Pinoy Aquaman sets out to conquer the open sea

Alexx Esponga
Pinoy Aquaman sets out to conquer the open sea
Few open water swimmers have conquered the 'Ocean's Seven.' The Pinoy Aquaman aims to do so in the name of environmental conservation

MANILA, Philippines – It was around 10 in the morning with the sun already at its highest as it painted the clear skies with rays of light. By that time, there was almost no one swimming in the Pico de Loro Beach; even with the strong gushing of wind, the heat was still unbearable.

But it was during that time that two kids, a boy and girl, were playing and swimming at the beach with no sight of a parent or guardian floating in the water with them. The depth didn’t scare them; both wandered in the seas with nothing but swimsuits and goggles, apiece.

Some time later, several swimmers have started to emerge from the vast salt water onto the shore. Judging by the welcome party of tarpaulins and cameras and smart phones, it was evident that these weren’t ordinary people.

Believe it or not, they are.

One by one, the 6 swimmers who pledged to cross the coves of Nasugbu, Batangas ascended from the waters. As soon as the kids, Coleen and Lance, saw the third swimmer, they couldn’t help but scream, “Daddy!” and raced through the swimmer’s arms.

Plot twist: Ingemar Macarine had an asthma attack.

He wasn’t supposed to go in the first place but Macarine was persistent, he wanted to join the advocacy. Instead of the 10km plan, he stopped swimming at 7 kilometers in just 3 and a half hours.

“I’ve had asthma ever since I was little and it really happens at least twice a year,” said Macarine. “It just so happened that today was that day and I wasn’t in my best condition. Even though I have asthma, it doesn’t really stop me from swimming because it’s my passion. Nothing could really stop me from doing this [swimming].”

Despite the fatigue, he carried his children effortlessly with a smile on his face while he made his way to the shore. His wife on the other hand, Raquel, welcomed him with an embrace—it looked like the perfect family portrait. As soon as he saw his family, Macarine felt as if he was just about to go swimming.

The irony

The Philippines is undoubtedly a beauty with 7,107 islands and is surrounded by a number of seas: the Philippine Sea, South China Sea, Celebes Sea, Sulu Sea and more. Lakes and rivers are also scattered throughout Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. 

The irony? We are surrounded by large bodies of water but relatively few understand exactly what open water swimming is.

Open water swimming is a sport that tests one’s endurance. In a typical pool setup, time and speed are two keys to finish the race as a champion. In open-water swimming, both elements don’t really matter—distance is what will set an athlete apart from the others.

“I am really a slow swimmer that’s why I don’t compete,” Macarine, who is also known as the Pinoy Aquaman, tells Rappler. “In open water swimming, endurance and mental strength are most important.”

IN THE WATERS. Atty. Macarine says he's a slow swimmer, which is why he doesn't compete. Photo from Macarine

An open water swimmer is considered to have reached a milestone once the swim has been featured in the World Open Water Swimming Association in California, USA. The organization keeps track on all swims all over the world with a minimum required distance of 10 kilometers. 

Filipinos have been contributing their own share of prestige in the field of open water swimming, with one of them being Macarine.

Although the Pinoy Aquaman started his open-water swimming career just 3 years ago in 2013, he has already made a name for himself in the sport.

In May 2014, he attempted to swim from Visayas to Mindanao and was the first man to do so. Despite the unsuccessful finish, Macarine was able to clinch a personal record of 23 kilometers.

“That’s my most unforgettable experience as a swimmer because hundreds of Mellow Headed Whales swam with me at that time. It was so beautiful,” the 40-year old Macarine said.

And the list goes on.

The country’s pride

The environmentalist and election lawyer Macarine was the first man to have endured a 19.99 kilometer swim when he crossed Bantayan Island to Cebu in 7 hours, 45 minutes.

He [Macarine] was also the first man to conquer a 13.4 kilometer swim from Baclicasag Island to Panglao Island.

The Surigao-natve Macarine also bannered the Philippine flag in some of his accomplishments abroad such as his one kilometer swim in Lake Lane generally known as the Lucky Lake Swim and the second man in history to complete an 8.01 kilometer swim from Bay Bridge Marina to Sandy Pointe Park Beach in Maryland, USA.

“This passion for open-water swimming really began when I realized that I could use this sport to promote advocacies on protecting the environment,” Macarine shared. “In all my swims either here [Philippines] or abroad, I make it a point to promote environmental conservation.”

Moreover, Macarine follows the Marathon Swimming Federation Rules such as no floating aids of whatever kind, regular swimsuits and no physical contact with another person or with any boats.

“I never imagined myself as a professional swimmer,” said Macarine. “All I really wanted is to impart my lifetime advocacy for clean seas and beaches.”

In all of Macarine’s 22 swims in the country and overseas, every stroke is not for himself but the abused: Mother Nature.

English Channel crossing

For every avid mountain climber, the dream is to reach the pinnacle of the “Seven Summits” of the 7 continents. For open-water swimmers, their equivalent is the “Ocean’s Seven.”

Macarine’s quest begins in mid-August when he sets out for the so-called Mount Everest of open water swims: the English Channel.

The swim, which is organized by the First Filipino International Movement (1FM), will feature the first time a Filipino attempts to conquer the sea passage that separates the United Kingdom and France.

According to Macarine, his team is set to leave this week to prepare for the swim of his life—an approximately 13 to 15 hour journey with a 35-kilometer total distance of icy waters in the North Atlantic.

“I hope and pray that the swim in August will be successful and after that I plan to swim the other 6 major oceans. Less than 30 people have done that and I want to be part of that legacy.”

Never stopping

Being both a lawyer and swimmer at the same time is no easy work but Macarine makes it happen; and when asked what he sees himself doing with the rest of his life, he answered, “Even though I’ll be retired as a lawyer in the future, I know I’ll still be swimming.”

Macarine said that swimming has changed his life and it’s something that he can never let go of.

“I encourage everyone to try it. You will never truly appreciate the beauty of the sea if you’ll just look at the surface. When you get to see the deeper side of it, it’s something you’ll never get tired of looking,” Macarine said.

And at the midst of all tension, pressure and fatigue when in the water, Macarine thinks of nothing but his family to keep him going.

“When I’m really tired and want to give up, I just think of my family waiting at the end of the shore. I also always think of Psalm 23 [The Lord is my Shephard..] when I’m swimming, those give me strength to finish what I’ve started,” concluded Macarine.

For people who understand what he does, Macarine is already a superstar. But from his own perspective, he views himself as an ordinary person trying to help make a difference. Macarine might not be the fastest swimmer, but with persistence he will get where he’s going eventually.

Macarine, together with his family and team, know he will. –

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