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Dive Ta Bai! – A Freediving Community in the Philippines

Me and Doi during the first ever Dive ta Bai freedive session

Five years ago on the 14th of October, it was a fine Sunday when three bloggers namely Edwin, Doi, and Johnn decided to try “freediving” in the reefs of what then was Tambuli Beach Club. The three were curious about the sport of freediving and did not know much except for what they have tried to experience for themselves.

After almost 4 hours in the water, they were quite spent but extremely stoked about the whole experience. With smiles on their faces, they vowed to discover more reefs and take their dives to further depths.

Back on dry land, one of them decided to create a Facebook group to invite more friends who might be interested in the group: “Dive ta Bai!”. The group wanted to connect with like-minded individuals who wanted to explore freediving in Cebu.

Five years later, the Dive ta Bai community has now over 1000 members with chapters in Bohol, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, Diplog,  Iligan, and even Dubai!

Dive ta Bai! “Let’s Dive!”

Official Dive ta Bai Logo

The group was informally created as a community to connect fellow freedivers so nobody had to dive alone. The activities were fun dives and social activities that involved freediving. As the years went by a good number of the freedivers began to grow with the sport and pursued certifications for freediving.

Freediving was not as popular around five years back. Back then it wasn’t easily understood what we were doing and many people would actually mistaken our activities for scuba diving. Nowadays with digital media easily sharing videos of freedivers, it’s not too difficult to explain what we do for fun.

Advocacy and Community

While we were focused on building the community, different chapters around the Visayas and Mindanao pursued their advocacies. Ian Uy, Dive ta Bai- Bohol, lead a great example in adopting reefs and also advocating the development of reef protection programs. Edwin Castillion, co-founder of Dive ta Bai, also lead the protection of the sardine school in Panglao as they face heavy fishing. Dive ta Bai-Davao, Ritche Abgragan also lead clean-up activities with the freedivers in Davao.

Dive ta Bai BOHOL Freedivers

Beyond just freediving and having fun, the community has now become a gateway to exploring collaborative efforts to help conserve marine life while promoting the beauty of the Philippine waters.

Welcoming Every Freediver in the World

Dive ta Bai DAVAO Freedivers

As part of the spirit of community of freedivers, every chapter of Dive ta Bai will act as an ambassador to freedivers who are visiting the Philippines, helping them discover the beauty of the Philippines in a proper and safe manner.

Dive ta Bai Today

We do know that initially that Dive ta Bai was built on the purpose of fun and community however after half a decade of community growth and development, the leaders of Dive ta Bai have been called to a purpose of responsibility and example. The communities that carry the brand “Dive ta Bai!” all follow a universal set of standards that are based on the standards set by agencies like SSI, RAID, and AIDA.

Dive ta Bai Freedivers get featured in the Media during their Dive Pilgrimage at Bien Unido Bohol

It is the community’s focus and advocacy to help the safe growth of freediving in the Philippines in line with the Department of Tourism’s objective to develop the Archipelago as the Freediving Capital of Asia.

One A Personal Note

Edwin, Dive ta Bai co-founder, venerates the underwater Sto. Nino, photo by Martin Zapanta

I miss the days of how Dive ta Bai used to be. The simple times where we just gathered for freediving simply just for fun and discovery, the innocence and simplicity was delightful. There is now a more serious note on how we approach the community’s objectives because we are now even more cautious when dealing with newcomers because we are now responsible for how we cultivate growth around the sport.

Though I miss the old Dive ta Bai, I am excited for what the community has to offer. 5 years has been a long time and quite enough experiences to help shape the direction of Dive ta Bai as a family of freedivers, athletes and instructors.

How to Join Dive ta Bai?

Carlo Navaro and Martin Zapanta, both National Record Holders in Freediving in the Philippines

Simply join the group: Dive ta Bai!   and if you don’t get approved drop a message at Dive ta Bai! Page to express your interest to join in the group in order to participate in the activities.

If you are not a freediver it is okay, the group will be able to guide you through everything from equipment to certification.

If you can’t swim, we can also help you get connected with swimming coaches who can help you with your needs.

I’m excited to see more and more Filipinos get involved with Freediving and hopefully our athletes will make their mark in the World Record logs.

Our Spearo Dive ta Bai members enjoying a nice meal after a dive

Dive more, Dive safe, Dive ta Bai!

 

Exotic Bird Lovers of CEBU – XBLOC

Charlie Pigging out during one of the events in Parkmall

It’s still less than a year since I decided that I will begin keeping birds again and I am rather thankful that this time I did not pursue the craft in my own but sought advice and guidance from those who have built several years of experience from mistakes and victories in aviculture.

My mentors and friends are those known aviculturists from the: EXOTIC BIRD LOVERS of CEBU or more popularly known as XBLOC.

