Going Wild in the Philippines

Angela and I left Ben to finish his studies in South Korea and continued along our route through Japan and Taiwan. But our time with Ben on this trip wasn’t finished quite yet.

Due to a fortunate set of circumstances involving airline ticket prices and travel dates, it became clear that we would actually save money if Ben joined us for a short time in the Philippines. So we arranged for him to fly into Cebu City just a few hours after us.

Although we had fully enjoyed our time with Ben and his host family in Daegu, it was nice to have him actually traveling with us once again. Just like the two months the three of us spent exploring Europe during the outset of this trip around the world.

I rented a car for our time in the Philippines and enjoyed my first experience driving the frenetic, congested, challenging roads of Southeast Asia. And it was a good thing, too, since our Airbnb was situated in a high-rise apartment building at the very northern tip end of Mactan Island, far away from the city.

The famed explorer Ferdinand Magellan met his demise on Mactan Island at the hands of the Philippine chieftain Lapu-Lapu and his warriors. The shrine to Lapu-Lapu’s honor graces a major roundabout in the center of town, and we passed it often, driving from our apartment to the market and back.

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Magellan falling at the hands of Lapu-Lapu

But Ben had had his fill of big cities. And, after Angela and I had experienced a quick succession of megalopolises in China, Japan, and Taiwan, we were tired of cities as well. So the three of us would seek to spend much of this week enjoying the ocean, hiking in green canyons, and scuba diving in clear waters as much as possible.

It was time to get back to the wild side of travel. And, in the Philippines, scuba diving comes first.

While Mactan Island boasts several excellent dive shops, we decided to go with New Grand Blue Dive Resort because of their reputation for well-maintained equipment and because of their proximity to our apartment.

The fact that they used traditional Philippine banca outriggers as dive boats just enhanced the experience.

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For our next Philippine adventure, we drove the 100 km to the town of Moalboal on the southwestern side of Cebu Island. Although the distance wasn’t overly taxing, it took us nearly four hours to make the journey, traveling along tiny roads that snaked through lush jungle mountains. With industrious people offering delicious food, handmade wares, and essential services by the roadside, the entire trip was like a slow drive through one, long village.

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We arrived at the T Breeze Coastal Resort and found a little slice of heaven right on the beach. The owner was an British teacher and expat who had spent some time in Brunei, among several other international destinations. We enjoyed the cozy room, the gorgeous sunsets, and the easy kayaking along the rocky coast.

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We also thoroughly enjoyed canyoneering in the region. After a bumpy jaunt along the back roads in a kotse-kel (the Philippine equivalent of a covered motorcycle sidecar), and a hair-raising ride triple stacked on an actual motorcycle, we hiked through the jungle to arrive at the Matutinao River.

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View from the backseat of the kotse-kel

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The thrill of riding dangerous and illegal

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Ben practicing his recently-acquired Korean language skills

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The clear cyan and cobalt waters cascade through a vine-lined gorge, finally plunging 20 meters (60 ft) at the beautiful and iconic Kawasan Falls. We hiked, swam, and bouldered our way along the gorge, moving downstream at an easy pace.

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For the truly adventurous, the trek also provides an opportunity to jump off the cliff edge at each of the three major waterfalls. With heights of 20-, 50-, and 60-ft, Ben felt no hesitation hurtling himself off all three. And, although I wavered for a moment at the last challenge, I couldn’t let the teenager get the better of me.

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Just trying to live our best life while we still can. To adventure!

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