Diving in Subic : Exploring the Wrecks of USS New York and El Capitan

Looking for a quick and challenging dive spot from Manila? Hop on the bus and head to Subic! Here is what I saw diving in USS New York and El Capitan!

For months, I have put off my plans of diving! I was probably meant to have my 20th dive in the place where I learned diving (courtesy of Boardwalk Dive Center).

Subic Bay is home to a lot of wrecks! When you go wreck diving, you have to make sure that you have a good trim or else silt will ruin the visibility. If someone calls you a seahorse while diving, that means you suck at doing the trim. Day in and day out, people from different countries would visit to test their skills. I have always been lucky enough to go diving with people who had more experience and who were of higher levels: technical dive masters and rescue diver while I am still an advanced adventure diver.Anyways,I probably suck more at selfies underwater than on land (my rate of success on land is 1/20) so I hope you forgive me for my futile attempt at underwater photography.

First dive was at USS New York, one of the most popular wrecks in Subic. If you want to explore the entire wreck, you will need to have excellent technical dive skills. The wreck is not for the fainthearted. It will test you and bring out the claustrophobic in you. Three divers have died exploring inside the USS New York – which indicates significant hazards and the need for advanced technical wreck training. My bottom time was 30 mins. since I was just using air. I wish I could have stayed longer.

Depth: 16 until 32 Meters

Length: 116 Meters

Position: Port Side

Current: Generally Calm

Suitable for: Advanced Open Water/Experienced/Technical Wreck Divers

Perfect for: Intermediate-Technical Wreck Penetration, Historical/Heritage Appreciation.

Diving Information:

Basic Divers – Lower than average visibility (due to proximity to the Olongapo river mouth) and deeper water makes this site more suitable for divers who have gained experience beyond entry-level training. The top of the wreck lies in 17-22m depth, covered in soft and whip corals with many reef fish. Lying slightly deeper (~59 ft (18 m) deep) divers can examine the uppermost barrel of an 8 in (200 mm) primary gun. The 361 ft (110 m) length gives plenty of area to observe. Corals, sponges and fish life that have had over 60 years to convert it into home. Scorpion fish are common around this wreck and divers are reminded that contact with these fish is dangerous. Experienced Wreck Divers – More advanced divers can explore the propeller, conning tower and deck areas. There are some areas of relatively easy penetration, with open-spaces and sufficient height to stay clear of major silt deposits. These include the following. The mess deck (2nd deck down) has an interesting penetration 197 ft (60 m) with port holes above allowing light, but no exit. The boiler room can be explored within recreation diving limits. Due to the nature of the wreck, with low light/viz and the risk of silt disturbance; redundant gas supplies and guideline deployment training are recommended for penetrations.

Advanced/Technical Wreck Divers – Three divers have died exploring inside the USS New York – which indicates significant hazards and the need for advanced technical wreck training. Divers with proper decompression and advanced/technical wreck penetration training can reach the engine room, machinery spaces and lower decks. These are in excellent condition, with huge pipes, machinery and valve wheels. Spaces are extremely confined, with many restrictions and high risk of silt-out. Penetration is generally made on twin tanks, whilst deploying a constant guideline to the exit. Both engine room entrances have notices, warning of the dangers to the untrained.

I am no stranger to the second dive site El Capitan (USS Majaba). It was where I did my first and second dive. Unlike USS New York, I was unlucky because the go pro ran out of battery while we were exploring inside! It was a beauty and I will definitely go back to take good videos and photos. I forced the gopro and somehow it worked and I got to take photos of the school of jacks at the end of the dive! We also got to see a spotted ray and not-so-giant clams.

Depth: 5 until 21 Meters

Long: 90 Meters

Wide: 16 Meters

Position: Starboard side

Current: Generally Calm

Suitable for: All Levels of Divers Perfect for: Novice Wreck Penetration, Fun

Diving Information:

At a depth of slightly over 18 meters the outside of the wreck provides an excellent site for divers. The forward hole is wide-open allowing entry by even novice divers. The top side (starboard side) is at 5 meters, which eliminates the need for an extra safety stop. This area is alive with a variety of fish. From the forward hole, additional areas of the ship may be accessed. One route takes you to the accommodation area and on to rear cargo hold. Wreck History: Normally referred to as the El Capitan the USS Majaba (AG 43) was built as SS Meriden by Albina Engine & Machine Works, Portland, Oreg., in 1919; acquired by the Navy under charter as SS El Capitan from her owner, E. K. Wood Lumber Co., of San Francisco, Calif., 23 April 1942; renamed Majaba and commissioned the same day. She was placed out of service 14 March 1946 at Subic Bay.