Beginnings in Istorya.net

The group had their early beginnings even before Facebook became quite popular. For Cebu, it was Istorya.net that was the choice place to be online and discussing topics of common interest. I remember even browsing pet discussions back in my high school days. This was the place to be in to share about your pets. One particular thread that focused on the keeping of Exotic birds was the: Exotic Bird lovers of Cebu.

We started as forumers sa istorya.net… There was a thread there about birds and we log-in everyday to talk about what birds we had, who was selling birds, etc… Then we decided to meet up at parkmall sa KFC to see who was the face behind the avatar..” – Paul Regi Magdadaro, XBLOC founder.

 

Eventually the online discussions turned into personal friendships that had the first physical encounter during their February 13,2011 eyeball at Parkmall. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

Why Join a Local Bird Club?

Joining XBLOC made a world of a difference when it came to my decision making with birds and supplies. I no longer bought birds from those mall pet stores or street vendors. My choice of birds were of very high quality and the breeders themselves were concerned whether I had knowledge or not about birds. Also, pricing was standardised. The prices in malls are definitely way higher than what is priced for breeders.

XBLOC will also help you know about updates regarding laws, regulations, and even new supplies that come in Cebu. The people in XBLOC are not selfish about their new learnings. They are eager but selective, to share about what new wisdom they have gained from recent experiences. Most of the members have not seen bird breeding as a money-making scheme. In fact they always emphasize that this is not their main source of income and that this is mostly their passion because if money is the only purpose you will only build frustration during the process.

How XBLOC is helping Local Wildlife

I used to think that only Wildlife Conservation groups were the only places that wildlife protection could be acted properly and build awareness to spread among the people of the Philippines. It was through XBLOC that I realised this was the right place to start separating WILD birds from Domestic species. The mindset in the club is very much focused on keeping only birds that are already domesticated and greatly discouraging those wild-caught birds being sold.

True enough, it is through the XBLOC Facebook page that several neophytes or uneducated individuals will try to ask the members to identify certain wild-caught bird species. This gives opportunity for other aviculturists to help educate about the dangers of keeping wild-caught birds and the ramifications of doing so.

 

CBC – Captive Breeding Certificate

Aviary Visit at Finch Man’s Aviary

It is also in this group that you have aviary owners pushing other members to register under DENR so that there will be integrity among the breeders and in that there will be no support of smuggling or poaching of animals. I do hope DENR sees that instead of focusing their energies on interrogating the members, rather they work hand-in-hand with this club to make the campaign for education more widespread.

How To Join?

Simply join  the Facebook Page and you can message Sir Paul Regi Magdadaro regarding the membership fees and details. There are plenty of events and raffle draws that will make your engagement with the group more exciting.

I guarantee you the XBLOC family is warm, wise, and passionate about what we do.

 

 

 

Raven Nigthclub – Best Nightlife in Xiamen

Typically if one were to spend an enjoyable evening in Xiamen you’d be off to the streets of Wang Shan Lou where shopping and a whole line of food selection can be found. But as the lights start turning off, shops start closing, and the people start going home, there’s only one place you’d rather be as you party the night away: Raven Nightclub!

Just point to the Conrad Building which is one of the beautiful towers that standout in a continuously growing skyscraping city of Xiamen and the taxi drivers will quickly take you there. It’s not very far from Zhong Shan Lou so it’s really a great place to be in right after your food trip or touristy walk around the shopping street.

The people coming here are all in for a grand time and you can really tell the Chinese people really know how to bring out the goods! You can see a whole lot of Champagne bottles, Möet, and delicious bowls of fresh fruits served for the guests.

I can also say that Raven Nightclub has by far THE BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE I have ever seen in ANY nightclub! There is a whole army of hardworking staff that are just ready to clean up any mess made, also in the VIP tables, there’s a bottle service staff who focuses on making sure your glass is filled and also with an initiative not to overdo it! I noticed that he only fills the glass a little when he sees the guest already having too much to drink. Where can you find initiative and service like that in a nightclub??

This place only continues to amaze me aside from food, service, and drinks, they also have a great sound system, light system, and most importantly: VENTILATION SYSTEM!!! I know that smoking is a huge thing in China so I was already expecting some people to be smoking inside the club, what I didn’t expect was how clean the place still smelled despite all the smoking. I later got confirmation with some of the folks in the club about how they really took into consideration the ventilation system to give  ultimate comfort for the guests like me who don’t enjoy the smell of cigarettes.

CR cleanliness? Totally clean and awesome! I actually enjoyed going inside the CR because of the interesting interior design. Sad to say I didn’t take pictures inside because it would look kind of weird for me to do so.

In the three times I’ve been to Raven Nightclub, 3 out of 3 times, the experience was just awesome! People were fun (and I’m not just talking about the Raven Residents) the service was consistently great, and the music, did not disappoint at all! When I thought China was super uptight and did not know how to have a good time, Raven Nightclub showed me otherwise.

