Iligan Amazons: Through Tough Times, They Prevail






Competitive. It's the best word to describe Ultimate in Iligan City. Even if it's only a one-day hat tournament, the games are no different to a three day 60 plus team tournaments around the country. Iliganon's go all out, all day.  During my last visit in the City of Waterfalls, I only saw one big open field that can accommodate two playing fields for them to play freely. So even on cement grounds, a field of gravel, on grass full of cow dung, weeds and roots of trees, as long as they can run and jump, they will play on it in Iligan. 

Ultimate Frisbee is a lifestyle. Most players carry their pair of shoes and jerseys in their bags the moment they leave for school in the morning so that when the day ends, they go straight to the park, lace up their cleats and run. With everything that's happening in the area, Ultimate Frisbee became the stress reliever, an escape from reality for these young Iliganons.  

During the month of May, Iligan Amazons Women's Team, together with the men's team, Iliguns, went to Bacolod city for the first ever single gender PFDA National Championships. They only had two whole days of training before they left for Negros, for the reason that they spend most of their time looking for sponsors and to conduct a few fund raising activities. Money is seriously an issue for these amazing athletes. Because of that, they did not get the chance to bring their complete roster and filtered their line-up to those who can spend for themselves. But in the end, they still pulled it through.



Lack of finances and not having a decent place to train are the main problems in Iligan, as well as not having the right gear. In order for some to own a decent pair of cleats, they have to search for a pair in an "Ukay-Ukay" store and others had them donated by friends and teammates, sew them up if they are too worn out.  Even discs are recycled. They have a few sewn discs because of the cracks, and they need to do these things because they only have a couple more good discs left in their inventory, and they are trying to save the good ones for future use.  These are real stories, folks. But we are still fortunate that there are some good people in the community that send them discs once in a while. 

Just like in any other areas of the country, some parents still don't understand why their children are obsessed in chasing these white flying plastic discs. Same with this team. The Amazons usually set aside their school allowances just to join upcoming tournaments. Most of their parents do not give them the support that they need to join these events. 



The struggle of finding time to train and looking for extra funds are big issues for these girls, and the 22 hour travel time (one way) was also a big hill to climb. In order for the Amazons (and Iliguns) to make the Nationals possible, they went to their City Government and asked for assistance. The city of Iligan was able to lend the City Bus for them to use from Iligan to Pulawan Port and back. Though the city gave them a small amount of financial support, that bus ride right there was already a big help for them. 

To save up their money, the Amazons stayed at different houses in Bacolod (Local Ultimate friends) and the Iliguns were housed at USLS Bahay Kalinungan. With regards to their food, they brought their own canned goods that were good enough for the whole weekend in Bacolod, and of course, they brought a box of their famous Palapa for additional fundraising. 

When I asked them about the challenges during the Nationals:

"Both teams have to adjust because we haven't got the chance to
 train in a field with seven players on each side, and most of us were so drained due to the traveling that we did from Iligan to Bacolod." 

They were so excited that both teams went head to head and won games against some of the great teams in the country, especially the teams from Luzon. 



On winning both Men and Women Championships? 

"We were so overwhelmed on what happened at Nationals. We were able to defeat one of the most respected  Women's team in the Philippines. Both teams were so happy that most of us cried our hearts out during our final huddle. We have been praying for this moment that both Men's and Women's team will bring home the Championship trophies in Iligan. (They've been battling it out since Ultimate Battle Grounds twice, Frisbeecation and Banuwa Ku)"

"We would like to thank God for making all things possible. To our families for supporting us. To the Iligan Ultimate Community. The City Government of Iligan and the City Sports Office for the transportation and financial support. To the La Salle Brothers for accommodating us in Bacolod, to all those who bought our Palapa and Amazon Caps, and to all those who helped and supported us (You know who you are) this Championship is for all of you."




The Iligan Boys and Girls had a different story to tell than the rest of us. They may not have the most expensive pair of cleats in the "Ukay-Ukay" store or the best sown, cracked discs to throw with, but their Passion and Love towards the sport is pretty much the same as the rest... 

Or even greater than most of us.  

Congratulations, Iligan Ultimate Community... Amping mo!




On the latest update in the situation in Iligan,


April Adalim: "Iligan is much safer now with the presence of more military troops. The Curfew has been moved from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm.

Martial Law did not affect any of our daily activities. We can still train like before. What Martial Law did is make Iligan and Mindanao a safer place."


Until then... More images to share. More stories to tell... 

