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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Carlos

Snorkel Away

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

Here's a short narrative about my beach holidays back home and how I discovered the power of a sketchbook and a snorkeling gear.

For the holidays we spent a few days at the beach in the Philippines. Since I didn’t have a water camera, I tried to take a picture of the sea floor in my head. Luckily I brought a sketchbook.

I can’t swim. I didn’t learn it properly. Strange because we are considered islanders—7,101 islands to be precise. My foreign friends would find it ridiculous that most Filipinos cannot swim unless you live by the coast. You will know that those bunch of tourists are Filipinos when they fashion orange vests over T-shirt over swimsuits while island hopping.

Swimming lessons are extracurricular and expensive. Regular schools don’t require them. In my university we had 1 semester for swimming in PE but we only needed to dip into the pool and look wet so we could receive our completed marks.

I don’t remember how I learned at least to do three strokes or to float but I never got rid of my fear of having nothing solid underneath my feet in open waters. I went snorkeling anyway.

Then I discovered how to use a mask and a snorkeling gear. Suddenly I could swim for lengths even in deeper waters. I explored the coral reefs that are dying and so a slightest sight of life was thrilling! I would skim through and turn around a few times to take a picture in my head of the sad corals and aloof sea creatures. I marveled at the school of fishes dancing to and fro and followed them, too, until they noticed my intrusion. I hovered over a brain coral to gawk at a couple of minute nudibranchs, white and blue and green and black while being weary at the urchins just lurking beneath me. A few feet below also was a clam with what seemed to be a pearl. I wanted to get a hold of it but couldn’t and shouldn’t, though I scooped up some plastic debris here and there until I realized I have nowhere to deposit them. A 1.5 liter bottle of Coke won’t fit into my bikini without giving the barracuda next to me a peepshow! How did a diaper get burried under a starfish carcass anyway?

And then water leaked into my mask and I panicked and was drowning! Did I consider it my lucky day that my husband turned around and instead of rescuing me asap, yelled at me? He waited until he saw I was hopelessly fighting for my life.

As he berated me I clung unto his slippery torso until I found my senses again and coughed out some sea water. We exchanged masks for mine was too big. He gave me a few more lessons in how to drown properly. "Do not panic” was the most difficult because panicking overthrows logical thinking! Effing Ujjayi breathing technique did not work either because I was already inhaling water. He then followed me for a while but the current was getting stronger. I was tired and so I made a U-turn going with the flow to pursue the shallower waters and I was free to roam again.

#sketchbookart #illustration #drawandtravel

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