WHILE veteran swim coach Efren Jocson believes strongly in the famous phrase coined by the late Fr. Patrick Peyton, “The family that prays together stays together,”
he laughs when he pulls out his company profile, which reveals a few changes he has used
on the borrowed line.
“The family that swims together, stays alive longer, together,” he reads. Apparently, he has been using this catchy phrase to convince Filipino families since the 1980s that the sport is not only a fun activity for bonding, but also beneficial to everyone’s health—young or old.
Together with his siblings, Jocson first established and founded the International Aquatech Specialist Co. as a school for swimming, which, after two decades expanded into a one-stop shop for aquatic services. Renamed into Integrated Aquatics Services Co., it now deals in sports development, water safety, and pool facility management.
“Besides teaching beginners and coaching professional swimmers, we also assist pool-related businesses from the development stage, to building, and maintenance,” he explains. “This entire business all began with my love for the water.”
“I learned how to swim in the Pasig River with my playmates during the 1960s. We called it, ‘langoy ilog’ or ‘langoy dagat’—the unscientific way of swimming,” Jocson recalls with another laugh. “I call it ‘scientepok’ now, actually, because swimming unscientifically can put a person’s life in danger.”
In fact, his mother Angelina always reprimanded him for frolicking in the Pasig River back then.
Living in Pateros, Jocson would first play with the ducks along the river, which laid balut eggs, before diving into the water. He always went on this adventure with his three brothers Reynaldo, who eventually became a college professor at the Far Eastern University (FEU); Pablo, a former varsity swimmer from Letran and sports editor for the school paper; and Angelito who is an engineering graduate from Mapua University.
“The four of us loved to swim,” he relates. “Thankfully, nothing bad happened to us back in those days, but at some point, we all knew we had to learn how to swim the proper way.”
When Jocson was 13 years old he learned to swim, “the scientific way” with the help of his cousin Levy who was then a varsity swimmer at Don Bosco College.
“My cousin Levy taught me how to breathe properly while swimming. He emphasized that most of the time the swimmer’s head must be kept above the surface of the water. He also taught me the various strokes in swimming,” Jocson recalls.
A quick learner, he soon tried out for the varsity team of the Far Eastern University where he completed both his secondary and tertiary education.
“I was accepted and I did well,” he humbly says, as he eventually became a record holder of the PASA/PRISAA/PSAA Games, swimming across Laguna de Bay from Pipindan, Binangonan to San Pedro, Laguna.
“We were 15 participants, but only six swimmers survived and I was one of those who finished the course,” Jocson goes on as he whipped out a news article from December 1965 titled, Six swimmers complete Binangonan-Laguna swim. It was published in The Manila Times.
From then on, Jocson continued to compete in swim meets representing FEU, winning many titles both for his high school and college teams.
“During those days, athletes were given many privileges especially when they win the tournaments. We had an allowance, which would go up if we became champions,” he chuckles at the recollection.
Besides the challenge of competing and the perks that went with being a star athlete, the experience convinced the young Jocson that he wanted to make a career out of his favorite sport.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education, Major in Physical Education, Jocson immediately worked as a water safety instructor at the Rizal Police and Integrated National Police Training Center in Marikina City.
The job gave him the idea that besides being a swimmer, there are other areas in the sport, which he can explore even in professionally determining the kind of water that is safe for swimming.
“I started studying the rudiments of the business until I became an expert, and applied them when I started building my own company,” he relates.
Meanwhile, his experiences as a swimming coach/instructor, lifeguard supervisor, pool supervisor, pool consultant, and aquatic director taught him how to handle his future clients.
For example, Jocson realized early on that teaching adults to swim is easier than teaching children. He explains, “Adults can easily understand instructions and lessons about the science of floating, but children, you have to teach them indirectly like letting them play with the water first. When they’re ready, then that’s the time we give them more specific instructions.”
Piling up experiences in every possible job a swimmer like him can tackle, Jocson also became a sought after consultant in many high-end sports clubs and associations in the country, including the Capitol City Sports and Country Club, Philippine Columbian Association, the Manila Polo Club and the US Embassy Seafront.
Eventually, he was given the chance to work as manager of the Sultan Hassanai Bolkiah Swimming Complex in Negara, Brunei Darussalam, because of his extensive knowledge in swimming techniques and safety, as well as swimming complex management.
When he returned from Dubai, Jocson continued to accept various consultancy posts for resorts and schools around the country, as well as mentor potential swimming champs by founding the Pasig City Flying Dolphin Swimming Team.
He also became the president of the NCR Swimming Coaches Association from 2003 to 2006, where he established programs to help elevate the status of swimming coaches in the country.
As he moved from one post to another, Jocson began to feel that he wanted to go into something more permanent in his career. It was then that he enticed his fellow water-loving siblings to put up a family business that is now knows as Integrated Aquatics Services Co. (IASCO). As its general and operations manager, Jocson’s extensive knowledge about the business of swim schools and facilities has allowed the company to service 59 clienteles in developing, designing and building safe and quality pools.
Currently, some of their biggest projects are for property developers DMCI and SMDC.
One of IASCO’s biggest projects is an Olympic size swimming pool in Semirara Island.
According to Maria Theresa Bagasbas, IASCO administrative and finance manager and Jocson niece, “What makes our company different is that we are the only entity that can manage the end to end processes of swimming programs. IASCO also takes care of all swimming-related concerns and solid professional experience in aquatic sports development and pool management. With the guidance of Tito Efren, we are able to give our clients modern and scientific services.”
While Jocson has established such a wide-ranging business just from his love for the water, he maintains that to this day, his goals remain the same.
“To encourage more Filipino families to get into the sport just like my own family has,” he says. His wife Remedios and children Julius “Swym” Efren, Joanne, Jeffrey and Jaycee are proof of how this favorite Filipino pastime can do wonders in keeping a family close and in the pink of health.
“My wife and my children are my inspiration in seeing through this goal, because I know how this sport—even if pursued just as a hobby—can make a big difference in people’s lives,” he ended.