This April, Preen is taking you on a ride. We’re all about traveling to escape or even to find that one thing you can never have if you just stay still. From journal entries to travel advice, we’ve got your ticket booked for a getaway from the everyday grind.
Yes, I am 25 years old and I don’t know how to swim. I almost drowned in a kiddie pool once and I will be even the first one to admit that it’s funny. Once my feet can’t reach the pool floor, I already tap out.
I don’t know why I agreed to being sent to Zambales for the launch of the Human Nature SafeProtect SPF 30 when my boss declined the offer out of fear of being in the middle of the sea. I just thought, “Hey, free trip to the beach. Thanks, boss.”
Reading the itinerary that was prepared by Human Nature and Route 63 Travels, I thought there would be an option to just stay on the shore while the others went snorkeling. Don’t ask. One always insists on beliefs that comfort them from reality.
I thought I had the option to stay in the boat. After five hours on the road from Manila, we hit Masinloc, Zambales, a tranquil community of fishing folk―it was a clean and dreamy landscape. From the bay, two beaches could be seen and clear blue waters.
Shortly after the orientation, my colleagues and I were on a motor boat ride in the sea and after 30 minutes, we stopped. Right. In. The. Middle. Of. The. Sea. A small orientation was given as to how this was the conserve of the giant clams that are unique to Masinloc, the reason snorkeling enthusiasts and deep sea divers go here. We then passed around snorkeling goggles. People started to dive and swim, lugging around their Go Pros.
I was the last one on the boat. The facilitators kept urging me to go on. All I could think about was that this, Toto, wasn’t Kansas anymore.
I was scared but I told myself that if I was going to watch people on a boat with a life vest, I would probably be in the most pathetic situation of my life. I wouldn’t be able to bounce back from that. Imagine the non-stories I would tell: “I went snorkeling once, but not really, I was on the boat…”
With the help of the others I was with, I took my time. I told myself to at least get off the boat. I would float no matter what because of my life vest. I could hold on to the boat if I wanted to. Once I got down, I felt good. On a hot, summer day there is nothing like having a dip in the water.
Okay, so now I just can’t be the loser who floated around and held on to the boat while the others swam farther and farther and were snorkeling.
But the thing is, how can you think that shoving your head down into the water when you’re 20 feet deep in, with no way of swimming back to shore, is a good idea? What if I don’t get to lift my head back up?
Looking around me though, I just had to do it. Irrational fears be damned. I first asked how to use the snorkeling gear which just had one item on the instruction manual: Breathe through your mouth.
I put it on, took a deep breath and put my head beneath the water. It was more than worth it. A beautiful coral reef with lots of colors and assorted creatures came alive to me. It was exactly the like the set of The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo. I also realized why such sights drive companies like Human Nature always work to have an eco-friendly business model.
The giant clams were not just huge, they could swallow a human being whole. Known to be major players in the aquatic ecosystem, they give life to fishes and other sea critters but are also very much in danger due to harmful fishing practices and water pollution.
Talking about them isn’t enough. Seeing them made me forget my hesitation. Damn my beginner skills in swimming. I had to see that again and for as long as I could.
If only I knew how to breathe through the snorkel properly.
Of course, I swallowed water the first time. For those of you who haven’t tried snorkeling before but are curious to do so, I’ll offer you some advice: Practice breathing with your head above the water. If you hear yourself sounding like Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs or Darth Vader, you’re good to go.
Several minutes later, I managed to let go of the boat and swim a few feet away. The farther you went, the prettier the corals were. A blue starfish caught my attention and so did the different fishes whose names are lost on me. All I knew is that I was swimming freely and enjoying what I first feared.
After what seemed like an hour, we needed to head back. A tour of the quiet mangrove forest with their crystal clear waters and a trip to the Bacala Sandbar was up next. Those required not much swimming experience and were good ways to have some down time after such a high-energy activity.
I kid you not, however, when I say I was the last one back on the boat. I didn’t bother with whatever held me back. Somehow, it all washed away.