Go dive

Thu, 08/04/2005 - 00:00

Feel like fleeing the country and its problems? You don't have to go very far to escape. Just travel two and a half hours out of Manila and then jump into the sea.

Meet the resident shark
photo by Debbie Lozare

Eighty feet under the water in Anilao's Mainit, you won't hear Gloria's brassy grating voice, the hellish traffic din of Edsa, and the mind-numbing dialog of the latest prime time telenovela. Beneath the waves, the only sound is the labored, rasping whoosh of your breath passing through the scuba mouthpiece (surely Darth Vader's respiratory effect was produced by a Mares Proton regulator). Floating in that blue world with your dive buddies, your tension will flee like the damselfish and fusiliers rushing past you.

Mainit is popular with divers who know about its medium to strong currents, as well as its resident shark. This is where open water diving started in the Philippines, but it's far from being the only dive spot. In fact the country full of fascinating underwater escapes.

A royal angelfish
photo by Debbie Lozare

Not far from Anilao is Puerto Galera, noted for its schools of giant batfish, its shipwrecks and undersea walls. Travel farther south and the diving's great in Bohol's undersea black forests, as well as the coral

slopes of Apo Island. If you're feeling brave, you can hazard a trip to Abu Sayyaf country and dive in Tubbataha, a Unesco marine sanctuary that has sharks of every variety.

These are just a few of the marked dive spots. There are other, unmarked ones, their locations jealously kept secret by dive purists. How could you bear being abroad, knowing you could be back here sitting on a lounge in an inn overlooking the cove of Mabini, watching Sombrero Island fall into shadows in the late afternoon sun?

Your dives finished, your gear rinsed and hung in the racks drying, you're nursing a cup of green tea in your hand. You feel soothed and contemplative, your mind occupied by nothing more than the things that happened in the dive. You shouldn't have panicked at 90 feet when you hit that current, should have just kept low, creeping on sand until you got to 75 feet -- you had enough air anyway. Hyperventilating sucks! Never mind, you got through it all thanks to your dive buddy.

What political crisis?
photo by Debbie Lozare

Your reverie is broken when your dive buddy nudges you and asks, "are we joining the Apo Reef live-aboard?"

"Of course," you quietly reply. "Do you think Gloria will miss us?"

She giggles. "She might drop in, for one photo op dive."

You groan. Is there no escape?

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