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Philippines

February 22, 2015 by Charles W. Davis

2014-06-24 09.46.19

Diving Malapascua Island Cebu Philippines

I recently had the opportunity to take a working vacation to Malapascua Island. The island is located in the strait between the Island provinces of Cebu and Leyte in the Philippines. It is about a four and a half hours by bus or a two and a half hours by car trip from the Cebu International Airport. At the northern tip of Cebu you will find the town of Maya which provides ferry service to Malapascua which is about a 30 minutes boat ride away. The island is small, only about 1.6 km long and .6 km wide.

Most of the resorts are along a white sand beach at the southern tip of the island called Bounty Beach. Boats from Maya drop passengers at the west end of the beach. West and north of the beach is the area that is generally called the village. It is the largest of the nine little settlement around the island and the only one with paved roads. Most people walk to their destination but if you want a ride you can catch a motor scooter and back ride. The infrastructure is basic, some will even say primitive. Fresh water is limited as is electricity. There are no high rises or international hotel chains. It is a typical island fishing settlement. In the early 1990s, the island had a small tourism industry. It was mainly backpackers who stayed for the wonderful white sand beach, crystal clear waters and the genuinely friendly people. There were a handful of beach huts for rent. Back then Lonely Planet called it an undiscovered paradise. Dik de Boer a Dutchman and his Filipino wife read a Lonely Planet article and visited the island in 1996. They loved it and when they returned the following year they brought scuba gear and a portable compressor with them. Following tips from local fisherman they were soon diving with Thresher sharks, Hammerheads and Manta Rays. (more…)

Dive Subic Bay

February 22, 2015 by Charles W. Davis

Subicdive_html_m4c7b5539Subic Bay is the place to dive if wreck diving is your favorite type of diving. Subic Bay and Coron are the two leading destinations for wrecks. Subic has a greater number and they are closer together, Coron has better visibility, better reefs and caves. Subic Bay is a tourist destination, while Coron attracts mostly divers and a few other adventure tourist.

Erie Canal

July 16, 2017 by Charles W. Davis

This week marked the 200 anniversary of the Erie Canal. Growing up the “barge” canal was just a few miles away. The “barge” canal was built a hundred years later that rerouted certain sections of the Erie canal and improved the original. The Eire Canal was the first “superhighway” of the United States. It had a huge impact not only on the western New York but was instrumental in westward expansion.

Found on Wikipedia we learn this about the Erie Canal: “First proposed in the 1780s, then re-proposed in 1807, a survey was authorized, funded, and executed in 1808. Proponents of the project gradually wore down opponents; its construction began in 1817. The canal has 35 numbered locks, plus the Federal Black Rock Lock,[ and an elevation differential of about 565 feet (172 m). It opened on October 26, 1825.

In a time when bulk goods were limited to pack animals (an eighth-ton [250 pounds (113 kg)] maximum, and there were no railways, water was the most cost-effective way to ship bulk goods.

The canal, denigrated by its political opponents as “Clinton’s Folly” or “Clinton’s Big Ditch”,was the first transportation system between the eastern seaboard (New York City) and the western interior (Great Lakes) of the United States that did not require portage.

Early Passenger Transportation

It was faster than carts pulled by draft animals, and cut transport costs by about 95%. The canal fostered a population surge in western New York and opened regions farther west to settlement. It was enlarged between 1834 and 1862. The canal’s peak year was 1855, when 33,000 commercial shipments took place. In 1918, the western part of the canal was enlarged to become part of the New York State Barge Canal, which ran parallel to the eastern half of the Erie Canal, and extended to the Hudson River.

In 2000, the United States Congress designated the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor[9] to recognize the national significance of the canal system as the most successful and influential human-built waterway and one of the most important works of civil engineering and construction in North America.”

The New York State Canal System (formerly known as the New York State Barge Canal) is a successor to the Erie Canal and other canals within New York. Currently, the 525-mile (845 km) system is composed of the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal, the Cayuga–Seneca Canal, and the Champlain Canal.In 2014 the system was listed as a national historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in its entirety, and in 2016 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Erie Canal connects the Hudson River to Lake Erie; the Cayuga–Seneca Canal connects Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake to the Erie Canal; the Oswego Canal connects the Erie Canal to Lake Ontario; and the Champlain Canal connects the Hudson River to Lake Champlain. The Erie Canal is a canal in New York that is part of the east–west, cross-state route of the New York State Canal System (formerly known as the New York State Barge Canal). Originally, it ran about 363 miles (584 km) from Albany, on the Hudson River, to Buffalo, at Lake Erie. It was built to create a navigable water route from New York City and the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.

erie canal

Pittsford on the Canal

Today. The Erie Canal still had a major impact. While barges are rare, locals and tourist alike take to the canal for recreation and sight seeing. The canal pathways that were once used by mules, are now used by hikers, runners and bicyclist. Romantic walks on the river have replaced the luxury barge travel . Where passengers would exit from the barges for refreshments waiting for their turns through the locks, now people enjoy the quaint restaurants and pubs that are along the banks.

