I always tell people that where I live is only a booty shake away from Rizal, specifically, Taytay. Yet, for some reason, I don’t frequent it and limit my wanderings in other nearby cities like Makati and Taguig. But late last year, in my bid to find aesthetic cafes to feature on my YouTube channel, I’ve started extending my Google searches to Rizal.
It was All Saints Day; typically, I’d go to the cemetery to visit the dearly departed, but since social gatherings were still highly discouraged due to COVID 19 during that time, the most I could do was pray for their souls. But I didn’t want to waste the day, so I went out and visited Feynman Coffee.
The cafe is located on Cabrera Road in Dolores, Taytay. To get there, I booked Joyride, a motorbike taxi; travel time took only took 23 minutes.
I was immediately impressed by the cafe’s interior design when I stepped in. The use of woodwork is prominent in its architecture, from the floors, the beams on the ceilings, the stairs, the wall paneling in the restroom, the coffee bar, and other furniture.
They have a space on the second floor where guests can dine in. It’s low-ceilinged, furnished with two long tables flanked with dining benches and single arm-chairs with a distinctive woodwork structure. The overall vibe is warm and inviting; this cafe is well-designed, and I’m very impressed.
Another thing I found impressive is the fast Internet connection. The barista has given me a voucher that allowed me to use their WiFi for 1.5 hours, and it works great. But even without connecting to their WiFi, I had no trouble using my Globe mobile data. There are also several power outlets around the cafe.
I saw a few items on their menu that sounded interesting, like the hot matcha, crimson joy (not sure what that is), and cranberry latte. Unfortunately, they don’t have a plant-based milk alternative, so I just ordered a cup of americano. I also wanted to munch on something, so I asked for an oatmeal cookie.
There are a couple of stool chairs outside the cafe facing the road. I stayed there for three hours, thinking about some stuff and appreciating the moment of being away from home. I was so done being caged in my own home that I took any chance I got to get away, even for just a few hours.
In conclusion, I liked this cafe, from the well-designed interiors, the friendly barista, and fast WiFi. The coffee is not half as bad as well, but I’d love it even more if they’d consider adding plant-based options so I can try more of their drinks and food offerings.
Yesterday, I was sitting on my bed playing a mobile game when I started to feel like something heavy was sitting on my chest. It was followed by this strange tingling sensation down my arms, similar to that feeling you get when a body part has ‘fallen asleep’ from staying in one position for too long. Alarmed, I straightened my back and tapped the heart rate monitor in my smartwatch; terror grew when I saw that my bpm was continuously rising.
I thought I should go check my blood pressure so I got up from bed, put on my mask, and went out of the building. I walked toward the clubhouse and approached the guard on duty to borrow the BP monitor. Not knowing how to use the device, I struggled to wrap the cuff around my upper arm. The guard offered to assist and proceeded to check my BP. The LCD showed 98/75 within the normal range. I thanked the guard and walked back home, taking deep, slow breaths to help calm myself down. I thought that maybe I had an episode of an anxiety attack, in which case this wouldn’t be the first time. However, my previous panic attacks had triggers; this one appeared out of nowhere. As far as I’m aware, I’m doing okay; I’m not currently dealing with any pressing issues or challenges in my life.
I went straight to my room and lay down on the bed. However, the moment my head hit the pillow, the strange sensation has returned with a vengeance. Not only did my arms start getting numb, but the tingling feeling crept up on the lower part of my face as well. I began to feel lightheaded like I was about to pass out. I thought about trying to sleep it off, but I was home alone; nobody would know if God forbid something terrible happens to me. My heart thumped hard against my chest, unsure if it was due to this unknown condition or out of panic.
What was going on with me? Could this be a heart attack? As far as I know, heart conditions don’t run on both sides of my family. I’ve also been living a healthy lifestyle; I exercise at least four times a week, have been vegan for almost a year, haven’t been consuming fatty foods, and have been limiting my sugar intake of late. I’m 39 years old, weigh 42.6 kg, and am pretty skinny. Despite all these, is it possible I might be having a stroke?