Speaking of music, did I mention that you have Filipino DJs: Scarmixxed and Frac Attack leading the tables during the prime hours of the nightclub? Definitely reasons for every Pinoy to check out Raven Nightclub when in Xiamen.

You can bet that I’ll be there again when I get a chance to visit Xiamen once more.

Green naped Lory

Introducing: The Birds of Cebu!

Parrots

Pili and Charlie. Pili craves for Charlie’s presence. Charlie doesn’t share the same feelings

I’ve finally succumbed to what a lot of pet owners have been doing for the past decade: creating social media accounts for pets. In my case, since I have over 30+ birds, I’ve created a consolidated page and IG account for all of them.

 

So for those of you who are interested to see what I’m posting you can actually follow them at @birdsofcebu . The whole idea is to share some bits of information about these domesticated birds (I do not keep any wild-caught birds as an advocacy to preserve wildlife). More than just pretty pictures or colorful feathers, these birds are quite the lively flock and each of them have their own attitude and character that makes them very distinct!

 

Take for example Charlie; Charlie is a very intelligent Indian Ringneck parakeet that just loves to fly around and is always ever so curious about anything new or shiny that he can see. He is also a spoiled bird refusing to get friendly with any of my other birds while only making affectionate contact to me. He is the boss when it comes to what gets done or what we have planned for the day so I have to make sure that I’m observing him or he can get pretty naughty and destroy all my wires!

 

Pili is a Green-naped lory but can be quite the bully! While Pili is fearful of unfamiliar objects, when he does get familiar, he does not hesitate to get wild and extremely playful! He can sometimes perform air push-ups on plastic cups and when he doesn’t get his playtime outside the cage, he will jump around and make a lot of sound to get my attention.


Ozai the Sun Conure is a pleasant surprise to me at times. He seems shy at first but once out of the cage he likes to play with Charlie’s bird toys and also will get curious when Pili and Charlie are nibbling around me. He isn’t as affectionate yet and for a sun conure he’s quite silent compared to his wife:Ursa.

These birds are quite the flock and sometimes it can get too overwhelming! Thankfully every playtime with them is always interesting and I’m always the one who has to call it a day instead of them. These birds seemingly have no limit to their energy!

Hopefully one day I get to freeflight some of my birds and THEN that will be a story to blog.

Cebu Island, Cebu Province, and Cebu City

Did you know that Cebu City is not part of Cebu Province and the Lapu-lapu City is not part of Cebu Province or Cebu City but is part of Cebu? Confused already? Read on.

For a good number of people, Cebu is basically Cebu City. Especially for those who have not really read into what Cebu has to offer, the common assumption is CEBU is Cebu City or even their neighboring cities. Well, I think it’s time to clarify exactly the division of Cebu in geographical partitions: The North, South and the Metro

First off, it would be best to identify Cebu as a group of islands in Central Visayas, the biggest being the main island and 167 other islands surrounding it. So to clarify, so long as you are in CEBU islands, yes you’re in Cebu. But what about Cebu City? Well Cebu City is a city on its own and does not include the other cities like Mandaue, Talisay, and Balamban. We’ll get to those divisions further later. First thing you need to know, in government classification, there are 3 major divisions you need to know:

1. Cebu City
2. Lapu-lapu City
3. Cebu Provincial Government

What!? Cebu City and Lapu-lapu city are not part of the Cebu Province?!

Actually yes, they are lone districts and therefore are separate from the Cebu Provincial Government’s jurisdiction. So is Mactan part of Cebu Province or not?

The island of Mactan is composed of Lapu-lapu city and Cordova which is not a city, but a 3rd-class municipality just beside Lapu-lapu city therefore their area is under the Cebu Provincial Government’s division. However for the rest of Mactan which is covered by Lapu-lapu City, this is a lone district and therefore is not part of the Cebu Provincial Government’s coverage. However it was once called Opon and was part of the Cebu Province before it became a lone district on its own.

The South of CEBU

We start with the enumeration of cities and municipalities in this part of Cebu because they compose the First to Third district of the Cebu Province. FIRST DISTRICT:
1. Talisay City
2. Minglanilla
3. Naga City
4. San Fernando
5. Carcar City
6. Sibonga

Fun facts:
• Talisay City celebrates Lechon festival every year and is the only city in Cebu to do so despite Cebu being collectively known for Lechon (roasted pig)
• Carcar City is known for their very affordable by the kilo portions of Lechon in their public market, it is also the city bifurcating the Southeast and Southwest of Cebu
• Naga City is the industrial capital of Cebu
• Sibonga is more popularly known for the religious groups because of the Shrine of the Lady of Simala which only seem to grow every year and is a sight to behold!

