MVP #4: Swim Team

We covered an interesting and relatively young sport in our last feature. This time, we’re going for a change of pace – and venue – as we dive right in with the UPCM Swim Team!

The Swim Team is led by the youngest team captains among all our teams. Sean Sy and Ryan Santiago are both direct entrants or IMEDs who are now in LU3 (Class 2023). They share memories from their childhood and how they got into swimming, and how it has become an integral part of their lives. It is clear from their answers that they genuinely enjoy not just swimming, but also training with their teammates. If you’re the type who finds comfort in being in the water, then you might find that being part of the Swim Team is for you.

Two generations of captains. Last year’s captains (now both interns) and this year’s captains pose for a photo during one of their regular training sessions. (L to R) Ryan Santiago (Class 2023), Ynah Bambalan (Class 2019), Anton Elepaño (Class 2019), and Sean Sy (Class 2023). Photo courtesy of Christian Joseph Z. Tagal, MD, DPBRO (Class 2013)


UP MEDICS: How would you describe your team’s performance in the last Palarong Medisina?

Ryan and Sean: The team placed really well, but more importantly, a lot of us broke our personal records (some even completing 50 meter events without stopping for the first time). Overall, we’re just really proud of the team and we’re hoping to come back with an even better performance in this year’s competition.

UP MEDICS: Has your team participated in other events or competitions outside Palarong Medisina? If yes, what? If no, do you plan to change that?

Ryan and Sean: Last school year, we had a few of our members join Bakbakan. In the future, given more time to prepare and organize, we hope to send more people to this competition. As of now, I don’t think there are plans to compete in competitions outside Palarong Medisina and Bakbakan.

UP MEDICS: What do you think are your team’s strengths?

Ryan: I believe that the team spirit is our greatest strength. We come together once a week and have fun with each others’ presence. We also cheer each other up in and out of the competition arena.

UP MEDICS: What do you think are your team’s weaknesses or areas that need most improvement?

Ryan and Sean: Two of the biggest issues that the team struggled with last year were versatility and stamina. We had huge problems giving people the events that they wanted because basically everyone could swim the 50 meter Freestyle event, but few could swim other strokes/longer freestyle events. This is a really big problem because each team is only given a set number of slots per event and it came to a point where we almost had to cut some members off of our competition roster. We want to further the extent to which our teammates are comfortable with strokes other than freestyle, whilst also helping them improve stamina.

UP MEDICS: Does the Swim Team have regular training sessions? If yes, how often, and what strategies do you use during training? If no, do you plan on changing that? How do you think this affects your team?

Ryan and Sean: We have trainings every Tuesday at 5:30pm. From around September until it’s time for palaro, we also have trainings on Saturdays at around 9am. We usually focus on drills and stroke corrections to maximize efficiency while swimming without having to exert too much effort. In the coming years, we may also include endurance as a focus to further improve the skill set of our team.

UP MEDICS: How long have you been swimming? What made you start swimming? Did you start out with competitive swimming or casual swimming?

Sean: It all began when our family pediatrician threatened to put totoy me on a dietary program because I was asthmatic and hopelessly obese (this was a little more than 10 years ago). Intimidated by the idea of this said program, my mom asked for some time to remedy the situation her own way, and that’s what got me into swimming. And hehe I was so bad when I started that the coach I was under at the time wouldn’t allow me to compete (even in novice/D-league meets).

Ryan: I’ve been swimming for more than 11 years. I was actually forced into swimming by my grandmother. It started out an attempt to learn how to swim for survival purposes. It wasn’t until a year later when my coach introduced me to my first novice competition, and ever since swimming became a competitive sport for me.

UP MEDICS: How long have you been part of the Swim Team? Why did you decide to join?

Sean: Ryan and I joined the Swim Team in LU1, and I think we both joined because we didn’t want to let go of swimming, which had become, and continues to be a big part of our lives. We found out about the team through Dr. Terence Kua (UPCM batch 2017, if I’m not mistaken), who was a team mate of mine back in grade school.

