Fisherman joins Kadayawan’s banca race for a bragging right

DAVAO CITY(MindaNews/ 18 August)—- For more than a decade now, a fisherman from Samal island, Davao del Norte, who has been joining boat races every Kadayawan festival, had won first prize only once in 1994.

But Nelson Abellanosa, 39, never stopped such old hobby in exchange for a bragging right, despite being poor.

Also called the “Idol,” he received yesterday a consolation prize of P1,000 in the boat race Bancarera, held at Sta. Ana wharf along Magsaysay Street.

He was one of the 40 racers who came not only from the cities of Davao and Samal, but as far as Maasim in Sarangani, Maco in Compostela Valley, and Digos City and Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur.

Fishing in 20 years now around Talicud, an island adjacent to Samal, Abellanosa said joining the boat race gives him a sense of pride, along with his unit being famous.

He recounted that when he won first prize then, his boat’s engine was still an old model of Briggs & Stratton brand. It has a powerful speed that let him cross the sea from the Sta. Ana wharf to Samal island for only six minutes, while a regular ferry may take 45 minutes.

A few years later, new technologies replaced his old engine, like that of Mitsubishi and Honda, that can cross the same route for only two minutes.

“When you light a cigarette as the engine starts, you’d reach Samal first before finishing it,” he said in Cebuano, laughing.

But for a fisherman like him, bancarera is not a modest hobby at all.

He said days before the race, he had to prepare his boat by reconditioning and repainting, which cost him about P3,000. In addition, he spent another P1,000 for fuel and lubricants.

“It costs much for participants who came from outside the city because they still have to travel their boats by land and stay in hotels here,” he said.

A brand new boat designed for racing cost about P7,000 for small ones, locally called “tura-tura”, while P15,000 for bigger ones like that of Abellanosa.

This year’s Bancarera has an open category, which qualifies both small and big boats with engines of at most 16.5 horsepower and boat length of at least 13 feet.

“I knew from the start that I wouldn’t win today. Look at all those other boats that are smaller than mine but with stronger engines,” he pointed out.

But he was not discouraged to join another race next year as long as he will have the budget, saying this event only happens at least once a year and it always makes him feel excited and amused despite it being dangerous.

A dangerous game

It is a dangerous game as accidents could happen from the collision of boats and malfunctioning engines, among other possibilities.

But Rogelio Caballo, one of the organizers, said coast guards and first aid team were available at the location, adding that so far no serious accidents have happened.

By a gunshot, the boat racers rushed to finish an entire course of about two kilometers. The fastest and smaller ones finished the race at least in three minutes.

This year’s top three winners were Aljie Atal of Maco, Compostela Valley; Aljed Sapilin of Bliss, Bago Aplaya, Davao City; and Federico Canoy of Maasim, Sarangani, respectively.

The prizes were P23,000 and two boat engines for the champion; P15,000 and a boat engine for the first runner up; and P10,000 and a boat engine for the second runner up.

Highlighting the culture here with banca as a mode of transportation in the Davao Gulf, the boat race aimed to attract tourists and provide economic activities during Kadayawan, Caballero said.

But aside from tourism and economic revenues for the city, Bancarera brings an undying hope to claim a pride more valuable than the prizes for poor fisher folk like Abellanosa. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro)