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Scuba in the Philippines

(Editor’s note: Rick Stonebraker recently traveled to the Philippines and has shared his experiences with The Daily Herald. Part two of Stonebraker’s story will appear in tomorrow’s edition.)
An archery friend from Alaska had invited me to go scuba diving in the Philippines this past October. He and his wife are native Filipinos who visit their homeland every spring. They plan to retire there in a few years.
The 747 Jumbo Jet slowly lifted off the runway at Chicago-O’Hare airport bound for Hong Kong with a flight time of 15 hours and 27 minutes.
The route took us over the Northwest Territory of Canada, and into the Arctic Ocean, north of Alaska. Absolutely one of the most desolate places I have ever seen. There is water visible but the majority of the surface is covered in ice flows. With binoculars, it looks white, barren and featureless. Hard to imagine I am over a frozen part of the world and the next day I would be on a tropical beach.
A slight turn and we head over the vast expanse of Siberia, passing the rugged Cherskogo mountain range in north east Russia. Nine hours into the flight, we are over a vast and barren landscape that transforms into white mountains as we cross the Verkhoyanskiy Mountains and into the Aldan Plateau, just north of Korea.
We cross over the eastern section of the Gobi Desert; a vast expanse of wavy sand. It seems like the majority of the trip has been over remote and desolate uninhabited territory – snow, ice, water, sand, mountains.
After landing in Hong Kong, I boarded another 747 for a flight to Manila. The next day, another plane ride takes me to the southern island of Negros. The aerial view of Manila and its surroundings was nice, lots of homes and the air surrounding the city does not appear to be as polluted as it is in the city.
As we approach landing in Dumaguete, there is only water all around. Part of the runway is man-made and extends a mile into the bay.
A sign at the airport says, “Welcome to Dumaguete.” I am now in a tropical paradise.
Outside the airport, a man with a sign “Cesar Vaughn” greets us, takes our luggage and whisks us off to the resort. On the wall at the check-in desk, was this sign:
Be Honest
Even if others are not
Even if others will not
Even if others cannot
The layout is awesome! My bungalow faces the bay and the grass is like a putting green. The rooms are hardwood and tile and the bed frame is bamboo. The patio is screened in for insect free lounging. The trees are loaded with coconuts and the gentle breeze is wonderful. We had brunch under a grass thatched roof and watched the local fisherman earn a living plying the waters of the bay.
It took me over a day’s travel and four plane changes but it was well worth it. We walked one block to the dive shop called “Scuba Ventures”, met our guide, Sam, and off we went across town to the dive area.