I grabbed my phone and googled heart attack symptoms:
☑︎ Chest discomfort
☐ Upper body pain
☐ Stomach pain
☐ Shortness of breath
☐ Nausea and vomiting
☑︎ Heart palpitations
I ticked 4 out of 9; are these enough of an indicator to diagnose a stroke, or do I need to exhibit all symptoms? I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want to ignore it. So I made the call to rush myself to the hospital.
I asked my neighbors in our group chat if they knew a nearby clinic still opened at that hour. One of them, Zaldy, replied that most clinics are closed already and that if I needed to go to the hospital, I might have to go to an ER. I sent him a direct message to get more information and shared what I had been feeling.
He grew concerned, especially when he found out I was alone but couldn’t visit me as he was in a work meeting during that time. However, he offered to call the guard so somebody could assist me. I thanked him and immediately changed into trousers and a black shirt. I picked up my tiny purse, checked my wallet and other essentials, then waited for help to come.
I wondered who among my friends could I reach out to, someone who lived nearby. The first person who came to mind was Che, who resides in Pasay, so I sent her a Facebook message; she didn’t reply. I figured she was already sleeping at that time. My other close friends live far away, like Cai, who just moved back to Valenzuela. I suddenly remembered Caresse, who lives in Mandaluyong. We’re not very close, and we’ve only reconnected recently after years of not seeing each other. Nevertheless, I know her to be a reliable person; hence I didn’t hesitate to reach out to her.
Good thing she was still up and responded to my message right away. After telling her what happened, she asked me several questions like she was trying to diagnose my condition; did I skip a meal, lack sleep, can I get up and walk, did I drink enough water, is the fan turned toward me, etc. I answered her patiently, although I was unsure what she hoped to accomplish. She tried to find me a hospital nearby even gave me a call to check if I was alright.
While we were talking, my doorbell rang. I went to get the door and saw a guard standing outside. He said that one of the other guards would drive me to the hospital. I grabbed my phone and purse, locked the door of my unit then went downstairs, where three guards were waiting for me. The one sitting on a motorbike told me that he would assist me. I hopped on the back of the vehicle, and as we sped away, I answered his inquiries about my symptoms.
We stopped by at two clinics; both turned us away as they were no longer accepting patients at that hour. The guard suggested that we go to PGH, and I asked, “Isn’t that a bit far from where we are?”
“No ma’am, it’s just a few minutes drive from here,” he replied.
The only PGH I know is the Philippine General Hospital located in Manila. If he claimed that it’s nearby, it means he’s referring to a different hospital.
My assumption was correct; he took me to Pasig City General Hospital (PGH). I haven’t been to a public hospital in a long time because when I needed a medical check-up, I would go somewhere affiliated with our HMO, mostly private clinics or hospitals. Of course, I could have gone to a clinic accredited by my HMO, but all I wanted at that time was to get medical assistance asap.
When you visit a hospital so late in the night, you go straight to the ER, so that’s where I ended up. First, I approached one of the hospital staff sitting behind a makeshift booth covered in a plastic sheet. After I explained what I came for, she made me fill out a patient form. She then checked my weight, BP, and heart rate before leading me to the adjoining room where they were tending other ER patients.
It was the beginning of a long, restless night. The weird sensation had subsided, but I didn’t want to go home not knowing what it was. I sat on an orange monobloc chair and waited for someone to attend to me. Meanwhile, my eyes scanned the room, observing other patients and watching the hospital staff busy aiding the sick.
A young boy, probably around ten years old, was sitting on a reclining bed; his left foot was hovering above a cardboard box. He started tearing up; his mom hugged him in an effort to console him. I was able to see his bloodied foot when he lifted it a little as he adjusted on the bed; I wondered what caused his injury.
The rest of the night came in a blur; the hospital staff walked to and fro; some wore dark blue scrub suits, some in red. Then, finally, one of them called my name and gave me a bottle to collect a urine sample. I would need to take a pregnancy test, she said, to which I tried to protest because unless God has chosen me to become the next Mama Mary, there was no way I could be carrying a child.
