Dumaguete 2017 || Apo Island

I have done a lot of things where people thought I was brave. When I graduated, instead of pursuing avenues made easy by people in the family (and there’s absolutely nothing with doing that), I tried to get by with my own merits (and still do). I travel by myself as much as I could. I sign up for experiences I have never done before, even if it meant I had to take an uncomfortable tumble down a hill. I’ve heard so much about this so-called courage directed at me, but further introspection has always begged to differ. What people don’t see from the outside is this overwhelming fear of the unknown, and of the future. You can plan out your entire life, down to how many glasses of water you can drink in a day and when you’ll drink them, but an unexpected one-minute phone call can derail everything. Every single thing you do, no matter how small it is, could be creating an avalanche that you didn’t have the foresight to see. I find that idea terrifying that sitting here and writing about it had made my hands cold and clammy, with a lump in my throat that won’t go away. While I like to think that I love the challenge and the temporary exhilaration of going out of my “comfort zone”, it was not called that for nothing. Everything I do is usually in accordance with making sure that I have some sort of security. From getting a degree to finding cushy job opportunities, surrounding myself with people whose goals are similar with mine and those who haveย ‘achieved’ them, up to choosing a location to where I want to build my future home – all the roads I worked on paving leads to living a life where I feel safe and secure. But life has a way of pulling the rug right under your feet when you least expect it, and no matter what you do, nothing is ever really certain.

And I guess that’s also why while I enjoy basking in the sun on a beach, being in the middle of the ocean never fail to give me anxiety. This planet is 70% water and there are depths that science hasn’t reached, and most scientists would say that the ocean is literally filled with too many things no one knows about yet. There are just too many unknown possibilities lying underneath the deceptive calm dark shade of blue, and being in a boat where all you can see is this same shade of water 360 degrees is enough to make me offer a silent prayer to deities that may or may not exist.

Since we were on a boat filled with divers – another hobby that I don’t plan on taking up for reasons stated above – the boat drop-offs are at deeper depths compared to the usual spots for snorkeling tours. This wasn’t the first time I have gone snorkeling, and I have always been confident enough to swim around the boat (because again, snorkeling tours usually stop at shallow reefs where water is 2-5 meters deep) without a life vest. However, we were dropped off at the first dive spot and unlike any snorkeling trips I’ve done prior, I couldn’t even see the sand. Gin and I jumped off the boat (with fins on, and it was our first time to use fins too), looked down with our snorkeling mask and only saw endless water. Two words. Fucking. Terrifying.

Swimming in the ocean with fins for the first time, and in this depth, was not something I suggest to anyone who is a bit panicky (like me) with plans to live for a long time. We should have practiced using it in the resort’s pool first because again, I DON’T PLAN TO DIE IN THE OCEAN. It takes a little bit of getting used to, and I can already feel my legs cramping because I might have been treading the water wrong (or something, can you tell I haven’t used fins before lol). I swam back to return the fins and ask if we would be able to see anything at all, and we were advised by the boatmen to swim nearer to the island to see more. The island looked super near from the boat, and the current helped us swim to the island faster. We didn’t get too close because when we looked back at the boat, we realized we were farther than where we thought we’d be. It doesn’t seem too deep in the photos, but those tiny colorful fishes you see in them are actually the size of my palm (and bigger). The current was against the direction towards the boat, and the cramps I got from the earlier encounter with the fins have restarted so I shouted at the boatmen to throw me a life vest before my life starts flashing before my eyes. They threw me a life ring which was easier to get into, and that is the story of how I eluded death in Apo Island.

Since the divers take an hour (and a bit more) at every dive spot, Gin and I got to relax and eat our snacks at the boat while waiting for them to come back. We didn’t even know that they also take about an hour of break time after every dive which sucked for the both of us who only really wanted to snorkel. I’m never getting on a boat with scuba divers again.

Fortunately, the next stop was a lot more shallow (shallow enough to see the bottom, thank the heavens), and the boatmen guaranteed us turtle sightings. I believe their exact words were “wag kayong babalik dito hanggang hindi kayo nakakakita ng turtle” (don’t come back in this boat until you see a turtle), which was exactly what we wanted to hear. During our trip planning, we agreed that Apo Island is the only thing we didn’t want to miss out on when we get to Dumaguete because the marine life is just stunning. This time, since the drop off was on the shallow part of the sea, the scuba divers went the other way while we went the opposite direction. I did the preemptive choice of bringing the life ring with me, which was fortunate because, after a couple of turtle sightings, Gin and I lost sight of one important thing. Her GoPro. Since we obviously still have all these photos, we got it back, thanks to the coral reef patrol (not their real name but they have people stationed in the water to make sure that none of the tourists damage the reef) who saw two girls clinging on one life ring screaming about a lost GoPro. It was one of the longest five minutes of our lives. The Apo Island coral reef patrol deserves all the credit – making sure the reef is safe (and no one plays with the turtles), pointing out the turtles (to which Gin and I hurriedly swam to, while also shouting underwater at finally seeing a live turtle and viewed it from a safe distance because nobody likes strangers badgering their home you know), and retrieving lost GoPros with their freediving skills.

