Photo Credits: Max Gerenata and Francis Manuel
I used to think that scuba diving was for movie heroes out to find some piece of evidence underwater. Or for treasure hunters like in the movie Fool’s Gold. For the life of me, I didn’t even know that some specialize in macro photography of cute little sea creatures that happen to thrive in the beach where I was scuba baptized just two weeks ago. I thought I knew Batangas well enough. My confession of that simple province had been blasphemous.
Anilao, Batangas. I was quite sure that there isn’t much to find there when it comes to sea wanderlust. They beaches are rocky and grey. Little did I know that it was the deeper parts of the sea that I needed to explore! For those of you know already knew, this is my embarrassing confession.
Anilao, Batangas is one of the top ten dive sites in the Philippines, and it happens to be just two hours drive from Manila, the nation’s capital, and where I live. From what I understood by looking at the map, Anilao covers a small portion of the Mabini Peninsula and some islands around the coast of Mabini. It has more than one dozen dive sites including a shark’s reef and several that are known to macro photographers for its insanely cute and colorful nudibranch and fish.
Crashing Into Maricaban Island Resort
I was asked to write a feature story about Maricaban Island Resort somewhere in or near Anilao Batangas. I won’t be paid much but I was happy to get to visit the resort for free. And yeah, maybe I would get to dive too. Fingers crossed. And that’s when it all began…
We arrived on the island after being tossed about by strong waves during our 40-minute ferryboat ride. Thankful though ‘coz it was way better than our land travel which had our asses and backs achy by the time we got to the pier. The sun set as we were in the middle of the sea. It was dark by the time we set foot on the island, but the strong lights revealed the water’s clear as transparent, showing the coral remnants underneath. Welcome to a coral beach. Fresh coconut juice in husks wait for us at the al fresco.
The island seemed dark except for the strong lights we had. After dinner, we settled in our rooms with no air conditioning except for the open windows and cool breeze. All the rooms faced the sea, literally a baseball pitcher’s stone’s throw away, and the waters splashing against the shore was our music that night. It was easy to forget Manila and all its anxieties. I could live here, I thought.
The following day we rose early (around 4am) to catch the sunrise. Well, the photographers had to and I thought I’d join them. Later after lunch, we finally got to head out into a dive site. Oh yes, the time has come for my skin and bones to submerge into the deep… with some help from weighty rocks that our diving instructor fastened around my waist!
Tell you what? I was scared of breathing the wrong way. Rule #1 was, do not hold your breath. Rule #2, do not panic. Based on my swimming background, you should hold your breath under water. Ha! Whatever happens though, I vowed to not panic. I put the burden of saving my life upon my teacher’s shoulder. Hahaha. Rule #3 in my head was relax forever and ever until you see daylight once again.
And so I dove it. Backwards, of course. I didn’t realize I had to get up out of water first so my teacher could give me instructions, so I just floated there with my head under the water, like a dead man. Hahahaha. They waited for me to lift my head. It took a while. My teacher said I was so relaxed I must have fallen asleep. Rawr.
Soon we were sinking. Oh happy day, it must be my birthday. And soon, the little fishies were swimming with us. I had to depressurize my ears a number of times because it was painful underneath. I don’t think we reached 10 meters. During the first five minutes, I felt like going back up already. It felt uncomfortable, especially with the ear pain going back once in a while. But after 10 minutes, I think I finally debuted. I was getting the hang of it. Waving at the fishies, staring at the corals, posing for a photo.
It’s a shame the better dive spot had strong current that afternoon, but it was nonetheless amazing to see Nemo and his better looking friends. And to breath under water. A prophecy I had received said I will have that ability, and that I should not be afraid to go underneath. It’s a symbolic imagery of course, but I couldn’t help but compare scuba diving with going deeper into God’s presence. There’s much to discover there, if we’re willing to take a plunge.