Strong current stops ‘Pinoy Aquaman’ from crossing Surigao Strait

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/21 May)—Touted here as the “Pinoy Aquaman,” lawyer-triathlete Ingemar Macarine tried but failed to conquer Wednesday the treacherous Surigao Strait, which connects Mindanao to the Visayas.

Although the 37-year old president of the Surigao Runners Club and Surigao Triathlon failed to reach his destination, he set a personal record of five and a half hours swimming the open sea.

He started to swim from the Benit Port in San Ricardo, Southern Leyte in the Visayas at exactly 5:20 a.m. towards Mabua Beach here.


An aide puts on sun block lotion on Macarine’s body before the swim. MindaNews photo by Roel Catoto

Dozens of spectators, mostly port workers, took some pictures and wished him good luck before he sets off to the high sea.

Swimming freestyle, he logged a total of 23 kilometers (km), as strong two-knot currents swept him continuously southward towards Camiguin Island.

The distance between Benit Port and this city is 20 km. Vessels travel the channel in just an hour.

At around 8 a.m., he was about 15 kilometers to his destination here, but strong currents pushed him towards Camiguin Island, forcing him later to abandon the swim.

Two small pump boats and an outrigger boat or lantsa escorted him, with one serving as the navigator.

Johann Jake Miranda, a dive master and businessman, said Macarine swam against the strong current.

“Without any sign of the current shifting to a more favorable direction, the swim was called off by his support team at 10:50 am,” he said.

“It’s like one-step forward and two-steps backward. That’s what happened today because of the strong current,” Miranda said.

The Surigao Strait channel separates Benit Point, Southern Leyte and Lipata, Surigao City. This channel borders the Visayas and Mindanao group of islands and has a depth of at least 1,000 meters at some points.

During the swim, hundreds of melon headed whales appeared midway, amazing the spectators aboard the outrigger boat.

Macarine said he thought they were sharks.

“I think the dolphins are swimming around Daddy,” said Lance Macarine, the five-year-old son of Ingemar.

Guided by a Global Positioning System (GPS) device, Macarine swims at a speed of four to five kilometers per hour.

At around 9 a.m., Macarine was advised by his colleagues to get off the water because he was being dragged away by the current.

But Macarine told them to give him another two hours, as he was expecting the current might still change to favorable direction.

At one point, Macarine complained about a cracking sound on his right shoulder.

But he told Dr. Jaimenito Go, a member of his support team, that “he can still swim the whole day.”


Macarine maintains his swimming pace at the Surigao Strait, which connects Mindanao and the Visayas. MindaNews photo by Roel Catoto

As he swam forward, he was still carried away by the strong current away from his destination.

Macarine’s support group belongs to members of the Surigao Runners Club and Surigao Triathlon.

Last December 30, Macarine swam from Basul Island in Barangay Lipata to Surigao City, a distance of 4.28 km, in two hours.

Last February 23, the former varsity swimmer of Siliman University swam from Hikdop Island to Surigao City, and clocked 3 hours and 38 minutes for the 12.82 km distance.

He became the first person to achieve the feat that even experienced local fishermen thought was impossible.

Macarine also swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco in California, USA last April 7, and crossed the 2.85-km span in one hour and two minutes. At the time, the seawater temperature there was 54 degrees Fahrenheit.

He claimed to be the only Filipino to have swum from Alcatraz to San Francisco.

Another shot

Today’s swim for him was unsuccessful but he said he will give it another try maybe later this summer.

“My fault was I did not study the current flow, we just go there and swim,” Macarine said, laughing.

For fellow runners and triathletes, it was still a huge success, saying he was the only man who dared to swim and reached a distance of 23 km in the channel.

“We still celebrate it. Nobody has ever attempted to swim this area. For me it’s a feat indeed,” said Edwin Tranco Dela Cruz of the Surigao Runners Club.

Macarine embarked on this morning’s swim to promote marine environment protection, tourism and healthy lifestyle. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)