Dive and Trek, Anilao (aka Batang Yagit goes Diving) – May 12, 2012

People go on lakwatsas for various reasons. Once it a while, it isn’t about you. Sometimes its about sharing an experience with a friend. For around a week, Benj Espina and I had been chatting on Facebook bringing Winston Almendras (aka Batang Yagit) Scuba Diving. I had been hearing about this from both of them for months, I thought it would make for an awesome adventure.

So we set off from BGC at around 5:15am and headed for Anilao. We leisurely got to Anilao at around 8am and waited for the boat to take us to Dive and Trek.

View Dive and Trek in a larger map


The weather was a bit overcast in the morning, fortunately, the skies cleared up as the day bore on.

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Arriving at Dive and Trek we settled in, registered ourselves, and scheduled our dives for the day. We got a dive master to bring out Winston for his check-out dive with a little intro lecture before hand.

Dive and Trek

The resort, inaccessible by land, is a quaint little place, very tastefully done. The thing Benj and I observed is that we Filipinos were the minority that day. It was nice to see a number of foreigners enjoying themselves.

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Benj I start out with a short dive while Winston does some snorkeling. This is one of those rare times where I get into the water from a pier and not off a boat. So my initial entry into the water was a bit clumsy.

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The waters around area were teaming with life. Lots of fish around. But of course, that does have its down side. I have observed, that lots of fish, means lots of food in the water… that translates to less then crystal clear visibility.

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Batang Yagit goes Diving

But of course, this day was about Winston. And helping him get an awesome experience out of this. On my part, I wanted to make sure the moment was well documented in photos and videos, first moments are always memorable.

Its rare for me to use my Liquid Image mask with the built in camera. So unlike taking video with an handheld camera, this take video from my point of view. So please excuse the sudden jerks in the video as I turn my head. But at least you get a real first-person view of what is happening. And as an added bonus (or annoyance) you get to hear what I hear… and in my case is… my breathing!

After our dive, the dive master sat Winston down for a brief lecture. With Winston, was this Australian lady, also a beginner.

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So we got suited up, and we were ready!

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This submerged pier was an interesting experience.

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The excitement mounts…

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Getting strapped in

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There was a lot of time spent on getting his mask on just right.

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And he finally goes in…

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Video moment… (more at the bottom of the post)

Probably Wins’ greatest issue dealt with mask clearing (in fairness is a common newbie issue). Benj took him through the paces a number of times. (that’s Benj’s glove)

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and we’re off!

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Haha! Parang pro na!

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FISHES! (ok… the grammar is questionable on that one).

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He seems to be getting used to it.

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The one thing we kept on noticing with Winston was his “bicycle peddling” movement. Normally you are supposed to keep your legs straight and extend with slight knee bending. In Winston’s case he was moving his legs like crazy.

We also kept on floating upwards. There was a funny-panic moment when Benj and I looked at each other and gesturing to one another “where is he?” as we looked left and right in panic! We found him hovering over us around 2 meters above us.

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He looked like he was having fun experiencing the awesomeness of the moment.

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And around 40 minutes later! SUCCESS with Dive 1

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After lunch we went down for another dive.

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During the second dive, Benj tells Wins to stay close to us. Then… at one point during the dive… Benj vanishes for a few minutes!

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All in all it was a great leisurely day. We had a great time at the resort. The weather was great. And of course we are thankful that there were no serious incidents.

By around 3:30pm we were all packed and ready to go back. We paid what we owed to the resort and we headed back.

We ended the day with some Batangas Bulalo at Benj’s Family’s restaurant. Rose and Grace, in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.

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It’s always great to expose friends to new experiences, especially those that you yourself are passionate about.


More Video Moments.

All of these are the raw video from my mask-cam. With my breathing and the sound of my breathing, you get the “being there” experience.

