Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hello, England!

LONDON —“The English weather is unpredictable,” a friend warned me.

“Bring an umbrella,” a sound advice from another friend.

Then, a third friend lectured me about Geography 101:

England is the largest country in Great Britain and the United Kingdom (UK). It is sometimes, wrongly, used in reference to the whole United Kingdom, the entire island of Great Britain, or indeed the British Isles. This is not only incorrect but can cause offence to people from other parts of the UK.

The Maison Dieu (House of God), is a medieval building 
in Dover, England which forms part of the Old Town 
Hall buildings. Photo by Leo Udtohan
The official name of the UK is the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

The name refers to the union of what were once four separate nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (though most of Ireland is now independent. Only Northern Ireland is part of the UK now).

The United Kingdom is made up of:

• England - The capital is London.
• Scotland - The capital is Edinburgh .
• Wales - The capital is Cardiff.
• Northern Ireland - The capital is Belfast.

Many people think that “English” is the same as “British”.  It is not!

People who are English are from the country of England. On the other hand, British people are people who live in Great Britain (Britain) and the UK.

And last reminder, “Don’t forget your British accent!”

I was travelling alone to England, one of the most visited countries in the world. It offers travellers endless possibilities when it comes to fun things to see and do.

After arriving at London Heathrow Airport, I bought an Osyter Card at the airport Tube. (Tip: Bring Pounds since shopping centers or stores here don’t accept Euros after the Brexit.) I headed straight to Victoria Station, London’s busiest rail station. Inside the train, I got my first look at my fellow riders. There were couples, young and old, and a few single travelers like me. There’s an air of excitement and expectation that seemed old-fashioned in this age of hurried high-speed travel.

Riding the rails from London to Dover in Kent county (province) is a once-in-a-lifetime smorgasbord of scenery.  The trains to Dover are modern, comfortable and air-conditioned, unreserved seating but may be crowded in rush hours.

The attraction starts the Dover Port where 
one can see the White Cliffs Country, 
unspoilt coastlines, historic castles, breathtaking 
views and unique heritage and history.  
Photo by Leo Udtohan
Just before 7 p.m. on Wednesday (August 9), I arrived at Dover. It was not getting dark. In the summer, it stays light until 9 p.m. and in the winter it gets dark about 4 p.m. but the sunsets we get can be lovely.

I was in Dover to cover the swim of environmental lawyer and triathlete, Ingemar Macarine, nicknamed “Pinoy Aquaman,” who dared to plunge into the cold waters of the English Channel considered as the Mount Everest for open sea swimming.

Several swimmers had attempted to cross the English Channel but not one of them was Filipino. Until now.

Pinoy Aquaman, his coach Roel Catoto and your VRS literary flattened the road for our daily routine. It was a 30-minute walk from the house of Carmelo Rebolos to the Dover Port where Macarine had to practice swimming for two hours every day before swimming the English Channel.

Our generous host Carmelo, whose grandmother was from Bohol, cooked us adobo and sinigang. The pricey and smelly dried fish I brought from Bohol was another appetizer. He said Pinoy Aquaman needed more carbs for his swimming.

Last August 13, the Filipino Community in UK gathered at the Dover Port to show support to Pinoy Aquaman.  His destination was Cap Gris Nez, a promontory on the French coast, about 34 km (21 miles) from his point of origin, Dover town. He had swum almost 4 km in 50 minutes when Eric Hartley, the boat skipper, decided to pull him out from the weather due to strong wind and waves to stay safe.

Canterbury City is a popular cultural and
 entertainment destination with great shopping, galleries
 and cafés, as well as attractions such as those focused
on Chaucer's medieval England and the city's Roman past.
Photo by Leo Udtohan
Pinoy Aquaman was surprised since he had endured strong waves and winds in the Philippines in many of his swims. The tidal current was too strong. He tried with all his might and determination, but took the pilot’s advice and aborted the swim to stay safe.

 “I feel disappointed that I was not able to finish it because of the weather,” he said.

It was Ingemar's second attempt. The first was last year but he was not able to swim due to bad weather.

But the Philippines' Aquaman will not give up. He will definitely make another try.

“Tuloy ang laban,” said Ingemar.

Blamed it on the English weather, as they say, is unpredictable and treacherous.

To mend a drooping spirit, Carmelo said, “This,” gesturing around the room where a videoke sing-along was going on. “Party!”

