5:20 am, my alarm goes off and it’s time to get up. I wash my face, brush my teeth put on shorts, rubber shoes and an old jersey. As I sit in my kitchen waiting for my friend to pick me up I can’t help but to feel nervous. Today, I was going to train with the Ateneo Rowing Team. We headed out to Makati along the Pasig River and arrived in the Manila Boat Club. Just as I got there I was already greeted with pleasant good mornings by other teammates. I looked around and saw an old 1950’s clubhouse (where the boats were kept), and outside the club, there were chickens, cats, flies all over the place, mud on the ground, and drunk Europeans who ironically owned the club.
The place wasn’t bad I thought, but something else caught my attention, a sort of glimmer… it was the Pasig River. I honestly imagined the river to be grimy and full of garbage and dead animals rotting with stench but what I saw was the complete opposite of what I expected. It didn’t stink at all but rather smelled a bit like the ocean. The sun gleamed on top of the perfectly smooth river. It was so smooth and calm that you could see your reflection clearly. The place was surrounded by a multitude of white birds (the kind of white birds you only see in the province) It felt as if we were completely separated from the city, the jeeps and buses could not even be heard, it was so silent, so peaceful.
A good five minutes passed by and it was already time to row. I only learned then that rowing consisted of different events such as the singles, the doubles and the quads. There are also two distinct kinds of boats, the lights, which were usually the thinner kind of boat which they use in competitions and then there was the heavies which was a much wider boat and easier to balance, usually used to train the “noobs”, as they call them. Today, I was given the chance to “cox” (the navigator of the boat) a heavy boat with four rowers. I had my own personal seat facing the rowers. My job wasn’t difficult at all I just had to sit there and direct the boat, pull the cox on the left side and it will turn left, and pull the cox on the right side and it will turn right, simple logic.
At first, I was anxious getting on the boat because I was afraid to fall in the river but as we started moving it was a rather pleasant ride. We started out a bit shakey but after a while we rowed smoothly. They told me that they usually row a good 2000 meters reaching the first bridge then back to the dock but on a good day they can reach all the way up to eight kilometers passing through five bridges including that of the famous Guadalupe bridge. The rowing experience was chill maybe because I was just sitting there watching them row and looking out for obstacles that may possibly hit us but I could also tell that the rowers were just as anxious as I was, they have a first timer directing their boat!! Why wouldn’t they be?
Before getting on the boat the rowing veterans warned me not to daydream because that is what usually happens which causes the whole crew to lose their balance. Despite the fact they told me to do so, it was hard for me to keep focus because I couldn’t stop watching what was happening around me. I witnessed the morning life in the Pasig River, we would pass by all other bigger boats docked on the side, there were children swimming, bystanders waving at us and people who were even fishing. It’s funny how people think that the Pasig River is one huge dumpsite although from what I saw it still provides livelihood and sustenance for others.
Going back to the row, being side tracked by the events that came our way, our boat would usually go to the side nearly hitting other boats but thankfully the rowers whom I was with would tell me what to do. I felt kind of guilty for ruining their rowing streak but then they told me that it was all right. Another thing I noticed was that at the beginning of the row, the rowers would still make kwento and tell jokes but at the time we reach the bridge and we were half way through, it starts to become more quiet and more serious. Sitting there and listening to them row made me learn the different terms they use for the strokes, when they say “long and hard” it refers to the graceful strokes which use length to row to prepare for the hards, when they say “hard 10” it means 10 strokes of full power, then there are the bow side and the stroke side which are terms used to signify which way to go, bow is to go right while stroke is to go left.
After a good 40 minutes we finally reached the dock. What a sigh of relief! We made it! I thought it was over but I was wrong. Apparently the rowing team has a tradition of making new comers wash the boat! I thought they were kidding, but sadly they weren’t. I along with other rookies, washed off the sebo-like liquid (like that of bulalo) from butt of the boat. After this it was finally time to go home.
Arabela Angliongto SA21:Y