Bantay Kalikasan

Amputee Swimmer Races for the Environment

Hyle Loneza
June 6, 2017

A swimming coach and national athlete emerged as one of the fastest swimmers during the recent Verde Island Passage Swim Junkie Challenge in Punta Malabrigo, Lobo, Batangas.

Thirty-two year old Arnel Navales – Aba won the third place under the 2.5- kilometer men category. Aba competed with 196 swimmers with only one leg.

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The one-legged athlete remained positive throughout the competition. “Masaya. Pagdating naman sa tubig, pantay-pantay lahat, may kapansanan ka man o wala, basta marunong ka lang lumangoy.” (I am happy. When it comes to water, everyone has an equal opportunity, as long as you know how to swim.)

Competing with other professional swimmers, Aba outswam other marathoners while enjoying the beautiful Verde Island Passage -- the “center of the center of the world’s marine biodiversity”.

“Masaya dahil maraming nakikitang isda sa ilalim habang lumalangoy. Sobrang linaw ng tubig dito sa Malabrigo. Kaya nag-enjoy lang ako.” (I am happy that I see school of fish while I swim. The water in Malabrigo is clear.)

Aba is a record-holder para-athlete at various international swimming competitions but he admitted that the open swim in VIP is the most challenging. “Nung nalaman ko na may mining operation na sumubok pumasok dito, at ang VIP swim challenge ay isa sa mga daan para maprotektahan ang dagat, mas lalo akong na-challenge. Naisip ko na sa ganitong paraang matutulungan ko ang pagpo-protect sa kalikasan.” (When I learned that a mining company wanted to operate here in Lobo, this VIP Open Swim became more of a challenge for me since joining here means protecting the area. Through this event, I know that I can help save the environment.)

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This was the second year of the Verde Island Passage Swim Junkie Challenge, with the aim of raising awareness on protecting the Verde Island Passage.

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One hundred and ninety-six swimmers traversed the Verde Island Passage. The number of participants doubled in just a year.

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Bantay Kalikasan, the environmental arm of the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Inc., took the initiative of protecting the Verde Island Passage when threat to mining and putting a coal plant in this area was announced.

Together with First Gen Corporation, ecotourism and livelihood in the area was developed, as an alternative livelihood for the community. “We support VIP with ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya. We want to create awareness to everyone that we should protect our environment,” First Gen Vice President for External Affairs Mon Araneta said. 

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A Community Tiange was set-up during the event where local produce by the community was sold. “Naging isang pagkakataon din ito para ma-showcase natin ang mga produkto sa Lobo.” (This event was an opportunity for the community to showcase their products.) Bantay Kalikasan’s Program Director, Jen Santos articulated

Aside from First Gen Corporation, Bantay Kalikasan also works with different organizations to ensure the preservation and protection of the Verde Island Passage through different campaigns and events like the Open Swim Challenge. 

Another VIP Open Swim event is set to unfold next year.

See more photos here!