Seafari: First Annual Philippine Underwater Photography Event

By Mike Bartick

First Annual Philippine Dive Seafari Event

Underwater Photography helps shine the spotlight on the Philippines

By Mike Bartick









Seafari logoThe 1st Annual Philippine Dive Seafari Event was recently held in the Philippines, designed to shine a light on a viable and sustainable way to attract dive tourism through underwater macro and critter photography. Industry delegates, journalists, photographers, and dive travel operators were invited from all over the globe to attend this first ever event to officially discover the diving in the Philippines.  The group of delegates were split into four smaller groups and assigned to one of four distinct and different destinations.  The assignment was to dive for five days, then tour historical sites for two more days before returning to Manila to report and document our experience and what each had discovered.



Bernard Maglana

Photo by Bernard Maglana - Regional Winner



The Underwater Photography Competition

The Seafari Photo Competition was run in tandem amongst local non-professional underwater photographers and judged by some of the selected delegates.  The competition was run shoot-out style over a two day period and included a great number of participants with a wide range of experience levels.


The Seafari is the brainchild of Joel Uichico, a long time diver and resident. Joel’s experience as a diver, entrepreneur and resort GM all came into play as the guiding strength behind the Seafari.  The event began to pick up momentum during a dive guide training seminar hosted by Mike and Bunnee Santos.  The idea was brought forward to the Department of Tourism (DOT), and it was then that the event became official.


The Destinations

The areas selected to represent the Philippines as a global premier dive destination are as visually stunning above the surface as they are below.  My longtime favorite Anilao represented Luzon, known for its rich biodiversity and nudibranchs.  Coron, from the Vasaya and Palawan region is steeped in maritime history and includes countless recreational-depth WWII wrecks.  Bohol, also from the vast Vasaya region, is known for its macro life and the Chocolate Hills, and from the Mindanao area Davao, also a hotspot for critters and nudibranchs.

The event is purpose-filled, serving as a platform to not only shine a light on the incredible diving and Filipino hospitality but to properly recognize the dive guides as an integral part of the whole process.  I know from personal experience that my guides are like family. They are just as excited about finding new animals and critters as we are to photograph them.  The guides are often longtime fisherman that are introduced to diving as a means to earn a steady income.  In turn they begin to recognize the importance of being a shepherd to preserving the reefs and their bounty. 

The entire Seafari event culimanted at the beautiful Ayala Square Museum with an afternoon full of presentations of videos and still photographs shot by local and internationally acclaimed artists such as Gutsy Tuason and Marissa Floirendo.


Omar Linsangan - National Winner

Photo by Omar Linsangan - National Winner


Delegate presenters included Robert Yin, Dave Allen, Bob Whorton and Lawrence Alex Wu with short videos and stills from each of the four delegated regions. The room filled with excitement as building anticipation of the winners was announced from the local competitions. Several dive guides from each of the four regions won some great gifts, and had the chance to be honored as their names were called.  The Best in Show piece, which was a whip coral shrimp set against a nice blue background with a sunball, was unveiled as the crowd cheered and clapped loudly.

The Department of Tourism, delegates, dive guides and public attendees all enjoyed a nice mixer afterword to chat and relish in the great events of the evening.  Looking at the wall of the winning photos, we were all reminded of the reasons why we were all brought together in the first place.

The Philippines has been graced with so much natural beauty that it is hard to describe.  Above and below the surface, it is truly a diver's and underwater photographer’s paradise. Unique as the isolated atoll of Tubattaha to the critter rich muck dives of Anilao and Dumaguete. From wreck diving and the incredible colorful coral reefs, the Philippines truly have it all.


Photo by Jan Anthony Acosta - Regional Winner


Special Thanks

Special thanks to the Philippine Department of Tourism, Joel Uichico, Mike and Bunee Santos, and Acacia Resort


The Winners

  • Omar Linsangan - National Winner
  • Spencer Dempsey - Intermediate
  • Bernard Maglana - Intermediate
  • Prandy Yulo - Intermediate
  • Andre Montenegro - Open
  • Carlos Munda - Open
  • Jan Anthony Acosta - Open
  • Richard Novelo - Special Beginner
  • Kristina Nubert - Special Beginner
  • Jay Palmes - Special Beginner
  • Cheryl Ann Peña - Special Beginner



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