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:

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: or through

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!

5 Lessons That I Wish Every Filipino Learned After Yolanda

1. Taking care of the environment can save us.

We always think that what happens to the environment is far from us. Like somehow we just exist in this world together but are not directly connected. The typhoon reminded us about one thing and that is if we do not care enough for the environment, time will come that our kind will stop existing because earth will no longer be livable. No more clean water or air for us. All our resources driven to its greatest limits. It is time that we focus on finding more sustainable ways and we should do it quick. We cannot afford to have worse typhoons in the future. Be part of the solution to our current environmental issues. Time to lessen carbon footprints and be more environmentally aware.

2. Our lives depend on the people we vote.

I think by now the people realize that selling your votes or just plainly voting the popular ones will not make any difference to a better country. We should think again on the next elections and vote the ones whose heart is for a better country. Vote someone who will be there when we need them most and who will not desert us in difficult situations.

3. Being an archipelago, we should prioritize making each island self-sustaining.

The centralized way of development has only made the gap between the rich and poor wider. It is time that we focus on those undeveloped provinces by providing empowerment to them. Making transportation and all other basic needs available to all islands, not just Metro Manila or Metro Cebu. We should grow together as an archipelago.

4. We should stop being passive aggressive and acting like victims.

Plagued of news about graft and corruption ( we are so good with pointing fingers), we should wake up and see that we are the government. It is us upon each of us to make sure each peso spent is helping our country prosper. Every time we tolerate and re-elect corrupt officials we allow our country to suffer.  I admire those private sectors who did not wait for the government to do something.  Instead of ranting or complaining they actually did something. We should start thinking forward and not just of the now. Let’s prepare for the worse to avoid it. Better disaster preparedness and city planning are what we need. Let us demand this or else we will suffer the same fate.

5. Where there is heart, there is hope.

I know most of us are already losing hope in our country but as you can see, we have received much love from other countries. They see our worth. Let us stay strong and believe that things will get better for our country. We should follow what the other Filipinos are doing, taking the responsibility upon themselves and taking things to heart. We are known for our resilience. One day we will wake up to a better Philippines and let us start working for it today.

2013 Hit-and-Miss Mementos

I drafted this three months ago because I wanted to list down memorable things that have happened to me all throughout 2013. I have definitely made this year a lot more epic than the last one and life has definitely given me a beating and so far I have survived it. I’d like to think this year was the year of great leaps. My motto for this year it would be: “Be Brave”. I am more proactive this year by quitting my usual life for something more unstable. My mom still does not agree with this life I chose and I sometimes think she is right but I do not think I could appreciate life more if I did it her way. So here is a run through of things that has happened to me.

