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.

Wet Adventures!

Agutayan White Island & Cagayan de Oro River
June 27 – 28, 2009

Being hectic for the past weeks and lot of pressures seeping in, it didn’t stop our plans for some quest of exciting leisure that Angel and I have been planning to get into.  We have been dying to dive together in MisOr waters plus the advanced water rafting we have been talking about since last year in Coron.  I had been chattering about wonderful underwater sites and lately I have discovered that night diving is so exciting, mysterious and challenging.  These are too wonderful not to share with Angel who’s been always up to underwater discoveries as we prepare for our Tubbattaha 2010 mission!

Rushing my Friday activities, official and personal was some kind of challenge, we got visitors to attend to, then I have to attend a prayer vigil at 7pm– to think it was raining hard that night,  I need to rush home to pack my gears!  So I wake up the next morning early to pick up our visitor from the hotel  and send off at the airport, then by chance pick up Angel too at the airport.  I was glad because we’ll be diving at Agutayan Island as arranged by Mario J – a rich marine sanctuary in Jasaan. It’s been almost 2 years since I dove there and I would say it’s one of my fave site – I had my first deep dive there @ 105 ft even if I’m just OWD certified, this was too where I sighted first giant clams and 4 glistening barracudas!

Revisiting the  Agutayan Sanctuary

Agutayan Island – sand bar, more aptly!

We drop off at home while waiting for 10am meeting time, catching up things especially on our scheduled next trips.  More so with the night dive later and morrow’s advanced rafting! J Rushing to Baloy, we found Mario J waiting for us…  We arrive at Kimaya port an hour later after we dropby at the palengke for our food, the beautiful Sakayan waiting for us.  The sunny weather was too perfect for our get away, we cruised to Agutayan for about 30 minutes. I chose to set up my own gears to get use to the procedures as Mario keep reminding me that I’m now on advance level – so I need to be efficient with all these things! I need to wear compass to practice my navigation…

After the briefing, we descend for our first dive – it feels good to be in the waters again, swimming & floating in silence. We fish feed (sorry, but  it feels wonderful fishes come near me), Angel watching me from behind.  We linger for a moment then off going around – school of fishes, sponges, sea fans, lion fish, anemone & clown fish, puffer fish, sweet lips, some grouper, nudi branches, those electric blue juvenile fishes, and more… I forgot to watch my compass :P, keeping in tow with Mario.  One of my weights was taken off for balance as well as Angel.  We went shallower and after 40 mins passed, Angel surfaced ahead of us with rest of the crew.  I lingered for another 10 mins with Mario as I still have enough air.  We started our ascent just under our boat, raising my right hand as I swim up like a true diver! J  We went 105 ft, such a feat for Angel!

We had early lunch during our surface interval to make most of our time and chatting the time away.  We had our next descent at the AR area and giant clams. I was hoping to find again the barracudas but we were shallower this time.  We had an encounter with the trigger fish who wanted to attack us as we passed her breeding area.  The clams I noticed get lesser – I heard some of it was stolen from the sanctuary during the typhoon last year. But I saw smaller clams, hoping it would multiply soon – too wonderful to watch the specie.  The ARs were bit disheveled perhaps due to the typhoon and last time it was too colorful with the soft corals on it.  The surrounding is still rich with marine life though.  We surfaced together after 55 minutes, Angel’s air consumption improved after his weights were reduced to three.

We had a much longer surface interval this time as we will wait to get dark for our night dive – this will be my first time for 3 dives in tow after my advanced lessons. I was excited for the night dive with Angel. I tried to convince him that he will be allowed to do it even if he has not taken the exercise yet. J We asked PJ if we could go to the white island to explore it, Mario said we will do beach clean-up. Such a pretty idea, an environmentalist attempt to do something useful while enjoying the splendor of the site.

We got bottles, tansans, plastics, drinking straws, candy wrappers, etc – such a beautiful site to be marred with rubbish!   I tried to walk through the white island,  Angel got some photos then we lingered              for awhile  while sitting on the beach – watching the beautiful Sakayan and the far away Camiguin Island.  So serene, so beautiful – feeling free surrounded by nature – sand, sea, sky! We hastily get off for the boat when it started to drizzle…

When it get dark, we got unto our gears leisurely – I decided not to wear my gloves. Mario found it necessary to have a briefing, reviewing signs underwater plus important reminders like look around for buddy and companions, check your gauges often, don’t point your light to other divers, try to be observant of night critters.  The waters was choppy as it was late already, and I felt uneasy in the waters – Mario had my BC replaced so I had to get back unto the boat which was bit tough. Anyway, we finally descend having PJ as my buddy and Angel with Mario.  As we got down, we had our lights pressed unto our bodies and wave our hands in the water – amazing sight!  Silvery things like tiny stars before us… J

We were in the same site with ARs, as expected the vista was like a different world – dark with only our lights illuminating for us.  This time I tried to look around for my companions – Mario, PJ and of course Angel, check my gauges – my air is not a concern actually.  We search for moray eels, unusual fishes under the ARs, passed by a big gorgonians, pipefish?, puffer fish, porcupine fish (a favorite), a crab with unusual shape, anemone and clown fish, sea cucumber. We curiously search under the ARs,  then we sighted a swimming nudibranch – wonderful sight! J  I tried to reach for Angel’s hand when I felt some current somewhere.  But truly it was such a magnificent encounter – exploring underwater at dark is something mysterious, wonderful, majestic!  Finally, Mario signaled for ascent – I stayed close to them as we swim up.  We surfaced away from the boat and the waters still choppy!  The boat came over as we swim back to it – it was not easy for me because my BC keeps on deflating and worst my right fin got loose so I took it off fearing it might get lost!  So I was swimming with my left fin only – it was tough! We went  65 minutes at 50 ft  deepest – wow! J  As soon as I got unto the boat I rushed to the rest room – I threw up!

