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Nature has its way of conforming over unpredictable calamities. Preserving what needs to be preserved, destroy unwanted entities, or just going along with it. Mankind might have disturbed most of the discovered natural habitat, but we are talking about Earth, surviving for more than billions of years and adjusting itself perfectly through whatever phenomena.
Let’s go back to storytelling.
It took a long while before plunging on the south part of Cebu. Taking a trip to the city was a good warm up before everything else extraordinary. The sun didn’t steal our enthusiasm for visiting several tourist spots. Lapu-lapu stood golden at Mactan Shrine and guitar makers at Alegre Guitars calmly made strings that produce delightful acoustics. Driving away from Mactan Island, we drove to the city proper to visit the Taoist temple. Peace and quiet surrounded the whole palace. It’s intriguing to explore a different custom on faith. In a manner of combinations from two dropped stones, questions from the heart are apparently answered by yes, no, or maybe, by the philosophical existence of Tao Te Ching. In less than an hour, we cleared our heads, summoned back our spirits and moved on. Challenging ourselves with their kidney shaped stones as we knelt and prayed was somehow doleful yet fulfilling.
The road to town expressed a familiar aura which brought us back to where we flew from. Tight roads, concrete two story buildings, stores displaying their own claim for product authenticity, the gloomy atmosphere, and the people. It reminded us of a one particular place in Manila. A group of aggressive vendors gathered outside our car door just as we parked down the city center. Surprised and feeling pitiful, we promised to buy from them after a quick tour of the area. Magellan’s Cross stood inside a small housing in front of the City Hall. Dozens of lit candles surrounded the cross. People came in seeking guidance and blessing from the seemingly miraculous reminder of the past. Admiring the mural above the ceiling, we took our selfies and quietly went out the small quarter. Rushing vendors came toward our van as we were getting ready to leave. As promised, we bought souvenir key-chains from them and finally drove to our place of stay. Famished, we tried to search online for a good restaurant nearby to have dinner. Kusina Uno, a local fair-rated eatery appeared to be just a few minutes away. But having no idea how to get there, we let our smartphones guide us. We had to ask the routes of the jeepneys and took awareness with the road we’re being dragged on as we might miss our destination. We arrived at our restaurant two jeeps later. An open terrace on the second floor of a commercial building. We could say it was not the cleanest as it should have been. But their signature dish, Pochero, was the best. Everyone had to order another cup of rice and we’ve had our Butter Chicken to go because we had too much of Pochero. Tummies full, we decided to just take a cab after buying some snacks from 7-Eleven. One of us racked up a whole bunch of table napkins from the restaurant, as she thought we might need those for the days ahead.
As early as 4am was our wake-up call. We had to prepare hastily to begin our journey to the south. Grabbing take out breakfasts from Mcdonald’s to manage a four hour ride was our first agenda. And we also shared the untouched Butter Chicken. Able to take a short 2 hour nap, the sun begun rising up. Canyoneering downstream was the plan for the whole morning. Arriving to Matutinao Chapel, we were handed over with bike helmets and safety vests essential for the entire canyoning adventure. Our habal-habal ride to the starting point in Alegria readied out our adrenaline rush.
Square one totally did not make a good first impression, jumping from atop a rushing flow of water. It was at least ten feet below standpoint. No one really wanted to jump at first. But there was no other way to get started. One by one we conquered our fear with our trembling knees and the muffled sound of our comrades. For two seconds, our lives flashed before us. And splash! The cold water sinking us deep before our vests take over. Thanks to the vests. A real lifesaver. Truly we spent a full round of encouragement and cheer before the last person had to jump. Above it all, we had fun and it was definitely a one heck of a first time.
Swimming through rushing water came next. And more obstacle one boulder after another. Gratefully our guides helped and always demonstrated first with how we’d get on. Sliding along a short slate of rock and dropping down below, without knowing when to expect the impact since we had to recline our body. Braced arms and stretched legs, we tried to relax and one by one slid and splashed. The water forcing in through our noses did not feel so good. It was painful and not enjoying at all. Choking our way out of the pain, we moved on trekking along the rocky stream. Cramming between rocks, easy climbing, but going down with great effort. Then came another body slide and a whole episode of trekking.
Two hours and we had completed half of the journey. We weren’t tired. No, we shouldn’t have been yet. We needed more energy for another two hours. And when we did felt tired, we just lied our back on the water, letting our body get driven by the slow current. The last challenge was another jump. Five times higher than the first one. From almost 40 feet above water, it was hard to look at where we’d splash down below. Trembling and chilled, I was able to conquer my fear, as most of us did. The feeling was terrific.
It was the last jump but it was not the last of the hurdles. Another hour of climbing up rocks and swimming went on before the white water started to appear steady and finally we reached the resting place. Tired and consumed, our guide told us to sit back wait for the “refreshment meal”. Five minutes later, no words followed. Bowls and platters of pork sinigang, pansit, white rice, delicious fruits, and cool drinks absolutely fulfilled our beat. It was really more than just a refreshment. The last of the Kawasan waterfalls was also just a few steps behind some tall rocks and bushes. It was the highest and had the widest reserve, and also where a lot of people gathered to eat and enjoy the water.
