Deepblu: For those in the dive community who might not be familiar with your work and career, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Marc Nelson: Well, I’ve been a television host here in the Philippines and around Asia for quite a few years specializing in travel shows. My current show “Beached” takes me all over the country to experience some of the best beaches in the world. I’m not sure what I did in my past life to deserve this kind of gig, but I’m very thankful for it!
You are quite the well-traveled man! According to The Collective Asia, you have visited over 40 countries and lived in seven of them. How did travel affect the way you see the world?
I think I’m somewhere around 60 countries now, but it did help that I got started at a young age, always moving around with my mum and stepfather.
Going to new schools in a new country taught me how to adapt, and also recognize that whilst new cultures may seem strange at first, we’re actually not so different from each other. It’s definitely taught me to respect others from all countries and walks of life.
What is your favorite thing about the Philippines, compared with all these other countries that you’ve visited?
Definitely, it’s people. Not only are they incredibly resilient in the face of adversity like natural disasters, but they’re also the friendliest people you can meet. A common expression here is “Kain Tayo”, which means “let’s eat”. And you will hear that from absolute strangers all the time. And they mean it. If you say yes, they’ll literally make space for you and share their food. Where else in the world does that happen?
Any favorite lesser-known locations you think should be on more people’s bucket list?
Hmm, that really depends on what you’re looking for! Here in the Philippines, a lot of people visit Boracay or Cebu, but the real beauty is in less touristy places like San Vicente, Port Barton (both in Palawan) or Camiguin Island. Coron, El Nido, and Siargao are also hot favorites for me.
Where’s the best food in the Philippines?
Ooh, I have to be careful about how I answer this, and Filipinos are very proud of their province’s food. But in all honesty, Manila’s food scene has boomed so much now that you can get amazing food of almost any cuisine there now. There are a bunch of small but great restaurants around Poblacion in Makati (like Holy Smokes BBQ which I’m a partner in, but only because the food is unbelievably good!), although BGC, and the malls have some awesome choices as well. For the islands, I think Boracay used to have the best food options (try the calamansi muffins at Real Coffee), but now they’re slowly getting overtaken by Siargao. So many amazing places to eat there now (check out our Mexican bar/restaurant, Zicatela, and another one coming soon called Wild). Other good places to eat there are Kermits, Lamari, Bulan, Shaka, Kalinaw, and Harana.
The Philippines have some amazing dive spots. Care to share some of your favorites?
Ooh… for scuba, I’d have to say Tubbataha Reef off of Palawan. You have to take a liveaboard boat to get there, but when you do it’s totally worth it! Amazing drop-offs, incredible visibility and sharks and turtles on every dive. It’s been an extremely well managed World Heritage Site, so the sea life there is 5 times more than other areas in the country.
For freediving, I’d have to say Coron. Diving down the cliffs of Barracuda Lake or penetrating old WWII wrecks are both eerie and highly enjoyable. Special mention to Romblon as it has its own “blue hole” which is amazing for freediving.
Have you always loved diving, or has free diving been a recent discovery for you?
I’ve always loved the water, and I guess I was “freediving” as a kid when I would snorkel. In fact, that’s how I ended up learning how to scuba dive. But I didn’t officially take lessons till a few years ago when I did my SSI level 1 in the Gili Islands in Indonesia. And the reason I did was so that I’d be better prepared to go freediving with sharks in Hawaii later that year. Who knew it was the start of a new passion…
Are you into scuba diving as well?
My parents were both scuba instructors under BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club), and when they would dive, I’d snorkel above them and play in their bubbles. When they’d come up to do their safety stop, I’d Freedive down to swim around and play with them. After a few months of that, my parents decided they may as well teach me scuba. So I started learning at 11 and qualified as 3rd class BSAC at 12 (roughly equivalent to a PADI rescue diver).
I still love scuba diving and do it often on my show, but I have to admit, I’m currently preferring freediving. 🙂
Along with your crazy work schedule, you also make time to do a lot of conservation and charity work as the Ambassador for WWF & WorldVision, along with other projects. Why is it important for you that you participate in these projects?
Growing up at the beach and around nature a lot, you get to appreciate the beauty of what we have, and as the years go by, I see that a lot of the places I’ve been to have changed… for the worse. It’s so hard to find a beach or dive site that doesn’t have any plastic. There aren’t as many fish or other marine life as there used to be, and the corals are getting trashed by bleaching, fishing nets, anchors and even graffiti. If I can use whatever influence I have to encourage people to take better care of our planet, then hopefully that “drop in the ocean” effort of myself and others can create a ripple effect where more will want to step up and start doing the right thing.
Also, I feel like I’ve been very blessed with a wonderful life, and it just makes sense to spend some of my free time helping people (or animals) who didn’t get the breaks I did, have gone through something difficult, or just really need that helping hand. There are a lot of amazing organizations that do great things in this country, and I’m just happy that they give people like us an avenue where we can assist.
Any advice for newcomers to diving, or for people that are afraid of the ocean?
I think becoming a good diver takes 2 things.
- Practice. Whether it be breath-holding for freediving, or buoyancy and air control for scuba, you get better the more you do it.
- And this is probably the bigger factor, Feeling comfortable in the water. I can’t stress how much of an impact that will make. The more relaxed you are, the longer you can hold your breath, minimize your scuba air consumption or patiently adjust your buoyancy just right.
If you are scared of the ocean, take it step by step. Start with water entries and snorkeling. Once you’re comfy with that, then do a shallow shore entry intro dive, preferably with a sandy bottom, and work your way up from there.
I met a guy who couldn’t really swim and almost drowned when he tried snorkeling for the first time. He was determined to learn how to swim so that wouldn’t happen again, and within a few short years, he now holds half a dozen National freediving records for the Philippines. His name is Martin Zapanta and he’s an inspiration to any non-swimmers out there who want to get in the water.
Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
Hmm… let see… I’m an Aquarius, I love cats, my favorite color is blue and I like long walks on the beach… :p
Just kidding. I’m a pretty simple guy with a love for the ocean who wants to expose everyone to the natural beauty around us so that we will all want to take an active role in caring for it.
by Iris Lin, Deepblu Mag Editor