Friday, February 13, 2009

Diving for a Cause

By Alexander Cole

The phrase “skin diving” comes up in conversation. Perhaps a few of the people will raise their eyebrows. One or two people may even be forced to stifle a giggle. However, for Maria Monica Erline Padua Abrenica, 22, this would be a response that provokes an eye-roll. Skin diving, contrary to popular misconception, is the practice of diving using a mask, a snorkel, fins, and a wetsuit or rashguard. While it is normally a purely recreational sport, Monica gave another reason why she enjoys skin diving. When asked about her involvement in the sport, she said, “Skin diving is something I do for a purpose.”

Born and raised in Manila, the coastal capital of the Philippines, she is very passionate about marine life. During her time at the University of the Philippines, she took the opportunity to join the Marine Biological Society, or UP MBS, in 2006. This organization seeks to promote marine environmental awareness through the sport of skin diving. The members of this group are identified in groups known as “batches.” Monica’s batch was called “Dugong Dagat.” She recalled a particularly memorable moment for her: “…our induction took place in Lobo, Batangas, which is a province back in the Philippines… It was a lot of work and it was challenging, but I would certainly do it all over again.” Another event she recalled was “PagCLEANatan,” which was a marine and coastal clean-up that took place in Pagkilatan, Batangas. She described it as an informational event her batch planned out in which locals were invited to help with coastal cleanup. When this takes place, the MBS members used skin diving as a way to clean up the underwater garbage, such as discarded soda cans, wrappers, etc.

I asked Monica about what was involved in being a member of MBS, along with the necessities of skin diving. She told me that learning proper breath holding, snorkel blast clearing, use of the buddy system, and equalization techniques are of paramount importance, from a skin diving view point. “Miscommunication,” she adds, “is also a concern that affects safety under water. This is why it is imperative to learn the proper hand signals.” Besides the many hours of training and pool-time required for these skills, Maria jokingly commented, "I don't know if you wish to include details on the application process, but the final rites took place on a period of 3 days at a beach. Imagine a ‘Survivor’ kind of event.”

Monica now resides in Middlesex County, New Jersey and attends Rutgers University. She is a sophomore within the School of Arts and Sciences and intends on majoring in Journalism and Media Studies. Though it has been two years since she left her native Philippines, she still fondly recalls why she joined UP MBS. “It made me feel that I was doing something worthwhile; that I wasn't just wasting my youthful energy on superficial things like acquiring the best clothes or gaining popularity among my peers.”

For more information:
(n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2009, from University of the Philippines Diliman:
Maps, G. (n.d.). Manila, Philippines. Retrieved February 3, 2009, from Google Maps:
Skin Diving. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2009, from
Society, U. o. (n.d.). what is UP MBS? Retrieved February 3, 2009, from

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