The rushing sounds slowly faded away. Along our small tired steps waved a smooth and quiet air. Our van waited with its seats covered with plastic and by that moment only we noticed our rashguards were still soaking wet. Saying our thanks and goodbyes with selfies to Kuya Aryong, our guide which surprisingly was of the same age as us, the 300 minutes of canyoneering was officially over.
An hour or two to Marina Inn, soft beds and satisfying baths awaited our lazy bodies. But it was not the time to take a rest. A boat was on preparation for our afternoon island hopping. We could say our morning adventure took away all our energy, so the ride on the boat was seemingly peaceful, except with a deafening sound from the motor.
Something was making the still ocean ripple from time to time. Little waves and shadows from below our boats appeared moment by moment. Dolphins! Dorsal fins soar up and down the ocean’s surface, the still noon quietness was filled with amusement and delight. The dolphins swam with our boat. It lasted a few minutes until some other boats came and apparently disturbed their display of performance.
Not the perfect time for snorkeling. As a matter of fact, Pescador Island and turtle hunting was disappointing. There were no turtles at all. The surrounding water was filled with translucent itchy jellyfishes. The only interesting but creepy creature we saw was a very long sea snake. There were some fishes to feed with our bread but it was not that exciting really. Our boat guy took a swim to check on the waters. Coming back, we asked if the jellies were not stinging and itchy. He said no, but his rashes spreading across his entire body said otherwise.
Fortunately, sardine land was unexpectedly breathtaking. Thousands to millions, I guess, sardines formed schools and swam beautifully deep below the water. We enjoyed the magnificent view with our goggles as we floated just above them. The light striking their fins made it look like there were pieces of shining diamonds. Or a meteor shower under the ocean. Scuba divers appeared to be exploring the deep waters. We spent a generous amount of our time until our boat guy called for retreat. He said it was time to go as apparently a storm was to be expected. Quickly we went up the boat and held on to our last trip. Our two minute boat trip. The main land was just behind the sardine snorkeling spot. Silly boat guy.
Finally we got our chance to wash up and refresh. Night gathered. There were only a few restaurant to choose from down the street at Moalboal. Dinner took place at Marina Italian eatery. We also took a few beers and a round of pool from a bar just outside our inn before getting down to rest. We needed to wake up early and prepare for the 6:30am ride to Tumalog falls. Three hours at least with nothing but a small packed sandwich. That was our morning ride to Tumalog falls. With a two minute motorbike ride, the waterfall stood majestically on the mountainside. The water was chilling. There was a lot of people, too. We decided to just take on some photos and move on.
Another hour at most and we arrived at Oslob Whaleshark Watching area. A quick 30 minute swim with the whalesharks was enough to enjoy the experience. They were big. They’re mouths was so wide I think a whole motorbike can fit in there. We saw four of them swim beneath us. I accidentally touched one of them with my feet. They felt like sandpaper. Swimming with the whaleshark was absolutely stunning and memorable. We wish to go back there someday.
All tourists must be accommodated before 1PM. That was the only time the sharks are there to gobble their fodders. Amazingly the sharks are not prisoners, merely visitors just taking their time on the shore of Tan-awan, Oslob.
Our lunch was to be served before we climbed our boat to Sumilon Island and take a quick tour on the white sand. It took more than half an hour before the food came. We still had one final destination to enjoy before going back to the city and we should not take a lot of time with the Island hopping. Sadly, the quick tour became much quicker, for less than fifteen minutes. One beach body shot was enough. The trip back and forth the island was longer than the time spent on the island itself. We showered up, bought some whaleshark fridge magnets, and moved on.
Around three o’clock in the afternoon, five motorbikes lined up to be our Habal-Habal ride to Dalaguete. Osmeña peak was the last on our checklist for the day. Good mountain views, adrenaline pumps, and wind burns was satisfactorily worth the forty minutes of back ride. The way up the mountain was then tough. Twenty minutes later we arrived at the peak. Exhausted and overly thirsty. Sitting below the glare of the sun, we waited just for a few minutes to get our energy back on. We took some shots with death defying poses and groufies. But, we did not manage to wait for the sunset since it was still early and we could not wait for an hour more.
The way back with our Habal-habal brought the tour to its end. Even though we still had one more day to spend at Cebu, the calming day and the smooth ride spun back our experiences from our first day to the latest. The sun finally went down just as we arrived to our van and came the night, back to the city.
Unlike the previous days of our Cebu trip, we made our last to be without any arrangements from a travel agency. With our own this time, a walk on the streets of the city became our final agenda. We were like real tourists from another land, strangers to the community. Asking people where to go from here, how to go somewhere. We were looking for a good souvenir shop. Unfortunately, Shamrock delicacy store was closed. But the churches were not. It was a Sunday and they were chock full of people. Lastly, just to find the famous Otap pasalubongs, we decided to visit SM Cebu and just buy the goodies from there.
Back to Mactan Island, we still had the pleasure of bonding for the last hour and looking for some place to eat. We jammed our groceries to our already stressed bags. Rushed with the traffic. Took some last shots together. Until finally it was around the time of our departure. The moment to say goodbye. The long days of adventure passed, and again new memories bonded. ‘Til we see you again, Cebu.