It's All About U








Living With The Dragons






The story of the Boracay Dragons is not all about how great they are on the beach, or how fast they are on sand, giving the other countries a hard time chasing them little brown men. It's not about their killer training sessions in Boracay where almost all of them sacrificed a huge amount of time leaving their work, families, friends and loved ones just to eat, live and breathe Beach Ultimate for months prior to their trip to Royan. But it's also about their brotherhood off the field. It's all about the unforgettable moments and experiences that happened behind the cameras of every international Ultimate Media covering the games. It's about the people who supported every single Dragon right from the start of this campaign. It's all about how they represented the country during that unforgettable two weeks of their lives.

I am fortunate enough to witness all of it in France.


This adventure began the moment we all arrived in Manila, a couple of days before we flew for Paris. Some had their own business and errands to do while some of us were treated to a PBA game. Thanks to Dragons player, Hon. Datu Yap and King of Pinoy Rap, Andrew E. for the fun night; and some had a very relaxing trip to Tagaytay for a cool 24 hour getaway.

Ginebra! Ginebra!

A short peptalk from Andrew


June 14 was D-Day for the Dragons to fly for Paris. The excitement was there, but all I could think of was to meet up with the rest of the boys again. I remember giving Paloy (Jeff Dela Cerna)and Qhenjune Villanueva some high fives, because they will finally be joining us on this trip. In case you didnt know, they got denied on their first Visa application. I was devastated when I heard the news. But Karen said, "We will never leave the country without Paloy and Qhenjune. Hindi tayo aalis ng kulang! I will do the best I can to bring them with us."


And just like they said, When it's your time, It's your time. No matter how tough the obstacle is. Same with Kenneth. I remember giving him a pat on the back at the check in counter of NAIA 1. Right from the beginning of the program, Kenneth was already there, and I can honestly say that Kenneth worked the hardest. I witnessed how he became a great defender on sand after all the pounding on the island every day. His passion towards the program was beyond inspiring. That's why I was really happy when I heard that he finally made it to the team. If there's anyone who deserves to be on that team, Kenneth De Guzman is definitely one of
them.

NAIA 1 before check in

A photo-op before boarding the plane. The Airline personnel giving the boys some encouragement while they are entering the plane. "Galingan niyo sir, ah!" 

The plane ride was more or less sixteen hours long. And the only thing that we could do was to eat lots of plane food, up to the point that we couldnt eat them anymore. Sleep uncomfortably for two-three hours, watch MOANA, went back to sleep and then repeat! (Except for the Moana part, of course).

The 4 hour layover in Jedda situation

Kenneth playing video games while Jordan in Moana mode

"Para-paraan lang yan" - Popoy

Little Dragon, Ryu ready to takeover Paris!


The first thing in the agenda the moment we stepped foot in Paris was WI-FI! We haven't seen the immigration officer yet, but all that we could think of was how to connect our phones in the airport's free wifi.

Kenneth became our go to guy for WIFI Data. He's the only one who has a phone that works properly 

Phone and tablets

More phones

More Phones

and more phones

This time, I got all the phones!


Second in the list was the discussion on whether we will take the train to Royan or we will rent cars for a 5-6 hour road trip... Surely, the 6hour road trip won the vote. We rented three cars with Jude and Xtian (Car 1), Karen and Popoy (Car 2) and Tajji and Dada (Car 3) as the designated pilots on this French countryside road trip adventure. After we put our baggage and ourselves inside these three small Eurocars, we are on our way to Royan!

Lots of bags!

Karen getting ready

Arc de Triomphe

Drive by Eiffel Tower

The beautiful France countryside 


"Stick together! Jude will take the lead!"

Well, that wasn't really the case. Our car (Karen and Popoy's) ended up meeting with Datu and his family in Eiffel Tower for a 30-minute photo op. We informed the other two cars that we will have a detour to Eiffel before heading to Royan. We thought Jude and Tajji's cars drove straight to Royan since we haven't received any messages from them. But after a couple of hours, we received a ding that they too went on a detour to Eiffel Tower! So, it turned out that we were the first car in line heading for Royan.

Almost empty!

Finally! Gas station!!


After more than 8 hours of driving with our car almost running out of gas because we kept on missing the gas station exits on the freeway. And after Jude's car missed a lot of exits and toll gates and eventually got lost in France, And after Dada and Tajji blew up their front tire in Paris and waited for the car company to replace the tire (We had a hat trick when it came to car mishaps), we all finally arrived in a Ghost town. There are not many people in Royan during this season except for the locals. All shops and groceries close at 7:00 pm and the only place that were open are a few restaurants near the beach. It was really weird and interesting to see that there are still places in a first world country that you can't see a single soul on the streets at 9:00 pm. Way too different from the little tiny island we all know in Malay, Aklan.

We knew that we were close when we finally saw Datu, Jenny, and Hendrix on the billboard!

The Ghost town, Royan

Empty streets at 9:00 pm, and the sun was still up at this hour.

*WE HAVE ARRIVED.*

Everyone woke up at 6:00am for breakfast and for an early morning tour around the Dragons Headquarters in Royan, France. And yes, it's time for a Table tennis tournament!