  • It was a slow start, I found myself struggling to stay focus on my job. I suddenly realized I have no idea where I’m going in the future.
  • I hurried into a relationship to not feel like a loser compared to my ex and in hopes of having something deeper than friendship. I decided to forget my standards about race and age difference. I have never considered being in a relationship with someone from another country.
  • I got a text message from Tito Rodgil Flores asking if I wanted to join Binibining Pilipinas. At first I was hesitant because of my age but I randomly decided to give Binibining Pilipinas a last try.
  • I quit my regular 9-5 job to focus on being freelance and to have more time as an official candidate of Binibining Pilipinas. It was a crazy leap into uncertainty. Something I would never advice people to do because you cut off your steady source of money.
  • My birthday celebration was still a bit sad. I gave up dinner and serenade with the UFL players. I spent my evening talking to the now ex-bf over Skype. He gave me a cute koala for present though I do not know if it was worth giving up the serenade part.  The rest of the night I was talking to a French couchsurfer that I was hosting. The supposed “me time” ended up as another others-first day. I’m making sure my next birthday is really celebrated for me.
  • It was during this month that I started training for the pageant. I have never trained for any pageant before. Imagine how shocked I was at how technical it is to show everyone the best of you from the pace of strutting to how you smile and what you wear. Before it, I thought I was already successful at bringing out the woman in me. I was wrong!
  • I realized how there were lots of people who had enough time to criticize another person’s look. They said a lot of mean things to me and the candidates but I did not really mind them.
  • Visiting the kids during Operation Smile and at Gawad Kalinga, reminded me of being grateful daily. Being a flood survivor and seeing those Ondoy victims, hearing stories of them losing their loved ones made me think of how I was taking my family for granted and not saying how much I appreciated them for continuing to love and support me.
  • I barely noticed this month with all the activities from Binibining Pilipinas 2013. I made my talent presentation again and I messed up which reminded me why it is important to practice and not do things half-heartedly. I have never worked hard for anything in my life and Binibining Pilipinas pushed me to do workouts I would never do. It felt great to see the changes and to know that I can discipline myself.
  • Having no job meant no income and I had to cut my spending. I took the MRT or bus or shared a cab with fellow candidates to avoid spending too much. I had no idea about the financial burden being part of Binibining Pilipinas would put me into. I had to swallow my pride couple of times and ask for my mother’s help since I couldn’t do any modelling jobs.
  • The relationship started becoming toxic getting the pressure of moving out of the country to go to his country. Everything he says is starting to annoying me, not  a good sign for a relationship.
  • Since I was broke, I couldn’t afford to go to Cebu for the Holy Week so while at home, I decided to walk from Ortigas to Antipolo and two other CS members decided to go with me. Religion in the Philippines is such a big thing. I did not get the reason behind one tradition I saw in Antipolo where they would toss coins into the church. We asked 10 people to take a photo of us and only 1 decided to help. It was ironic. There they were trying to repent but they couldn’t even do on simple thing to help someone. Most hypocrites go to churches.
  • Binibining Pilipinas 2013 chapter closed.  It was amazing to get massive support from my family friends and people from Ormoc specially Mayor Eric Codilla. My cousin, sister and her bf flew all the way to Manila to watch me during coronation night. The most unforgettable moment I had with the candidates was the night before coronation. It was that very moment when we realized how far we have gone. All the changes we went through to bring out the best in us has brought us unexpected blessing of new friendships and priceless moments. It got to a point where all of us were teary-eyed. Apart from getting the courage to put myself out there for the public to mock or love and the overwhelming exposure on national t.v, it was meeting 50 different girls that I consider the greatest gift from Binibini.
  • As the curtain closed, I faced the ill effects of my crass decision. I barely had money and no full-time job. It was this period where I had to go through rebuilding my life. It was a big financial struggle, living in Manila is no joke. It’s like sitting inside a taxi where every minute you spend doing nothing mean money.
  • Started considering going home to Cebu but I decided to stand firm on the decision I made August 2011. I reminded myself why I moved to Manila and held on to those reasons. The stress  led me to go through self-destructive behaviors. I went out a lot more. Partied like there was no tomorrow and even though I didn’t spend much, I ended up wasting my entire Saturday from being too tired and time is one commodity no one should waste.
