There’s so much more we can do underwater. The Philippines has one of the largest sea tribes in Asia. The Bajau Tribe (locally known as Badjao), a Moro indigenous ethnic group living in and around the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Their lifestyle as fishermen, deep sea divers and nomadic explorers have made them the best freedivers in the world. With a single breath, easily plunging down to 20 meters and staying there for several minutes as they hunt for fish.
For the uninitiated, freediving is plunging into the water at a significant depth without any breathing apparatus for a considerable amount of time.
Dive Ta Bai!
Johnn Mendoza, leader of a Cebu-based community of freedivers called Dive Ta Bai, has noted that there are over a hundred local freedivers around Cebu. He got his Level 1 SSI certificate at the Freedive HQ in Lapu-Lapu City and can go as deep as 25 meters. According to Johnn, he used to tense up when trying to keep things under his control, but through the breathing techniques and mind-clearing practices of freediving, he learned the art of acceptance and letting go.
Despite his busy work schedule, he goes underwater weekly with friends and travelers who come to Cebu for a fun dive. Whether it’s going swimming with the sardines in Moalboal or exploring around Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu, freediving is just a few minutes drive from the city.
Unlike scuba diving, you don’t have to get certified for freediving.
Although it is not something to take lightly, you need proper training and knowledge. You won’t have to spend for much gear, but you will need to learn basic techniques like holding your breath, clearing your mind and equalizing underwater.
Freediving can mean freedom and being one with nature underwater.
According to Veronica Chiongbian, LIV resident DJ and mother, “Freediving are short dives but each experience is intense. It is just you, the ocean and the diverse life around you. You have to be attuned with the surroundings. This type of discipline pushes you to your limits, making you more acquainted with your body. The goal is to stay underwater and possibly deeper and longer after each dive. The interaction you get with the life underwater is just surreal. Scuba diving gives you the opportunity to look around while freediving gives you the chance to look within.”
Freediving and Meditation
Nicolas Foubert, a 25-year old French freediver who has traveled across Africa, Asia, Mexico and Guatamela is already a certified Level 2 SSI freediver. In his first visit to the Philippines, he went to Moalboal and completed his Level 1 training. Ever since the first time he tried freediving, he knew this would be something that had to be part of his life.
He learned the importance of concentration. Similar to meditation, instead of fighting his inner sensations and emotions, he accepts them just how they are and not how he wants them to be. As Nico shared, “While freediving, you can feel this urge to breathe, but then this is just your brain playing with you. If you separate what your body can do from what your brain tells you, you’ll be surprised how good you can be.”
Otmane Hajji is from Morocco and has traveled across five continents for seven years and counting. Three years ago, he started freediving and was impressed by how our bodies can work, As he sees it, our bodies are an amazing piece of engineering. Recently, he completed his instructor course with Pure Apnea in Moalboal during his first visit in the country. The first time he hit the 40 meter mark underwater, he described his experience as being in a meditative state and being in the moment with himself.
These are just some of the many life-changing stories from freediving.
It is not just about the depth and time, technique and records, but it is also continuous process of getting into the sphere of higher awareness, understanding yourself and your connection with the life around you. Freediving may be the most natural way to explore and free yourself while enjoying the wonders of the ocean life.
*Photos by Johnn Mendoza. Video by Martin Zapanta.