The Dragon House Royan

Morning coffee session

Table Tennis tournaments in the basement

Dada DJing 

The scary looking stairway to the basement

Prayer before meals is a must for these boys

Getting loose all day, every day


*COOLDOWN ACTIVITIES*


The weather was cold during the first few days in Royan, so the hoodies and sweat pants really made our lives, warmer and easier during the cold days. But there's one thing that some of us, especially the Bone Brothers need to adjust to, eating with no steamed rice on the table. We sure do have rice when we eat at the house, but it was really difficult to find a restaurant that serves rice near the playing fields. Luckily, the day finally came when someone discovered an Indian restaurant just a couple of minutes away. We went there for dinner and ordered rice...,. Lots and lots of rice.



Stacked fridge!

But besides the search for the holy rice adventure, Poker nights was also one thing that gave the boys something different to do besides thinking about the tough days ahead. It all started with a little bit of Tong-its. Then Pusoy, and then a few deals of Pusoy Dos. Until someone suggested Poker for a few cents, and then for a few pesos on the table and everyone decided how about Poker for Groceries. The house became the Casino Royan, after a hard day of training.

Pusoy

Pusoy Dos

Poker!


And of course, after a hard day in training, dirty laundry are in the mix as well. We do have a washing machine in the basement, the only problem was, no one speaks French in the house of the Dragons. So, hand washing in the backyard and in the sink was a regular Zen Meditation/Cooldown activity for everyone.





The Walk.

The fifteen-minute walk from the Dragon House to the playing fields (and back) was actually a perfect distance for all of us to warm ourselves up, or in my case, to have an alone time and to plan out my day of shooting. I always kept that 15-minute walk as quiet and as relaxing as it can be. It kept me focused and ready for the intense walking and shooting. And by the end of the day, we used that 15-minute walk to talk about how the day went. My short walks with Kenneth and a few times with Panoy Delos Santos was worth remembering. But that one moment when Coach Jude and I walked together, after the loss against Great Britain, was definitely the longest 15-minute walk that I had ever experienced in Royan. With a bottle of wine in our hands, that was the first time that I witnessed Jude show his emotions. He screamed his heart out on the empty streets, releasing all the sadness that echoed all throughout the street corners. It gave me chills, seeing the coach react that way. Of all the hard days, that day was on the very top of the list to witness with my very own eyes. I will always remember that walk.


The Walk. Definitely the best time of the day.



We all know what went down during the seven day tournament. The Dragons showed why they are the Beach Kings of Asia. They definitely put on an epic show, right from the very first game. The win against GB was impressive in Day 2, but the first game against the home team was one of the two games that gave me goosebumps. And the game hasn't even started yet!







I've seen these boys warming up dozens of times, but their pre game warm-up against France gave me the chills while I was photographing them on the sideline. They all looked like they are about to conquer the whole country. They were so focused that they have not dropped the disc. They ran like they were floating above the Arena sand, they all looked good... and FAST. Their body language was so different. They looked unbeatable. It was so beautiful to witness it in person.




*THE BONE BROTHERS*

It started as a tease back in Boracay Open. I mean look at them! Qhenjune, Paloy, and Jordan. They are the original Bone Brothers. And eventually, Kenneth, Popoy and even Dada and Tajji became a part of this Brotherhood of Bones. The Bone Brothers became an important ingredient to the success of this campaign. I've seen Qhenjune, Jordan, and Paloy play in some of the provincial tournaments around the country, and I was really impressed at how they handled themselves against the giants of the world. After that big win against GB, The Bone Brothers became a household name not just in Philippine Ultimate Community, but even in Royan. The Number 66 (Qhenjune) was the most sellable/tradeable jersey besides the Number 3 during the WCBU 2017 week.

It only shows that with Humility, Passion, Dedication, Sacrifice and the will to improve one's self will take you places in this world. As one of the few people who witnessed the Brothers grow and become world class athletes through my lenses, I have nothing else to say but, "I am truly proud of what they achieved in their ultimate lives".






*KAREN AND THE MEN*

Panoy. Buboy. Xtian. Jude. Jeffrey.

It would never be the same for Philippine Beach Ultimate if not because of these names. These are the men responsible why every time there's a Philippine team in an International Beach Ultimate tournament, the people will only say one thing....

"The Dragons Are Coming!"

Without these names, we will never be recognized as one of the strongest countries on sand. Without these names, Beach Ultimate would not be this big here in our country and perhaps, in all of Asia. They have done so much to put our country in the Beach Ultimate map, and from the bottom of my heart, it was truly an honor and privilege to be working with these gentlemen for the past three years of shooting Ultimate. And seeing them owning the beaches of Royan and still playing like it was 2007 was beyond amazing.

