To see beneath the sea…

Scanning the ocean waters surrounding Tablas Island where I live, you might see a scattering of small one-person bankas (boats). At first glance these bankas appear empty, like tiny ghost boats floating in the waves. They have not been abandoned. Instead, the occupant is below the waves rather than above them. Perhaps spearfishing for dinner and income, the Filipino fisherman spends his day diving below the water before returning to his banka.

The tanned skin and thin, muscular body of a Filipino fisherman is easy to imagine, but how does this predator of the seas see to find its prey? Speedo goggles and ScubaPro dive fins are not included in the fixed costs of a fisherman’s budget. Instead, most locals wear handcrafted, wooden goggles with glass lenses and strap large, round, wooden fins to their feet.

Trying on my new pair of wooden Filipino swimming goggles!
Trying on my new pair of wooden Filipino swimming goggles!

Did you know that the first known swim goggles were used by 14th century Persian pearl divers and fashioned out of a polished layer of tortoise shell. By contrast Polynesian skin divers would trap a bubble of air to their eyes with a wooden frame until European explorers introduced glass!

I haven’t tried the air bubble method, but my wooden goggles work great. No leaks at all!
I haven’t tried the air bubble method, but my wooden goggles work great. No leaks at all!

If only the fisherman knew that his pair of handcrafted goggles was worth US $40 when sold online (http://woodengoggles.com) Luckily, I bought mine for Php 100 or about US $2.20. If anyone wants to trade their SCUBA diving mask or pair of fins for the handcrafted Filipino version I bet I could find a fisherman or two willing to make you a pair!

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