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4

Video 5

Easter Island – April 1-4, 2012

One of the “must-see” items on my bucket list has been to see Easter Island located 2,180 miles (3,510 kilometers) west of the coast of Chile in South America and is the south easternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle.  Ever since I was a child, I was always fascinated by pictures of the “big heads” and the theories over who built them and why (of course, these included the “they were built by aliens” theory).

When I was telling some friends of my planned trip to Easter Island, I was met with mixed reactions. Those that knew of the island’s mystic past commented “wows,” while those who had no inclining of what the island was about greeted me with “what’s there?” A majority of folks gave me the live “what’s there to do there.” Many of those who knew about the island assumed it would just be a a day trip because they assumed that there were no hotels on the island and that staying a day was sufficient. Be that as it may, I got strange responses to my plan from friends. For me, just being on Easter Island was sufficient reason for the adventure.

See the Wikipedia entry for Easter Island.

Easter Island is claimed to be the most remote inhabited island in the world.

View Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in a larger map


The island is known by three names “Easter Island” in English, “Isla de Pascua” in Spanish, and in the ancient Polynesian dialect… “Rapa Nui”. One phrase used to describe the island due to its distance from the nearest land mass was “land’s end”. Despite its name, the island has nothing to do with the Christian season of Easter or the death of Jesus Christ. It was simply named by the Dutch explorer Jacom Roggenveen who landed on the island on Easter Sunday in 1722.

I felt that it would be quaint to visit the island during Easter week. Just makes it more a little special I thought.

Before I even dreamed of going to Easter Island, a high school classmate of mine and fellow adventurer Gabby Malvar (one only other person I personally knew who visited the island), once told me that was difficult and complicated to get to the island, thus I blocked visiting the island from my list in the near future.  After visiting Machu Picchu last year, I decided that I needed a challenge to top the ancient Peruvian city in the sky. While poking around on the internet, I chanced upon the name of the airport on the island and its airport code which was IPC. I plugged into Expedia and checked out flights. That is when I realized that a trip to Easter Island was not as complicated as a I thought (Read my post on “Getting to Easter Island” for further details).

I really enjoyed myself on Easter Island. In the 4 days I was on the island, I pretty much covered the whole of the island (that which was accessible by land) which included a horseback ride to the highest point of the island, and scuba diving to several meters below sea level.

Instead of writing long posts on what I saw (as I did elsewhere on this blog), I decided to split up the destinations into individual blog posts. This particular posting would serve as my “Table of Contents” to each of these posts on my awesome adventure to Easter Island… enjoy!


Getting to Easter Island




Hanga Roa




Ahu Vinapu, Rano Kau, and Orongo


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Rano Raraku


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Ahu Tongariki


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Ahu Te Pito Kura


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Anakena Beach




Puna Pao


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Ahu Akivi


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Ana Te Pahu and Ana Te Pora


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The Highs and Lows of Easter Island


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And there you have it. Four awesome days on one of the most fascinating places on earth. Despite the 12 posts listed above. I have hundreds more photos and dozens more stories to tell about Easter Island. I guess that will have to wait for a later time. The food I have eaten, the people I have met, the things I have seen… I think even sunsets needs its own post. But for now, this will have to do.


My visit on Easter Island finally puts a tick box against that one point on my bucket list. Not sure what follows next after Machu Picchu and Easter Island. Oh well…


…what remains is the big problem. Where do I go next year?

The Highs and Lows of Easter Island – April 3-4, 2012

With my formal tours done, I scheduled myself for two additional adventures while on the island. On the afternoon of April 3rd, I scheduled myself for some scuba diving. I signed up for a 45 min dive around 25 deep off the coast of Hanga Roa. Meanwhile, for the next morning, before my flight back to San Francisco via Peru, I signed up for horseback riding up Mount Teravaka… the highest point on Easter Island.

Scuba Diving

There were a few dive shops at the pier. I went for Mika Rapa’s.  Fortunately for me, I had my NAUI Certification Card with with me just in case anyone asked to see that I was a certified diver

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It was actually quite painless to sign up. The dive just cost $60 whether you are a beginner, or a seasoned diver. In my case, I was teamed up with a Frenchman who has as “rescue” certification. What that simply means is that we were on our way immediately while the beginners go through their orientation.

