Miss SCUBA Philippines 2014: My Farewell

Yesterday, I relinquished my crown, my journey ended as Miss SCUBA Philippines 2013. I got to meet and find out which lucky woman will be flying to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia this November to represent our country. I would like to share the moment I had last night as I said goodbye. For those who weren’t able to witness it, here is the farewell speech that I wrote on a whim.

During Ms. Cebu
During Ms. Cebu

For as long as I can remember, I always had a love for the ocean but I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. It was in Facebook where I first heard of Miss SCUBA and without second thoughts, I went to the screening alone with the dream of having the chance to get a diving license. I did not win Miss SCUBA Philippines 2012 instead I won as a runner-up, Miss SCUBA Philippines Marine Tourism 2012. Losing however did not stop me from what I wanted, I was lucky enough to have met the international organizer, Mr. Robert Lo and before 2012 ended, I was appointed to represent the country for Miss SCUBA International 2013. At first, I hesitated, thinking that it was unfair for the rest who would want to represent the country but I eventually knew it was the opportunity that I have been waiting for.

Just like a ship on a grand journey, I went against several waves to be Miss SCUBA Philippines 2013.  I had to sacrifice time and put effort to find sponsors and supporters. On December 8, 2013, I left Manila to with an almost empty wallet, a luggage bag filled with secondhand and borrowed clothes and my dive equipment. I knew that my life will never be the same once I board the plane. I was worrying about how my stay would be and what would become of me after. I left my country and only a handful of people knew what I was about to do.

With little support, I felt like an unarmed dwarf forging a battle against giants.  The next day while I was patiently waiting for another flight, yellow lights started creeping in, slowly taking over the gray covered clouds hovering and just right out of the glass window of the airport, Mt. Kinabalu greeted me with her grandiosity. It reminded me to think big, that very sight gave me courage and made ready me for the start of competition. I opened my heart and my mind and got rid of my fear. Each day was filled with laughter shared not only among candidates but with everyone involved with the pageant. The whole competition seemed like a long vacation.

Fast-forward and I found myself standing together with four other finalist where I was the only one with no special award and in that split second, my name was called. It was a surreal unexpected moment of triumph when they called me as Miss SCUBA International First Runner-up. Since then I was able to help communities and contribute in protecting the marine environment. To my mother Noemi and sister Carrie for the unfailing love, to Sir George for helping me with my diving license, to Aquamundo for providing my dive gears and to Edwin Uy for letting me don his creations for the MSI competition, to my Miss SCUBA International Family,  SERALHCO, SAV Hospitality and to everyone who was with me during this journey, I am forever grateful.

I am walking in front of you now as a proof that failure is a natural part of success, road blocks are meant to test you and passion always gets you through. To the next Miss SCUBA Philippines, the dream is yours for the taking, be brave.

I was sad and happy that night because I knew a new door of opportunities will be coming. I will be part of the Miss SCUBA International 2014 at Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia as a guest and a co-host. I am also looking forward to new projects with them in the future. Cliche as it may sound but every ending is just the beginning of something else.

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How You Can Help The Ocean: International Coastal Cleanup 2014

Everyday, more than a thousand Filipinos and foreigners flock to the sea for pleasure, work and food. The Philippines is one of the countries blessed with massive stretch of coastline. In fact, it has one of the longest coastlines in the world—estimated at 36,289 kilometers. The coastline extends 2,000 kilometers from north to south, with 25 major cities lying on the coast.

The ocean provides us with the basic elements of life—it produces half of the oxygen in the air we breathe, and it is an essential part of the water cycle, helping to provide the water we drink. It is an important vein bringing life to our planet and yet each day we keep on destroying it.

Turtle Mistaking Plastic for Food
Turtle Mistaking Plastic for Food

People know that trash in the water:

  • compromises the health of humans, wildlife and the livelihoods that depend on a healthy ocean
  • threatens tourism and recreation, and the critical dollars they add to our local economies
  • complicates shipping and transportation by causing navigation hazards
  • generates steep bills for retrieval and removal.

To be passive about this ongoing problem is like slowly committing suicide. With every trash we throw into our ocean, we our taking in poison.

A Movement for Trash Free Seas

Over the last 25 years, Ocean Conservancy has been bringing together passionate ocean lovers and helping them contribute to a vision for trash free seas.

International Coastal Cleanup is the largest volunteer effort for ocean’s health. Held annually every third Saturday of September, people around the world gather on beaches, coasts, rivers, waterways and underwater dive sites to remove trash and record information on the debris collected.

Results will aid in better waste management policies/plans, product packaging designs and in stirring environmental consciousness among the people.

