May 26, 2008 in general
By CHEN REYES-MENCIAS
Have you fantasized of being an astronaut hopping on the surface of the moon? Can you imagine the thrill of being in another world and feeling honored you are one of the privileged few to actually experience that environment? How would you like to feel that way and not even leave planet earth?
2008 is the Year of the Reef and all over the planet people are celebrating the blissful wonders of the underwater world. For 13 years, I have been teaching people how to dive and I have been ushering new recruits from young professionals, parents, families, and even a few who started out being anxious in the water. They all have one thing in common. They are all adventurers who were not afraid to explore something new and the exuberance of discovery.
SHALLOW HAVENS. In some places in the Philippines inter tidal zones become havens for coral species resilient to the extreme conditions.These shallow reef areas have great potentials for snorkeling activities. Photo courtesy of Chen Reyes-Mencias
Whether you SCUBA dive or you float on the surface with a mask and snorkel, the courage to venture into the marine environment is something that Filipinos must learn to muster. Afterall the Philippines is an archipelago and the coastal area presents endless opportunities for recreation, education and outdoor sports. For years, marine biologists insist that the Philippines is part of the coral triangle. Dr. Kent Carpenter is a scientist who came out with a report that points to the Philippines as the center of marine biodiversity in the planet. This underscores the need to preserve marine resources of the country.
Celebrating the sea
It is with this knowledge that the 7th “Celebrate the Sea” Marine Imagery Festival is being held in the Philippines this year. The newly opened state-of-the-art Manila Ocean Park is hosting this festival expected to draw in photographers, videographers and lovers of the sea from all over the world on June 13-15. During its launch in 2002 some 5,500 entries were received from 38 countries. This year, the organizers expect even more. The worldfs best marine images and films will be showcased. Visitors will witness the magnificence of the underwater environment through the eyes of those who have explored and documented it.
It is the aim of the festival to stimulate interest and enthusiasm and consequently inspire action for the sake of the sea. Usec. Cynthia Carrion of the Department of Tourism emphasizes the need to act now, lest we leave a world where children no longer see marine life that will be depicted in the fabulous images during the festival.
SHARK INDICATORS. Divers still have opportuntiies to encounter sharks in remote reef areas that have not been disturbed by humans. Sharks are top predators and their presence indicate the state of the marine environment. Photo courtesy of Chen Reyes-Mencias
“The Philippines is rich in marine resources and a source of pride for the Filipinos,” says Carrion.
Professional photographer Michael Aw also pointed out that a lot of things are going on with the environment that result to increased degradation. People should be aware of what we may lose if we continue to act irresponsibly. Celebrate the Sea is held in association with the World Festival of Underwater Pictures also known as the “Cannes of Underwater Films Festival”.
The organizers intend to make the city of Manila as the permanent home of the festival for three years. This will invariably position it as the capital of underwater imagery in the Asia Pacific, Aw announced at a press conference at Manila Ocean Park.
Manila may soon become the center of marine imagery in the world and the Verde Island Passage, between Mindoro and Batangas as the “center of the center in marine biodiversity,” based on Carpenter’s report. The long stretch of coastline of Luzon holds many secrets and most are unexplored dive sites that may show great potential for underwater exploration. The eastern seaboard from Aurora to Cagayan is virtually untouched and very few divers have actually seen it. The lack of access and facilities protected the area from uncontrolled development which usually results to the loss of integrity in the environment.
Underwater photographer Gutsy Tuazon claims to have seen species of marine snails he has not seen anywhere else. The islands that dot the Babuyan and Balintang Channel including Kalayaan, Camiguin, Fuga, Mabbag, Barit, Didicas and Batanes group of islands await discovery.
Sec. Jose Mari Ponce, CEO of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority said these islands are like treasures that are kept as reserves in the meantime since there are currently no facilities and infrastructure.
“When development booms in the Cagayan Freeport, these places will be opened up for tourism, including diving,” Ponce adds.
Carrion who heads the Philippine Commission on Sports SCUBA Diving (PCSSD) is keen on using a standardized method in conducting surveys of reefs for tourism purposes. Developed by Bluewater Consultancy, this survey method will determine the potential of a place for diving and snorkeling and identify levels of difficulty, presence of marine life and underwater formations.
This will be a crucial step towards mapping out the dive sites all over the country so that their protection will be justified.
Being underwater is like falling in love.
There are simply no words to perfectly describe the feeling. It just needs to be experienced. Hovering in mid-water weightless is a far-cry from what humans are used to. A few kicks of your fins and you glide smoothly through the water like a fish. You marvel at the beautiful branching corals sprinkled with a cascading shower of tiny fishes.
COLORFUL WORLD. The ocean is a repository of a wide variety of life forms,most of which are very colorful. The ability to blend with the surrounding area is an adaptation that some fishes have developed. Photo courtesy of Chen Reyes-Mencias
As you hang effortlessly above the reef you are reminded of the many unfitting descriptions you have heard about the underwater world. Nature’s ostentatious display of life in its prolific diversity may be captured by cameras but they pale in comparison to the real thing.
In the book The Ocean Word, my favorite icon Jacques Yves Cousteau said, “…the earth is the only planet with an appreciable supply of liquid water. This rare gift is essential for life… We have very little time left to reverse the trend if we are to hand over a healthy earth to future generations.” #
Let me know what you think. Send me an email at email@example.com. If you wish to view the incredible collection of images during the Celebrate the Sea Festival, visit http://www.CelebratetheSea.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.