Mostly Everything

A blow by blow account of the most exciting 3 minutes of my life

Welcome to Pescador Island. Having dove the area the previous day we already were very much acquainted with the mysterious sardine run that appeared around the island. Locals discovered the sudden influx of millions of sardines. Two months prior, word got out to the dive community. Along with the sardines came predatory thresher sharks that would appear ’round the clock for feeding time. Today though, we were not prepared for what we were about to experience!

0:01 The plan was to descend to 60ft and wait in one of the coves. The cove would disperse the bubbles that we were making underwater so as not to scare the sharks away. Less bubbles, the better. Within one minute of waiting, our dive master pointed downwards, suddenly excited. Expecting threshers, we were in for a very special treat. A whale shark’s mouth suddenly became visible from 70ft and the fish was making its way up.

0:06 That’s me screaming “OH MY GOD!” in tandem with everyone else.

0:16 Still screaming, I decided to swim into the blue towards the fish. The whole body became visible at this point and the whale shark was around 20 ft.

0:25 Despite how “slow” the fish looks due to its nonchalant and graceful movements underwater, it is pretty damn fast.

0:32 Wowie had the same idea and swam after the shark as well. As you can see, he’s finning pretty damn hard to catch up as well.

0:39 That’s me laughing and catching my breath. “It’s too fast!”

0:51 Jan appears on my right. A stroke of luck — the whale shark decides to make for the surface and breach, which meant that we would be able to catch up. I swim faster to get a better view.

0:59 You can hear my dive computer beeping. It’s not just mine. Everyone was beeping. We were too excited and were rising fast. We stabilized at 40ft. Again, from the video it seems that the shark moves very slow but don’t be fooled by its graceful movements — it’s fast!

1:19 A small school of sardines swim by adding a bit of foreground to the already amazing sighting.

1:39 In full view (what an amazing sight!), the shark starts to dive again.

1:42 Holy #$%^ it’s getting closer. We’re at 80ft.

1:48 We make eye contact as it turns toward me. I have never experienced anything like this before. Adrenaline and fear were playing a game of tug of war with my wits.

1:53 I must point out that although I had video on the whole time I was barely looking at the camera. I’d glance once in a while to see if I still had the creature within my frame. The shark passes me. I was two meters away. I wanted to swim closer but doing so might have agitated the fish.

2:08 The shark makes its way to my dive buddies. You can see strobes going off. We had a “no strobes” policy for shooting the threshers and sardines because the former have very sensitive eyes. Nobody said anything about strobes off with a whale shark. HEH.

2:59 One of the girls screaming “Oh my god!” as it makes its way back towards us. WOW. Heck, everyone was screaming.

3:08 One last pass, but not as close as the previous one.

I had snorkeled with whale sharks before in Donsol but it has no comparison to actually diving with one. Moalboal was a big dive spot in the 90’s but because of dynamite fishing, the area degraded. Due to storms, Pescador Island’s white sand has now eroded into the rough cliffs. The mysterious arrival of the sardines has created a boom in local tourism. Who knows how long the fish will stay?

If you’re planning on going to Pescador Island to experience the sardine run, you have to go NOW.

Mostly Everything

Preparing for Malapascua

I’ll be going on a much anticipated trip to Malapascua by the end of the week. Threshers,Mantas and Mandarin fish (mating) await! Here’s an email detailing the proposed itinerary for 10 dives. There’s an error in the time between Bogtong Bato and the second Monad Shoal dive on day one as it didn’t take surface interval time into consideration.

Dive itinerary proposed by Evolution
“On your arrival day I am going to suggest we let you relax a little rather then jumping straight in so how about we start your diving day with an 830am dive at Monad. We like to go there as all the boats have left after the 530am dive and we think there is a spike of activity then. The sharks do spend less time on the stations but we still see them. I took customers there this week and we got shark, Manta and 20 plus Devil Rays so everyone was happy.

Then we can dive again at 11am – perhaps a local dive site like Bogtong Bato for great macro. In the afternoon we can do another macro dive or if the group prefers go back to Monad for more Manta hunting. Then you can do the Mandarin fish dive at 5pm.”

