Early morning of January 16, 2016 we were en route to Oslob, Cebu.

The old heritage churches, the sunrise and the blue sea were noticeable while on the way. It distracted us a bit from heavy sleepiness due to the early call time.

Oslob is a municipality in the South of Cebu that has become famous (and controversial) for its whale shark watching attraction which was first in our itinerary for that day.

As we arrived, there were already a lot of tourists (local and foreigners) either lining up for the boat (bangka) or already out in the sea interacting with the whale sharks. January is peak season and just like us, tourists who will be celebrating the Sinulog in the main city also took side trips around Cebu.
We first had an orientation on the Do's and Dont's when whale watching. Afterwards, we waited for a few minutes and it was our turn to ride the bangka. Off we went.

I don't want to re-tell my experiences with rose-colored glasses so I'll be honest here. It's true that the place smells stinky because of the uyap (sergestid shrimp) that's being fed to the whale sharks.
When the boatmen stopped paddling, we waited for the go-signal from the guide to get off from the bangka. We dipped in the sea and waited...

And there it was, our first whale shark to behold in all its mighty glory!
But it's not as easy as it looks. The waves were strong and it was a real struggle seeing the whale shark up close. We were required to wear goggles which covers the nose because the whale sharks get distracted with bubbles. But all the kicking and struggling usually produces bubbles. 

We also kept looking where Kuya "GoPro" was, the guide we assigned to take charge of the camera to document the whole thing. We stayed a little longer just to get the perfect photos. We waited again for any whale shark to get close.

This is the kind of photo that makes it on Instagram:

And these are the photos that don't get the social media airtime but pretty sums up the actual experience:
At one point I stopped thinking where the hell Kuya "Go Pro" is and if my photo will be taken. I wanted to see the whale shark properly with my own two eyes. It's an experience I want saved in my core memory and not on a memory card.

I swam a little closer (not too close though) and was amazed how huge it really is! Its mouth, its fin, its gills...never seen anything quite like it!
But my realizations: It's a pity for the whale sharks that their food are to be baited around just to satisfy us curious tourists. It was an overwhelming experience but it is something I would only do once and that's it. No more.

On the other hand, I see how these whale sharks helped improve the eco-tourism in this fourth income class municipality. It provides livelihood and income to Oslobanons.

If you ever find yourself whale watching in Oslob, Cebu the least you can do is to follow the rules. Don't apply sunscreen as it will be harmful to the whale sharks.

As much as possible, do your best not to get too close and prevent physical contact with the whale sharks because they can be sensitive to human skin. (More about that in this article). I hope they implement strictly the rule of penalizing anyone who makes contact with the butandings. Follow the rules!

With researchers helping, I hope too that the local government will improve and develop a more (I quote the article) sustainable and well-guided management plan for the whale shark eco-tourism not just in Oslob but in the whole Philippines.

We had our brunch after the encounter with the butandings. There are a lot of eateries at the shore for you to choose from (an effect of the booming eco-tourism).

After our meal, we went to our next itinerary: TUMALOG FALLS! We had to ride a separate multicab for the uphill ride en route to Tumalog Falls. It's only a short drive away.

The view en route was amazing! You could see the sea from above and Sumilon Island from afar.

This photo is not even one-fourth of the actual view but you just knew you enjoyed the view cause you have no time capturing it (and the winding, uphill road made it hard to take pictures). You just take it all in. Ahh, how many times Cebu took my breath away. Naks.
We stopped in what seemed to be a terminal of habal-habal drivers. To get to Tumalog Falls, you have two choices: either you walk down or ride the habal-habal. We chose to ride the habal-habal (P50.00 per head, back & forth).

At first glance, Tumalog Falls was underwhelming. I mean, there were no bushy pathways getting there. You get off from the habal-habal and that's it, there's Tumalog Falls. We even joked that the artificial falls of Veranza in KCC Mall of Gensan is way better. Lol.

But as you get closer, it's a different story. Here I go again: ANG GANDAAA sa malapitan. <3
It's not your typical waterfalls. According to travel blog, Adrenaline Romance,"Tumalog Falls is an example of a horsetail waterfall in which the descending water remains in contact with the rock most of the time."

Kawasan Falls was intense while Tumalog Falls was chill, the drops were mild at that time. The pool underneath it is only knee-deep shallow but the water is super cold, mind you.