She told me that it’s their standard procedure for all menstruating women regardless of whether I was sure I wasn’t pregnant. Reluctantly, I went to the toilet to collect my urine. There was a big square hole on the door that they tried to cover with a blue plastic sheet. The thing is, the bottom part of the plastic was torn so you could see inside the restroom through it. I temporarily used my vaccination card to cover the ‘window’ to avoid giving everyone a peek show. There was no tissue, no alcohol, and no soap in the toilet, to my dismay. This is a hospital; shouldn’t it be a standard that soap is provided at the very least?
I approached the same nurse to submit my urine, but she didn’t want to take it and asked me to hold on to it. She then asked if I wanted to go and buy the pregnancy kit or do I want to send my companion (the guard) for an errand. In my head, I was like, Wait, what? We’re in a hospital, and she wants me to buy a pregnancy kit outside?
I replied that I’d get it myself as I didn’t want to inconvenience the guard further.
The nurse suddenly said that if I wanted to, I could write down a waiver stating that I’m 100% sure I’m not expecting. I wasn’t sure whether I’d be pissed (no pun intended). After that whole litany of pregnancy tests being part of their ‘standard procedure,’ now she was telling me I could sign a waiver? Couldn’t she tell me so before?
It wasn’t much of a waiver form, just a handwritten note on the back of the patient form saying, in these exact words, “Sigurado po akong hindi ako buntis” (I’m sure that I’m not pregnant). Under this statement, I wrote my name and signature.
I think I waited for about an hour before a doctor approached me. First, I explained to her my symptoms; then, she shot me several questions.
- Are you dizzy or nauseous? No.
- Did you vomit? No.
- Are you diabetic? No.
- Did you ever have low blood pressure? No.
- Are you palpitating? Yes, I was palpitating earlier.
- What medicines are you taking? I’m only taking vitamins C and B12.
- Why are you taking B12? I’m vegan
- How long have you been vegan? Almost a year.
- Is this the first time you’ve felt this way while being vegan? Yes.
Then she ran some physical tests on me.
“Close your eyes then tell me if you’re feeling this,” she instructed.
She ran her fingers over my forehead, touched both of my cheeks, pressed her hands on my shoulders, glided her hands on the side of my arms. I felt all of these just fine.
She pressed her hands above my knees and told me to fight the pressure by lifting my thighs. Next, she reached down my shins and asked me to push her hands with my legs. After this, she told me to wait as I had to take more tests, but she said she didn’t think it was a heart attack.
I wanted to browse through TikTok or play a mobile game to help pass the time but decided against it to avoid draining my phone’s battery. So instead, I wrote down everything in my journal through this mobile app called Day One.
Moments later, the staff ushered in two men on a stretcher; both were bloodied, one was unconscious. A few police officers arrived and stood by the entrance, and I wondered if their presence had anything to do with those two injured men. I found out later on from the guard that it was indeed connected; those men had been shot down and that the unconscious one was already dead. I was shocked and felt sorry for them. They looked young, probably in their 20s; it’s sad that one lost his life just like that.
A woman donned in red satin pajamas walked in. It seemed like she didn’t come as a patient but was there to accompany someone. I wondered how big of an emergency they were dealing with that she wasn’t able to change into regular clothes anymore. Yet, she didn’t look panicked; in fact, I saw her a few times casually sauntering in and out of the isolation room.
Thirty minutes later, a nurse approached me with a makeshift divider and an ECG machine. The partition provided us with a bit of privacy in a room filled with people. She asked me to remove all of my jewelry and my bra. She then attached the electrodes to my chest and clamps on my wrists and ankles. While she was setting up everything, she asked whether I had someone with me, to which I replied yes, referring to the guard who drove me to the ER.
“Where’s your family ma’am?” she asked.
“They live in a different city,” I replied.
“You’re alone at home?”
She said it must be challenging, especially in emergencies like this; I agree but didn’t voice it out. It’s one of the disadvantages of living on your own; no one’s around to take care of you whenever you’re sick.
