Gorgonian Rider

Gorgonian Rider

Bargibanti pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti) is a minute critter normally hosted by gorgonians, it was my first sighting while diving in Blue Hole of Romblon. It is hardly seen unless its host is examined closely, using magnifying glass could be better. Our DM was so keen on macro and it was fortunate we found one during the dive. This pygmy seahorse is well camouflaged, being extremely difficult to spot amongst the gorgonian coral it inhabits.

Large bulbous tubercles cover its body and match the colour and shape of the polyps of its host species of gorgonian coral, while its body matches the gorgonian stem. It is not known whether individuals can change color if they change hosts, although the ability to change color according to their surroundings does exist in some other seahorse species. This is also one of the smallest seahorse species in the world, typically measuring less than 2 centimeters (0.79 in) in height.

NB. Photo courtesy of Angel using Lumix TS2 with Ikelite casing.

The Linamon Project

The site in Barangay Samburon, Linamon, Lanao del Norte

In few days, we will commence our work in the Linamon coral transplantation, just few more days.  We have waited for so long, but now we will finally do it. The trajectory given by World Bank mandated to complete the works not later than June 30.  And it was a tall order.

Now, I can only imagine the dives that have to be done to finish the remaining area of the one hectare coral nursery.  For sure, it would be work unlimited underwater, for marine life preservation and protection in the area.  The community is involved in this project and have fully participated since it all started, one of the best practices to ensure the sustainability of the marine protected area. Finishing off the one hectare coral nursery is indeed a gargantuan task.

Planted corals on substrates
Planted corals on substrates

It’s been almost twenty months since I last joined them in the evaluation of the first few substrates that were tested.  Soon, I would be working in a different environment under different pressure.  Breathing underwater in gears, carefully planting the materials in “pots” in silence.  It’s pretty outlandish and not everybody has the opportunity to do this kind of work for the marine environment.

In few days I’ll be joining the good men of Linamon for this noble task and I can hardly wait. In few days…

NB. Underwater photo courtesy of Mr. Lemuel Alfeche

Eating in Diving

Good Food and Diet

As your diving season arrives, it might be a good time to remind everyone about eating for diving. Over my many years of diving, I have had the occasion to learn through trial and (mostly) error, as well as watching others, what it takes to have a pleasant day of diving. What you eat just might make the difference between a good, safe dive and what might be a ‘bummer’, a trip to the chamber. What follows is my ‘fool-proof’ list of things to eat or drink in preparation for your long-awaited dive trip.

Six to three days before

This is the time to build your water and carbohydrate stores. Note the order of importance. It is a must to drink enough water so that your urine is ‘copious and clear’ the last few days before a dive. Being well-hydrated is thought by many to be vital to the prevention of decompression sickness. Excessive alcohol intake or a bout of local “Montezuma’s Revenge” will dehydrate one rapidly, and it might take a day or two to recover from becoming dehydrated.

Be sure to choose a good portion of your foods from the bread/starch and fruit categories. Roughly one-half to two-thirds of your calories should be from complex carbohydrates (whole grains, pasta, veggies, fruit, etc.) depending on the intensity of yourdiving. If you’re doing a full week of repetitive dives, stay closer to the two-thirds calories from carbs and eat plenty of calories. Also, make sure you get enough protein by taking in low-fat dairy products, beans, nuts (use for salads and cooking) soy products, and lean meat and fish.

Two days before

This is the day to be sure you have plenty of water in your system and plenty of calories. It’s here that some people get into trouble on long airplane trips by ingesting too much alcohol containing beverages. The alcohol acts as a diuretic, directly causing dehydration. In addition, the dry atmosphere of the airplane cabin can cause significant fluid loss.

Most people do well to eat a little more than usual on this day, sticking to high carbohydrate foods and evenly spaced meals. Some people prefer to get the extra calories from food while others like sports drinks or milk. Also, work on getting a few good nights sleep here, because it can be difficult to sleep restfully on a plane trip to the dive site.

Day before

Here is where most divers get into trouble–overeating during the trip to the dive site. Avoid bad eating habits you may slip into if you have to travel to the dive. Eating a little less than usual today will make you a little lighter tomorrow on your dive day, so drop your intake by about 500 calories. One of the worst things you can do is raid the pre-dive pasta bash. Lots of oil-laced pasta, buttered bread, and high-fat salad dressing will only give you plenty of “ammo” for the boat head in the morning. At this point, it’s too late to make up for poor eating earlier in the week. Diarrhea on a diveboat is not a good thing! Stick with broth-based soup, Jello, cereal, low-fat pudding, fruit, vegetables, carnation instant breakfast, and sports drinks on this day. Be sure to drink a little extra water.

