In this issue of Dispatch Magazine

The next time you step into R.O.X. at Bonifacio High Street, do check out the newly reformatted Dispatch Magazine with Toby Martin as EIC. It’s now smaller and thus easier to bring around. Just in time for Sinulog, this issue of Dispatch is all about Cebu in the Visayas. In this issue, I have a three-page guide on SCUBA Diving in some of the best sites in Cebu with photos by Jan Acosta.

I’m also quite proud to be a contributor for a magazine that has partnered with National Geographic Channel for producing content about the Philippines. Check it out! There’s lot of really good stuff on Cebu written by veterans such as Chip Childers, Sandy Kiamko and Mona Polo.


Worse than a needle in a haystack

This article first appeared UNO Magazine’s December-January ’11 issue

Pygmy seahorse by Jan Acosta

What does it really take to shoot underwater photos?

“Are the pygmies still there?”

The spotter nods, implying something that Jan and the rest of the group already know. At about 80 ft deep, there is a white fan coral about 1 meter high in full plumage. There’s a pygmy seahorse somewhere there. That’s what we’re looking for today.

Take a grain of rice, split it in two, and then throw one half into the ocean. That grain, split, is roughly the size of one of nature’s smallest creatures. In all irony, they’re also one of the more territorial, with their tails clasping on to the veins of fan coral, their natural habitat. To add to the frustration, pygmies take on the color and texture of the host corals. Jan, the group’s fearless leader checks his buoyancy control device, fins, straps, and tank, making sure everything’s in place.

Read the full article.


It’s out on Travelbook.PH: A “Zero to Deco” Guide to Diving in the Philippines

Over the vacation I compiled a 3 page guide to diving in the Philippines. This primer is geared towards Filipinos who have always been curious about diving and launch into the deep (duc in altum!) with this new endeavor. It addresses questions such as rates, how to choose a dive instructor, where to begin, and even addresses concerns about knowing how to swim and if sharks will eat you. They also linked to some of the videos I took.

The article, as well as a series of trip files are all located in Summit Media’s new destination guide and directory, It is managed by a fellow blogger, Betty Tianco, who I really respect for building and making it THE authority for south-based (i.e. Las Pinas, Alabang, Bicutan, Sucat) cravings.

Hope you pick up something from it. This is a “living article” so it is bound to be improved through time based on the comments from people who want to learn to dive and from actual divers and dive masters / instructors. To fellow divers, if you have things to add, please hop on to the site and leave a comment.

Photos for the article were taken by Wowie Wong.


Remembering 2010: Marking 102 Dives with video

Probably the best investment I made this year was for a decent underwater video camera. I accumulated over 42GB worth of raw underwater footage and I must say that documenting my dives is easily the most rewarding experience this year, perhaps ever! As a volunteer for WWF Philippines I also donate all my videos to their coral triangle efforts.

So here they are, my top diving vids for 2010:

*Viewing advice*
Watching all of these videos could take a while. If you have time to spare, do grab a bag of chips and a drink. Enjoy!


Anvaya Cove Clam Seeding: How to rehabilitate a coral reef with giant clams

The video above documents the clam seeding activity in Anvaya Cove. 79 giant clams were brought in on Friday, December 4 2009 and went through acclimatization in the shallow water a few feet from the shore. The next day, all the clams were tagged and measured. Out of the 79 clams, there were four mature “daddy” clams at about 8 years of age that would be responsible for inducing spawning.

Video footage taken using a Sony Cybershot DSC W230 with Marine Pack. Footage edited with iMovie.



There are only about 37,000 giant clams (tridacna gigas) left in the Philippines and they’re almost all grown from the UP Marine Institute in Bolinao. Realistically, giant clams are already extinct mostly because they become victim to human intervention. Giant clams are a delicacy. They are also used in the construction of holy water pedestals in Churches and ornamental bathroom sinks. Just to give you an idea, the Philippines has seven out of the documented nine species of giant clams in the world, and the tridacna gigas is the biggest.


On December 5 2009, Anvaya Cove (an Ayala Land Premiere development) in Subic organized a giant clam seeding program to rehabilitate their house reef. A total of 79 giant clams were seeded. I joined a group of volunteer divers for the seeding program.


I met Louie and Chen Mencias of Bluewater Consultancy, the guys in charge of the clam seeding operation in Anvaya. If you’ve ever been to Dive and Trek in Bauan, Batangas and Twin Rocks in Anilao, these were the same guys who seeded clams in those sites earlier this decade.

Here’s an example of a giant clam that was seeded around 2003 in Dive and Trek. They’re now really big. I like kicking up the water above its mantle to make the clam open up:

REEForestation: How clams actually rehabilitate reefs
Giant clam seeding is the fastest method to rehabilitate a reef. The concept is really simple — these clams are hermaphrodites which means that when they reach sexual maturity of 8 years (male) and 10 years (they become female), they can release either sperm or eggs into the reef. When one clam spawns, other clams will also start spawning millions of sperm and eggs. The fish love this because this is what they eat. The more clams spawn, the more fish become attracted to the reef. Small fish eat the clam spawn. Big fish eat the small fish. And that’s the circle of life underwater.






Because of competition underwater, fish will start to branch out around the sanctuary, and this is the area where fisher folk are allowed to catch. Give it a few years and a barren reef will flourish.

P.S. Thanks to Rosan for the photo of me gearing up!