Photo taken in a pier in Dauin, Negros Oriental, a favorite dive spot among photographers because of the unique view provided by the pillars of the pier. Photo courtesy of Rep. Ruffy Biazon
Travel Destinations

This congressman-diver knows why the PH just won the World’s Leading Dive Destination award

“Bawat dive spot dito sa Pilipinas ay talagang kanya-kanyang katangian na magugustuhan ng different kinds of divers”  
RHIA GRANA | Dec 17 2020

For a while, this writer thought she was watching snippets from episodes of National Geographic, but they’re really underwater videos filmed and edited by Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon. The moving images even have subtitles on them, providing trivia about the fantastic looking marine creatures on the screen.

The man is clearly passionate about diving and photography, as can be gleaned not only from his photos and videos, but also in the way he talks about the sport, its potential to boost the tourism industry, and the need for government to continually harness its full potential. 

Biazon developed a love for water at a young age, as their dad, former AFP Chief Rodolfo Biazon used to bring them out of town, to the beaches, when he was still in the military service.

Biazon started scuba diving in 2010 and has been doing it since. “This pandemic was the longest time that I did not dive,” he shares. But once the IATF started to allow the practice of the sport in September, on a limited level, he really got back into it, and has done so every month since. “Kaka-dive ko lang last week sa Anilao,” he shares with ANCX.

A school of fish in Mamsa Point

Love for water

The Biazons are used to the beach lifestyle. “When we were growing up, my father always brought us out of town, in destinations where he was assigned,” says the youngest of Rodolfo Biazon’s three kids. The former AFP Chief of Staff spent 18 years of service in Mindanao and several years in Palawan. “Usually there’s a beach, so he’d bring us there. Naturally, we were taught how to swim at an early age. Dun nagsimula ang love ko for water.”

He was already fascinated in scuba diving then, but since the hobby needed training and a certification, you might say he and his wife tested the waters first—trying out snorkeling, then attending a scuba diving familiarization course. It was only in 2010 when he finally decided to take lessons and got an open water certification for it; his wife and sons followed suit.

One of the best parts in the whole diving experience, he says, is entering the water.

From the basic certification, he took his passion for scuba diving to the next level, taking up lessons in advanced open water diving, rescue diving, wreck diving, and sidemount diving. What made the activity more exciting for him was that he’s able to dabble in his other hobby as well, which is taking photographs and videos.

 

The best part

The whole diving experience is exhilarating. But one of the best parts, shares Biazon, is entering the water. “There are different entries. First is, nakatayo ka, then you simply take a giant stride into the water. The other one is the back roll—nakaupo ka on the boat and then you roll backwards to get into the water. Yun ang isang feeling na pinakamasarap, lalo na kung matagal kang hindi nakapag-dive,” he says.

The most wonderful thing about when you’re under water, he says, is the feeling of relaxation. “You feel like floating or flying. Lalo na kung nag-dive ka in an area na may mga valley, may mga bundok na maliliit. Andun yung feeling na para kang lumilipad,” he shares. “It’s quiet. Ang naririnig mo lang ay sound ng marine critters. Kahit may kasama ka, nag-uusap lang kayo via hand signals. So for someone very stressed, it’s a very relaxing activity.”

Up close with a clown fish

The sport encourages buddy system, and Biazon’s permanent dive buddy is his wife Catherine. “Kung regular kayong nagda-dive together, alam nyo na how your dive buddies think and move underwater. It’s also a safety precaution.” He adds though that it’s also okay to dive with strangers, since there’s a standard training in scuba diving.

 

Favorite dive spots

For someone who’s into macro photography, Biazon highly recommends diving in Anilao, Batangas. For those who want to try wreck diving, there’s Coron, which has the World War II ships (“There’s 11 of them there,” he says) and Subic, where American warships can be found. There are spots in Cebu, Mindanao and Quezon that are perfect for cave diving. If you want to see thresher sharks, go to Malapascua, and sardine run in Bohol and Cebu.

"This Mantis Shrimp packs a punch to pulverize its prey or crack shells," inputs Biazon, who dabbles in macro photography and videography.  

“So kung tatanungin mo ako ano ang favorite dive spot ko, sasabihin ko Philippines kasi ang dami talagang kanya-kanyang katangian ang bawat dive spot, na magugustuhan ng different kinds of divers,” he tells ANCX. It’s no wonder, he says, that the Philippines won the World’s Leading Dive Destination award in the 27th World Travel Awards.

Another shot of the pier in Dauin, Negros Oriental

He had also gone diving in Maldives and Bali, but the Philippines remains the hands-down winner in his book. “Maganda yung Maldives pero nasasabayan din naman ng Tubbataha. Ang unique attraction naman sa Bali, is yung sunfish o mola mola. Sa kanila medyo predictable na lumalabas ang type of fish na yun. Sa atin, medyo predictable na din ang thresher sharks sa Malapascua. But for other types of diving, I would say the Philippines has an advantage kasi we offer various types of dives. At ang human resource natin, those in the diving industry, yung mga workers—from the dive master, boatmen, dive resort operator—they are really world-class. Ang ganda talaga ng potential ng diving industry dito sa atin.”

Diving in Maldives. “Maganda yung Maldives pero nasasabayan din naman ng Tubbataha," he says.

 

Twofold advocacy

The legislator says he sees tourism as a principal driver of development in the countryside. And by giving attention and support to the diving industry, the government can hit two birds with one stone—environmental protection and economic development.

He points out prevailing problems such as overfishing and biodiversity loss, which lead to the decline in fish catch. “This is why the fishermen resort to unsustainable fishing practices like dynamite fishing,” he explains. The diving industry, he says, can be an alternative livelihood for the fishermen and will also teach them how to protect our marine resources. “Matuturuan sila kung paano i-propagate ang fish and how to maintain the health of the reefs.”

The growth, he adds, isn’t only limited to the fishing and diving industry, but to the tourism industry as a whole. “The advice to divers is to stay for at least 24 hours before you fly out, that’s called decompression. So if the tourist needs to stay longer, then he would still go around and spend.”

A close encounter with a cuttlefish

While we’re already considered topnotch in terms of the dive spots that we offer, there’s still so much room for growth, especially in terms of ensuring the safety of our dive sites. This can be accomplished by way of putting up decompression chambers. Decompression happens if you stay too long under water and then you go up without following the necessary protocols. The scuba diving enthusiast cites Tubbataha as an example. “Wala tayong facility there to immediately render first aid for a decompression sickness, which is a common accident in scuba diving.”

Shot in Apo Reef, west of Mindoro near the edge of the West Philippine Sea.

“What happens is kailangan pang dalhin ang diver sa Puerto Princesa or even sa Cebu dahil nandoon ang closest na decompression chamber. Ang mahirap dun, either dadalhin ka by boat, which is about an 18-hour boat ride coming from Tubbataha to Palawan or Cebu, or i-airlift ka, which is also dangerous. So the best option really is merong onsite na decompression chamber para assured na if something happens, matutulungan sila kaagad,” he explains.

Biazon, who’s serving fifth term as a legislator, says he’s also currently studying the need for better regulation enforcement to ensure the safety of divers, since scuba diving is a risky sport. “Under the Department of Tourism, there is an office, the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD). I think kailangan nating i-elevate ang rank ng office na yun, create a better agency with enough powers to regulate the industry,” he says.

 

Photographs courtesy of Ruffy Biazon