Whoever coined the term “extreme sports” must have been giving the most misleading understatement of the century. “Extreme” simply means outrageous or radical, such as outrageous clothes and radical beliefs. Skydiving is not an extreme sport. It is suicidal. And I came to this conclusion a couple of hours too late. The wind rocked the small open plane and I barely heard the instructor shouting, “Ready?”
As I tried to avoid staring down beyond the plane, my mind kept its agitated monologue. Skydiving was invented by people who have nothing to do. Skydiving is done by lunatics who chose not to die by boredom. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t mind being accompanied by boredom for the rest of my life.
Yet, it was probably boredom that drove us, me and two of my friends, towards Tanauan, which is two hours south of Manila. Tanauan is known as the skydiving capital of the Philippines. Its Skydiving Center has 1200 meter airstrip. And it has several aircrafts available to skydiving enthusiasts. I should have backed out from there.
I never claimed to be an enthusiast. But I let them strapped a parachute over me. The instructor assured us that we were wearing state-of-the-art parachutes. For the maximum safety of all their customers, all the parachutes have Cypress automatic activation devices. Cypress? Cypress is supposed to be a sturdy evergreen tree. Not this contraption.
The plane is now flying over the rest of Batangas. We were near the drop zone, an area between Mount Makiling and Taal volcano. I closed my eyes, hoping that I was only dreaming.
“Now!” the instructor shouted again. Somebody shoved me. I knew that because I have every intention of staying inside the plane. I kicked to find anything solid, translated as safe, beneath me. But I only floated. The gusts of air at that altitude were unbelievably powerful.
My survival instincts kicked in and I struggled to remember the instructions given to us. What was it? “Relax”, I think. I realized that I was still holding my breath. My arms are already spread and at least I got that right.
“Enjoy the view” was another important instruction given to us. I slowly opened one eye, and then the other. The Taal lake and volcano are breathtaking. The Taal volcano is the smallest one in the whole world. Thin fumes rose from it. The greenish blue of the lake helped calm my nerves, but not entirely. Yet, I thought that angels must be lucky to be seeing this view.
Then I was alarmed at the speed I’m falling. I held on and the parachute opened, slowing me down. After a few moments, I can see people waiting for me. I finally landed and stayed lying down for awhile until I could feel my legs again. Exhilaration seeped in and an inexplicable happiness swept me. “I did it!” was all I could think of.