SECOND DISTRICT

7. Argao
8. Dalaguete
9. Alcoy
10. Boljoon
11. Oslob
12. Santander
13. Samboan

Fun facts:
• Argao is known for their tablea chocolate. The next time you are there try to ask around for their traditional bitter chocolate which goes really well with “budbud” or “bibingka”. They also claim the title for the best Torta in Cebu which is why they celebrate the La Torta festival.
• Alcoy has some very beautiful beach fronts just beside the highway!
• Boljoon is known for being a very picturesque municipality that shows their beautiful church and their park that faces the sea. If you swim in their waters, there is a chance the whalesharks may also be passing close by the shore because of their unique structure of their seabed
• Oslob became very popular due to the controversial Whaleshark feeding that happens in the town’s waters.
• Santander is the southernmost point of Cebu’s main island.
• Samboan is known for many waterfalls and hiking trails that only a few tourists have actually tried exploring, this can be an alternative if one wishes to deviate from the usual Kawasan Falls canyoneering.
• The highest peak in Cebu can be found in Dalaguete- Osmeña Peak

THIRD DISTRICT

14. Tuburan (may be considered already part of Northern Cebu)
15. Asturias (may be considered already part of Northern Cebu)
16. Balamban (may be considered as the central part of Cebu)
17. Toledo City
18. Pinamungahan
19. Aloguinsan
20. Barili

Fun facts:
• Asturias is home to several fresh water springs. Some of these springs even spring forth from the Sea itself!
• Balamban is known as bifurcating point for North and South of Cebu. Popular in this town is their Balamban Liempo.
• Toledo City is popular known as a port City where many big shipping boats dock.
• Aloguinsan is known for their river tour at Bojo river which showcases wildlife and biodiversity.
• “Bato Barili” is what you will hear in the south bus terminal, this is the route you will take if you wish to get to Moalboal or Badian.

SEVENTH DISTRICT

21. Dumanjug
22. Ronda
23. Alcantara
24. Moalboal
25. Badian
26. Alegria
27. Malabuyoc
28. Ginatilan

Fun facts:
• Dumanjug claims to have the original and most delicious recipe for the Bisayang Manok or Bisnok. This is why they celebrate the Bisnok festival.
• Moalboal is one of Cebu Province’s most popular destinations because of their beautiful white sand beaches in Basdako and their coral reefs and sardine shoal in Panagsama. Moalboal is the most popular dive destination in the South of Cebu
• Badian recently gained popularity in Social media because of the Kawasan falls named as one of the most beautiful falls in the world. This is also the end-zone for the Southern Canyoneering adventure that starts in Alegria.
• Alegria is the starting point for the river-trek/canyoneering adventure that became very popular around 2014-2016
• Malabuyoc has much to offer in terms of mountainous sceneries and long hikes through nature. Though very far from the metro, it is worth a visit if you need an escape from the urban environment.

The North of CEBU

The north of Cebu is accessible via the North Bus terminal located in the city of Mandaue. This is actually just 30 minutes (if traffic isn’t heavy) from the airport.

FOURTH DISTRICT

29. Tabuelan
30. San Remigio
31. Sta. Fe
32. Bantayan
33. Madridejos
34. Daanbantayan
35. Medellin
36. Bogo City
37. Tabogon

Fun facts:
• San Remigio is known for having the longest shoreline stretch in Cebu
• Sta. Fe is the port of entry for visitors of Bantayan: the egg basket of Cebu
• Madridejos is where you can catch a sunset when you are in Bantayan island, it is also home to some ruins from the Spanish colonisation
• Daanbantayan, from the name, was the former “Bantayan” which means the watch-out area of Cebu
• Medellin prides itself of the sugar plantations stretching all over the town
• Bogo City holds the title for cleanest city of Cebu Province

FIFTH DISTRICT

38. Pilar
39. Poro
40. Tudela
41. Borbon
42. Sogod
43. Catmon
44. Carmen
45. Danao City
46. Compostela
47. Liloan

Fun Facts:
• Sogod literally means “start” or “beginning”
• Borbon sells pickled snails as a delicacy.
• Liloan is famous for their Rosquillos, a biscuit snack distinctively seen with a whole in the middle and which makes for a fun snack to eat when you wear it on your fingers like rings.
• Camotes Island is composed of three municipalities: Pilar, Poro, and Tudela.
• Compostela has become a choice destination for religious pilgrims because of Q park which is said to be one of the appearance sites of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Philippines.
• Compostela is also known for being the major producer of white Carabao cheese or “Queseo”.