Erie Canal lock 32

Lock 32 in Pittsford , is a “modern” lock started a hundred years ago as the Erie Canal route changed by passing Rochester.

erie canal today

In May 2017, a local brewery was renovating, they purchased 6 new tanks which were transported on 2 barges. The media and public followed them as they follow the Canal from New York to their new home. Here they are entering lock 32

The barge being raised within the lock

Standardbred Horse Racing

May 20, 2017 by Charles W. Davis

Those who know me, know that years ago I owned a large standardbred training facility and had a number of horses. Okay often over a dozen. However, negative impacts after 9 11 caused the racing industry to nearly collapse and I was one of many who could no longer stay in the industry. The cost to keep a race horse in training can be about $5,000 a horse and if they are not earning purses that all comes out of the owners pocket.

I have missed the horses, both the connection with them and the thrill of seeing them race. Last year, I saw an ad for a fractional ownership stable. So after some email exchanges and some thinking about it, I purchased a 2% share in a two year old filly.I won’t talk much about that investment other to say, I was not happy with the way the fractional ownership is done.

However, I do like the concept and even went to a new owner seminar at the local racetrack. After the seminar, I was more enthused about getting involved in harness racing again. However, my limited budget means I can not get a horse on my own nor even with a partner or two. I had heard about The Stable last year and went to the open house they held in early December. I had a wonderful day and was impressed with the operation and the horses. Before driving the almost three hours to the training facility, I had looked over the pedigrees of a few of the horses. I had told myself that if I like what I saw when there, I would buy a share in one horse. So, I left owning a one percent share of a New York eligible filly. Sally De Vie

harness racing

Sally De Vie being led out to her training.

After being home for a few days, I realized I had made a mistake. I should not had limited myself to one horse. A fast email and I now have a one percent on two horses. It may not be much, but I am an owner and each months training bills is less than a nice dinner.  The video below is Dewey Ann on Mother’s day my other 1% horse. For best viewing, start the video and then click fill screen.

standardbred sirchas

Dewey Ann

I was one of about three hundred people that spent their Mother’s Day at the Tomiko Training Centre near Puslinch, ON. The event was called the 2017 Spring Showcase and was held by The Stable. Thirty nine horses were showcased, spread over seven sets of either five or six horses. Owners and their families came out to meet each other and see their horses train. The day was bright and mostly sunny with a breeze that kicked up every now and then, a perfect spring day to be outside. When I stood by the rail on Mother’s Day and watched my horses enter the track, there was a sense of pride. It may only be one percent but they were my horses. When they go for their qualifiers in the next month or so, I will be there. When they race in the NYSS, I will be there. At first, I had thought that the distance I am from the farm would lead me to lose touch with the development of my horses. However, the wise use of live broadcast, updated web pages and social media has kept me and the other owners updated. www.thestable.ca is just a click away. I am looking forward to an exciting racing season and some winner circle photographs.

Scuba Diving from a Cruise Ship

January 27, 2017 by Charles W. Davis

Diving from a Cruise Ship

cruise ship scuba diving

Cruise ship Scuba diving

A Cruise vacation might not be seen as an option for a diving vacation, however, it can be. Millions of people each year spend their vacations on a cruise ship. Once considered a vacation for the rich or elderly, the cruise ships now see passengers in every age group and in many economic groups. Some ships are small with only a hundred passengers or even less. Many of the new cruise ships have well over 5,000 guest on-board. Warm weather destinations are some of the most favorite cruise destinations, however, you will see sailing to Alaska, the Baltic Sea and even to the Antarctic.

While a cruise ship might not be the first thing comes to mind when planning a dive vacation, you might not want to dismiss it straight out. If you are looking to dive three or four dives a day every day of your vacation, then a cruise will not fit your plans. However, if you are looking for a dive vacation that balances diving with other activities or need to take into consideration the needs of traveling companions that are not divers, a cruise may be a good choice.

scuba diving holidays at sea

Sports Bar on Norwegian Getaway

If you have never taken a cruise, here are a few basics. A cruise ship can be compared to a full board resort. The cruise fare will include your stateroom and many of the on board activities. Your meals are included as are some beverages during meals. You generally will have a few options of where you want to eat. There will be one or more fine dining restaurants and one or more causal restaurants or buffets. Some cruise ships offer specialty dining at a small surcharge. Some the larger cruise ships will have over a dozen different places you can eat a mixture of included and at an additional cost. Each evening you will find in your stateroom a newsletter showing all the activities the following day including the opening and closing times of different venues. In the evening, expect to find a number of shows and other nightlife offerings. On the days you are in a port, the newsletter will list information about the port including the times you can leave the ship and when you must be back on board.

A typical cruise is a week long and will have four or five ports of call, the remaining days will be at sea. Depending on the cruise you select, you may find that diving is possible at each port of call. Most of the Caribbean best diving destinations are also visited by cruise ships, as are Mexico’s Pacific coast, parts of the Mediterranean, Australia and ports in Asia. A recent cruise gave me the opportunity to dive in Honduras, Belize, Costa Maya Mexico and Cancun. I left from Florida so arriving a few days early gave me the possibility of some dives before the cruise. That trip brings my total to 12 dive destinations and 40 dives while taking a cruise.

