Family, TRAVEL

Our Apo Island Adventure (Persistence Pays Off! 2)

After our super fun and satisfying day in Manjuyod, we were scheduled to go to Apo Island the following day. When we woke up, it was raining. Staying at Bethel Guest House, we could usually see the Boulevard and the sea clearly. But because of the rain, the sea seemed foggy and the sky was dark and gloomy. King then asked the dreaded question — is it safe to go?

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View from our room in Bethel Guest House, on a nice sunny day.

I thought for a minute and also asked my mom. But before she answered, I already thought about a few boat rides we’d already experienced that were worse, also due to rough seas. I mean we got through okay. We didnt capsize or fall into the water or lose our things. So King and I both said that yeah, it’s fine. Persist we must, haha. Besides, we were assured by our tour operator that the waters going to Apo Island are more calm than in Manjuyod at this time of year.

We were picked up by our van around 7am and we got to the port maybe an hour later. We passed through a market to get there. It was a Wednesday so it was market day. They sold all kinds of stuff including different kinds of dried fish and even lechon, which of course my mom did not hesitate to buy. It was actually good. We also saw the area where the locals auction off their animals (cows, pigs, goats, chickens).

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On our way to our boat. Light rain and loud waves.

We were required to wear life vests as soon as we got off the van, and Gianna had to endure wearing hers haha. It was too big. Our tour guide, who was actually quite nice, told us that it was going to be rough out there but it was normal because of the Amihan (cool northeast wind). My mind immediately went to her words about it being more calm. But no matter. We were excited to see the turtles!

True enough, the boat ride was rough. Our things were secure underneath the boat floor. I was warned about my camera getting wet so I made sure it was safe as well. But it sure was rough enough to make Noelle cry. I had to cross over from where I was seated, to where she and my mom were. On that side, it felt like we were being lifted off our seats. It was like a wet and wild roller coaster ride! But really, it was fine. Thank God all it took was a prayer and mommy holding her. And thank God it took only 30-40 minutes to get to the island. Danae had no issues. Gianna was quiet, covering her face, while King held her.

 

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my view from apo island 

Apo Island is beautiful! Only 14 families, if I recall correctly, live there. There are only a couple of resorts. Power is only via generator. They have worked to protect the beautiful sea turtles, so now it is a conservation area. To watch and swim with the turtles, snorkelers are guided by the locals within a roped area. Like the whale sharks in Oslob, the turtles must not be touched. There are gear for rent and if you don’t have companions to watch your stuff, you can also rent a cottage. I was able to go with King and the girls while Gianna was with my mom and our tour guide, yay! It was actually also Noelle’s first time to snorkel!

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“marine turtle area”
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it’s dude crush!!! the picture does not depict its actual size.
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King and Danae witnessed this turtle swim!!! Noelle and I only saw the other one which was huge!

The guides lead a group of 2-3 to the turtles using a rubber tube, which you can hang on to when you’re tired or are a poor swimmer. There were a lot of sea cucumbers, tiny neon blue fish, and light blue starfish (too bad I have no picture!!!). We would have loved to see more turtles and swim with them, but Noelle and I only saw one, while King and Danae saw two. One of the guides said it was because the tide was low and so the turtles were out in the deeper parts. Still, it was one of the coolest experiences.

When we were done, we proceeded to the other side of the island so we could have lunch. It was nothing like our fresh sea food in Manjuyod, but it was okay. Our table was set in Apo Island Beach Resort, where the kids enjoyed the beach. Just be wary of foreigners who sunbathe in the nude, haha. My girls were baffled as to why some people do that in public.

