Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Underwater Friends!

Posted on January 15, 2005 by jimparedes

Redford White and Jon Santos, my two dive buddies and I decided to finally have a get-together last night since we hadn’t seen each other for a long time. We were supposed to be joined by Maan De Ocampo,the only girl in our foursome diving team but she begged off due to a family emergency. Just the same, we decided to eat in Quatro, a resto that Maan’s family owned.

Her father so graciously greeted us, helped us order, joined us for great conversation and sumptuous dinner and generously picked up our bill. What more could we ask for? Well, Maan’s company would have topped all that of course.

Going back to Jon and Red, these are two friends who are so unlike what they are on TV, as many comedians are really. True, they are funny and fun people, but they do have their very serious sides. I’m sure no one would ever suspect that Red is very much into charity work and is a serious seeker of the spiritual path. He also shows keen interest in Vipassana, Zen and is quite prayerful. His wife is a healer who has built churches that are recognized by the Catholic hierarchy. Together, they have taken under their wing close to 60 children whom they raise in their own home. Among his friends is a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka who is currently studying here in the Philippines.

The best part about being with Red is getting to know him. I am charmed by the pureness of his intentions and the transparent quality of who he is. During long car and boat rides on the way to a dive site, he can choose to just sit quietly and is not bothered by the lack of conversation. He is simply there, appreciating the now. Normally, most showbiz people instinctively ‘turn on’ and perform when there are strangers—-boatmen, other divers who share the boat, etc.. When he wants quiet, he is simply quiet. But he can joke a lot too and he is hilarious! But his TV persona betrays his real depth. He is an astute observer of life and shows an interest in a great variety of subjects and can talk about almost anything. Aside from his spiritual side, he also has a deep fascination with everything under the sea and will always go the extra mile just to dive. We have done Tubataha twice, Bohol, Cebu, Davao and Anilao countless times.

Jon is almost the exact opposite of Red. He is constantly talking and jumps between being funny to serious at a flick of a switch. But he is also very transparent in the sense that nothing is off-topic or forbidden to talk about. He can discuss personal pain and pleasure with equal involvement and in shades of light to quite dark. He is very passionate in everything he does from comedy, to cooking, to diving and everything else. He can be totally absorbed in anything that he is involved in. He is also a seeker of answers to life’s questions from the trivial to the fundamental. All these add up to great company! As a diver, it is great to buddy up with Jon. He is extremely conscientious and therefore, one can feel safe knowing that he never takes safety rules casually. After all, a buddy is supposed to watch over you!

I must have done about 50 dives with Jon and about 120 dives with Red by now. Jon stopped diving last year due to a back injury. But Red and I continue to get together on occasion and splash under the sea. We have seen sharks, (except Jon who always seems to be looking the other way, ha ha)dolphins, mantas, groupers, snakes, done night dives and have experienced a few close calls together.

Divers bond very easily because every dive is potentially a near death experience or may even be the real thing, if one is not careful. When I dive, I am fully awake and present to the situation. To be somewhere else and hilo can mean disaster. I like the way a dive can spell one’s options so clearly—-either be present to the beauty, or die! So simple, and so unequivocal!

Perhaps it is the shared experience of plunging into the unknown that has bonded us together. Diving into the depths is a kinetic metaphor for what Red and I have actually been undergoing spiritually the past years, and that is diving deep inside to glimpse our Original Face. For Jon, the thrill must be the “walk the edge” quality in diving that is very much like what a comedian goes through when trying out new material on stage. One must be sure, be at one’s wits and execute properly—-or die!

Can’t wait for our next get-together, or better yet, our next dive!

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