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Festivals Masbate Philippines Travel

San Pascual | Isla Rancho Festival Bankarera 2015: A Sibid-sibid Race

There was this undeniable rhythm to his every paddle. A smooth motion like a clock gear yet with precise force enough to propel his sibid-sibid, a local term for a small boat, forward. I call him the “man in the middle”, as he was positioned on the starting line with four others participating in the Bankarera 2015 competition, one of the key events of this year’s Isla Rancho Festival in San Pascual, Burias Island, Masbate. While the “Man-in-the-middle” was nowhere ahead at the race launch, now here he is pitted neck-and-neck to another strong paddler. Who will win this race? I never thought a small boat race like this would be exciting to watch.

The Isla Rancho Festival Bankarera 2015
The Isla Rancho Festival Bankarera 2015

There was this undeniable rhythm to his every paddle. A smooth motion like a clock gear yet with precise force enough to propel his sibid-sibid, a local term for a small boat, forward. I call him the “man in the middle”, as he was positioned on the starting line with four others participating in the Bankarera 2015 competition, one of the key events of this year’s Isla Rancho Festival in San Pascual, Burias Island, Masbate. While the “Man-in-the-middle” was nowhere ahead at the race launch, now here he is pitted neck-and-neck to another strong paddler. Who will win this race? I never thought a small boat race like this would be exciting to watch.

The sibid-sibid at their starting positions by the town pier
The sibid-sibid at their starting positions by the town pier

Sibid-sibid Race

Fishing is a big part of life for the people of San Pascual, living on Burias Island and surrounded by the sea, it’s no question boating is an everyday activity, whether for livelihood or simply getting from one place to another. The Bankarera, a term fondly combined from two Filipino words banka (boat) and karera (race), is a competition to give the recognition to the strongest paddler in the region. Only five participants were brave enough to join this race coming from different villages. I wasn’t able to get their names and whereabouts though as we came in when the race was about to start.

The boat with the smallest sail was a strong starter
The boat with the smallest sail was a strong starter

Bankarera 2015

It was fortunate I was able to ride the coast guard boat to have a closer view of the race. From the start, the sibid-sibid with the smaller sail was leading the race until the first buoy marker. The one with the larger white sail was quickly trailing behind. Steadily the one with the green boat and colorful sail was gaining ground as we head deeper into the bay passing by the buoy where the boats would make a turn back. That’s when the “man-in-the-middle” geared forward ahead. But a little confusion went along, probably making sure there won’t be any technical errors to his win, we saw him surprisingly turn to another whit buoy causing to loose rythm. We were not sure if the boats would indeed need to get close that buoy but suddenly his lead was gone and another boat overtook him.

About 2/3rds already on the race, we saw the “man-in-the-middle” furiously paddling to take back his lead from another boat similar in built with his only a difference on the sail. Must have been made by the same people? Who knows but it was a really tight race. Sails flapping, veins almost popping and both paddlers were focused. But I guess the youth of the “man-in-the-middle” won him and regained his lead. And in 20 minutes the race was over and all the paddlers have crossed the finish line. It would have been interesting to have captured how things have ended, the expression of the winner and how the audience greeted him. Still it was an interesting race seen from the sea and see how the paddlers progressed in the boat race.

The small boats get farther in the bay
The small boats get farther in the bay
The man-in-the-middle pulling away
The man-in-the-middle pulling away
Then a tight race between two similar boats
Then a tight race between two similar boats
The boats return to finish the race in less than half an hour
The boats return to finish the race in less than half an hour

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