Then, the three of them— Carmelo, Ingemar and Roel—stood up to join the singing and dancing, enjoying the night, relishing the youth energy.

It was after the swim did I realize that Kent was beautiful.

For travellers, Kent is truly the Garden of England, with breath-taking countryside, stunning coastline, world-famous attractions and delicious food and drink.
Good food, drinks and company. Lawyer Ingemar Macarine, Carmelo Rebolos, Roel Catoto and Charles and Jay Berryman. There's never been a better time to eat out with new restaurants now popping up here at a faster rate than anywhere in the country. Photo by Roel Catoto
Incredible locations include The White Cliffs of Dover, Leeds Castle, Hever Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, The Historic Dockyards Chatham, Dreamland Margate and Port Lympne Reserve.

The place is also famous for its award-winning sparkling wine since vineyards are here in Kent. Britain's oldest brewer Shepherd Neame  can be found here.

Like so much of England, Dover was heavily influenced by its Roman heritage (the town suffered severe damage due to its role as a naval base during WWII), and you can explore a number of Roman-era attractions here, including the remarkable lighthouse on Castle Hill and the Roman Painted House.

The Dover White Cliffs are one of the great icons of British tourism and attract millions of visitors every year.  According to Carmelo, the iconic white cliffs of Dover are embedded in the national consciousness, and are a big ‘Welcome Home’ sign to generations of travellers and soldiers.

Cruise ships usually arrive in Dover so you could expect many Filipino seafarers roaming around the town.

The Dover Castle perched high above the English Channel built in 1168 is an English Heritage’s second most visited attraction in the country, with Deal, Walmer and Richborough castles making for a unique collection of coastal fortifications. 

The Dover Museum at the Market Square houses three floors of objects and displays recounting the town's rich history, from its Roman beginnings to the modern day. It's also home to the world's oldest known seagoing vessel, a Bronze Age wooden boat thought to be about 3,000 years old. Other highlights include an impressive collection of Saxon-era artifacts and jewelry.

In Dover, they take their food so seriously that it is easy to overlook the other charms of this picturesque town. Dover not only hosts a popular food and drink, but it has bewildering selection of fine restaurants like The Allotment where  we were treated for a sumptuous dinner by  Charles and Jay Berryman. They had travelled five hours from Exeter, Devon to Dover just to support Pinoy Aquaman.  It was my first time to order Roast lamb with spring herb crumbs and to get drunk and come home tipsy!

When Pinoy Aquaman was not practising or sleeping, we sneaked into the neighboring town of Folkestone, a 30-minute drive from Dover. The historic old center is charming, if small. Tourist attractions and things to do in Folkestone are plentiful and include spending time in seafront amusement arcades and pavilions, taking a refreshing stroll along the wide promenade with fine views across to France in clear weather, or dining in a restaurant or café in the town's trendy Creative Quarter.

The Church of St. Mary and St. Eanswythe, around Old High Street, is worth visiting for it houses the remains of St. Eanswythe. Also popular here is the statue and the house of William Harvey, who discovered the body's circulatory system.

On our last day at Kent, Carmelo brought us to Cantebury, an enchanting city full of history. He has been living in London for years so the tour was a big yawn for him. But he seemed to relish it as much as a promdi like me did.

It was summer but I was shivering from spring chill but I didn’t mind. Why would I when awesome scenes and sights are passing by---Canterbury Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), St. Augustine Abbey, the Old Town and --- yes, yes, yes! --- Chaucer’s famous tales!

But Canterbury isn’t just a showpiece for the past – it’s a bustling, busy place with an energetic student population and a wide choice of contemporary bars, restaurants, venues and independent shops.

With huge skies and clear air, England offers freedom, space and a place to think. To be continued...


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Sunday, August 20, 2017

‘Pinoy Aquaman’ English Channel bid aborted

DOVER, United Kingdom — Environmental lawyer Ingemar Macarine, also known as the “Pinoy Aquaman,” was about  3.8 km (2.3 miles) from this town when his swim was stopped because of bad weather.

He started his longest solo, unassisted swim at the English Channel, “Mt. Everest” for open swimming, at 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, August 13, (9:30 a.m. Philippine time) after facing high winds during his swim from Dover town, United Kingdom to France.

Environmental lawyer Ingemar Macarine who was 
almost an hour in the waters of the English Channel 
on Sunday, August 13, 2017, had to cancel his effort due
 to bad weather.  Photo by Leo Udtohan
The shortest distance between England and France over the English Channel is 34 km (21 miles).

