HITTING THE WATER
“The first race we did as Tado’s Dragon was in October, 2021 in DB. We didn’t have enough paddlers; we’d only been training a year. We expected nothing,” recalls Divine. “We made it into the final round. We came in last but when we got to shore the cheering was just out of control.
We felt like champions.”Suffice to say, putting together a 40-person team during a public health crisis was challenging. Before actually coming around to Tado’s Dragon, the trio sounds off on illegal logging at home in the Philippines, climate change, the stress and frustration of the COVID pandemic (Maja and Rhoda only got home in December after four years), taboos and tattoos, and how important it is to budget properly and manage your money – but also to spend on yourself every so often.
With a combined 56 years in Hong Kong between them, 39 of those in DB, they knew how to get the word out about the budding team. The short version? Word of mouth and social media – but mostly word of mouth. That’s how Maja, 46, Divine, 45, and Rhoda, 49, met: through mutual friends. Maja and Rhoda were roommates when she was between jobs years ago, and met Divine on a kids’ playdate. They have the easy banter of old friends that includes gentle ribbing, and a lot in common, but couldn’t be more distinct. Maja, originally from a small town just outside Manila, is a youthful grandmother (!) who refers to herself as a sporty type. “I’ve been paddling since 2003. I played beach volleyball with friends in DB and was happy to finally get a job here,” she says. “I like it. It’s quiet and I like to train on the beach.”
The same goes for Divine, possibly the most obviously maternal and practical of the three. She was running, and playing basketball and softball at home in the northern Philippines long before she hit college in Manila. Water was quite another story, however. Once in DB, “I used to hike because I’m afraid of the water. I M used to hate it,” she says with a laugh. “When I started dragon boating, I used to freak out looking at the waves. But I’ve gotten over it because I’ve really found a passion for it.” Rhoda is a no-guff taking single (“I had a great life with my last employers and I forgot to find a husband”), who arrived in Hong Kong from her Sabella (now Cavite) home in 1994 and started paddling with the Mighty Dragoneers.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to do [dragon boating] because I have lower back pain,” she rasps. It’s April 3. “I was screaming my head off at the Sevens,” she adds apologetically. “A friend suggested I give it a try because you never know if the exercise might help. And I get seasick easily. But I had no problems, and I loved it so I joined the Sea Cucumbers,” she finishes.