Shore Excursions and Port Calls

When we talk of a “Port Call” or “Ports of Call”, we are simply talking about a stop the ship makes on their itinerary where you can get off the ship. You will also see the terms “Pier” and “Tender” applied to the port calls. When a cruise ship is at a port that is “Pier”, guest can walk on and off the ship. The term “Tender” means that the cruise ship anchors in deep water and a smaller boat called a tender transports

cruise ship scuba diving destinations

Norwegian Sky in Nassau

passengers to the shore. The tendering process adds to the time it takes to get off the ship. The term “Shore Excursion” is used by the cruise industry to mean a tour activity off the ship. The cruise lines arranges with local tour operators tours that can be offered to the guest on board the ship. These are sold on board and before the cruise on the cruise line’s website. A debate you often hear from experienced cruises is whether to book a cruise lines offered shore excursion or do it yourself. Both those for and against using the cruise line suggested tours have merit. On the positive side, the tours are aligned with the ships arrival and departure times. While a cruise line will clearly state the tours are by independent tour operators, if the tour is late returning to the ship the cruise line will know and insure that the passengers are not left behind. On the negative side, cruise ship sold shore excursions are often a cattle boat activity. Hundreds of passengers get off the ship, file onto buses that travel to the tour’s destination. At the tour stop, passengers file off the bus, follow a tour guide with a little flag, then back on the bus to the next destination. Also, cruise ship lines are in business to make a profit, so there is a mark up added in to cover the cruise line’s cost and a profit margin.

These concerns can also be raised concerning scuba diving as a shore excursion. I have dived using the ships shore excursion as well as arranging my own. Years ago, scuba divers and snorkelers were often grouped together and fifty or more people may arrive at a dive site at the same time. Today, the trend is to keep them separate and the cruise lines deals directly with dive operators not tour operators who sub contract. The cruise lines generally do not announce who operates their tours, however, with the power of the internet the identity does not stay secret. In most cases, the cruise lines are working with a leading dive operator in each port.

Shore Excursions or Self Booked?

Whether you should book a shore excursion from the cruise line or do it yourself is not an easy answer. The first point should be, are you comfortable with who the dive operator is. While the cruise lines do not list the operators, if you look at reviews of the shore excursions you will often see the name of the tour operator. From there you can look at reviews for that company. You can also see, how much a cruise line marks up a trip. A two tank boat dive with no equipment in Nassau by the cruise line is $179, while booking direct with the company it is $150 ($139 plus 7.9% tax). In this case, the company does provide a pick up at the cruise terminal for direct bookings, however, that is not always the case.

plan ahead and save on cruise diving

plan ahead and save

If you are considering making a reservation direct with a dive operator, there are a number of items to carefully consider. First and foremost is the times. Your cruise itinerary will show you the date and time you will be in port and the departure time. Look closely at those times, some cruise lines show the local time while others show “ship” time. Some cruise lines will move the clock forward or back during the cruise to reflect the local time where they are. Others keep the time based on the ships departure port. Ship time could be one or even two hours different then the local time. You also need to take into consideration getting off the boat. Take as an example a dive boat that leaves at 8:30 am. If your cruise is schedule to arrive at 8:00am you might be thinking of making a reservation. That might not be enough time. When the ship announces you can depart the ship, there may be hundreds already in line waiting. As you get off the ship, your ship board ID is scanned. While that will only take a handful of seconds, it adds up if hundreds are in front of you. Additionally, the passengers departing on a ship’s shore excursion will have priority over those going off on their own. If the port is one that uses a tendering you need to also consider the time it takes to get ashore. However, if your ship has a late departure, you might be able to do an afternoon dive. In those cases, you are not rushed to meet up with short deadline.

A second item, will be the meet up with the dive operator. Consider how will you get to the dive operator if doing it on your own and the cost. Some operators will provide pick up at the pier while others will not. Also, make sure about the pick up point. I recently made a direct reservation with a dive operator with a pick up point at the cruise terminal. Unfortunately for me, the cruise terminal where the pick up point was at was not the same cruise terminal I arrived at. I had to take a taxi to get there.

While boat diving is the most frequent option, look to see if shore diving is possible. I have had some great shore dives. This gives you the freedom to dive on your own schedule, and often at very good rates.

While at the DEMA show in November, I asked a number of dive operators, that were located in ports that have cruise ships, their views. The response was mixed. Those that have contracts with the cruise lines prefer you book with the cruise line. There reasoning is that the time schedule is already tried and proven. They also stated that the transportation requirement is easier to organize. Those who do not have a contract gave me a more mixed response. A few have developed their business hoping to get divers from the cruise ships on their dive boats. They provide flexibility in their dive schedules to allow for the later departures that might be needed. These shops often offer smaller boats for a personal experience and arrange to meet at the pier. Some other dive shops stated they prefer not to get cruise ship divers. They are concern with late arrivals and the uncertainty of the divers qualifications.

Royal Caribbean Offers Diving Lessons.