Did you know?

Top 10 Countries
Hooray For Philippines

The Philippines is the second largest participating country in the world with 182, 408 volunteers for the ICC 2013. Last year, volunteers collected 794,181.9 kilograms of trash and debris in 150,544 bags within 445.73 kilometers of beaches/shorelines, waterways and underwater areas. 

If you want to get involved this year you can visit the following sites:

Ocean Conservancy

International Coastal Cleanup Philippines

Shore It Up

 For two straight years, I have volunteer for Shore It Up Zambales.  You can even see me (or my back the least) in their video! Here is what has been happening for the past 2 years.

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If you want to join them you can visit the event page in facebook: 

International Coastal Cleanup Zambales

 

Cleanups alone can’t solve this pollution problem.

10 Things You Can Do
What You Can Do To Help

As the late John F. Kennedy once said at the Dinner for the America’s Cup Crews on September 14 1962:

“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.”
Cleaning Up at Bantayan Island
Cleaning Up at Bantayan Island

The ocean is an vital part to our life. We should fight to save it. There is after all no planet B. The ocean needs your help to keep millions of pounds of trash away from it – your everyday choices can help keep it clean.

Plastics are a menace!
Plastics are a menace!

Labor Day Dive : Exploring El Capitan and USS New York at Subic Bay

For months, I have put off my plans of diving! I was probably meant to have my 20th dive in the place where I learned diving (courtesy of Boardwalk Dive Center).

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Subic Bay is home to a lot of wrecks! When you go wreck diving, you have to make sure that you have a good trim or else silt will ruin the visibility. If someone calls you a seahorse while diving, that means you suck at doing the trim. Day in and day out, people from different countries would visit to test their skills. I have always been lucky enough to go diving with people who had more experience and who were of higher levels: technical dive masters and rescue diver while I am still an advanced adventure diver.Anyways,I probably suck more at selfies underwater than on land (my rate of success on land is 1/20) so I hope you forgive me for my futile attempt at underwater photography.

First dive was at USS New York, one of the most popular wrecks in Subic. If you want to explore the entire wreck, you will need to have excellent technical dive skills. The wreck is not for the fainthearted. It will test you and bring out the claustrophobic in you. Three divers have died exploring inside the USS New York – which indicates significant hazards and the need for advanced technical wreck training. My bottom time was 30 mins. since I was just using air. I wish I could have stayed longer.

Depth: 16 until 32 Meters

Length: 116 Meters

Position: Port Side

Current: Generally Calm

Suitable for: Advanced Open Water/Experienced/Technical Wreck Divers

Perfect for: Intermediate-Technical Wreck Penetration, Historical/Heritage Appreciation.

Diving Information:

Basic Divers – Lower than average visibility (due to proximity to the Olongapo river mouth) and deeper water makes this site more suitable for divers who have gained experience beyond entry-level training. The top of the wreck lies in 17-22m depth, covered in soft and whip corals with many reef fish. Lying slightly deeper (~59 ft (18 m) deep) divers can examine the uppermost barrel of an 8 in (200 mm) primary gun. The 361 ft (110 m) length gives plenty of area to observe. Corals, sponges and fish life that have had over 60 years to convert it into home. Scorpion fish are common around this wreck and divers are reminded that contact with these fish is dangerous. Experienced Wreck Divers – More advanced divers can explore the propeller, conning tower and deck areas. There are some areas of relatively easy penetration, with open-spaces and sufficient height to stay clear of major silt deposits. These include the following. The mess deck (2nd deck down) has an interesting penetration 197 ft (60 m) with port holes above allowing light, but no exit. The boiler room can be explored within recreation diving limits. Due to the nature of the wreck, with low light/viz and the risk of silt disturbance; redundant gas supplies and guideline deployment training are recommended for penetrations.

Advanced/Technical Wreck Divers – Three divers have died exploring inside the USS New York – which indicates significant hazards and the need for advanced technical wreck training. Divers with proper decompression and advanced/technical wreck penetration training can reach the engine room, machinery spaces and lower decks. These are in excellent condition, with huge pipes, machinery and valve wheels. Spaces are extremely confined, with many restrictions and high risk of silt-out. Penetration is generally made on twin tanks, whilst deploying a constant guideline to the exit. Both engine room entrances have notices, warning of the dangers to the untrained.

I am no stranger to the second dive site El Capitan (USS Majaba). It was where I did my first and second dive. Unlike USS New York, I was unlucky because the go pro ran out of battery while we were exploring inside! It was a beauty and I will definitely go back to take good videos and photos. I forced the gopro and somehow it worked and I got to take photos of the school of jacks at the end of the dive! We also got to see a spotted ray and not-so-giant clams.

