In another circumstance, the alternate title would be “The Reasons Why I Dive” but it probably wouldn’t inspire much readership. I think diving is one of those things that you really need to experience to believe further how great this country is. If you are reading this and you are a Filipino, look around you — I sincerely believe that we’ve reached a turning point in how we define love for country. Gang Badoy once told me that nation building is all about conversation, so hopefully in this post I can inspire conversation — the receiver of this dialogue being, first, Carlo Ople, who wanted me to write down everything I told him during Butch and Noemi’s wedding anniversary party last week.
Fronting the red light district of Sabang are two fascinating wreck dives: the Alma Jane, scuttled as a classroom for nitrox training, and the Sabang Wreck, a series of small boats scuttled to form a small ship graveyard that house lionfish, frog fish, crabs and other reef life. Strong currents and the nutrient filled shore of Sablayan (there is no sewage in Puerto Galera!) allow the thriving of these interesting creatures.
Gee. Where to start. I know — Biodiversity.
I think one needs to understand that there are three areas in our Earth considered as “centers of biodiversity” (in layman’s terms, the most cosmopolitan areas for flora and fauna): the first is the Amazon River that flows to the Amazon Basin, the second is the Congo Basin and finally, the Coral Triangle. The first two are familiar to everyone because of the proper nouns attached to their location and mass media box office hits like ‘Congo’ and ‘Anaconda.’ The Coral Triangle is less familiar as it stretches across the following countries: Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste.
The thing with the Coral Triangle is that although it is considered to be the MOST DIVERSE of the three centers of biodiversity, it is the hardest to access as everything there is well, underwater. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it allows the Triangle to thrive almost without any intervention from human beings.
This was my second time to return to San Agapito Reef, third and fourth time to dive it. Accentuated by strong currents and the apex of a small island jutting out of the ocean, we made our way down to the wall, hugging it, drifting along with the current. I intentionally used a more serene soundtrack to contrast the very strong currents to give a contrasting “calming yet furious” effect.
It is a good day to dive
And guess what? The Philippines is blessed to be at the center of it all due to two particular reefs: Tubbataha and Apo Reef. There is also a third wonder, which is San Agapito Reef in Verde Island. This place — Verde Island was declared as the Center of the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity in the World. And nobody knows about this? There’s something wrong with the way we’ve been marketing this country.
The chart below should explain things a bit better. This was taken from Science Mag’s report on biodiversity (2002). Click on the image to make it bigger.
We’re spoiled with the best diversity of corals, reef fish, and two of the most interesting (and non-predatory) big blue gems: Mantas and Whale Sharks, both found in abundance in plankton rich waters of Donsol (sometimes even in Anilao, Batangas). By human intervention, we’re also home to the historical wrecks of Coron Bay — 11 World War II Japanese boats that were sunk during the war.
My only regret was that we could only stay here for a day. I dove Apo Reef as part of a WWF Philippines and Cebu Pacific initiative for the Bright Skies Program. Since the airline flies more frequently due to their ever-so-affordable rates, there is increased CO2 emitted into the atmosphere thus accelerating global warming. If you purchased an e-ticket recently, there is an additional option to donate to this cause (I think it is around PHP 60.00 per flight). The Bright Skies program allows you to donate to the WWF for the preservation of Apo Reef and for projects within Sablayan, Mindoro.
It’s really that. It’s a bit parallel if you think about it. The real beauty of these islands is all about what lies beneath us. And I guess that’s why I dive. And that’s why I encourage people to do so. It changes your perspective about who we are as a people and what we’re safeguarding.