I know it would be hard for me if I grew old without my own family, which is why I’ve already considered living in a nursing home in my twilight years. I don’t want to be a burden to my siblings, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want to tend to an old me either, not because they don’t love me but because they have their own family to take care of.
After another 30 minutes had passed, a nurse came to check my sugar level. An hour later, a male nurse approached me to extract some blood. By that time, I was already so tired and sleepy, I was barely connecting with my surroundings. Some of the patients, including the young boy, had been discharged already, yet I was still there. I knew then that I couldn’t go to work, not when I hadn’t slept yet. So I messaged my boss to inform him of what had happened and apologize that I wouldn’t be able to come to work. This sucks, really. How did I get to be someone who was never sick and hardly used her sick leaves to a person who always uses them? Earlier this year, I had COVID-19, and now this?
They did a second round of ECG on me after a while, after which a male physician approached me to shoot the same questions that people had been asking me the entire night. He also asked if I had taken a urine test yet; in response, I pointed to the bottle that contained the sample on the ground. He then caught the attention of the same nurse who instructed me to collect my urine earlier.
“Please assist her, she should take the urine test now so she could go home,” the doctor instructed.
The nurse saw my urine sample and acted surprised, “Oh no, it has been there a long time. You should have submitted it earlier.”
I tried my best to mask my annoyance. She refused to take my sample earlier, even when I asked a couple of times, yet now it’s my fault?! I forced myself to calm down and let it go because if the heart attack scare didn’t do me in, anger might finish the job.
After what seemed like forever, I finally got the diagnosis. The doctor reported that all of my tests were good; nothing in them indicated that I might be dealing with a severe condition. I didn’t have a heart attack; he said that this was probably a case of peripheral neuropathy. It’s a condition that affects the nerves, often seen in people with diabetes, autoimmune diseases, infections, inherited disorders, tumors, etc. I don’t have any of these, so I’m not certain what caused my peripheral neuropathy, and the doctor wasn’t able to tell me either.
He advised me to take Vit B complex (which I already do), lower my stress level, and get enough sleep.
I had to settle the bill of over 3,000 pesos before they discharged me. This got me worried as I was short with cash and they don’t take credit card or digital wallet payments. What era are they living in that they don’t even accept wallet payments?
I went back to the lobby and asked the lady guard if there was anyone nearby that could encash through GCash. She said no, but suggested I go to the Medical Social Service Office. I’m not sure why I had to go there because she didn’t provide any context, but I went anyway.
So I got in the room, there was a female staff member there who rose up from her seat upon seeing me. I informed her that the guard had advised me to go there and I thought it was because they could help me encash from my GCash, but the girl said they didn’t offer such a thing. Still, she asked to see my papers, so I handed them to her.
I heard her say, “They probably recommended you to me so you can get a discount.”
My ears perked up; a discount? Since they didn’t accept my HMO and my money wasn’t enough to cover my bill, the prospect of getting a discount was a huge relief. The girl did some computation, after which she handed me back my papers where the new total bill amount had been indicated. From P3,170, my bill dropped to P1,588. I was delighted; what a discount!
I paid the hospital bill, got my medical certificate signed by the doctor, and was finally cleared to go home. I apologized to the guard because he had to wait for me a long time outside, but he brushed my worries aside and said it was important I had company in such situations. He was right, and I was very grateful to him.
He dropped me outside of my building; I thanked him profusely and, once again, apologized for taking so much of his time.
I went home feeling a little bit better but entirely spent. Being a healthy person for most of my life, I tend to worry a lot when I feel like something is off. I keep thinking; I’m only 39, I’m still relatively young to be dealing with a severe illness. I have always made an effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle because I hate getting medical scares like this. Thank God it wasn’t serious and nothing that requires medications. But I know that I need to improve my sleep patterns; I’ll work on it moving forward.
I took a quick shower then went to bed, sleepiness preceding over the crumbs of my anxiety. It wasn’t a heart attack; I slept easy in the comfort of knowing.