  • A brief mini reunion with Binibining Pilipinas co-candidates during the Araneta Grand Santacruzan, I did not see everyone which was a bit sad. I guess for others it was devastating to not win a crown while the others were busy.  I had to do my make-up because everyone else was busy and some girls fainted for some reason. It was disheartening to see one winner holding out her mobile phone while the rest were saying a prayer . Beauty queens should act as role models and even if they are not religious, they should at least learn to respect.
  • I watched my first rugby match at Rizal Memorial Stadium where the Philippine Volcanoes kicked the UAE national team’s ass.  I also got to meet the players of Globe Immortals!
  • Couchsurfing Philippine Volunteers celebrated its first year! The reason I joined couchsurfing was to do more volunteer work in Manila and it’s amazing how big it became. Helping others will always be a part of my life and I’m glad to help others with my CS friends.
  • It was this time that I started weighing things about the relationship and decide whether I will give up or not. A big decision which I decided to postpone.
  • There was a time where I felt like I was under mid-life crisis. Confused about my life, I continued wasting my time and trying to cope by going to events and sleeping most of the day. I decided later on that what I was doing was unhealthy coping and so I decided to stay away and focus more on different things.
  • I finally decided to let go of the relationship on June and stopped communicating with him. I knew that it was never love and somehow I felt bad for choosing to talk more to somebody else.  Times had change me and being in the relationship just did not feel right anymore. A long walk with a friend reminded me of things that I needed in a relationship. I suck at breaking up with people so as usual I just stop communicating. He was so bothered that he kept sending me long e-mails, I felt cruel but I had to do it.
  • I got offered by the company I used to work with for a freelance job and I was more than happy to still be working for them because he is one cool boss.
  • I did a part-time job  7-11,had to work for 8 hours and it was there that I learned to admire those working in that industry. Many times we just dismiss their greetings, it is a hard job that they are doing. Majority of us cannot smile and be nice to others. It thought me patience. . I however failed on my goal which was to learn how to sales talk. It is still a long way for me specially if you are trying to sell something that you do not like.
  • Sometimes, people see a side of you that you do not even notice. The ones I shared a condo with never got to the point of telling me one by one but I admitted to my mistakes and asked forgiveness. The only sad part was we had to part ways.
  • At the quarter of this year, I found myself struggling more for self-discipline. How to cope with bad coping mechanisms like eating out or going out. It is never easy to tame your own demons without turning into a demon yourself.
  • I realized how I rushed into a relationship that would not work. After several late night talks, walks and misadventures, I found a good friend from CS. He made me realize that guy I hoped for to meet one day can possibly exist. Best of all, he helped me in being less critical about life. There was one cloudy day when we both were the only ones left at home and at the spur of the moment we decided to go buy groceries while wearing sunglasses! He reminded me that a day is only bad if you perceive it as one. We ended up with a messy kitchen from throwing flour at each other and a delicious heavy dinner. We planned to pretend to go on a date at Mini Stop but had to abort that. It was sad that good friend had to leave, we had things unsaid and for some reason, all his friends knew that he liked me and I never suspected. I also liked him and loved talking with him because we had some mental chemistry but we had to take different paths.
  • Sometimes, you do crazy stuff and it makes you feel awkward once you think about what you did but it also made me feel like I was living in the moment.
  • I finally found time to get my open water diver’s license while trying to squeeze in volunteering for a coastal clean-up. I had good memories in that stay in Subic. I learned how much of a mind game it is to dive. I still need to get rid of my swimmer reflexes ( the term I coined for trying to move the arms and kick often while diving).
  • It is not easy to try to represent the country with little support. I am thankful that my dive instructor is very supportive and following a business book’s advice. I mustered the courage to send an e-mail to a top CEO in this country and guess what? He responded. If we only are brave enough to try, then we probably get more help.
  • You know how you try to stay away from someone to avoid caring too much? Well, I find it hard to stay away because he is literally living in the next building. I have definitely spent a lot of time with this guy neighbor, we had moments over tea and his best friend “Margarita” (not a real girl but a cocktail). It is funny how when we first met, I was totally saying I would never go for him. He messaged me first through couchsurfing when he found out I lived across his building.  As a Ms. Goody-Two-Shoes I tried to help him be familiar with Makati and gave several advice.   He is now the guy-next door kind of friend that I never had. As I spent more time with him, I got to know his nice side and somehow it makes it easier to like him more. It is too early to say what will happen and he just got out of a relationship so we both decided to do it the traditional way by following the six months rule. We share the same passion for underwater, environment and health. He picks me up when I am going home late, he pushes me when I am about to give up, he even makes me work-out when I am lazy. He might not know it but he challenges me for the better.  I can now agree with his joke: “You are lucky to meet me.”