On Day Two I suggest 5am for Monad Shoal, followed by a day trip to the Dona Marylin and Gato Island (apply fuel surcharge of 350/person). I really think they are worth doing. Then we can do a night dive at Bantigue Bay at 630 and get back in time for beer and food!

On your last day I think its 5am Thresher dive again and a 930 dive on one of our local Macro sites – Lapus Lapus or Gilleano.

830 Monad Shoal
1100 Bogtong Bato
1200 Monad Shoal
1730 Lighthouse (Mandarin Dive)

0500 Monad Shoal
0900 Day Trip Dona Marylin / Gato (+350/person fuel surcharge)
1830 Night Dive Bantigue Bay

0500 Monad Shoal
0930 Gileano or Lapus Lapus

On an ending note, I’d really love to level up my conversation with the video lens into what these guys are doing with their commentary:

Mostly Everything

The Day Trip: Anilao

A new mix of dive buddies which may turn into something more regular, with more people! Ramon de Veyra asked me if I wanted to go on a day trip dive with Quark, Neva and her family. This video is the result. It’s really the ‘Ramon de Veyra Underwater Show.’

Below is raw footage of the octopus doing it’s camouflage thing — color and texture changing right before your very eyes. I’ve never gotten this kind of up close and personal footage. The cephalopod seemed to stand its ground and displayed the warning signs of it being threatened. I had the LED light turned off so as not to intimidate it further. I guess that was a good thing because it stayed.

P.S. Aquaventure Dive Resort now has free WiFi. No passwords!

Mostly Everything

Happy 100th, Jacques Cousteau!

“Buoyed by water, he can fly in any direction – up, down, sideways – by merely flipping his hand. Underwater man becomes an archangel.” — Jacques Yves-Costeau

To the guy who made it all possible, happy 100th anniversary!

Mostly Everything

Congratulations to Benj and Vangie!

You know, it’s been a WHILE since I got comments that could serve as actual blog posts. You know, I wish I could have given away more tickets — I really wish I could! But the reality of the situation is that I only have two. And these two go to Benj and Vangie.

I chose Vangie (Banggigay) because of her apparent (and overflowing) passion for the ocean, coupled with her advocacy to hasten the adoption of solar energy in the Philippines. I chose Benj because when I first met him, he didn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would care, until we got to hang out a bit more and on one weekend, actually got to dive. Both of them are also in positions of influence (not that the others aren’t) which means that, metaphysically, “the good tends to spread” so I hope the good spreads faster with the two of them attending the talk.

This is not to say that I paid no heed to the comments of the rest — everyone did a good job, especially alongside the exchange of whether we should really “open” our marine treasures to more tourism. I wish I had more tickets to give out! 🙂

I’d like to quote from the comments:

Man has only been around for quite a short amount of time – if the entire history of the earth were to be scrunched into 24 hours, man wouldn’t appear until the last second before the clock strikes midnight. Yet as it stands, it seems like the brief stretch of time that man has threatens the very existence and future of many organisms that came way before man. It’s a sad reality.

It is only through looking this humble perspective and this lens does one understand how minuscule he or she is as far as the world is concerned and how important it is to not harm anything in the eighty or so years that he’ll spend as a living organism on the planet. We are but a drop in the bucket – in an existential sense, it may sound very drab and somewhat depressing but that’s what it is and we have to take it for what it is. It’s calming to be part of a collective and to consider yourself as something that is one with nature and one with the only certain truth – the earth allowed millions of years of processes and evolution and for some reason, fate has allowed you to be you – at this time and at this moment.
Once you think about it that way, everything seems to feel a lot different. (from Benj)

Call me pessimistic, but part of me is glad that not many people know about the Philippines being in the center of this biodiversity.

