On the evening of November 19th, we flew to Manila, from where a van took us three hours to the small community of Anilao in the Batangas region. We stayed at the Portulano
scuba resort, reachable only by a 10 minute boat ride.
The resort was small, consisting of a systems of bungalows on the hillside. Very low key, and charming. We were the only guests, and enjoyed impeccable service. Food was included, in the form of three buffets every day, standard Philippina fare. We particularly enjoyed the desert, a fried banana wrap.
Due to its proximity to the nation's capital, this was one of the earliest and most popular dive spots in the Philippines. Dynamite fishing stopped some 30 years ago, and the coral is in pristine condition. The locals however became very proficient in other fishing methods, and medium to large size fish are basically extinct. The few "marine sanctuaries" are usually only several hundred meters wide, and again only protect corals and small fish.
There are supposed to be a handful of turtles in the area, although we did not see any. Turtles must have a really hard time reproducing, as most of the coast is clustered with shacks, resorts, and marinas.
Nonetheless, diving was excellent. The underwater landscape was absolutely amazing, and there was tons of macro-opportunities.
We got three dives on three days, commonly 50 min, in up to 30 meters of water. Hence, we frequently exceeded our non-deco time. On Sunday morning, we did one very early dive, with 36% Nitrox, in shallow 10m water, and our Suuntos gave "clear to dive" twelve hours later, just as we were about to board the airplane to HK.
Overall, the diving was great, although not as good as other places in the Philippines. The area however is easily accessible, and the "travel-to-scuba ratio" was well worth the trip.