Dive day

Stay away from unusual foods. Eat a small breakfast if you suffer from heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux). Be sure to eat at least two hours before the dive and avoid high-fat muffins, doughnuts, and honey buns. If the dive is in the afternoon, keep the portions small and choose high-carbohydrate foods and sports drinks or water for lunch. You should be drinking water up to one-half hour before the dive. About 10 or 15 minutes before the have a water bottle handy and take in two-four ounces of water. Water consumed this close to the dive start will help counteract the obligatory diuresis of your initial water immersion.

During the dive

Depending on the number of dives, drinking water is usually best. Most dive boats have a supply of cold water available with plenty of cups. If it’s a long way to and from dive sites with a long off-gassing between dive period, consider a sports drink or try easy to eat, high-carbohydrate foods (fig bars, bananas, sports bars/gels, low-fat cookies, etc.) and plenty of liquids. Most divers bring their own sources of energy (lemon drops, hard candy, oranges). I’ve not seen any divers using any of the ’sports gels’ that runners use. One word of caution–on some dive sites in distant, ethnic spots, the food served for the between dive lunches is indigestible if not inedible.

After the dive

Scarf down high-carbohydrate foods after a dive as soon as possible (this doesn’t include beer if you’re diving the next day). Try to eat something every couple of hours all day long if you’re diving again and at least for four-six hours after short dives. Avoid alcohol as long as possible the few hours after a dive as it will dehydrate you as well as slow the restoration process of your liver and exercising muscles.

While following these tips may not allow you to dive any deeper or use less air, it can make a big difference how you feel during and after the dives. It is just possible that you might ward off getting bent and ruining a good vacation or even having permanent neurological damage. In addition, your slim physique also might also save a few bucks by you being able to get into last years wet suit and BC.

I hope you enjoyed the article and learned a thing or two! I personally came across a product I just love to use while diving… Divers D/Lyte.

The unique and proprietary formulation is based on supplementing the essential and semi-essential needs of the divers most important piece of equipment, the human body. Read more about how this product was formulated specifically for divers to keep in optimal shape during and after their dives as well as providing them with lasting energy!

NB. An article adapted from www.scuba-dive.com by Steve Hall, MD

Tryst with Angel: Mactan Island

Punta Engaño, Mactan Island

Now I aim to dive every month as every diver should be.  And I have few plans as I begin for another diving year, schedules and preparations were put to order.  My mind thinking to mix some pleasure while on a work trip to Cebu but it turned out the conference was cancelled, and the final venue is not close to the waters.  I became restless and alternately devised another trip plan.  Surprisingly, Angel invited me to join him in Mactan over a weekend suggesting for a dive.  I was ecstatic and grateful, it was just perfect as a start for diving pursuits with my favorite dive buddy.  The next thing I did was made myself free on the weekend, bought my tickets, and work harder to put things in order before getting some leisure. 

Perfect Get-Away

The week has been full at work, and on Friday I was running for meetings. But the thought of weekend lifted my spirits, and I could almost smell the sea waters.  🙂  My Saturday mornings has been reserved for early walks but I was up very much earlier as usual to catch my flight.  And the usual sneak-while-everyone-still-asleep thrilled me once more! It was a crisp morning and the cold winds embraced me as we boarded the plane, the horizon promising a sunny day.  The flight was smooth and just like with my previous Cebu Pacific flights we touched down Mactan International Airport earlier than schedule. The skies were downcast but hoping there would be no rains during our dives.

I watched the morning commotion on my taxi as I rode to Punta Engano, not the usual way to go straight to downtown Cebu. This weekend, we will be stationed in Mactan island and guess what?  We are staying at Hilton Resorts & Spa – yes, the famous pink Hilton of Cebu!  Midtown Cebu, Grand Hotel, Montebello, Crown Regency Suites, Days Hotel, Cebu Plaza, Waterfront were few of the hotels I find shelter in other occasions but never on luxurious ones like Hilton. 😛  Courtesy of Angel who got a gift certificate for  two-night stay for two as one of his complimentary award for his travel blog.  It was an honor to share his prize, experiencing a luxurious stay at pink Hilton is not in my list.  🙂  