In years past, many of the cruise lines offered on board diving programs. Princess Cruises had their New Wave program which they ended around 2008, NCL had their Dive In program which they phased out. They still use the title but it only shore excursions. Disney and Carnival have also closed their programs. They all still offer shore excursions so you can still dive from the ships of those cruise lines.

scuba dive in the Bahamas

RCCL Grandeur Of the Seas in Nassau

Recently, Royal Caribbean Cruise line has once again fully embraced scuba diving. The cruise lines now offers PADI Open Water Certification on 10 of their ships. These ships visit a total of 14 different dive destinations. Open Water Diver students sign up for the course prior to the cruise. While at home they complete the knowledge segment using the PADI Touch app or PADI eLearning® online. On board the instructors verify the satisfactory completion of the knowledge segment and start the confined water elements of the training. They do this in one of the swimming pools aboard. The students complete the four open water dives at two different destinations. Besides the Open Water Diver training, Royal Caribbean also does a “Try Dive” program. This is a training session using a swimming pool on the ship. The dive instructors on the Royal Caribbean ships also conduct “Discover Scuba Diving” programs. Those divers who have not had a dive in a while can do the “PADI Reactivate Program” as well. These 10 ships also have a PADI 5 Star Dive Center on board.

Where Do You Want to Dive?

The diver who has a non diving partner or family members may find it easier to suggest a cruise vacation over a dive resort. For the diver a cruise offers the ability to experience more than one destination. Cruises can also be a better value, since so much is included. You owe it to yourself to look into it before your next trip.

Church Book Cover

December 21, 2016 by Charles W. Davis
Churches of Pampanga Philiippines

Book cover

The Spanish had the Philippines as a colony for over 500 years. Originally ruled from Spanish Mexico, it has a blend of cultures not seen elsewhere in Asia. Today, the Philippines is a predominate Catholic country. Over 80% of the people are Catholic with another more than 10% other christian faiths. This can be seen in the week long Holy Week celebrations, the observance of All Hallows Day and the 3 month long lead up to Christmas.
This small selection of churches located in the Province of Pampanga are some of the oldest in the country, but they are just a few of those left behind when the Spanish left in 1898.

I received a number of comments about the photographs I had taken of these churches, that I decided to publish them in a book.

It is not a very large book but it is very nice. It can be found on Amazon and ordered from any book store. Best way is to order from the createspace site for Churches of Pampanga

Churches of Pampanga Philippines

December 4, 2016 by Charles W. Davis
St James the Apostle Church: Betis, Guagua Pampanga This church is considered one of the finest remaining example of a Colonial Spanish Church. The details in the ceiling paintings and the quality of the carvings behind the alter attracted the devoted and art lovers alike.

St James the Apostle Church: Betis, Guagua Pampanga
This church is considered one of the finest remaining example of a Colonial Spanish Church. The details in the ceiling paintings and the quality of the carvings behind the alter attracted the devoted and art lovers alike.

Churches of Pampanga Philippines

From the late 1500’s to 1898, the Philippines were a colony of Spain. The Spanish’s mandate from the Pope was to find new lands and convert the heathens to Christianity. At the time, the Lubao River and what is now called the Betis River were navigable and it became a natural place for the Spanish to develop. The Spanish settle at a small native village and in 1576 established the Pueblo of Bacolor. The local “land lord” was Don Guillermo Manabat.

The Bell Tower of San Guillermo Parish Church The first church was built on this site in 1576 with the establishment of Pueblo of Bacolor. Present church was built in 1764.

The Bell Tower of San Guillermo Parish Church
The first church was built on this site in 1576 with the establishment of Pueblo of Bacolor. Present church was built in 1764.

San Guillermo Parish Church

Spanish towns were built with a common concept. There was a plaza, often with a fountain in the center, on one side of the plaza was the church. The clergy selected Saint William the Hermit as the town’s patron saint. Saint William’s Spanish name was San Guillermo Emitano and the church became know as San Guillermo Parish Church. Today Bacolor is a small town shadowed by its larger neighbors San Fernando and Lubao. It has a very important past however.

  • In 1745, Bacolor was the acting capital of Pampanga which at that time cover an area now divided into 6 provinces ( States )
  • In 1755 it became the official capital of the province.
  • In 1762 when the British attacked Manila, the Spanish government moved the National government to Bacolor.
  • In 1764, while still the national capital, the original church was replaced by a stone one that still exists. By Royal Degree Bacolor became Villa Bacolor, one of only three “Villa” in the country.
San Guillermo Parish Church This stone church was built in 1764, replacing the original church which was heavily damages by some earlier earthquakes and had its dome collapsed a few years earlier.

San Guillermo Parish Church
This stone church was built in 1764, replacing the original church which was heavily damages by some earlier earthquakes and had its dome collapsed a few years earlier.