SIXTH DISTRICT

48. Consolacion
49. Mandaue City
50. Cordova

Fun Facts:
• Mandaue City is the only way in through Cebu City coming from the airport.
• Mandaue City was also known as the furniture Capital of the Philippines back when Cebu was one of the top exporters of furniture.
• Consolacion was once a part of Mandaue and when they got their own township identity, they derived the name “Consolacion” from the daughter of the Spanish governor who declared their independent municipality status.
• Two of the most popular islands in Mactan Island Hopping activities is found in the municpality of Cordova: Gilutongan and Nalusuan island.

With 6 cities and 44 municipalities, there’s really more to Cebu than just Cebu City. For those who say they’ve been to Cebu, you’ll be surprised just a few hours away from the Metro there are more opportunities to experience new things. Most important would be to know which areas are North and South so that the next time you try to cover as many activities in the island of CEBU you’ll have an idea just how far off these places are from each other.

Guillaume Nery

Guillaume Nery Freediving Workshop – What’s It Like?

Guillaume Nery

Guillaume Nery takes his first plunge into the water during the workshop

I was running a bit late and was worried that the class was already heading to boat to begin their first dive of the day. Gosh of all days to be late! I can’t help it. The night before I was just so filled with excitement to finally meet Guillaume Nery, world-famous CNF (constant weight no fins) freediver! The order from my work came at the last minute that I shall be covering for the Dive Philippines social media, the Guillaume Nery Freediving Workshop for Mactan!

Okay so admittedly this is not going to be about how I was a student of the workshop but I’d say I was able to get at least  a good portion of what the students might have experienced during the workshop so please do read on.

Building Expectations

Guillaume Nery

Cozy class huddled together to hear Nery’s own personal experiences

Before the workshop even started I already had a schedule of the activities and they were pretty much the same throughout the rest of the three-day workshop. We got yoga in the morning with Julie Gartier, then some lecture first, dives, then analysis of dives, dive again then final lecture before the day ends. Pretty simple right?

To be honest I also pretty much expected it to be just like any other deep dive workshop because freediving is pretty standard right? Well thankfully I was to be proven wrong during the whole duration of the workshop.

Julie Gartier yoga

Every morning the workshop starts with Julie Gartier’s morning yoga stretch

Through the Words of a Champion

Guillaume Nery has broken some records on his own in the past and what makes him a very interesting freediver is not merely because he’s a record-holder himself, rather it is because he has had his share of failure which the freediving community knows about. He does not blame anyone about that experience rather he takes it as a learning opportunity and moves forward.

Guillaume nery

Nery getting ready to get in the water. He is always last to leave the boat.

During his first day of lecture it was beautiful how he talked about freediving as a sport where you need to learn in increments. Though there would be those wanting to make some massive steps forward in the workshop but Guillaume insisted on the process of learning to be enjoyable and also on a comfortable pace.

Guillaume nery

Nery guides each student personally. Here he is teaching the students how to float and prepare before executing a deep dive.

When Nery talked about Equalisation problems he did not see it as a problem but rather an opportunity for the student to take the equalisation training in small steps instead of hurried developments. Taking shortcuts without going through the fundamentals would, as Nery mentioned, cause future problems. He mentioned particularly about those jumping into learning mouthfill without even trying to learn the basics first. Jumping into advanced equalisation techniques without building the basics may lead to problems like swallowing during the dive.

Freediving

The neutral zone where one is neither floating nor sinking.

To put it simply, there are no shortcuts in freediving.

Among other things that Nery emphasised is the importance of enjoying the dive. Though one may suffer and train really hard while on dry land but when in the water it is very important to draw pure pleasure from the whole diving experience or else the purpose of freediving is lost.

I noticed that he did not talk much about how to extremely push one’s self to the limits. Instead he focuses on the aspect of enjoyment and purpose. He speaks of freediving like it is core of one’s lifestyle and principles.

“There is something special about holding your breath.”, Guillaume Nery says as he talks about freediving and why we do it.

Freediving with the Champion

More than just meeting Nery and hearing him talk about his freediving experiences, I was eager to see him in action underwater! What’s he like during his dives? What does he do that other freedivers don’t do? What makes him so special underwater?

Freediving

Since everyone was busy I had to make any effort I could make to have a photo with the Champion freediver himself

The weather wasn’t too bad with generally calm and clear waters despite the cloudy skies. Everyone else goes ahead into the water and the freediving maestro himself makes the last entry into the water. Just so you know he doesn’t seem to have any peculiar or signature rituals before jumping in the water much like what Michael Phelps would do. He just puts on his mask, then gets in the water.

Freediving class

This is the view of the classroom in the sea while stationed underwater

What was very interesting though, if other students may not have noticed it but Guillaume did not wear any weights on him. However in very shallow waters he seemed perfectly in sync with the water that he had no struggles with his buoyancy!

Nery no fins

Nery performs a perfect CNF

He also executed a very clean CNF which is what Nery is known for. He explained that freediving is much like skydiving and that mere movements from your body or change in positions will cause a direct impact on your freefall.

