Underwater photography has always been an awesome niche that I haven’t touched on because for starters, the equipment you need to take shots underwater come at a pretty hefty price and two, I can’t swim. I am a bit sad because our country has the most diverse underwater subjects, creatures, wrecks and just about any fish there is in the ocean and to be in the midst of all these things and not see them at the same time, is just a whole lot of frustration for me. Good thing some of the most amazing photographers from around the world are converging in Mabini Batangas for the 6th Edition of the Anilao Underwater Shootout. This is a competition organized by the Department of Tourism in cooperation with the Local Goverment of Mabini Batangas and the Resort Owners Association of Mabini (ROAM).
Mind you last year they have had 175 participants from 17 different countries like Singapore, China, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, Turkey, Portugal, USA, Switzerland, Germany, Hong Kong, France, Australia, Canada and the Philippines. It was won by Lilian Koh a female photograper from Singapore (Open Class Champion) and PJ Aristorenas from the Philippines who got his Macro shot of a skeleton shrimp win first place.
The prize is not a joke. They’ve got 40,000 US dollars worth of dive packages, diving and photography equipment, gears and accessories. This is part of the reason why they have exceeded the number of participants this year. It’s like the Grand Prix of underwater photography, running from November 28 til December 1, 2018. They had to go through hundreds of photos to choose the champion this year, and boy they didn’t disappoint!
Asec Roberto Alabado III says “For this competition it will showcase our country, our dive spots, as a sustainable tourism destination. Last year, we had about 12% our GDP contributed to tourism. For this year we have 241 participants who come from 24 countries so this is like a mini UN scene you’re seeing.”
Check out the highlights of my trip and the event here!
The judges include John Thet, Ellen Cuylaerts, William Tan, Indra Swari and famed underwater genius Laurent Ballesta. They look at the manner people dive, the quality of the photos, to show the beauty of the animal, to showcase the beauty of Anilao. The judges even said they wanted to learn because the standard here is high. The silent rule is, a right photo is better than a good photo so there will be almost no photo manipulation as we have to be strict about it. True enough there were amazing, it has to be different, to wow, not just taking photographs. A lot of these photographers were inspired so they all came out with beautiful photos. They are all shot naturally, stunning even in their own environment. Every year the competition is getting tougher and the photographers are getting even more skilled, but they never forget nature. The support coming from the resorts are all making this successful because even with that increase of contestants, they still were able to accommodate it. The Department of Tourism is planning to duplicate this in other provinces because this one is successful, so I am really excited about the other emerging sites like Leyte, Dumaguete, and other provinces.
Ellen Cuylaerts says “I was blown away by the diversity, I go from one place to another and say wow again just in Anilao. Everybody works together in making sure this is sustainable, I am glad I am excited until now for you to see what they got from just one place.”
Willam Tan adds “I just arrived yesterday and I dived once and I have seen a lot of creatures that I have never seen before, even if this isn’t my first time, I would be happy to go back!”
Now that it has been a very successful installment this 2018, they have no where to go but up! I am also excited about what the DOT and Dive Philippines has planned for the other parts of the country that have not yet been developed as a diving destination. We really have so much promise, and their people are exemplary in hosting this event, the whole DOT and local government wants this same successful hosting to be replicated in other provinces so they too could be dive havens like Anilao. Make it happen, make it happen real soon!
Thank you so much Dive Philippines and Department of Tourism! This was so much fun for photography people like me, the prizes and the experience is just amazing! Hope to see you next year!