The freediving community may have stumbled upon its biggest discovery: living in a coastal community of 100 families at Km. 12 Sagrada, Sasa could be the next big name in the history of the sport.
Imam Eldio Gulisan has recently clocked in a personal record of 5:01 minutes of holding his breath in the static apnea event held in Moalboal a few weeks ago. Mind you, this recorded time was not his personal best; in one of the trainings, Gulisan could do more, with less effort than any professional athlete soaked in the sport.
Gulisan is 55 and has been living off the water all his life.
Originally from Siasi, Sulu, the spearfisher has spent most of his life in Davao City and has lived off the bounties of the waters off the Davao Gulf.
It was the same body of water that almost killed him years ago, when a spearfishing trip almost left him dead in the water. Having caught a stingray, Gulisan would have celebrated his huge catch were it not for the line of his speargun getting caught around his wrist.
“That was the first time I held my breath for that long,” Gulisan, a Sama, told TIMES in an interview. Eventually, Gulisan prevailed, even after minutes underwater, and with a catch of stingray to boot.
While the sport is emerging as being popular around the world, Gulisan’s own experience in the water surpasses any aqua sport.
Coach Odessa Bugarin, who is one of Gulisan’s trainors, even believes that Gulisan is a step ahead in human evolution, with lungs built more durable than most mammals.
“Professionals take in multiple breaths before diving underwater and holding their breaths,” Bugarin said, showing us a glimpse of the various categories of the sport.
In the case of Gulisan, all it takes is a single gulp, the lungs taking care of the rest, the body aware of what needs to be done.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Gulisan’s descendants would have the same talents he has, since the skill will be transferred to them,” Bugarin said.
In a freediving contest in 2013, Gulisan made the news as among the respected deepdivers during the first Kadayawan Sama Freediving Contest.
Years later, Gulisan is making a name for himself as a celebrity in the freediving circles, and has recently been certified in one of the international certification processes.
He has been featured in a local freediving magazine, The Grid, and has been documented underwater in an HBO Real Sport segment.
Because of his fame, Gulisan has enjoyed a certain degree of celebrity in the freediving circles.
This month, Gulisan is headed to Panglao, Bohol to compete in the Philippine Depth National Championship, alongside 25 other Filipino freedivers.
But for people like Gulisan, this newfound sport is more than proving to himself and to others that he is better at something.
For the Imam, a religious leader in the community, the event could be one of the ways he could uplift his people. Bugarin envisions a better life for the Sama of Davao City, who would no longer be considered community outliers and informal settlers with no identities.
And so, Gulisan’s battle is, quite literally, a fight for his life.