I suited up. Tried on some fins… and we were off.

The first stop after getting off the boat was a site called the “Underwater Moai”. Obviously its not a real Moai. After all, why would the natives place a Moai so far off the coast. Anyway, it was obviously placed there for tourism purposes.

The one thing you will notice is how blue the water is. I have never seen water so blue. Clear and blue.


The underwater Moai was definitely a nice starting point for the dive.


The dive itself was quite as expected. Though I must say is that, while the water is so clear… and blue. The experience as a whole was ho-hum. Mind you, I have been diving for pretty much 20 years and I have seen a lot of underwater scenery from all over the Philippines.

Diving in Easter Island was fun by itself. But the corals were pretty much a bland grey-blue-pink color. Typical coral. There was a an assortment of fish… but not very colorful. Simply put… a dive off the coast of Batangas will give you a more colorful array of corals and fish.

But once again, that doesn’t take away the experience of diving in the middle of Pacific Ocean in the most remote diving spot on Earth.


Horseback Riding

There is only so much you can reach via a car on Easter Island. My guides had suggested that I take the horseback riding trip up Mount Teravaka… which is the highest point on the island.

Mount Terevaka

I was warned that the entire trip would take 3-4 hours. This would have been the longest horse back ride I would ever take. An experience I would feel in my body for the next three days.

My guide Matti, picked me up from the hotel at around 8:30 am and took me to his farm where the horses were stabled. While waiting, I met up with one of his dogs. I later found out out that this dude was one of three dogs who would accompany me up the mountain.

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And we were off. We made our way through a number of fields and dirt roads.

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Then we started to ascend up Mount Teravaka. You can see the two other dogs leading the way.

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After around 2 hours… we finally reached the top of Mount Teravaka.

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The scenery was awesome. With the whole island practically devoid of trees, you could see all around directly to the water.

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Here is a panoramic shot I took while at the top. You could actually look 360 degrees around the island.

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We stayed up there for a little less than 30 minutes. After looking around and admiring the scenery, there wasn’t much else to do… and I wasn’t about to get off my horse.

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So after a while. We made our trek back down the mountain.

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As with most of my trips…with proper scheduling I was the only one en route up Teravaka. But on the way down, we met up with several hikers or others on horseback on their way up the mountain.  Timing wise was also great. Because by the time I got down, it was almost time for lunch.

Our trip down was a little faster. Just around 1.5 hours… not so much because it was going downhill, but because our last stop wasn’t all the way back to the farm. We ended up at Ahu Aviki.

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Meanwhile… here are the three dogs that accompanied me up the mountain… just doing their thing.


While waiting for Matti to pick me up,  I took some more additional pictures at Ahu Aviki which was great because the sun and sky were just great!

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I was a great day this far.

With these last two adventures I would have been around 4/5 of the entire island, go to one of the lowest points underwater, and on the highest peak of the island. What a great way to end my adventure on Easter Island. AWESOME!


From here I would make my way back to the hotel… have lunch… and prepare for my trip back to the airport and fly back to San Francisco.

Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park-July 3, 2010

I got the idea for this Lakwatsa quite by chance. I was randomly browsing some Filipino travel blogs when I came across a brief entry from “I am a Traveler” during the morning of July 1st before leaving for work. What caught my eye, was the very nature of Dolphin Island. “Swimming with dolphins!” is what came to mind. Ok, I think I found my Lakwatsa for this particular weekend. Later in the day, I contacted Patrick Mineses and invited him to accompany me on another Lakwatsa adventure. By the evening, I had booked our tickets to Ozamis City online at Cebu Pacific (at this late juncture, PAL’s rates were 3x the rate of Cebu Pacific).

