Have I lost my mind? Should I turn back and forget this whole thing? Should I continue on and finally face this fear? All these conflicting thoughts were running around in my head as I walked to Kontiki Dive Resort, Mactan Cebu. Before I knew it, I saw my friend waving at me, clearly written on his face was excitement for this day’s activity – discovering scuba diving and traveling beneath the ocean.
I started freaking out a little
I don’t know how to swim, like all humans I can’t breathe underwater, and I have unreasonable fears of the deep blue. My imagination runs wild when thinking of the vast ocean. What if a Kraken appears and drag me down to my watery death with its tentacles? What if a white lady with long black hair growing out of her face grab me and send me drowning in horrors?! Anyway, you get the picture – I’m scared!
But fears are meant to be conquered…
…or so I told myself when I accepted this invitation. After all, if I eagerly await Cebu Pacific promos to go off to far away islands in the Philippines, why not explore the marine life that’s just in the neighborhood? They say the sea around Cebu has many beautiful things to offer, right? All these sounded sane to me a few weeks prior so I accepted Gian’s (one half of Adrenaline Romance) invitation to try out this 1 hour scuba diving discovery activity.
On the day of reckoning
Five other people turned up for the DSD (discover scuba diving). The main instructor, Jonjie, sat us all down and lectured us about the three basic skills we’d need to survive, er, enjoy this activity:
1. Forget the nose exists and breathe through the mouth – so we could breathe using the air tank. If water gets inside the mouthpiece (what did he say?!), just exhale sharply to push the water out.
2. Mask clearing – if sea water gets inside the goggles/mask (that’s not really comforting!), hold in place the mask at the top part of the nose, inhale then exhale sharply through the nose. This will open the lower part of the mask just enough to expel the water.
3. Ear pressure equalization – To get rid of underwater ear aches, inhale, pinch your nose and exhale through the nose. (This is insane, I should have been in some hotel in Palawan right now. Anywhere really that’s not here would be good…)
Jonjie then taught us important hand signals for communication underwater. I listened so hard and memorized like crazy those hand signals, especially the ones for distress and going up to breathe.
Last chance to go back
Before I knew it, we were led to the sea and I was asked to wear the heavy scuba diving tank plus a pair of constricting flippers. I felt like I was wearing a death trap! We were still in waist-deep water when Jonjie asked me and my assigned dive buddy to practice breathing using the air tank. At this point, my heart started racing so fast it took me three attempts to finally get the hang of it. Most of my brain was screaming for me to go back. But a part of me stood firm. Don’t chicken out, face your fears, woman!
I formed an O with my thumb and forefinger. I just gave Jonjie the okay signal.
Time to face the fear
Jonjie dragged me to the deep. Wherever I turned, I could only see a few meters ahead and beyond that was just deep, deep inscrutable blue water. The hyperventilation started; I was breathing too quickly that I started seeing stars. I was about to pass out!
Then Jonjie tapped my shoulder and hand signaled if I was okay. For some reason that calmed me. Then I remembered this quote, “if you want something you’ve never had then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done”. Then it clicked – I wanted to face and overcome this fear because I am a traveler and the deep sea is part of the many wonderful places the earth offers to explorers. I want to be able to love and travel more often to the world that’s beneath the waves.
I did a mental left hook, upper cut and straight punch all directed at Fear’s ugly face. Once again, I gave Jonjie the okay sign.
I felt the panic leaving me. I looked around and this time I didn’t see a scary world. I saw gorgeous teeming marine life. The corals came in all shapes, sizes and colors as do the fishes swimming in and out of them. I saw a very regal lion fish and some very cute sea horses. There were brain corals and beautiful seaweeds gently swaying to the tune of the currents. And as if the sea was rewarding me for braving her depths, I was treated to a large school of small silvery fishes passing by. There were so many of them they were like a wall of silver in front of me, the sunlight making them glitter.
It’s true what they say after all. It is beautiful down there!
After an hour, we were back to the shallows and I never thought I’d say this, but, I was sorely disappointed when our scuba diving ended!
Then it hit me – I successfully faced this fear! Yes, I might not have fully overcome it yet but I’ve taken the first step to do so and the possibilities are now endless. I’ve now gotten a taste of the beauty that’s down there and I feel like my horizons have broadened, which is exactly the feeling I long for when I travel. From trying to be always in control and ‘safe’, I’ve learned that taking leaps, or in my case, dives of faith can lead to beautiful and rewarding experiences. It’s as they say – some of the most beautiful things in life can be found at the end of one’s comfort zone.