As divers, we know how difficult it is to describe the beauty and colours of underwater critters to land-based people. Very few people in the world have seen what is hidden below the surface with their own eyes, but as soon as they see pictures and documentaries, they are fascinated by the strangely beautiful critters captured by the lenses, and thepatient photographers who sometimes have to wait decades to shoot their perfect pictures.
David Doubilet, a star among underwater photographers who has raised the bar so many times for both pros and amateurs, waited 40 years to get his dream picture: a male clownfish aerating its eggs just before they hatched. He took the photo in Anilao, Batangas, the Philippines, where they now hold what is known as the 'World Cup of Underwater Photo Competitions' and rightly so, especially for those passionate about small critters, macro photography, blackwater and behaviours.
From the 22 to 26 May 2023, the Philippines’ colourful marine life took the spotlight in the Department of Tourism's 8th
Anilao Underwater Shootout. The competitors highlighted the area’s rich biological treasures and captured teeming marine biodiversity. Moreover, they signed a code of conduct prior to the event that was focused on a 'no marine life manipulation' policy.
Five experienced, award-winning underwater photographers were the judges: Aaron Wong, Brook Peterson, Rafael Fernandez Caballero, Scott Gutsy Tuason and Mares ambassador Franco Banfi. Their first task was to check if the pictures respected the policy, since the message highlighted respect and sustainability, and how all of us have a part to play.
They analysed and judged 426 entries divided into 14 categories between 'open' and 'compact' class, submitted by 153 participants from 14 countries.
Even if this wonderful event has strongly suffered (like others) during the pandemic (the 6th edition in 2018 counted 241 contestants from 23 countries), it is clearly on its way to growing exponentially in the next few years, since the number of entries rose by 22.41% and participants increased by 27.5% this year compared to the 7th edition in 2021.
Tourism Secretary Ms Christina Garcia-Frasco said the event strengthens the country’s position as the world’s leading dive destination. Through the competition, the Department of Tourism seeks to grow the country’s dive market with programs that not only promote marine biodiversity but also actively advocate for its protection and preservation.
“The department is dedicated 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 dive products across the country,” said Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco. “The presence of international participants in the Anilao Underwater Shootout is a big boost to the promotion of dive tourism in the Philippines, and also to the rebooting of the travel and tourism industry. We are thrilled that the passion for diving and underwater photography has brought everyone to Anilao, as this year’s edition welcomes international participants for the very first time since the pandemic,” the Secretary added.
Here are the winners of this year’s Anilao Underwater Shootout:
In the Macro/Supermacro category, the winners were 1) Kim Kyung Shin, 2) PJ Aristorenas, 3) Yat Kuen Eric Fung.
In the Marine Behavior category, the winners were 1) Dennis Corpuz, 2) Patricia Santos, 3) Yat Kuen Eric Fung.
In the Nudibranch category, the winners were 1) Dennis Corpuz, 2) Mark Chang, 3) PJ Aristorenas.
In the Fish Portrait category, the winners were 1) Deniz Muzaffer Gökmen, 2) Patricia Santos, 3) Mark Chang.
In the Macro/Supermacro category, the winners were 1) Regie Casia, 2) Luzelle Artillero, 3) Teresa Sy Ortin.
In the Marine Behavior category, the winners were 1) Regie Casia, 2) Eric Javier, 3) Neil Anthony Torres.
In the Nudibranch category, the winners were 1) Jayson Cedrick Apostol, 2) Ronilo Corpuz, 3) Jose Antonio Caluag.
In the Fish Portrait category, the winners were 1) Eric Javier, 2) Jayson Cedrick Apostol, 3) Oscar Rey Maranan.
Special prizes were awarded to Dennis Corpuz in the Blackwater/Bonfire category and Mark Chang in the Wide-Angle category.
Eric Javier was awarded the DOT Photographer Year title for the Compact class while Kim Kyung Shin took DOT Photographer of the Year for the Open class.
Meanwhile, Louie Casapao and Roberto Corpuz were named DOT Photographers of the Year as Dive Guides for the Compact and Open classes respectively.