Posted in adventure, backpacking, travel, Vacation

Yes, Thanks! (Thanksgiving Vacation in Cebu Part 1)

I usually say “No, thanks” when invited to join a a trip or a vacation. The problem? it’s always about the money. I’m not stingy, more on being thrifty, I suppose. But, most of the time, the reason is I just have very very limited funds for everything, including registration budget for running events. When an opportunity comes like an all-expense paid trip to Phuket, Thailand or a vacation with free lodging and food, I’d grab it like a claw crane without losing grip. So, when I was told about a planned vacation to Cebu by my colleague and I don’t have to worry about spending money for food and lodging, I just have to be the designated driver for the whole duration of the trip. It was an offer that I could’ve refused in favor of either joining the Splendido Sunset Run in Tagaytay or the 2nd Gatorade Run in Pasay. But, I didn’t, because it would be my first time to set foot in Cebu and I think it would be a better experience. And it was. This is part 1 of a 3-part blog series that chronicles our Thanksgiving vacation in Cebu.

Day 1:   The Travel

First day of the vacation (24th November) was more on travelling to and in Cebu. Without taking a leave the day before, we head straight to Terminal 4 after our shift at the office. We did not have proper sleep or rest that day and I was gonna drive for hours. There are 2 groups of Thanksgiving ‘Bakasyonistas’ from our office travelling to Cebu that day. We are the DIY Travelers or Team Bahala Na, consists of 7 persons. The other group calls themselves Travel Corp. with 13 persons in their team.

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With travel buddy, Tsong.
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The first to arrive in Cebu with Jollibee welcoming us (with a burger + fries + soda value meal that costs 120 pesos!).

Tsong and I arrived first. Our other mates, Raph, Jheryl, and Alex arrived minutes later. Travel Corp arrived almost an hour later, and we were still waiting for 2 more members of our group, the girls, Jay and Lei. We secured our travel car whilst waiting for the girls, while Travel Corp left the airport as soon as their party was completed. Jay arrived late because of the delayed flight and Lei was scheduled to arrive before nighttime. Not wanting to waste time, we decided to drive around and visit Magellan’s Cross and Basilica del Santo Nino and meet up with Lei at SM City Cebu later.

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(From L to R): Alex (The Jester), Jay (The Planner), Jheryl (The Don), Raph (The Lead Man and Navigator), Me (The Designated Driver), and Tsong (The Translator) at Magellan’s Cross. Missing In Action: Lei (The Muse). Photo by Raph
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“This Cross of Tindala Wood Encases the Original Cross Planted By Ferdinand Magellan On This Very Site April 21, 1521.”
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The History of Christianity in the Philippines. Photo by Alex
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The housing of Magellan’s Cross.
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There is a place next to the basilica where people can light candles and pray.
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It’s like a library of prayers. Be quiet and let people pray. I lit 2 candles myself.

After visiting Magellan’s Cross and eating at a nearby grocery store, we head to SM City Cebu to pick up Lei. Once the group is complete, we left and head south to Oslob. Driving to Oslob was a challenging experience considering the fact that I don’t have sleep for more than 20 hours, the road to Oslob was made up of a lot of curvy roads and uphills, and it was raining hard. It’s a good thing that I didn’t feel sleepy at all because I have to focus, it was a dangerous time to drive, and thanks to Raph’s supply of Sting Energy Drink to keep me awake. After more than 4 hours of driving and 120+ kilometers later, we finally found our home for the next 3 days, Cloud and Xky Beach Resort.

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Finally here to rest… Photo by Lei
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Getting comfy in one of the largest bathroom I’ve ever seen.. Photo by Lei
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Jay writing a Dear John letter to a currently non-existent John. Photo by Alex.

That wraps up Day 1 of the Cebu experience. Day 2 is where the fun starts.

DAY 2:   Whale Watching, Sumilon Island, and Canyoneering

Woke up to a beautiful morning, that’s a good thing because we were very worried the night before that the bad weather might continue the next day and ruin our fun. Just thankful that it was a good day and a great start.

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Woke up to this beautiful sun rise.
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A view of Cloud and Xky Beach Resort. We got the best and largest room, the hut in the middle.
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The pool with a clear glass on the front so you can see people swimming under.

Whale Watching

The group decided to go for the Whale Shark (also known as Butanding) Watching activity before breakfast. I stayed behind because the fee for whale watching is 500 pesos for 30 minutes. Since I don’t know how to swim and dive, and the life vest will keep me afloat anyway (losing the thrill of getting close to the whales), I decided to stay and rest a bit more. I gave my Yi Action Camera for them to use for underwater shots.

