One Breath: PH celebrities who freedive

One Breath: PH celebrities who freedive

In case you need even more inspiration to take that freediving class.

Most of us are content with swimming in pools or strapping on a life vest and goggles, but these celebs have taken these to an extent where they can enjoy the open sea without the need for scuba tanks. If the magical underwater world of the Philippines isn’t enough to entice you to freedive, maybe these local stars will:

Sam Pinto

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Ocean child 💙

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The former actress is a full-on child of the sea; so much so that she’s developed her own line of swimwear (@sirenaswimwearph) and now runs a resort in Baler (@LSirene_). As someone who loves the sea, it’s no surprise that she also freedives.

Drew Arellano

He’s a triathlete, a father of two, and has one of the most enviable jobs in existence: hosting a travel show. He’s quite comfortable with open water (it’s a requirement if you’re exploring the Philippines), and has added freediving to his skillset after learning the basics for an episode of Biyahe ni Drew.

Megan Sebastian

She’s a radio DJ for local radio station YesFM 101.1, and an events host. She’s also someone who’s fond of the ocean, which is apparent on her IG feed.

Rachel Anne Daquis

She’s a professional volleyball player, model, and businesswoman who’s best known for her time with the FEU Lady Tamaraws. She recently took up freediving with the help of @nofinsfreediverph, a group of avid freedivers who “aim to encourage anyone who’s willing to learn freediving, at the same time, help save the ocean.”

The basics
Introductory freediving classes are available with groups such as Freedive PH (freedive.ph) holding classes at Scuba Studio in San Juan (pool) or Batangas (open water).

Featured photo by Miles Hardacre from Pexels

Dare to skydive?

Dare to skydive?

If skydiving is on your bucket list, get started by reading this one-on-one talk with skydiving safety and training advisor Brad Vancina.

I started with a tandem skydive. As soon as my feet touched the ground I knew I was going to be a skydiver. That summer, I got my USPA (United States Parachute Association) license. I spent two years at the DZ I started at then was hired for a weekend camera position at Skydive Chicago.

Skydiving is a very physical sport. I take care of myself and have always maintained a good level of fitness. I ride my mountain bike a lot; I run on my treadmill a couple of days a week, and try and eat right. The gear we wear is heavy–24 kilos—plus the weight of our tandem passengers. We also deal with the heat, so drinking heaps of water and core strength are key to longevity in our trade.

If you’re getting into skydiving, don’t take chances. We belong to an organization called the United States Parachute Association where I am a safety and training advisor. We work and operate under a certain perimeter of rules. If you follow the rules and take the time and money to get certified at a USPA DZ, you will be a good and safe skydiver. If you can’t do that, don’t skydive.

To date, I have made over 22,400 jumps. I must have had around 4,500 jumps when I got my Tandem rating. It took me over 17,000 jumps to get my AFFI (freefall instructor) rating.

My dad inspired me to skydive. He wasn’t a skydiver but his love for aviation and flying became my inspiration. I was the kid in the family that marched to my own drum. Flying is nice but skydiving is just next level.

My most memorable jumps was when I was teaching and jumping with my children, and doing tandem jumps with my mom and dad.

We are a family run and operated skydive center that is current in the industry. Our methods are world recognized and our equipment is the best that money can buy. Here, you are training and jumping with professional and USPA-rated tandem and AFF instructors. As far as I know, we are the only professional skydiving center in the Philippines.

We only use the best skydiving gear. All of our tandem equipment are Micro Sigma, made by UPT (USA). We use 330-square-feet Icarus Tandem Canopies from New Zealand, Performance Designs Reserves (USA) and Vigil and Cypress AAD’s (Automatic Activation Devices). If you can’t afford what’s safe and modern both for gear and training, then you should probably take up a different sport.

