Tuesday, May 20, 2008

73 swimmers brave 5-km channel in PBSP’s swim for a cause

Sun*Star Cebu
Monday, May 12, 2008
By Rachel Chloe Palang
UP Mass Comm Intern

THE usual creatures of the see had to make way as 73 pairs of arms and swigning legs braved through the five kilometer swimmer-meets-sea challenge through the Gilutungan channel last Saturday at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort.

Malu Largo, one of the organizers of the event and a member of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) said the objective of the unique swimming challenge was “to promote awareness of drowning incidents in the Philippines and raise funds for school buildings and livelihood opportunities in Olango Island.”

The first-ever open sea swimfest was made possible through the collaboration of PBSP and the Philippine Amateur Swimmers Association (Pasa).

Akiko Thompson, an Olympian and renowned swimmer and the secretary general for Pasa also took part in the swimming challenge for a cause.

“Swimming is my sport, I’ve always been passionate about it,” she said. “And the event was really timely. We had a great tie up with PBSP and hopefully this will become an annual event.”

The event was also a first in the Philippine swimming.

“This is the first open water swimming recorded in the Philippines,” said race director and coach Richard Luna of Pasa.

Aside from the bragging rights of being one the brave few who had crossed the channel, the top four swimmers who finished the race for the male and female categories will represent the country in the open water competition in the first Asian Beach Games in Bali, Indonesia this year.

Aboitiz’s idea

“This event was the idea of Tony Aboitiz and with the help of PBSP,” Luna said, “This event also allowed us to identify talents for open water swimming.”

The five-kilometer stretch made it an almost impossible feat and it comes as slight surprise that the first to finish the race was one of the youngest in the batch.

University of Cebu high school student and bemedaled swimmer Paula Abigail Vega, 15, was the first in the women’s category to finish the race.

“I’ve been swimming for 11 years,” she said, “and I really wanted to join this event because I know it will help a lot of people.”

Vega trains everyday including Saturdays. What led her to push forward and to finish the race was the frightening idea of sharks lurking beneath her.

“I was thinking about sharks. It was a good thing that my brother was beside me. He suddenly left me so I had to catch up.” Vega was also afraid that if she didn’t finish the race she would get envious.

“I was scared that I would be envious. I didn’t want to see only others finish (instead of me).”

Nikita Dacena, 17, and the first male to finish the race was excited that he could represent the Philippines in Bali.

“This is my first event and I did a lot of hard training for this,” he said, “since I finished first, I get to represent the Philippines in Bali.”

He trains everyday excluding weekends and goes to Trace College in Los Baños.

Alexander Reyes, 28, who finished last and wrapped up the whole event with his heroic arrival, joined the event for the fun and the cause.

“If I was swimming for myself, I would have given up,” he said, “and it feels great to finish it.”