For the love of jet ski

By Arman Armero

JET skis run on calm waters, and like the serene lakes inside the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Emmanuel “Dong” Arcilla is a picture of calm and confidence.

Arcilla, or Dong to friends, has every reason to appear calm and unruffled. As president of the Jet Ski Association of the Philippines for the last four years, he enjoys the respect of his peers and runs the association with a sure, but firm hand.

As JSAP’s top honcho, Arcilla tries to be as hands-on as much as possible. He’s the association’s no. 1 organizer and prime motivator, but he’s also not afraid to do the most menial things during a race, like acting as a race marshall on several occasions.

The association runs three legs in each year in Subic, with the last leg for the year set on Sept. 15, but surprisingly, it has managed to survive the last four years with only Petron as its major backer.

“Wala naman talagang pera dito sa JSAP. We get yearly support from Petron to run the races but other than that, sarili na namin lahat ng gastos. Mas madalas pa nga, kami pang mga officials ang nag-aabono,” said Arcilla. “We’re just doing this for the love of the sport.”

Ten years ago, the jet ski association used to enjoy the support of the government through the Philippine Sports Commission, but a rift within the association, which likewise split it into two groups, put them outside the PSC’s graces.

The rift eventually died down and the association continues to survive and even flourish, but now JSAP has to do with the little resources that they have.

“Sana nga, makabalik kami sa POC [Philippine Olympic Committee] at PSC para kahit papaano makahingi kami ng suporta kahit man lang sa pamasahe namin papunta sa labas,” he added.

Arcilla said that Petron continues to be a big boost for the association, and thanked Bobby del Rosario, the JSAP chairman, for convincing the giant petroleum company to support their causes.

“Malaking tulong talaga ang Petron. Kung wala sila, baka hindi kami tumakbo,” said Arcilla, who added that they are still on the lookout for additional backers.

From the roads to the water

Before Arcilla came on board as a jet ski rider and JSAP president, he was into car rallying during the mid-1990s, having once acted as navigator for Fil Gulfin, now a race scrutineer.

It was in the late 1990s when he was introduced to jet ski by Sonny Yalung, who lent him a Yamaha jet ski to race. From then on, Arcilla was hooked.

He started riding competitively and won his share of trophies, until the younger ones like Paul del Rosario and BJ Ang came along, representing a new breed of riders. Soon, the need to have someone at the helm of the JSAP had become apparent, and Arcilla turned out to be the most logical choice for the job.

“Noong una, ayaw ko talagang maging presidente kasi nga gusto ko pang maglaro at saka kahit saan namang grupo, malaking responsibilidad talaga ang maging presidente ka. Pero wala rin akong nagawa,” said Arcilla.

Though hesitant at first, Arcilla obviously has grown to take his job seriously and run the races efficiently, thanks to his friendly and easygoing nature.

Arcilla and his Networx

Back in 1994, Arcilla built the Networx AutoDetailing Corp., but his involvement in jet ski opened more opportunities for him to branch out into the sales of topnotch jet ski brands. Today, Arcilla’s Networx main office in Cubao and its branches in Subic and Davao, carry the Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki brands, which he imports directly from the United States.

Arcilla’s clients include not only those who race competitively, but mostly executive types and by extension, their families, who ride jet skis for pleasure.

“Maraming may jet ski sa Pilipinas pero kokonti lang talaga ’yung kumakarera ng seryoso, although at last count, meron na ring 40-plus in Metro Manila alone. Pero ’yung mga leisure riders, marami ’yan if you consider the sales of jet skis not only from Networx but in other groups as well,” he said.

And because he had become seriously involved in jet ski, Arcilla has also formed the Networx Sports jet ski team, composed of the country’s top riders that include Del Rosario and Ang.

Del Rosario, for instance, is considered as the country’s best jet ski rider, posting prominent finishes in jet ski competitions in the local series and outside the country as well, notably in Thailand and at the Lake Havasu, Arizona world jet ski competitions.

But Arcilla said the Networx team is not only about Del Rosario and Ang, who have the resources to pursue their careers, but also for promising, but less-privileged riders.

“Networx is open and will accept potential riders. Kung wala silang skis, pwede namin silang pahiramin ng jet ski. Actually, we also offer free clinics to those who want to learn the sport, kasi nga our aim is to attract more riders in the hope that we can discover new talents,” said Arcilla.

He said that with the regular three-leg season ready to wrap up after the final leg on the 15th, also in the works is a special race in Punta Fuego in Batangas this November.

“Sana nga matuloy. Mas masaya siyempre ’pag mas maraming karera,” Arcilla said.

Doing away with the elite tag

Arcilla is painfully aware that most athletes shy away from joining jet ski competitions because it supposedly caters to the elite class, mainly because a jet ski machine costs hundreds of thousands.

“’Yun na nga e. Dahil nga sa mahal ang jet ski [an old model cost P50,000 to P100,000 while a brand new one can reach up to P1 million], nagiging prohibitive na tuloy ang sport. That’s why we’re trying to make the sport accessible dun sa may gustong maglaro. Aside dun sa pagpapahiram namin ng machine at free clinics, we’re thinking of other measures para lalo pang maging attractive ’yung sport,” Arcilla explained.

One sure way to enliven the sport and make it more accessible to the less privileged, according to Arcilla, is to attract more sponsors that can help lessen the expenses in running a race. So far, aside from Petron, JSAP’s has drawn support from Wildman Sandals, Gerry’s Grill, Courtyard Inn, Networx Jetsport, SBMA, Petron Lakeshore Development, Alex Car Restoration, IRMA Fishing, HSD Ice Products and Harbour Centre.

Arcilla dreams of the day when several Filipino riders eventually make it to the world stage, and with JSAP fulfilling its mandate as the catalyst for the development of the sport of jet ski.

“Gusto ko talaga lumaki pa ang grupo by creating awareness tungkol dito, at mawala na rin ’yung tag na pang-elite lang ito. Actually, kayang-kaya ng mga Filipino na mag-champion sa jet ski sa buong mundo. We have proven that in other sports, dito pa kaya sa jet ski?,” Arcilla said.

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