Posts Tagged 'diving'

back from oblivion


the past three and a half years have been a journey. and i know how delinquent i got in visiting my crib. it’s not fair cuz in the past years, i had soooo many beautiful adventures i can only wish now i have blogged right away.

but then again, hey! not that i have more time now in my hands, but i wish not to visit this again without anything to remind me how my week, or my month or my year of chasing dreams was.

so, let’s sit a spell once more and take the ride! <3 


Dive Galapagos – check!!!

it’s been a little over a month since my buddy and i took our first backroll into the waters of the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

but i can still feel the thrill…the excitement…the butterflies are still there ♥

and if it isn’t enough, i’ll share some more sea luvin, which i co-wrote with wanderlass here:


Tubbataha Love Affair

What we went through to finally be again aboard this vessel, Stella Maris, would give the reality show, ‘The Amazing Race’, run for its money. But that’s history already (hop here for the story).

And I am not exaggerating if I say the suspense ‘24’ always delivers was pale in comparison to what I had at the airport’s check-in counter 20minutes before ETD (Estimated Time of Departure)…yes folks…20minutes before ETD because of a long, slow & chaotic campaign motorcade of a mayoral & vice mayoral candidates of Quezon City which I’m tailing to. It made my supposed 40-minute drive swell to 90minutes of unbearable, heart-pounding and buzzer-beating-not travel time. But thanks to L & Z who pressed hard the check-in officer not to close the counter as I am only a minute away (actually they’ve been saying that for the past 15mins, my friends are just cheeky like that). I was lucky too that the flight was delayed thus they have generously extended the checking-in time for me.  With my laptop bag, DSLR camera bag, 10kg duffel bag, I felt light, almost elated in fact, because I made it and the promise of Tubbataha was already within reach.

From the smooth landing to Palawan’s soil to the airport transfer to PPS Pier to the embarkation to Expedition Fleet’s Stella Maris, everything went like a breeze.  I have to say though I felt rather odd not to have hassles & stress since we flew out Manila. I’ve been waiting for those mishaps to break lose again but none came until we sailed to the open seas around dusk time, right after TPMO oriented the 18 aboard divers of Park’s laws and policies and got off the boat.

M/V Stella Maris Explorer

M/V Stella Maris Explorer, our home for 7 days (photo from SPD)

It’s more than a month of waiting for this second attempt and we were careful not to spill any hint of excitement to our other friends outside the Mamburao crew. We’re hush-hush the entire time not to preempt the trip again. But amongst us, an uncontainable excitement was ever present. You can call it a delayed reaction when we all started celebrating. We have already lost mobile phone signal and traversed the strait when we, all 10 members of the original 20-member Mamburao crew, cheered in unison, “THIS IS IT!!!”.

I was greeted the next morning with a ringing bell signaling our first dive of the day! Finally, thankfully, officially we’re right at the heart of Sulu Sea and below where our boat was moored is arguably The Holy Grail of Philippine diving! What else can we ask for but to gear up, hop on our assigned chase boat and ask either our buddy or the boat man “clear?”. It didn’t take us long before we all found ourselves doing a synchronized back roll to the Amos Rock dive site. Boy!!! The splashing of waters and our dive computer’s beep echoed sweetly to my ears as my closest dive buddies and I descend to the depths. Water temperature was perfect and visibility was incredible! The reef wall, which we kept on our right shoulder was heavily covered with colourful gorgonian fans, whip corals, christmas tree worms, and soft corals. On our left was an infinity of blue waters liven up by a seemingly soiree of various fishes. It’s stunning, overwhelming and magical until on the twelfth minute immediately after L & I saw our first juvenile shark, a minor mishap on my inflator hose shot me & my buddy Z to the surface. (This deserves a separate post).

banggigay wall diving

drift diving (photo from Sharkbite)

The succeeding dives were all drift dives making it more enjoyable and doubly exciting! We rode the current as we get charmed with the pelagic around us. Hawksbill sea turtles, Bluespotted Stingrays, Marble Rays, Eagle Ray, Nurse sharks, Grey reef sharks, Blacktip sharks and the ubiquitous Whitetip sharks were perpetually gracing all our dives. Schools of big Tuna, Trevally, Barracudas, Grouper,  Harlequinn Sweetlips, Wrasses, Parrot fish, Bat fish, Angel fish, Damsel fish and a lot more marine species we are yet to fish ID gave us an extravagant showdown underwater. Our safety stops were like send-offs to us by playing big, fat Whitetip sharks and turtles as they swim around us to conclude each dive with a remarkable close shallow encounter.