To get to the Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park, one needs to fly from Manila to Ozamis City (around 1 hour and 10 min). Then proceed north to the Municipality of Sinacaban.

View Ozamis City in a larger map

Cebu Pacific only flies once a day to and from Ozamis City only once a day. Given that, we had to stay overnight in Ozamis, with us flying back to Manila early the next day.


We arrived at Ozamis City by 7am. We then proceeded to negotiate for transportation to MOAP (Misamis Oriental Aquamarine Park). My research told me everyone knew what MOAP was and where it was. The tricycle driver we talked to accepted to bring us to MOAP.

Contrary to what I had early read on other travel blogs, MOAP was a mere 30 minute ride by tricycle from the Ozamis Airport. We then boarded our two-seater tryc and we were off!

The tricycle ride itself was quite fascinating. Lush greeneries everywhere.

We even encountered early morning cyclists…

Before we knew it, we were there.

We got off at the front entrance. We paid our tricycle driver and asked him to come back for us at around 3pm. We then proceeded inside the park. We had to pay a staggering P10 per person entrance.

We went in and took a look around. It was an interesting place that a number of fish pens with Tilapia, Prawns, Catfish, etc.

We then proceeded to reception where they explained we had two choices. Go for a package tour or go ala cart. After thinking about it, we decided to go ala cart instead and pick and choose our activities. This also gave us the option not to be confined by the set meal. We then proceeded to the dock through a very very very long bridge (apparently, this place was very heavy on these bridges and elevated platforms).

Hmm… odd term…

we continued on till we reached the end…

It was still around 7:45am when the staff came over. They were also bringing loads of supplies for Dolphin Island. We then paid the first set of fees. P250/pax is the entrance fee for Dolphin Island and the roundtrip fare to and from the island.

We were off. We were on the first boat for the day which left at 8:00am. What was a little bothersome was that it was very cloudy. Barely and patches of blue in the sky. Luckily for us, it would dissipate through the morning. In fact it was a very nice day. Not at all hot.

As we approached dolphin island, I realized what was meant by it being “man-made.” Technically half-true. The structures on the island are protruding for a shallow land mass… pretty much like a sand bar submerged during low tide…

Here is what I mean. ( I took this photo from the air on the way back to Manila). You can see the structures near the leftmost section of the land mass. This made it great for shallow swimming around the area.

Getting off the boat, the first thing you would notice is a huge square holding area. But as you walk up to the railing you are greeted by a fantastic sight…


The pen was home to 5 dolphins. According to their caretaker Dario and our guide Dennis, these dolphins were brought here either sick or accidentally caught by fishermen.

Unlike the dolphins you might see in a place like Subic’s Ocean Adventure, these dolphins are “wild.” Meaning they have not been trained. So they don’t exactly come up to man and interact.

For the next 10 min, I was just there watching these magnificent animals just swim around.

They swam around. Some jumped (I could never capture that).

Amongst the 5, I noticed that two dolphins were always together, not sure if it was a mother-child relationship or mates. But they seemed inseparable.

My favorite was the lone male. He was the biggest of the 5 dolphins and we were told was the most used to humans. And as I discovered later on was the most “malabing.”

Enough pictures… here is a video…


Rescued dolphins at Dolphin Island


Swimming with the Dolphins

Super excited… we quickly dressed up, put on our mask and snorkel (the available fins were broken, but we didn’t need them anyway) and we dove right in. Dennis had a bag of fish along with. While the dolphins are “wild” they will approach you if you had fish to feed them with.

Here I am having the thrill of a lifetime feeding the dolphins.

I eventually took of my vest so could move more freely with the dolphins.

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Here is one guy up close as I was feeding him…

Coming closer…

He sees I have a fish…

Opens his mouth and gently takes the fish from my hand…

After a little more than an hour swimming with the dolphins, the ferry arrived with a boat load of tourists (lucky we were there before the rest of the weekend crowd arrived. As learned later from the staff, during weekends a lot of people go to MOAP and Dolphin Island. They usually arrive between 9am and noon time. And we did see them arrive through the morning.