My wife, Louise (an Ilongga and a surgical ICU nurse from Chicago), and I were already operating our own skydive center south of Chicago when we came to the Philippines. We saw there was nothing of the sort here and started to do the research into how we could make it work. After an email to Capt. Alvin Boyd Loreno, a commercial pilot and flight instructor from Mactan, I found a guy that was interested and understood the need to follow rules if there was going to be professional skydiving in the Philippines.

We all took a chance together and formed Skydive Greater Cebu. Boyd knew the ins and outs of airspace rules here with CAAP and plays an important role in government relations and our aircraft maintenance and safety. We started in Bantayan Island, Cebu in 2013 and it continues to be our flagship operation. That’s where we get our biggest numbers as well as all our USPA AFF certifications and licensing.

Because of how hard it was to travel here in the Philippines, we realized it would be good to open a location South of Cebu. Siquijor was a perfect choice.

My wife and I always had our eye on Palawan but it wasn’t until this year that we decided to do a trial run. We have been open in xx, Palawan but we are shutting down and reopening in November. I feel it will be our best location in two years.

Any USPA Skydive Center that follows the course to a T and has highly experienced instructors is good if you want to learn skydiving. If their instructor has less than 1,000 jumps, he/she has no business teaching someone how to skydive.

Skydiving is a progressive sport. It’s best to go to a progressive DZ to get a license and make your tandem skydive. Make sure their training methods are current and the equipment they use are made within the past six years.

Pick a DZ with instructors that have time to jump with you. Some instructors like to rush to the next student because that’s how they make their money. Pre and post-jump briefings are very important, and you can’t do those while running to the next student.

Skydiving is a pretty competitive industry so the costs are pretty fixed. Most tandem jumps with video are around USD400. AFF levels are usually around USD200 – 250 per level. Once licensed most DZ’s offer slots to altitude for USD25 – 45. If you see a real cheap skydiving center, you should be very concerned and ask a lot of questions.

Being a scuba diver, my wife and family often find ourselves in Malapascua Island, diving with our good friends at DiveLink Cebu. I am excited to open our skydiving center in xx, Palawan in <target date> because the diving and surfing there is awesome and not as crowded.

There are many good restaurants in Bantayan Island, Cebu. You can’t go wrong with most of the sugba-sugba (grilled seafood) places and I can never give a good lechon station a pass. A trip to Cebu is never complete without a bowl of spicy ramen from Hamakaze.

I grew up in the farmlands of Illinois. My dad always supported my love for motocross bikes and BMX vert riding. As I grew up, I raced XC and downhill mountain bikes, all while twisting throttles on motocross bikes.

I still ride mountain bikes a couple of days a week. I found a great group of Filipinos here on Bantayan Island. We ride Enduro Motocross and trail rides from Bogo to Cebu. My greatest passion of all is surfing. It’s the only thing that still scares me.

I like beaches. Where the beach is doesn’t really matter as long as there are nice wave coming in. I’m not too good at just relaxing. One of the best times of my life were the years I spent living in Australia. It was the perfect mix of jumping all day and running to the beach with my board every afternoon.

We are quite happy here in the Philippines. There are a few things that drive me crazy with the way things get done, but for the most part you can’t beat the heart and warmth of the Filipino.ho is Brad Vancina?

Who is Brad Vancina?
Brad is the man behind the only USPA-affiliated skydiving centers in the Philippines: Skydive Greater, which now has two branches—it’s original location in Bantayan Island, Cebu; and Siquijor. Visit Skydivecebu.com

5 scenic motorbike rides in the South

5 scenic motorbike rides in the South

Riding a motorbike is one of life’s greatest joys (or, at least, it should be), and here’s where you should do it.

Since it’s not as wet in the South as it is here in the North, and since motorbiking is life, giving you an adulterated freedom to see and experience sights at your own pace, cheating city and inner town traffic, here are five destinations you can fly to and enjoy the sights of, after renting a motorbike. Bloggers Kara Santos and Louie Pacardo curate.