Jayvee, I’ve spent months admiring your photographs and personal documentaries of these spectacular reefs. Sure, it would be wonderful if we market the Tubbataha, Apo Reef, and San Agapito Reef, but doesn’t it make you shudder to think about what would become of these spots when mainstream tourism hits in? (from Kate)

One of the more effective conservation projects done, although, this was outside the Philippines used the community approach. Before one educates one must first understand the community its culture and its society. The community was encouraged to re-seed giant clams and protect each area. The people believed and associated the reef as the home of their ancestors an spirit and guarding it was part of their duty.

Its more effective to convert and educate at the same time. (from Juned)

I think I understand what you’re trying to say–the Philippines’ beautiful diving sites are a bit underrated, considering that it’s relatively better (if not the best) compared to other diving locations. It is a bit frustrating too that we Filipinos don’t know this fact for ourselves. Even I have to admit that I wouldn’t have known that our country has the cooler “diving features” than other spots out there until I’ve stumbled upon your blog. (from Joben)

I believe there is nothing wrong in Philippines’ attempt to showcase its world-class dive sites to entice tourists – both local and foreign. Its marketing shots, albeit mediocre relative to its fellow Coral Triangle members, have specific, defined and viable potential. However, the absence of sustainable ecotourism program poses danger, or at worst destruction, to fragile natural marine ecosystem.
The real challenge is the formulation of specific programs and the effective methodology to ensure long term viability or sustainability of ecotourism. Marketing development and Return of Investment of Ecotourism should be put under microscopic lens to fully identify its enveloping intricate feasibility and responsibility.
Excessive and rapid development of coastal tourism (as the case of Puerto Galera, Boracay, etc) without consideration for sustainable ecotourism is approaching its breaking point that would lead to its serious decline of its surrounding water quality or may lead to further ecological problems like beach erosion retreat, runoff water to seas that affects balance of marine ecosystem and extending polluted sea area.
Ecotourism can be an important growth point of national economy (like that of Maldives, Phuket etc.) BUT we need a solid program that carries out effective sustainable ecotourism. We should have established guidelines to reduce ecotourism’s environmental impacts (if not totally eliminate) using measurable parameters. We need to take series of measures to promote ecotourism whilst effectively protecting marine ecosystem. This should not exclude grassroot level approach in educating about the sustainable strategies to those living along the coastlines, who are the actual stakeholders in the equation. It is through vigorous training and education of these stakeholders, real and absolute results can be achieved. (from Vangie)

I have to admit that I was pretty cynical about your endeavors, I mean with limited time, I have more important things to do (read: work, bills, relationships, etc) and being aware of my surroundings is far from my mind, parang let DENR and Greenpeace take charge.

but then this blog came along and i realized that at twenty five years old, I am missing a lot of important things, diving under the sea including. thanks to you guys, i became curious and started to read stuff about diving and taking it the extra mile like making use of decommissioned cars as substitute corals and yeah meron palang under the sea basura scavengers (akalain mo) but i wont be doing that yet, certainly not alone and not to soon. but for the meantime i will lessen my yosi intake from four sticks to five, that way i lessen my carbon footprint and that means, less chances of coral bleaching and more happy Nemos and Dyesebel out there. (from Marvin)

Hi Jayvee. I really admire people who dive and not just dive BUT do their share in protecting out marine environment. I tried diving once but my fear of deep see water & other sea creatures (maybe due to trauma when I was bitten by a jellyfish when I was a kid!) kept me from doing it again. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that people like me cannot do something for our environment, right? And thanks to people like you – we need to EDUCATE more and more people how to protect our environment. I am looking forward to see more education campaigns on this.

One of the things on my to-do-list-before-I-die is to do something meaningful for the environment (aside from being a mother to my 2 kids)… something for the future generations…something for our country…in my own little ways. I don’t know if that will happen but ever since I fell in love with our very own Philippine handmade papers, I began to see the path to my dream. I hope through my work, I am doing something for the environment and our country. It is my dream to be in this event but I have 2 kids to send to school next month so the budget for the ticket went to tuition fees & books Nevertheless, I am happy that more and more people are going GREEN! More power to your blog…(i’m an avid reader ) Sorry for the long post…na-carried away lang po. (from Airees)