I seized the moment by floating on my back and just observed the descending water. In my head Bon Iver's Holocene was playing. I love moments like that. I'm so romanticizing the moment but travel just does that to you (or to me personally anyway).
Tumalog Falls ended up my Number 1 favorite among all the places we visited. :) I loved it. It's a grand piece of nature but it doesn't overwhelm you. You had to look at it closer to appreciate it. Kung naging tao pa, yung simple lang pero rock. Yung ganun. Gets niyo ba? Haha. What a beauty.
A groufie! It was a sweet short visit Tumalog Falls.

The sight-seeing doesn't stop! On the way back to the city, we made sure to visit The Monastery of the Holy Eucharist in Marian Hills, Lindogon, Sibonga.
This grand monastery is popularly known as "Simala" but Kuya Stewart, our tourguide, clarified that technically the monastery is in Brgy. LINDOGON, the baranggay after Simala. People perhaps started calling it Simala because the big arc where you turn on the way says "BRGY. SIMALA".

And Simala rhymes with "himala" (miracle in Filipino) which sounds more apt given that it is a religious place of devotion. Maybe that's what stuck with people more?

For a Catholic like me, it is always a religious experience coming to Cebu. Aside from the natural wonders of nature, the Catholic faith is also very evident in the whole province.
We said our prayers and marveled at the architecture of the place too. It's not yet even finished but for sure it'll be grander once it's done.
That ended our exploration of Cebu South!

We went back to the city and had dinner at Choobi Choobi, SM City Cebu as per Kuya Sonny's recommendation again. In all fairness, we liked whatever Kuya Sonny recommended (that must have been part of the package tour too noh? Haha). It really takes a true local to recommend the best food around.

We ordered the Sea Food Bag in Choobi Choobi Sauce. Perf! We loved it, the sauce especially.
(Glad to know Choobi Choobi will be opening soon in SM Lanang, Davao!)

Alright, that's Day 3 of 4.

Thank you for reading!



Day 2 was our official first day of adventure as a complete group! Call time was 4:30am at the hotel lobby. Mission for the day: Canyoneering at Kanlaob, Alegria! 

I have seen Canyoneering featured in a local travel show (Biyahe ni Drew) and I was eager I'd do it the next time I'd find myself in Cebu.

Unknowingly, this is also what my friends had in mind. I was ecstatic when I first found out about our itinerary. We availed of a group package tour with Let's Go Tours Cebu and paid P3,100.00 per head

It included: Transportation (Roundtrip - 2 days, travel time: 2 - 3 hours per way), Gears/Helmet and Vests, Tour Guides, Entrance Fees and Habal-Habal Ride. The fee also included the Whale Watching Fee in Oslob which we did the next day.

Being the cheapskate that I am, I see to it that I spend my money wisely. The biggest chunk of the package fee perhaps goes to the car, fuel and driver. But it was all worth it. One of the advantages of renting a car is that you can stop by amazing views which Cebu has no shortage of.

Case in point: 
Kuya Sonny, our tour guide/driver stopped by this amazing view in Barili, Cebu while we were on our way. Grand, isn't it?

Okay, back to canyoneering. Perhaps this activity is still not familiar with others. When I first told my Mom about canyoneering, she thought I'd be put inside a cannon (canyon in vernacular) and will be launched somewhere far off. Hahaha.
Close enough but canyoneering is basically: you go to a canyon (think Grand Canyon) and you engage in activities such as cliff jumping, rappelling,  trekking, hiking, sliding, swimming, shivering, cussing, picture taking... :D
This is by far the most extreme activity I've tried and felt the most chicken. 

At the starting point, you need to jump approximately 15 feet and plunge into the fresh water. I've tried cliff  jumping four times but this just felt different. The previous times I've cliff jumped, what was in front of me was the vast, infinite sea while in canyoneering, what was in front (and below) were rocks and boulders. It was kind of...scary.

Hesitation was all over me and it took me OA moments before I jumped. Haha. Kuya Stewart, our tour guide commented later on that he really felt my hesitation and wondered if I'll push through. But my friend Elver put it this way: "Yung nakakatakot pero gusto mong gawin" 

You genuinely feel fear but at the same time there's the adrenaline. "Joyfear".

I guess they call it "joyfear".

YOU JUST DO IT. You just jump and that's it, you're alive.
After the first jump, the fear was manageable already (more jumps to gooo!). All five of us even decided to jump the 30 feet cliff. It was optional. You could still go on with the trek without doing the 30 feet jump but everyone was feeling daredevil and nobody was KJ so, JUMP WE ALL DID!
We witnessed a proposal on this boulder!(And no, it's not #Kamay07 haha #insidejoke).

