The best part of traveling is meeting new people. As I was solo traveling in Moalboal, Cebu, I met a mermaid, Odessa Bugarin. She left her city life and became a scuba and free diving instructor, a professional mermaid, producer and conservationist.
In 2013, Odessa, a divemaster certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), joined a group of mermaid performer in the beautiful aquarium in MGM, Macau.
Odessa opened her own school, Mermaid Odessa Swimming Academy, in Anilao, Batangas and Moalboal, Cebu in 2015. That same year, she focused on her free diving and also gained her certification from the International Association for Development of Apnea Level 3.
In 2016, Odessa was one of the real-life mermaids who performed in the ADEX: Meet the Mermaids in Singapore and has been continuously invited to the event. ADEX is the longest running and the largest dive expo in Asia.
Her mermaid swimming skills became polished with training, and she has become comfortable using her mermaid tail, which she admits could be arduous and uncomfortable. “A mermaid coach will guide you and provide safety while you’re overcoming the discomfort coming from the fact that the tail binds your legs together. There are ways to make thing easy.” She said.
“As a real life mermaid, I can use the fantasy of the wonderful mermaid world to reach out to people and spread my causes and advocacies. I started to meet people with the same passion. I realized that I could actually buy or get my own tail and so I did and I was addicted to it. I brought it everywhere with me which led into my rendezvous with underwater photographers. I then discovered that I could also do underwater modelling to promote marine life awareness and conservation.” Odessa said. As a diver, she calls herself an ambassador of the oceans, sharing her own deep and intimate connection with marine life.
Odessa joins clean-up drives and picks up trash from beaches and sea. She also volunteers to care for rescued dolphins.
Her ease in the water has gotten her some plum assignments. Michael Aw, the founder of Ocean Geographic, said he worked with Odessa for a campaign against the use of crocodile skin and meat, and she even posed and swam with the crocodile. She also had a photo where she was dancing with the sharks. She conquered in diving the Avalon Jardines de la Reina – Gardens of the Queen and met notable persons sharing her advocacy to protect the marine environment.
Photo by Michael Aw -Dancing with the Sharks
Odessa’s message to would-be mermaids: “I hope that you do know that being a mermaid is not all about being beautiful or it’s not all about fantasy. It’s not all about cool photos and videos. Please use that beauty and fantasy to reach out to people. Be a mermaid, servants of the world’s oceans. Keep diving, exploring, and discovering. Share everything you know about the magical big blue. LOVE Mermaid Odessa.”
And behind the pretty face, perfectly-shaped body and synchronized dolphin kick swimming of a mermaid is a woman with a genuinely big heart for the ocean.
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