What is it? A place where cosplay and aerobics meet Disney fantasies. The Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy (PMSA) has three bases on Boracay, one in Manila and another opening in Cebu. On Boracay's glorious White Beach, customers don a spandex monofin and learn mermaid snorkelling, mermaid fitness and "modern mermaid", wherein they explore the undersea world on a water scooter.
Are you serious? We swear on our tritons this is genuine. Founded in 2012 by Anamie Saenz (right) - who also established the Philippine version of Groupon - and Normeth Preglo, the academy is pioneering what it hopes will become a new fitness craze. Saenz says, "Olympic swimmers use the monofin to train butterfly and freedivers use it for records. Mermaid swimming is all about the core - the power comes from there because you are gyrating all day." Preglo is a scuba-diving instructor and international kiteboarding teacher, and was a swimming coach in Bavaria, Germany. She plans to form an association for mermaid diving similar to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (Padi). At Lunar New Year, MGM Macau invited two PMSA divers to perform in fishtail costumes in an 8.3-metre aquarium filled with fish and sharks. The management of The House of Dancing Water - who considered incorporating mermaids into their show at the City of Dreams - watched from the wings.
So what's on offer? First off, all aspiring mermaids - or mermen - must take an introductory course, which includes tail rental, an introduction to mermaid swimming (i.e. dolphin kicks) and stretching, 30 minutes of practice and drills and a photo-taking session, at the end. You may scoff, but turning two legs into one takes time. Once you've graduated, choose from mermaid snorkelling, mermaid scuba diving - both led by Red Cross-certified dive instructors - and mermaid fitness classes. Definitely not your grandma's swimming school, the latter are workouts aimed at shedding weight from the waist and improving stamina. There is also the option of a "mermaid makeover", with a professional make-up artist and sunset photo shoot (rates vary).
Who is it for? Initially, Preglo introduced the fins to encourage children to learn to swim, but now they're popular with women of all ages. Hen parties are catered for, although Saenz warns against being drunk in charge of a fin - each one costs 12,000 pesos (HK$2,100). Mermen are also welcome. Top Filipino television star and model Marc Nelson has given it a flip.
Where would we stay? Continue this Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale at the Boracay Shangri-La, a 10-minute tricycle ride from Station Three on White Beach. Show off your fin on the Shangri-La's private beach before retiring to a treetop villa, where you can enjoy the sunset while flapping around in the comfort of your own sun-terrace jacuzzi.
And where should a mermaid eat? Spider House is a sushi cafe carved into the cliffs, a five-minute walk from the school, and it serves a mean Mermaid Wrap (tuna) for 180 pesos, not to mention some fine sashimi. The more upmarket mermaid might be more tempted by the squid-ink pasta at the Shangri-La's Rima Italian restaurant.
So what's the bottom line? Set aside 1,500 pesos (two hours) for your introduction course, and book at least four days in advance. Snorkelling costs 1,500 pesos (two hours), scuba diving 3,500 pesos (two hours) and the fitness classes 450 pesos (1.5 hours). For more details and bookings, visit philippinemermaidswimmingacademy.com.