular thanks go to the staff at Lingganay, who made the first of several calls to the Philippine Coast Guard; Sir Kobi, Jonel, Remeden, Robert, Ricky, Kevin, Anacito, Ronald, Nestor, Nicolas, Melquicedic, Arwin, Efren, Raul, Rene, Robelyn, Yancie, Rosame, Chrad, Alvin and Elmar.
Thanks to the four local fishermen - Charlie Vicente Mendoza, Niño Berdonar and two others, who were the first on the scene to rescue the survivors and the bodies of the paddlers who died.
The team also wish to thank Boracay’s Red Cross Volunteers, Boracay Business Administration of Scuba Shops (BBASS), the Philippine and Boracay Coastguard, and the Army, as well as Doctor Anne and her team at St. Gabriel’s Medical Center, Doctor Girlie Teotico and her team at MDMC, and the team at AMC.
Congratulations to the Boracay Allstars Dragon Boat Team!
While the Boracay Dragonforce retired from their overseas race after the tragedy, Boracay Allstars were determined to fly the flag for Boracay dragon boat at the same competition. Despite the ongoing suspension of any dragon boat activity in Boracay waters, the team upscaled their land training and undertook pool training. With two weeks to go the team was finally able to have their boat towed to an area off the mainland, where they could begin training proper.
New Boracay Sun is pleased to announce that their training paid off with a Silver medal in the 200-meter International Premier Mixed DB12, and a Bronze medal in the 500-meter International Premier Mixed DB12 at the 2019 Kaohsiung City Cup Dragon Boat Championship in Taiwan.