By Nanette Guadalquiver

OPEN WATER SWIMMING. Some 146 swimmers join the first leg of the International Open Water Swim Circuit hosted by Sipalay City in Negros Occidental on Sunday (Jan. 18, 2024). The event organized by the Department of Tourism-Western Visayas together with the Zamboanga Open Water Swimming Club Inc. aims to establish Western Visayas as a leading destination for sports and ecotourism, particularly for open water swimming. (Photo courtesy of Sipalay City LGU)

BACOLOD CITY – The City of Sipalay in Negros Occidental got a boost in its campaign for sustainable and responsible tourism with the successful staging of the first leg of the International Open Water Swim Circuit over the weekend.

Some 146 swimmers saw action in the two-day event organized by the Department of Tourism (DOT)-Western Visayas (Region 6) together with the Zamboanga Open Water Swimming Club Inc.

Supervising tourism officer Jerick Lacson said on Monday that aside from bringing in revenues to the city, the tourism event also served as a platform to promote their advocacy on sustainable and responsible tourism led by Mayor Maria Gina Lizares.

“We are very glad for the successful run of the first leg. Along with the 146 swimmers, we were able to welcome 400 to 500 guests who were family members and supporters. A good boost to the income of our businesses, particularly the micro, small and medium enterprises,” Lacson told the Philippine News Agency.

“We are also able to showcase the result of the decades-long effort of the local government unit of protecting the underwater resources through the Campomanes Ballo Marine Reserve and Sanctuary, the venue of the event,” he added.

A day before the swim day on Sunday, the participants attended a welcome program that featured green advocacy talks, cultural performances, and tourism and cultural fair.

The swimmers, aged between 12 and over 50, saw action in three distance categories.

In the five-kilometer distance, the overall top male finishers were Sky Gaco (1:09:28.4), Intyr Gutana (1:13:55.9) and Jetro Paul Abella (1:14:17.9). The top female finishers were Naomi Jean Gonora (1:32:33.6), Nathalie Santillan (1:41:42.1) and Aika Marie Ascalon (1:47:19.8).

The three-kilometer distance for male was ruled by Troy Castor (49:49.7), Rynz Matthew Cortado (50:16.4) and Clint Lobaton (50:26.5); while the female category was topped by Alexandria Torrillo (1:08:51.7), Lizhanna Ang (1:10:49.2) and Ma. Loryne Lencioco (1:11:35.6).

Topping the 1.5-kilometer distance for male were Edjohn Javelosa (38:41.5), Joselito Sion (47:31.5) and Kasmier Aizen Butnande (47:37.7); while for female, Rhianne Gabrielle Gonzales (26:05.7), Rinoah Tanamor (29:33.6) and Remselle Limaco (29.50.3) ruled.

The second leg of the International Open Water Swim Circuit will be held in Sicogon Island in Carles, Iloilo on April 14; the third leg, Taklong Island in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras, on June 30; and the final leg, Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan on Sept. 22. (PNA)