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beautiful rock formations 🙂
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we went up a short set of stairs, to this….
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….and then, paradise!
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beautiful 🙂 

We left Apo island around 2pm because we didn’t want to risk travelling through stronger and bigger waves. Halfway through the boat ride however, we noticed the boat suddenly slowed down. The boat men said something broke. King thought it was the anchor or something inconsequential, but to me it seemed like they were talking about the rudder. I understand some Visayan, but unfortunately not the Visayan for rudder hehe. Everyone was relaxed, while I was observing the boatmen handle the situation. They dropped the anchor enough to create a drag I suppose. I heard a tiny hint of panic in the boatmen’s voices but they followed the instructions of the boat driver. I didn’t understand a word they said. Too deep for me, I guess. I also saw their interaction with the boatman of another pump boat that passed us. I was thinking that it would be good to have a boat near us just in case something bad happened. But our tour guide said nothing. Our boat driver seemed calm and confident. Noelle fell asleep on me even, no crying.

When we got to the port, they “parked” in the area that was a bit far from the shore. The tide had risen and the waves were strong, so it was difficult to get down. When our tour guide asked if we could move, they said they couldn’t because the rudder broke. I knew it!!!    Thank God our boatmen did not just say, “Um the boat is broken. Sorry. We’re basically sitting ducks here until help arrives.” Imagine the horror! But they kept going. They persisted. And they got us to safety. They got skillz, haha. Whoo! What an adventure!

Indeed, persistence pays off! Especially when it’s a matter of life and death. And indeed, the Lord is good. He protects and He saves. 🙂

 

TIPS:

Wear aqua shoes. The “sand” is rocky and painful to walk on barefoot. They have those for rent on the island as you pay for the sanctuary fees, but it’s always better to bring your own. We as well will invest on our own, especially the kids’, life vests.

Bring some cash. Some manangs (ladies) sell magnets, shirts, sarongs, and dresses in the island.

Go on a Wednesday, so you can experience Market Day before you board your boat to Apo Island. They end at 2pm so you’ll miss it if you wait ’til after.

Family, TRAVEL

OUR CAGAYAN DE ORO ADVENTURE!

SEPTEMBER 1, WE WOKE UP A LITTLE LATE, LEFT A LITTLE LATE, GOT TO THE AIRPORT A LITTLE LATE. WE MISSED OUR FLIGHT TO CAGAYAN DE ORO….AGAIN! Same thing happened last year when we went for my cousin’s wedding. Ugh! Good thing the bad start didn’t define our entire vacation. WE HAD A BLAST IN CAGAYAN!

Let me start with our family (my dad’s sister and family), who always always takes great care of us when we’re there. Ever since we were kids, we would spend nearly every summer in Cagayan. I learned to swim, bake, play tennis there. We even took English classes and the like. We grew up close to our cousins and would travel places together. There was even a time that my brother and I went to the US without our parents, but with my tita Lucile, tito Rolly, manang Baba and Rando. Today, my cousins and I are all grown up. Manang Baba is now married to a great guy, Desi Fournier, and Rando is dating this mystery girl (hahahaha). Many things may have changed, but the love still remains. King and my girls are experiencing the same love and care that I did growing up. They accommodated us and fed us delicious food in their home (which is really like a 2nd home to me), drove us everywhere, took us to great restaurants, organized awesome activities for us! Not only that, Baba & Desi baby sat the kids while we were out one whole morning, Wowa Lucile gave my girls vaccinations (3 each – yeouch!), and they gave us really really really nice Crocs! 🙂

Hot spots! The restaurants we went to were all in one lane in Lim Ket Kai (a mall). If you like delicious Thai food, go to Siam. I especially loved their bagoong rice, which had green mango toppings. The best I’ve ever tasted! If you want to taste authentic New Orleans flavors, go to Bourbon Street Bistro. The chef/owner is from New Orleans, married to a Cagayan local. I loved their shrimp popcorn, their grilled shrimp, and their baby back ribs with yummy mashed potatoes! For great desserts, salads, snacks and coffee, go to Candy’s, also owned by a Cagayan local. Practically everything I’ve tried there I like, but we always order this 4-cheese spread thing with pandesal and this ball of vanilla ice cream encased by chocolate cake. Really really good!