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The spot where the whale sharks hangout. Sumilon Island seen in the background.
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As early as 6 in the morning, the spot is already crowded.
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The starting point of the whale shark watching is just 200+ meters away from Cloud and Xky Resort.
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Selfie with Team Bahala Na before they board the boat. I’ll just skip the Whale Shark watching and wait for the Great White Shark watching…. as if it will ever happen XD
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Looks like they’re gonna have fun without me.
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Tsong seems very happy though.
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Did you Know? Whale Sharks are filter feeders. They also have about 3,000 tiny teeth, but don’t use them to eat.
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Whale Sharks are the largest fish on Earth. The average size of an adult whale shark is 31.8 feet and can weigh up to 20,000 lbs.
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Whale Sharks are not really related to whales, they are a species of sharks with the size of a whale, and does not pose a threat to humans.
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With an average swimming speed of 5 kilometers per hour, Whale Sharks are slow swimmers. They’re like the equivalent of a running Sumo Wrestler (actually, a running sumo wrestler is still faster).

According to my mates, the whale watching is worth the money. The sight of these amazing creatures and how close you can get to them was an awesome experience. After their activity, we had our first breakfast in preparation for our next activities.

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Breakfast and service at Cloud and Xky Beach Resort is top notch. Photo by resort staff
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Nothing beats a good breakfast to start your day right. Photo by Lei

Sumilon Island

Our next destination is Sumilon Island. After a short tricycle ride from from Cloud and Xky, we boarded a boat for a 15-20 minute ride to the island. It is privately-owned with a resort called Bluewater Island Resort, but tourists are allowed to visit the sandbar area.

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A boat ride to Sumilon Island may take 15-20 minutes depending on the speed.
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Journey to the not-so mysterious island.
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Welcome to The Island’s…. Sandbar
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Feeling like a king on this rock. Photo by Tsong Tero
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The Mighty Tsong
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This rock actually had a hilarious moment during a photo shoot with Tsong, Raph, and myself. After Tsong and I had our pictures taken on this rock, it was Raph’s turn. But, when he was about to pose, some guy who ties the rope of the boats on this rock, ran towards it and told us to move. Raph was bummed by this and did not have the urge to have his photo taken here. But, a 2nd session (because Tsong’s photos were not saved), prompted him to give it another try. In running gag-like fashion, another guy (can’t remember if it was the same guy) ran towards the rock to use it again, pissing off Raph for the unbelievable circumstance…
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But, luckily (and not giving up hope) on the 3rd attempt, Raph finally got a photo on this rock…
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And it made him go wild!
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I roamed around Sumilon Island, even reached the restricted area where the guard told me the I shall not pass (he just told me that this is a restricted area).
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It’s actually Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort, not Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort.
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In case you didn’t know, there is a comfort room near the sandbar, it’s on the right side of this area.
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It was a cloudy and windy day.
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on the upper part of the sandbar with Raph. Photo by Lei
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Bluewater indeed… Photo by Lei
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Tsong’s photoshoot! Photo by Lei.
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Photobombed! or Stalking Lei? and Lei will probably like being stalked by that guy. Photo by Alex.
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Alex enjoying the view… One of the advantages of having a photographer is that he knows how to find a beautiful background. And it’s a bonus if the subject gets distracted because then you know you succeeded.
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Sometimes even the photographer gets distracted too. Photo by Alex
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‘Sea’fie… Photo by Alex.
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Who does not love the beach? Photo by Alex.

After more than an hour later, we went back to Cloud and Xky to prepare for our next activity, Canyoneering in Badian. My Vibram Treksport was wrecked in Sumilon Island, the rubber peeled off and I had no choice but to use slippers. Luckily, Tsong borrowed an aqua shoes from our officemate and it did not fit him, so he let me used it instead. From Oslob to Badian, the distance was more than 60 kilometers. It was a long drive and we even encountered a long line of cargo trucks occupying more than 2 or 3 kilometers of one lane (I thought it was traffic, so I stopped for a minute before realizing that it wasn’t moving). That slowed us down since motorists need to give way every time a vehicle was approaching from the other lane. When we finally reached Matutinao Church, it’s time to get nervous.

Canyoneering

Though I don’t really have a high level of fear in heights, the thought of jumping off from high ground is a different matter. To be honest, when we finally got to Matutinao Beach Resort and prepare for the Canyoneering activity, I suddenly had butterflies in my stomach. I was nervous, even thought about backing out. But, I’m here anyway and I don’t get to experience this on my daily, regular life, so let’s just go and do it. A habal-habal ride (it’s like a scooter or motorcycle taxi) to the starting point of the activity took about 15-20 minutes depending on the rider’s speed (and they run the curvy and uphill roads like pros, almost never slowing down, giving you the sensation that you’re about to fall off). After that, it’s a hike to down to the little canyons?.. I don’t know what to call them.