whitetip shark

Whitetip shark (photo from SPD)

sleeping shark

sleeping shark (photo from SPD)

school of juvenile barracuda

school of juvenile Barracuda (photo from SPD)

Hawksbill sea turtle

Hawksbill sea turtle (photo from SPD)

bluespotted stingray

Bluespotted Stingray (photo from SPD)

Emperor Angelfish

Emperor Angelfish (photo from SPD)

preggo map puffer fish

prego map puffer fish (photo from SPD)

It was so surreal you wish to hold the time for as long as you could. Fifty to sixty minutes of diving wasn’t just enough to marvel the beauty of Tubbataha Atolls. Tubbataha indeed defines ‘teeming with diversity of marine life’!!! It first teases you with its 20-30m great visibility then transports you to an enchanting world of marine life before it finally seduces you to the pleasurable climax of the whole diving experience!

We came to Tubbataha with a very high expectation, as we hear our buddies, who dove it, rave about it incessantly even after 2-8 yrs have already passed. We knew that sightings of hammerhead sharks and roving mantas are few and far in between, but we were optimistic of what a wild marine park can deliver. We did not relinquish the quest and up to our last day of diving at Shark Airport, we were positive about seeing them. But when we did our final chase boat ride back to our chartered boat, after our 20th dive, there was no sign of disappointment nor discontent among the 10 divers for not seeing them on this trip. With such lush landscape and bountiful sea life, how could we ask for more?! We were all ecstatic and screaming “we love you Tubbataha” for all the world to hear how fantastic the weeklong trip was!

Mamburao Group (at least half of it) at Tubbataha ReefMamburao Crew (at least half of it) at Tubbataha Reef promoting world class Philippine diving (photo from SPD)

banggigay's tubbataha dive log map dive log map (map courtesy of this site)

chase boats

Parked Chase Boats (photo from Wanderlass)

last day euphoriaLast day euphoria at shower deck (photo from Sharkbite)

Tubbataha you did not fail us! All these raves about you are nothing but understatements of what we have experienced in the last five days of diving! In your waters, there was a spiritual experience. I was humbled immensely how little we were compared to the vast beauty you have generously shown us. If to others, you are a love-hate relationship, you to me are love, love, and love alone!  You are beautiful and immeasurably so much more!

fish ID was aided by this site

– photos were from SPD, Wanderlass, Sharkbite

– dive site map was from this site

– for further info on Tubbataha Reef Conservation, please hop here

back to dry land

…after 7 awesome days!

– Tubbataha Reef National Park

– Sharks (Grey Reef, Blacktip, Nurse and the ubiquitous Whitetip!!!)

– Bluespotted Stingray, Marble Ray, Eagle Ray

– school of Jacks/Trevally, Barracudas, Dogtooth Tuna & even Titan Trigger fish

– bunch of fish we’re yet to fish ID

– wall diving / drift diving

– 4 fantastic dives per day

– lovely Bird islet

– gorgeous sunsets

– turquoise waters

– reggae all day

– havin some booze at night

– countless photos & vids

– loads of laughters

– beautiful people

good times indeed!!!

hello world! banggigay is indeed back, albeit still suffering from severe case of Tubbataha Withdrawal Syndrome. she is unsure though how long it would take her to recover. however she is considering having a so-called ‘Transition Dive Trip’ for a smoother and more gradual shift from a full time diver to a 24/7 project manager again.

i’d post soon a proper entry about The Great Tubbataha Experience, promise!!! i’m posting some teaser photos for you though! :-)

banggigay, wanderlass, silverprodigy

– thanks to Stephen & Wanderlass (respectively) for the photos :-)

enthralled all over again

going back to Coron for the 3rd time didn’t feel like it at all. especially this time around, i was with my closest dive buddies and closest friends.

concocted only the night before the booked flight, diving Calamianes is the next best plan after a failed Tubbataha live aboard adventure. i could have easily suggested a different destination, like Malapascua or Siquijor (both places i aim to do some diving too), but the charm of this group of islands in Northern Palawan beckons me like its own child, longing to throw me a party for my homecoming of some sort.

