Sole Sisters on Assignment: Flying Beneath Sea Level in Anilao Batangas

Friday, November 07, 2014

I'm flying.

I spread my arms, stretch my legs, and relish the feeling of weightlessness. Below me, a bustling metropolis comes into focus as I descend slowly.

Pressure builds up in my ears, so I pinch my nose and blow until I feel my eardrums pop. At the corner of my eye, I spot a hand gesturing towards me; it belongs to a man in a mask, bubbles framing his face as air escapes from his mouthpiece and floats towards a glistening ceiling. He has three fingers up, his index and thumb forming an O, and he stares at me expectantly.

I return the gesture to tell him, "I'm OK."

Actually, I'm more than OK.

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The Jump-Off Point: Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort

Diving has been at the top of my bucket list ever since I began traveling. So, you could imagine my excitement when I was asked to join a trip to Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort in Anilao, Batangas to go on assignment for the Sole Sisters. A three-hour drive from Manila, the resort is situated on the side of a mountain, at the tip of the peninsula so you get a grand panoramic view of the ocean.

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Upon crossing the entrance, my jaw dropped. A spacious and luxurious resort, Aiyanar certainly lived up to its five-star rating. For a city-dweller like me, it was a piece of paradise - a place where I could escape from the stresses of daily traffic and commute, where I could sit and breathe in the scent of the sea and watch the light filtering through the trees surrounding the grounds.

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"Aiyanar is actually named after a Hindu god who is a guard, a protector,” our host, Marco, explained. “We thought it would be a fitting name." Aiyanar was definitely a place that made you feel safe and secure. The atmosphere was relaxed and laid back, and the staff, warm and welcoming. You can roam the open grounds, swim in an infinity pool facing the sea, or lounge in one of the huts lining the garden.

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And, as a luxury dive resort, Aiyanar boasts of facilities and equipment that are top-notch.

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Onto the Dive: A Beginner's Account

Diving can be frightening and intimidating for the first-timer. You hear a lot of well-meaning advice that quickly turn into horror stories. "Just equalize as you go down, or else you will feel pain in your ears." Or "Ascend slowly, so your lungs don’t explode."

I admit, I was terrified at first, but my fears faded quickly as we went through our first lesson. Before the actual dive, Joshua of The Wandering Juan (also a first-time diver) and I sat through a short lecture covering the basics of diving. Marco, who was also our instructor, was very patient with us, and walked us through the whole process.

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Thank you to Dennis of for taking this shot!

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Afterwards, we donned our suits and jumped into a pool to learn crucial diving skills like underwater breathing, equalizing, removing water from the mask, and retrieving your mouthpiece if it gets dislodged underneath.

When we had mastered these skills, Marco took us out to the open sea, where the real diving began.

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Open Sea Diving

The boat slipped into a picture-pretty cove and the crew immediately began setting up the gears and equipment. My pulse raced as I was strapped to my tank and asked to sit at the edge of the boat, my back to the water. "You'll be doing a backwards entry roll," Marco said, instructing me to hold my regulator with one hand, while hugging the pressure gauge to my chest with the other. Then, he gave me a light push and I tumbled into the water with a splash.

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Underneath, the sound of water drummed weightily against my ears. Marco instructed Joshua and I to cling to the thick cord of the anchor, and together, we made our way to the ocean floor. It took me a while to get used to it. It felt like a completely different world: I looked up and found a ceiling of water that rippled and glinted in the afternoon light. It was surreal, like I had fallen through Alice's looking glass, into a wonderland where anything - even flying - was possible.

And fly, we did. We floated over corals, glided through busy intersections, pointing excitedly at both familiar and odd-looking creatures.

(The following photos are by Lilliane of Follow her site to see the rest of her underwater shots!)

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After a while, Marco flashed us a thumbs up sign: it was time to go up. He inflated our bouyancy control device and we rose slowly to the surface. Still facing down, I watched the corals gradually become smaller and smaller, like a virtual map being zoomed out, turning houses into streets, into a block, into a city, and finally into a mass of indiscernible dots.

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We dived a second time, but climbed out before the 30 minutes were up because dark stormy clouds were rolling in. "I can smell a storm!" Marco exclaimed. True enough, as we headed back to land, big, heavy droplets began to fall. We huddled in the middle of the boat, shivering from the cold, and heard one of the boatmen call out, "Perfect timing!" Marco explained over the din, "Tomorrow won't be a very good time to dive anymore because the water will be murky from the storm."

I pulled my towel tightly around me for warmth. A sheet of rain lay before us, but in the distance, I spotted the resort lit by dozens of bright pins of yellow light. The torrent drummed angrily against the canvas roof, the sound deafening and threatening, but I couldn’t help but smile as I recalled memories of flight, of gliding weightless over an underwater city.

The boat steadily made its way to shore, guided by the warm and friendly lights of Aiyanar.

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How to Make This Trip Happen:

-Book a room at Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort through their website. A night would cost a little over PHP5,000 per head - a bit higher up the price range compared to other resorts in Anilao. But Aiyanar more than makes up for it with its well-maintained rooms and facilities, its wonderfully rejuvenating environment – plus the amount is inclusive of sumptuous buffet meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

-There are separate rates for diving, and you have the option to rent suits and equipment if you don’t have any. You can check out their rates.

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-For beginners: Don’t panic! You will have your diving instructor with you every step of the way.
There are a couple of things you need to get used under the water:

  • Breathing through a regulator – Never hold your breath. The number one rule in diving is actually to keep inhaling and exhaling all throughout the dive.
  • The increasing pressure on your body - This is why you need to equalize as you go down. You can do this by swallowing, moving your jaw, or pinching your nose and blowing until you hear your eardrums pop. 
  • The feeling of weightlessness – I thought this was the best part because it really felt like I was flying! 

-Before you head out to the sea, you will have to learn and master all the necessary skills in a swimming pool. Remember to trust your instructor and enjoy the dive!

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Trish left her job in advertising to travel and pursue writing. She's inspired by the words of author Ray Bradbury: "Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds." She finds inspiration in the stories of people and places, and documents her adventures in her blog, Trish in Transit.

About Sole Sisters on Assignment:

Interested in going on a trip for Sole Sisters? If you are travel-crazy just like us, please email us at solesisters(dot)weare(at)gmail(dot)com with the subject line: Sole Sisters On Assignment. We prefer that you have a blog or online writing samples as well as photos that we can review.

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1 sole trails

  1. Great article! :) I don't know which dive site you went to, but i guess you already had a good glimpse of how good it's like to be underwater and meet a few fishy friends, :) try to go to The Cathedral and Twin Rocks dive sites (both in Anilao), I am sure you will fall in love with diving even more. :)


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