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.
It’s a sad sad moment when I was about to leave El Nido. One reason is that I will definitely miss the way of life there and the people I already know. It’s so different from the metro that I know it’ll be a major adjustment. Another is that i somehow failed in my attempt to live there longer. I was willing to live a provincial life but I guess fate has other plans. There were work and opportunities back in Manila that I can pass. And I was really slated to go back home somehow this month of March since most my relatives and siblings will be back home for a reunion. A rare time all siblings will be together.
My life in El Nido didn’t turn out as I expected it to be. My plan to stay longer got somehow waylaid due to unforeseen work circumstances. Though I no longer have work commitments I took it as an advantage to do more exploration in El Nido. Visiting more islands and off-beat destinations in the region.
We traveled about 37km by bus from El Nido town proper to Sibaltan with our kayak in tow. My friend wanted to see the potential of the place for a kayaking destination. No doubt there are good ones like the mangroves by the Sibaltan Beach and river but the one we’re targeting was that cute little island just in front of the Marine Santuary Guard House called Bubog Island. Despite the looming rain clouds and strong wind on the horizon that morning the sun shone itself in the morning and we were just excited to test the waters.
As the largest island in Bacuit Bay, Cadlao Island is an imposing presence that has become the popular landmark island being so close to town. Despite its proximity, it’s probably the least patronized of the 4 main island tours in El Nido. In my months of stay in El Nido town, taking my time off at the beach, I have always imagined what it is like to visit the island, to climb its peak which is the highest at 640 meters above sea level in El Nido or even visit its lagoon on the far west. I knew, one way or another I won’t leave El Nido without visiting this prominent island. So on the day before I left El Nido, my friend and I launched our kayak and set out for a day of expedition.
It’s the time we get down and dirty, for caving that is. We now visit Penablanca after at least an hour’s drive from Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat. Penablanca is the caving capital of Cagayan Valley. With more than 300 caves in the vicinity, 75 documented and more than 30 being mapped, it’s a spelunker’s haven. Out of the many caves, there are only 2 caves which tourist are allowed to visit for safety and preservation reasons. These are the Callao and Sierra Cave.