Siquijor

Islands like Siquijor are often best explored on two wheels. Photo by Kara Santos

The island province of Siquijor is a scenic island worth exploring on a day motorbike tour. Often associated with stories of witchcraft and mysticism, Siquijor offers enchanting beaches, beautiful waterfalls, and other architectural gems. The most interesting spots are scattered around the island—a bit difficult to access by public transportation but best if via a motorbike.

Glan, Sarangani Province

Sarangani is about as far south as some people would like. These open roads give you a view of Sarangani Bay, as shown here by Louie Pacardo. Photo by Louie Pacardo

The road going to the beach town of Glan is already a destination.  The coastal road along the edges of Sarangani Bay offers scenic views of the mangrove-rich and white sand beach strips. Glan is best known for its white sand beaches and heritage sites. Biker-friendly resorts include Kamari Resort and Hotel which offers a spacious and guarded parking area.

Glan is about one hour’s ride away from General Santos City in Mindanao

Alamada, North Cotabato

Head for Alamada in North Cotabato if you’re looking for something that’s definitively off the beaten path. Photo by Louie Pacardo

Alamada is among the lesser known riding destinations in Mindanao with unique landscapes and roadside views.  The 120-meter wide Asik-asik Falls is the top destination going to this silent town in North Cotabato. Another emerging must-stopover is Daday Falls, a tall drop settled in a Jurassic period-like landscape sandwiched by steep gorges in Barangay Dado.

Alamada is about three and a half hours’ ride away from Davao City

Lebak, Sultan Kudarat

This is the view that awaits any avid rider after taking on the hundred motorcycle bankings. Photo by Louie Pacardo

This coastal town facing the Celebes Sea in southwest Mindanao is best known among riders because of its twisting roads. You’ll do about a hundred motorcycle bankings going in and out of this sleepy town in Maguindanao Province. Lebak is best known for its tasty crabs and seafoods and its many waterfalls like Tres Andanas Falls.

Precaution: Mindanao is generally peaceful. However, just like when traveling in any part of the country or even the world, it is still best to check the present security situation in particular areas with previous peace and order issues.

Siargao

What better way to explore the country’s top surfing destination than on two wheels? Photo by Daniel Soriano

For beach-lovers and surfers, the island of Siargao is one of the best places where to ride. Aside from the main surfing area of Gen. Luna, the island conceals beautiful uncrowded spots like Malinao, Magpupungko Tidal Pools, and Pacifico, that you can easily ride to. There’s a variety of motorbikes for rent, including ones outfitted with surf racks—well, for packing your surfboard—and gorgeous bespoke bikes handcrafted by 3B Customs, a bike builder from Surigao City.

Words: Ferdz Decena

10 best kitesurfing spots in the Philippines

10 best kitesurfing spots in the Philippines

Know where to ride the winds, straight from award-winning kitesurfer Dano See.

Most people will point towards Boracay as the kitesurfing capital of the country. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the only place where you can ride the winds. Here’s a list of kitesurfing spots in the Philippines from former kitesurfing champ Dano See.

1. Kingfisher Resort, Paoay, Ilocos Norte

This beach is known for ideal kitesurfing conditions. Photo from Kingfisher Kite Surfing and Wind Surfing Beach Resort

For Australian kite designer and professional kitesurfer Dano See, Ilocos Norte is not only a site for history and beautiful beaches but also a playground for kitesurfers looking for the ideal wind condition. Kingfisher Resort in Pagudpud  is where kitesurfing enthusiasts will find the “strongest winds, biggest waves, and most radical reef passes for the longest duration of the year,” says Dano. But what makes Kingfisher a special location is the bigger venturi effect caused by the local mountain range which adds in 10 to 15 knots to any forecast. The venturi effect is when the wind becomes stronger as it passes between mountains or hills.Book kitesurfing tours at Kingfisher.ph

2. Bangui Beach, Bangui, Ilocos Norte

Kitesurfing near the iconic Bangui Windmills of Ilocos Norte.