  • On two occasions, I dared myself stay at an event even if I did not know anyone. The first time I did it, I ended up talking til morning at McDonald’s with the football player who I hated (he scored the goal that made me lose a bet) and the second one, I ended up partying with two Arab princesses who were spending money like it meant nothing. Being out of my comfort zone, made me talk to interesting people I would never normally talk to.
  • After 2 days, he finally realized that it was not worth putting ourselves in misery by staying away from each other but we are still taking things slow and just enjoying each other’s company.
  • Sometimes I cannot help but think if I really am not good enough for people to treat me like this. I will focus on things I can control like my diving skills.
  • The only happiness I get these days is in those moments where I am underwater. It is my greatest freedom from all human emotions, my haven. With every descent, I leave all hurt and pain.
  • It is never easy when you are trying to carry out something. I find myself in a fight where I only have a handful of supporters. I know once I win people will try to claim and say all the things just to get a piece of the glory. I am sorry but I know who my real friends are and I know those who are just there when the limelight is shining.
  • Regretted being such a wallflower all my life that I was so scared to stand up for things that I believed in and I can really say, once you are passionate about something there will always be people to support you. I have received several messages from friends wanting to give and help out for our Yolanda campaign. Have I not pushed myself, I thought I could not make such a significant contribution.
  • Stayed at Villamor Air Base grandstand for two days and took only 2 hours of sleep. I slept on 3 chairs lined up. It was heartbreaking to hear how politics are getting in the way. How the ones who did not vote for the mayor get less relief goods. I was also a witness of how disorganized government relief operations are. I am very grateful to all the private sectors and foreign countries that have come to the aid.
  • Finished training for Hyperbaric medicine, something that is not common in the Philippines. I was uber happy to have met the founder and be part of the first class in the Philippines. I am looking forward to having more experience operating they hyperbaric chamber and hoping that our country will have more after hearing all the positive research for people who have gone through radiation therapy.
  • Had my first out of the country trip for this year. Malaysia is officially the second country that I have visited, the first one was Singapore 2 years ago. The Malays were doing a lot to preserve the environment and I wanted to learn more from them. I got to stay for 2 weeks. The first week was really awesome as we got to stay and live like princesses at SMART Mabul Dive Resort and meet the awesome staff (most of them were Filipinos). I was lucky enough to dive at Sipadan where I had my first close-up with a shark and a green sea turtle.  The second week was more on the pageant side, I got to try golf for the first time and unexpectedly I enjoyed it. Spent a lot of time hanging out with the other candidates and it was amazing to see how these women with language barriers all getting along together because of the same passion.
  • Won First Runner-up in Miss SCUBA International, though the other girls were telling me I would make it to top 5, I never really believed it til my name got called that night. I was just enjoying every moment while trying to always be at my best. I think what  got me through the entire pageant was my belief that I had what it takes to make it and I badly wanted the opportunity . To be honest, Ms. SCUBA meant a lot more to me than being in Bb. Pilipinas for the sole reason that I loved the ocean. It was such a sweet victory and it made me a lot more driven. It somehow reinforced my decision to give up the usual day job to do more volunteer work. The day after the finals, I was in the news apparently Rappler wrote about it. I went home silently, without media buzz, I carried my 30kg luggage without any help while trying to avoid damaging the crown.
  • I will be moving to a new place, I found a loft and I am thankful that things keep getting better for me in Manila. I remember when I just moved into the city, I rented a P3,000 peso room which I shared with two other girls and slept on the floor. No tv, no wi-fi and no kitchen. I would buy Hong Kong fried noodles which was around P45 and I would divide it and put the other half in the fridge so I can have it as my breakfast. My first two years in Manila was an adjustment and I was lucky enough that when I miscalculated my budget my mom was there to help. I will better at saving for 2014 and still continue to live a simple life despite the temptations this city offers.

I am still trying to complete this list of mementos, the year is not over yet, I still have a lot of stories unwritten.

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.