Q & A
1) What is the history of the boat club? How was it founded?
The Club started in 1895, springing out of the Manila Club, which was started in 1893. With the
exception of the WW2 period, it has been active continually ever since.
2) How has the boat club been a part of Manila life and heritage?
Not many Manilans are/were aware of the existence of Manila Boat Club. However, those who came to know MBC appreciate that it is the oldest sports club in the Philippines and placed Manila in the world map of rowing. The international sport of squash was also introduced into the Philippines by MBC.
3) Who are the boat clubs most well known members? What are the club's greatest accomplishments?
The introduction of Rowing itself to the Philippines, the introduction of Squash and the building of the first courts outside of a military encampment. Keeping the club going through some very difficult times has been a labor of love by many Filipinos and ex-pats alike. MBC members are not known for their high profile, but have included Captains of Industry, Ambassadors, Olympians, Philanthropists amongst their membership.
Well Known Members
(In the past)
Thomi Keller President of International Rowing Federation
Marcial Lichauco PHL Ambassador to the Court of St. James
Chick Parsons World War II hero
Nicholas Platt US ambassador
Hilda Koronel Popular actress
Richard Gomez Popular actor
Accomplishments - Keeping the sport of rowing active in the country is a great accomplishment. Many MBC members soon became national sports leaders/founders in charge of the national
sailing association, rowing, squash, canoeing, and dragon boating. Said MBC members, because of their training at MBC, also became officials of the Philippine Olympic Committee and regional/international sports federations.
The first Filipino Olympic rower (1988 Seoul Olympics) was trained at MBC.
4) Any significant stories or anecdotes about the boat club and its illustrious
When WW2 broke out in Asia, all the members who were foreign joined their respective countries
armed forces and went to Singapore. The wives and families who were left behind were interned by the Japanese. The Japanese Imperial Army took over the Club and used it as a lookout and radio post because of its good position on the Ilog Pasig. You can still see today the holes in the floor of the Bar where cables from the radio station ran down to the generator located in the boat-shed. Allegedly, there was a tunnel from the Clubhouse to the banks of the river, which allowed the soldiers to man the machine gun post there without breaking cover in times of attack. Sadly the Japanese soldiers in trying to use the boats destroyed them likely by putting their feet through the fragile hulls. Happily the Club itself survived.
5) What do you know about the clubhouse, its architecture and construction?
The property was purchased in 1930 and the Clubhouse completed in 1932. It used to be a lot
larger with a staff house but compulsory purchase to install the MMDA pumping station reduced the size by about half and the staff house was lost. The building itself seems typical of the many wooden structures that were the forerunners of flat packed buildings throughout Asia
6) What can you tell us about the boat club's current membership?
When I joined 4 years ago there were 22 members. Only about 4 rowed, the Club itself was covered in dirt, in disrepair and 90% of members were behind in paying their dues. The recovery had however started. Since then the membership has more than doubled to 46 and the percentage of active members has grown considerably. The membership is pretty well 50/50 between locals and foreigners with a managing Board that is dominated by locals.
7) What are the boat club's current activities and facilities?
Current activities offered are Rowing, Squash, Table Tennis, Darts, Billiards, Slot Car racing and
Wally Ball (A form of netball played in a Squash Court, introduced to the Philippines by MBC and the only place it is played in the country). Social evenings at least monthly and participation in the Philippine Coastguard Auxiliary of which the 126th Squadron uses the MBC as its HQ as it patrols the Ilog Pasig and assists riverside communities in times of emergency.
8) What draws members to the boat club? Why did you join the boat club?
The initial impression of everyone visiting the club for the first time is WOW! I never knew
anything like this existed in Manila. Basically, curiosity and disbelief are what draws people, well certainly those who have never rowed before. Not many believe you can row on the Ilog Pasig but those who do quickly see the attraction and that the river is not as bad as its reputation. The friendly family atmosphere, squash and other activities all lend themselves to the attraction.
9) How does one join the boat club?
Very simply, download an application form and find a couple of members to sponsor you. This
is easily done if you have taken advantage of the offer to guest rowers to try out the sport three times for free and/or you have joined one or two of the frequent social occasions - non members are welcome to those!
10) What do you think is the future of the boat club?
Expansion and growth in activities. Further involvement in Community Affairs and youth activities. A youth program for locals to promote health, discipline and hope. Good rowers are
more likely to get scholarships from American and other Universities!
11) Why do you think the boat club must be preserved and continued for future
Whilst the building itself is only a wooden structure it has the traditional feel and charm that has
disappeared from a large part of Manila. The history alone is important and the contributions a Club such as MBC can make to the community and the sport of rowing are enormous. MBC can be the recruiting ground for new champion rowers who will bring medals and glory to the Philippines.