 

During the dives you will notice Nery shooting his students one by one using his camera. He will use the footages to discuss and analyse on one-on-one with the students after the dive. A complete mentorship!

And for those wondering, he did all his dives using BTV/VTO (hands-free equalisation).

No Fins Training is Important

As famous as he is for the no-fins discipline, Nery insists that everyone should give CNF some focus and attention. He explained it in the sense that fins have now given a sense of confidence to the freediver so if an ascent or descent happens to be slow, one only needs to kick more to increase velocity. However with no fins an inefficient stroke or position will cause one’s dive to be ineffective in general. This lack of dependence of fins will draw more attention to detail and therefore help one perfect the little things that make up a good dive.

Julie gartier

Behind the camera, Nery’s Wife: Julie, makes the magic of his freediving come to life in motion picture.

Life Lessons taken from the Workshop

Freedivers

During the last day, the students had a chance to do a fun dive in one of Mactan’s sanctuaries.

Apart from the technical things in freediving that I learned from Guillaume I had this renewed sense of purpose for freediving. I’ve always been focused on just enjoying freediving but seeing how Nery has now made this sport as a channel for advocacy such as marine conservation I couldn’t help but ask myself what have I done for the ocean? It wasn’t enough that I was enjoying the water, I needed to give back.

He also taught us important lessons on beginnings. Nery showed to us that he too was once just starting with freediving and was just as good as any of us. He wasn’t an overnight instant sensation in freediving. To progress and achieve goals in freediving one needs to have the patience and passion to persist and grow with the sport.

On the aspect of fear, he talked about it as something not to hide, rather something to embrace and accept. Being true to one’s self is acknowledging and understanding one’s fears in the water instead of hiding it.

Though not verbalised but I learned through Nery’s example that greatness must come with humility. In freediving there is a lot of ego as with any sport but to be truly great, humility allows one to embrace their limitations, seek guidane from others and always explore possibilities in the sport. In fact from Day 1 Nery made a disclaimer that his methodologies may not necessarily be the only method of how to conquer depths.

To cap it all off he left one very impacting line that hit too close to home: “You can never be in total control.”

underwater selfies

I like experimenting with underwater selfies. It’s a struggle but the outcome is fun and different.

So if you’re wondering if you should spend for the huge price tag that comes with these workshops with freediving champions like Nery, I can’t say for the others but with Nery it was a surreal, personal, and enriching experience; one that I will carry with me for the rest of my freediving life.

Cebu’s Fort San Pedro

Cebu Fort San Pedro

One of Cebu’s popular tourist historical destinations is the Fort San Pedro or “Fuerza de San Pedro” located in Plaza Independencia. Today the Plaza is beautifully clean and attracts several locals who wish to frolic around the park under the old acacia trees.

Fort San Pedro Cebu was initially built by Spanish and indigenous Cebuano laborers under the command of Spanish conquistador, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and the Spanish Government in Cebu. What we see today is actually an improvement of the original structure which were made of logs.

Fort San Pedro From outside

General Admission for Fort San Pedro is 40php while students get a discount of 20php. The place is rich in cultural history. You can almost feel like when it was hundreds of years ago where the Spaniards newly settled in Cebu. Upon entering the main entrance of the fort you can already see the pictures of how the fort developed over the years. Looking at those old pictures made me realize that Cebu used to have a LOT of space.

Fort San Pedro Entrance

Apart from the education you will receive from the history of the Spanish period in Cebu, you can also have a little tour of the different species of plants which are all over the place. They even contain their scientific name, English name, and local name.

Green Garden of Fort San Pedro

A guard post in the Fort

One of the “windows’ of the fort

One of the really old cannons in the fort

We can better appreciate the different constructions of the Spaniards and Cebuanos many years ago by looking into detail the various structures around the area. You can see the walls, the cannons and also the posts where the guards used to stay. You can even experience walking around the very pathways where Spanish guards used to patrol!

Dual passage

Though Fort San Pedro is just a small structure and can easily be toured in an hour or so, I believe this is an easy way to get a visit into the past here in Cebu. With its location just within the city and its accessibility does not require long or difficult travel, it’s a great way to have a glimpse of the past of what Cebu used to be during the Spanish era.

You can see the really old structure and texture of the wall

Though the place may attract botanists and history-loving tourists, this historic fortress is actually open for private functions if one chooses to rent it for an event or even a party!

Truth be told, I wouldn’t mind coming back to this fort every now and then. Cebu does not have too many preserved Spanish-era structures (I can only count a few like the ones in Oslob) and this one is just really easy to get to. If you happen to have only a short time in Cebu, this can be one of your destinations before heading to Casa Gorordo, the Jesuit House, Basilica del Sto. Niño de Minore, and Magellan’s Cross.

