Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Freediving in the Philippines. Day 11

A restaurant at "Blue Orchid"
Back when I was preparing for the trip, I got in touch with Julia, and she told me that I had a choice to stay in one of two hotels: Club Serena or Blue Orchid. I looked at the Blue Orchid's website and, to my surprise, in a left-side menu found a link labelled "Aikido". Since I am a black belt in aikido, I was interested. The link itself did not lead anywhere, but after a little research, I discovered that the owner of Blue Orchid, the Englishman Michael McCavish, was a fifth dan of Tomiki aikido. I contacted him, explained who I was, and asked if I could book a room at his hotel. Michael replied that he was glad that I would stay at his hotel, but he at that time would be in Japan on business.

When we first saw him in the evening after returning from Badian Resort, the first thing he said to me was: "I came back a day earlier than planned. I felt that I had to talk to you." I did not even know what to think about it. Another coincidence in the chain of random events? Maybe. Maybe not.

I did not dive on this day. Firstly, my ear was aching more and I did not want to submerge my head underwater. And secondly, I felt that I had already achieved everything I came for. But one thing remained – I had to talk to Michael. A fifth dan means decades of hard work and discipline. There aren't that many people in the world who achieve that.

Our last dinner table at "Club Serena"
Michael showed me his aikido style. I myself do Iwama style, which dates back to Saito Sensei, one of the senior students of Ueshiba, who was the founder of aikido. Iwama is considered to be a style that conveys what Ueshiba himself did most accurately. Although, honestly, no one knows exactly what he did. Kenji Tomiki was also a student of Ueshiba, but apart from that he had eighth dan in judo. And the style he created combines the techniques of aikido and the competitive spirit of judo. In Iwama aikido there are neither competitions nor fighting. It is believed that competitive spirit contradicts self-knowledge and self-improvement, which are the essences of aikido. In Tomiki aikido, contests are part of the program. Both these points of view have the right to live.

Michael spent a couple of hours with me and showed me his style. Frankly, I was somewhat confused. The techniques he demonstrated were on the one hand familiar, but on the other hand executed in a completely different way. Moreover, they were named differently too. I do not know if I learnt anything from that exercise, but it was very interesting.

Launching a flying lantern
And then we sat at the lunch table and talked about the role of chance in our lives and of the choices we make. I had three recent examples in front of me: my own, Michael's, and the hotel manager Mark’s. Just two months earlier Mark worked as a manager at Hewlett-Packard in Singapore. Then Michael offered him a job as a manager of the hotel; Mark moved to the Philippines and since then has been living there. How's that for a career change?

That was our last evening in the Philippines, and Club Serena's owners decided to arrange a farewell beach party for us. After the sunset a dinner table was set for us on the beach, just like on our first evening. And there was dinner, and wine and rum flowed like a river. There was a surprise too. A flying Chinese lantern was prepared for each of us. Such a lantern looks like an inverted paper bag with a candle attached at the bottom. The candle burns and fills the space inside with a hot air, which makes the lantern fly. Everyone wrote a wish on a piece of paper and put it into his lantern. Thus, everyone's desires were to rise into the sky. However, we were unlucky: there was a breeze and many of the lanterns fell into the sea. But if you ask me, that was symbolical that freedivers' desires fall into the sea rather than take to the air. I think that's the way it should be.

The end of the eleventh day.

The text and the photos © 2010 Sergey Stadnik

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