By: J.P. Abon

Washington, DC’s Georgetown Waterfront has always lent itself to a certain image of summer chill amidst a backdrop of yachts, alfresco dining, and commercial retail.  However, for one weekend every May, this vibe is momentarily upended by splashing waters, breakneck paddling, and furious competition.

Here comes the dragon boats.

Dragon boat racing can trace its roots back 2,000 years ago where it originated as a folk ritual of contending villages throughout southern China.  Today, dragon boat racing features prominently in local dragon boat festivals across the country.

Since 2008, the Filipino Young Professionals of DC (FYP-DC) has participated in Washington DC’s annual Dragon Boat Festival and has built quite a reputation.

For the 2019 festival FYP-DC put out two boats.  The first was the veteran “Lapu Lapu Warriors” team named after the Filipino chieftain who is considered the country’s first national hero.  The Lapu Lapu Warriors are THE team that seemingly lived in the winner’s podium and had an established tradition of winning medals and trophies during the festival.

The second was the “the Silang Warriors” team named after Gabriela Silang, the “Henerala” who was  the first female leader of a Filipino movement for independence. While not as celebrated as its more seasoned counterpart, the Silang Warriors comprised of a determined group of first-time paddlers eager to prove that they should not be taken lightly.

Despite the difference in each team’s history and experience, both found common ground through its shared goal of representing Filipinos in the DMV area and contributing to a legacy of competitive excellence.

The first practice sessions, however, were plagued with timing miscues, clanking paddles, fatigue, and a face full of the Potomac’s brackish waters. During one such session paddlers from both teams found themselves in the middle of torrential sideways downpour. However, adversity brings out the best in people.  Danielle Peterson, a first-time paddler for FYP-DC, said “It was rough but I could still feel the energy and focus that the dragon boat team brought on the water and it made me excited to see how things would turn out at the festival.”

Danielle’s words were prophetic and when the DC Dragon Boat festival arrived, both the Lapu Lapu and Silang Warriors were ready.  By the end of the competition, the Silang Warriors proved their worth by capturing the gold medal in the 500 meter race. The Lapu Lapu Warriors took home the prestigious honor of the DC Community Cup and further cemented their legacy as the best dragon boat team in the DMV.

Two boats, two teams, one heartbeat, all champions.

If you would like to learn more information about Filipino Young Professionals of DC or to get involved with its Dragon Boat teams, please contact FYP-DC at hello@fypdc.org.