Dive Philippines, Guillaume Néry, & Sama Divers

The following video is a promotional video by the Philippines Department of Tourism that is currently going viral on FB.  The Department of Tourism wants to make the Philippines the freediving capital of Southeast Asia and the Sama, known by most as the Badjao, are the Philippines most famous freedivers.  Sir Guillaume Néry, French World Champion freediver visited the Philippines for a month. Our secret to you is …
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…that the highlight of Néry’s trip to the Philippines according to him was his time with the Sama.  Seeing a people that seem to enjoy the ocean as he does and who are known for their ease of movement while underneath the water was as he put it, “Incredible!”
Guillaume and his wife Julie Gautier plan on including the Sama in their upcoming video production,  “One Breath Around the World.”

The Sama are quite popular on social media

Guillaume’s post on Facebook featuring pictures from their trip with the Sama divers reached over 7,000 likes and 1,600+ shares (10/10/17).  It outperformed all other nearby posts including those from Néry’s diving with sperm whales.
Likewise this video by Dive Philippines has already had 87,000+ views within less than 24 hours.  It also has outperformed most of their posts and we expect that it will surpass the 194,000 views (10/10/17) that their promotional video for Guillaume’s entire trip has received since it was posted last September 18. This video also features the same Sama divers.

So will Facebook fame and going viral have any positive impact for the Sama?

We hope it will.  85,000 viewers have had the chance to see how hard working many Sama are.  Also the Department of Tourism now has a successful case study where the Sama can be integrated into their attempts at promoting tourism internationally.  Some of the freedivers have realized that one way they can help the Sama is to help provide them with freediving gear that would aid them in their fishing.  One of the Sama fishermen, Juli Misuari, was given an advertising contract as a direct result of this project.

But here are a few of the issues the Sama face:

Even the most hardworking Sama villages in the Philippines are constantly under the threat of rumors that they will be demolished and relocated farther and farther from their livelihood.  Maybe a few days of internet fame could stop a demolition attempt where the same divers in this movie might be forced to move their community so that another resort or government structure can be built.
A balance needs to be struck between conservation and livelihood especially of vulnerable groups like the Sama.  The establishment of sanctuaries are laudable attempts at saving the population of fish in the Philippines and promoting tourism.  Unfortunately the Sama are rarely included in the planning for these sanctuaries and they can be quite disruptive to their economic activities.
The spectacular feats that some of these Sama freedivers have achieved while diving have taken their toll on the divers as they get older and have diving accidents.  It is my dream that someday a medical researcher interested in freediving health issues would come and inspect the impact that freediving has had on these Sama fishermen and find ways to help those suffering from lung damage and other freediving related injuries.

It’s More Fun in the Philippines

I personally thank the Department of Tourism, Dive Philippines, Sir Guillaume Néry, Studio H20, & Pearl Farm for giving us this opportunity and also making this a possibility for Sama divers.  In turn I thank the Sama of Davao City for giving this opportunity to us.  We find you to be incredible.

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