Panoy Delos Santos

Buboy Famorcan

Xtian Guerrero

Jeffrey Rodriguez

Jude Lee

And Karen Cabrera.

Until now, we still have not talked about Royan. I wonder how she felt, that after almost every single day and night of taking care of the boys back on the island, she can only spend time with them for a few minutes in a day in Royan because of her obligations for WFDF. I wonder what she thought about the performances of her boys. I wonder what she is thinking about now, after all that happened in WCBU.

All I know is that without her, this Band of Brothers will never exist. Without her, this team will never be one unit until the end. Without her, these boys will never be the men that they are now today. Karen is a big part of these boys lives... Our lives. And this amazing experience will never be possible without her hard work, sacrifices, and love for each and everyone on this team.






*THE "PARA SA BAYAN" THAT WE ALWAYS SAY EVERY SINGLE DAY"



At first, the statement "Para Sa Bayan" was just three simple words that you need to live by when you are a part of a Philippine delegation. It wasn't really a big of a deal for me back in 2014. But as time goes by, after the WCBU in Dubai, AOUC in Hong Kong, and now in Royan, these three simple words became the most important statement that you can ever say out loud and put to heart every time you represent your country, wearing that gear with three stars and a sun shining brightly on your chest. Every single day we say those three words by heart. "My blisters/sprained ankle/aching knee are getting worse every day. But we have to man up and play... Para Sa Bayan." "The sand is too hot to step on. The sun is so unforgiving, but we have to fight it out... Para Sa Bayan" "Pagod na Pagod na ako, Pero Laban Lang... Para Sa Bayan." "Dasal lang kayo diyan. Kami na bahala dito... Para Sa Bayan" They never said it out loud, but I know, feel and witnessed it though my aging lenses that they were doing everything they can... Para Sa Bayan.

Volunteer Dan taping Derek

More Tapes...

And more.... Para Sa Bayan.



*THE DARKEST DAY AND THE NIGHT AFTER THE BRITS GAME HAS ARRIVED

After an impressive 12-0 run, we all know what happened next in the semis. Have you ever had that feeling that everything feels like a really bad dream, that all you got to do is to move your toes so you can wake up? But when you do, it wasn't really a bad dream but a real nightmare happening right in front of you. After that last point, it kinda felt that way.



I stood there on the sidelines in disbelief. I stood there for about a minute, and I really don't know how to react. I don't know if I am going to continue shooting or walk away. That's the problem with me at times. I take this job way too seriously (well most of the time) my emotions take the best of me, especially if I see my friends hurt.






For the first time in three years of shooting Ultimate, the day came when I was hiding behind my camera, photographing the boys while my tears are falling between my face and my gear. I tried to hide my tears with my shades and camera, that I kept on shooting even if the shot was out of focus just to hide my tears away. I left the area after a few frames to be by myself for a few minutes alone.




The night after the game, I was transferring the files from the memory cards to my hard drive while Xtian, Dada, Tajji, Jordan, Panoy, Popoy to name a few were in the living room. That was the night the sound of silence dominated the room. And then Tajji said: " It will take a month for me to recover from this loss." Saying these words with exhaustion in his voice, still wearing his jersey and war paint on his face. Tajji felt really bad that he fell asleep in the living room that night... Still wearing his jersey and war paint on his face.



*QUICKSAND*

Have you watched the Keanu Reeves movie, The Replacements? Where there was a scene in the movie where they were asked about their fears, and Shane Falco said "Quicksand."

He said:
"You're playing, and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can't move... You can't breathe... Because you are in over your head. Like Quicksand."

The Bronze medal game against France was kind of like that for the Dragons. They did everything they could. They fought hard every point. But the harder they fought, France bounced back two times stronger. After the game, that moment when I saw the two brothers from Dumaguete hug each other, seeing Tajji in tears while the big brado, Dada comforts him, you know that these young men wanted to win this, not just for themselves and for their teammates, but for all of us Filipinos. They really tried to bring home a medal for all of us. But this time, we came back home from Royan, empty handed.



But after seven days of hard fought games, they sure did win the hearts and respect of the people of the world. They represented the country with utmost pride.

As an individual.

As a Dragon.

And as a Team.

And that right there was already a Gold Medal worthy act.



To end this very long post, I will leave you another quote from the movie, The Replacements:

"When Washington Sentinels left the stadium that date, there was no ticker tape parade, no endorsement deals from sneakers, or soda pop, or breakfast cereals. Just a locker room to clean out, and a ride home to catch. But what they didn't know, was that their lives had been changed forever. Because they had part of something great. And greatness, no matter how brief, stays with a man. Every Athlete dreams for a second chance. These men lived it."
The Dragons Lived It.

"WE ARE!!!"


Until Then. More Images to Share. More Stories to Tell...

It's All About U.