Writer: Kiddie Rodaje
After almost a decade I left the corporate world to become a freelancer. Currently, I am now the proud coach of the Cebu Pink Paddlers Dragonboat Team. It’s the first breast cancer survivors dragon boat team in the Philippines who won multiple international championships around Asia and local races.
I have always wanted to travel and work abroad so I left my desk job and applied for work on a cruise ship. After graduating from the seafarers training course I went to Manila to apply. While waiting for my call back, I did some side gigs as a freelance bookkeeper and model. One weekend when I had nothing else to do, I saw a Facebook recruitment post. A dragon boat team was looking for new members. I am very spontaneous and have always enjoyed trying out random and fun new things so I decided to apply. Besides, it was a perfect way to stay fit and keep me from being bored. Our call time was at 4 am but I was already there by 3! As a newbie ayaw ko ma late. Baka may masabi pa yung ibang tao na ka bago bago ko pa lang late na agad! Since then I would always join the training. I became very dedicated to dragon boat paddling. I was always very excited to know my training schedule.
Medyo matagal yung tawag sa Cruise Ship so I decided to go back to Cebu for a Christmas Vacation year 2017. During my vacation, I researched local dragon boat teams so I can continue my passion for paddling and maki training lang. Around April I finally decided to stay in Cebu for good, forget my plans about going abroad and be a full-time paddler. Who would have thought that my spur-of-the-moment decision was going to be my life’s calling?
When my so-called friends and the people around me heard about my decision, initially their concern was appreciated. They would often ask me, how will I survive? How can I maintain my lifestyle? Do I even earn from being a paddler? But their concern became toxic. It made me feel small and degraded. So eventually I got fed up with it and just told them that they should stop worrying about me since I can take care of myself. I can pay my bills. That they shouldn’t feel sorry for me since I can still eat 3 times a day and that I would never ask them for financial support. On the other hand, my family was very okay with it. It did not come as a surprise for them because ever since I and my siblings were taught how to be responsible and independent while growing up.
I just got back from a competition in Hong Kong with my old dragon boat team, we were the champions by the way when my aunt asked me to coach a dragon boat team she was a member of, The Cebu Pink Paddlers for their race in Taiwan. So I asked permission from the president of my old team, coaches, and team captains in Manila If I can share the techniques that I have learned from them. Thankfully they said yes. Since I was still with my old dragon boat team, I have to travel from Manila to Cebu every month to coach and prepare the Cebu Pink Paddlers for their international dragon boat race by June.
The Cebu Pink Paddlers is not just your ordinary dragon boat team because we have advocacies and programs to help the community. We call it the 3H. Hope – We go to the provinces of Cebu to do outreach programs talking about “Breast Self Examination” and sharing the story of hope and the journey of our survivors in fighting the Big C. Help – We educate everyone that we do not need to be afraid but instead be more vigilant in detecting it at an earlier stage. Early detection saves lives. We also have a lot of activities centered on helping the environment, like coastal cleanup and mangrove planting. We also give free Mammograms. We also have coffee meet-ups where cancer patients, family, and friends can share their journey or if they just have questions about breast cancer. We believe that sometimes what we all need is someone who can listen and understand what we are going through. And lastly, Heal – not only physically but mentally and spiritually. In a dragon boat as long as you continue to paddle, you can move forward. We want everybody to realize that there is life after your diagnosis.
Coaching is not an easy job. Coaching is not for everyone. As a coach, your team always comes first. I have learned and found satisfaction in being happy for other people’s success. I will keep clapping for others happily. I am very thankful that I was allowed to help these amazing people to become Champions not just in sports but also in life!