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A hike to the mini canyons (as I call it). It was hot and it’s a good thing they provided us with umbrellas. There’s also a mini sari sari store midway during the hike just in case you need to buy some food and drinks. Photo by Canyoneering guide
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We can look back, but there’s no turning back. Photo by Canyoneering guide
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Going down the mini canyons. The path was muddy and slippery. It was also under construction.
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Rocky path with cave-like structures around you.
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Rest and Preparation for the first jump. Photo by Canyoneering guide

Unfortunately, due to the lack of experience in using an action camera by both me (my Xiaomi Yi Cam is attached to the helmet) and our young guides (who was using a GoPro Hero 3+ Silver Edition), we don’t have nice photos to post. Most of them are blurry, and some photos have water spots and moist blur (because I don’t know how to prevent moisture build up in waterproof casing). So, I’ll just write and describe the experience. I was very nervous to do this activity knowing that I can’t swim and even if I have a life vest, I still feel like I’m about to crap my shorts. The first jump is probably 10 feet (about the height of a basketball ring), I was scared, but I have to do it. Jay, despite having done it before (this is her 2nd Canyoneering), hesitated to jump at first. She still did and I was gonna jump next. When I finally made that first jump, it felt good and awesome. Check out the video below to see the first jump.

A running gag every time I jump is that a guide will be waiting for me below to drag me to safety. A grown man being dragged to safety by a kid. My mates are having a laugh at this. I feel like that moment in the movie “Friends with Benefits” where Justin Timberlake can’t jump off from the Hollywood sign because of his fear of heights and he had to be wrapped up and pulled by a helicopter to safety.

The 2nd jump is probably 20 feet in height. My knees were shaking a bit, I was having 2nd thoughts about doing this, and I took my time before jumping (did not jump after the count of 3). First person view of my jump at 0:47 in the video below (apologies for the blurry, water-spots on the camera. It was caused by moisture build-up around the waterproof casing. But, hey, it looks like a dream where I’m doing cliff jumps, eh).

Then there’s this cool group activity where you have to float on your back, facing up, and create a human centipede-like (no, you’re not going to connect your mouth to someone’s anus) formation by lying back and holding on to your peer’s ankle. The funniest moment is when I can’t focus, relax, and stay floating on my back, so I was turning sideways (like a dying fish or about to do a slow barrel roll) and ruining our formation. Check out the video below.

There was also some short crawls in cave-like paths and a short water slide. There’s a food stall midway during the hike where you can buy some food like hotdog, barbecue, and more.

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Slippery ledge walk. (Even a GoPro take blurry photos if not handled properly; photo by Canyoneering guide)
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Enjoying the cool water. Photo by Canyoneering guide
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After a short slide, we feel like champions. Photo by Canyoneering guide
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Like being inside a cave with a sunroof. Photo by Canyoneering guide
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The only good group shot during the activity. Photo by Canyoneering guide

After a long hike, we finally reached our finale jump, a 40-foot high cliff. It’s optional, all of us had a few minutes to think about doing this jump, we even took a peek below. You need some momentum to do this jump safely and you can also do it without a helmet (for maximum safety, don’t remove it). Then Raph made the first jump which also encouraged us to do it. Tsong jumped next (doing an unintentional chicken wing flap), and then Alex (who made a looney cartoon-like moment by braking at the jump point to look down below before finally doing it). Then it was my turn, nervous again and having second thoughts (I have a wife and 2 kids, you know), but deep inside, I really want to do it. So, without looking down below again, I just look straight, accelerate, and jumped. I was shouting something in mid-air, I can’t remember what I shouted, but I know it’s not rated PG-13. My YiCam ran out of juice and I was only able to capture Raph’s jump (check out the video below). Too bad, each of our jumps were unique and some are funny, and my jump could’ve recorded a first-person view of the action. Lei, Jay, and Jheryl skipped the jump and used a pathway on the other side and near the waterfall to go down the cliff.

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It’s gonna be an epic awesome jump. Just look at the beauty down below.

After the last jump, we were very exhausted, there are still more jumps along the way, but we skipped it because we’re too tired, hungry, and it was already getting dark. We passed by Kawasan falls and had a few minutes to marvel at the majestic sight. Then walked more than a kilometer back to Matutinao Beach Resort where we had our post-activity meal.

It was a long and exhausting day. We had a great time, it was an awesome experience with the Canyoneering being one of the best thing I’ve done in recent times. Given the chance, I’d do it again and complete all jumps.

And that wraps up Day 1 and 2 of our 4-day vacation in Cebu. Part 2, covering Osmena Peak, Binalayan Hidden Falls, and Mainit Springs, will be coming up in a few days, so stay tuned.

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