BUT LET ME JUST SAY THIS: the place was so beautiful, magnificent, amazing, grand, lahat na! I took the time to just float on my back and take it all in. The way the sunlight lit up the whole place made me speechless (made me thankful I'm on Vacation Leave haha). Every turn will make you gasp and utter "Wowwww". I shared the same sentiment of adoration with the other tourists to whom some are foreigners. Even if the trek was so long (it'll take 3 to 4 hours) the scene around makes it all worth it.

Imagine two cliffs, a river with crystal blue water in between then add the stellar rock formations and the lush trees swaying above. Mannn, you can't help but marvel deeply with awe at God's creation. Nature at its best, finest. Only in the Philippines! No photo could justify and capture its beauty. It's something to see in person, something to see for yourself.
This photo could've been a favorite except it's blurry. Haha. 

But on the more practical side of things, if you want to try canyoneering, we advise you wear rash guard with long sleeves and leggings that would really cover your entire legs. Aside from protecting your legs from the rough rocks, the leggings will help in fighting the ice-bucket coldness of the water. It is superrr cold I tell you. Hypothermia talaga ang labas.

Buy aqua shoes too because you don't want to risk getting your sneakers wet. I didn't buy any aqua shoes and decided to use my sneakers but as I contemplated I think it wouldn't be a smart choice. So I rented shoes instead for P50.00 (good thing something fit me). But for sanitary purposes, I don't advise you do the same thing. Invest in aqua shoes. :)

Also bring a dry good bag so you can bring money because the trek is really long. All the jumping, swimming, sliding, trekking will consume your energy. Why money? Because at the end of the trek you will find...a treasure. A treasure that comes in ladies selling barbecue and other food. The smell of barbecue is actually what will keep you going. Haha.

Yes, you read it right. Sorry to spoil it to you.

I have a mixed feeling towards it. Whoever thought of it, it is so enterprising of them, I mean barbecue/food at the end of a long, tiring trek? Why not??? But I just feel that the commercial vibe of selling slightly marred the natural appeal of the place. Anyway.
Looks like we made it! WHAT. AN. EXPERIENCE!

You have two options to end canyoneering. First is to go downstream and that is to continue trekking until Kawasan Falls or second is to go upstream and that is to hike up a stiff cliff for 15 minutes and walk back towards the starting point. We chose to go upstream but Kawasan Falls is still on the itinerary.

We had our late lunch and then went to Kawasan Falls!
 Look at the unique shade of blue of the water...amazing.
Hoo, nevermind my lovehandles...este salba bida just to be safe :)))

Those faces! Hahaha. We had the best massage ever! The pressure of the cascading waterfalls was so intense, just what we exactly needed to soothe all the tired muscles from the trekking and hiking from canyoneering! Perfect. Thank you Kawasan Falls!

On the way back to the city, we stopped by Carcar to buy their famed chicharon for pasalubong (another advantage of renting a car instead of taking the bus). We changed clothes at the hotel and had dinner at Kusina Uno which Kuya Sonny recommended.

No exaggeration but I have to use the adjective best again! Really, the Best Pochero/Bulalo! A whole big bowl costs P475.00 but could feed 4 to 5 persons. If you want, the lutong bahay (home-cooked) meal type, Kusina Uno is worth trying!

We capped the long day off at La Vie Parisienne. Not a trip to La Vie goes without a photo at their Instagram famous wine cellar:
We ordered their Shanpelino Wine in Grapes and salami and cheese. The wine and salami were good, the cheese...I guess my taste has to widen a little more. 

What better way to end a loooooong day but with a toast, cheers to more adventures! :)



I just knew I'd come back for Cebu.

I got an invitation from my friend, Ate EJ to join her and the rest of Gensan based friends to celebrate her birthday week in Cebu which coincided with the famed Sinulog Festival. I gamely said yes, waited for my 13th month pay and booked a ticket!

I was anticipating for this trip, not only for the destination but for the journey itself. My travel buddies will be flying from Gensan while I'm the only one from Davao. They were expected to arrive first in Cebu while I was to follow. Hence, this became my first solo flight.
Traveling solo has always been on my mind. It is something that genuinely appeals to me, something that I could see myself doing (more) in the future. I'm used to doing things alone so why not take the level of independence a notch higher? I think I owe it to myself to get out of my comfort zone and see how I'd fare in the real world far from home. Wehhhhhh.
I decided that I'll explore the city the way locals do. I researched the cheapest way to get to Cebu City from Mactan International Airport and thru local commute. Taxi? What taxi? Hahaha. 

