Aquamen, the Philippine Water Polo team

Aquamen, the Philippine Water Polo team
By Walter Ang
April-June 2006
Metro Him Magazine

The sun pierced the morning clouds with shafts of light that skimmed the water's surface. Across the pool were sinewy bodies, skin glistening, cutting figures that belied graceful strength.

These bronzed gods of the National Water Polo team broke the stillness of the air with their whoops of encouragement for each other. Through the motions of a training session, their exuberance was to be expected. Under the aegis of coach Reynaldo Galang, the team had just recently won the silver medal in the SEA (South East Asian) Games held in our country.

The triumph is testament to the commitment this group of hardy athletes has put in to the team. Meeting daily at 5am, the next four hours are purely dedicated to training. Every day is a heady dose of drills and swimming exercises, with weightlifting thrown in for good measure.

With an average age of 28, these men have come together from across the nation. Nine out of the thirteen members do double duty for our country by serving for either the military or navy. Discipline and obligation comes part and parcel of being a member of the team. Team captain Sherwin de la Paz spoke of sacrifices made, but that "if your heart is in it, you enjoy it a lot. It's feels good and it's fun."

Despite the cut muscles and towering presence, the team is less a squad of snobby power athletes than it is a fraternity of affable blokes. Smiles, smart one-liners, and guffaws punctuate everything they say. No one is spared good natured ribbing.

It's this apparent collegial group dynamic that made Tani Gomez and Roy CaƱete transfer from another water sport. "They saw how much fun we were having," recounted Coach Galang. "So they joined the team."

Stronger the a siren's call, the sport is apparently difficult to give up. Co-captain Allan Cesar Payawan is so enamored with the sport that he's been trying to leave for the past few years to no avail. "I have finally graduated with an architecture degree while still being part of the team, but I'm having too much fun here."

The team is not all sport and social bonding, however. Part of their physical prowess is fittingly channeled into spiritual growth as well with once-a-week Bible study lessons. The shared efforts and common victories have forged an unseen yet highly palpable connection within the troupe. This band of brothers, in fact, fondly refers to their team-building sessions as "family-building."