Another spot worth checking out in Ilocos Norte is Bangui Beach, which, according to Dano offers a “great beach break location with side-shore winds for the experienced wave riders or a super flat water lagoon surrounded by windmills.” He considers it the most picturesque location in the Philippines because of the wind farms and its waist-deep lagoon. Book kitesurfing tours at Kingfisher.ph

3. Paoay Lake, Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Another requisite in the must-kitesurf list of kiters as it has a freshwater lake that’s ideal for flat water kiteboarding—kiteboarding that entails gliding over a calm, slow-flowing body of water. “The winds can be strong too, but typically, it’s more your average 9-meter-plus weather, which is the wind range for small kites. The season is much more limited as it is out of the Taiwan Strait, but the heat of the Laoag area draws in afternoon sea breezes.”Book kitesurfing tours at Kingfisher.ph

4. Bulalacao, Mindoro

The laid-back southwestern charm of Mindoro coupled with unspoiled pocket beaches, coves, waterfalls, caves, as well as steady and strong winds make it an alluring kitesurfing destination. The town of Bulalacao, which Dano describes as the “outback region of the Philippines,” is wonderful because of its rugged trails and forested paths. It  is also notable for its howling winds due to the venture effect created by the huge mountain range of the neighboring islands.

Aside from Bulalacao, other spots in Mindoro that are good for kitesurfing include Libagao and Nagubat, Aslom and Suguicay.

5.  Cuyo Bay, Cuyo, Palawan

Further away, Cuyo Bay in Palawan is perfect for flat water kiteboarding—thanks to its sandy bottom and some outside reef passes that offer small wave riding fun. “Although Cuyo is an island off Palawan, it has been listed under Mindoro because the wind is from the same venturi effect of the Tablas Straight. Winds are strong and blowing from Amihan (northeast wind) starting October up to May. Recommended kite sizes are from 5m and up,” Dano says.
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6. Kite Club Palawan, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

A 20-minute drive from the Puerto Princesa International Airport, in Brgy. San Jose lies Kite Club Palawan, a resort with a beachfront that is a good spot for kiteboarding. It’s the only safe launching spot along the southern end of Honda Bay. “The venturi effect here is the leftover air flow from Mindoro’s Tablas Strait, which reacts with the local mountain ranges and land temperatures.”

“It’s best to kitesurf here during the Amihan season, especially from December to February, and use kites with size from 9 meters and up.”

7. Lakawon Island, Negros Occidental

Dano See’s description of Lakawon Island suits it best: a erfect flat water lagoon location and right-hand point break seen on the outside reef during high winds and typhoons. Photo by Zander Servant

In Negros Occidental lies Lakawon Island, which, according to Dano, cradles over 100 hectares of reef that offer a “perfect flat water lagoon location and right-hand point break seen on the outside reef during high winds and typhoons.”

“The winds here are a mix of venturi and sea breeze all year round. Amihan winds from November to March are relatively light, but the Habagat (southwest monsoon) winds are quite special. The southwest air flow funnels through the Guimaras Strait bumping up the usually light offseason winds. Use kites that are sized 9 meters and up if it’s the Habagat.”
Lakawon island is a 20-minute boat ride from the Cadiz Viejo Port and 50km north from Bacolod Airport

8. Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental

Zamboanguita in Negros Oriental is a chill kiteboarding spot with good flat water conditions and consistent winds from September to May. “Here, the wind is mainly from the Amihan wind flow with a large volcano in the backdrop accelerating the air flow around the bottom corner of the island,” says Dano.Zamboanguita is an hour-drive away from Dumaguete City, the capital of Negros, which is known for its lively food scene and makes for a good basecamp

9. Siargao Island

Siargao isn’t just for surfboards; it’s also good for kites. Photo from Surfkiteschool

If you think that surfing is all there is in the country’s surfing capital, take a look at its waves again. Because then you’ll know that they likewise attract the different kind of surfers— kitesurfers, that is. Cloud 9 is said to be the mecca for advanced kitesurfers because of its huge waves and averagely light winds. But Dano has a piece of advice: Stay well clear of the Boardwalk area; otherwise, you’re likely to get your kite all tangled up.

