Faces of Cebu

FACES OF CEBU: Marion John Sumalinog, 34, freediving instructor

CEBU, Philippines — Despite the chaos in life, Cebuano freediver Marion John Sumalinog has found peace in the ocean’s depths.

This is why Sumalinog has become one of the more noted freedivers in the country, even holding the distinction of being the holder of one of the deepest freediving records in the Philippines.

Sumalinog, who is now 34, started freediving when he was 29. He fell in love with freediving and decided to take courses to pursue his dream of becoming a certified freediver instructor.

Before diving into his new profession, Sumalinog worked in a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company in Cebu.

“It was a big paradigm shift for me. But it was a good decision because I saw how I benefited from it in terms of my mental health and career. I saw growth from it because I love teaching [because I took up education in my college years.],” Sumalinog said.

For Sumalinog, freediving is a kind of sport that not only improves physical fitness, but also helps relieve stress and anxiety.

“It changed my perspective on the importance of mental health and being at peace with yourself. Being underwater provides me a sense of tranquility that gives me strength and resilience amid the chaos of life.”

At present, Sumalinog owns a professional freediving center in Lapu-Lapu City, which offers Molchanovs freediving courses.


Like many others, freediving took a blow during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was during this time that Sumalinog’s resiliency was put to the test.

“The pandemic was really tough, it took us a while to reopen our classes until the restrictions were lifted and we felt that it is relatively safe for us and our students,” he said.

“Teaching a freediving course often requires close contact, plenty of forceful breathing in close proximity before and after a breath-hold, and rescue situations when we act as the victim,” Sumalinog added.

National freediving record

But Sumalinog persevered and found a way to continue with his passion. In fact, he has actively competed in the past two years. He even holds the national record for the Philippines in the constant weight (CWT) category at 70 meters.

In just one breath, he was able to descend into the deep water and hold his breath for around two minutes.

Sumalinog, together with his students, set a record for the country.

Dean Sevilleno, who recorded 70 meters under Free immersion (FIM), Richard Andrew Lo, 70 meters under Constant weight bi-fins (CWTB), and Ariston Ignatius, 56 meters under Constant Weight Without Fins (CNF) category.


Photo courtesy of Mishael Ardoña



Lessons of freediving

Sumalinog is not just all about freediving, though. As a diver, he actually advocates for the protection of the ocean.

“A healthy ocean is essential to all life on Earth. The ocean is not limitless, and today, marine species and ecosystems are facing unprecedented threats due to human use and destructive practices. Thus, we need to be wise stewards of the ocean and strive to protect it. The easiest way to help save the ocean is to become aware of how your choices affect marine life and change your habits accordingly,” he said.



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