San Guillermo Parish Church Close up

San Guillermo Parish Church Close up

The church that remains today has most of the features of the church built in 1764, however there has been significant changes due to the force of nature. In June of 1991, Mount Pinatubo volcano erupted with one of the strongest eruption in recorded history. The eruption change the course of history for many Filipinos and the effects of the eruption was felt worldwide as the ash cloud in the atmosphere eventual covered the entire earth and raised the worldwide temperature. Highly productive farmland was turned into waste land in the area around Bacolor. After the initial disaster, more follow in the form of lahar. Lahar is a combination of the ash that reached the ground, small debris and water, it looks like the concrete coming out a commercial cement truck. Thick,slow moving and unstoppable. Like concrete when it dries out it is super dense. Every heavy rain brought more material off the mountains. In September of 1995, the situation became so bad that half of the 12 meter high ( about 40 feet) church was under the lahar and the town of 50,000 had to be evacuated.

Interior of San Guillermo Parish Church

Interior of San Guillermo Parish Church

In the photograph above, the green banners are above the top of the 12 meter high walls, as you can see today they are much less than 12 meters. In the photograph of the front of the church the entrance doors were at one time about 20 feet tall. If you look closely at the bell tower photograph, through the tree you will see an arch, it is just above ground level. That was the second level of the tower. The first level and the entrance are all now buried.

Alter and Retablos This area is well known for the quality of the alters and the Retablos. A Retablos is the structure behind the alter.

Alter and Retablos
This area is well known for the quality of the alters and the Retablos. A Retablos is the structure behind the alter.

As you walk around the outside of the church you will see small half circle windows, these are the top two or three feet of what once were large stain glass windows. Rounding the back of the church you come to a large open field, with a few triangular shapes sticking out and a small dome.

: Campo Santo De Bacolor The cemetery of Bacolor was in use from 1776 till 1991 when it was covered with six meters of lahar.

Campo Santo De Bacolor
The cemetery of Bacolor was in use from 1776 till 1991 when it was covered with six meters of lahar.

This is the church’s cemetery used for about 250 years, there are thousands buried here. However the graves are all covered with about 12 feet of lahar. The roofs of the structures you see in the cemetery are two stories tall. There are plaques along the walls showing the names of those that are buried here according to the church records.

Immaculate Conception Parish, Guagua Pampanga Immaculate Conception Parish dates back to 1590, the last major modification was in 1892. destination a Historical monument in 1982

Immaculate Conception Parish, Guagua Pampanga
Immaculate Conception Parish dates back to 1590, the last major modification was in 1892. Designated a Historical monument in 1982

Immaculate Conception Parish, Guagua Pampanga

Within ten miles of San Guillermo Parish Church are another twenty or so churches built before the Spanish left in 1898. Each has its history, and some really stand out. Immaculate Conception Parish, in Guagua Pampanga is about four miles away. While much of the outside of the building is hidden from view, inside some of the original portions of the building can still be seen, while most of it is from it renovation in 1892.

 Church of Lubao Founded in 1572 and moved to current location in 1602. current building dates to 1630. building is made of brick, the mortar to hold the bricks in place was made from sand mixed with egg whites.

Church of Lubao
Founded in 1572 and moved to current location in 1602. current building dates to 1630. building is made of brick, the mortar to hold the bricks in place was made from sand mixed with egg whites.

Church of Lubao

Here is something for you to think about as you eat your eggs for breakfast. The Church of Lubao was built in 1630. the tower is part of the original structure. It is made from bricks. Like any masonry work, mortar is used between layers to stick them together. In this case the mortar was made of sand fixed with egg whites.

Church of Lubao Designated a Historical site in 1952, it was also the church where President Macapagal the fifth President of the Philippines(1961-1965) was Baptized in 1910

Church of Lubao
Designated a Historical site in 1952, it was also the church where President Macapagal the fifth President of the Philippines(1961-1965) was Baptized in 1910

In addition to the religious history of this church, the church was used as a revolutionary headquarters in the uprising against the Spanish in 1898 and in 1899 was used by the Americans as a hospital.

Lubao alter The alter and Retablo of the Lubao Church

Lubao alter
The alter and Retablo of the Lubao Church

Lubao Bell Tower Bell tower of Lubao Church was used as an observation point by the Revolutionaries in the late 1890's

Lubao Bell Tower
Bell tower of Lubao Church was used as an observation point by the Revolutionaries in the late 1890’s

Christ Statue, St James Church While Betis artist were known to work mostly in wood, in the later centuries they also became renown for their work in stone and even more recently have adapted Lahar to be used for statues.

Christ Statue, St James Church
While Betis artist were known to work mostly in wood, in the later centuries they also became renown for their work in stone and even more recently have adapted Lahar to be used for statues.

St James Church

St James the Apostle Church often called the Betis church is in the Betis section of Guagua Pampanga has been called the Sistine Chapel of Asia. The ceiling of the church has a number of finely painted panels with various scenes. It is a Baroque inspired design that was built initially in 1660 with wood and other lightweight material, however that structure was upgrade as it caught fire a number of times, in 1770’s the church was rebuilt with concrete materials.

St. James Ceiling The painting in the ceiling at St. James date back as far as the late 1700's. They have been restored a number of times with major work done in 1930 and 1970.

St. James Ceiling
The painting in the ceiling at St. James date back as far as the late 1700’s. They have been restored a number of times with major work done in 1930 and 1970.