Ryan: I joined the team just two weeks into LU1. I decided to join because I wanted to continue training and competing, even if it’s not at the same level as it was back in high school.

UP MEDICS: How do you think being part of the Swim Team has affected your life?

Sean: The bonds. Definitely the bonds. There are just so many people I wouldn’t’ve met/become close to if not for being in the swim team. It’s just a lot of fun training with everyone and having dinner together after a long week. Also, the more senior members of the team tell a lot of stories/share some insights about what it’s like to work in PGH and I think that’s really given me something to look forward to (at least with regards to my medical education).

Ryan: It becomes an outlet of the stress brought about by school work. The bonds between teammates have become healthy doses of sanity when all hell breaks loose. Training every Tuesday was always worth looking forward to.

UP MEDICS: Why did you decide to be Captain? How does being captain differ from the other members of the team? (Does it entail additional tasks/responsibilities or an entirely different role?)

Ryan: I’ve had previous captainship experience in high school, so when I was offered to be captain I gladly accepted it. It does entail more tasks because we are in charge of calling trainings, fixing logistics, ordering uniforms, etc.

UP MEDICS: Aside from the swim team, are you part of any other team (sports team, choir, etc.) for the college or outside of it? What other sports/activities do you spend your time on?

Sean: Most of my time goes to acads (yes naman oh), but since last year, I am an applicant for the UP Meridian and a member of MSS, MSSR, and the UP Medics.

Ryan: My only other org is MSS, which I joined last school year.

UP MEDICS: How do you balance being Captain and being a medical student?

Sean: Well, we’re about to find out. HAHAHHAHAHAHAH 🙁 I’m really bad at time management.

Ryan: If LU2 counts as a medical student, then it’s mostly swimming logistics after reviewing for school.

UP MEDICS: What is your favorite stroke? Why?

Sean: I’m a breaststroker, and I have been for the longest time. The stroke is just really fun for me, and I really appreciate how form and timing are so important in swimming the stroke. Ever since Coach Roland Sarmiento and Coach Jenny Guerrero from the Ace Seawolves Swim team corrected my breaststroke form, I loved it (like I’m not amazing with the stroke but I really enjoy swimming it).

Ryan: My favorite stroke is backstroke. I actually started out as a breastroker, but when my first coach got reassigned, my new coach focused more on my backstroke. Eventually, I improved in the stroke and it became my favorite ever since.

UP MEDICS: What stroke did you have the most difficulty in learning?

Sean: hehe definitely butterfly because I’m really heavy (tipong ‘di mo mage-guess na swimmer ako) tapos matigas katawan ko :’( But I’m really bad at backstroke as well.

Ryan: Butterfly. It requires a lot of coordination and fluidity. Both of which I’m not that good at.

UP MEDICS: Free space!!! Anything else you want to say, shoutout/s, quotes of your choosing, etc.

Sean: homaygad my pamily I need to lose weight :’( BUT GO TEAM <3 I’m so excited to compete alongside you guys again <3 omg promise ang saya ng Palarong Med!! Strongly recommend people join it kahit di swimming yung salihan (pero syempre better kung swim team yAs leggo #SwimSakto).

Ryan: Ahhh I’m not good at this hahaha but here’s to another successful year 😀


A gathering of old and new faces during the team’s first training earlier in the academic year. Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Christian Joseph Z. Tagal, MD, DPBRO (Class 2013).

They are certainly proof that one is never too young to lead, so long as one has the will, dedication, and commitment. (The experience is a bonus.) Let’s #ShowOurSupport (#SOS) for the Swim Team as they reach new heights — or shall we say depths? — and represent the college in the upcoming Palarong Medisina 2019!

Photos courtesy of Christian Joseph Z. Tagal, MD, DPBRO (Class 2013) and Amanda Esquivel of the UPCM Collective (Class 2019). Many many thanks to Class 2023’s Ryan Santiago and Sean Sy for taking the time to answer our questions!

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