Advanced Novice


This blog entry about the events of Friday, January 07, 2005 was originally posted on January 14, 2005.

DAY 447:  “Hi, I’m Margo,” the slender young woman in a bikini top greeted me the afternoon before at the Aquarius dive shop on Boracay Island.  Half-Spanish, half-Italian with a look and an accent that bordered on both, she immediately reminded of a girl I used to go out with back in the States.

“So where are you from?” I inquired, assuming any foreign-looking person was a tourist.

“Uh, I’m from here,” she answered.  “[I’m the dive instructor.]”

I apologized for my faux pas, but the following morning she had reciprocated with presumptions of me.  “So you are from Manila?”

“Uh, no, I’m from New York,” I answered.  “I’m a freelance travel journalist,” I added when she asked what I did.

“Oh, that’s so cool!  You could write about Boracay.”

BORACAY, IS JUST ONE of the Philippine archipelago’s 7,107 islands, but it is arguably the most popular — particularly amongst travelers — despite being one of the smaller islands in the group.  Let’s Go states, “Filipinos all over the archipelago will ask if you’ve been to Boracay; if you haven’t, they’ll emphatically encourage a visit to the softest, most beautiful sand in the country.”  Boracay not only boasts the most “beautiful sand in the country,” but the best in the world; every map in town labels the west coast not by its proper name “White Beach,” but as “World’s Best Beach.”

Boracay is not only a paradise for beach-goers and watersports enthusiasts, but also a haven for scuba divers.  On the diving scene in Boracay, the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) website says, “Boracay, just north of Panay Island, is a classic tropical paradise: sun-scored fine white sand, a turquoise sea and a background of swaying palm trees set against an azure sky. Well-established operators have aggressively explored the reefs, finding many top dive sites.” 

There are dozens of licensed dive shops on the main drag of Boracay to take certified divers and soon-to-be-certified divers to any of over twenty local dive sites with varied coral and marine life.  With my newly-acquired PADI Advanced Open Water status that I earned in Dahab, Egypt (the official ID card that was sent home was sent to me in Japan by markyt, TGBTGBTB), I was ready to take on the responsibilities of an advanced diver, even though I was pretty much still felt like a novice.  Having a PADI diving license is like having a driver’s license; it entitles one to dive but it doesn’t guarantee a cardholder is any good at it.  In fact, some people argue that the whole privatized certification structure by PADI is merely a money making scheme, and that PADI stands for “Put Another Dollar In.”

In the group were three Austrians, a lone Korean woman, European Divemaster Christian and Dive Instructors Margo and Miyong, a dark-skinned half-Korean, half-Filipino(?) girl.  Also tagging along were Margo’s visiting sister Mita and my Tita Josie, who wasn’t a diver, but would come to graciously pay the tab for the both of us, and go snorkeling.  It didn’t really happen though, the snorkeling that is, because she as a nocturnal night manager of a shoe factory, and was unaccustomed to being awake in the daytime — plus she got seasick.  In addition to contributing to my trip by paying for my dives, she contributed fish food to dozens of tropical fish below with her vomiting off the side of the ship. 

WHILE BORACAY’S VARIETY OF DIVE SITES includes deep dives, wrecks, and coral fields, our dives of the day would be wall dives, where we’d explore the marine life along the side of a submerged cliffside.  “It’s the perfect day,” Margo said, complimenting the clear blue skies and lack of big ocean waves.  The crew of the big Southern Cross spider boat (picture above) took us 90-minutes away, closer to the neighboring island of Panay.

Our first dive site was Black Rock, named appropriately for the fact that that’s what it was, starting at the ocean floor and jutting out of the ocean surface like a big camel hump.  We divided into two dive teams:  Miyong leading the Austrians, and Margo my dive buddy leading her sister Mita, Divemaster Christian, and me.  It’s a weird thing when you’re brand new to the advanced group; many things and methods in equipment set-up people presume you know already.  This isn’t such a good thing when you’re rusty like I was; as any who has taken the basic PADI Open Water diving certification course can tell you, PADI really hits you on the head on how a hundred things could go wrong underwater.  Luckily for me, Miyong and Margo were benevolent with their experience and set me straight as I attempted to make sure my gear was ready to go.

