Robert ‘Bobbit’ Suntay: Swim Junkie

 

As a company we have worked with some great people who inspire us for their achievements and what they do. We thought it was time we shone a light on some wonderful individuals. The people who share our community, have similar values, field test our products, and even sometimes model for us!!

We hope you love these profiles as much as we do!

a big medal for swim inspiration

Tell us about you and your journey.

I guess the most significant thing I can share about myself is that I have been – and always shall be – a teacher. While my students, classrooms, and curricula have changed over the years: the education aspect has always remained.

My educational background is as an educator. I have advanced degrees in both human resources development and education. I’ve taught at various levels from high school through graduate school both in the Philippines and in the United States. As a school administrator, I’ve held positions such as high school principal, director of athletics, education development director, and others. I have also helped start two schools in the Philippines: Beacon School and Beacon Academy. I have been doing this since 1983 when I started my career as a high school religion teacher and sports club moderator.

Then, life threw me a curve ball: my wife and I were both at Harvard University. She was doing her sub-specialisation at Harvard Medical School and I was doing my doctorate at Harvard Graduate School of education. In 2003: my wife, her dad, and my dad were all diagnosed with cancer. They all died in 2004 and 2005. It was at that time that I decided to return to Manila, Philippines to start a foundation that provides free support to persons with cancer and their loved ones. Thus was born the Carewell Community Foundation. It is still up and running today, almost 15 years later. This is how I started “teaching people how to live with cancer.”

How did you end up mixing teaching and the sea?

My next classroom change happened about 5 years ago when I began focusing on the field of marine conservation education. Through my work with our film company, Studio H2O, and my affiliations with conservation organisations like WWF and the Sea Institute, my classroom shifted to our oceans. As well as to beaches, boats, resorts, schools, and other places on, in, under, or near the water. My new mission is to help people appreciate the amazing beauty, delicate fragility, and critical importance of our fabulous underwater world. Our foundation, the SEA Institute, focuses on science, education, and action-oriented advocacy to protect and preserve the critical marine resources in the Verde Island Passage.

You are an avid water person and traveller. What drew you to these? 

My mother and her two sisters were a major influence here. The 3 sisters competed in what we now call the SEA Games – but this was right after WW2. Because of their love for water, we spent a lot of time at the beach and even had swimming competitions among us cousins, uncles and aunts. As a result, I learned to swim at 4 (back in 1965), was snorkelling at around 6. I have been a professional scuba dive master, underwater videographer, open water swimmer, and now a free diver and instructor. I still compete today in these events and in triathlon despite my advanced age (I will be a senior citizen in 2021).

Our film company, Studio H2O, has enabled us to travel to some amazing places to film and conduct expert-guided tours. I have gone diving in Fiji, Maldives, Mexico, Yap, Palau, Guam, etc. In the Philippines, I love Tubbataha, Anilao, Palawan, Bohol, Malapascua, and anywhere along the Verde Island passage – the most bio diverse marine area on the planet!

Our films have been featured a number of times on National Geographic and have won international awards.

What’s your swim inspiration?

The beauty, importance, and fragility of our oceans inspire me the most. I consider the threats to our seas the greatest challenge facing mankind and threatening our survival. The destruction of our oceans is an even greater threat than Covid-19 or any global war. If the seas die, we die. It is as simple as that. So we all have to do our share to care for our oceans and its inhabitants. We all need to coexist with our seas!

When you see environmental pollution on the beaches & in the water, how does it make you feel?

It truly breaks my heart. Deeply. When I see stats like: “by 2050, there will be more pieces of plastic in the water than fish” or, in the next 50 years, virtually all our coral reefs may die. If the corals die, the fish will die – resulting in a cascade that will eventually end all life on the planet – if left unchecked.

The Philippines is the third worst plastic polluter in the world. And while this is partially a socio-economic driven phenomenon, nevertheless, we all have to do our part to save our seas. If you watch films like a Plastic Ocean or Chasing Coral – you will truly be devastated when you see our reefs and their inhabitants dying slow painful deaths because of our irresponsible handling of plastics!

And global warming is truly the worst! Human-accelerated climate change is leading to mass coral bleaching deaths, oceanic acidification, erosion, habitat destruction, and other near-irreversible consequences.

We have loved working with you. What is it that made you want to be part of our journey and community?

I have often seen Blood Red products in airports and some sports stores. I always thought the logo was awesome!!!  Then I wondered why I had never heard about this cool brand. So, one thing led to the other – and I now proudly use Blood Red products when I scuba, freedive, swim, hang out by the water, or just chill. I love your bags, caps,rash guards, board shorts, t-shirts and more!

I also greatly appreciate that Blood Red supports our free diving events. And I am hoping you can support my favourite Swim Junkie “open water swim races”!!

Bobbit Suntay with Blood Red Clothing

Bobbit Suntay wearing Blood Red Rashguard

You can catch Bobbit live for more swim inspiration on Saturday, May 30 as he and three other sea junkies-athletes-educators talk about how swimming and freediving should be part of your new normal. Set your alarms for 9am Philippine time, 2am UK time(!) and 6pm Pacific Standard Time for some timely motivation and swim inspiration from Bobbit together with Betsy Medalla, Mark Santiago, and Gordz Gojunco.

2 replies on “Robert ‘Bobbit’ Suntay: Swim Junkie

  • tin

    Great read!

    And quite timely to have a bit of inspiration in this trying times. More and more people should continue to care for our oceans and mother Earth like Bobbit until it becomes the new normal. I can’t wait for the next inspiring issue. Keep it up!

    Reply
  • Jack Gamboa

    Truly inspirational story. I admire this guy….worthy of emulation. More power to you, Bobbit!! and to Blood Red, too!!

    Reply

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