Agutayan Dives Amid Sendong

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As a tradition I went for my concluding dive for 2011, and I have every reason to rejoice. After almost three years, I’ll be coming back to the wonderful Agutayan Island off Jasaan coast, a site I was enamored in the early days of my diving. Secondly, I’ll be diving with my dive mentor exclusive after more than two years, and most importantly my favorite dive buddy is coming over to join me for our last dive of the year.  Few days earlier, the weather forecast threatened a storm in Northern Mindanao on the dates but I was keeping my fingers crossed hoping that the conditions would still allow us.

True enough, we made it to Jasaan on a Saturday morning with bright sunny skies with no trace of overcast horizon. The previous night though was  a disaster, the flash flood from Cagayan de Oro river have wreck havoc on the communities along the river bank and lowland areas, it was a total nightmare for everyone.  My dive mentor was kind enough to arrange everything for the trip though hesitant at first, knowing for sure that visibility would be affected.

Aboard the bigger and wider Sakayan, we sped off to the island about five kilometers away from the shore.  The municipal waters which has always been blue, serene and beautiful now marred with tons of debris all floating around.  Just watching heaps of floating trash, one can judge the enormous wreckage in the city only God can tell how severe it was! I had a heavy heart watching the horizons as we continue to cruise for Agutayan.

Beneath the Mess

Approaching the white sand bar, we geared up, and prepared ourselves as if we’re unstoppable, so sure to soak our dried-up gills,  it’s been eight weeks since our last dive!  Our  indomitable spirits nagging us, you know how headstrong divers are.  Mario descend first to check conditions when we got to the Sanctuary, we noticed the current on the surface. Mario appeared after few minutes informing us that the visibility and current is manageable down – halleluiah!  🙂

We descend past 11am already, as always diving with my mentor has the same old familiar feeling – so safe and comfortable, Angel and I had DM one on one.  We tried to maneuver the surface current as we reached for the bouyline for our final descend.  But just few meters down the surface, immersed in the cold waters, I totally forgot the clutters above us. We went around the slopes and had encounters of marine life, at least six turtles graced us – the last was a huge one on his back to us digging something in the reef crevice, perhaps feeding himself with some algae. He was so surprised to notice us, he scampered away and disappeared a cloud of silt before us. There were few nudis, worms, shrimps and other invertebrates, triggerfishes which we avoided for fear of attack.  There were sponges, seafans, variety of corals and tropical fishes that abound the area.  We ascend after 43 minutes with my air still at 1200 psi.

After our leisure lunch and some short nap, Mario summoned us for our next descent.  The floating debris continued to increase while the local fishermen roaming around searching what they could salvage from the waters. Our next descent was at Artificial Reefs (AR) area, where there was variety of models of these ARs – tires, concrete, steel. In variety of forms, they were planted around the sandy area, if not for these ARs now home to a variety of marine species, there would be nothing in the spot, probably no life will exist.  The area is a home too of the planted clams, now had grown in number and size.  Tropical fishes have now claimed the ARs as their home, gaily decorating the area. After having our safety stop on a shallow reef , we ascend after 55 minutes with my residual air at 1100 psi away from the boat.

Although we planned for three dives, we called it a day after the second dive.  The debris had swarmed the waters and leaving the area  late is not advisable.  Over us, we found the locals gathered many household effects from the waters which include furniture, clothing, chairs, tv set, range and many more.

Unstoppable Indeed

We arrived back in the city as if everything was in order. But how implausible it was, that we were still diving despite the storm. I learned later that on that Saturday morning under the sun, the flood continues to ravage other districts of Cagayan de Oro, while we are diving in Agutayan waters!  How foolish… Perhaps, I have been a fool since I decided to become a diver.

Angel and I couldn’t be more grateful how things were arranged perfectly for our dives.  I felt so spoiled for such gesture of God’s kindness and faithfulness.  Our year-end dive is a subtle statement of God’s abounding grace, generosity and tenderness on our part, without prejudice to the typhoon victims.   He  surely can calm the winds and the angry seas, He is unstoppable.

Tropical Storm Sendong hit Cagayan de Oro on December 16, 2011.
Photos by Angel using Lumix TS2 with Ikelite casing.

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