At home under water
A 28-year-old Cebuano has conquered the depths of the sea as he dives with marine resources that abound in the waters and showcases colorful scenes taken in what is arguably, a perfect pictorial.
What sets Mishael Ardoña’s photos apart from many others are the professional quality of the images and their vibrant colors that indicate that the moments taken were not just spontaneous events but well planned.
Ardoña is most known for diving stints wearing his old college uniform from the University of San Carlos.
A post on Facebook has, so far, garnered more than 5,000 reactions, comments, and shares.
It all started with a simple entry to the famous bandwagon, “How far can you go on your break time?”
His posts soon became a social media sensation besting previous attempts from students that showed how they managed ‘maximizing their college breaks.’
“The plan was to actually have an underwater photoshoot wearing formal attire with my dive buddies; but while I was browsing through my closet, I found my old college uniform and decided to wear it instead because, why not? I thought it would be funny,” Ardoña told Cebu Daily News.
The professional quality of his underwater photos can be expected as during the day, Ardoña works as a real estate photo editor paid by clients to enhance pictures for various projects.
His underwater pictorial entertained others and opened his eyes to the different problems faced by Philippine waters.
Ardoña started diving just more than a year ago in April 2017. He learned the skill only by watching Youtube tutorial videos online and then practicing in the seas surrounding Mactan Island.
In November 2017, he finally got his Level 1 certification at Freedive HQ still in Mactan where he was moulded to be a better freediver and mentored with the right techniques used in the sport, especially oxygen conservation.
Ardoña considers freediving as a mental sport that needed concentration to remain relaxed and calm from the surface to the dive under water.
“Being underwater makes me feel relaxed and I am able to meditate and even appreciate life,” he said.
Since then, Ardoña has travelled with his fiancé and his friends around the Philippines to try different dive spots to experience what the country proudly offers, its coral reefs.
He strongly recommends that divers check out the waters of Pescador Island in Moalboal, southwest of Cebu, after witnessing how boat operators do their best to preserve the corals surrounding the island by using mooring lines to dock boats instead of dropping anchors.
For Ardoña, the best experience he had while under water came upon seeing a rare Hawksbill Turtle in Kontiki Club-Mactan while doing line training.
Mesmerized by the sea creature, it drew him to appreciate the country’s rich marine life.
Ardoña hopes to one day dive in the waters of Occidental Mindoro to see for himself the famous Apo Reef. He also dreams of seeing the majestic Tubbataha Reef in the middle of Sulu Sea.
In spite of his wonderful underwater experiences, Ardoña is saddened by the “human footprints” that he sees where there shouldn’t be any.
Together with the colorful marine life are the colorful plastic and other garbage that are slowly killing the sea.
“This made me realize that we need to protect our oceans, the lifeblood of the planet, by lessening our plastic waste. It is so sad to think about the possibility that in the future, there may be more plastic than fish in our seas,” he said.
More than going viral for his diving stints, Ardoña hopes to send a message through his photos and journeys.
“It was never my intention for my posts to go viral. I just thought it would be a good laugh among my peers,” he said.
Now, Ardoña aims to make people appreciate the ocean through photos of his buddies and himself as they dive deeper into the waters.
“Every dive should be considered as a cleanup dive. We often retrieve pieces of trash we see floating around during our dives. We have handmade mesh bags to put them in,” he said.
Together with his girlfriend, Ardoña helps solve the trash problem by recycling garbage and putting them inside eco-bricks which can be used for construction. They also both love to participate in beach cleanups.
“I like to take pictures and videos during our dive sessions, and I have captured sad images of garbage in the ocean,” said Ardona explaining that the photos are then posted by him on social media to spread awareness on the plastic pollution in the ocean.
“Through my photos, I aim to make people appreciate the ocean so that they will see that it is worth saving.”
Ardoña hopes to become a freediving instructor in the future.
He is now training to take the Level 2 advanced freediver course while balancing work on weekdays and diving on weekends.
He says that he is fulfilled doing what he loves while feeling the peace of mind that only the seas can provide.
Ardoña is a free-spirited soul, and his soul is most at home underwater.
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