All the turtles look small in the photos, but some people tried free diving to swim next to it and they were as huge as their torsos. It was an insanely magnificent sight to behold. I have never been teary eyed underwater until I saw actual turtles in their natural habitat.

Another long break. Another dive spot. Gin and I stayed in the boat because it was on another deep part of the island, and the foreigners we shared the boat with were talking about the sea snakes they saw. Gin and I just turned to each other with a look that said “we’ve had enough adrenaline for today”, and just let the fish come to us when the boatmen threw away their rice overboard. Although I would DEFINITELY come back to Apo Island again (I even contemplated on actually breaking my personal rule of no scuba diving so I can get nearer the corals), I will probably go on a snorkeling tour with people who are not scuba divingย next time. All our underwater photos do no justice to just how amazing this experience was.

And I guess while it’s reasonable to be afraid of the unknown, we can only work on being secure up to a certain point. As they say, life is what happens while you plan for it. I would have never seen (and cried over) turtles if I let my fear of the ocean conquer me, and there are probably greater experiences I would miss out on the future if I let my fears overwhelm me. When life takes a turn, and your fears of losing your footing (or getting cramps in the middle of the ocean) come true, let your will to survive push you. I’m slowly learning to find joy in hanging on bright orange life rings because sometimes the current just does not go towards the direction you want it to. As with life, the only thing constant about the ocean is its waves – sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down – you just need to ride them. It’s hard to be grateful when you feel like you’re drowning, but I have people in my life looking out for me, and people to swim against the tides with. ๐Ÿ™‚

17 thoughts on “Dumaguete 2017 || Apo Island

  1. I think you’re very brave. Bravery means being afraid and doing something anyway! Your underwater pics are so cool. I have a morbid fear of live fish so being out in open ocean water just isn’t an option for me. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’d have a heart attack. . .I once thought a friend’s fin (in a swimming pool) was a fish coming up behind me and I screamed, then choked on water. . .it wasn’t pretty :). Have a great weekend, Teesh!


  2. It’s great that you’ve done a lot of adventuring that’s outside your comfort zone. That’s when you know you’re trying to expand it. Glad you’ve been learning and experiencing the most out of life! It’s always good when you find friends who have similar goals as you. That way, you don’t feel like anyone is hindering you or influencing you the wrong way.

    It’s amazing that there are a lot of parts of the ocean that is still unknown. It’s so cool that you got to snorkel in the ocean! The coral reefs look beautiful!

    Apo Island looks beautiful. Wow, I would be panicking if I lost a GoPro in the ocean! Glad the coral reef patrol managed to recover it! Much kudos to her :). Glad you enjoyed your time out there!



    • Hey Nancy, I think we often attract people who are similar to us, hence the phrase “birds of the same feather”. And yes, the coral reef was AMAZING. I wish my eyes could capture the same way I saw it because photos do not give it justice!!! You should definitely visit when you get the chance. ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. Turtttttle!!! I am insanely jealous that you saw one in the ocean! This looks like such a cool (but like you said, TERRIFYING) experience! Glad you didn’t die out there ๐Ÿ˜‰


  4. I thought you had a life vest on the entire time! Then I was like nope. When we were in Puerto Galera, we were holding on to the boat (with life vests) as they passed through the deeper parts of the ocean and I might have just moved closer to the boat. The ocean is just a scary thing to me! It was only last year that I tried swimming without a life vest and that was because I was surrounded with my relatives! I’m not so scared I won’t want to experience more out of it but I’m not sure I can do it without a life vest.


    • Yeah, I personally prefer swimming without a life vest because I find it harder to snorkel since I kept getting pulled upwards. However, I didn’t realize how terrifying it would be to do so in deeper waters. Wear a life vest if you don’t feel safe without one!!! Safety first!


  5. Love the photos, Ate Teesh!! And I like what you wrote as well especially sa intro. Nothing ever really is certain. But one thing is for sure, you are a brave girl and nothing can change that. ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. Teesh! I’ve been wanting to visit Apo Island to swim with turtles since god knows how long haha I hope I can cross this place off my list this 2018! Also, I seriously need to learn how to swim first haha


  7. Wow, awesome nature! The locals seem nice. Do they look like they’re able to handle emergency situation? Your experience was indeed scary!

    How does Apo compare to Boracay?


    • Hey Olive, I’m not really sure if the locals could handle an emergency situation (like one of us drowning), but I don’t plan on ever finding out for myself. Haha! I think if you plan on spending your day on the beach and frolicking in the sand, Boracay will be better. But the view when you go snorkeling? Apo Island it is! I don’t like crowds, it’s a personal preference, so Dumaguete is a better choice for me. (Also, tons of cheap delicious food)


      • Hahaha!! Makes me want to really go! I don’t like crowds too. It really looked like you had the island to yourselves! I did some googling on the island and you were right about the currents. It got even some experienced divers missing – scary! I enjoyed reading about places I haven’t really heard of – awesome posts!


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