MANILA -- Sarah Lahbati’s love affair with the underwater world started when she was just 8 years old.
“I started diving at the age of 8. My dad is an instructor and my first experience was in a swimming pool, but then we went to Egypt. That’s where I got my first-ever certification. My dad’s always been an underwater fan and a scuba diving addict. He lives in Switzerland, where there’s no warm water or coral reefs and he still makes it a point to dive every single week in the lake, so that’s how hardcore he is,” said the 25-year-old actress, model, mother, and soon-to-be wife to actor Richard Gutierrez.
Lahbati is known for a lot of things but she admitted that her true passion lies in the ocean. A scuba diver and freediver (she is a certified Association Internationale pour le Développement de l'Apnée 2 freediver), she shares this affection for the underwater with Gutierrez who has already been diving when they met. They are both looking to be certified as rescue divers next.
At the recent Philippine International Dive Expo (Phidex2019) organized by the Department of Tourism held at Conrad Manila, Lahbati spoke about her passion for the first time and is eager to keep using her platform responsibly by spreading awareness to people about the urgent need to save the seas and encouraging them to recycle and cut down on single-use plastics.
Phidex2019 brought together renowned dive experts, scientists, marine conservationists, international dive buyers, influencers, underwater photographers, and videographers to share their expertise, present innovative ideas, network with leading dive operators, and lend their knowledge about sustainable diving practices with key stakeholders in the Philippines.
Lahbati has graced the cover of the international dive magazine Asian Diver, where she is shown freediving with jackfish in Bauan, Batangas, as seen through through the lens of Martin Zapanta.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world and swim with beautiful and smart underwater creatures. I love being based here in the Philippines and being able to go to beautiful islands only a few hours away from the city,” she shared.
“When I rewind in my mind all the amazing interactions I’ve had underwater, I truly feel blessed,” she said. “But I’ve also seen a lot of sharks with fishing hooks in their mouths, dead turtles wrapped in plastic or fishing nets, and just a whole lot of plastic all over our ocean. And that pains me.”
The family of four would often hie off to dive sites in nearby Anilao, Batangas or their favorite Malapascua in Cebu to dive and indulge in underwater photography. Their eldest Zion is already showing interest in diving and his parents hope to take him to his first dive a couple of years from now.
“Zion is 6 years old and he comes with us on the boat and he watches. So hopefully in two to three years he’ll get to start with the bubblemaking course,” Lahbati said.
It is for her children that she is making the call for people and the government to take action.
“I hope we continue to spread awareness on protecting our ocean[s] and [their] inhabitants, to urge our leaders to take action. I dream of a world where our children and future generations experience nature cohesively,” she stated.
“We want a future for our children where they still get to be one with nature and live cohesively with it, but I have two kids and I kind of worry that in five to 10 years it’s going to be a totally different world: no more fish, no more fresh water,” she added.