I found this blog article from Bisdak Explorer very helpful: Mactan Airport - Cebu City Route For Only P26.00  It served as my game plan.

Upon arriving at Mactan International Airport, the journey to Cebu City by local commute begins with you looking for this yellow multicab (with code 05A) :
Take note that from the Arrival Area, you have to cross to the front building to get to the Departure Area, get out of the door and from there turn left. My mistake was I began looking for this multicab outside of the Arrival Area since cars were lining up there. How fantastic!

The next destination was Marina Mall. The first few hints of fear were starting to hit me since I'm not sure where exactly to be dropped off. Apparently a lot of the passengers (who were mostly airport staff who just ended their shift) were alighting off in Marina Mall. Also, I saw the Starbucks and Island Souvenirs shop that were pictured in Bisdak Explorer's blog. That was the tell-sign and I figured: I'm on the right track baby, I was born this way. Hahaha.

Basically, I just asked for directions and what jeepney to ride afterwards. I am Bisaya anyway so no language barrier whatsoever with the locals.

Two things I have realized:

(1) First, you have to possess this "I'm-A-Smart-Aleck" vibe but with the right mix of "I-Need-Your-Help" vibe. You know what I mean? You have to carry yourself well and look smart but at the same time prepare to look stupid especially when the moment comes that you realize that you're riding the wrong jeepney the entire time. Haha. But just shrug it off. The mistakes are part of the fun and that's when you learn and duh, nobody knows you anyway.

(2) And second, choose carefully who to ask for directions. Don't just ask anyone you see on the street. At one point I asked the school children because I figure kids don't lie. Or I asked the people in office uniforms who are on their way home from work. That person could've been me in my hometown.

I managed to get to Ayala Terraces for P33.00. It could've been P26.00 only as what the blog post suggested but I had one wrong sakay so that's plus P7.00! Hahaha

I had dinner, did window shopping (H&M!!!) and decided to kill time and people-watch at Seattle's Best. I needed to rest my aching shoulders too. #BackpackerFeels pa kasi more! Hahaha. Thank you Shaira and Dyna for lending the backpack. :)
But the day didn't end there. I had to get myself to Holiday Spa Hotel in Banilad where I am supposed to meet my friends and where we were booked for our entire stay. I rode the Talamban-Colon jeep as what Google Maps suggested while I was researching at the cafe.

As I was riding the jeep and looking outside the window, I just felt I'm not on the right track baby. I asked the girl sitting beside me and she wasn't sure herself but as far as she knew, I'm doomed. Joke. She tip that I get off the jeep and pointed the direction that's leading to Banilad.

I got off the jeepney and started to walk, a very, very long walk to say. At that point, I admit I was beginning to feel frustrated. My back was really tired with the heavy backpack and so are my feet. I was so close to hailing a cab. But I said to myself "this is my choice, I wanted this". Adventure pala ha? 

Looking back, I don't even know how I made it. Not to brag or anything but I had no GPS with me and my mobile has no Data Internet, I live on wi-fi at home or in cafes.

Or well, maybe it's because it's my second time in the city anyway, so a few places looked familiar and again, the no language barrier situation helped.

When I was sure I was heading to the right direction, I decided to ride the habal-habal (motorcycle). I was very much in the right track, in fact, I was so close already that I could've just walk a few more steps. Sayang yung bente!!!

To finish this story, I made it at the hotel in one piece and all for P60.00! I was sweaty from all the walking and dirty from all the city fumes but happy and accomplished! I actually had my celebratory dance inside the CR. Hahaha :))
I remember feeling a mix of fear and excitement not knowing what's gonna happen next. Am I gonna make it or not? Turned out when I did, the feeling is amazing!

I got to know myself better too. I enjoyed braving the streets alone, asking strangers for directions and just going with my guts which I admit it's not 100% right at all times but I learned to welcome mistakes (there's no one to blame and fight with). Time alone is really the time you build a relationship with yourself and traveling solo is one way of doing it. Baby steps, these are all baby steps for future goals. :)

Anyway, that's only Day 1 of 4! 

I hope you come back reading for the rest. :)
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