Manila is a well-planned city striving for growth, and it has the ecosystem for support – a metro in every sense of the word. The place is filled with warm, friendly people, has great cuisine, and offers several options for people who spend time outdoors.
I, along with five team members, travelled to the Philippines with two purposes. As a unit, we were focusing on the geographic integration of our offices and needed to chalk out a strategy to achieve this. We also decided to spend the weekend on the archipelago to blow off some steam and bond as a team.
During the four nights and five days we were there, I realised how beautiful this island nation really is. Only when you visit will you know what a place is like; you can’t get it from books or travel shows. But going on work won’t give you the freedom you’d like on a holiday, so explore on your own time. We did so once work was done each day, but it wasn’t enough to get a feel for the country. Still, leaving without fully experiencing the Philippines was not an option, so we stayed on for a few extra days.
What made the trip all the more satisfying was doing something I’d really been looking forward to: scuba diving. The Philippines is an archipelago of nearly 7,000 islands scattered across the east of the South China Sea, so the country is home to some of the world’s best diving spots. I was not going to let go of the opportunity to experience some of this myself.
On our penultimate day, we were advised to head to Anilao. What a sight it was! It’s fascinating how these areas have been shielded from fishing operations to protect the beautiful reefs. Thanks to this, we got to see plenty of marine life within the first few feet of our dive. My excitement magnified the vastness of the serene, blue waters.
An instructor took me through a training drill; at first, it seemed that I would never get the hang of those skills, but I was determined and eventually got the trainer’s nod. A small boat ride took us to the diving spot, and the crew helped me gear up. A combination of excitement and nerves gripped my body as the adrenaline rush kicked in. We jumped in and suddenly, we were in an entirely different world.
It took me a minute to orient myself to the unfamiliar surroundings, but I quickly learned the laws of underwater physics. We began our descent and were greeted by marine life only a few metres in; it only got better from there. The experienced divers accompanying me pointed out the different kinds of fish and sea creatures. We reached a reef, and it just took my breath away. The vivid colours and the ecosystem have to be something I can’t ever forget.
To add a bit of fun to the experience, we stopped at an underwater church! At that point, my mind wandered and truly appreciated the marvels of nature, so little of which is actually experienced in our daily lives. We then made our way back up. Right then, I knew that while this diving experience was my first, it certainly would not be my last.