Brave and Open: My 3-Day Adventure at Southern Cebu

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Ever had the feeling of being drawn to something, but you can’t understand why?

For some reason I can’t describe, I have this fascination, a thing for Cebu. From its people to the food, to its beaches and beautiful blue waters, whenever I come across pictures of Cebu on magazines or social media, that feeling of longing grips me; longing to feel and experience the Queen City of the South. So when the opportunity finally came, it felt like a jackpot win.

There were two things I told myself before flying over to Cebu: be brave and be open. Funny how it sounds so simple and cliché, right? But for those who personally know me, the introvert in me can sometimes get the best of me. I looked at the Cebu trip both as a challenge and an adventure. I’ve heard stories of how Cebuano people are very much hospitable and warm, and I did not want to miss that out. So yup, gave myself the pep talk before heading out to Cebu and lo and behold, I had the time of my life.

Day 1: Whale shark Watching in Oslob and Chillin’ at Tumalog Falls

Have you ever watched movies wherein the protagonist swims in the waters with dolphins or whales? That’s how I felt with the whale sharks – minus the perfect cinematic scenes and hair flips because the waves were a bit strong (plus, I got dizzy due to the current and I accidentally drank some of the sea water). But it was a marvelous feeling to get up close with such big creature of the sea.

I kid you not when I say that there were a lot of people, both foreigners and locals. Before the activity, we had a short orientation on the do’s and don’ts when swimming with the whale sharks; we were not allowed to put on sunscreen for the whale sharks’ safety, we had to be at least 4 meters away from the gentle giant, and we were not to touch them. Flash photography was also a big NO! Our boat number was 119 and we had to wait for about 30 minutes to be called. The boatman, who also acted as our guide during the whale shark watching, said that the enormous creatures usually gather just a few meters away from the shore, around 5AM until noon. The group usually consist of about 10 to 15 whale sharks; ranging from 13 to 19 feet.

Upon reaching the whale shark area, the boatman said we could go and take a swim. I readied myself and put on my mask, feeling both nervous and excited. After about 15 minutes in the water, the moment came, a whale shark was near. As I lowered my head in the water and its silence engulfed me, hearing faintly the voices of the other tourists, when the whale shark passed by there was this total hush. Seeing the gentle giant of the sea felt like time stopped; its gills moved to breathe, its fins stirred through the water, its tail swung from left to right. It gracefully passed by, oblivious to the people taken aback by its huge presence. To see is to believe, they say. And seeing that magnificent whale shark up close will stay etched on my mind, a moment I will treasure forever.

After an exhilarating feeling of seeing a whale shark, our next stop was Tumalog Falls. Just a 10-minute car ride away from the whale shark area and a short motorcycle ride going to the falls itself. The water was so cold and refreshing! Its aquatic hue was mesmerizing to the eyes. The cold and fresh water of Tumalog Falls was such a contrast to the warm and salty sea we swam in earlier – a perfect place to just chill, relax, and appreciate the beauty of nature. Plus, there was this small water area near the falls where small fishes gently nip at your feet, removing dead skin. Funny thing was, I am very ticklish; I could not stand the tickling feeling of the fishes nipping, but I tried my best to have my feet stay in the water a little bit longer. It was a good laugh though!

Day 2: Canyoneering in Badian and Swimming at Kawasan Falls

In all honesty, canyoneering was the only thing I was stressing about even before the Cebu trip. I don’t like heights. Crossing an overpass along EDSA makes my heart bounce and my hands sweat; I literally need someone’s shoulder to hold onto. But the only way to conquer canyoneering (and my fear of heights) in Badian, Cebu was to jump, jump, and did I mention jump?

Helmets and life vests were required for canyoneering. Our guide, kuya Ferdie, also gave us snacks and water to bring with. We had to ride a motorcycle to get to the starting point of the activity, then a 30-minute trekking towards the canyoneering area. It was a mix of trekking, swimming, and cliff diving (so if you plan to do this too, better prepare yourself and exercise). Trekking was no problem for me, swimming was enjoyable too (there was the life vest so I felt safe when there were deep parts). Well, when it comes to the jumping part, I had an advantage and disadvantage.

The advantage was I had a blurry vision; yup I’m Velma from Scooby Doo who can’t see without her glasses. With my vision all blurry, I really couldn’t make out how high I needed to jump, so it made me braver somehow to just go on and take the plunge. Though the disadvantage, after jumping, it was difficult to clearly see everyone and everything around me. And it was a hassle to take off and put on my glasses several times. But despite the small hiccup, I still had so much fun! The rush I felt while jumping was totally bizarre yet amazing! You’ll hear the swoosh of the air, the splash of the water, then boom! You’re out of the water, wanting to feel the thrill once more. This may have been the most extreme thing I have ever done in my life, so far. And after conquering canyoneering, I feel like I could take on anything now! I would gladly come back to Badian just to experience everything again!

I don’t know what, but there’s something about waterfalls which makes it so appealing. Kawasan Falls had that atmosphere; its light blue water was so calming to the eyes, its water cold yet revitalizing. Kawasan Falls was the last stop of the day after canyoneering, after which we had our late lunch. It was amusing to realize how during all the trekking and swimming, I wasn’t that hungry. I guess it was because of all the water that accidentally kept on going through my nose!

Day 3: Snorkeling at Pescador Island, Moalboal

I’ve always wondered what the sea looked liked under water with its aquatic life. Snorkeling at Pescador Island satisfied my curiosity. It was a delight to see the small, colorful school of fishes drifting to and from the corals; they were all cute with their bright yellow, blue and orange colors. We even spotted Nemo amongst the fishes! It was an underwater spectacle, all lovely and gorgeous. The different shades of the sea against the sky were enchanting to see. Even underwater, shallow parts were in turquoise color, deeper parts had a dark deep blue shade; it was glorious.

What made the snorkeling activity much more exciting was the sardine run. Remember the sardines from Finding Nemo? It was marvelous to watch how the numerous sardines move in sync with each other. At one point, I was puzzled at seeing bubbles floating around the sardines; it was coming from below the water. Then it hit me, the bubbles were coming from the tanks of the divers swimming near the sardines! There were divers! I only see divers on TV or in movies, but seeing them in person was so cool!

Maybe I’ll try to learn diving too, then dive in the waters of Cebu for a new adventure soon. Better save up!

To say that those 3 days were the best time of my life is an understatement; if you could only see my tan skin (uneven skin tone hahaha!). I came back to Manila feeling refreshed, ready to face the hustle and bustle of city life. But at the back of my mind, Cebu was (and still is) lingering on the outskirts of my thoughts. I fell in love with the place and all its amazing warmth and vibrancy.

So I just want to say, daghang salamat, Cebu! You were beautiful and wonderful. Thank you for teaching me how to be brave and be open in experiencing a lot of new things. Thank you for letting me experience the hospitality of your people. Wait for me, because I’ll definitely come back.

In the meantime, to ease my Cebu hangover, I’m trying to learn Bisaya (while a Bisayan playlist on Spotify is currently playing on the background as we speak).

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Video Editor: Janine Vertucio
Videographers: Koko Tamura, Chaira Matias, Faye Alingod

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