Macarine, 41, was swimming freestyle. When he lifted his head to breathe, he could vaguely make out his destination on the horizon, Cap Gris Nez, a promontory on the French coast due to strong waves and gusty winds.

He was only wearing a latex swimming cap, an ordinary swimsuit and goggles. His shoulders and armpits, neck and crotch are coated with sunblock and petroleum jelly, to keep his muscles flexible and prevent chafing.

If he succeeded Macarine, an election officer of Tubigon town in Bohol province, would be the first Filipino swimmer to swim across the Channel.

Many swimming enthusiasts were tracking Macarine’s progress on the social media.

The journey was expected to take 15 hours in a 16 degrees Celsius temperature, but Eric Hartley, skipper of the support boat from the Pathfinder Charter, called off his bid when he noticed that the wind was getting stronger and colder.

Shortly after stopping his swim across the English Channel, 
Ingemar Macarine (right) chats with Pathfinder skipper
 Eric Hartley and Channel Swimming Association observer 
Keith Oiller on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. 
Photo by Leo Udtohan
Also with Hartley in the boat was CSA observer Keith Oiller who detailed to Macarine the rules of the English Channel.

“I stopped the swim really for safety grounds. “Because wind was blowing, it’s hard to control the boat with the current condition,” Hartley said. “The wind speed is too strong than what was forecast at 3 knots. It’s important to keep him beside the boat,” said Hartley.

Hartley said the wind that was gusting and it was unsafe for everyone involved.

“Safety is always first,” he said.

There have been less than half a dozen fatalities in the 137 years that it has been taking place, the CSA said.

Last week, two fatalities were recorded.

His goal had to swim the English Channel to promote clean seas, Philippine tourism and international friendship.

Macarine – who has swum seas in the Philippines and the United States – had waited patiently for days to swim the Channel.

Since arriving in Dover on July 28, he has been practicing for two hours daily at the port.

Although he didn’t finish the swim, he said he was satisfied with what he was able to accomplish.

Macarine said he would come back next year to fulfil the ultimate swim of his life.

“Tuloy ang laban toward reaching that goal,” he added.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

From Bohol to the World- ‘Pinoy Aquaman’ to swim English Channel

From Bohol to the World
‘Pinoy Aquaman’ to swim English Channel on Sun

 DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM- For mountain climbers, Mt. Everest is the ultimate challenge. For swimmers, it's crossing the English Channel.

And only a few people who try this succeed.

But for environmental lawyer and tri-athlete Ingemar Macarine, who earned the moniker “Pinoy Aquaman”, he will attempt to swim the English Channel at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 13 (August 13, 9:30 a.m. Philippine Time).

If he succeeds Macarine, 41, will be the first Filipino swimmer to swim across the Channel.

Environmental lawyer Ingemar “Pinoy Aquaman” Macarine 
will be the first Filipino swimmer who attempts
 to swim the English Channel which is considered as the "Mt. Everest"
 of swimming on Sunday. He is practising two hours a 
day swimming in almost freezing water at Dover Port.  Photo by Leo Udtohan
The swim will be the first crossing by a Filipino swimmer of the sea passage that separates the United Kingdom and France to test of physical and mental strength and courage.

Fewer people have swum the English Channel than have climbed Mount Everest.

Macarine, who is swimming to promote clean seas, Philippine tourism and international friendship, spent two hours every day since he arrived in the United Kingdom last July 30.

He said hopes to complete the 21-mile (34 km) swim in under 15 hours.

The wind and weather are also a problem - as the Dover Straits are prone to local weather conditions that can change very quickly and which do not match the forecasts.

The water is nearly freezing water (15-16 degrees Celsius) though Britons have anticipating summer this month.

“I have been training at the Dover Harbor for two hours every day. The water temperature is around 16 degrees so it is very cold compared to the Philippines where I trained in the 30 degree water temperature,” said Macarine, an election officer of Tubigon town.

Hypothermia is an issue for swimmers, but swimmers are unclothed and exposed to the elements unlike any other endurance athlete.

“Hypothermia would be my number one challenge as I am used to the tropical waters of the Philippines,” he added.

Captain Matthew Webb made the first unassisted 
and observed cross-channel swim in 1875; 
he made landfall in 21 hours and 45 minutes. 
Dover Museum 
There are a lot of factors that combine to make the swim hard but the cold is the biggest hurdle, said Eric Hartley of the Pathfinder Charter and Channel Swimming Association (CSA) observer Keith Oiller.