When I was four years old, my father took my older sister and me to Manila Bay for a swim. It was my first memory of going to the sea, and I remember seeing many people frolicking and enjoying their time in the water. Papa made us sit on a massive rock by the shore and told us that he would teach us how to swim. Now my father, may he rest in peace, was generally a good man, but he could also be a jerk. And that day, he seemed to have thought it was time to reenact his mobster fantasies.
He took me in his arms and carried me into the water. I looked around nervously, scared that he would let me go. But what he did was a lot worse. Before I could process what was going on, Papa pushed my head underwater. I flailed my arms and legs in complete terror and on reflex, opened my mouth to scream. The salty seawater rushed down my throat, but I couldn’t come up to the surface because my father held me down there for God knows how long.
As soon as he pulled me up, I started screaming and crying. My throat burned from the seawater that I had swallowed. He then carried me to the side, took my sister, and proceeded to ‘drown’ her as well. He did this to us several times; I lost count. My sister and I were utterly traumatized. That day unlocked not a swimming skill but my fear of deep waters.
Over the years, I tried my best to overcome this fear. I taught myself how to swim; I did snorkeling, surfing, jumped into the river, and even tried open sea scuba diving. Although I found my way into the water without panicking, my confidence was still lacking. I would only swim where my feet could reach the bottom as much as possible. If I had to venture into the deeper parts, I’d wear a life vest. I only stayed on the surface and didn’t dare to swim underwater.
When people ask if I could swim, I say, “yes, but….” Yes, I can swim, but I can’t tread in the upright position. Yes, I can swim, but only in the shallow parts. Yes, I can swim, but I’m not a good swimmer.
This year, I resolved to tell people that I could swim with no buts.
So, I told myself, “Why not learn it bish, it’s never too late.”
In 2017, I attended a freediving workshop in a swimming pool with some fellow bloggers. Azul Freediving provided the lesson held at the SCUBA Studio in San Juan. While the experience was fun, I couldn’t pursue the sport. I didn’t get a chance to practice in the open sea until this year.
Now that I’m determined to try freediving in the sea, I must do it right, and by right, I mean I wanted a coach to guide me through it. Unfortunately, that 2017 experience was a long time ago and without practice, my knowledge has become rusty.
I searched Facebook for freediving courses and found DIVERSity by SeaReynang Pengki. It’s the page of Coach Pangke, who offers freediving and mermaid lessons in Anilao, Batangas. The positive feedback of her clients coaxed me to take classes from her. So, I sent them an inquiry, and as soon as I got the information, I immediately booked my weekend trip.
Traveling and freediving expenses
5th February – I was up as early as 4:00 am to prepare for the trip. I took public transportation and traveled for four hours to get to Mabini, Batangas. The lesson was held at a newly established resort called Ocean Camp. The resort sits right in front of the beach with a rocky shoreline. It has several cottages, two facing the sea, and a shared room.
If you’re curious about the breakdown of my expenses for this weekend trip, here they are (note: food is excluded):
Motorbike taxi to Ortigas
Bus to Mabini
Jeep to Anilao
Tricycle to Ocean Camp
Carpool from Batangas to Pasig
I walked into the resort through the side entrance and went straight to the restaurant. About 20 or more people were sitting there, waiting for the orientation to begin. Most of them came in groups, and I wasn’t sure if any other solo travelers were there like me.
I immediately went into the restroom to change into my swimsuit. When I went back to the restaurant, I spotted this person with long, curly, blonde hair standing at the end of the room. I recognized her right away; it was coach Pangke. I didn’t talk to her at first, but she gave me a small smile when our eyes met. I checked my phone and saw her message, asking where I was. That’s when I approached her and introduced myself.
She let out a little laugh and said, “Ikaw pala yan” (so it’s you).
She then told me to get my gears and gestured toward the back part of the restaurant to find the storage room for the diving equipment. They gave me a valve-type snorkeling gear with goggles and a pair of 3-5 XS fins.
During the orientation, the coaches explained freediving basics, including equalizing breathing methods, explaining the purpose and usage of freediving gears, and other freediving techniques. It was followed by breathing exercises that focused on breath holds. The longest breath-hold that I could do was 50 seconds during the second round of the exercise. For some reason, I couldn’t go beyond 30 seconds in the succeeding rounds, and I was a bit disappointed with myself. I wanted to do one full minute, but I couldn’t.