We got into Kimaya port and drove back to the city – I was tired and felt so sleepy.  We arrived almost 10pm already, need to check in at the guest house for Angel.  I was famished as I threw up twice, so we went off to Night Café for dinner.  We explored Cdo bie nacht by walking to the Divisoria area – we went through throng of people  looking for a place to dine, we finally settled at the barbecues.   I chose to do it kinamot – well, it was something never did before but it was worth it.  I don’t want to find myself sitting there eating al fresco with such surroundings, but it was good…  We got into a trike for home and called it a day – indeed it was such a long day!  We need to retire sooner for morrow’s another adventure…

Wild Cagayan de Oro River

Angel drop by as we head for Divisoria, we need to be there at 8am but he wanted to walk going to the meeting place, we arrived late already and the group have been waiting for us – it was good they waited for us (I got 5 missed calls but didn’t notice it!).  We got into the jeepney bringing us to Uguiaban near the bridge.  We were joined with others (a couple & 2 guys)  in one raft, and have Baldo & Ricky as our river guide.  I was just excited and could feel the rush – finally, after more than a year of waiting!  The run is 18 kms with 21 rapids, and will take 4 hours from Uguiaban to Kabula.

Angel and I chose to sit in front, we agree it’s more fun to feel first the rushing water on us! J The water was brown but still I love the sights along the river, green mountains, blue skies, lush vegetations.  Nothing beats nature’s beauty and going thru the rapids is so adrenaline rushing. Our aim was never to be thrown into the water, paddling thru the rapids is challenging… We had a stop over midway, for a break and had photos.  We took time also at the calm part to jump out and swim in the murky waters.

Rafting once more!

Well, we enjoyed so much the rapids and no one fell into the waters! J We arrived kabula almost 1pm, and went straight to the resto for our lunch. We are all famished, it felt like forever when we wait for our food. We took our lunch leisurely trying to savor our food, I’m thinking about dining with pleasure….

We got on to our transpo for down town, dropping by at Rafting Adventure office for our photos.  I felt dirty and all I wanted is to wash off and take rest.  Angel and I went home by trike and settled to attend the 5:30pm mass.  I doze off after a rush bath, waking up late at 5:15. Rushing things, Angel came who wake up late too despite the alarm! It was raining, and we rushed to XU – the mass just started when we arrived.

Foodie enthusiasts…

We drop by home before dinner, I just need to change and picked up my notebook. Angel wanted to dine somewhere like Margie’s – something like to cap our weekend adventures! 🙂  We went off to LKK mall walking – another exploration of CdO bie nacht on the other side… We settled at Bigby’s (Angel like its ambiance) and tried to investigate its menu trying to find something to our liking – and we end up with Passion Fish and veggies in butter.  The servings we found later was too much I cant finish the whole thing!  Well, dining taking our time while browsing the net – taking pleasure what we have before us – life is beautiful! 😀  We discussed too our next months’ trips for itineraries, arrangements, schedules –  we got skeds until September! We finished off as Angel needs to rest sooner for his morrow’s early flight, we walk again back home.

My weekend has been full, it’s a  great weekend with Angel actually.  There’s that feeling of newness, ready to take on the challenges everyday at work, at home, in the community.   I’m looking forward for our next trip especially our aqua adventures…

Diving at Green Waters

AOWD Course II

One crisp Saturday morning, I hastily get out of my bed to prepare for the day’s trip.  We’re going to dive to one new place at Jasaan, near Green Waters Resort.  I usually passed the area during my trips to the Caraga region, I was awed with its green (of course) sea waters – so pure, so clean and so cool looking.  I was bit interested when my instructor informed me  about our destination.  Today, I’ll finish my advanced diving lessons – I’ll gonna do my last two dive exercises.

I keep myself busy reading a foodie mag while waiting for my instructor at the meeting place, why so long?  😛  At least the trip is shorter compared going to Duka Bay, we head to  Kimaya port for the  transfer to Sakayan.  I take comfort in this dinghy – it has a room, a lounge, rest room and most importantly it cruise fast.  Again, I was lone student so it was some kind of special class, while cruising to the site we review the lessons and spent more time for the knots. We finally had the briefing for the exercises that must be done for the day.  Well, I need to assemble my gears on my own – no assistance now…

Just like my previous training dives, I didn’t take the time to explore the underwater critters as I was more  concerned on the exercises, I just need to put things in order.  But in between, I explored a big rock with anemone and soft corals on top of it, I look closely and found a cleaner shrimp  – beautiful!  Big sea fans in varied colors, colored sponges, fishes… I had fun with the search and recovery, it’s challenging to find missing objects in the water. I was just determined not to stop until I got it – I was confident since my air consumption is efficient.  I finished all the requirements even reviewing other things missed in Part I lessons.

Now, I’m more ready for more adventures in diving.  I can’t help thinking of my next dive sked, visualizing what I have gained from today’s lessons – more than just getting the license, now I understand better about necessary skills and attitude to get maximum pleasure and prioritizing safety in all dives. It’s really not a place for an oooops! More diving trips to come….