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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. This is the third and final part of his story.)
We flew back to Manila the following day. Michelle picked us up at the airport. She is an archer and a scuba instructor. Cesar met her a number of years ago on a dive trip and struck up a lasting friendship.
Then we were off to the scuba resort that took us in the hills, crossing ridges and then down the other side of the mountain to the sea. Along the way we went through villages and many fine wood working shops. At one stop, we roamed around some magnificent wood carvings and fine furniture – needless to say – all hand made.
We passed about a dozen dive resorts before coming to the “Crystal Blue Dive Resort.” I thought I was in paradise in Dumaguete but this place is very nice. It is built right into the side of the mountain. Every room, lobby, meeting area, dining area, patio, etc is on a different level – stair stepped into the hill. The resort only had 14 rooms. The view overlooked the bay and would an ideal place to escape from civilization and reality.
After taking a much needed 20 minute nap, we glided across the bay 3-4 km to an island. Just offshore, we dropped anchor and over the side we went. It was an overcast day and the colors were not as visible until you came within 10-15 feet and then it was amazing!
We hovered over the bottom and Michelle passed me a puffed starfish. I passed to Cesar and then he gently set it back. It was another wonderful dive. They guided the boat several hundred meters and we prepared for the second dive. The diminishing sunlight made the dive a bit dark but it was still a good one.
After dinner, we sat on the veranda and talked archery. Michelle is a beginner and wanted to know as much as possible as well as Cesar; answering endless questions.
With each dive, I gain confidence and get more comfortable underwater. On the last day of diving, I was asked how deep I wanted to go. I had already been down to 80 feet the previous day so I said a hundred. We took our time and eventually, we maxed out at 105’. I was thrilled!
Because of the time it took to go down so deep and back up, I was consuming more air than either Cesar or Michelle. Using sign language, I tell her my tank pressure is down to half (1500 p.s.i.). She finned over and gave me her octopus, which is a spare emergency regulator. All regulators have two hoses and two mouthpieces for this purpose. I shared her air for a few minutes, then went back to my regulator. We ascended slowly to the surface and all too soon, the beautiful underwater adventure came to a close.
When we arrived back at our hotel in Manila, we found out a bomb had been exploded at the mall less than two blocks away. The area was still cordoned off when we arrived. Nine people were killed and about a hundred injured. Cesar and I had been to this mall a week ago when I first landed in Manila.
Our strategy changed for the day as we had planned to take a public taxi. Cesar called a cousin who sent his driver for our use. We went down-town Manila and then to a huge mall famous for shopping. Pirated DVD’s cost a dollar, genuine “Crocs” sell for $8.50 each, while a pair in the USA is $29. You can get a fake Rolex for $25. I bought a strand of black pearls at a bargain.
No trip of mine is complete until it involves archery. The driver took us to the only indoor archer lanes in Manila. Another friend of Cesar’s owns the building and graciously donated a large room for use as an archery range.
I got to meet many of the local archers and answered multiple questions. I was happy to give advice on proper shooting form. Michelle was one of the grateful students.
The next day (Sunday) I leave Manila at 8 a.m., a short layover in Hong Kong and then to off to San Francisco. This route took us south of Alaska. We crossed the International Date Line about 1:30 a.m. I landed in San Francisco at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, the same time I took off from Manila.
After 22 hours of travel, I was safe and sound back in Houston after a wonderful week in the tropical Philippines.