It all started with a conversation.
Me: I’m so excited. I think I’ll be able to get my Open Water certification soon.
Friend: Why are you excited? I mean, I get the Open Water thing, but is it difficult to get?
Me: No, I don’t think so. But now, I can finally afford it.
Friend: Just now? Haven’t you been working for 5 years?
At the time, I was insulted. Excuse me, sir who doesn’t understand the realities of lowly employees working in an agency setup, Php 20k+++ is not small change that I just have in my back pocket.
I graduated from college in March 2009, and immediately started working in April. With no bills to pay, no parents or siblings to support, no obligations and no major responsibilities, it’s actually funny that I was only able to (begrudgingly) shell out Php 20k+++ after five years of working.
Fast forward to today, and that money was worth so much more than I ever thought it would. Now a proud holder of an Advanced OW certification (in theory, because I lost my card and I’m once again second-thinking the Php 3,000 fee for the replacement card), being a scuba diver in the Philippines has unexpectedly made me an avid, and most of the time solo, traveler, all for the sake of diving.
Which is why I put up this blog! I want more and more people to experience the Philippines the way I do – thriving marine life, kind strangers, peaceful beaches – and if you get to dive along the way, then I have fulfilled my mission.
I’ve been asked many times by a lot of people I’ve met over the years about diving in the Philippines, so I thought it would make perfect sense for my first entry to be right at the beginning – getting your dive certification.
The most important thing about diving: Choose your instructor VERY WELL.
There are several certifications you can get – PADI, NAUI, CMAS. PADI is the “easiest” one, from what I’ve heard, and is designed for recreational diving. I’m not too familiar with how the training goes with NAUI and CMAS, but in the end, you all end up learning how to dive safely. All certifications are also widely accepted worldwide.
Personally, I don’t think it matters which one you go with. I’ve met and dove with PADI, NAUI, and CMAS divers, and I never observed any difference in the way we dive.
What I find matters more is who you learn it from. Diving is definitely exciting, and it’s easy to get carried away underwater. Unfortunately, for some people that means disturbing the environment. I’ve seen divers touch, move, take, and kill creatures for the dumbest reasons – photos, entertainment, souvenirs.
That is an absolute NO NO. I don’t care if you have 1,000 dives under your belt. Nothing gives you the right to be destructive.
Diving in itself is already an invasion into the natural order of things, so imagine what kind of damage you can do if you touch anything. Most underwater species are very sensitive, especially corals, and there’s no telling what can happen if you move them. Also, if you end up touching a fire coral, then you’ll be the one suffering a lot of damage.
Arnel always said that underwater, there is no one to police you but yourself, so the hardest thing to learn is discipline.
That’s where you see the difference.
You easily spot divers who learned from commercialized resorts because all they really know is how to put on their gear and get into the water, but not how to behave like decent human beings.
You easily spot divers who see diving as some sort of competition, chasing after fish, rearranging the seascape for photos, and worst of all, diving beyond their limits (these are the people who usually end up dead).
There are a lot of dive resorts and instructors out there, for sure, and likely charging less for the lessons, but Arnel, at the very least, makes sure you don’t end up acting like an a-hole when you dive.
Now for what people usually ask – how much?
The costs for a course at Portulano ranges from Php 28,000-30,000, depending on how many of you are taking the course and spending the weekend at Portulano at a time. Since there were two of us, we got a discounted rate because we shared a room over the two weekends. So what do you get?
- Two nights at Portulano Resort, which is enough for you to finish your course
- Full board meals
- Course fee
- Course book and materials
- Full equipment
- Certification Card
That, plus the costs of traveling to Batangas, is all there really is. Getting there is pretty easy.
There are quizzes, lectures, pool training, open water training, and a final exam, but if you’re attentive enough, it’s not very difficult to get an Open Water license from PADI.
If you don’t have time to spend two weekends (or four straight days) at Portulano, there are several dive shops in the city. You’ll be taking pool sessions, lectures and exams in the city, and they will take you to Batangas for your check out dive towards the end of the course. This is much cheaper also since you don’t have to pay for accommodations, but I don’t think it’s as fun. But if convenience is what you look for, then this should be ok. It’s pretty easy to find them online, but since I’ve never experienced it, that’s all I’m going to say about it.
In the end, getting myself a diving certification is hands down the best decision I’ve made in my life so far. It opened up a whole world of experiences, underwater and on land, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!