Learn to swim and avoid doing anything stupid

Three years ago in 2020 as the pandemic began its rampage, 30 lives were lost in Catanduanes due to accidental drowning, the heaviest toll for the preventable event.

Fortunately, the huge loss of mostly young people was not repeated in the following year, probably due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Last year, only one fatality was recorded, a Metro Manila resident who took a vacation in Baras during the week and was swept away by strong waves while fishing at sea.

On Easter Sunday, April 10, 2023, another local tourist disappeared in the water off Muraw beach in Balognonan, Pandan while on a family outing.

The victim had insisted on joining the excursion despite being heavily intoxicated from an overnight drinking spree with friends. His body was later found floating off Palumbanes island.

On that same day, another family called for assistance from the Virac Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) team deployed along the western coastal villages for the mass beach outing event.

It was claimed that the family lost sight of two young children and feared that they had drowned.

It was only later, much to the relief of their kin, that the MDRRMO personnel discovered that the kids had somehow wandered to another part of the beach.

This would have been just another day at work for the local rescue team but for the fact that the kids’ parents and relatives only have themselves to blame for what happened.

It appears now that while the fathers and other males were drinking liquor and the women were enjoying themselves with the videoke, their children were left unsupervised until they lost their way back.

The families of the children should thank God that nothing untoward happened to their precious children, who according to the US Centers for Disease Control have the highest drowning rates.

It cited, among others, lack of close supervision as among the factors that make drowning more likely among children.

This is the same reason for the drowning death of two children somewhere in Viga town three years ago as they played in the sea while their adult kin ate and drank on shore.

Many adults and children, especially here in Catanduanes, do not know how to swim or are weak swimmers.

Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning among children and young adults, the CDC states.

The glaring problem is that, as far as the Tribune has gathered, there is no longer any organization or individual offering swimming lessons especially for children.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Catanduanes Chapter used to offer in its annual Summer Safety Festival a five-day Learn-to-Swim program.

But with the chapter deciding to focus on providing training courses on lifeguarding due to the demand for such services from accredited resorts, the Learn-to-Swim program had to be discarded for the meantime.

While life jackets can prevent drowning during water activities such as boating and swimming, it is certainly much better for one to be a swimmer.

Life jackets cost anywhere from P250 to P750 each, depending on the type and size, but the cost would be prohibitive for poor families whose priorities are food and other basic needs.

The best solution therefore is for an organization, a group of swimming trainers and rescue personnel of local government units to offer swimming lessons for children as a proactive way to address the issue of drowning.

Perhaps, the parents themselves, at least those who know how to swim, can teach their own children during their spare time.

As to adults who do not know any better and decide to go swimming while drunk, authorities can’t do anything to prevent them.

As one American sportswriter once said, people surprise you with just how stupid they are.

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