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This is the follow up to the previous post on the first set of underwater photos taken at Anilao. I also talked a little bit on the accommodation and food while we were there.

Here are another set of 10 underwater photos taken during the trip that I thought worthy of sharing.  Your comments and critics are very much welcomed. :)

a pair of Coleman Shrimps
a pair of Coleman Shrimps, Mato Point

We saw this pair of Coleman shrimps resting in the middle of a fire urchin. These creatures are pretty difficult to spot since they camouflage so well with the surrounding. The bigger shrimp is female, and from what I heard they might provide manicure service if you place your finger closer to them. We did not try that.

yellow frogfish, Basura
yellow frogfish, Basura

This was the first frogfish we saw at the dive site Basura, the little bugger is about 3-4 inches in length. The yellow submarine did not like to move much, and when it does it was a very awkward walk. Very fascinating.

a very tiny clown frogfish
a very tiny clown frogfish, Basura

Not far from the spot where we found the yellow frogfish sits this really tiny clown frogfish, a juvenile that was no bigger than 2 centimeters. If this thing isn’t the definition of cute I don’t know what is.

leaf scorpionfish, Mato Point
leaf scorpionfish, Mato Point

The leaf scorpionfish is another master of disguise. They don’t move much and blends very well with the surrounding and apparently can eat preys as big as half its body length.

porcelain crabs on coral, Basura
porcelain crabs on coral, Basura

A pair of porcelain crabs making an anemone as their home. They are not actually “true crab” but shares the same body plan as squat lobster. True crabs have 4 pairs of legs, these tiny crustaceans have only 3. They were about 2-3 cm in length and rather active.

red lionfish, Dead Palm
red lionfish, Dead Palm

Lionfish are found all on pretty much every dive site we went to in Anilao. While its venomous spines can be pretty intimidating, lionfish are usually quite shy and will try to swim away if you go close.

red lionfish, Arthur's Reef
red lionfish, Arthur’s Reef

Another closer look at the red lionfish.

pufferfish, Basura
pufferfish, Basura

Pufferfish is another family of fishes that’s widely found here. This one was trying to hide itself by ruffling up some sand, camera shy I guess?

pygmy seahorse, Dead Palm
pygmy seahorse, Dead Palm

This little bugger is one of the hardest creatures to find and photographed. They’re only about 1 cm in length and looked almost exactly like the coral in which they hide. To make things even more interesting, they are usually found pretty deep, this one at 28-29 meter.

purple tip tube anemone, Arthur's Reef
purple tip tube anemone, Arthur’s Reef

A common species of anemone found at most sites at Anilao, staring at one top down and close up gives me a pretty surreal feeling. (reminds me of the plastic bag scene in American Beauty)

Till another dive trip! Hope you enjoy these photos.

As promised, here are some photos taken from our diving trip to Anilao last Junuary (post on accommodation). These pictures were taken from the first two days of diving.

For anyone who’s interested, these is my underwater set up:

  • Olympus EPL3
  • PT-EP05L underwater housing
  • Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes x 2
  • Inon UCL-165 M67 macro wet lens
  • Ikelite tray & i-Das arm system

ribbon eel, Sombrero, Anilao
blue ribbon eel, Sombrero

I did a total of 11 dives over 4 days. We visited a number of dive sites but also went back to a few that we really liked.

Anilao really has quite a lot to offer. On the surface it is quite an unassuming peninsula. There isn’t any great beach nor excellent landscape, but underwater it’s a very different story altogether.

clownfish in anemone, Sombrero
clownfish in anemone, Sombrero

While lacking bigger marine life such as turtles and sharks, Anilao is teeming with huge variety of smaller underwater creatures. You can always expect a big variety of fish, shrimps, crabs, cephalopods (octopus/cuttlefish/squid), searhorses and various types of nudibranches basically in every other dive.

juvenile cuttlefish wasn't very pleased
juvenile cuttlefish wasn’t very pleased

Underwater landscape at most of the dive sites aren’t spectacular either. Arthur’s Rock by the resort offers perhaps the best seascape with more hard corals and rock formations, while sites such as Basura is shallow with sandy and at some parts, grassy bottoms.

emperor shrimp
emperor shrimp

It is when you look closer that you’ll start to marvel at what Anilao has to offer. Hidden amongst the corals, rocks, or sea fan are tiny creatures such as emperor shrimps, transparent shrimps, and and nudibranches.

play time with an octopus in a half bottle
play time with an octopus in a half bottle

Here, even what looked like floating debris could turn out to be ghost pipefish and other creatures. We were lucky as our guide Richard was great in spotting these and pointed them to us.