St. James Dome Another example of the art work in Saint James church

St. James Dome
Another example of the art work in Saint James church

Betis Pampanga is a little town with an international reputation, a reputation for fine furniture. The local artisans produce some of the best hand carve furniture in the world. There are many myths and stories about when this started, most people discount the stories saying it is a recent development but archive documents suggest differently. Betis is the name of a wide river in Spain. When early Spanish settles arrived in the area they saw a similar looking river and named it Betis and the town took the name. In the Spanish archives there are many references to Betis carvings, however they had been attributed to the area in Spain. However documents found in the archives in Manila from the Spanish colonial period seem to indicate that the Betis was the one in the Philippines. The most accepted fairy tale is that in the late 1600’s the local workers learned wood carving from Chinese Slave labors who were task to build the interiors of the newly constructed churches. The Filipinos quickly learned and adapted the traits, they also became very skill at being able to reproduce items of arts from drawings and painting of the items. Being highly skilled wood carvers and devote ( whether voluntary of not) Catholics they spent considerable time creating beautiful alters and Retablos.

 St James Alter The Alter and Retablos of St. James

St James Alter
The Alter and Retablos of St. James

The Betis church has eight chapels within a few minutes walk from the church. Each of these also have very elaborate Retablos. They are consider the finest collection of Spanish Retablos from their era.

Ceiling painting at St James It is hard to estimate the sizes of the ceiling paintings but pacing off the distance on the floor looking up, I would estimate this ceiling painting is about 10 feet by 15 feet.

Ceiling painting at St James
It is hard to estimate the sizes of the ceiling paintings but pacing off the distance on the floor looking up, I would estimate this ceiling painting is about 10 feet by 15 feet.

Wood Carving A wood carving in the style that Betis became famous for. Date is unknown but expected to be a few hundred years old.

Wood Carving
A wood carving in the style that Betis became famous for. Date is unknown but expected to be a few hundred years old.

Smaller wood carvings like this one that is on the wall at St. James’s were a status symbol in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The Spanish controlled the wealth and very few Filipinos were allowed to have the finery that the Spanish enjoyed. The locals used the carvings as their show of devotion and if it was expensive and everyone knew it, well that was secondary.

The Spanish left their influence on the Philippines in many ways, but most of those ways center around the church. Churches such as these with long rich histories are a product of that time.

Note: This article was written about 3 years ago for another website. However, I had retained all rights. That website is no loner active, so I uploaded the articles here. It was one of 6 photo essays that I did for the other site.

The Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes The Writer No Blogs

November 22, 2016 by Charles W. Davis

As a writer, This point came home to me as I visited different exhibitors at the DEMA show last week. DEMA is the Dive Equipment Manufacturers Association. Each year they have an annual convention and a trade show. It attracts thousands upon thousands of individuals and companies from around the world. It is not a consumer show, but one that is meant to bring together professionals in the industry.

I was there with a media pass and as I talked to different people in the industry I realized that my Scuba Diving Nomad website had not really been updated recently. Clearly a case similar to where the cobbler was so busy making shoes for customers he had no time for his own children’s shoes. I am a writer but my own site is lacking.

What  is happening as a Scuba Writer

I currently have an article published twice a week on the leading scuba diving website. Deeperblue.com. My author page on the site will show the items that I have written for them, post number 70 this year is pending publication. My recent article about shore diving in Bonaire was very well received.

lionfish dip

Lionfish Dip. a product featured at the DEMA show

In the last month, I have also ghost written a number of articles for the Dive zone website. I also did a few guest post on their behalf on other scuba diving and travel websites. As an example, I wrote an article about diving on the Great Barrier Reef that was on the travel tips website.

I have a couple of new outlets for my writing in the works, which I plan on sharing as soon as they are posted.

At the DEMA show, I was able to talk to a number of people that I would not of been able to with out that event. I am hopeful that some of these new introductions will lead to articles for my readers enjoyment and education.

Scuba Diving Nomad

Scuba Diving Nomad

Dive Season is Coming

June 1, 2016 by Charles W. Davis

Bismark II is one of the dive sites used on the Tuesday and Thursday night dives photo by RU4scuba

I am looking forward to the next week. It represents the opening of the local dive season in Upstate New York, and I can tell you it is not a day too soon for me. The visit back to home has been one of many changes and one of the largest is that diving is not just around the corner. I am looking forward to the local diving, but in some ways I feel like a novice diver again. Low visibility is nothing new for me but the water temperature will be much lower. Which will mean a thicker wet suit, my 3mm shortie will not make it. I have been told that in the “summer”, most of the divers will wear a 5 mm suit. Guess it will be figuring out how much more weight I will need. It also means that I am not one of the local experts. At Subic, I know the history of the known wrecks and have researched many of them. Here I will be exposed to a new diving environment and different wrecks.

Rufour Scuba is a dive shop up on Lake Ontario about 35 minutes away from me. They will be offering dives two evenings a week, Tuesday and Thursday starting this Thursday. I have stopped into their shop the other week for a short talk and was impressed with what they do. They are also using Aqwary dive computers. The dives will be a great way to find out about the local diving and hopefully meet some local divers. The shop also offers a few dive trips each year, and has trips to the St. Lawrence. I have also joined a local dive club and am looking forward to their dives as well.