Our guide Dennis brought us out to open see for some more fish feeding.

We swam out and saw dozens of giant clams… probably a meter long each.  Hmm, I wonder if it is true that if you accidentally step into one of these they will close in tightly around your ankle.

After a while, Dennis led us back into another pen where we would meet up with another cute creature!

After the adventure with the turtle we decided it was time to get out of the water. Whew! What a morning!!!


It was time for lunch. The island had a restaurant with ample seating. We opted simply for two items appropriate for the venue

Fried Prawns

Crabs. Yum! I don’t remember how it was cooked, but all I know is that it was cooked with a delicious coconut milk sauce.

After lunch, we leisurely lounged around for a couple of hours until we decided to take the ferry back to MOAP

Farewell Dolphin Island… It was fantastic!

As we were exiting the park with some time to spare, we pursued something interesting…

There was an interesting looking bamboo bridge.

At the end of the bridge…

more elevated platforms amidst a mangrove forrest

It’s a zoo!

It’s a fascinating collection of birds, snakes, monkey’s, and misc, animals. It isn’t a particularly large zoo but it was very nicely designed and built.

At 2:30pm our tricycle pickup came back and we headed off to Ozamis City to for the night.

It was a great day! Great adventure! Great Lakwatsa! The whole affair, airfare aside, was pretty low cost and affordable. The entire stay in the park, entrance, food, admission, ferry, activities… cost around P1000/person for everything.

If you are ever open to a non-common adventure, with the fantastic experience of swimming with dolphins. This is an option you should consider.


Update / Commentary

I got a few comments from some folks and fellow Travel Bloggers who don’t like the idea of MOAP. These are those that believe that such a place is either morally wrong or inhumane to the dolphins. I’ve gotten some nasty comments as well for my even visiting MOAP let alone writing about it in such a positive manner. They say that people who patronize these kind of places are misinformed. While I could write about what I think about all this sanctimonious crap, but I won’t. Let’s just say that people should be entitled to their own opinions and be given due respect to their beliefs.

If you feel such a place is against some natural order of things, then by all means, don’t go. Don’t promote it. Don’t talk about it. And certainly there are places that are outright inhumane to animals. But in my humble opinion… this is not one of them. I believe that these places are far better maintained than a zoo… and it gives people an opportunity to experience nature in a very unique way.  In the end, you should also respect those who don’t see this as a crime against nature. Let people make up their own mind. Do not impose your beliefs on others.

This is still a place I would personally promote and recommend to families.

Diving in Mactan, Cebu (Pre-Sinulog) – January 16, 2009

I arrived in Cebu a day before Sinulog 2010 and on the agenda was to take in a few dives with my friend Charles Quisumbing. After our lazy breakfast at Don Merto’s, we headed to Mactan.

This was my first time to Dive in Cebu. Not that I expected anything particularly different, I mean… diving is diving right. I would usually dive in Anilao, Batangas.

Diving in Mactan, Cebu

We would kick off our dive from a Korean-owned port near Scuba World and the Hilton. What was a bummer was the weather. It had been raining daily in Cebu till this point. And when we arrived, it started raining. I had gone diving during a typhoon once before, and it was not fun. So obviously I was concerned.

It was around noon and we could not leave yet. Why? we were waiting for the lechon which would be our lunch. Yes. Just lechon. When the rest of the group arrived… with the lechon, we boarded and we were underway.


And of course, we proceeded to pig-out. Pun intended.

Underwater Photography

My main purpose was to test my Liquid Image Scuba mask with camera (http://liquidimageco.com/). It had two modes… stills, and video.

Of the 140 pics I took, I realized that you need to keep relatively still. A lot of my photos, when I was swimming after fish, turned out blurred.

Luckily, despite the rains, the visibility was quite good.

Here are some of the pics.

