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LOOK: Oddly beautiful under-the-Philippine sea photos hit 'Little Mermaid' vibes |

Travel and Tourism

LOOK: Oddly beautiful under-the-Philippine sea photos hit 'Little Mermaid' vibes

Francine Medina -
LOOK: Oddly beautiful under-the-Philippine sea photos hit 'Little Mermaid' vibes
Winning entries of the 8th Anilao Underwater Shootout (clockwise from left): Dennis Corpuz (Open Marine Behavior, 1st), Jose Antonio Caluag (Compact Nudibranch, 3rd), Dennis Corpuz (Open Nudibranch, 1st) and Regie Casia (Compact Marine Behavior, 1st).
Department of Tourism

MANILA, Philippines — While "The Little Mermaid" is still slaying it on terra firma in cinemas, the Department of Tourism (DOT) made happy splashes for ocean lovers recently as it put the spotlight on the colorful underwater world of Anilao, Batangas. 

It's like coming home to this "part of the world," to borrow a phrase from the Disney movie. Amateur and professional underwater photographers reunited three years after the lockdown to submerge their cameras once again and to capture the biodiverse marine life in Anilao. 

It was indeed the last summer hurrah as the 8th Anilao Underwater Shootout (AUS) made waves in the international diving community through the incredible photographs produced by its Filipino and foreign members.   

Although Typhoon Betty (international name: Mawar) was looming over the archipelago during that last stretch of May, Anilao was blessed with sunshine and gentle breeze during the week of the event. Strong winds and rain happened on Saturday, which was awarding day. 

'World Cup of Underwater Photo Competitions'

A total of 153 diving and photography enthusiasts — from 14 countries —showed up. Besides the Philippines, the rest were from Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey and the United States. 

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco said the event aims to strengthens the country’s bid as a top international diving destination. 

The first shootout took place in 2013 with the support of the diving community that was just starting to grow back then. Anilao, which is only three hours away from Manila, was easily the go-to choice to hold the contest. 

Today, the Philippines is recognized by international diving and travel websites as a top diving destination. 

"The Department of  Tourism is committed to ensuring that the Philippines maintains its standing as the world’s leading dive destination through a coordinated, focused and fully supported approach to the further development of our dive products across the country," said DOT Undersecretary Verna Buensuceso.

Considered the “World Cup of Underwater Photo Competitions,” Anilao's beautiful marine ecosystem, which includes its carpet of colorful nudibranchs, was the shootout's highlight.

Enthusiastic energy was in the air — or, should we say, in the water? — as the participants clicked away to produce 426 incredible entries across the competition’s 14 categories. 

Winners were awarded P1.7 million worth of underwater photography gear from event partners and sponsors.

Judges, all prominent underwater photographers, claimed they had a difficult time choosing from the visual overload. The panel included Aaron Wong, Brook Peterson, Franco Banfi, Rafael Fernandez Caballero and Scott Gutsy Tuason.

Eric Javier — who won several awards this year, including DOT Photographer of the Year for Compact Class; 2nd place, Marine Behavior for Compact Class; and 1st Place in Fish Portrait — observed how especially lush the corals and schools of fish were in Anilao's waters had become after the government restricted diving activities for almost two years.

Javier said Anilao is still the go-to spot for ocean lovers and divers: "Anilao offers a wide range of subjects for muck diving. It is an underwater photographer's perfect playground... a piece of paradise under the sea."

Shooting underwater imagery really hits different, shared Javier: "The Philippine waters is blessed with astounding diversity of fantastic coral reefs and marine creatures. Every time I dive with my camera gears, I am like a kid full of excitement, eagerly anticipating what type of underwater critters, reefs and seascapes I will come across. And to be able to showcase all of these through my camera lens will be my greatest fulfillment."

Kyungshin Kim, DOT Photographer of the Year for the Open Class category and a Korean national, said that before the pandemic, he was visiting the Philippines four times a year to enjoy his underwater passion. 

Kim shared, "From Korea, which is where I live, the Philippines is the closest spot where I can access the Coral Triangle.

"If I catch a night flight after getting off work, I can go diving the next morning in the Philippines. The country offers a great range of dive sites such as Anilao with its diverse macros, Tubbataha Reef, Malapascua, Dumaguete, Verde island, Bohol and so many others. To me, the attractive dive sites along with their accessibility is why I come to the Philippines so often," he added. 

Congratulations to all the winners. Check the DOT website for the list of winners.

RELATED: Filipina photographers win in 2023 World Press Photo awards

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