The huge lagoon near Viento del Mar in General Luna,  also offers a good flat water kiting—thanks, in part, to its sandy and grassy bottom. “Although the winds are generally light there is the odd monsoonal blow. Best to kitesurf Cloud 9 from December to February and use kites from 12 meters and up. There are, however, those few days a year when you need a much smaller kite.

10. Boracay Island, Aklan

We can’t have a spots-for-kitesurfing list without Boracay. We just can’t. Photo from Nenette Graf

Boracay is the mecca of kiteboarding and windsurfing in the Philippines, in fact, it’s is where it all started and kicked off. The wind here are lighter as they come from the Tablas Straight and they’re consistent from November to March, and allows for using kites from 9m and up. Alternately, White Beach, world-famous for its four-kilometer-long creamy white-sand beach, is, according to Danao, a “great for kitesurfing from June to September.”

Who is Dano See?
Dano is a former kitesurfing champion who is now into kite designing and manufacturing. He’s been supplying kitesurfing schools from all over the globe and helping kitesurfing schools in the Philippines by providing affordable kitesurfing equipment.

Words: Jona Fortuno

4 days in wreck wonderland

4 days in wreck wonderland

Explore sunken ships—the ugly beautiful allure of Coron, Palawan.

Coron, Palawan, the wreck diving capital of the Philippines, is known for its 13 World War II Japanese shipwrecks all lying within depth enough for them to be explorable by underwater addicts—the divers— from the Teru Kaze at a minimum depth of 4m, to the Irako with a maximum depth of 42m.

These wrecks offer great views from the outside and excellent routes on the inside for experienced divers and those with the right certification levels. Most of Coron’s dive operators in town, including our own Reggae Dive Center, typically offers three daily dives.

If you only have a few days in town, try this itinerary.

Day 1

Swimming in Barracuda Lake.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Start your diving holiday with some shallower check out dive in Barracuda Lake, known for its thermoclines and temperatures reaching 39 degrees Celcius—a perfect warm-up for a stunning dive on the Morazan Maru, which offers great diving both for experienced and entry-level divers.

Morazan Maru was originally built in 1905 in England but was sunk in September 1944 along with the other wrecks. She has since turned into a home of an abundance of species like lionfish and giant trevallies—and sometimes even turtles.

The beginner-friendly (and eerie) Teru Kaze.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Cap off your day with a shallow dive at Teru Kaze located a stone’s throw away from the Morazan Maru, for some reef and wreck diving. This wreck is good for snorkeling as the shallowest part is only 4m below the surface. On most days, Teru Kaze will offer good views from below as well as from above the surface.

You’ll be back in Coron later in the afternoon with ample time to climb Mount Tapyas for a view of beautiful sunsets and of Coron Island. Enjoy a refreshing fruit shake or a cold beer at the newly opened Tapas Lounge before you continue further down the hill and out into town.

End your day by stopping at Coron’s many bars and restaurants. You can have the bistek and menudo at Lolo Nonoy’s or vegan pesto pasta and veggie sticks at Le Voyage. For something off-track, walk off the main street and venture into Coron’s side streets with its eateries and restaurants catering to all tastes.

Day 2

Experienced and certified divers can upgrade their depth limits with dives to the Akitsushima.

The Akatsushima.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

This wreck’s location between 23 and 35 meters under the sea makes it not suitable for entry level divers but it remains to be one of the most popular dives in the area as it’s the only wreck left with its guns mostly intact. The guns are dislodged from the gun turrets and are currently standing upright on the seabed next to the wreck, with three barrels raised toward to surface.

It’s a just-barely-doable for entry-level divers: the Okikawa Maru.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

After spending some time on the surface, have your second dive at the Okikawa Maru, an oil tanker that holds the distinction as Coron’s longest and widest shipwreck at 160 meters in length and a 20-meter span across the beam. Her shallower part lies above the depth limit for entry level divers.