For San Pedro from Inside

Walking the very steps that the Spanish Guards walked

From the Garden Correidors

Fort San pedro and the lush greens surrounding it

Botanical Garden

Indian Ringneck Parakeet

10 Things I Realized About Keeping Birds

Indian Ringneck Parakeet

I am Charlie! Destroyer of wires, chewer of toys, and unlocker of cages!

If you noticed in my previous posts I had this 100 days of logging about keeping lovebirds. What I may not have mentioned is WHY I started keeping birds and I have an android game “Birds of Paradise” to blame. It’s basically a Farmville for bird keeping. Eventually I ended up buying a pair of African Lovebirds but it didn’t stop there.

Today I have more than 30 birds at home, 8 different species, and a couple more birds coming soon because it’s breeding season.

African Lovebirds

Bonnie and Clyde, my first pair of African Lovebirds

Keeping birds comes with great responsibility so I was able to pick up a few things that I’d like to share to other would-be bird keepers in the future.

1. Birds are intelligent and may surprise you if you socialize with them

Especially Parrots, smaller hookbills, Crows/Ravens, and even finches, these birds are amazing and I have my fair share of escaping lovebirds, parakeets and one easily bored Green-naped Lory. One time I forgot to hook properly the door for the food entry and my Lory just lifted up the door and squeezed out of the cage!

Their intelligence improve as you give them more toys or things to play with. I have one Indian Ringneck Parakeet, Charlie, who can find his way around doors, windows, and even the containers where I hide his favorite treats! But my other Indian Ringnecks that are mostly in the flight cage just preparing for breeding is not as interactive or clever with levers or latches.

They learn with experience and they also learn from watching other birds perform tasks. I have this pair of Lutino Indian Ringnecks that used to be afraid of me except for the male one. The male IRN would be curious about me and so I started feeding him with sunflowers–directly handing it over to him. Eventually the hen caught sight of this and she stopped flying away and screaming. Now she allows me to give her sunflower seeds! This same thing happened with my Sun Conure pair.

2. Different birds, different needs– it can get overwhelming

I love birds for their flight and character. So it was only normal on the first few months of getting birds I started binge-buying birds. I bought doves, lovebirds, parakeets, finches, a lory, and even a pair of pheasants!

Parrots

Pili and Charlie. Pili craves for Charlie’s presence. Charlie doesn’t share the same feelings

One week into it I realized maintaining them was like dealing with very demanding hotel guests who all had their own special needs! The lovebirds had to eat with a different kind of food dish because they are MESSY eaters. The Indian Ringnecks are fine but they need their sunflower seeds occasionally to have some fat. The Pheasants eat pellets so they can get their sustained diet. The Lory is a messy pooper and so cleaning is necessary and frequent while requiring a special diet on fruits and nectar mix. Don’t get me started with the finches, who knew such little birds can poop so much!?

Eventually I started narrowing down to fewer species that were easy to keep and fun to socialise with.

3. Your Birds are Birds, not dogs or cats.

The common mistake of someone who wants to have birds to assume immediately that they will behave like dogs or cats who want a cuddle or who want a hug. Birds that are not tame will tend to be fearful and wild. They will even bite you when needed!

Green naped Lory

Pili loves chewing on stuff on the coat-hanger so I just had to cover it with a towel… now he chews that!

Taming a bird takes a great deal of consistency, patience, and understanding. You have to be sensitive to how a bird may feel but when you finally get across that wall of wildness, a tame bird is delightful and fulfilling! My dear Pili, a green-naped Lory, once was wild and would fly around hitting the wall or ramming into delicate stuff! Eventually he familiarised with me and now even jumps onto my hand! And since he’s a lazy flyer he pulls my hand towards me so he can climb onto it.

4. Bird-keeping isn’t too expensive

I used to have a Labrador Rertiever and I would end up spending for expensive good quality food so that his poop wouldn’t stink and his coat would be beautiful. That made me spend about 1500-2000 PHP a month worth of shampoo, food, treats, and medication.

With birds, I would say the most I would spend is around 500-700php a month for about 35 birds with different needs. That already includes the medicine (they only need really really tiny amounts per bird), vitamins, fresh vegetables, seeds, pellets, nectar, and toys. Sometimes I feel though like buying toys is more for me than them.

5. You need papers for birds. Legal stuff from DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) – Philippines

OF gouldian finch

(Orange faced Gouldian Finch) Gouldian Finches are native to Australia but the ones we have in the Philippines are all captive-bred

Okay for dogs and cats in the Philippines the minimum requirement of the law is getting registered in the local government and having a Rabies shot. If you want to make sure they are pure-bred you have the PCCI (Philippine Canine Club Inc.).

