Jet Ski Racer
By John Legaspi
Every child dreams of flying, whether soaring on a cosmic expedition through an imaginary galaxy happening in the mind of Augie in R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder, or flying through the skies of Neverland like the mischievous Peter Pan, or gliding by the clouds with their capes dancing in the wind like a comic book superhero. But for 13-year-old Anton Ignacio, it is dashing through the waves that makes his heart full and satiates his hunger for adrenaline.
As the first “commercially successful” personal watercraft in America, jet skis became popular in the ‘70s among thrill-seeking recreational riders and racers of all age, gender, and race. And it remains popular to this day. Dubbed as the Philippines’ youngest ski racing champion, Anton is among today’s new breed of ski racers.
Young Water Spirit
“First, I was very much against the idea because I knew it was very dangerous,” says Joyce Ignacio, Anton’s mother. “A jet ski can run 100 miles per hour and it has no breaks. But then watching him, you kind of think that maybe he can do it. So partly, it we had to trust that he can do it.”
For a kid who is not a fan of crazy rides and roller coasters, Anton finds refuge in the rush of a jet ski race. “I started learning it when I was 10,” the La Salle Greenhills student says. “I felt comfortable in the water. It just makes me feel that there is nothing dangerous that will happen and that I’ll be fine.”
It was a passion Anton inherited, taking inspiration from his father Bombet Ignacio’s long history with the sport. “My dad was my inspiration,” he says. “He teaches me well and I always love skiing with him.” Bombet was a national champion back in the 1996 Petron National Jet Ski and represented the country in Arizona for the 1997 International Jet Ski Competition.
During weekends, Anton’s family travels down to their beach house in Mindoro to train hard, to bond more, and to get a decent tan.
Winning from Failure
“During his first race, we weren’t expecting anything. We told him, ‘You know what? Just enjoy it,’” says Joyce. “But surprisingly, he did well and finished first.”
But it was a problematic cross to the finish line. “The problem was that he missed some turns along the course,” says Joyce. “Everyone was cheering for him because he almost got it. When he came back to the shore, he was expecting everyone to cheer for him but no one was there. His dad was upset and so was his team.”
Not the kind of boy who would show his emotions, that day presented a different kind of Anton to everyone. “He took off his helmet and he was crying. He didn’t care, he just cried,” says Joyce.
“I just think of a way to take it back, to improve, and not make those mistakes again,” Anton says whenever he feels defeated. “Nothing will make me give up on this sport.”
Taking on the race again, Anton was determined to do things right this time. “When he took the same course again, he finished third but he perfected the course. And when he crossed the finish line, he did that ‘Superman’ pose while still riding, as if he’s flying, and everyone was cheering for him,” Joyce tells The Philippine Panorama. “That was so momentous for me because that was what I wanted him to learn. That it’s not about the winning. It’s what you learn from your mistakes. We didn’t expect that it would be meaningful to him, especially since we never put any pressure on him.”
In his blood
Anton joined the Jet Ski Association of the Philippines (JSAP) National Tours held on Caliraya Lake in Laguna on Aug. 10 and 11, proving to the group that he had a bright future in this sport.
One of the national jet ski champions and owner of Networx Jetsports, BJ Ang came up to Bombet and said, “This boy has potential. We want to train your son. We can see the racing blood in him.”
The best part for Anton joining the races was winning alongside his dad in the competition. “Before we race, we warm up together, stretch, and pray,” Anton says. “He was the first one who saw my potential and he believed in me.”
Bombet won the extra division while Anton championed the novice division. “It was a sweet victory for his dad, because he never imagined he would be sharing the top podium with his son,” says Joyce. “I think the key to Anton’s success is that he always listens, even though he doesn’t do it sometimes (laughs). And, of course, through the guidance of his dad and his team composed of Javi Ignacio, Jeff Yeo, his uncle Bim Ignacio, and his coach BJ.”