It’s going to be a water festival like no other, featuring swimming competitions in various bodies of water in the Zamboanga Peninsula in Mindanao.
Imagine kids joining a clean-up drive after a fun swim in the open sea; contingents from the Philippine Coast Guard, Navy, and the Maritime Police vying for pride in swim fest; and the best open water swimmers like Pinoy Aquaman himself, Ingemar Macarine, taking on all comers for supremacy.
These are just some of the activities that will mark the Zamboanga Peninsula Open Swim Circuit kicking off in the picturesque seaport city of Zamboanga on Feb. 12, according to one of the organizers, Japy Silapan.
“It’s going to be a festive atmosphere along the coastal road as we watch open water swimmers vie for honors,” said Silapan, president of Zamboanga Open Water Swim Club.
Taking the lead is the Department of Tourism Region 9 which aims to promote eco-sports tourism in the region.
“Our aim is to raise the profile of the Zamboanga Peninsula once as a top foreign and local destination for tourism and sports once again in launching the Zamboanga Open Swim Circuit with the involvement of various local government units,” noted DOT Region 9 Director Dara Cataluña.
The four-leg open water swimming series, featuring the region’s top scenic attractions, was launched on Saturday at the Balesin Restaurant of the Makati City Club at the Alphaland condominium in Makati.
Also gracing the affair were DOT Region 9 senior tourism officer Charles Anthony Rotoni, Zamboanga City tourism chief Sarita Sebastian-Hernandez, Zamboanga Open Water Swim Club president Japy Silapan and Philippine Swimming Inc. president Lani Velasco.
ECO SPORT TOURISM
“This project is in line with the thrust of Tourism Secretary Maria Garcia Frasco’s vision that no province or area should be left behind in local tourism. My own governor, Mike Uy of Zamboanga del Sur, is also keen on promoting tourism in our province,” Cataluña revealed.
“Our aim is making the Zamboanga Peninsula a major eco sport tourism hub in the region and open water swimming is just the star of many sports-related activities we intend to launch, which will include golf as well as diving,” Rotoni said.
“We want to come up with a tourism package that will also educate our participating swimmers in habitat conservation and management while also highlighting community-based tourism activities in Region 9,” Rotoni added.
On the other hand, Hernandez said that the Zamboanga City government led by Mayor John Dalipe was just as enthusiastic in supporting the series, noting that it was the hometown of the weightlifter and Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Hidylin Diaz.
“With this activity, we will be able to lure potential tourists both overseas and domestic and open their eyes to the attractions of our fair city. Zamboanga City is a coastal area and this event will help our communities discover strong open-course swimmers,” she said.
Hernandez added that the “Onces Islas” group of islands will be the venue of the opening leg of the Zamboanga Peninsula Open Circuit which is also supported by the Tourism Board of the Philippines, the Zamboanga Sibugay provincial government, the Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur municipal government and the city government of Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte.
After Zamboanga City, the Zamboanga Peninsula Open Swim Circuit will have its second leg on March 19 around Butuan Island in Zamboanga Sibugay, the next will be on April 16 in the scenic and heart-shaped Lake Magarang in Zamboanga del Sur before winding up on May 14 at the world-class Dakak resort in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte.
“This project appeals to our vision as a club to open up tourism in the region, especially sustainable development. We will also want our club to be a prime mover in developing the coastal communities,” said Silapan, whose club will organize and oversee the technical aspects of the circuit.
For every leg of the activity, there will be two or three distances – ranging from 1.5 km to 5KM – that participants can register for.
For those who want to join the Open Water Swim Circuit, the registration/admission fee is PhP1,200 per person. This includes a swim safety kit, swim cap, swim buoy, towel, finisher shirt and medal, loot bag, and meals and snacks.
A special award will be given to participants who complete all four legs of the competition.