Depth: 5 until 21 Meters

Long: 90 Meters

Wide: 16 Meters

Position: Starboard side

Current: Generally Calm

Suitable for: All Levels of Divers Perfect for: Novice Wreck Penetration, Fun

Diving Information:

At a depth of slightly over 18 meters the outside of the wreck provides an excellent site for divers. The forward hole is wide-open allowing entry by even novice divers. The top side (starboard side) is at 5 meters, which eliminates the need for an extra safety stop. This area is alive with a variety of fish. From the forward hole, additional areas of the ship may be accessed. One route takes you to the accommodation area and on to rear cargo hold. Wreck History: Normally referred to as the El Capitan the USS Majaba (AG 43) was built as SS Meriden by Albina Engine & Machine Works, Portland, Oreg., in 1919; acquired by the Navy under charter as SS El Capitan from her owner, E. K. Wood Lumber Co., of San Francisco, Calif., 23 April 1942; renamed Majaba and commissioned the same day. She was placed out of service 14 March 1946 at Subic Bay.

How To Get There From Manila:

Take the Victory Liner Bus from Cubao, Quezon City. Take the one via SCTEX, it is a lot faster. When you get off the terminal, you can ask around where to take the jeepney that goes to SM Olongapo or if you have a lot of cash, you can take a cab into Subic Bay for P300. From SM Olongapo, you can just walk through the gates into Subic Bay Freeport.

Victory Liner Bus Schedule
Victory Liner Bus Schedule

Where To Stay When In Subic Bay Freeport:

If you are on a budget, you should check-out The Cabin by Subic Park Hotel. It is one of the cheapest accommodation than you can find.

A practical place for practical people. The only Backpackers Hotel inside Subic Bay Freeport Zone. It is located along Schley road, Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Owned and managed by Subic Park Hotel. The Cabin has dormitory type accommodations with (5) five bunk beds, individual cabinet, fan, and fully air-conditioned. We also have twelve (12) Private Rooms with air-condition, LCD Television and Coffee Table available for single or double occupancy. You can also enjoy our homey type reception area where you can feel and enjoy the warmth hospitality of our accommodating staff and its country side atmosphere. For as low as Php 430/night to Php 750/night you can now avail and enjoy the most affordable country style service with free Wi-Fi access everywhere.

You can book here: http://www.thecabinsubic.com/

If you want high-class accommodation, you should try The Lighthouse Marina Resort. It is the best hotel in Subic Bay.

The Lighthouse Marina Resort is a three-floor, 34-room boutique hotel capped by a lighthouse. The hotel is sleek and ultra-modern in its Palafox-designed architecture. Done in almost austere Italianate architectonics with its elegantly simplistic hotel facade, the hotel main building provided a perfect compliment to the 20 meter light tower done in surprising detail very faithful to naval architecture specifications. It’s exclusive location hidden in the midst of the busy Waterfront Road makes it the ultimate haven of retreat. The Lighthouse established back in 2007 to provide transient residence to executives of business locators of the Subic free port zone; and for tourists who frequent the port more for its sailing and eco-tourism than its business.

You can book here: http://www.lighthousesubic.com/ or through agoda.com

After the dives, I realized I need to save up for a better underwater camera, my wing (the one I used for Miss SCUBA was just borrowed), my torch and jet fins for the love of having a more streamlined dive in the future! I also need to practice more on taking better selfies and perfecting my trim! Also need to ask someone else to take photos of me so I have full body ones. It sucks when you are the one with the camera, you barely have decent photos!

It is always a good experience to dive at Subic! It is easy access and you can go to a lot of wreck sites.You should not miss diving there!

Miss SCUBA Philippines 2013

Last November, I competed for Miss SCUBA Philippines 2012 and I won Ms. SCUBA Philippines Marine Tourism 2012. I was a bit sad because I wanted to win the right to represent our country. I have always been passionate about marine conservation and tourism. When I graduated highschool, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist but because it was an expensive course, my mother suggested that I take up Nursing and though I never became a marine biologist, my passion was never gone. I joined clean-ups and tried to pick-up trash when ever I see them at sea.

Earlier this year, before the Binibining Pilipinas Coronation Night, I was offered the chance to represent the Philippines and be Ms. SCUBA Philippines 2013. My heart skipped when I found out despite the lack of support, I decided to take the opportunity. This pageant is what I’m really passionate about. The sea has always brought me happiness. Come December, I will be able to represent Philippines and make the other counties see how beautifully diverse and rich the marine life of the Philippines is and how great the possibilities there are for our country.