With Filipino supporters cheering them on both banks of the Seddon Channel in Hillsborough Bay, the national paddlers ruled the Small Boat Premier Open 500-meter final with a time of two minutes and 23.535 seconds.
Australia was second, more than a boat length behind, in 2:29.299, followed by Japan (2:36.365) and Italy (2:38.884).
“We came here with just enough number of paddlers to compete in small boats, but we ended up making our best performance in this event ever,” said head coach and PDBF technical director Nestor Ilagan.
“We couldn’t have asked for more. The crowd support was overwhelming.”
Though they initially focused on the “sprint” or short events, the Nationals also garnered the gold in the men’s 1,000 meters, the 200m premier mixed, the 200m premier men and premier mixed 500m.
They also bagged the silver in the premier all-comers mixed 200m and premier all-comers Open 200m.
In Sunday’s race, the Filipinos zipped across the finish line to secure their fifth gold and then raised their paddles in victory, to the delight of the big Filipino crowd which gathered here from neighboring cities and brought them lunch, cakes and fruits.
“They (paddlers) brought the Filipino community together and, even for less than a week, gave us reason to be proud of our heritage,” said Arnold Galimba, who drove for hours from Jacksonville to watch the races with his wife Bernadette.
The Cobra PDBF team is made of drummer Anabelle Tario, steerer Ruperto Sabijon, team captain Usman Anterola, assistant captain Salvador Sumagaysay and paddlers Amina Anuddin, Ma. Ailene Padrones, Maria Theresa Realizan, Thea Bartolome, Rowena Enriquez, Marie Michelle Jennifer Ebio, Jose Ijalo, Joemar Ocquiana, Junrey Dayumot, Perlito Idorot, Raymond Morales, Romy John Dionio, Cresanto Pabulayan, Ranie Llano, Ronald Tan and Rico Pradilla.
PDBF president Marcia Cristobal led the delegation along with assistant manager Maj. Harold Cabunoc and Ilagan.
Cabunoc said their performance in the small boats, a new category in the biennial Worlds, will be a yardstick for the next tournaments.
“Our record in 2007 and 2009 [in the long boats] haven’t been broken yet,” added Cabunoc, who also helped military enlisted men in the team get their clearance from their mother units to be able to compete here.
The Philippines held the record in the men’s 200m traditional boat in 42.16 seconds in the 2007 Worlds in Sydney and broke it with a time of 40.022 two years later in the Czech Republic.
Ilagan said teams like Russia, United States and Germany sent more than 100 paddlers each to maximize their chances of raking in victories.
“Our performance is even more special because we only have a 25-man team alternating in mixed and men’s events,” said Ilagan.
The team, which got here mainly through the sponsorship of Cobra Energy Drink and Philippine Airlines, didn’t even have a women’s team.
The Filipinos will be treated by their compatriots to a tour of the city, including the Bush Garden, before returning home Wednesday.