How To Get There From Manila:

Take the Victory Liner Bus from Cubao, Quezon City. Take the one via SCTEX, it is a lot faster. When you get off the terminal, you can ask around where to take the jeepney that goes to SM Olongapo or if you have a lot of cash, you can take a cab into Subic Bay for P300. From SM Olongapo, you can just walk through the gates into Subic Bay Freeport.

Where To Stay When In Subic Bay Freeport:

If you are on a budget, you should check-out The Cabin by Subic Park Hotel. It is one of the cheapest accommodation than you can find.

A practical place for practical people. The only Backpackers Hotel inside Subic Bay Freeport Zone. It is located along Schley road, Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Owned and managed by Subic Park Hotel. The Cabin has dormitory type accommodations with (5) five bunk beds, individual cabinet, fan, and fully air-conditioned. We also have twelve (12) Private Rooms with air-condition, LCD Television and Coffee Table available for single or double occupancy. You can also enjoy our homey type reception area where you can feel and enjoy the warmth hospitality of our accommodating staff and its country side atmosphere. For as low as Php 430/night to Php 750/night you can now avail and enjoy the most affordable country style service with free Wi-Fi access everywhere.

You can book here: http://www.thecabinsubic.com/

If you want high-class accommodation, you should try The Lighthouse Marina Resort. It is the best hotel in Subic Bay.

The Lighthouse Marina Resort is a three-floor, 34-room boutique hotel capped by a lighthouse. The hotel is sleek and ultra-modern in its Palafox-designed architecture. Done in almost austere Italianate architectonics with its elegantly simplistic hotel facade, the hotel main building provided a perfect compliment to the 20 meter light tower done in surprising detail very faithful to naval architecture specifications. It’s exclusive location hidden in the midst of the busy Waterfront Road makes it the ultimate haven of retreat. The Lighthouse established back in 2007 to provide transient residence to executives of business locators of the Subic free port zone; and for tourists who frequent the port more for its sailing and eco-tourism than its business.

You can book here: http://www.lighthousesubic.com/ or through agoda.com

After the dives, I realized I need to save up for a better underwater camera, my wing (the one I used for Miss SCUBA was just borrowed), my torch and jet fins for the love of having a more streamlined dive in the future! I also need to practice more on taking better selfies and perfecting my trim! Also need to ask someone else to take photos of me so I have full body ones. It sucks when you are the one with the camera, you barely have decent photos!

It is always a good experience to dive at Subic! It is easy access and you can go to a lot of wreck sites.You should not miss diving there!

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Diving in Cebu: Shark Diving in Malapascua Island

As a young animal lover, I have always dreamed of seeing sharks and swimming next to them. I remember staying up late to watch dive expeditions being shown on National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Diving with the thresher sharks was part of my dive bucketlist.

According to some stories, some Spaniards have been sailing through the Visayas in the year of 1520 and ended up stranded on Malapascua on Christmas Day because of the unfortunate incident they called the island Mala Pascua, which literally means “Bad Christmas”. I am not certain how they could’ve thought it was bad luck to be in a beautiful island. Although the older local people still insist that their island’s name is “Logon” (same name as the main village here on Malapascua) and not Malapscua. This island a popular dive destination in the Philippines. The picturesque island is home to a world famous treasure. A special kind of shark, the thresher shark. As a young animal lover, I have always dreamed of seeing sharks and swimming next to them. I remember staying up late to watch dive expeditions being shown on National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Diving with the thresher sharks was part of my dive bucketlist.

