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Century old wrecks, mating mandarin fish, threatening thresher sharks, meter-long giant clams. These are just some of the reasons why professional divers from the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) are getting more and more drawn to the Philippine’s underwater paradise.
“With over 60 registered sites spread out in our islands, the country has one of the most diverse highlights for diving,” said Tourism Secretary Ace Durano.
Two different lengthy features with full colored images on the island’s premier dive sites, Puerto Galera, Malapascua, Apo Island and Palawan, landed on UK and US editions of top dive magazine Sport Diver.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) hosted the underwater exploration by seasoned travel writer Ted Alan Stedman and award-winning photographer, Carlos Villoch in Cebu, Bohol, Dumaguete, Boracay, Palawan, and Puerto Galera, which yielded in a 10-page, full-color article on the Sport Diver magazine US edition.
Stedman is well-known freelance travel writer while Carlos is an accomplished underwater photographer whose images have graced more than 65 front magazine covers, museums and aquariums throughout the world and were utilized by the World Wildlife Fund and British Broadcasting Corporation.
A sighting of an ominous 12-foot thresher shark at Monad Shoal in Malapascua Cebu opened Stedman’s article, noting a renowned fable in the island that told of a Chinese fisherman decapitated by a thresher’s scythe-like tail.
After Cebu, Stedman and Villoch headed to Apo Island in Negros. The dive writer underlined Apo Island as a marine restoration success story, with even the Chicago’s Shedd Museum dedicating a permanent exhibit for it entitled Wild Reef.
Villoch’s breathtaking top shot of El Nido, Palawan, with an expanse of colorful coral beds visible above water, served as the feature’s main photo.
Sport Diver’s version in the UK featured two articles by writers, Virginia Fage and Michael Yee.
Both writers participated in the magazine’s Writers’ Workshop campaign spearheaded by Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans. Sport Diver UK teamed up with Brendan O’Brien and Michael Aw who were running a photojournalism course in the Philippines.
Winner Virginia Fage raved about the wreck Alma Jane in Puerto Galera. In her article, Fage mentioned that the wreck was sunk intentionally in 2003, and is now a photographer’s haven with the lights playing around the different creatures found underneath such as the lionfish, sweetlips, rabbit fish, batfish, and blue-spotted stingray among others. Her photo of a dive master hovering closely on top of a giant clam measuring around one and a half meter long occupied a page on the magazine.
Another highlight of the winning articles was the complex mating of the mandarin fish. According to Eduardo Jarque, Jr., Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions, “The mating dance of the mandarin fish, while common to several sites in our country, is an experience that can be enjoyed in only a handful of destinations in the entire world.”
Runner up Michael Yee recounted his encounter of the rare sight. “The spawning ritual of the mandarin fish intrigued me. The tiny mandarin fish (20-50mm) with its neon dots and swirls of orange, blue, yellow and green spawned around sunset in shallow waters. The males darted back and forth, skimming the coral rubble for mates. Eventually, a female rubbed her body alongside the largest male. The couple slowly rose to a meter above the coral rubble and released sperm and eggs at the peak of the rise,” wrote Yee.
The DOT’s relentless campaign to promote the country’s dive sites has gained unprecedented exposure worldwide, gaining the attention of professional divers. The Philippines has likewise landed consistently on prominent lists of top dive sites in the whole world.
Press Release from the Department of Tourism (DOT)