Diving in Mactan, Cebu  

Diving in Mactan, Cebu

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Diving in Mactan, Cebu

And here is a video… Oddly, the video turned out better than the pics.

All in all the dive went well. This first dive site as you will notice was one that had a sunken plane. Our second dive was at the sanctuary just off Shanri-La Mactan. But for the second dive, I encountered an odd problem with the mask and the camera would not turn on. Anyway, the second site was so much more colorful. Sadly, I had no pics here.

After the dive, I got the camera working again. Grrrr.

Diving in Mactan, Cebu

Here’s our boat… named “Makulit”

Dive Trip! Anilao, Batangas – August 30, 2009

During the long weekend, I joined Joanna, Yancy, Arnie, Johnny, and Lorraine on a diving trip to Anilao.

We met up at 5:30am at the Petron station along SLEX – a typical meeting spot for many southbound vacationers. We proceeded to good the Aquaventure Reef Club in the town of Mabini, Batangas.


We quickly got organized and we were off to our first two dives for the day. I forgot what sites we went to. We left the dives at the hand of our dive master, Abet. The dives were quite “eventful” we saw quite a lot of interesting sights.

(nope. the above picture is not from this trip :( Joanna had forgotten her underwater camera. My camera only goes down 15 feet. the photo above is from a previous Anilao trip in June 2009)

We saw some big frog fishes, two huge Jacks, each one around 1 meter long. Puffer fish. And all the usual underwater sights.


What was unusual for us was a sighting of dolphins. On our way between dive sites, I saw the fins of 3 dolphins heading our way. I thought to myself… “what are those? sharks?” and then I saw one dolphin dive and the signature tail reveals itself. I quickly shouted out “DOLPHINS!” It wasn’t something we were expecting. Totally thrilling. My day was made.

After the first two dives, we went back to the Reef Club to get a fresh set of tanks and to eat lunch.

The Aquaventure buffet lunch is always good. Especially when you’re hungry. But the food served this day was particularly yummy. Nothing special when you think about it, spicy crab, fried chicken, pork humba… but it was quite fulfilling.

After lunch, at around 2pm we proceeded out for our third dive for the day. It was ok, but the water conditions were becoming quite harsh.

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Diving is always a good lakwatsa.

Anilao, Batangas – June 12, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009 (Independence Day). At the invitation of Joanna, went on a day-trip dive along with Yancy and Johnny. The destination… Anilao, Batangas… and the Aquaventure Reefclub. We met at Petron/McDo on the SLEX at 6:30am. Almost didn’t push through ‘cuz it was raining heavily in Metro Manila. But no, Joanna snidely texted to me “we’re not diving in Metro Manila you no.”

We got to the Aquaventure at around 9am… made previous arrangements with our divemaster to start at 10am… but he was late from his previous dive group. So in the meantime we lounged around.

Diving in Anilao


Anyway… we got to kick off on our dive at around 11:00am. We suited up and the bangkeros loaded up our gear and our tanks on the bangka.

This was my first dive in a couple of years and I was so thrilled that I still fit into my wetsuit. Or rather, that my wetsuit fit me again (yes there was an “era” when it didn’t fit).



Wohoo! We’re off.


The Yosi twins Joanna and Yancy. These two smoked whenever they could.


That’s our first destination in the distance. Our first dive is at Layag-Layag. Please see map for more details. Our second dive was at Twin Rocks. Not sure why, I didn’t see any two ricks that looked alike.

Misc. Diving Photos (courtesy of Joanna’s Camera)






After the initial photos, I didn’t take much pics off my camera. First, since I didn’t have a real underwater casing, I couldn’t bring it below. Plus after the dives. I was too pagod to take pics… and back in the resort my camera was at the bottom of my drybag.

We got back at around 2:30pm or so. We washed out gear than we have a late lunch. It was a great buffet at the Reef Club’s second floor restaurant area. I always loved their buffet… simple comfort food. Yum.

At around 4pm we made our way back to Manila.