To get to Malapascua is not that quick, from Cebu City, you will have to take the bus all the way to Maya which takes about 5 hours. For my trip, I took the bus to Bogo  and stayed there for the night. The following morning we took the bus from Bogo City to Maya Port. I enjoyed the bus ride as it passed through rice fields and mangrove forests. When we reached Maya Port, the locals immediately asked if we were heading to Malapascua. I was told that the usual price is 80 PHP but we arrived a bit late (most boats don’t go to Malapascua in the afternoon unless you charter them because of the current) so we had to just say yes to them.

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Malapascua from a distance.

The weather was on our side that day despite warnings of thunderstorms that weekend. I sat and enjoyed the calming sea breeze for 30 minutes as the boat sailed smoothly over the placid sea. The other passengers looked like babies on a cradle slowly falling asleep.

Malapascua Island
Malapascua somehow reminds me of Boracay in a less touristy way.

Unknown to many, 2 years ago, Malapascua Island was also one of the islands ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Expats and locals both pitched in to recover from the destruction and while I was walking around there were little traces.

Bangkas in Malapascua
Clear blue skies and white sand.

We did not make any prior bookings relying on the fact that it was off season in the island. It was not difficult to find accomodations. I saw more than 10 resorts all lining the coast of Malapascua. More than a decade ago, I visited the island as part of my mother’s regular company outing. I could barely remember the details of the island and would’ve gotten lost if not for Lucas. He already went to Malapascua several times for diving.  I am always embarrassed when people ask me where I did my dives ( I probably did more dives in Mabul and Sipadan than in my own country). It was my first dive in Cebu by the way! Anyways, we headed to French Kiss Divers first to try squeezing in a dive for that day (we needed vitamin Sea so much that they anyways their local staff thought I was Thai, not sure if I should be happy or not). They were nice enough to schedule a 3:30 PM dive.

Boat
Serene view.

After taking care of our dive for the day, we headed to Malapascua Exotic Island Dive & Beach Resort. Exotic is one of the established resorts on the island and they offer budget accomodations (for those who want to spend more on dives than their beds). We left our bags and had a quick lunch (they had a wide variety of dishes and the servings were good). Once we filled our stomachs, we walked back to French Kiss to prepare the dive gears and do all the necessary equipment check.

BCDs are ready!
The view just makes you want to jump right in without your gears.

Shark diving is the main activity in the island but you can also do macro-diving. Malapascua offers sandy bottoms, seagrass meadows, mangroves and coral reefs. The island has other top class dive sites apart from Malapascua such as Gato Island, Lapus Lapus and Dakit Dakit. If you are spending more days in the island, you can even hire a boat to take you to Kalanggaman Island in Palompon.

Here is a map I created to show you a few of the different sites:

DEEP SLOPE

Our first dive was at Deep Slope which was a unique underwater sand dune that slowly turns into a small wall which is covered with soft corals.  Pygmy seahorses, yellow and pink ones can be seen inside the different sea fans along that reef.  An interesting dive site for more experienced beginners and advanced divers. For beginners, you need to be aware of the slope and make sure to always check your dive computer to avoid diving beyond your limit. While doing the dive, I got a bit nervous when we suddenly saw a banded sea snake (more than a meter long) swimming along the reef wall (FYI: I hate snakes and centipedes).

Continue reading “Diving in Cebu: Shark Diving in Malapascua Island”

Diving in Camiguin

The second smallest island in the Philippines is more than an island born of fire. Read about my dive trip in Camiguin.

“Island Born of Fire”, Camiguin is the second smallest island of the Philippines in area and in population and yet it offers a lot to travellers. In this island, you can create your own adventure, whether it is visiting the old ruins, swimming in refreshing springs or in my case diving.

Camiguin
Small but a lot to offer.

I have already visited Camiguin 9 years ago with my mother but then I was doing the usual day tour around the island. This time around was different. First my mom is not around travelling with me (she worries when I dive even when I swim in the deep) and second because I am a diver.

On the bangka
On our way back from White Island.

We stayed at Camiguin Action Geckos Dive and Adventure Resort. It was a popular place to stay for divers and even non-divers (they are top 1 in TripAdvisor for hotels in Mambajao). Unfortunately, we arrived a day late because of the change in ferry schedules from Jagna Port to Balbagon Port, before it used to leave Bohol around 1:00 PM and from Camiguin 8:00 PM but this time the ferry left Bohol 8:00 AM and I arrived 12:30 at Jagna. It was sad to not have enough time in Camiguin.