I know I am not the only one looking forward to a new local dive season. Divers in California are also “gearing” up for a new season. The 2016 Scuba Show invites all adventurous spirits to discover a world beneath the surface at the Long Beach Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday, June 4-5. I have been considering flying out for it, but do not think I can swing it. Over 10,000 people are expected to attend and interact with 300+ exhibitors, vendors and diving experts from around the world. As I looked at the list of exhibitors there were many that attracted my attention. The range of seminars is what really got me excited. Scuba show will feature dozens of seminars, clinics, workshops and classes on various entertaining, specialized or educational topics such as history, underwater photography, seafood preparation, marine conservation and more. There are a couple of seminars on Palau and another on Yap, both destinations that are on my bucket list for the next year.

Infographic_V3The show also has live cooking demonstrations, interactive art, themed photo booths, a new products showcase, a virtual reality diving experience and its popular Saturday night party at the Aquarium of the Pacific. A film festival runs all day on Saturday and Sunday with the entries running a couple times each day.

It sounds like a great event,if you are near Long Beach this weekend, consider taking a look.

Komodo National Park

April 20, 2016 by Charles W. Davis

Komodo National Park (KNP)

Located in a very remote portion of the Indonesian islands is a place that seems mythical, a place forgotten by time and controlled by dragons. The island of Komodo is the only home of the 10 foot (3 meter) long Komodo dragon. The island has about 2,000 people living on it with a mostly traditional lifestyle.
Numerous small islands and three larger islands, Rinca, Komodo and Padar, make up the park that was established to protect the dragons. That protection has been expanded to include Manta Rays and sharks protected areas.

Komodo Island north aerial.jpg
By jon hanson from London – indonesian islands, CC BY-SA 2.0,

When is the best time to dive Komodo National Park (seasons)

Diving in the KNP is year round, however, March to October provides the best conditions. The rainy season of December to February is the best time for diving with Manta Rays. However, The conditions can be so difficult leaving and returning to port that many of the land based operators close for January and February. Liveaboards are able to adjust for the weather better.

Marine life found in Komodo


The water around these islands are the home of more than 260 species of reef-building coral, about 1,000 species of fish, and 70 species of sponges. Here is what the UNESCO said about the marine life. “The coral reefs fringing the coast of Komodo are diverse and luxuriant due to the clear water, intense sunlight and rapid exchange of nutrient-rich water from deeper areas of the archipelago. The marine fauna and flora are generally the same as that found throughout the Indo Pacific area, though species richness is very high, notable marine mammals include blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) and sperm whale (Physeter catodon) as well as 10 species of dolphin, dugong (Dugong dugon) and five species of sea turtles.” With that statement as a backdrop here is some the most sought after marine life while diving:

  • Manta rays, this is considered one of the best Manta Ray destinations in the world
  • Dugong, they can reach 11 feet (3.5 meters) and 925 pounds (420 kilograms)
  • Sharks, including Blacktip, Grey reef, Whitetip and Hammerhead sharks
  • Whales, at least 14 species visit the area
  • Sea turtle
  • Dolphins

Always dive with a reputable dive operator. Most of the sites are best for experienced divers. The park is located at the conjunction of the Indian and Pacific oceans. This plus numerous small island create a condition where there is always currents, sometimes brutal.

Dive Komodo Land based or Liveaboard?

Both options have their strong points. If you are diving in the wet season, then the liveaboard is the stronger option. At other times of the year, it is more about your viewpoints and diving skills. Liveaboards will get you to the more outlying dive sites, and since you are not headed back to shore before sunset more opportunities to enjoy nature and be in your own world. The strong currents might be too intense for some divers to do every day. Some liveaboards offer short options were you can combine the two. Given the distance many divers will travel, consider a vacation in Bali leading into a Komodo liveaboard.
Divezone.net has some reviews of the different Indonesian Liveaboards including those going to Komodo.

Freelance Writing Scuba Diving Related

March 7, 2016 by Charles W. Davis

Recent Freelance Writing Scuba Diving Related Publications

Freelance writing covers a broad range of skills. This is the first in a series of articles in which I will highlight some of the material that is appearing on the web. Item that are written as a ghostwriter may or maynot appear depending on the terms of the assignments

Recent articles with Charles W Davis Jr. or Scuba Diving Nomad Byline.

freelance writer for scuba diving topics. this is San Quintin Previously S/S Andes Cunard Lines

San Quintin Previously S/S Andes Cunard Lines

Dive Advisor featured my write up on the San Quintin in their March 6, 2016  weekly newsletter.

webmaster and feature writer for Sbda subic bay dive association They also carried my article about Subic Bay Diving that I wrote in support of the Subic Bay Dive Association’s new website that I am also the webmaster for.

 

 

 

freelance writer for scuba diving topics. What is your Favorite subic bay Wreck?