for a starter, Barracuda Lake elicited a wooooah! moment as we were welcomed with such beauty after climbing the karsts. T, a brit chap who’s been a full time traveler for two years already, exclaimed ‘gorgeous!’,  in my head though i said ‘wait till you see Kayangan Lake’

fantastic!!!-Kayangan Lake, view from the dividing hill, 2005

Barracuda Lake famous for its reverse thermocline property and the lone barracuda that resides in it, was successful in setting the bar high in Coron’s diving experience.

we ended the night at some local joint close to our resort, with a toast to awesome dives in the next days.

barracuda lake-L-Barracuda Lake, photo from wanderlass

true enough, the next 4 days were filled with beautiful adventures as we conquer each ship wreck. funny how penetrating Akitsushima gave me nostalgia of my first ever penetration dive last 2008. i was with my foreign dive group and E, my buddy, were all inside the lower chamber already, when i suddenly chickened out and felt claustrophobic seeing the small, really dark and unfamiliar passageway. i had to pause for a moment and rethink whether i indeed want to do it. E went back to me and asked me if there’s something wrong, but i just signaled that OK sign, without thinking. during the first few meters of finning, i can almost hear my heart throbbing unusually hard. i was sooo close to aborting when a hand reached for me and led me to the end of the tunnel. it was a reassuring hand that made me go back to my senses and reminded me, ‘you’re trained and equipped to do this. we can do it’. now 2 years have passed, in the absence of the split second anxiety and dependable buddy (not that i’m saying my new buddy wasn’t dependable) but equipped with new learning and experiences, i saw Akitsushima differently. a humongous 150m long warship, lying on its side, is remarkable for its good penetration. thrice i heard J, the usually silent one, muttered ‘wooooow!’ underwater.

Coron Crewthe Coron Crew, photo from indayguapa

siete pecados-bday 1, after the Siete Pecados dive, photo from indayguapa


irako– Irako warship, photo from indayguapa

as if the awesome dives weren’t enough, we found ourselves plunging to the turquoise water of Calamianes to head to the uninhabited little private island and find solace on its stretch of white sand. i was actually thinking of bringing my friends to Kayangan Lake, but realised that it’s the perfect way to end an action-packed weeklong holiday, with lovely sunset as our backdrop, with a cold beer on one hand and chips on the other, with sand between our toes.

CYC island-K-2– the crew heading to CYC island, photo from Kat

CYC island-K– beautiful island, photo from Kat

holiday salvaged. dive fix met. Coron revisited. old flame rekindled.

good times yeaaaaah!

almost Tubba, but not quite

when you’ve been planning for a trip for almost a year already – money, time, equipment, & mind set – only to be told by the boat manager that there’s a problem in the boat’s bearing after only about 6hrs into the open sea and can’t possibly proceed to sail to Apo / Tubbataha, you’d challenge Murphy’s Law and push your way to salvage the trip.

saturday morning, when we’re supposed to have finished our 1st Apo dive, we learned that Borneo Explorer is on its way to Mamburao waters (where we were stranded) so we can transfer and continue the trip. oblivious of what to be announced that night, we opted to maximize the day by doing an exploratory dive around the area. the dive spot being too close to a fishing village, and not protected under Marine Park jurisdiction, there was literally no life at all, or was there? i can’t actually remember. the 50min dive was longer than i can recall. i was sooo bored that i chose to skip the second dive. it didn’t help to think that around that time we should already be in Apo Reef and frolicking on the beauty of the splendid marine biodiversity of the atoll.

Pacific Explorer II

8ish that night, as BE gets closer to us, our hopes were high that we’d sail in a few hours and would miss only about 2 dives in Cuyo Island. but another bomb was dropped when we were told by G, the boat manager, that the owner, Mr. Wee, wanted both boats back in Anilao and will just cancel the trip. Mr. Wee sent BE to tow PE2 and not to actually pick us up to sail forward to Apo/ Tubba. with 24 fully paid divers, and very eager not to waste the week trip, despite the frustration, came to a compromise to agree to be towed back on the premise that as soon as the boats reached Anilao, will board BE and head to Apo/ Tubba immediately. we all understood that we lost 2 diving days already, but who the hell cares? we wanted the trip sooo bad, and we’re all willing to bend our backs. we thought we’d deal with the owner, once the trip is over.