“Uh, you have [your tank valve] backwards,” Miyong pointed out.

“Your BCD is too low,” Margo said.  “If it’s too low you might hit your head on the tank.”

After the buddy check and a reminder of the hand signals of reporting how much air you have left in your tank (good to know), there was no big launch like there was in a class; we simply dropped into the water one by one under the assumption everyone knew what he/she was doing and then met up at the front of the ship.  After the AOK hand signal (I remembered that one) down we went.  The dive was pretty amazing, despite the mediocre visibility; living coral ebbed and flowed with the water motion as colorful tropical marine life swam around us — angelfish, scorpion fish, nudibranches, groupers — and at one point we swam through a big school of sardines.  We followed the contour of the wall looking for extraordinary things; one thing Margo found that I hadn’t seen before was a bright blue and yellow-striped ribbon eel, poking its head out of a rocky crevice. 

As an official advanced diver I was getting back into the game and it was great to finally be at a point in my diving career where I could finally stop worrying about my breathing and my buoyancy and actual enjoy the dive.  For Margo it wasn’t the same, with her responsibilities of a leader in this particular dive; for some reason, Mita and Christian had gotten separated from the group and I was paired up with Miyong for the rest of the time while Margo went looking for them.  In the end, everyone just met up at the ship and I heard Margo scold her sister in Italian.

THE SECOND DIVE OF THE DAY was not too far away at Buruanga Point, a scenic place even above the surface, with crazy cliffside rock formations that Margo and I took photos of. 

“I hate this part,” I said, putting on my wet wetsuit.  “This is the worst part of diving.”  The dive instructors agreed; there’s nothing worse than that feeling of wet fabric smear against the skin. 

After the required body nitrogen-releasing decompression stop, down we went again into the briny deep.  It was a good dive just as before and no one got lost this time.  Margo was quite the wildlife spotter, finding a small hidden boxfish, and more impressively, a baby octopus crawling over a rock that was almost perfectly camouflaged with it.  Again I was more confident with my diving, even when we swam through a narrow chasm.

THE CREW OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS was just about finished preparing lunch when we got back on board:  a big grilled tuna and barbecued chicken, served up on the big table on the ship with bread, rice, and cole slaw, to the group of hungry divers, snorkelers and Tita Josie who spent most of the time onboard that day sleeping.

“I want to take him there tomorrow,” I overheard Margo say at the other end of the table in a conversation to Miyong.


“Erik.”  Margo called over to me across the way, singling me out and putting me on the spot in front of the other divers.  “I want to take you to Laurel tomorrow.  It’s the most beautiful site in Boracay.”

So, like a dive date?  How’s that for being “advanced?”  “Sure.  I got nothing planned tomorrow,” I replied, hoping I wasn’t putting a damper on the tentative plan I had with my relatives to go see the northern part of Boracay via bicycle.  Ugh, the inner turmoil of independent travel vs. the Relatives Factor.

With the ocean waves picking up, our third and final dive of the day would be at Buruanga Point again, to explore the other part of the wall.  More colors, more coral, more fish — and this time a 5-ft. banded sea snake, which to my surprise, I was curious and unafraid of following until it slithered out of sight, even with my ophidiophobia.  It was best that Margo didn’t tell me until afterwards that the sea snake was very poisonous (but fortunately non-aggressive).  The aggressive thing that dive were white sea worms that managed to attach themselves to the suits of Margo and me; we carefully flicked them off.

AFTER SLIDING THE WET FABRIC OFF OUR SKIN (yuck), we packed up our gear and put away the tanks.  Then it was a 90-minute ride back to Boracay, which I wisely spent laying out on the upper deck with Mita, Miyong, and Margo.  Back on the shores of Boracay, where a drummer group was playing on the shores at sunset, we brought back the gear to the dive shop for cleaning and then did the post-diving ritual of writing in our PADI dive logs.  I was up to 25 official dives — each subsequent one further progressing my confidence as a scuba diver.  Margo signed and stamped my pages and went off, with expectations that we’d bump into each other later on. 