For birds though, they are by default considered wildlife (even if the ones I’m keeping are all domestic-bred and some are not even found in the wild). This is to protect the species that are often victims of wildlife trade and to assure that only captive-bred birds are in the trade.

When you buy a bird from a breeder ask for a Captive Bred Certificate which you register into a Certificate of Wildlife Registration. If you want to sell birds you need to register as an aviary with DENR as well. Sadly, I feel that a lot of folks working in DENR don’t have any know-how about birds and can’t even tell one bird from another. I can’t blame them totally. Bird identification is not easy but I do wish they do research before doing aviary inspections. Calling a parakeet a lovebird is just dumb.

6. Birds have personalities

Indian Ringneck parakeet chick

Even at an early age Charlie was already a very curious bird

For example, there is a common notion that Indian Ringneck Parakeets are highly independent birds that are aggressive and assertive. While this is widely true but there are still tendencies for one to be different. Gouldian finches are sensitive and easily scared but the ones I have seem to be accustomed to noise and are not even afraid of human presence.  There are birds that are easily jealous, birds that are greedy, and even birds that are overprotective. If you do keep a pet bird, only time and observation will give you a better picture of what your birds is like.

7. Breeding birds is not 100% success thing

Sun Conure Egg

Their first egg! Sadly a clear one.

You have higher success in breeding mammals. With birds anything bad can happen and it’s worse when you don’t know why they happen.  I once bred African lovebirds that had four eggs that hatched into chicks but the problem is that they all died. One breeder told me it’s probably because I didn’t add sunflower seeds or enough food to help with the feeding with the chicks.

The good thing with all these failures in breeding though is that it teaches me to become more sensitive to changes and anticipate anything. Which leads me to realization no. 9.

8. You become observant and sensitive to changes

Because you need to anticipate changes you become sensitive to tiny details such as the color of the poop like how Professor Trelawney pays close attention to tea leaves. That much attention. Sometimes as simple as a bird suddenly not being active or blinking too often could mean a weak bird and therefore isolation and treatment needs to be done (case to case basis).

This sensitivity also became relevant to my work in the field of marketing and hopsitality. I became more sensitive when there are slight changes to routine or even customer behavior.

Birds unlike dogs, are not very obvious and some birds like Cockatiels, are good at hiding their illness until it is too late.

9. Books and articles can only teach so much, experienced mentors are awesome.

Diamond Doves nesting

Diamond Doves are very small doves that have a nice cool cooing sound

Speaking of mortality and failure in breeding, I found that books and reading materials can only tell me so much. To a hyperlocal extent, mentors and friends in the field of aviculture are the best sources of information to concerns I have for birds.

They would teach me very simple things such as adding this particular plant diet or even separating this bird from that bird and great changes occur! Their experience just far exceeds usual teachings of the books but of course nothing is absolute. I still believe that there are possibilities anywhere and that these mentors can also possibly be wrong.

 

10. You become patient.

At first when you get your first bird or first pair of birds you have already built so much expectation around them. Heck I wrote a 100 day log for my first pair of African lovebirds! I even came to a point of boredom where I couldn’t wait anymore and the excitement was rekindled when I saw my African Lovebirds finally mating! (How? I had them on camera. Don’t ask why.) I saw an egg, then two, and more; then a month later I saw chicks! Sad to say all died and never matured due to dietary issues.

 

One more case of expectations raised to disappointment was when my Sun Conures had an egg! Sad to say this egg was a clear one and so I had to wait once more.

To conclude, bird keeping is a delightful hobby and if done right can teach you a whole set of values and lessons. What is important however is that you must have the commitment and compassion to care for your birds as living things and not like mere ornaments. They are beautiful, alive and capable of sharing joy to one who keeps it.

As St. Thomas Aquinas once said: “Ubi Aves, Ibi Angeli!” Where there are birds, there are angels!

Island Hopping in Mactan

snorkeling cebu

Under the sea! Cebu is blessed with rich marine diversity.

One of the most common activities which I often hear from visitors requesting instead of me suggesting is Island hopping. There are plenty of places to go Island hopping in Cebu but the easiest and most convenient would be in Mactan. Just less than an hour away from Cebu City, the Island of Mactan is well known as a diver’s school ground for basic diving courses, and also a favorite activity among tourists: Island Hopping. The best thing about Island hopping in Cebu is that it’s not just going from one island to another, you actually get to swim in the waters, dock on the islands and experience the natural beauty surrounding you. It’s you stepping away from the city and just experience the Islander’s life.  Read More

Igotann Cave in Talisay

Igotann Cave in Talisay

Igotann Cave Entrance

A few years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to be invited once again by the Cebu Normal University Biology Students. This time they brought me to Igotann Cave in Talisay.

Igotann Cave is a wonderful place to go to if you want some risky adventure and if you want some quiet time. If you want to have one of those barkada hang outs this place is where you want to go. Read More