There was this undeniable rhythm to his every paddle. A smooth motion like a clock gear yet with precise force enough to propel his sibid-sibid, a local term for a small boat, forward. I call him the “man in the middle”, as he was positioned on the starting line with four others participating in the Bankarera 2015 competition, one of the key events of this year’s Isla Rancho Festival in San Pascual, Burias Island, Masbate. While the “Man-in-the-middle” was nowhere ahead at the race launch, now here he is pitted neck-and-neck with another strong paddler. Who will win this race? I never thought a small boat race like this would be exciting to watch.
Fishing is a big part of life for the people of San Pascual, living on Burias Island and surrounded by the sea, it’s no question that boating is an everyday activity, whether for livelihood or simply getting from one place to another. The Bankarera, a term fondly combined from two Filipino words banka (boat) and karera (race), is a competition to give recognition to the strongest paddler in the region. Only five participants were brave enough to join this race coming from different villages. I wasn’t able to get their names and whereabouts though as we came in when the race was about to start.
It was fortunate I was able to ride the coast guard boat to have a closer view of the race. From the start, the sibid-sibid with the smaller sail was leading the race until the first buoy marker. The one with the larger white sail was quickly trailing behind. Steadily the one with the green boat and colorful sail was gaining ground as we head deeper into the bay passing by the buoy where the boats would make a turn back. That’s when the “man-in-the-middle” geared forward ahead. But a little confusion went along, probably making sure there won’t be any technical errors to his win, we saw him surprisingly turn to another white buoy causing him to lose rhythm. We were not sure if the boats would indeed need to get close to that buoy but suddenly his lead was gone and another boat overtook him.
About 2/3rds already on the race, we saw the “man-in-the-middle” furiously paddling to take back his lead from another boat similar in build with his only a difference on the sail. Must have been made by the same people. Who knows but it was a really tight race. Sails flapping, veins almost popping and both paddlers were focused. But I guess the youth of the “man-in-the-middle” won him and regained his lead. And in 20 minutes the race was over and all the paddlers have crossed the finish line. It would have been interesting to have captured how things ended, the expression of the winner, and how the audience greeted him. Still, it was an interesting race seen from the sea and seeing how the paddlers progressed in the boat race.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.