15-year-old rides PHI dragon boat team to move on from 'Typhoon Yolanda'

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Dec 08, 2019 03:37 PM
Teen rides PHI dragon boat team to move on from 'Yolanda'
15-year-old Joanna Barca is part of the Philippines' bright future in dragon boat racing.

SUBIC - The Philippine national team showed its inexperience as it fell behind the likes of powerhouse Indonesia as well as Thailand in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games traditional boat races.

Seen as one of the top teams heading into the regional meet, the Filipinos instead settled for a medal haul of two bronzes.

For one member of the national dragon boat team, however, those medals are already treasures the likes of which she has never had.

At 15-years old, Joanna Barca is the youngest member of Team Philippines, but nonetheless gave her all as part of the mixed 22-seater 500m and 200m events.

As it turns out, Barca has more than enough motivation to keep paddling forward. "Pag nagsasagwan ako, nasa isip ko lang na parang nandun ako sa Yolanda. Kailangan kong magpursiging makatulong sa pamilya dahil hindi pa rin ayos kalagayan namin dun," she said.

The national dragon boat athlete was just 10-yearsold when "Yolanda" devastated her hometown of Tacloban, Leyte.

Back in 2013, the supertyphoon claimed thousands of lives and cleared out millions of homes.

The Barca family weren't spared. "Walang makain. Walang mainom. Walang masuot. Wala talaga. Washed out kami talaga doon," she recalled.

Fortunately, however, that only reinforced her resolve as she and her family were able to move forward. "Malaking din pong tulong sa akin yung nangyari nun. Pinagtibay po nun yung puso ko kasi na-experience ko na yun, ilang taon pa lang ako," she shared.

That grit has been nothing but evident as the teenager has been paddling with the best of them in international traditional boat races.

Of course, it also helped that Barca has always been at home in the sea. As she put it, "Mangingisda po ang tatay ko. Tumutulong po ako sa kanya kahit nung bata pa ako."

She then continued, "Sumasagwan din kami dun, pero iba na po talaga siyempre rito. Dito, sabay-sabay talaga. Dito, tamang pagsagwan na."

With that, the Waray wasn't at all shellshocked once she moved to Manila at 14-years-old and began training with the national dragon boat team. "Nung una po, siyempre, nanibago kasi anlalakas nila tapos ako, baguhan, pero habang tumatagal naman po, nakuha ko na rin kasi may pinaghuhugutan din naman ako," she said.

Now, Barca is a bronze medalist in the regional meet and will only continue moving forward from the devastating supertyphoon that changed the lives of her family. "Nagpupursigi po talaga ako rito para makatulong sa pamilya. Dito, nakakasahod po ako, nakakapagpadala," she shared.

She then continued, "Paunti-unti, nakakatulong din naman po ako sa pag-ahon namin."

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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