Sirens of the Boracay Sea

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What little girl does not want to be a mermaid, the legendary aquatic creature with the ethereal face, with the upper body of a woman and the tail of a fish? Last month, many a child’s fantasies of becoming a mermaid came true with the introduction of Mermaid Swimming Classes by the Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy!

The brainchild of self-confessed mermaid fanatic and longtime Boracay resident Normeth Preglo, who is still obsessed with her childhood dream and, to this day, still plays pretend as she appeared (not for the first time) as a mermaid last Halloween. While searching the internet for ideas for her mermaid costume, she stumbled upon several websites that featured “mermaid swimming”. From mermaid personalities, mermaid sports such as “monofin racing” and exercises, and even mermaid performing arts, she was thrilled to find out that there is a thriving community of adults like herself that not only loved the idea of mermaids, but were actually living the dream.

She spent the next couple of days learning the art and sport of mermaid swimming, and as soon as she received the first shipment of mermaid tails, she gave them a “spin” in the Boracay EcoVillage swimming pool on November 1st. She decided to call it the Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy (PMSA) because, as the country’s pioneer, she wanted the name to reflect her vision of creating a mermaid community, and not just a passing trend. Since that date, the PMSA has not only gained a cult following of wanna-be mermaids, their classes have been fully booked, with a waiting list of people eager to get into mermaid fins and to swim in Boracay’s crystal waters as a siren. As their tagline says, “Let us make your fantasy come true and escape into this mysterious mythical world of mermaids.”

But it’s not all fantasy and shadow playing. This goes far beyond mermaid cosplay (short for “costume play”) and donning a monofin. Mermaiding is both an artistic expression and a fun, whimsical way to keep fit. PMSA’s mission is to provide a safe and fun environment to in which to indulge one’s fantasies of living in a world of mermaids, to encourage health and wellness by creating programs that will enhance body, mind and spirit, and to conduct workshops to teach future mermaid instructors to go forth and spread the love for mermaiding. The mermaid swimming lessons encourage both young kids and adults to learn how to swim properly and to enjoy the water without fear.

Normeth, or shall we say, Mermeth, as she is now fondly called, is a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor and has been a Scuba diving instructor since 1995, an international kiteboarding organisation instructor since 2006, and a swimming teacher in Bavaria since 2009. With her vast experience in water sport instruction, she is confident and is definitely more than qualified to provide mermaid-swimming lessons, and to train others in mermaiding.

As with all sports, safety always comes first. Normeth emphasizes, “Here at the Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy, we not only ensuring the joy and self-expression we share through this activity, but we ensure safety foremost.” In fact, the PMSA requires that their instructors be trained in first aid, rescue, and be accompanied in the open water by a PADI Rescue Diver. Assisting her in this endeavor are business partner Franziska Limmer, another water baby and a footballing athlete, skiing instructor, Scuba diver and kiteboard instructor from Bavaria who teaches and assists in the classes, and Anamie Saenz, a marketing professional who previously worked in operations and marketing for Camsur Watersports Complex and was Co-Founder and Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Groupon Philippines. She is also a US licensed professional make up artist who can do a total makeover for any girl who wants a mermaid look.

So who can be a mermaid swimmer? Mermaids or mermen of all ages, sizes and genders are welcome, as long as they have basic swimming skills; although the classes are geared towards helping students improve their swimming skills and gain confident in the water, some experience is recommended.

How does it work? It sounds simple enough, but it is not as easy as it looks. Basically, one wears a mermaid tail, which is a stretch fabric that goes up to the waist, and has a monofin attached to the end. When mermaiding, one swims like a fish using both legs as a fish tail and using their core muscles to propel them forward, with variations to the hand placement and movements. For the kids it seems like second nature, and watching them move gracefully across the waters, one can’t help but be amazed and really wonder if it was possible that humans actually originated from underwater creatures.

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