Diving in Puerto Galera with Dive Instructor John Mateos Ong
Last Jan. 12-13, I managed to pull out just enough from what I have left in my savings (while ensuring I’d still have enough for my upcoming Iloilo-Bacolod-Dumaguete trip — I’m a super shoestring traveler, mind you) to join dive instructor John Mateos Ong’s students for a weekend of diving at Puerto Galera.
With Louie, Dive Instructor John, yours truly, and my age old friend Jane on the boat en route to Puerto Galera (photo c/o Michelle May Ong)
We arrived around 11, checked into El Galleon, had our lunch and looked forward to our dives at the renowned reefs of Puerto Galera.
After squirming into our wetsuits, prepping our weight belts, masks, booties, fins, BCDs (Buoyancy Control Device), regulators and tanks (with the help of the Asia Divers staff) we’d be off to our first two dives of the trip.
Our BCDs, regulators and tanks all lined up and ready to go (photo c/o Michelle May Ong)
War of Nerves
This would be my first time to go diving after my Open Water Diver Course at Liquid Dumaguete, and I was really nervous to be diving with someone other than my instructor Adam who made me feel so safe and secure in spite of my initial reservations. (I have very little confidence in my swimming skills and my ability to hold my breath and my ability to stay calm when something scares or startles me several meters below sea level)
And after some tentativeness when water leaked into my mask on the surface (and delaying the second batch of divers), I finally got my shit together and began my descent.
We had our first dives at Monkey Beach and Sabang Wreck, descending 21m and 19m respectively. They were relaxing and pleasant dives that helped get me comfortable in the water again after some time away.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), I don’t have pictures or a video of the dive, because as tempting as a GoPro Hero 3 is, I don’t have the money to set aside for that right now. But that just means you’ll have to go down for a dive yourself. 🙂 (I’ll share pictures here when John uploads his :P)
The next morning, I woke up to a serene and quiet picture of this. (taken from my Instagram)
Drift Dive at The Canyons
The day before John had asked the other girls if any of us was interested in diving with the more experienced boys in the Canyons. It was a drift dive (meaning the current would sort of take you on a ride), and was recommended only for advanced or experienced divers. I think all of us girls wanted to do it but were highly doubtful of our ability.
John was confident he could guide a newbie through it provided that he only had to focus on one person. Since no one else wanted to, I decided to go for it and try to challenge myself a little before taking my Advanced Open Water Diver Course in Dumaguete this February.
Flipping No Fins, You Won’t Get Too Far
We first dropped off at West Escarceo, where there was an abundance of corals as well, and a current. I thought the current was just making it harder for me to swim, when John pointed at my feet, and I lost a fin!!
This setback cost my dive mates some time (sorry again, guys!) and we had to resurface because the Asia Divers dive master would not allow us to go on with me having only one fin (which at that point I felt I actually still could go on swimming with only one fin — like a Nemo).
Good thing we replaced my lost fin though because our brief dive at West Escarceo did not prepare me for the current at The Canyons. Not to exaggerate, but there’s absolutely no way I could have made that dive without one fin, let alone without holding on to someone. You could literally see the fish swimming as if they were on an aquatic treadmill. There was a point wherein I was in a sort of whirlpool going round because the current was so strong. It was my most stressful dive to date, but I was so glad to be in John’s hands (quite literally). I was proud to have experienced it, in spite of losing my fin (and of course, having to pay for it :-S).
We took a break before our last dive of the trip, and after the mild trauma of losing my fin and getting stuck in such a strong current (I was hardly able to notice the corals at that point, to be honest), I told John I’d sit out the next dive to The Canyons and go with the girls instead, so the boys could swim uninhibited.
But with John’s encouragement, I dove with them to The Canyons again. And I’m so glad he convinced me because it was not nearly as strong in current. and there was one point where we reached a little enclave with a lot of violet, purple, and fuschia-colored colors some 30 meters deep, and I really felt like Ariel in the Under The Sea scene right before Sebastian sings…sans the singing aquatic life. That has been my favorite dive in my few 10 dives so far. Thank you, John, for your faith in me. Hehe.
With John’s other students, Sophie, Candy, Aimee, me, our dive masters, Diana, May, Louie, Jane, and Aze 🙂 Thanks for adopting me! 😛 (photo c/o Michelle May Ong)
Diving with John / Jong
Any fears I had initially were unfounded, and it was nice to experience diving with another instructor, and if I had not planned to take my Advance Course in Dumaguete (since I’ll be headed in the area), I would have utmost faith in John to get me through it, with his 8 years experience in diving, 6 years in teaching, his patience, and his passion in making diving possible for Filipinos.
If you’re looking to explore diving (and I think you really should! Our country is the perfect place for that and it’s inexcusable not to experience it if you have the means to book trips abroad), check out Jong’s Dive Course Schedule (you can also just join in for fun dives if you’re looking for a group):
- Feb 9/10 : Open Water Diver Course
- Feb 16/17 : Open Water Diver Course
- Feb 23/24 : Advanced Open Water Diver Course
- Mar 16-18 : Coron Dive (fun dive)
- Mar 23-24 : Open Water Diver Course
- Mar 30-31 : Puerto Gallera Dive (fun dive)
- Apr 20-21 : Open Water Diver Course
- Apr 27-28 : Open Water Diver Course
- May 11-12 : Open Water Diver Course
- Aug 3-6 : Malapascua Dive (fun dive)
For more details on rates, packages, and possible discounts, get in touch with John via e-mail at artist_ph[at]yahoo[dot]com or via mobile at +63917-8111471.
Eat well, be merry, for tomorrow, you shall dive. 😉