Dr. Deo Onda, a Filipino scientist who grew up in Brooke’s Point, Palawan, admits that it still has not sank in on how groundbreaking his trip to Emden Deep this week will turn out to be.

Onda, who will also be the first Filipino to explore the trench, also known to be the third deepest point in the world, says that though he expected to feel excited, he still is unsure about how he truly feels given the nature of the exploration.

“Marami nang nagtanong sa akin kung ano bang nararamdaman ko. To be honest, hindi ko talaga alam. Hindi pa siguro nagsi-sink in na this is happening. But the Filipinos here sa crew, they are always there to remind me how to feel. Lagi nilang sinasabi, uy ready ka na ba? Excited ka na ba, kasi kami excited na,” he said in a Zoom meeting with the Palawan press Saturday.

When asked how he was chosen to represent the country in the exploration, Onda explained that he was also unsure about how Caladan Oceanic, the company sponsoring and undertaking the dive, chose him for the exploration. Onda is a microbial oceanographer at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI).

“I honestly don’t know. I received the letter from Caladan Oceanic stating that I was going to be part of the team. Since I am a scientist, maybe they needed my skills. Pero honestly, hindi ko talaga alam ano ang criteria nila. Again, I can’t complain. I am glad to be here,” he added.

The exploration mother ship DSSV Pressure Drop will be at Emden Deep, located at on the eastern waters of the country, from Monday (March 22) to Wednesday to do their dive aboard the Limiting Factor, a submersible vehicle that is the only one of its kind available on the commercial market.

Onda said that the Limiting Factor can fit two people. Onda and Victor Vescovo, the team’s lead explorer, will be doing their descent on Tuesday to explore the depths and make a report on their findings.

Onda said one thing he is keen find out is if plastic wastes have already reached the deepest parts of the trench, since his field of study focuses on how plastic pollutes the world’s oceans.

“With regards to my field of study, wala naman kaming masyadong gagawin sa ilalim, parang papasyal lang kami. But I am interested to know if there is plastic waste at the bottom of the ocean, since ‘yon ang napapag-usapan sa scientific world,” he said.