Swimmers said that it's not about the distance since lot of people can swim but the cold water.

Last Tuesday, a man died during an attempt to swim the English Channel as part of a gruelling triathlon. Newspapers reported that Douglas Waymark, 44 from Cheltenham, got into difficulty about half way across, 12 nautical miles from Dover.

Oiller said the tides are also hard to predict as they are strong and change direction approximately every six hours.

They also change in height and flow speed every day.

There is also the problem of the number of ships using these waters - because to go from England to France you have to swim across the shipping lanes.

CSA requires swimmers to attempt the challenge clad in nothing more than ordinary swimming trunks, swim cap, and goggles.

Wetsuits and other floating devices are absolutely not allowed. The rules also dictate that a swimmer should not touched the boat nor can be touched by another person during the entire course of the swim.

Your VRS with (l) Channel Swimming Association (CSA) 
observer Keith Oiller, coach Roel Catoto, 
Lawyer Ingemar Macarine and Eric Hartley
 of the Pathfinder Charter at Dover Marina. 
Ever since Captain Matthew Webb's first successful Channel swim in 1875, thousands of swimmers have attempted to emulate his feat. Most are content to complete the swim, others are determined to set new records.

It all started in 1872 when JB Johnson tried to swim the Channel, but failed, abandoning his attempt after 1 hour and 3 minutes. Reading of his exploits, Captain Webb (1848-1883) became inspired to try it in 1875 for 21 hours and 45 minutes.

Since then, interest has grown in Channel swimming, and there is always a waiting list of people booking places with pilots from the Channel Swimming Association and the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation in the hope of adding their names to the list of those who achieve it.

So far 1,753 swimmers have made a total of 2,280 solo crossings across the channel since 1875, according to the CSA.

15 Things you probably didn't know about
swimming across the English Channel

Swimming the English Channel is a lot more complex than it seems.  Read on...

1. First recorded crossing of Channel was by an Italian prisoner-of-war in 1817; Giovan Maria Salati made his escape from a prison barge in Dover and swam to Boulogne using straw as a buoyancy aid.

2. Captain Matthew Webb made the first unassisted and observed cross-channel swim in 1875; he made landfall in 21 hours and 45 minutes.

Pinoy Aquaman “meet and greet” the Filipino community in UK. 
Photo by Leo Udtohan
3. In 1926, the American Gertrude Ederle (pictured) became first woman to swim the Channel - her time was 14 hours and 34 minutes.

4. The record for fastest-ever cross-channel swim is held by the Australian Trent Grimsey, who managed six hours and 55 minutes in 2012.

5. King of the English Channel is Kevin Murphy, with 34 solo crossings.

6. The Queen of English Channel Alison Streeter who swum the English Channel 43 times - more than anyone else in the world.

7.   For a swim to be officially recognised, you must not be assisted by any kind of artificial aid – and you are only permitted to use goggles, one cap, a nose clip, ear plugs and one costume, that must be sleeveless and legless. For Macarine, he will be using swimming cap, trunks and goggles.

8. You are allowed to grease yourself up for insulation. Macarine will use sunblock.

9. You must enter the sea from the shore of departure and finish on dry land at the other side, “or touch steep cliffs of the opposite coast with no sea water”, according to the Channel Swimming Association, founded in 1927, which regulates attempts.

10.  Swimming the Channel is not cheap and will set you back a few thousand pounds, the largest chunk of which goes towards a registered pilot and escort boat. Macarine has already spent £ 10,000 or half-million pesos. He swim is supported by the Philippine Sports Commission thru Chairman William Ramirez, Commissioner Mon Fernandez Maxi Green & Ramsey Quijano; COMELEC courtesy of Chairman Andres Bautista; Speedo Philippines thru VP Manish Mahtani May Valentino Crissa Brozas; Maldita Man thru Irene Chan;  First Consolidated Bank (FCB) thru Pres. Argeo Melisimo Pie Puerto;  Martello Building Consultancy thru Andy Cruttenden; Kennington Masonic Lodge 1381 thru Worshipful Master Michael Duque Carmelo N. Rebolos; Bohol 2nd Rep. Erico Aristotle C. Aumentado; and Sparklab.

11. The distance swum is approximately 34 kilometers (21 miles), but changes according to the current. Tides need to be taken into account and most swimmers tackle a sort of S-shaped course.