This wreck is located in a passage that from time to time creates strong currents. Due to the relatively shallow depth and the current, the Okikawa Maru teems with marine life—groupers, snappers, crocodile fish, triggerfish, and more. Those with keen eyes will find this wreck good for macro diving.

Cap your day’s dive series at Lusong Gunboat, one of the last unidentified wrecks in Coron. The Gunboat took direct hits and had its wreckage spread over a wide area, though the hull is generally intact. As with the Teru Kaze, this gunboat was also sunk in very shallow water—so shallow in fact that this wreck pokes out of the water at low tide.

The Lusong Gunboat is perfect for all levels of divers—from those getting into scuba diving, experienced divers who want to chill a bit after some great dives, and macro enthusiasts.

End your day with a dip at Maquinit Hot Springs with its natural saltwater springs, or a full Italian meal at Altrove.

Day 3

This day will be your last diving day in Coron since divers are advised not to fly within 18 hours of going underwater. Finish off in style at the Irako, Coron’s deepest and darkest shipwreck.

The beauty of the Irako outweighs the risks for experienced divers.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Irako was a refrigerator ship in the Japanese Navy. She has tight compartments and storage rooms, and her starting depth of 30 meters means only the most experienced of divers dare to take her on. Currents can change in a heartbeat and visibility ranges from a few meters on a bad day to magnificent ideal months. Her upright position with masts still poised makes it easy to see why she has become part of many divers coming to Coron’s bucket lists.

The eerie compartments of the Kogyo Maru makes for one daring dive.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Another deep dive is on the cards for your last dive day: the Kogyo Maru, an auxiliary construction supply ship, which went down with her load. One can still see the toppled construction machines in her cargo holds, with belt tracks and hundreds upon hundreds of bags of cement. Like the Morazan Maru, this wreck is widely covered in corals and marine life, from schools of seabreams to circling big-eye trevallies, to huge numbers of scads and fusiliers.

Make a final dive in one of Coron’s reefs or one of the shallower wrecks to make this trip one for the books.

Head back town for some tasty ramen and a cold beverage at Buzz. You can also visit Tita Esh for a more low-key vibe and some filling pansit canton or a heart-warming bowl of mami.

Day 4

It’s island hopping day! Make sure not to leave Coron without taking a trip to Coron Island. Rent a private boat with a tour guide or book a tour through an operator.

Kayangan Lake, but not from the usual viewpoint. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Coron Island offers a lot of white sand beaches and clear waters, with lunch that’s served in one of the small huts they have set up for the same purpose on the beaches. Do not miss out on Kayangan Lake or Twin Lagoon; go snorkeling in Siete Pecados or Twin Peaks.

A stand-up (or in this case, sit-down) paddle boat is a good way of exploring Coron’s neighboring islands. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Rent a kayak or a standup paddleboard in town if you’re feeling edgy before leaving and explore the island as you paddle along. This is a great opportunity to experience the beauty of the island in a very eco-friendly way.

Relax and enjoy the evening with a good view and a cold gin and tonic from either the View Deck or Suites 4:13 before heading out for dinner and summoning a good night sleep.

Who is Lisbeth Jensen?
Lisbeth is an instructor at Reggae Dive Center in Coron for over four years now. She is passionate about the environment and has used her work to participate in conservation efforts in Busuanga.

The Basics
Get there. Skyjet Airlines flies from Manila to Coron three times daily. Flyskyjetair.com

Dive tours. Reggae Dive Center offers fun dives to Coron’s many shipwrecks as well as PADI dive courses.
Mobile: +63928 835 5657, +63906 316 1454
Reggaedivecenter.com

Head to Freediving Coron if you want to enjoy these same dive spots without the need for heavy scuba gear.
Mobile: + 63915 172 6809
Freediving-coron.com

Words: Lisbeth Jensen; Photos: Catalin Craciun & Daniel Soriano
Featured photo by Catalin Craciun

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