Dive Map of Camiguin
Dive sites around Camiguin

I was only limited to a dive (disadvantages of having a normal 9-5 job) and since we had to leave before noon, we decided to dive in White Island. The sandbar is roughly 10 minutes away from the resort.

White Island is an upper reef slope. The site is a Japanese garden with dense coral growth and diversity. It offers a forest of black corals on white sand. Common marine life seen are Sting rays, Moray Eel, Lion Fish, Frog Fish, Ribbon Eels, Orange (Cerianthus) Tube Anemones  and Sea Snakes.

Depth: 6-20m.
Visibility: 10m.
Current: Strong
Temperature: 25° C

Underwater
Sandy bottom
Lionfish
A lionfish hiding.
Moral Eel
A Moray Eel peeks out of its hiding place.
Green Sea Turtle
A green sea turtle swims away.
Green Sea Turtle
The second green sea turtle swims across the corals.

We got lucky during the dive, saw 4 green sea turtles and a hawksbill turtle. I never expected to see that much in one dive. The dive instructor said that it is still a good place to dive because Camiguin is not commercialised like in Bohol. It took only this dive to convince me to go back to Camiguin. Next time I will not miss Mantigue Island.

More than fire, Camiguin is an underwater paradise!

If you are not into diving, I will be sharing more about Camiguin in the next post.

Diving in Anilao, Batangas

When one thinks of diving in the Philippines, Anilao is the first place that comes in my mind. Considered as the birthplace of scuba diving in the country, Anilao is the top dive destination for its accessibility, cost-effective and extensive biodiversity (being close to the Verde Passage which is the center of the center of the Coral Triangle).

I first visited Anilao on November of 2013, I was still working my way to get my Advanced Adventure Diver license. It is easy to go to Batangas from Manila, you just head over to LRT Buendia station where most of the buses headed for Batangas are. I took the BLTB, fare costs around P150 and the trip takes roughly 3 hours (it might be more these days with the ongoing road construction). I reached Batangas City bus terminal and took the jeepney bound for Mabini which cost around P40. I got off at the round about and hired a tricycle to Scuba Bro Dive Resort for P60.

 

Scuba Bro is a native inspired resort which is located in a picturesque cove. The architecture offer rooms and terraces overlooking the sea.

The perks of staying there is that their room accommodation already includes the buffet breakfast, free use of kayak and snorkeling gear, unlimited coffee and tea at the resto and free Wifi at the Resto. Another thing is that you do not need to go far, their next to the resort you can do a shore entry and see a good number of sea creatures such as nudibranchs, the emperor shrimps and frog fishes.

 I did a dive with a group of advanced divers from Shark Bait Huhaha (I felt a bit pressured because I was still having issues with my trim and buoyancy). Luckily they had underwater cameras to show how beautiful it is under, here is a video by Meg:

Amazing Anilao from Megarroo on Vimeo.

It was the longest dive I ever did to date (60mins. thanks to the school of jack fish that made me calmer underwater). Twin Rocks Marine Sanctuary did not disappoint, it offers a bit of everything from macro to pelagics. This site got its name because of the two big rocks underwater that is less than a meter apart. It is teeming with marine life and it is even dubbed as the number 1 dive site in Anilao. This is good for divers experienced dealing with currents, they said that the site is usually for advanced and skilled divers, that they do not really recommend it to beginners.  You can dive with just a 3mm suit, some even dive with just their board shorts (like my instructor) but there are thermoclines so if you have cold intolerance better to suit up.

Average depth: 15-20 meters/45-60 feet
Visibility: 10m.-20m./33ft.-66ft.
Current: Slight – Moderate

Anilao is a great diving escape for people tired of the metropolitan life in Manila who are itching to have saltwater in their skin. There is a good number of dive centers and resorts for you to choose from and it is one of the cheapest places in the Philippines to get certified.

