Photos by Don Laczi Photography
The last point scored in the Boracay Open final felt like the clock striking midnight in Cinderella. In realizing that these moments were the last I’d spend as a Boracay Dragon on this trip, the applause from the audience encircling the small sand field seemed to slow. I found myself carefully looking into the eyes of my teammates, attempting to record their expressions of achievement and joy after a long, hard-fought tournament, and an even longer time spent in Boracay training and touring the island.
There is little doubt that Boracay has brewed one of the most impressive beach ultimate teams in the world. Their bodies are molded to the last grain of sand, allowing the Dragons to perform daredevil acrobatics on the beach. Players like Pao Pao and Jeffrey Rodriguez consistently mystify me with how they generate such power to fly like they do and maintain control of the disc. Mai Mai’s read and astonishing speed makes her one of the top women playing the beach game in the world. What’s remarkable too is that Mai Mai, like her teammates, approaches the game humbly and submits herself to the guidance and support of her team and coach to grow and succeed as a player. With players like Kboy Madlang Tota and Kim Kim Parejo still in their very early 20s, the future of the Dragons is very bright as is their potential at the World Beach Championships in Dubai next year. But, perhaps beyond all of their talents and training is a deep love for the game, their island and their team that pushes them to higher peaks. Playing with heart is often discussed on and off the field and has become a mantra for the Dragons.
Before each game, Dyck leads the team in a small prayer asking for strength for the upcoming game, giving thanks for previous successes and avoiding injury, and overall thanks for the Dragon family. Though prayer has been uncommon in my experience with ultimate, the modest acknowledgement of gifts and successes the Dragons receive is reflection often overlooked and truly warming — as has been my time in Boracay.
The tournament ended with an after-party at Dragons’ owned Club Summer Place. Amidst rowdy Australians, a Philippine governor, a famous actor (who plays for Boracay Ultimate) there was much talk already about a return to the island for next year’s Open or Manila Spirits in November.
In the end my Dragons squad (Black) would prevail over our training partners Dragons (Red) 17-13. But truly it was a win for both teams who had pushed each other every day in the previous week to attain victory. For me, though day one of the Open was filled with miscalculations and incorrect positioning, many of the subtleties of performing on sand returned to me in the final days of the tournament. I found myself positioning correctly and able to harness my speed more efficiently on the warm sand of white beach in Boracay. Yet even in those moments of finding my footing, I still have much to gain to match the talents of the Dragons.
Tomorrow we will depart for our next stop in New Zealand to join Auckland’s Magon at the New Zealand National Championships. There we expect to find more amazing activities, amazing ultimate and to be welcomed into a new family of amazing players and people.
Boracay and the Dragons were everything I hoped a first leg of this adventure would be and so much more. This family has given us so much during our stay, but perhaps the greatest gift of all is what I will take with me to New Zealand and beyond – the heart of the Dragons.