12. Swimmers usually start at or near Shakespeare’s Cliff or Samphire Hoe at Dover and aim to finish at Cap Gris Nez (between Boulogne and Calais), France.

13.  Because you are not allowed to touch another human during the course of the swim, any fuel in the way of food will be passed to you by a long pole from your escort boat. That is feeding time.

14. The Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, with 600 tankers and 200 ferries passing through every day. Your escort and pilot’s job is to make sure you don’t get mowed down.

15. You must book one to two years ahead for a slot to attempt a crossing. In the case of Macarine, he booked last year.


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Sunday, August 6, 2017

A new twist of kuradang in Sandugo festival

TAGBILARAN CityWearing colorful costumes and dancing with limping and swaying motions, participants danced in the main street to the applause of spectators who came to celebrate the province’s Sandugo festival.

The “Bangga sa Kuradang ug Subli sa Sandugo” (Competition of Kuradang and Re-enactment of the Sandugo) was just introduced last year after replacing an almost two-decade cultural dance to wean the Sandugo dances from the Sinulog dances of Cebu.

Local historian and cultural worker Marianito Luspo said that the introduction of the folkdance “kuradang” theme was prompted by observations from culture and heritage enthusiasts noting that the competition has become similar to Cebu’s Sinulog festivities and has languished in terms of ingenuity.

Street dancers liven up the celebration of Bohol’s Sandugo festival. 
Photo by Leo Udtohan
“Bangga sa Kuradang ug Subli sa Sandugo” used the kuradang as the main basis and inspiration of the dance competition to make it more rooted in Boholano aesthetics in music, dance and content.  It had also put emphasis on the Sanduguan of Spaniard Miguel Lopes de Legazpi and a native chieftain Si Katuna.

“Well, it’s unique and special because it really comes from our culture,” said Luspo, one of the members of the Sandugo Artistic Committee.

“It is an attempt to make the festival more relevant by basing the whole concept on the nature of the culture of the place,” he added.

Luspo said kuradang is not only done in Bohol since it’s a popular native dance in the Visayas region particularly Bohol, Cebu, Leyte and Panay.

For two years, the Sandugo Street dancing use the dance
 steps of the Kuradang replacing the almost 
two decades festival to make it more “Boholano.”  Photo by Leo Udtohan
“It’s a Visayan thing but we infused it in our  important historic event in Bohol to make it something special. It is packaged  to reflect something we have and which we can rightly we proud of,” said Luspo.

Kuradang is dance during social gatherings such as birthday, baptism, wedding and fiesta because of its lively moves and the life it gives to the gatherings. It is dance with the accompaniment of the rondalla that it makes kuradang flared, brisk and romantic.

The kuradang, a courtship dance, imitates the playful "birig" or courting movements of the aggressive rooster and coy hen.

The province’s official dance is kuratcha Boholana. However, many people considered kuradang their unofficial dance because of its popularity and familiarity in the island.

Luspo said it was well received and embraced by the people. The reactions from the audience and dancers, it seemed kuradang has seeped through the fancy of the Boholano young and old.

“They feel it comes from inside of us. It is not something that is imposed from outside.  This is something worthwhile, something we can proud of, something we can claim our own,” Luspo said.

It also drew millennials, attracted to both the music and the new twist of "Binol-anon kuradang.”

 “I was overwhelmed they showed us how to dance the kuradang with dignity and pride,” said John Rel Alagadmo, 18, a student of Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School in this city.

Excitement filled the air about 3 p.m. on July 29, when the sound system blared the festival music, an original composition with a samba beat.

Ten contingents from different towns danced in the parade. They wore costumes and props in vibrant colors and designs.

Each rendered their own interpretation of kuradang during the final performance at CPG Sports Complex.

The contingent of barangay Napo in Loon town was declared champion for two years.  It brought home P250,000 and also harvested other prizes such as the Best in Kuradang and “Kuradang King and Queen” for second time and Best in Music.

The San Isidro town was adjudged as first runner-up with P200,000 prize, and Pilar town  was declared second runner-up with P150,000 prize.  

Pilar also won the “Best Pair of Datu Si Katuna and Gen. Legaspi” and Best in Costume/Production” with an additional  P15,000 prize.

Others contingents include Balilihan, Baclayon, Catigbian, Concepcion, Mabini; San Miguel, Tubigon and Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School in Tagbilaran City.


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