Leaving to live: Heroes behind Team Naga

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By Sorhaila Latip-Yusoph

Only a Meranaw

Monday, May 12, 2014

READING an issue last Sunday, May 4, with (Erwin) Mascariñas' article entitled “Mindanao teams fare well despite odds at dragon boat fest,” I can’t help but be curious with the reasons behind the failure of Team Naga of Lanao del Sur to deliver its performance in the said fest.

This Mindanao’s first dragon boat festival held in Davao Baywalk last May 1-4, 2014, has indeed become part of Mindanao’s history.

However, among us Meranaws, this is not only historical but a mythical voyage that will give name to who we are and what we can do as Meranaws.


Apparently, as reported in the same article, the failure to perform was when Team Naga left the competition early due to lack of funds for food and accommodation.

My curiosity brought me to the community of the Team Naga paddlers.

I had a firsthand interview with them. There I realized that their failure to deliver their performance was all because they had to leave in order to live.

Indeed, Team Naga paddlers experienced a difficulty in providing themselves with food and proper accommodation.

In that interview, Moks, one of the paddlers as quoted in his narration said, “We were not well funded. From the day we departed from Marawi, we were already told that we do not have the budget yet. When we reached Davao, we had to move from one accommodation to another that we can afford. We ate our meals late everyday with few foods to share. Some of us experienced eating ‘dukot sa kan-on’ (burned part of steamed-rice) just to eat on time and to join the performance. However, we are just humans who needed energy in order to perform well.”

Moks’ narration is an eye opener for me. There are so many speculations that need explanations.

However, what I know is that there were supporters of the Meranaw team.

The Lanao del Sur governor, some municipal mayors, and even OFW Meranaws, had their share in funding the team.

Yet, it might not be enough because the funds were also used in the trainings and rentals of the equipment needed, uniforms and transportations for the pre-final activities.

For me, whatever is the reason and circumstance behind, Team Naga paddlers were heroes to Meranaws.

This is the first time that our lake dwellers were given the chance to show their talents.

The paddlers are ordinary individuals.

Most of them, if not all, are bread-winners and fathers who sacrificed their efforts and precious days away from home just to bring the name of the team and the community they represent.

They are simple fisher folks of lake Lanao, tricycle drivers and hallow block builders but they have tried to make a name for all of us.

They may not have the gold today but with our faith in them, they might pursue the dream for all of us.

To the Team Naga 24 paddlers: Mohaymen Ungka, Ashbie Ahmad, Saadoden Ungka, Aslani Dadayan, Asrin Dadayan, Jalal Abd-Jalil, Hasim Binaday, Moad Mohammadali, Paodak Mohammadali, Basher Maconte, Ayman Omar, Rajib Omar, Asgar Amer, Tomawis H. Amer, Mohaymen Molia, Osop Baraocor, Gamba Molia, Abdullah Baraocor, Mahmod Binaday, Abdul Barry H. Sarip, Mohaliden Rasol, Mahdi Sultan, Sihab Mustapha and Salamat Amer, YOU deserve a salute for your hard work despite all odds.

Let this not be an end but a beginning of a long journey to dominance in the Dragon boat racing and other water-based competition.

After all, Meranaws are people of the Lake—a kin to the children of the current or the ‘Tausugs.’

To all the supporters, families and friends of Team Naga, you are indeed the motivation and inspiration of the paddlers.

To their advisers and team coach, you have to continue supporting this historical effort.

Let us continue valuing the essence of unity and our being Meranaws.

[E-mail: sorlatipyusoph@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 12, 2014.


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