Here are added commuting directions from http://www.ph-commute.com
From Caloocan:
Route 1: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to EDSA station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
From Las Pinas:
From Alabang-Zapote Road, ride a jeep/bus to Alabang, and get off at Manuela Metropolis Alabang (Metropolis Mall).
Ride a bus to Batangas.
From Makati:
Route 1: MRT/Jeep-MRT/Jeep-Bus
Go to LRT-1-Gil Puyat station along Taft Ave. corner Gil Puyat Ave. (Buendia). In order to get there, you can either:
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station. Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station. Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
From Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. (Buendia), ride a jeep to Guadalupe, and get off at Buendia station. Take the MRT to Taft terminal station. Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station. Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
From Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. (Buendia), ride a jeep to LRT/Taft, and get off at Taft Ave.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
From Mandaluyong/Pasig:
Route 1: MRT-LRT-1-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 3: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 2 blocks along EDSA following the MRT track, past Farmers Plaza, Aurora Blvd., and Monte de Piedad. The bus terminal is just beyond Monte de Piedad.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
Route 4: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Kamuning station.
Walk 2 blocks the way you came along EDSA following the MRT track, past 11th Jamboree, GMA Channel 7, Metro Manila Commission, Timog Avenue/South Avenue, Carlos P. Garcia Avenue (East Avenue), Trinity Lutheran Church, and the Department of Interior and Local Government. (It’s not as far as it sounds.) The Tritran bus terminal is just beyond Trinity Lutheran Church.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas Pier (every 30 minutes, PHP 154 fare).
Route 5: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 1 block along EDSA the way you came, following the MRT track, until you get to Gen. McArthur Avenue.
Turn left at Gen. McArthur Avenue, and walk 5 short blocks past Session Road, Farmers Market, Gen. Araneta, Araneta Coliseum, Gen. Aguinaldo Avenue, Shopwise, Time Square Avenue, and Ali Mall, until you get to Gen. Romulo Avenue.
Cross Gen. Romulo Avenue. The bus terminal is just beside Auto Centro, across Ali Mall.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
From Manila:
Route 1: LRT-1/Jeep-Bus
Arrive at LRT-1-Gil Puyat. In order to get there:
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a jeep to Buendia/Taft, and get off at Gil Puyat station (Taft Ave. corner Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. [Buendia]).
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: LRT-1/Jeep-Bus
Arrive at LRT-1-Gil Puyat. In order to get there:
Take the LRT-1 to EDSA station.
Ride a jeep to EDSA/Taft/Baclaran, and get off at EDSA station (Taft Ave. corner EDSA).
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 3: Bus
From Plaza Lawton, ride a JAM Transit bus to Batangas Pier.
From Muntinlupa:
From Manuela Metropolis Alabang (Metropolis Mall), ride a bus to Batangas.
From Paranaque/Pasay:
Route 1: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to EDSA station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
From Quezon City:
Route 1: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: MRT-LRT-1-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 3: LRT-2-LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-2 to Recto terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-Doroteo Jose station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 4: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 2 blocks along EDSA following the MRT track, past Farmers Plaza, Aurora Blvd., and Monte de Piedad. The bus terminal is just beyond Monte de Piedad.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
Route 5: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Kamuning station.
Walk 2 blocks the way you came along EDSA following the MRT track, past 11th Jamboree, GMA Channel 7, Metro Manila Commission, Timog Avenue/South Avenue, Carlos P. Garcia Avenue (East Avenue), Trinity Lutheran Church, and the Department of Interior and Local Government. (It’s not as far as it sounds.) The Tritran bus terminal is just beyond Trinity Lutheran Church.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas Pier (every 30 minutes, PHP 154 fare).
Route 6: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 1 block along EDSA the way you came, following the MRT track, until you get to Gen. McArthur Avenue.
Turn left at Gen. McArthur Avenue, and walk 5 short blocks past Session Road, Farmers Market, Gen. Araneta, Araneta Coliseum, Gen. Aguinaldo Avenue, Shopwise, Time Square Avenue, and Ali Mall, until you get to Gen. Romulo Avenue.
Cross Gen. Romulo Avenue. The bus terminal is just beside Auto Centro, across Ali Mall.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
From Taguig:
Route 1: Bus-MRT-LRT-1-Bus
From Market! Market!, Net2, or the Fort Open Field, ride the Fort bus/shuttle to Ayala.
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: Bus-MRT-Bus
From Market! Market!, Net2, or the Fort Open Field, ride the Fort bus/shuttle to Ayala.
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.

