5:25 AM. Our car was parked in front of the Masungi Georeserve gate waiting for them to open. The wind howled and sent chills down to our bones making us seek warmth inside the car. I have long been interested on visiting the Masungi Georeserve in Baras, Rizal but booking a tour was a challenge as slots are often filled. DIY or walk-ins are also not allowed as booking should be done in groups of 6–10. Fortunately, our friend Lea, whom I met in Batanes Asus event called for joiners to complete a group of her friends with her father. We chose the earliest schedule to somehow catch a good light on the trail.
I think there was a time in Philippine tourism when we had a “Zipline Craze”. After a few successful ziplines in Davao, Bukidnon and my favorite, Lake Sebu, suddenly, a lot of province I had visited to wants to add a zipline as their attraction. In my head I was screaming “Not another zipline!” as a tourism officer enthusiastically shares their plan on site. In Pangasinan, there’s Balungao Hilltop Adventure view that claims to have the longest zipline in the country at 1.4km long. Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve heard of the municipality of Balungao. If not for Lakbay Norte 5, this would remain out of my radar. And guess what? We get to try their zipline and more.
I took the front seat of the ‘torpedo’ boat. That’s what they call this long wooden motorized canoes without outriggers in Samar. Like the faluwas in Batanes, these boats are designed to navigate wild waters whereas if they have outriggers, it would easily snap from the force of the rapids. Judging by the boats, I could expect an exciting ride over at Ulot River. The Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Adventure is one of the main attraction in Samar which is also a part of the Ulot Watershed Ecotourism Loop attractions of numerous waterfalls, caves, springs and an eagle sanctuary.
Clouds have always been a thing of fascination. People climb mountains often to see the play of clouds billow across mountain peaks like waves. Dissipating in a dance from nebulous to nothingness. When I heard about the Mt Ulap Eco-Trail which recently opened last October 2015, I was intrigued. The Eco-trail is also known as the Philex Ridge, named after the huge mining company operating in the area. The highest peak, was named Mt Ulap by an engineer named “Lagman” who marked the summit in February 1, 1939. He described that the mountain is perennially a magnet for clouds (which is “ulap” in tagalog). The trail has long been a playground for trail runners from Baguio and Benguet. Now the local government, particularly the Ampucao Tourism Council opened the trail to the public.
Loboc is not the only river town in Bohol. The island province, home to the chocolate hills and the tiny primates, tarsiers, have four major rivers intersecting through the island. Up northwest is the Inabanga River, the largest on the island and Ipil River up north. Utilized for eco-tourism is Loboc River coming from the center of the island down to the southeastern coast and recently, the Abatan River flowing to the southwestern coast. Our adventure guide, Buzzy Budlong, found excellent paddling opportunities on the latter and set-up shop along with the town’s RiverLife tours to offer something different and new.
“We can’t find our boat!” paddling master, Buzzy Budlong, tells me after several attempts of trying to spot our convoy outrigger boat through the maze-like passageways of Banacon Island, north of Bohol. Buzzy was at the back of our double kayak as I was the one in charge to shoot. We wait for the others south of the largest man-made mangrove island in Asia. He switched places with my assigned-writer friend, Oggie, back to his favorite yellow stand-up paddle (SUP) board, Mango Float. His sight looked far to the mainland. “Let’s head to that lighthouse!” he pointed. “Is he kidding?!” I thought. That’s almost 10km away by sea and we’re passing through two sea channels and an island. But he paddled on. He’s crazy like that which also partly makes him great.
“Rapids ahead! Give me your paddles and lean forward on your side of the raft! Hold on to the rope tight!” our guide yelled. Before I could blurt “What?! Why?!” from my head, the three of us followed his instruction in an instant, With our bellies resting on the raft, the next thing I noticed our guide was paddling madly at the rear, our raft was turning on one side and we’re facing the wild river water upfront! The raft rocking heavily on turbulent waters. Before I could scream, splash of water engulfed us! It was crazy but it was fun! And that was just part of our our 2-hour Cagayan de Oro White Water Rafting experience.