Long Day// Long Post: Whales, Welts, and Waterfalls

My day started dark and early at 3-something am. Today’s excursion had us adventuring down to almost of the opposite end of the island all to see these gentle giants, the whale shark, and since it was a holiday, we wanted to be in the first batch or two of people out on the ocean to the creature that inhabits the 100 peso bank note. This meant rise and shine to catch a taxi to the bus terminal for a 4am bus. The big draw was the whale sharks, but that was not the only thing we did today.

And I made a map to show how much we traveled relative to the size of the island. Over 300 kilometers total today, or just about 190 miles all in all. So, without further adieu:

  1. Oslob, a three-hour bus ride.

The whale shark, butanding and balilan here in the Philippines, is one of those animals you just have to see in your life time and I was fortunate enough to do so today. While for the most part this was a very touristy things to do (our fellow boat mates were from Holland) and I heard no fewer than a dozen languages while I was there, this was one of the cooler things I’ve done this trip, this whole day was, but seeing the whale sharks up close really made you feel tiny, much like standing near the Spruce Goose . The average whale shark weighs 10 tons, has a mouth about 5 feet wide, has eyes the size of quarters, and can be over 30 feet in length. And whale sharks have beautiful white leopard spots on their backs that contrast magnificently against the azure of the water. Seeing one swim under the boat (a double outrigger that seats eight) and being able to look all around and still see the fish was breath taking. You could look out over the water for miles and see the next island over, which is Bohol, where I will be in two and a half weeks, lazy white clouds, and crystal clear ocean. Many people dream of retiring in a place like this, and I got to spend my day just soaking it in.

  1. Tumalog Falls (phonetic: tomb-a-log), Short motorcycle stint to the top, walk down a steep hill to the falls

From what I can gather, there is no available information on the height of this waterfall, but it is very tall and very wide. It’s what the professionals call a “horsetail” waterfall meaning that the water stays in contact with the bedrock for a majority of the falls. It’s hard to tell since the vantage points are different, but I think it is safe to say that Tumalog Falls is taller than the South Falls at Silverfalls State Park (which is 177 feet) but I can’t say for certain. Our entire walk down was steep and the whole way in we weren’t looking forward to walking out. The downgrade had us wondering if the whole thing was worth it, but we trekked on.

The falls was gorgeous- the water was an electric blue and cyan and the early morning light caught the mist on the falls and made a fabulous rainbow as butterflies and dragon/damsel flies fluttered around. People from work are asking when I’ll be back to the Philippines next and after today, I’m wondering when I will be back. My trip is barely past the half waypoint and I’m already looking forward to the next round of adventures after I have a baseline of familiarity with Filipino culture. Some work staff are already asking if I would think about coming back and interning for the company next summer which just makes my heart all warm and fuzzy. I do love it here.

Before I left Oregon I thought I would just “like like” it, but being here for two weeks when Oregon Winter is in full swing would not be a bad thing. When we were done with the waterfall we feared the trek up the mountain to get out and I suggested we hire some of the waiting habal-habal, or motorcyclists to give us a lift. For less than one American dollar each, we swiftly made it to the top where I enjoyed a coconut that was machete cut open while we waited for our original guides.

Today, after two different runs on bikes, it was the first time I noticed welts and scratched on my legs and ankles from the venture. Not quite burns, but likely the result of me climbing in and out of boats and on and off bikes. I am not the mot graceful of human beings and it showed.

  1. Simala-Lindogon Church, by fancy air-conditioned coach that offered pristine views of everything, about an hour, and then another habal-habal up a different mountain.

This church should really have its own Wikipedia page and it’s curious that it doesn’t. From what I could gather this is a monastery (lots of stairs) for ‘Mamma Mary’. This castle-church look, no seriously, look is impressive from an architectural standpoint. I have no idea how big this is and it was still under construction while we were there today. We arrived right in time for mass, which was projected across the grounds by loudspeaker, while people waited to see the museum and light candles for prayer. We skipped the line since this place was about Disneyland level crowded with tourists and mass attendees so we wandered around and saw sculptures of different saints and depictions of Jesus’s Crucifixion. The saints were grey stone and I recognized some, while the Crucifixion images were painted gold. Because of how we toured the grounds, we actually saw the New Testament unfold backwards.

We caught a ride on our hired habal-habal halfway down the mountain where we got in a van to head to a different part of Cebu City than where we started. From my estimations, this van was designed for maybe 12 or 14 people and 18-20 had actually been piled in, what with children sitting in laps, and what not. Our driver was a “Leave no survivors” type as he weaved in and out of traffic on the main road. There would be two lanes, one in each direction, and there could be a motorbike coming in the opposite direction and a car next to us and our van would squeeze by. His driving style could be summed up as “Hang the code, and hang the rules. They’re more like guidelines anyway” meets how the Knight Bus drives in Harry Potter and the Prisoner, Muggles click here if you don’t know the scene. There were a couple close calls where we were inches and seconds away from hitting someone or being hit ourselves.

We lunched at a restaurant in SM Mall, which is probably the biggest shopping malls I have ever been in in my life. It was full of shops and pop up vendors and people, natives and tourists alike. From there we went on to our next stop.

  1. Lapu-Lapu Shrine on Mactan Island, by taxi

This was another one of those “You’re here so you might as well,” when it comes to sights of Cebu. King Lapu-Lapu was chief of the native tribes when Magellan first arrived to the island. On April 27th, 1521, the battle of 50 Spanish Explorers with guns versus 1,500 natives with bamboo spears was fought, as Magellan tried to convert everyone to Christianity (I saw the Magellan’s cross a few weeks ago). Spoiler alert: Magellan died. As my dad says, the shrine commemorates the running out and death of the first Westerners, but also marks the later comings of Christianity and Catholicism to the country. Like the figures from the Crucifixion, Lapu-Lapu’s statue had been painted gold, and faced out toward the bay and the setting sun.

One of my “rookie” mistakes packing for this trip was not bringing a smaller bag with me. I used my school backpack as my carry-on and brought a shoulder bag under the assumption I would be taking my laptop to work everyday. I haven’t needed to, but I still have this four sizes too big bag I’ve been schlepping around, which is very counterproductive when you’re on the back of a motorcycle or else wandering around on foot and trying to avoid pick pocketers. In the courtyard around the shrine there were a dozen or so vendors peddling wares and I noticed the collection of shoulder bags that fit what I was looking for- something big enough for keys, my phone, peso coins, some water, and not much else. I found one I liked in the beautiful blue with a red, yellow, and orange pattern on it asked the price. 250 pesos, or about five and a half dollars US. I wanted to test my luck and see if I could get the price down. I ended up paying 200 pesos, or about $4.40 for the bag. While a dollar US isn’t that big of a deal, 50 pesos here is a meal or two and I’m very proud of my first haggle (and a successful one at that).

Today I watched the sun rise over the ocean and the sun set over the mountains. I’ve been up for the better part of 20/21 hours by now. My adventure was about 14 hours round trip and it was amazing. I can’t wait to see some of these places again in the future and eventually swim with the whale sharks.

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