Friday, July 22, 2005

Coron Diving part 2

It's been almost a week since I was in Coron and the days passed by like a blur. Just came back from an official trip to Bohol and now it's weekend again! Hooray GMA! May you fall from grace a million times for declaring Monday a public holiday! Hehe.

Discovery Divers is a nice resort to stay in and I really didn't mind having BIG geckos in our room and everywhere else. I also liked hanging around the dock during the night, watching the stars, looking into the water and listening to all sorts of sounds all around me. Sounds that one can never hear in Manila and would probably ignore it because of the hustle and bustle of urban life.

I woke up refreshed and had a quick breakfast then prepared for our two dives. No wrecks that day and I knew some coral reefs will be part of the dives as well.

Gunter's Cathedral

No wrecks but entering a crevice underwater still made me stop and have second thoughts about entering. When I did, I immediately saw the blue-green glimmer of light at the end of the short tunnel. At the centre of the cavern, I looked up and saw the sky from underwater and the stalactites hanging down from the cave: a most magnificent sight indeed! When the rest entered and explored the cave, I just stayed in the area where I could see the sky. When I surfaced, Aris took a picture of me which I wouldn't post here. I had the okay sign but my face belies the fact that I was wetting my pants! Hehe!

We went out and explored the reef outside. Nothing spectacular, Palawan-wise that is (what can I say? We all hear about Palawan as the Philippine's last wildlife frontier so we have great expectations...), but the reef obviously was just recovering from dynamite fishing.

The last dive for the day was Barracuda Lake. Ron, our divemaster, described the dive perfectly: it's truly like diving in an alien planet. I should've listened when they told me that a wetsuit is unnecessary. BUT owing to my low pain threshold, I decided to wear one anyway knowing that we're going to climb up limestone walls. Just before entering the water I looked around me and saw a very picturesque view of the lake. I quipped: the Philippines is truly blessed! (note: but we're not doing a good job of protecting it!).

After we entered the water, the thermoclines got to me and I started feeling hyperthermia (read: TOO HOT! VERY HOT!) and had to unzip my wet suit so some water would go inside. We went around the lake and I truly enjoyed seeing the unusual fish life (the water's brackish): big-eyed catfish, shrimps, fishes of all kind and blennies. Melody, the DM trainee, showed us the pile of silt when one can dip their arm up to the elbow and I decided to dunk my head in. Wow! Soft and lots of silt!

After what seemed like endless swimming, Ron signalled for us to stop and gave us the sign to look at the thermocline. He was bloody right! For a time my eyes and the rest of my senses wouldn't agree. My eyes "knew" that I was out of the water but my eyes and the rest of my body "felt" that I was still underwater. That part was enough to complete the dive even without seeing the famous barracuda! (by the way, never saw scale nor tail of the Barracuda)

When the time came to leave Coron it felt like my feet were glued on the pier. The dives were great but I told my friends it's a place I would want to go to after a couple of years or so, unlike Tubbataha. So next year, that's where I'm gonna be!

Danny in Coron: I was there!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Coron Diving

I did it, finally I managed to dive in Coron and found out for myself what everyone's raving about. I heard that diving in Coron is one of the most memorable experiences a diver could have in the Philippines.

On the way to Coron, I felt lucky to be part of the trip and I was so excited. Thanks to Guenter for organising it and Tony for inviting me. We had a party (read: lots of booze) on the M/V Our Lady of Medjugorje last Friday night and arrived in Coron on Saturday, July 16 at around 6:00 am.

I learned a few things in this trip:

1. Going inside a wreck is not for me. However, seeing the recruitment (or others would say colonisation) of marine life on the wrecks never ceased to amaze me.

2. Going inside a cave is only fun when there's an opening on its roof. I am claustrophobic, that explains everything.

3. I still prefer to see corals and fish... rusty, broken metals I've seen enough of.

4. Coron is really beautiful: over and above the water.

5. What a divemaster should not be... I got left outside a wreck at 30+ metres with no buddy because the divemaster didn't even check that I did not go inside the wreck with the group despite being told that I might not be able to go in.

The Dives

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140 metre long Japanese seaplane tender.

This is my second real wreck dive (years ago went to a wreck in Bolinao) and even before the divemaster entered it, my heart was pounding out of excitement and fear. When he entered the wreck at 30 metres, I looked inside and started hyperventilating and decided not to go in. After the last person entered, I realised that the other divers who decided on the surface not to go inside were nowhere in sight so I called the divemaster's attention with my sonic blast (quacker). After a minute or so, realising that the divemaster did not go back to check if everyone made it inside, I looked around and decided to go to the wreck's top (around 25 metres) and look for their bubbles. I found their bubbles escaping from the ships portholes and cracks and decided to follow them. I looked around and saw some fishes despite the bad visibility. I kept thinking: if I were an inexperienced diver I might have panicked and decided to surface or, worse, go in alone and look for them.