What is your Favorite Subic Bay Wreck?

freelance writer for Deeper blue scuba writingDeeper Blue has published 6 articles in what should be a weekly assignment, two more are awaiting publication, see the list on my Deeper Blue author page — Charles Davis   I was very pleasantly surprised to see my article “The 4 Best Remote Liveaboard Destinations” have over 2k shares.
freelance writing scuba johan's beach and dive resort
We are near the one year mark for the Johan’s Beach and Dive Resort webpage. I created and maintain this page and coordinate the facebook marketing. Johan has his main site www.subicdive.com that he wishes to keep, but it is difficult to update and won’t accept blogs. So I created this site. 3 articles a month on average for the website and 6 entries a month on facebook.

DiveBuddy.com  I have also written a few articles on DiveBuddy. It a great website, however, they do not pay for publications. It has proven useful to posting promotional material for myself and clients.

Freelance writing — Ghostwritten Material

I am currently doing some SEO task and articles for Divezone.net. These are integrated into other content so it difficult to refer to.

I am also doing some editing and articles for Bookyourdive.com and two of thier clients. The articles are ghostwritten.

 

The Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs

February 7, 2016 by Charles W. Davis

The Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs- The Worlds Best Year-Round Liveaboard Destination.

 

There are dozens of special destinations around the world that are normally only dived by liveaboard vessels. Often these destinations are very remote and difficult to get to. The Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs is one of those destinations that is on many a diver’s bucket list. While the dive sites are very remote, the liveaboards depart from Cairns on the Queensland coast of Australia. A couple of different liveaboard companies sail from Cairns on a week long dive vacation to the Ribbon Reefs a portion of the Great Barrier Reef and out to a remote reef, often Osprey reef, in the Coral Seas. The two that dominate are Mike Ball’s Spoilsport ( read a review on the Spoil sport here) and the Spirit of Freedom ( Spirit of Freedom review). The liveaboards use different sailing dates and some will start with the ribbon Reefs and others will head to the Coral sea from Cairns. The week long trip is presented in a three day Ribbon Reef Segment and a four day Coral Sea segment. Lizard island acts as a transfer point for guest taking only one segment.

 

Spirit of Freedom

Spirit of Freedom

Ribbon Reef Section

 

The Ribbon Reefs are a series of long narrow reefs stretching about 55 miles in the Northern Reef area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. There are ten of these reefs, no names just numbered 1 to 10. They are to the north and east of Cooktown. Cooktown a town of about 2,000 is itself isolated, a five hour bus ride from Cairns with one trip a day. The Ribbon Reefs are unique in their make up. They share the same characteristics of typical barrier reefs, on the edge of steep drop offs on the ocean side with calm shallow lagoons between them and land. They do not have the broad flat tops that barrier reefs are known for. Some scientist classify them as a separate reef type. Breaks between the reefs are few and often present a strong current. It was these reefs that confounded Captain James Cook when he sailed to them. For the diver, they are perfect. The rich nutrients brought from the deep trenches causes the coral life to grown to immense sizes. It also brings pelagic species in to visit and feed. The outgoing current flushed away any sediment and waste built up from the vast marine life. The impact caused by humans is not apparent. They are far from any major human settlement and the pollution they can create. Only a few small liveaboard visit the area each week. Cod Hole get special attention as it has a number of man sized 90kg Potato Cods. Photographs and movies, In 1982, were used as part of a campaign to protect Potato Cod from commercial fishing. Not only were the images highly successful to protect the Cod, they also prompted making the area a marine sanctuary. To divers around the world, it showed what a perfect reef looked like. Over thirty years later, the visibility is still perfect, the marine life healthy and the Cod Hole dive site is still awing divers with perfect conditions and unbeatable marine life.

Mike Ball's Spoil Sport

Mike Ball’s Spoil Sport

Coral Sea Diving-Osprey Reef

 

If you got a group of experience divers together and ask them to describe their dream dive and if you put all the answers together you have the Osprey reef. A ten hour boat ride from the Ribbon Reef, is a massive underwater mountain that reaches over 3,000 feet from the ocean floor to just under the surface. The mountain top covers an area of about 195 square kilometers roughly 25 kilometers long and as wide as 12 kilometers. The central lagoon area is 30 meters deep at its deepest location with many dive sites as shallow as 10 meters. Osprey reef has an atoll appearance to it, as the central lagoon is surrounded by coral above sea level. The floor of the lagoon has massive crevices in places. One site got it name, Castles as the steep walled crevices and spirals create the image of a medieval town, with high walls and towers. Caves exist but inside and outside of the lagoon. Outside of the atoll, the reef takes on a different look. 45 degree slopes to depths beyond diving limits, in other locations shear walls. Seemly unlimited visibility with pelagic fish in abundance. The Osprey reef is one of the leading field research locations studying sharks. The variety and numbers of each specie is unmatched anywhere in the world. A dwarf nautilus is also found in these waters. The nautilus lives in the deep hundreds of meters deep but on some nights venture into shallow waters. Some of the largest coral fans in the world have been cataloged here and it is also the home of the stout infantfish a previous record holder of the world’s smallest fish. The remoteness adds to the thrill of the diving. Unless there is a scientific team doing research, your vessel will be the only one on the reef.

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