sunday morning ’bout 7ish, when we’re supposed to have finished our 1st dive in Cuyo, we were again hit by another devastating news, Mr. Wee wanted us to disembark and just refund the money we paid for the trip, just that! no discussion, no negotiation! as if money was the only concern of the divers who have planned this trip and redesigned their schedules so as to be able to have an 8-day dive trip.

everyone was so furious, as we, the clients, felt we have been bending our backs when there was no effort on the other side of the table at all. he didn’t even try to call any of us to hear our compromise just to proceed the Apo/ Tubba trip.

it was a perfect example of bad business practice – not delivering to your clients what has been agreed and not knowing how to handle crisis properly. arrrrrg!!! it boils down to the fact too that Cruise Island Adventure (more known as Scuba World) has the monopoly of the Tubbataha route, thus the less care for clients so much so of their safety.

as we were left without a choice, we disembarked the boat and trusted that they will keep their word of a full refund the next day (monday). we were though offered a free overnight stay at Outrigger Resort (owned by Mr. Wee too), and do dives for free for that day.

of the 24 divers, 18 stayed overnight and enjoyed the day whilst planning for the next best alternative for the failed tubba trip. within few hours, 13 divers were booked for a flight to Busuanga and do ship wrecked dives instead.

sunday, 10ish evening, abs-cbn batangas went to the resort to interview our group. we wanted to make sure that CIA owner understands the gravity of the situation – safety & bad business practice.

PE2 is solely dedicated for tubba trips with March to June season only. they had july to feb to ensure that their boats are fit to sail to commence new tubba season. how on earth can a bearing be overlooked (when it’s actually a wear and tear part of the engine) and be the source of failure? 24 divers along with at least a 10-member boat crew’s safety were put to risk, by letting an unfit boat sail to open seas. something worse could have happened if it wasn’t discovered right away.

next morning, Monday, we were driven back to Manila at the resort’s expense, and headed straight to CIA/ Scuba World’s office. we were actually prepared for a long and unpleasant argument with the owner, but we were surprised that the discussion went like a breeze – full refund, including booked flights to Palawan. he was apologetic and looked like he didn’t know any better when he made the decision to tow us back. he even said he didn’t know we were ready to make a compromises and cut the tubba dive days. we don’t actually know who was telling the truth -the boat manager or the owner. was he really unaware of the compromises willing to take just to proceed the trip which we have clearly expressed to G, or was he just trying to cover his @$$e from embarassment?

whilst others opted to refund the money – our foreign friends who can’t possibly stay longer in MNL for a rebooked trip – majority chose to rebook a later date.

have to mention though how accommodating and extra apologetic the crew members were when we’re still on the boat. even when we were already at the resort, they took care of us unconditionally. Mr.Wee is lucky to have very good employees like them.

we dashed to the airport to catch a 1PM flight. lo & behold!!! just after we’ve haggled (but failed) to give us a free kg for each head as we checked-in our baggage (with already prepaid addl 5kg each), we heard the PA of our flight’s cancellation due to bush fire at the Busuanga Airport!!!

i never felt Murphy’s law as i did that day. we were so bummed we were stripped off with emotions. we thought if the world was indeed conspiring against us, why were we spared in the open seas? how did we manage to get a booking to Coron in a snap? obviously our unbreakable spirits are in the works.

we managed to get a rebooking on the next earliest flight the next day. i said though to Z, if after tomorrow’s attempt, we’d again fail, i’d accept defeat, let go of the week-long holiday and head home.

determined not to miss our early morning flight the next day, we decided to spend overnight at K‘s place at Magallanes and relaxed the night away. we called masseuse to come over her place and had an awesome an hour and a half massage :-)

7ish of Tuesday morning, it felt like deja vu to be back at the airport and queue for our baggages to be checked-in. we lack the strength already to negotiate for the baggage allowance so we just paid whatever the officer charged us. it’s past the baording time already when we heard another announcement – “Flight 5J5298 bound to Busuanga is temporarily on-hold due to low visibility around the area. please wait for further announcement in the next 15minutes.”