Quick thinking and experience counts! Every diver should remember this: Stop, Breathe, Think then Act!

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formerly called Taei Maru, Japanese Tanker 200 metres long

I found this dive more enjoyable since I was not pressured to go in and I was with other divers who will explore the wreck from the outside. There was a slight current and the visibility was not any better. Saw some cool nudibranchs, a lobster and a stingray on the hull as well as under the wreck. When we reached the stern (back) of the ship, we swam through the crack and saw lots of large batfishes, snappers, fusiliers, sweetlips and I even saw some jacks swim by including two or three giant jacks (Caranx ignobilis). I enjoyed this dive and felt more relaxed.

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formerly Tangat Wreck, Japanese freighter, 140 metres

This was the best wreck for me last Saturday. There were thousands, probably even millions of juvenile barracudas swimming around the wreck. The way they were being so skittish we assumed a predator was no the prowl and started looking for a big fish attacking them but didn't see any. I also saw a lot of large groupers and even saw one that was around 80 cm long. Obviously they were there for the easy pickings.

What I really enjoyed on this wreck was how marine life has encrusted the ship with all sorts of shapes and colours. There was a lot of corals (soft and reef-building) on the hull and the seafans, sea whips and black corals were just beautiful.

When I saw the boiler room, I showed the other divers my underwater "parachute dive". Guenter pulled me down and I decided to try going inside. It was dark and I could feel my heart starting to pound again but being with someone you trust helps a lot. When we got out, we explored more and when I saw Guenter go inside another hole with Monique (she has a video camera) I looked in and saw Guenter gesturing me to go inside. This time I decided to try it and gathered courage, took a deep breathe and squeezed myself through the hole avoiding the corals as much as possible. It was a huge chamber and this time, even though I was hyperventilating a bit, I learned to appreciate why people like wrecks. The light seeping through the holes was very dramatic and beautiful, especially where there were some corals and a red sea fan. On the way out, it felt like a dream seeing the dark turn to light and the colors become more vivid. When we got outside, Guenter wrote in German: "I am proud of you". I wrote: Ich auch (me too!)...

So that was day 1 or our Coron diving! A splendid day indeed.

More to come... have to go back to work.

Monday, July 11, 2005

An unventful Monday after an obsure weekend

Had a wonderful weekend... yet I feel torn...

Anilao used to be a place of refuge for me, somewhere I could shut down my "work mode" and just relax. This weekend I noticed it seems that magic was lost. Somehow instead of getting relaxed, I also get stressed and the weekend seems fleeting.

Looking at this old picture makes me miss the times when I sit by the shore and wait for the wind to pick up so I could windsurf, or if the feeling's right go diving and find someone to buddy up with me.

The best thing about the weekend is being with Buds. Thanks to Tony, my dear instructor and very good friend for giving him and his friend Chris a discovery dive course. It really felt good diving with him even though it was only for a few minutes. Sharing something you dearly love with someone you really love is the best experience one can have in this life.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A very rare Thursday indeed....

I did say before that I hate Thursdays because I did say in my previous post: "I guess knowing that this day is a day before the day before the weekend makes me yearn that the day is over and it will be the weekend again"...

But this Thursday is different, I actually put on my YM status: 3 cheers for Thursday!!! which elicited quite a lot of remarks from my friends online. My main reason is that Buds and I will be going to Anilao tomorrow and we'll be together until Sunday. My second reason is that Buds and I will be going to Anilao tomorrow and we'll be together until Sunday. READ AGAIN: It was not a typo, those are the two reasons I have why this Thursday is not incoherent but a great one!


I went to Naujan, Oriental Mindor last Friday and I felt a pang of sadness seeing these people beg for money. Young, old, infant and a family, they shouted "tapon or hagis" asking for boat passengers to throw them a coin and then dive for it in the murky, polluted waters.

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I remember attending an indigenous peoples' conference and feeling awe and respect for those who have cultures that city dwelling people do not have. However, seeing how the passengers treat the Badjaos begging at the pier made me mad, confused and feel a sense of loss. Some passengers were disappointed that their coins landed in the boats instead of in the water and exclaimed "Sayang!". I don't see the point why it's a waste if you made it easier for a person to receive your "donation".

These women could be one's grandmother. Would you ask her to dive for coins?

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Enough of this angst... I am supposed to look forward to a great weekend and I will!

Have a nice weekend everyone. Live, love but most of all BE SAFE!