an unsuspecting scorpionfish
an unsuspecting scorpionfish

One of the strangest creatures I saw was this (I’m assuming) algae octopus that went bipedal and started walking away on the sandy seafloor with two tentacles acting like legs. It was both weird, wonderful, and slightly scary, like something you’d see in a B-grade sci-fi. Luckily it was no bigger than a tennis ball.

algae octopus going bipedal
algae octopus going bipedal

As for diving condition, there is usually very little current underwater. Other than the sites involving pygmy seahorses (maybe on another photo set), dive sites are generally rather shallow, which meant relaxing dives.

the elusive ghost pipefish
the elusive ghost pipefish

The only little problem we had was that the temperature can get a little chilly (about 25-26 C), having thicker neoprene or extra hoods/gloves should solve this problem.

transparent shrimp
transparent shrimp

Now this is making me miss diving again. We have a trip scheduled this October, but lets see if there’s a way we sneak one in between.

nudibranch - Nembrotha kubaryana
nudibranch – Nembrotha kubaryana

Two months ago, from the 1st to the 7th January, Haze and I traveled to the Philippines for a dive trip at Anilao. The week long trip includes two nights at Manila and four nights at Anilao, Batangas. In this entry I’m going to talk a bit about the journey and Arthur’s Place, the resort we stayed while at Anilao.

map of Anilao, the Philippines

Anilao is a pretty popular diving destination in the Philippines due to its proximity from Manila, as well as the myriad of underwater creatures the various dive sites has to offer. If you love macro (those small stuff like nudibranch, crabs, shrimps, etc), you will love Anilao.

I’ll be posting plenty of underwater photos on subsequent posts.

we drove from Manila to Anilao, took about 2 hours
all smiles, driving to Anilao took about two hours

We flew Cebu Pacific and spent New Year’s day at Rich, my ex-colleague’s place at Manila.

On the next day, we drove about 2 hours to Anilao on a journey that’s about 75% highway and 25% slow moving busy town-roads. Our destination was Arthur’s Place where we will meet up with Dave, Caterina and others diving buddies (we dove together at Similan Islands and Tenggol Island)

Arthur's place, love the lawn
Arthur’s place, love the lawn and the gazebo

Arthur’s Place has about a dozen rooms facing a lawn with a gazebo in the middle. The restaurant is located “upstairs”, while the dive center is half a level down, right next to the beach. It isn’t exactly luxury, but the rooms are clean, and comes with hot water and air conditioning.

Once we have our equipments set up for the first day, the helpers at the resort made sure we had fresh tanks of air for every dive, and transferring of equipment from boat to dive center’s usually taken care of as well. The level of service is excellent.

Arthur's Place at Anilao
Dive center at Arthur’s Place

Our dive guide was Richard, the guy knows practically everything about dive sites at Anilao. All we had to do was telling him what we wanted to see, and he’ll know exactly which dive side and be able to locate that particular frog fish that’s only 2cm across, or the one sea fan with pygmy seahorse out of the hundreds of sea fans underwater.

If you are going to Arthur’s Place, I highly recommend getting Richard as your dive guide.

the pebble beach, not real sandy, but not too bad
the pebble beach, not real sandy, but still a lovely view

The beach in front of Arthur’s Place isn’t exactly superb. The beach is made of broken corals, pebbles, and sand. A pair of booty is very useful if you want to take a stroll by the seaside. This is typical of beaches around Anilao and not limited to this stretch at Arthur’s Place.

Water is generally clear and you can snorkel or dive right from here.

awesome sunset everyday at Arthur's Place
awesome sunset everyday at Arthur’s Place

Arthur’s place faces west, which means post-card worthy sunset view every evening. We had the privilege of enjoying four golden sunsets here, and each time it takes your breath away.

some of the food we had, plenty of choices to last a week
some of the food we had, plenty of choices to last a week

Everything here is ala-carte basis, and that includes room, diving (per dive depending on number of divers, distance of dive sites), and best of all – food. The restaurant at Arthur’s Place carries a pretty decent menu offering traditional dishes such as steamed fish, chicken adobo, bangus (milk fish for breakfast), to Western entries such as their very delicious bacon cheese burger.

The prices are from around 80 to 200 Philippines Peso per dish, while on a slightly high side for Philippines, we had no qualms about how they tastes and looked forward to every meal.

KY, Haze, and Rich, partner in compressed air breathing
KY, Haze, and Rich, partner in compressed air breathing

Over all we spent about RM 2,500 for 4 nights of accommodation, food, and around 20 dives for myself and Haze. It was money well spent and the trip was only made better by the excellent hospitality by Rich and San San.

