The underwater amazes me so much that sometimes, I can’t help wondering what it’s like to live deep down.
It was during my visit in Coron when I realized that I needed to start learning skindiving. The underwater world of Palawan is marvelous, but I was there, just floating on the surface,. trying to go deeper in vain. I would run out of breath in only a few seconds.
It’s lovely. Being deep down feels as though I’ve been transported to a different world. The water is crystal clear. From the surface, I could see a shipwreck, schools of bright-hued fish, and corals decorating the sea floor. I promised myself that one day, I would go deeper to enjoy those wonderful creations at an arm’s length.
I kept on practicing every time I had a chance to freedive. And every time, I noticed I was becoming better at it. Still, I wasn’t confident and comfortable, and felt afraid. I told myself that soon, I should attend a class to learn the basics and practice with the experts.
Recently, I had the chance to attend one of the weekend city dive classes of Seazoned Philippines and interview the founders, Gen Abanilla and Nico Soriano. I asked them how Seazoned Philippines started. Gen was glad to narrate its humble beginning.
“It started from a catch-up dinner with Nico Soriano back in February, 2016. He wanted to do a singles dive event back then. I said I wanted to help with the promotion.
“In exchange, he said he would help me buy a new GoPro, so we did a class after the singles dive. After the first city dive class, we felt the need to continue it so more and more Filipinos will be able to learn without bearing the burden of paying for an expensive freedive certification. Jumping to this day, we were able to teach sixty batches and counting. Our mission is to provide safe and fun freediving lessons for everyone.”
Before founding Seazoned Philippines, Gen was working in a digital marketing agency, a corporate slave who had to work on weekends and use her leave credits to make time for and hone her freediving skill while Nico was an entrepreneur even before he started freediving.
If my determination to learn freediving was born out of my frustration in Palawan, Nico’s was a result of watching documentary about spearfishing. He got curious on how fishermen would dive without any gear. Because of that, he started researching about freediving.
Gen, on the other hand, discovered freediving when she saw a video in 2014. After watching it, she knew she preferred freediving to scuba diving. In 2016, she decided to dedicate all her weekends to freediving to hone her skill. Since AIDA certifications were expensive, she had to save first and finally got her AIDA 2 certification in 2016. And in June this year, she got AIDA 3 certified.
Freediving has changed Gen’s and Nico’s lives. It has made them calmer, more relaxed, and more connected to nature. Holding their breath underwater is their own way of meditation. And if you will ask what their favorite dive spot in the Philippines is, both of them will answer Apo Reef.
I felt tremendous excitement when I arrived at Scuba Studio in San Juan City. I didn’t know what to expect. I had only one thing on my mind: I wanted to be better at this. There were 15 participants, more or less. I was part of batch 57. Gen facilitated the class and asked us why we attended her class. I answered I wanted to be comfortable underwater, that I wanted to learn the basics and the dos and don’ts.
But there was one answer that got stuck in my head. She said I wanted to get rid of my life jacket. Well, that’s funny, but it’s true. We are living in an archipelago of over 7,500 islands. We are surrounded by water. Our country is inside the coral triangle, which is recognized as the global center of marine biodiversity. Imagine how beautiful and rich our underwater world is. And yet many Filipinos are contented with floating around and watching the serene life near the surface. Snorkeling is fun, but going deeper is heaven.
The class was straight to the point, easy to understand, relaxed and fun. We had three hours of classroom training, educating us about freediving. After that, we did a breathing exercise. When our body was more relaxed, we started to practice what we learned in the classroom. I have to admit, I was a little scared. Scared of the unknown. We were divided into four groups and had one person supporting each group. The first activity was to haul myself down, feet first. I had difficulty doing it. There was pain in my ears when I was about to reach the bottom, causing me to panic. Gen personally assisted me to practice equalization. She’s very hands-on to everyone. It made me feel more comfortable and safe.
The next activity was going down the rope, but this time, head first. I found it easier to reach the bottom, but it was more challenging, because I needed to remind myself to equalize from time to time which I wasn’t used to doing before. The last practice was duck-diving, and since I did it often prior to the training, I didn’t find it challenging. I, however, needed to improve my kick and posture.
One thing I’m most thankful for about attending the city dive class is, Seazoned Philippines pushed me to my limits. I realized I can do better if I keep on practicing, I can hold my breath longer, I can reach beyond my comfort level, and I can go deeper. After the training session, I became more relaxed in doing skindiving. Now, I don’t have to wonder; I can go deep down and experience the life underwater myself.
To check upcoming city dive schedules for the month of December don’t forget to follow Seazoned Philippines on Facebook.