Equalization for freediving
Equalization is essential to freediving; if you’re not able to do it, you’re not going to last underwater. This is because our body has air spaces that get constricted the further we descend underwater. That’s where equalization helps as it releases the pressure from the air spaces, specifically in our middle ears (behind the eardrum), sinuses, and lungs. Doing this will help prevent injury.
They mentioned two equalization techniques for freediving during the orientation. First is the Valsavala Maneuver, where you pinch and blow your nose to force the air into your middle ear. You will hear a popping sound when you’ve successfully performed this technique. It’s the same technique most people do to equalize to release pressure in the ears when on a plane.
The second option is the Frenzel equalization technique, which requires less effort. Here, you pinch your nose, fill your mouth with air, close your throat, then push the air into your ears with your tongue. You will know that it works when you hear the popping sound in your ears, indicating that the pressure has been released. If you want a visual, here’s a Frenzel equalization tutorial on YouTube.
We were divided into groups, and I was included in a team of 6 under coach Pangke. The weather was fine that day; cloudy skies, the sun was hiding.
Coach Pangke and her assistant, whose name I didn’t get, led us out to the sea. We held on to the freediving buoy and swam our way to the diving spot indicated by a floating Styrofoam box. We started the session by practicing floating on our stomachs and breathing through the snorkel.
The water was freezing cold. Coach PPangke instructed us to blow bubbles through the mouth in the water to help warm up our bodies, but no matter how many times I tried, it didn’t work. The freediving session lasted for 2 hours or so, yet my body could not adjust to the temperature. I was shivering the entire time, making the experience harder than it already was.
While we were waiting for the assistant coach to finish setting up the rope fastened to the buoy, the other girl in our group told us that she didn’t know how to swim. We told her that it was okay since we are naturally buoyant in seawater; plus, we were wearing fins that also help keep us afloat. But no amount of encouragement got through her. Finally, she told coach Pangke that she wanted to go back to the shore.
“Why? We haven’t done anything yet,” coach Pangke said.
I thought the girl was friends with the boys; it turned out she wasn’t. I didn’t know if she came to the resort alone like me, but I didn’t see her again after she backed out from our training. The assistant coach guided her back to the shore. While I do understand her fear, I think it was unfortunate that she let it get the best of her. She was already there; it would have been great if she had at least given it a try before giving it up.
We then started with the freediving line. We took dives one person at a time, with coach Pangke assigning the order of our turns; I was third in line. This allowed me to check how others were doing and gave me confidence when it was my time to dive.
Descending into the water while holding on to the rope was easy but venturing deeper was not. The challenge was my inability to perform the Valsalva equalization technique. My head hurt from the pressure, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t equalize.
Sensing my disappointment, coach Pangke said that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves as not everyone could successfully equalize underwater, especially beginners. It would take a lot of practice; we just need to be patient and keep trying.
We did line diving several times before we moved on to duck diving. This is the part where you dive headfirst but without holding onto a rope. If you can quickly sink below the water, this technique may come easy to you, but duck diving would be very challenging if you’re a ‘floater’ (naturally buoyant people) like me.
After demonstrating how it’s supposed to be done, coach Pangke asked us to do it one by one. A few were able to do it successfully, while some, including yours truly, failed miserably.
I kicked my legs rapidly, trying to push myself downward, but I couldn’t, for the life of me, descend. A dog can dive better than me.
But even when I failed at duck diving, I realized that I had unlocked a skill; I can now swim without a vest!
When the session was over, Coach asked us to swim toward the shore.
“If you guys can snorkel and swim back to the shore, do it,” she said.
I held on to the freediving buoy to get to the diving spot, so it was easy. The seabed is filled with corals, and the water is deep; Would I be able to swim back to the shore without a buoy to keep me afloat?
I took it as a challenge.
