Located in Southeast Asia, the Philippines consists of about 7, 641 islands and has a very rich marine ecosystem. The country is part of the Coral Triangle – the global center of marine biodiversity. Recognized as Center of the Center of the Marine Biodiversity of the World, Verde Island Passage can be found in Luzon Island, Philippines. Due to the richness of its marine resources, it is not surprising that the country is known as a great place to experience diving.
Maripaz Marquez Quiroz
TIAS School for Business and Society
Based in Manila, Seazoned has made it possible to learn freediving and skindiving all year-round (summer and rainy season) without actually going to the beach. Their City Dive sessions start in a 2-hour classroom discussion where they teach techniques, breathing exercises, equalization, proper gears, diving etiquette, marine conservation and safety reminders. This is then followed by 3-hour pool time where students can finally apply what they have just learned in the class. Going in a 20-ft deep pool can be scary, especially for non-swimmers. Seazoned employ safety divers, to ensure all students are properly guided and supported. Aside from City Dive classes, the company also offers Practice Sessions and Line Dive Training to those who are keen on improving their diving skills. During summer, when the seas and oceans are calmer, the company arranges Open Water Dive Tours that will allow the participants to practice their diving skills and develop a better understanding of the marine life.
City Dive: Basics of Skindiving Class
Seazoned Phillipines is a growing business that matches with the inspiring story of its co-founder Gen Abanilla. According to Gen, she has always loved traveling, however, she felt that the activities are usually limited to mountain climbing, lounging by the beach or surfing. She wanted to challenge herself and to do more. She took freediving classes and got AIDA certified. When asked about an old photo that she posted on social media showing her wearing a life vest and crying while hanging onto the boat during her first snorkeling experience, she explained how freediving has helped her overcome her fear. She is no longer afraid of being swarmed by fish and enjoys swimming with them these days. Her passion for freediving and honing her skill eventually led her to become a member of the Philippine Freediving Team.
As the freediving community was small at the time, Nico and Gen came up with the idea to create an event where they can meet and dive with other divers. They posted some videos and photos on social media and were surprised with the amount of positive comments and inquiries about freediving. It was then that they realized that there is an untapped market for people who would like to learn freediving but have no access to lessons. With very few freediving schools - and all located outside Manila - Seazoned was born from the need to learn a new hobby, introduce a new sport and encourage marine conservation.
"We know how to dive and to teach, we want others to also learn and enjoy the underwater life."
Due to its accessibility to the city, Seazoned has positioned itself as one of the favorite diving schools in the Philippines. Gen shared “that a lot of travelers right now have started to add freediving as their activity. Seeing how the market is growing, dive shops now offer freediving gears (in addition to scuba diving gears). Another sign that we are growing is through the online community that we have started, from 1, 000 members, we are now nearing 10, 000 members.” Through this online community, Seazoners (as what the members call themselves) share information varying from improvement of diving skills, travels, experiences, environmental protection to encouraging each other to shift to a more sustainable lifestyle. Gen has also mentioned that some former students have created their own small non-profit organizations focused on environmental conservation. Seazoned partners up with these organizations to conduct beach clean ups and informational talks about zero-waste lifestyle.
The success of Seazoned can be attributed to team effort, passion to share the love of freediving and the ocean while being focused on persistency and continuous improvement to provide quality services. This strategy has resulted in full classes all year. Without a doubt, Seazoned has paved the way for the growing interest on freediving as a hobby and sport.
Utilizing social media and through word of mouth, Seazoned has found a place in the market. The company’s initial target market of millennials has expanded and now includes kids as young as 8 years old, families and even foreigners. A second branch of Seazoned, with a more ambitious scheme, is located in Coron, Palawan. This branch offers open water dive and certification classes and will soon include tours as part of its services. They are currently reaching out to local boatmen and communities to realize this plan in a more sustainable way.
A small and locally owned businesses such as Seazoned does not grow without challenges. Gen and Nico are hands on with their business. To ensure the quality of services, they take the lead in teaching each class, do the online and offline marketing and perform administrative tasks. Aside from Gen and Nico, Seazoned currently has 4 employees on their payroll and 12 part time safety divers with flexible schedules. By offering their classes year-round with limited slots per session and expansion to another location, Seazoned is in need of additional manpower and a more systematic way of doing things. However, Gen sees this as “a good challenge” .
Seazoned has shown its commitment in the wellness of the global center of marine biodiversity following the UN Sustainable Development Goals:
08. Decent work and economic growth
Seazoned is contributing in the economic growth of Manila by providing quality jobs to people who share the same love for freediving, increased demand for diving gears and partnership with other local companies focused on sustainable lifestyle. By fomenting tourism through their growing Coron branch, Seazoned will be able to uplift the lifestyle of the community (where the school is located) and its people.
13. Climate action and 14. Life below water
As part of their classes, Seazoned educates all its students to appreciate and respect the Philippines’ rich marine biodiversity and builds a community of responsible travelers and divers. Through online platforms and partnerships with companies and non-profit organizations, Seazoned is able to expand its reach in sharing information about environmental protection especially marine conservation and promoting responsible, sustainable tourism and lifestyle.
Gen Abanilla, Owner, Co-Founder and Digital Marketer
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Manila, Metro Manila, PH
Business Website: https://www.facebook.com/seazonedph
Year Founded: 2016
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
Seazoned Philippines is a diving school that offers freediving and skindiving classes and tours while promoting responsible tourism, sustainability and environmental awareness. Founded in 2016 by Gen Abanilla and Nico Soriano, both lovers of the ocean, the company has already taught and inspired hundreds of people to explore the beautiful marine ecosystem in the Philippines.