Everything is pink as I stepped down from the taxi, after some preliminaries at the front desk I shoot up to 22nd floor, buzzed Room 2203 and sadly woke up Angel who barely slept 3 hours. 😦  He was still in stupor as he let me in. 😛 I reached out to the terrace and watched the morning horizons overlooking the beach, calm crystal waters and green vegetations yonder. It was almost two months from our last trip and so there were catch up stories to tell, then went down to Vanilla Beach Café for a sumptuous breakfast.  I watched in awe of the abundance of food, all free!  But I needed a light meal for my dive, Angel wanted to try everything he fancied with!  😛 I love long breakfasts with stories but we need to rush to Maribago beach for the dives, we are expected at 10am.

For some adventure and to save transportation costs, we chose to commute to Kontiki Divers. After a wrong stop, few inquiries and 200 m walk, we reached the diveshop on time.  Ms Diana was out there to welcome and introduce us to DM Julian, it was some kind of exclusive dive for us – no other divers to join us!  Without delay, we went off to the shore for the diving boat – alas, it was high tide and we need to wade in the waters!  We discovered that there was lot of resorts lining up the beach which includes the Maribago Blue Waters. 

First Dives of the Year

Our first stop was Agus Bay, we descend on a sandy area then getting deeper to a wall with reefs.  It felt good to be back in the depths, so relaxing – indeed a second home.  We drifted watching the scenery, there is really something peaceful with the fishes.  There were damsels, fusiliers, variety of anthias,  banners, variety of angels, some butterfly, lionfish and more.  There were gorgonians I passed by trying to look closely for macros. But alas, I forgot to put on my contacts!  😛  I planned to have it when I got to the hotel but simply slip from my mind.  There were bubble corals, tubes, some table but no sponges.  I tried to touch something that looks like sea cucumber but turn out to be a hard coral.  There were few nudis  and pelagics were nowhere.  After 48 mins with 27.8m as deepest we surfaced near Maribago Blue Waters, the boat waiting to pick us up.

After an hour of interval, we descend at Marine Station limiting to 25m deepest according to DM Julian. It was sandy slope until we went deeper to a wall covered with reefs. There were seafans in green, yellow, brownish and lavender.  Bubble corals were abundant, some crinoids and variety of hard corals.  There were, damsels, moorish idol, butterfly, angels, groupers, lionfish, anthias and more.  We were stunned when a large school of medium-sized bluefin trevally appeared before us! It darkened our view but was truly mesmerized with this wonderful display of creation, about tens of thousands of them. So near to us as we drifted on and passed us by.  As we get shallower we went east and found the crane artificial reef which is now fully covered with corals. I found lot of fishes nearby including my favorite puffer fish. We drifted shallower until we had our safety stop, we linger more and hopped on the corals until we surfaced right on the concrete steps of Club Kontiki.  We were 48 mins down and went 22.8m as our deepest.  It was already past 2pm and so we ran out of time for third dive as we wanted.  After a  coffee break  and some pleasantries with Ms Diana, we settled our bills and rushed back to the hotel – grateful it wasn’t drizzling anymore.

More of Mactan

Angel planned for a dinner at Vienna Kaffehaus to try if comparable at CdeO  😛 , so after dark we went searching for the resto.  Our choice:  Bauern Platter, Green Mix Salad, Kartoffel Soup plus fruit shakes and blueberry cheesecake – all yummy but his fave Pasta Pesto was not in the menu!  😛

The next morning we went to hear mass at Sto. Nino Mactan in Visayan, decided to walk back to the hotel but when we passed Mactan Shrine we went to take a look.  It has an obelisk (!), a large mural of Mactan Battle, monument of Lapu-Lapu, some souvenir shops and park. And there were  Korean tourists geting around in the park with matching guide.  Passing Shangri-La, a bit farther we dropped by at Scubaworld Diveshop – had a brief chat with the shop manager (a diver perhaps), and bought some dive supplies – I was looking for beanie hood but not available.  After a few meters, we finally got to the hotel entrance.  We’re famished already and so went straight to Vanilla Beach for our sumptuous brunch.  Again I was overwhelmed of the abundance when there’s so much people out there who have nothing to eat!

