After completing our training at Singapore's Kampung Glam Community Centre's BSAC diving club and heartily sick of the dank and dark water off Hantu and St John Island where we have been swimming for three months to earn our certificate, the five of us brand-new divers immediately signed up for an oversea trip. So, on the First Day of Chinese New Year, 1999, we found ourselves jumping into the cold, choppy but crystal warer off Maricaban Island. It was a brave and auspicious start to our diving career after the rigorous training from September to December, 1998.
Maricaban Island is off Batangas City, four hours by jeep from Manila Airport. The resort is run by an Englishman, former SAS instructor Paul Evans and his enterprising Filipino wife Josie. The food was simple but savoury, and the rooms spartan, spacious and clean. We definitey liked to come back again.
The sea was wild, and the weather windy. It would have been ideal for a retreat but it was terrible for my diving. I got panic attack on the first dive and was initially unable to go down in the choppy waves. After overcoming my fright, I went down with Josie and was awestruck by the beautiful coral gardens spread like a banquet beneath me.
In between dives I read the mystical poems of Rumi, and took heart from his admonitions, when jumping into the restless sea.
The most memorable event was the last dive on Feb 19 where we hauled ourselves down the anchor line to the sea bed, fighting against a 2-knot surface current. As I stared at the rope while pulling myself down, I was thinking how I would look back and remember this exciting adventure.
We hit 12m bottom where the water was calmer, and cruised over a rocky ledge to 18m. Suddenly before my incredulous eyes was a tract of bare white sand streaming with hot bubbles. We took off our gloves and warmed our chilled hands in this underwater hot spring. I saw a palm-sized lionfish in all its angry glory, and a pair of file fish kissing each other.
-- Francis Chin, Feb 17-20, 1999
All pictures by Francis Chin
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