“Bugsay hangtod mabuang!”
FEEL THE GAME - Bobby Motus (The Freeman) - May 24, 2019 - 12:00am

This is the battle cry of an uncommon but elite group of athletes who had been very successful in national and international team competitions.  Uncommon because the team is composed of mix gendered and differently abled athletes, who are, for all intents and purposes, have core and muscle strengths ordinary mortals like you and me can only envy.

Team sports like basketball, baseball, volleyball and football usually have superstars, the team’s top guns whose performances usually decides the outcome of games.  But this is a sport where there are no superstar divas, where everyone acts in unison, with hearts beating as one in perfect synchronicity with each other.

They are the Philippine Accessible Disability Services (PADS) Dragon Boat Team that was formed sometime in 2016 by PADS CEO and co-founder John Paul “JP” Ecarma Muanes under the NGO’s Adaptive Sports Program.  The program gives PWDs the opportunity to engage and compete with everyone in sports and recreation and in so doing, regain their self-worth and self-confidence and be equally productive like everyone else.  Of late, more than 500 PWDs are active in the sports program.

Dragon boat racing have team members sitting while paddling and it could be composed of both male and female and of late, the athletes of PADS.  And in this sport, there is no distinction if you’re differently abled or not.  Muanes said that it is what the community see and identify that one is disabled.  “It’s how people see you that makes you disabled”. 

Because they are differently abled athletes, they have the ability and determination to stand out and many times outclass the competition.   They all go thru individual assessments for a modified training to fit their disability and their instructions focuses on core strength, cardio endurance and strength workouts.  “We paddle with a goal, a mission.  We want to make an impact”, says Muanes.

And what an impact they did.  From the waters of Cebu to Boracay to Hong Kong and Singapore, the team had made the country proud in general and the PWDs in particular because they had proved to everyone that given equal chances, they can have a strong influence not only to their fellow PWDs but also to the community.

The 55-man team will be defending and will try to get their third-in-a-row title in the Paradragon Division of the 2019 International Dragon Boat Race at the Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong this coming June.  They will also be competing with the regular teams in the men’s open standard, mixed open standard and women’s open standard.

To these athletes, anything is possible.  One swift stroke at a time, their boat slices the water towards respectability, recognition and acceptance.  As carved on one of their paddles, “Never underestimate the power of a one-legged Dragon”.

Muanes co-founded PADS, Inc. with Reynante Mangayao, whose aim is to create and establish a disability-inclusive Filipino society and is based at MEPZ 1, Lapu-Lapu City and had been in existence for about 15 years.   Half of its staff are PWDs with some 2,000 stakeholders trained in sign language.  My daughter Ana was with the NGO briefly and she said the conditions are conducive for working because it’s very quiet, considering that most of her officemates are hearing impaired.

Because it is a non-profit organization, PADS, Inc. will welcome donations to support their other programs like the Filipino Sign Language Program, the First High School for the Hearing Impaired and Break the Silence Project which tackle issues on sexual abuse on hearing impaired women.



  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with