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The Not So Little Mermaid: Becoming A Certified Open Water Diver
October 14-19, 2012 – Liquid Dumaguete, Dauin, Negros Oriental

My brother told me I broke our Betamax player by watching Little Mermaid everyday, several times a day for a good many months. I would grace (or curse) obliging family and friends with my throaty, off-key renditions of Part Of Your World, and Ariel’s ah-ah-aaahs when she gave Ursula her voice (and fins) for legs (and a boy).

Since high school, I’ve had this desire to pursue diving in the back of my mind but always held myself back by the cost of the activity, and the fear of going through underwater mask and regulator removal, which from my father’s stories, I knew were mandatory parts of the PADI Open Water Diver course.

However, with this year being a year of cumulative personal change, and letting go (of clinging to money, fear, inhibitions, and other life clutter), I finally took the “deep” plunge on a trip to Liquid Dumaguete, even if my hyperactive imagination can conjure a lot of personally scary scenarios. Like sea urchin, jellyfish, rock fish. Or mask/oxygen malfunctions. Or equalizing problems. Or deep sea radioactive aliens.

Earning My Fins

Getting my certification seemed really daunting to me, especially as someone who doesn’t really have confidence in her swimming, is afraid of drowning (had an incident when I was younger) and is fearful of big fish.

I presented my anxieties to my instructor Adam, who reassured me that I was in a relatively good psychological place, in that I looked calm (though my heart was pounding). But I’m proud to report that I completed the course in 3 days of classroom sessions, written exams, pool sessions, and open water dives, and came out unscathed, albeit with a considerable bit of ocean water down my throat.

[With Adam, his brother/student Greg, and Jasper]

Photo c/o Liquid Dumaguete

I feel like my Open Water Diving Course would not have been as smooth and relatively painless as it was without the awesome team of my dive instructor Adam and dive buddy Jasper guiding me the whole time.

Adam oddly reminded me a lot like the comforting and jovial James Barber a.k.a. The Urban Peasant, whose cooking shows I watched growing up. With Adam’s huge warm smile and Jasper’s readiness to participate in their very well-performed demo role plays worthy of PADI videos, and sometimes corny yet somehow still funny quips, they would elicit laughs from me that if underwater, would have caused significant water leakage in my mask.

During my open water dives, we managed to see a whole bunch (yes, that’s the beginner diver speaking) of fish, corals some Nemos, a Flotsam/Jetsam and a big sea turtle.

The experience gave me a greater appreciation for life underwater, some human friends, and an opportunity to face some fears and laugh a lot (though in a more controlled manner when underwater).

Diving as Meditation

It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine though because the experience forced me to overcome some personal obstacles. And during my mildly traumatic underwater mask removal exercise out at sea, Adam gestured me to slowly breathe in and out, and gradually I did regain a sense of calm. Then I thought maybe he was a certified yogi / zen master too.

After the experience, I came to the conclusion you really don’t get to practice how good you are at meditation while sitting in a safe, serene, quiet ashram. The ultimate meditation test is when you are facing some of your greatest fears, yet remain calm, collected and fully present. And diving is one of those activities in which you have no choice but to be fully present if you want to stay alive, and at the same time, once you’ve centered yourself and gotten that sense of calm, it’s also a divine moment of ineffable gratitude.

Now, I do appreciate my legs, but like Ariel, I would give up my ability to speak, to don fins for a while so that I could be part of her world. Advanced Open Water Diver Certification soon, hopefully. 🙂

See more pictures from my Open Water Diver course here.

* If you’d like to sign up for a fun and fulfilling experience like I did, get in touch with über warm and friendly Zoe or Nez of Liquid Dumaguete at or +63917-3141778.

Liquid’s PADI open water course is Php17, 950/diver, inclusive of the PADI manual, Liquid Dumaguete log book & sticker, use of all required diving equipment, sanctuary fees, instruction and certification. The course can be completed in 3-4 days, with 5 classroom sessions, 5 confined water sessions in their salt water training pool, and 4 open water dives — 2 dives to a depth of 12 meters, and 2 dives to a depth of 18 meters. Upon completion of the course you will receive a PADI open water certification that is life long and accepted worldwide. 🙂 This might be pricey for the budget traveler (believe me, that’s what I am), but the experience is uh-mazing.

More on Liquid Dumaguete in a succeeding post!

Bubbles and happy dances,

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