HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF SWIMMING IN THE PHILIPPINES
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.
The first swimming pool in the Philippines was constructed at Fort McKinley when the YMCA opened in 1907. Soon, swimming pools were all over the city, including those of the American Columbian Club, YMCA Manila, and Manila Polo Club, which spurred interest in water sports.
At first, only American men were invited to participate in aquatic events as in the case of the American Columbian Club’s first swimming meet in 1911. The next year, the meet was opened to Filipino swimmers. Up until the 1913 Far East Games held in Manila, only male swimming events were on the program.
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.
In 1911, Filipinos watched avidly from the sidelines as the first swimming championship meet was held at the American Columbian Club swimming pool with American teams from the Manila YMCA, the American Columbian Club, and the USS Saratoga.
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.
Dean Conrado F. Benitez (b.Nov. 26, 1889/d.Jan. 4, 1971) took up the sports of swimming while growing up in Pagsanjan, learning the fundamentals in the famed rapids of his town. When he studied at the Philippine Normal College, he briefly took up baseball but gave this up when he became a government “pensionado” in 1911. Sent to the University of Chicago, Benitez rediscovered his love of swimming. One of his good friends in the university was Johnny Weismuller (future Olympic swimming champ and filmdom’s “Tarzan”) who practiced with him at the university pool. He became so good that he qualified for the university’s swimming team, and earned letters in the sport. Simultaneously, Benitez also captained the school’s water polo team. Upon his return to the Philippines in 1913, Benitez organized the swimming team for that year’s Far Eastern Games. He trained mostly Muslim swimmers who went on to beat the Japanese and Chinese teams for the Gold. The Philippine Women’s University, the school that his wife, Francisca Tirona-Benitez founded, holds the distinction of being the first exclusive girls’ school to have a pool. In 1957. Benitez was honored by the University of Chicago as one of its outstanding alumni, for his meritorious contribution to campus sports.
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.
In the following decade, educational institutions, the first of which was the University of the Philippines, followed later on by the Philippines Women’s University, trained swimmers.
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 and 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-Hongkong 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 that swimming competitions resumed. The first Asian games held in New Delhi in 1951 gave Filipino swimmers the opportunity to participate once again in international competitions. Among medalist swimmers were Artemio Salamat, Sotero Alcantara, Nurhatab Rajab, Muhammad Mala, Serafin Villanueva and Ediberto Bonus.
The second Asian game was 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 in 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.
Participation of Filipino swimmers continued. In 1962, the Federation System under Republic Act 3135 was inaugurated.
Our Muslim brothers continued to bring honors to our country. Among them is Tuburan Tamse who came from a small town in the municipality of Siasi, Sulu Province, in the southern part of the Philippines. At age 17, he was sent to participate in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics in the Swimming event, together with fellow Filipino athletes Teofilo Yldefonso (swimming), Anselmo Gonzaga (athletics), and Simeon Toribio (athletics).
Other swimmers are Jikirum Adjaluddin, Arsad Alpad, Kemalpasa Umih, Dae Imlani, Amman Jalmaani, Mazier Mukaram, Betina Abdula and Jairulla Jaitulla.
Philippine Amateur Swimming Association (PASA) launched a relatively well-rounded and systematic program of development for the purpose of reinforcing the Philippines against challenges from other countries. The first age group overseas program was the Philippines-Hongkong YMCA which started in 1968. From then on, Hongkong and the Philippines are hosting this annual swim meet alternately. This program continued on until 1978.
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.
With an eye on 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 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 (PASA) now Philippine Swimming Inc. is under the leadership of Ms. Lailani Velasco. The federation continued its programs in their promotion and propagandizing of the sport including the sending of the national teams to international swimming competitions such as the Southeast Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Age Group Swimming Championships as well as organizing local meets.