The boys started heading back, and I decided to swim along with them. I kept my face to the water and breathed through the snorkel. There were moments when I started to feel a little bit anxious and doubtful, but I talked myself through it, “Don’t panic, you can do this. You can swim now; you got this.”
I focused on my breathing, meditating through the sight of corals and the fishes passing by. Doing this was quite effective in calming down my nerves. The thing that you have to know about me is that I’m not without fears; I’m just stubborn. I’d do it to see if I could, and most of the time, I could. Just like getting to the shore on my own, no boat to take me, no buoy or vest to keep me afloat, and most of all, no person to hold onto. It may not sound like a big deal to you, but to me, it is. This is the first time I’ve ever done this relying solely on my strength and my mediocre swimming ability. And I’ve done it so hell yeah, I’m proud of myself.
Ocean Dive accommodation
Considering I was alone and was only there to spend one night, I only rented a tent when I booked my stay at Ocean Dive resort. They did pitch me a small tent, but the thing is, they put it atop the rocky shore. They didn’t provide anything other than the tent; there was no pillow, no blanket, not even a sleeping bag.
I sat inside this tent to rest after our morning session dive, and I even tried to take a nap but sitting and lying on top of the rocks made it all impossible. Nobody can sleep in this condition, not when the rocks keep poking through the bottom of the tent.
I got up, put my stuff inside my backpack, and went to one staff. I told them that I couldn’t sleep in the tent, so I would go home that night instead. Then, I overheard an old lady talking about commuting back to Manila. I approached her, asking if it was okay that I went with them.
Upon hearing this, coach Pangke offered that I use her bed in the shared room. At first, I didn’t want to as I didn’t want to impose, and also, where would she sleep? She dispelled my worries, saying she could find somewhere else to sleep. I was very touched; she didn’t have to do that, you know. I thanked her and accepted her offer.
The room has eight bunk beds, and Coach’s bed happens to be the closest one to the air conditioner. I don’t do well in the cold, so I turned off the AC at one point. The other guests didn’t like this, complaining that the room was hot.
I went outside and approached one of the resort’s staff to borrow a blanket because I couldn’t stand the cold inside the room. I waited a long time as they tried to find me a blanket, but in the end, they told me that they had no spare anymore.
Later that afternoon, one of the guests offered to exchange beds with me. I happily agreed and transferred to the upper bunk bed on the elevated part of the room.
I thought I’d be knocked out easily after that tiring day, but I ended up not sleeping a wink. The snoring fest from three other guests kept me up all night long.
There were three freediving sessions; a morning and afternoon session on Saturday and one last lesson on Sunday. I admit, there were moments when I tried to talk myself out of it. Thoughts like, “I’ve done the morning session; do I really need to do the afternoon session as well?” and “I did two sessions yesterday already; why not skip the Sunday dive and just go home early?”
But each time I heard these voices, I would silence them and say, “I’m already here; I might as well do it.”
I also reminded myself that the more I practice, the quicker I will acquire the skill. I haven’t even mastered duck diving yet; I have no reason to quit.
In the third session, I was assigned to go first. By this time, I’d grown enough confidence being in the water that I didn’t mind.
I noticed that I was the only one that coach addressed by name in our group. Maybe it helped that I approached her and introduced myself when we met the day before? I’m not sure, but I’m happy that she recalls my name either way.
By the way, they took some videos of us while freediving, and coach sent me copies of them. I’ll find some time to create a YouTube vlog about it soon.
New skill unlocked, freediving
Out of all the decisions I’ve made thus far, this is one of the best. Learning to free dive has undone the fear that has paralyzed me since childhood. To me, fear is the worst kind of feeling because of its power to cripple a person’s ability to make something happen. And so, overcoming fear can be such an empowering experience. It makes you realize that you’re bigger than the things that scare you, and you’re more capable than what you think.
I went home that day feeling quite accomplished and inspired to continue the sport. As I write this, I haven’t gone back to the water yet due to other priorities, but I do have plans to go back with my friends next time. I’m also searching for freediving courses because I want to get certified. Hopefully, I can do it this year.
To end, I’m happy to say, I can now swim with no buts. I can swim, full stop.