“It’s a small island,” I said.

“WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY?” I asked my Tito Mike back at the suite at Club Ten.

“Oh, I went for a dip,” he answered with a smile as always.  “Your Tita Josie says she has a lot of friends here.  She just took off this morning and didn’t tell me anything.”

“Oh, she was with me on the ship.”

“Oh really?”

Clearly there was a miscommunication there, or a lack thereof.  No matter, the three of us went out for dinner at one of the many restaurants Tito Mike had scoped out, Le Soleil, which had an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet where I took full advantage of by gorging on grilled oysters.  Like the night before, there was an uncomfortable silence with me in the middle of it all; again there was no instant Filipino community rapport.  Whether or not it was due to the fact that the three of us were “un-Filipino” — single with different agendas in Boracay — I didn’t know.

My agenda that evening was to go out to a beach bar despite the off and on downpours that keep Tito Mike and Tita Josie indoors at Club Ten, to see who I could meet or bump into.  Boracay wasn’t at full capacity since it was just after the Christmas/New Year’s rush, so not many people were out at the usual prime time of 11 p.m.  Walking the main strip I found the bar most people had ended up at, an open-air beach bar whose name escapes me, with live music.  Immediately I was drawn to the three Filipina girls performing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and parked myself at the bar with an SMB (San Miguel Beer).  By chance I was standing right next to Spanish/Italian Mita, who was out partying for her last night out in Boracay before heading home to Genoa the next morning, but to my chagrin, Margo was exhausted and had called it an early night. 

No matter, the beer flowed and the band played on — until another big downpour that put a damper on all the festivities and sent me home in the rain.  I arrived back at the suite drenched and faced the inevitable icky smearing of wet fabric against my skin for one last time that day.  I’m telling you, there’s nothing worse than the feeling of wet fabric.


Next entry: Party By Day, Party By Night

Previous entry: A Mis-Match Made In Paradise

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Advanced Novice”

  • The answers to your comments were replied to in the previous entry.  See all you TGTG on DAY 503!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  04:59 AM

  • you might be an advanced novice diver, but you SURE are an advanced FISH…

    wet clothes like at sambadrome!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  01:49 PM

  • great scenery

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  06:04 PM

  • DIVING!! YEAY!!! I’m not Advanced, but I’m still down for diving… YEAY!!! I hate the wet wetsuit issue - it’s worse than wet clothes, I think…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  09:11 PM

  • I decided to get my diving cert. Should I do the perliminary stuff at home or should I wait until I get to Dahab or Boracay?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/16  at  04:31 PM

  • TD0T:  Just wait til you get to where you wanna go; make sure you just alot enough time for the class sessions and the dives… usually 4 days.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/16  at  10:51 PM

  • oh you poor guy, the awful wet suit icks. It must be so terrible… FROM DIVING IN PARADISE!!! Go cry me a river.

    Yes, it’s like extra frigid winter here in NJ with a foot of snow on the groud. I’m not bitter much.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  09:53 PM

  • CHRISTY:  Obviously you’ve never put on a wet wetsuit.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/24  at  01:51 AM

back to top of page


Follow The Global Trip on Twitter
Follow The Global Trip in Instagram
Become a TGT Fan on Facebook
Subscribe to the RSS Feed

This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
Party By Day, Party By Night

Previous entry:
A Mis-Match Made In Paradise


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

Spelling or grammar error? A picture not loading properly? Help keep this blog as good as it can be by reporting bugs.

The views and opinions written on The Global Trip blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the any affiliated publications.
All written and photographic content is copyright 2002-2014 by Erik R. Trinidad (unless otherwise noted). "The Global Trip" and "swirl ball" logos are service marks of Erik R. Trinidad. v.3.7 is powered by Expression Engine v3.5.5.