for people who had mishaps after mishaps for the past 4 days, 15minutes mean an eternity of waiting! there wasn’t a word uttered, wasn’t a complaint vented. silence was the prevailing element.

until a real upper was announced. flight pushed thru and in a little over an hour, we have landed the busuanga airport!!!

we were quick to let go of a guffaw and articulated – “F-I-N-A-L-L-Y!!!!!”

loading our super heavy dive equipment

my 3rd coron

what we went through the past days was unimaginable. and to finally set foot again in Coron was an effin relief!!! i whispered to myself, ‘thank God we’re safe’

we may have failed to conquer Apo Reef / Tubbataha Reef, but we’re blessed a hundred fold over to gain new dive buddies!!! amidst all that went on in the past days, we were actually still having fun.

wanderlass & banggigay

chase boat

aboard PE2

at the jacuzzi deck

we may have been deprived to experience Tubbataha’s beauty that time, but we have experienced real & beautiful friendship!!! how can i complain?


– Coron adventure on my next post :-)

– photos from indayguapa, jayvzter, bembong, boni & suzette

– cross-posted to wandersoles

4 reasons why i joined the condura run

run for the dolphins

Concepcions (elo Ton & Pat!) may have 10 reasons to join the Condura race. i, on the other hand only have four.

One. i’m an environment stewardess a.k.a. tree hugger

race’ main cause was to save the dolphins. and whatever it is to save the ecosystem, count me in! i overheard during the race day, the emcee said for each registrant, Php50 would go to the conservation fund.(please correct me if i’m wrong). with 8,500 runners (that’s effin Php425,000.00!!!), substantial moolah to carry out the rehabilitation of the baclayon pier and the building of floating wharf.

Two. i’m a nomad and Bohol ranks high in my favorite Wow Philippines’ destination.

i’ve been to Bohol twice and wouldn’t think twice of going back again should an opportunity comes. and on both occasions, i was up before the dawn broke and hopped on the outrigger boat to Pamilacan to watch the dolphins dance gracefully to their audience’ heart’s content! on both times, it was magical!!!

isn’t it awesome to make Baclayon and Pamilacan Islands as the beneficiary islands? :-)

Three.i’m a scuba diver.

nothing can make this advocacy to save the marine life be any more meaningful to a heart of a true blue scuba diver! when you have actually gone through the depths of the water and have actually communed with the marine life, you’d be awed how much beauty is there underneath. then you’d learn to respect it and care for it beyond words.

Four.i’m a runner.

even if running doesn’t reciprocate my luv, i luv it unconditionally. it’s been an on & off affair, mainly due to injuries, but i always find myself going back to it – with undiminished passion. S, was a witness how i got overly excited the night before the race, i kept on tossing and turning, which was a bummer cuz we got late by 40ish minutes . when i saw how empty the 10k route already – runners have already gone – i had the choice to go back and just take the 5K route and run with my friends instead. but i thought, ‘hmmm. who gives a damn if i’d run alone and be at the tail end? i run not for anything, i run because of one simple reason –!’ so i went on and continue the race. it felt good hearing your feet strike the ground of a familiar route. kalayaan fly over used to be my ‘kill-me-now’ part, but surprisingly i crossed it like a gentle wind – unnoticed yet sweet! i haven’t even hit my 3rd km when i saw other 10K runners going down the fly over, ‘good to know, i’m no longer alone on the road’ was my thought bubble :-) a couple of nods here and there to running acquaintances and even to strangers and that proverbial hollers and high fives to good ol’ running friends. it was then i realized how much i missed joining races. after i made the turn around, all i can think about was to reach the uphill again of Kalayaan.  crazy i know! but i want to run facing east to be enthralled with the beauty of sunrise! with less than 2kms to go, i felt the throbbing on my left knee. it wasn’t a nasty pain, but i decided not to push it further. i reduced my pace and did a positive split. the moment i took out my trail mix stash, i knew it’s chikka pace time.

1:56:58 (condura result) – 00:44:12 (lapsed after the gun shot) = 1:12:58; 7.2 min/km;

i may have officially ran sloooooow but i have crossed the finish line immensely happy! :-)

5mins after crossing the finish line

proud finishers


*photos from wanderlass, marco & edith

tweeting here


good ol’ brew

burst of colors

my luv affair to my islands

My Lakbayan grade is B+!

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