This was the first time I was given breathing lessons and I was finding it hard with the mask on my face, over two pounds weight tied to my waist and an oxygen tank strapped to my back.
Two dive instructors from the Aquaconnections dive shop checked our progress as they gave me and my three office mates Jeanette, Arnold and Andrew a crash course in scuba diving. I had wanted to try diving for a long time but always backed out at the thought that I would be required to learn how to swim first.
There I was, drowsy after a leisurely lunch and dragging my heavy body into the pristine waters of Managaha Island one Saturday afternoon, asking myself if I could really do it.
I had visions of taking Scuba Diving 101 and undergo hours of classroom instruction where we will be introduced into the different diving gear and their uses and be given time to practice wearing them on dry land before being launched into the water. I had tried snorkeling a couple of times in Davao and in Palau but snorkeling was different.
But there we were, doing a few minutes of underwater breathing exercises and before we knew it, our instructors were guiding us deeper beneath the huge waves, holding onto the ropes to stay together.
For first timers, we sure picked up a windy day where strong currents make diving difficult but we didn’t know that yet. We held on to the ropes as lifelines as we edged our way down into the deep. (well, not that deep at 8 feet, but for a non-swimmer like me, it sure was deep!)
Our instructors monitored us, checking if we were doing okay and gauging our breathing by the bubbles we made. We had to give them the "ok" signal with our hands from time to time.
I was exhilarated thinking I was actually scuba diving when suddenly, everything went dark and all I saw were strands of dark floating things covering my mask. I forgot to breathe through my mouth and I then remembered that I was a non-swimmer. What was I doing underwater when I can't even float a meter's distance? Panicking, I flailed my arms and tried to surface. A dive instructor immediately assisted me and pushed me to the surface where huge waves tossed me around. He told me to relax and turned me face up on the water as I took in huge gulps of air. I realized my hair had gone loose and covered my mask but after I fixed my hair, I assured my instructor I was definitely going down again.