Never Fall in Love with a Diver

There are many reasons why it is easy to fall in love with a diver. It could be their unwavering love for the ocean or their unbelievable ability to keep calm under pressure.

Here are a few reasons why you should never fall in love with a diver.

“Something, most certainly, happens to a diver’s emotions underwater. It is not merely a side effect of the pleasing, vaguely erotic sensation of water pressure on the body. Nor is it alone the peculiar sense of weightlessness, which permits a diver to hang motionless in open water, observing sea life large as whales around him; not the ability of a diver, descending in that condition, to slowly tumble and rotate in all three spatial planes. It is not the exhilaration from disorientation that comes when one’s point of view starts to lose its “lefts” and “down” and gains instead something else, a unique perception that grows out of the ease of movement in three dimensions. It is not from the diminishment of gravity to a force little more emphatic than a suggestion. It is not solely exposure to an unfamiliar intensity of life. It is not a state of rapture with the bottomless blue world beneath one’s feet…it is some complicated mix of these emotions, together with the constant proximity of real terror.”
― Barry López, About This Life

 

Rabbit Nightmare and Turtle Dream : How I Became A Licensed SCUBA Diver

Little lines of rabbits tied up on top of a huge conveyor belt, all heading to a machine where they would go out lifeless, I was panicking, trying to find where the switch was to stop the killing machine. As a hit the stop button, I realized my footprints were blood imprints. I looked around to see all the lifeless animals surrounding me, crying heavily with the horrendous sight, then I woke up. It was my one of the first nightmares that I’ve had as a 4-year-old kid.

Playing around at school
Playing around at school

I grew up with animals always near me, I had 3 dogs, couple of fishes, cats and white mice. Every afternoon, I would spend time to feed them and would even talk to them. Meanwhile my parents raised chickens, quails and pigs in our backyard. My dad loved joining cock fights. There were times I would try to skip meals after my father killed one of the chicken for our dinner. I would beg them not to kill animals but they always explained that it is natural for humans to eat them. I played with my dogs most of my time after school. I was always fascinated by animals that there was one time I asked my mother to buy me a horse for my grandparents’ farm, which she of course immediately declined. I even dreamed of becoming a veterinarian and would play pretend as doctor to our sick pets. All throughout childhood, I would endlessly browse over my grandfather’s old hardbound coffee table which had a lot of photos about different creatures. It was there when I first read about the Nautilus and the Portuguese Man-of-War.

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It was when I got over my fear of the deep (someone pushed me into a 6 feet deep pool when I was about 6 years old) that I started appreciating marine life and by the end of high school, I wanted to take up marine biology but for a country where practicality wins, it was not an option. The course needed expensive dive equipment and my parents were not well off. I took up nursing instead and moved to another city, leaving my pets behind. Up until graduation, my dream of becoming a marine biologist never left my mind. Just when I though all hopes were lost that I saw one competition posted in Facebook that would include free diving lessons for the grand winner. Without anyone to help me, I went alone to screen and qualified. It was during the discovery dive when I met my scuba diving instructor. Finals day came and I finished second place. I was sad knowing that the opportunity to have sponsored dive lessons slipped through my fingers.

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The year after, the founder appointed me to compete internationally where I eventually had my sponsored dive lessons plus new dive equipment. Just when you think things will never go right, it did for me. To top it off I almost won the competition, I finished right after UK. I got to dive in amazing sites and talk to different people about marine conservation. Not everyone is lucky enough and each day I do my best to prove that I earned it. They teased me as Pawikan (Filipino term for green sea turtle) when I was young. In a way, I am a turtle. I had to fight through a lot of things to make it into the waters. It took time for me to reach my nesting grounds and now I am back to lay new dreams. Whatever it is you dream of, have tremendous passion and perseverance, and everything will fall in the right place.

2014-06-14 18.03.54

Here are some of the sites where I already done some dives:

Malapascua, Cebu

Subic, Zambales

Anilao, Batangas

Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte

Napantao, Southern Leyte

Sipadan, Malaysia

White Island, Camiguin

El Nido, Palawan

Panglao, Bohol