These underwater images spotlight the submerged wonders of Central Visayas

Published August 8, 2022, 3:14 PM

by John Legaspi

Dive7 Festival ends with a breathtaking showcase of Negros Oriental’s marine life

Being an archipelagic nation, the Philippines is blessed to have such beautiful islands, each offering something new for Filipinos and foreigners to set their eyes on. These wonders don’t stop at idyllic mountain ranges, lushes forests, colorful weaves, and diverse fauna. The country’s underwater scene is also an experience to behold. 

As a testament to this, the Philippines has been included among the the top destinations for diving for three consecutive years (2019, 2020, and 2021) by the World Travel Awards, and among the best places to see the nation’s best underwater view is Central Visayas. To spotlight its submerged wonders, the Department of Tourism-Central Visayas (DOT7) held the second edition of the Dive7 Festival at the municipalities of Zamboanguita and Dauin in Negros Oriental from July 28 to 31. 

“One of the many reasons why we are conducting the Dive7 program is to promote Central Visayas as a world-class diving destination,” program head Gloriece Do said. “We would also want to promote camaraderie among our local stakeholders, partners from the private and public [sectors], and our tourism stakeholders, especially from the diving industry.”

Underwater lensmen Gibson Sojor Jr., Andrei Savin, and Paul Joseph Aristorenas

For three days, participants of the festival joined in underwater and coastal clean-up, as well as mermaid swimming activities, among others. The festival culminated with a photo competition where underwater lensmen of all nationalities capture the marine world of the municipalities. 

A variety of sea creatures and colorful coral reefs of Negros Oriental were immortalized as participants competed in the open and compact camera categories. The competition’s segments include nudibranchs, swimming with the turtles, wide seascapes, marine life behavior, and a spotlight on frogfish as Dauin is touted as the frogfish capital of the Philippines.

“We have scientists here who specifically study frogfishes and track them from when they were young, their mating, and to the time they give birth,” said judge Reggie Reyes, who has been doing professional underwater photography and teaching for over 30 years. Joining him in judging the competition were biologist Dr. Klaus Stiefel, Moscow-born diver Alex Stoyda, and professional underwater photographers Kwangoh Kim and Magnus. 

Open Class Wide Seascapes category first place winner Andrei Savin

One of the night’s big winners, Andrei Savin, 51, has been staying in the Philippines since 2018, exploring the country’s remarkable diving sites. For him, the trick to getting a great underwater image lies not on the camera but on the lighting. “This is the secret, the camera is not important. But the light, yes, and your understanding of the light,” he told Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.

Open Class Nudibranch category first place winner Paul Joseph Aristorenas

Nudibranch category first placer Paul Joseph Aristorenas, 33, has been to the country’s top diving destinations like Anilao in Batangas and Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro. But he prefers Dauin for wide seascapes and frogfish photography. For him, the most challenging part of underwater photography is finding his style. “What you need is patience,” he said. “You need eagerness and dedication in finding the subject and capturing it. If you don’t have patience, it will be hard.”

Open Class Wide Seascapes category third place winner Gibson Sojor Jr.

Cooperation is also key in underwater photography. Wide seascape third placer Gibson Sojor Jr., 42, says that the process also involves good spotters on the lookout for creatures to photograph. His advice to anyone who would like to pursue the craft is to be “serious about it. This type of hobby is a very serious and challenging one, but it is very rewarding.”

Dive7 Festival was made possible with the help of the Central Visayas local government units and the diving community, and DOT7’s partnership with Sliver Reef Dive Resort and the Philippine Airlines, who are staunch supporters of enlivening tourism in the country after years of the pandemic.

“Looking at the photos really is an affirmation and manifestation of the richness and the diversity of the beautiful underwater scene of the Philippines,” said Maria Rica C. Bueno, assistant secretary, tourism regulation, coordination, and resource generation. “The DOT will always be here in partnership with the respective local government units and our dive communities in pursuing this goal, especially at this point in time that our secretary is [putting] her thrust to strengthening the collaboration of the DOT with LGU and tourism province sector and stakeholders, in working hand in hand in promoting, developing tourism in our country. This is just the beginning.”

See more photos below:

Open Class First Marine Behavior first place winner Benhalassa Emeric
Open Class Wide Seascapes second place winner Finnur Snaer Oktosson
Open Class Macro category first place winner Changho Lee
Open Class Swimming with Turtles first place winner Andrei Savin
Open Class Frogfish first place winner Benhalassa Emeric

The third edition of Dive7 Festival in Negros Oriental is set to take place from July 27 to 30, 2023.


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