THE country’s first open water swimming competition, the Olango Challenge, which promotes open water swimming as a sport and raises awareness on drowning, was struck by irony as one of its participants lost his life.

The 8th Olango Challenge was yesterday held at the Pacific Cebu Resort in Suba Basbas in Lapu-Lapu City, with more than 100 swimmers joining the fund-raising event.

The casualty was identified as Eduardo Oriondo of Sitio Sangi, Barangay Pajo, Lapu-Lapu City. He participated in the 2K competitive category.

The 54-year-old was a master sergeant in the Philippine Air Force.

Oriondo was at the bottom of the sea when fellow participant Jose Antonio Aboitiz spotted him.

“He (Oriondo) was under the water when I found him. I was swimming on the outer part of the course when I saw somebody underneath and wasn’t floating,” Aboitiz, chairman of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) Visayas, told reporters.


“I tried to go down and retrieve him but I was not able to hold my breath at first. Realizing the time of getting him out of the water was critical, I tried it for the second time and got him,” he said. “I called the lifeguard right away, and they were on the scene within a minute or two and brought him to the shore.”

Lifeguards from the Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) brought Oriondo to shore on a rubber boat.

There, medical teams and physicians administered CPR before rushing Oriondo to the Mactan Doctors Hospital.

However, he was declared dead on arrival. The hospital logged his death at 1:51 p.m.

“We were in Station 1 when we heard someone shouting for help and we went there right away. When we got him on the boat he was unconscious, and we kept doing CPR until we reached the shore and turned him over to the medic teams,” said PO2 Peter Junillo of Navforcen.

Members of the Navforcen team said the sea was calm when the incident happened. They said marshals were stationed every 50 meters of the route, in addition to patrolling marshals on jet skis.

“He might have gotten cramps while swimming or had cardiac arrest. I thought he would live because when we were bringing him to the shore his eyes were blinking,” FN1 Elisto Lardin said.

Moment of silence

“We are also checking whether he had other medical conditions,” PO2 Jomar Florentino of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office Homicide Section told reporters.

According to an initial investigation, Oriondo has a family, including a seven-year-old daughter.

“Right now our team is already with the family and attending to their concerns. One of us went with Eduardo (Oriondo) to hospital,” Jay Jaboneta, PBSP’s head of corporate affairs, said.

The 8th Olango Challenge was organized by the PBSP and the Philippine Swimming Inc. to raise funds for classrooms in Olango Island.

There was a moment of silence before the awarding ceremony yesterday.

“At this point in time, we do not know what we are going to do. We are just trying to understand what happened first and see how it goes,” said Aboitiz, when asked about the next step for the annual event.

According to a statement released by the PBSP, the group deeply mourns Oriondo’s accidental death.

The group immediately provided assistance to Oriondo’s family and is studying other support that it can provide.

It also said all safety measures were put in place before and during the competition.

Doctors were also on standby for any medical emergency, and lifeguards and marshals were deployed around the area to ensure the safety of participants.

The PBSP recognized Oriondo’s invaluable contribution to raising funds for the children of Olango Island.

Florentino said Oriondo’s remains would be submitted for an autopsy.