HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF SWIMMING IN THE PHILIPPINES
by: Coach Emer Matienzo
The Filipinos needed the motivation to appreciate swimming as a competitive sport. This is due to the fact that their ancestors were sea-faring people owing to the more than 7,100 islands which compose this country. The American military men introduced swimming as a comparative sport in the country.
Through the pioneering efforts of YMCA leaders working among the American military forces, the rudiments of the sports were impressed upon the Filipinos who saw in 1907 the construction of the first swimming pool in the country at Fort McKinley YMCA. Soon, swimming pools were all over the city, including those of the American Columbian Club, YMCA Manila, Manila Polo Club, which spurred interest in water sports.
The holding of the first dual swimming meet between Manila YMCA and the Fort McKinley YMCA in 1910 marked the formal inception in the Philippines of swimming as a competitive sport. This initial competition among members of the defunct Philippine Scouts of the US Army in the Philippines with the motive power of the YMCA which was later joined by the American Columbian Club in the effort kindled Filipino interest in the sport.
At first, only American men were invited to participate in aquatic events as in the case with American Columbian Club’s first swimming meet in 1911 with competing American teams from the Manila YMCA, the American Columbian Club, and the USS Saratoga. The next year, the meet was opened to Filipino swimmers.
In the following year (1912), the Filipinos participated in the second championship meet. Of the 42 individual entries, the late Condrado Benitez emerged as the most outstanding Filipino swimmer.
During the Far Eastern Games held in Manila in 1913, the Philippine Team composed of Condrado Benitez, J. del Pan, C. Aiville, and L. Cristobal won the championship against China and Japan. Only male swimming events were on the program.
It was only in the 1920s that water sports were opened to Filipinas when the University of the Philippines and Philippine Women’s College began training students in competitive swimming as part of their Physical Education subjects.
In 1924, Teofilo Yldefonso, a Philippine Scout soldier of the US Army won recognition as the greatest Filipino swimmer for his feats in national championship meets, the Far East, and Olympic Games. Muslims, Filipinos from Sulu also made names in the national championship competition. Great Muslim swimmers before World War II were Jikirum Adjalludin, Arasad Alpad, Tuburan, Angkang Nakaria, and Asdai Tahil.
The succeeding years up to 1951 saw the staging of the sixth Formosa – Philippines Biennial-Swimming championship meets, the 9th and 10th Far Eastern Games and the series of Manila-Hong kong Interport Swimming meets wherein Filipino men and women swimmers showed outstanding performance. They were Sotero Alcantara, Rene Amabuyok, Edilberto Bonus, Jacinto Cayco, Nulsali Maddin, Mahamad Mala, Eugenio Palileo, Artemio Salamat, Serafin Villanueva, Artemio Villavieja, Lourdes Alba, Angela Fermin, Norma Guerrero, Andres Ofilada, Ana Labayan, Encarnacion Partilo, and Erudito Vito.
Women swimmers competed in the 1931 National Women’s Swimming Championship meet at the Rizal Memorial Pool where the University of the Philippines won. The PWU Women’s team won the championship in 1934. Women’s participation in swimming competitions were held yearly since then.
Swimming competitions were suspended during the Japanese occupation. It was only in 1948 when swimming competitions were resumed. The first Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1951 gave the Filipino swimmers the opportunity to participate once again in international competitions. Among the swimmers were Artemio Salamat, Jacinto Cayco, and Nurhatab Rajab.
The second Asian games were held in Manila in 1954. Our swimmers who earned honors for our country were Parson Nabiula, Amado Jimenez, Robert Cullins, Haydee Coloso, Norma Yldefonso, Sandra Von Geise, Lolita Ramirez, Corazon Cullen, Bana Sailani, Agapito Lozada, Raul Badulis and Jacinto Cayco. The participants to the third Asian Games in Tokyo in 1958 brought honors to the country. They were Bana Sailani, Walter Brown, Rodolfo Agustin, Lorenzo Cortez, Haydee Coloso, Gertrudes Lozada, Sylvia Von Geise, Victoria Cagayat, and Jocelyn Von Geise.
The fourth Asian Games at Jakarta, Indonesia in 1962 marked another significant victory for the Filipino swimmers. They placed second. The standouts were Haydee Espino, Gertrudes Lozada, Sampang Hassan, Rolando Landrito, and Annurhussin Hamsain.
The participation of Filipino swimmers continued. In 1962, the Federation System under Republic Act 3135 was inaugurated.
PASA launched a relatively well-rounded and systematic program of development for the purpose of reinforcing the Philippines against the challenges from other countries. The first age group overseas program was the Philippines-Hong Kong YMCA which started in 1968. From then on, Hong Kong and the Philippines are hosting alternately for this annual swim meet. This program continued until 1978.
Muslim swimmers from Mindanao continued to bring honors to the country. Tuburan Kontong Tamse was the first Filipino Muslim olympian. He comes from a small town in the municipality of Siasi, Sulu Province, and competed in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics with fellow Filipino athletes Teofilo Yldefonso.
In the 70’s Asian Games in Bangkok and Tehran, our Muslim brothers show their skills and talent by winning medals for our country. Notably among them are Roosevelt Abdulgafur, Jairulla Jaitulla, Amman Jalmaani, Leroy Edward Goff, Dae Imlani, Sukarno Maut, Mazier Mukaram, and Kemalpasa Umih.
In 1970, the First Asian Age Group was hosted by Singapore. This is the first age group swimming team sent by the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association. Powerhouse Japan and China were included in this yearly swim event. There were 16 age groupers who represented the country. The Philippines came in second behind host Singapore which had more swimmers than any of the participating teams. The mere fact that we beat Japan and China at the time was an enormous feat for the team. The Asian age group went on until 1976. In 1977 the Southeast Asian (SEA) Age Group was born, hosted by Singapore, and later on, the ASEAN.
With the leadership of Eduardo Ledesma and former national standouts like Mark Joseph, Ral Rosario, and Eric Buhain, PASA attained remarkable progress in the development of swimming. Such projects as Regular Age Group Competitions, Coach to Coach Program, Annual Summer Development Program, Olympic Development Swimming Program, Community Pools Construction Program, Milo Learn to Swim Program, and National Swimming Grand Prix were launched.
In 2005, with an eye to the future, the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association, headed by its President Mark P. Joseph and other ex-national swimmers Ral Rosario, Pinky Brosas, and Akiko Thompson is setting the foundation for a stronger PASA with an expanded role. With its slogan “Swimming is Life” and in partnership with Arena, PASA unwraps its National Plan for Teaching Swimming (NPTS).
The NPTS is a comprehensive, integrated, and progressive teaching program based on sound technical and educational principles and provides a standard reference for those responsible for planning swimming programs.
The swimming association is also strengthening its membership base and renewing its campaign for both individuals and groups to unite under the PASA banner. It is now working on the education and certification of all local swim coaches and instructors with the end in view of upgrading the quality of coaching in the Philippines. This will involve a series of levels of certification for those concerned in the different aspects of coaching.
At present, the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association, now Philippine Swimming Inc. is headed by its president Ma. Lailani Velasco. The federation continued their programs on their promotion and propagandizing the sport including the sending of the national teams in international swimming competitions such as Southeast Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Age Group Swimming Championships as well as organizing local meets like the Speedo G League Long and Short Course series. It is committed to a policy of good governance and will be transparent in all its affairs, hiding nothing and simply working towards the betterment of swimming in the country.