We think it would be cool to meet a mermaid—assuming it’s the friendly singing scantily-clad variety and not the sexy and secretly man-eating sort—but dipping our heads below the surface would probably get us face to face with a true waterbaby like Essa Santos instead. This diving fanatic wants you to know that there’s a lot more to summer than bumming on the beach, and that fellow divers get to form special bonds with each other....say no more fam!
You’ve already been introduced as our very own Emma Stone-lookalike, but we want to know more about you…
So I’m Essa, a business development manager for an integrated marketing communications agency based in Makati, what else...
And the non-business intro?
Oh no, this is so hard! How would I introduce myself? Hi I’m Essa and...this is why I’m single, ha ha! I usually just crack a joke—I think I’m funny, and weird, and cute, ha ha!
Now FHM model though.
Now that is definitely one of the things I never thought would happen! I’ve done some modeling but a long time ago. I did Penshoppe and also portfolio shoots for designers but that was when I was still in college. I’m not really a professional model-model.
So did you find your groove come back during our session?
It’s actually fun! It’s been a while and I think now that I’m not as self-conscious as I was when I was young—not as nervous or stiff in front of the camera anymore—I’m more comfortable and I enjoyed it. Actually, I was also really pleasantly surprised [with the styling], I’m definitely not the most conservative person in the world, I’m pretty bold and free—well not too free!
Any plans of getting even more naked on the beach though?
I definitely will. I’ll be diving soon in the Maldives. I’m super psyched for that and definitely going to wear skimpy ass bikinis, ha ha!
Oh, and with who if we may ask...
Best friend. No not a guy! A girl, she’s been my best friend forever. It’s primarily a dive trip.
What if you won a free trip and could tag one person along, who would it be? Still her?
Right now? Definitely my best friend. Not saying I don’t have any guy I’m close to right now, but in terms of levels of closeness I think I’d still go for my best friend. They don’t break your heart and they don’t make paasa, ha ha!
You mentioned Maldives being a dive trip too
Yes, scuba diving, I’m an advanced nitrox diver and I’ve been diving for a good six years I think. I super enjoy it, I try to go to Anilao as much as I can—I used to be based in Cebu and there it’s thirty minutes before you hit the beach, here it’s further and I try to make as much time as I can for that.
A lot of girls actually spend more time on the shore than in the water when they go to the beach.
Yeah, the thing is that’s not how I roll, I do sunbathe—I am a very frustrated person when it comes to getting tanned because I usually just get really red—but I enjoy being underwater as well, most of the time that’s where I am.
What’s it like down there?
I think it’s probably the closest you can ever be to becoming an astronaut and feeling what its like to have no gravity. It’s super peaceful and everything is beautiful. There’s a lot of things you need to take note of because it’s not your territory—your equipment and all that—but it’s such a good experience when it comes to reconnecting with nature. You and the ocean—you can’t hear anything else and it’s intense cause you kind of have to depend on nature not to kill you, ha ha! Diving is not for everybody, but if you love it, you get super addicted like I am.
And divers seem to have a very strong bond with each other, too.
For sure, especially because you kind of trust everyone to watch out for each other and then you resurface and talk about everything you saw and experienced—and of course you drink after, ha ha! As long as you don’t have another dive afterwards! It’s a very niche group when you’re all divers, and it also builds good friendships.
And maybe build relationships that evolve into something that's more than just friends?
Well, that would be a plus definitely. It’s also fun with guys who don’t know how and are interested. I have a friend who told me—it wasn’t me, I swear to God—she was diving with this one guy and he was trying to get the hang of it and underwater he got a bit scared so the girl just held his hand and gave him eye contact. So I think that’s a good angle for guys, get this girl you’re crushing on to dive, hold her hand underwater and make her feel protected, ha ha!
What else catches your fancy aside from a guy who can hold his breath well in case of danger?
When it comes to meeting guys above water, I definitely really value the conversation. I’m such a sucker for guys with a good sense of humor and I also like guys who know how to carry themselves. A lot of people think that ultimately means confidence and being in control of the situation, but it also has a lot to do with where to place yourself—knowing when to tone it down, when to assert or talk about yourself, when to shut up, when to crack a joke, and when to actually make it a bit more serious—there are guys who are super into the jokes that you don’t know when they’re being serious. Are you really saying I’m pretty or are you being sarcastic?
Your big summer plan is ready, what else is up? Will it be the summer to end all summer?
Wow, I wish I could say that except I feel like I have outgrown that phase. My birthday is the 3rd of May. Yes, Labor day weekend, exactly. Every birthday for the past three or four years I’ve been in Boracay and so wasted that I couldn’t even remember what happened. Literally could not remember. I feel like this year I want to mix it up—of course alcohol will be present—but I think I want it to be a more intimate occasion. Something toned down, but not boring—this will be a summer and a birthday I will literally remember!
Producer Mary Rose A. Hogaza Photographer and Stylist Shaira Luna Makeup Sylvina Lopez Hair Gian Carlo Sipaco