Another hot spot in Cagayan is my cousins’ CROCS store in Robinson’s, in Lim Ket Kai. They’ve got great new styles for both kids and adults, and they’ve got this awesome promo going on with increasing discounts, the more you buy!!! They also newly opened this wonderful clothes  & shoes store called BLISS, also in Ket Kai, that carries a lot of local brands. Very chic and stylish, yet affordable! Both stores are worth checking out. The times that we dropped by, they were almost always full of customers. I am truly proud of my cousins. 🙂

Cagayan’s town plaza is called Divisoria, which they turn into a night market every weekend, with music, food, and all sorts of other things. We weren’t able to try it then, but we did get to visit the SLERS cafe there. SLERS is famous for its yummy chicharon (pork cracklings) and delicious meat products. It’s locally owned and their products/brand has been around for decades. I enjoyed their pastrami sandwich, and we brought home some of their tocino, longganiza and chicharon! 🙂

Ptr Auggie Rabara took us to another restaurant called Sentro in Divisoria too. We just had a light snack there, but we actually enjoyed their chicken fingers. What makes it more interesting is the fact that it’s right across VICTORY-CDO. They’ve got a beautiful center and a growing congregation! Wish I had pictures to prove it. Wish I had pictures of King preaching that Sunday too haha. 🙂

Adventures! When I was still single, my cousins took us tubing on the Cagayan River. We went through the rapids riding those donut-shaped salbabidas that were strapped together, so we were actually on the water the whole time. It was really fun! I almost even went under one time haha. Oh, I forgot to mention that the starting point of that trip was near a steel bridge, and we had an option to jump off of it. Rando and I jumped off, of course. So I guess you know where Danae gets her guts haha. For our honeymoon, before proceeding to Camiguin Island, King and I went tubing as well, but neither of us jumped off the bridge. This year, we went white water rafting! We were asked if we wanted our ride to be mild or wild. Everyone was willing to go wild, including my 62 year old mom! But my good husband wanted it mild. I guess you know where Noelle gets her timidity haha. To be fair, King was worried about his dislocated shoulder, hence his apprehension to flip the raft a lot. And it was a good call because we saw what the other raft went through! We did flip once, and it was a major major flip! Our raft went up a huge rock before flipping over and spilling its contents (us, the guides and our things) into the water! When I went under, I felt someone’s body on me that pushed me further down. Turns out it was my mom haha. I drank in some river water, but it was cool. It’s not white water rafting after all, if you don’t experience that!

The day before we went white water rafting, we went up to Dahilayan Adventure Park. It was an almost 2 -hour drive, passing Del Monte farms even, but it was really nice! They have pine trees and very cool weather, almost like Baguio. That’s where they have the Zorbit, that big transparent rubber or plastic ball that you get into and roll down a hill. They also rent out ATVs, you can go horse back riding and wall climbing. What we did, however, was the amazing ZIP LINE!!!! The first one, which Danae was allowed to try but as a tandem with King, was long and high enough. The second one, which Danae did solo, was shorter and lower but also fun. The last one we went on was the longest and the highest! We had to leave the kids with my uncle because my mom (yes, my mom!), King and I had to ride this monster truck who had a monster driver haha (he drove fast and hard!), to go up to its starting point. Your blood starts pumping from the ride alone! Super fun!  The zip line is 840M long, and it’s the longest zip line in Asia. Not only that, we weren’t merely strapped and hanging or sitting on our harnesses. We were on our bellies, like Superman! What a rush, whoo! Everyone who goes to CDO must try it. It’s definitely worth it! Check out the videos on the right side of this page! or click here.

Chy

For your white water and zip lining adventures, I highly recommend GREAT WHITE WATER TOURS! Jerome, who has been on tv quite a few times, and his crew have been the ones taking care of us ever since. They’re the best! What are you waiting for??? Book now! 🙂