Looking forward to doing this again. Underwater photos coming soon.

I’m by no means a philanthropist or a super passionate volunteer, but I do believe that every one of us should try to give back a little bit when there are chances to do so.

So when Dr. Melissa from MyDentist (where I get my Invisalign braces and my ongoing dental treatment) told me about Operation Smile missions in the Philippines, I jumped on the opportunity to go on my first volunteer trip.

Operation Smiles Manila
Sta Ana Hospital, with Dr. Foo, Dr. Melissa, and our most friendly driver

First off, what is Operation Smile?

“Operation Smile is an international children’s medical charity that heals children’s smiles, forever changing their lives.”

Founded by Dr. William Magee and Kathy Magee in 1982, Operation Smile provides free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities through the help of dedicated medical volunteers.

Dr. Melissa showing the device they use for cleft palate patient
Dr. Melissa showing the device they use for cleft palate patient

The volunteers consists of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, operating room nurses, dentists, pediatricians, speech therapists, medical equipment specialists, photographers, and more.

There were four missions in Philippines from running from the 22nd November to 1st December 2012 happening at Manila, General Santos City, Cavite, and Cebu City. We went to Manila on the 26th November to participate in the mission as first week is usually the screening process and thus have less use for dentists.

every morning starts with a briefing
every morning starts with a briefing

The mission at Manila was held at the Sta Ana Hospital, one of the government hospitals located at greater Manila. It was about a 20-30 minutes van ride from the hotel at Makati.

Morning briefing starts at around 7 am everyday, so we had to get up by 6 am to have breakfast and catch the shuttle service to the hospital. The last operation usually doesn’t end before sunset. These are marathon sessions in surgery, but no one complain.

mission at De La Salle hospital, Cavite
mission at De La Salle hospital, Cavite

I asked a local nurse where she resides, and her answer was “6 rides away”.

“Huh?” was my reaction. Then she explained that in order to get to Sta Ana hospital, she had to catch a jeepney, a bus, tricycle, then 2 more jeepney trips, and another tricycle. The journey takes something like 2 hours and she had to travel back and forth everyday to volunteer for the operation.

This is just an example of the dedication shown by the volunteers.

these kids will have a much improved life after operation
these kids will have a much improved life after operation

As for the international volunteers, Operation Smile provides hotel (decent 2-3 star accommodation, twin sharing most of the time), breakfast, and some food at the hospital pantry throughout the day. The volunteers paid for their own flights and other expenses.

This is very far from a “free leisure trip with some volunteer work”. A huge chunk of money collected by Operation Smile is used directly to pay for the surgeries of the kids who need them.

2 OR nurses and a dentist
2 OR nurses and a dentist

On the third day of our stay, we moved to Cavite City to join another mission as the need of dentists were more pressing at that location.

The group at Cavite operates at De La Salle Health Sciences Institute, Dasmariñas. The private hospital donates the usage of two operating rooms for Operation Smile and there were five plastic surgeons paired with anesthesiologists and operating nurses.

The mood in the operating rooms were usually quite relaxed and carries almost a celebratory mood. Everyone worked tirelessly but were always in a good mood.

then we had a gala dinner to end the mission
then we had a gala dinner to end the mission

At the second to last day of mission, the Vice President of De La Salle University hosted a dinner at his residence to show appreciation to the volunteers, and there was a gala dinner a night after the missions concluded where volunteers from all four sites gathered at Manila to celebrate the success of the missions. Over 500 children benefited from Operation Smile across the four sites.

gala dinner at Manila
gala dinner at Manila

This trip opened my eyes and showed the better side of humanity that we seldom see. I felt embarrassed by the lack of help I could give to the mission other than spreading awareness through this space and other social media platforms. Perhaps I could be a imaging specialist or something next time.

Check out www.operationsmile.org for more information. If you are think you can help (especially medical professionals), contact Dr. Melissa from My Dentist and make a difference.

It’s been a fantastic diving trip to Anilao, the Philippines for myself and Haze over the past few days. The place is a heaven for macro and muck diving, with so many little critters going about the ocean floor minding their own business.

While it’ll take a while for me to process and pick some of the better photos from the trip, here’s a pair of porcelain crabs I shot on the 10th dive (out of 11) of the trip.

a pair of Porcelain Crabs from Anilao

These two crustaceans lived on an anemone, sharing home with a family of clown fish. This is just one of the many wonderful underwater scenes that you just gotta see for yourself.

More posts on Anilao coming up soon!

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