We wanted to make most of our stay at the resort, the remaining few hours were spent at the house reef to snorkel – waters again – ah, this is life!  🙂  The parasols along the white beach, the infinity pool and the calm waters were picture perfect.  But our love for marine life pushed us further and we were not disappointed, as soon as we got near the two rock islets fishes started to appear.  They have installed artificial reefs, big round concrete  culverts that were almost covered with corals.  There were anthias, damsels, groupers, triggers, pipefish, sergeants.  Angel spotted a lionfish coyly swimming under its abode, which he pointed out to me. 🙂  There were larger groupers, triggers, goatfish under the culverts.  Throngs of anthias came near us as if wanted to be fed – so beautiful!  🙂  Oh, I will never get tired of marine life…

Special Tryst

We rushed and shoot up to 22nd floor for the last time – to freshen up and finally pack up. Last few minutes in this luxurious trance.  After some clearance at the front desk, we took a cab to airport  leaving our pink abode behind us.  Such a wonderful experience, I wouldn’t splurge my hard earned peso just to spend a night in this kind of lavishness.  It was such an honor that Angel shared this luxury treat with me. 

This weekend was a perfect tryst with my favorite dive buddy, I never indulge  myself a leisure getaway on a January when work is just too full.  But things just went perfectly and we both loved every minute of it.  Mactan weekend will be a special memory for me and Angel.  Shhhhh, I suspect he was sneaking on my Cebu dive plans… 🙂

NB.  Snatch a photo somewhere from files…

Diving at Agutayan Island…. October 13, 2007

My dive trips are far between, though I wanted it to be more often – few circumstances have kept me then. Last time, the plan was end of July but days passed and it’s almost three months since then. So today, I’m going to Agutayan Island (in Jasaan) about 40 minutes away from Cagayan de Oro with Mario J’s (my diving instructor) group. It’s a sunny Saturday, and after a long trip to Misamis Occidental passing Zamboanga Sur and a Friday non-working holiday, I was in a good mood! My diving gears which I bought two months ago have gathered dust already, waiting to dip in the sea waters.


 My diving instructor has a dive facility now, and I’m diving here with them in the white island. As soon as we arrived in the area, we got into the boat to cruise unto the dive site. I meet new friends and Aina is my buddy today. We went down through the bouy line, and again down there are lot of creatures to marvel – giant clams, shells, colorful reefs, hard & soft corals. The area has been planted with artificial reefs – exactly the kind DA/BFAR have promoted. There was variety of fish species, even if I can’t name them all, I will always be fascinated going deep down. It seems like a dream in another world, floating and watching marine life with endless beauty – in silence. So serene, so beautiful…. We surfaced, just in time for lunch – with the grills smelling good…


 We went down again after a leisure lunch and a little rest (I feel like I wanted to lie down) – the waters was bit rough but again going deeper was majestic – I can’t imagine rich marine life down. Banner of colorful fishes, colorful reefs, sweet lips, oversized jacks and most of all – 4 barracudas! As in four glistening Bs swimming coyly – Mario J has to summon me to come nearer as I was afar, but don’t have much time to take a closer look as they hastily disappear. I wasn’t expecting to see a barracuda as we were trying our luck to find a hammerhead shark in the area. Truly wonderful though, real amazing…. We went up just in time when my air is down to 1000psi. Mario said we went to 105 feet – wow! I went 101 feet last time, so I’m 4 feet deeper today, not bad…..


Few lessons for today’s dive:
1. my mask was too tight, Mario need to adjust it and I have to clear my mask -just snug but not too tight
2. I use 4 weights (Mario installed in my belt) in second dive which made me heavy, so Mario have to take away one while we’re there deep down there – 3 weights is enough for me
3. my left fin was detached (funny was I didn’t notice it) before I reach the boat, I must lock it tight before I could lost it next time.


 We cruised back to the fish landing, the waves getting bigger. And like every after end of a dive, I promise myself for another trip – don’t know where and when but for sure I will. I must I should say, the sights are just too irresistible… After the goodbyes , I left with Aina and Jackie back to CdO, just in time as a storm is looming behind us. I arrived home drizzling already…


*Agutayan Marine Sanctuary

Located about 5 kilometers from the Poblacion, is the white island that dots Macajalar Bay with its 5,000 square meters white sand. With its shallow water, the place is ideal for snorkeling and swimming.  A 3-hectare Marine Sanctuary was established on the island by the local government in 1995.  Agutayan is home to giant clams, national treasures from the U.P. Marine Science Institute, Bolinao, Pagasinan. Five hundred of these clams were seeded in December 2001.