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D-Day One fine day in Dauin, Negros Oriental, the diplomats dived...
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Edgard Hilario
Date: 0000-00-00
Envy the participants of the recent Diplomats Dive 2007, the flagship project of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving. In line with pro-poor tourism thrust of the Sisid Pilipinas program, diplomats detailed in the Philippines were hauled off to the Bahura Resort and Spa in Dauin, Oriental Negros by Tourism Asst. Secretary Cynthia Carrion and discovered for themselves the golden keys to the wonderful world of Philippine dive sites.

Bahura Resort and Spa sits in the heart of a five-hectare beachside coconut plantation. A few steps from the beach lead to a house reef where sea grasses give way to corals and ornamental fish. A sloping reef of hard corals down to about 23 meters give way to a sandy area filled with soft corals.

Half an hour away is the world-famous Apo Island. A 72-hectare volcanic island, Apo has a "Marine Reserve" designation and is included in the list of the Philippines’ NIPA (Nationally Integrated Protected Areas).

The waters around these islands are full of both soft and hard corals, a colorful sanctuary to schools of jacks and other marine fishes. Because of its exceptional marine life, these islands were chosen by the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to be the centerpiece attraction of an underwater eco-system.


Taking time off from their diplomatic duties and enjoying the beauty of their adoptive country were French Ambassador Gerard Chesnel, Japanese Amb. Ryuichiro Yamazaki, Canadian Amb. Peter Sutherland, Turkish Amb. Adnan Basaga and wife Oya Basaga; Palau Amb. Ramon Rechibei; Italian Amb. Rubens Fedele and wife Cosetta Cassin Fedele;

Nileema Noble, United Nations Development Program resident Representative, husband Kayo Noble and daughter Anisha; Heroshi Togo, chief country representative of Japan Bank for International Cooperation; Paulo Fontura, Ministry Counsellor of the Embassy of Brazil and wife Teresa Fontura; and Michael Jeremy Rollin.

Playing hosts were Rep. Emilio Macias II of the 2nd District of the province of Oriental Negros and Vice Gov. Jose "Petit" Baldado, Senior Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, provincial commander of the PNP Philippine Oriental Negros Command and chairperson for Task Force Diplomats Dive; Marian Escaño-Villegas, chairperson of the Provincial Tourism Council of Oriental Negros; Dr. Angel Alcala, a respected marine conservationist, Ramon Magsaysay awardee and the director of Silliman University Coastal Resources Management Office; Atty. Tony Oposa, Jr., president of the Law of Nature Foundation and one of the most aggressive marine conservationists in the country; Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving Commissioner Yvette Lee, and dive consultant Warren Norton.

Amb. Chesnel begged off from the dive, and instead went to snorkel in the shallow waters of Apo Island. Blame that on a jellyfish. "Still, it’s very beautiful out here. You really have very good dive sites," he said.

Amb. Yamazaki was more adventurous, deciding to take not just one, but two successive dives.

Palau Amb. Rechibei spent some moments to discuss with a local journalist how the Philippines is so much like his country in having so many dive sites.

Anisha, the 20-year old daughter of the UNDP couple, was an instant hit among the dive masters as she quickly learned the basics, and even convinced the group to bring her down to more than 10 feet.

"The corals were great. The view under was so breathtaking. I don’t mind getting too much tan, at least I can brag I went diving in Dumaguete when we go back to New York," Anisha excitedly said.

The final day of the trip, a Sunday, was reserved for some whale and dolphin watching in Bais, a full hour of banca ride from Bahura. Unfortunately, no whale was in sight. But the dolphins were more than willing to put up a show, ala-Sea World.

"The dolphins of Bais are now under our government protection. You enjoy them now, and hopefully you can tell your countrymen that they are more than welcome to have a taste of the beautiful Dumaguete City," Carrion stressed in her short speech as the banca returned to Bahura.

A quick lunch after, the visitors grudgingly took their rides to the airport and back to city life.

"But we will be back. That’s a promise," offered the Canadian official.


Closer to Bahura are equally amazing dive sites that usually take less than 10 minutes to access. These are the Dauin and Masaplod Sanctuaries, the Dumaguete Coconut Mill Piers, the Dauin banca and car wrecks.

The Dayuin Sanctuary is a garden of hard corals that stretch from close to the shore down to about 30 meters. Macro photographers can be found hovering around the five to 10 meter depths where the brown volcanic sand and seagrasses hide nudibranchs, harlequin ghost pipefish, pygmy lionfishes and sea horses.

A second dive to the Dauin banca wreck and cars that were purposely sunk is now home to frog fishes, batfishes and others that use the artificial reefs as cleaning stations.

Nearby Masaplod Sanctuary is a basketball court–size area that is full of juvenile jacks, a turtle or two, rabbitfish, sweetlips, angelfishes and giant emperor fishes. Although the smallest of all the sanctuaries, it has 50 percent more target food fish species than Apo or Dauin. If you’re into fish photography, this is the place to go to, as the residents go about their business, unmindful of visitors in their midst.

Piers always provide terrific photos opportunities and the one at the Dumaguete Coco Mill is no exception. The pillars act as artificial reefs and have healthy growths of fan corals, sponges which harbor critters such as seahorses, frogfish and harlequin ghost pipefish.

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