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Holidays on (thin) Ice


Holidays on (thin) Ice
By Rosan Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:52:00 10/12/2008

MANILA, Philippines – There's so much going on in these 7100 islands that we Pinoys don’t even know about. Here’s a dozen exciting destinations from North to South that you, your family and friends can enjoy during the holidays. Don’t forget your camera and sunscreen!

1. Biking in Batanes. For those seeking retreat from the bustle of the city, Batanes, two hours by plane from Manila, is the perfect place. Time has literally stood still in this town. The boulder-hemmed coastline, rolling hills and stone houses with thickly thatched roof combine the roguish charms of New Zealand, Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. Spend at least three days exploring the island through a bike. Bike rental at P250 per day. Contact Roger Doplito at (0928) 847-6091.

2. River rafting in Cagayan Valley. Expect to get soaked as you paddle down the wild rivers of Pinacaunanuan and Chico River. Experience grades I to III rapids, and visit nearby Callao and Sierra Madre Caves. Two-day package includes lessons, helmet, life vest, tour around Tuguegarao and insurance coverage. Contact Anton Carag (0917) 532-7480 or visit

3. Climb Mt. Pulag. With a good pair of hiking shoes, why not trek to the second highest mountain in the Philippines at 2922 meters, and experience the sea of clouds phenomenon? The easiest trail “Ambangeg” cuts climbing time to two days. Note that the trail starts off on a high altitude (temperature drops to -2 degrees Celcius) from the Badabak Ranger Station in Benguet. Porters available at P500 per head. Park Fees at P175 per head. Contact Mang Roger, who can arrange transportation from Baguio City to the Ranger Station at (0920) 806-8656 or DENR Park Superintendent Emerita Tamiray (0919) 631-5402. Visit

4. Ride a 4x4 to Pinatubo. Why not take a day trip and drive into lahar country, crossing river beds and steep and rugged tracks? If you’re not up to driving, the ’sky-way’ tour at Pinatubo Spa Town (PST) in Capas, Tarlac will provide a 4x4 jeep with driver. Package includes fees, a guide to the Mt. Pinatubo trek and a packed lunch. It’s an hour’s drive to the skyway and an hour or two trek to the crater lake where you can take a dip to refresh yourself. Enjoy a relaxing massage and facial or volcanic ash treatment back at PST. Package costs P1500 for local tourists. Contact Jovi Balbiro (0928) 781-3556 or visit

5. Rock climb in Montalban. Another day trip: check out the limestone cliffs of Montalban that used to be the favorite site of Yamashita treasure hunters. There are over a hundred routes that have been established, varying from grades 5.0 to 5.13. Power Up offers a one-day basic lesson which includes equipment and guide at P3,550 for two. Bring your own lunch. Contact Jason at 932-7273 or email [email protected]

6. Caving in Biak-na-bato. Get dirty for a day in San Miguel, Bulacan! Tread, crawl, slither and check out why the revolutionaries used the place as a hideout. Visit the Aguinaldo cave where this president of the first Philippine republic signed the peace pact treaty with the Spaniards in 1897, Carto Cuarto for its chandelier-shaped stalactites, and the majestic Bat Cave. Wear a helmet because the rock formations may be sharp and dangerous and long sleeved shirt, long pants, and rubber boots because you’ll surely be covered with mud and guano (bat droppings). Take a dip after in the natural springs. Hire a guide for P150 to P300. Bring your own lunch.

7. Plunge in the healing waters of Banahaw. Cleanse off your negativities in this dormant volcano in Lucban, Quezon which has long been believed to be a storehouse of psychic energy. Geographically, Banahaw stands on a power point where the key lines of the earth intersect. Wherever such latitudes and longitudes meet, they create energy fields that allow higher frequencies of perception, physiological or otherwise. Banahaw is one of those rare fields just like Lourdes in France, Sedona in Arizona, Bali in Indonesia and Ayers Rock in Australia, to name a few. There are two must-see sites—Sta. Lucia and Kinabuhayan. Make sure to stand under the waterfalls of Kristalino, Suplina and Salamin Bubog and go through at least one of its several caves—Kuweba ng Dios Ama, Jusgado and Jacob’s well—and before you go home, collect healing water from one of the springs, Tubig ng Gatas and Tubig ng Dugo. Stay overnight at Kinabuhayan Café bed and breakfast at P500 per person.

8. Glide on water. Learn to wakeboard in Camarines Sur’s cable-run park where, like skate boarding, you’ll be pulled across the water while standing (or trying to keep feet firmly in place) on a buoyant board. All that is required is a reasonable level of fitness, fairly strong arms and a willingness to get wet and make a fool of yourself since you’ll be thrown off, flipped or get wiped out. It’s fun and ideal for all ages. They will start you off on the kneeboard and then you can work your way up to wakeboarding. Contact (054) 477-3159 or visit

9. Snorkel with whale sharks. Believe it or not, Donsol in Sorsogon has the largest concentration of whale sharks found anywhere in the world. This occurs annually from November to May. Typical sightings vary between whale sharks 5 (juvenile) to 25 feet (mature) in length, and weighing up to 21,000 lbs. Their huge mouths (up to 6 ft across) is lined with thousands of tiny teeth that feed on plankton. For a maximum of seven tourists, the Whale Shark interaction package costs P3500 inclusive of one boat, an interaction officer and a spotter. Bring your mask, snorkel and fins and book a trip with Donsol Eco Tour where a portion of the package price is donated to the World Wildlife Fund to assist in the Whale Shark and Manta Ray preservation effort. Email [email protected] or log on to

10. Dive with Thresher Sharks. Another interesting world phenomenon is Monad Shoal in Malapascua, Cebu. At 70 ft deep, it is one of the few cleaning stations of thresher sharks known to man. These sharks are seldom seen by divers and normally appear at great depth. The sharks are 13 to 20 ft in length. The best time to see them is at sunrise. All you need is a dive C-card and patience. You’ll be diving to the bottom where you wait. If there is no sighting after 15 minutes, swim to the next cleaning station until a thresher shark shows up. There’s more to see than the sharks, however. There are sightings of mantas, sting rays, eagle rays, hammerheads and, if you are tired of seeing big fish, check out the macros at nearby Gato Cave where’s you’ll see sea snakes, sea horses and mandarin fishes. If you’re a diver, this is worth taking a trip. Contact Gigi Santos at (0917) 833-3663 or visit

11. Fly in Bora. Check out Bulabog beach in Boracay and learn to fly using a kiteboard. It’s like wakeboarding but instead of a cable or boat pulling you, a kite (a trainer kite 6 ft in diameter) is attached to your body. Bulabog is now touted as one of the great kite surf destinations in Asia with its wind powered by the northeast monsoon. There are several courses offered—from an introductory course up to an advance course. The intro course is P3500 and will teach you the basics of kite-control; the price also includes a harness, impact vest and helmet, kite, board and instructor. Contact Hangin (036) 288-3663 or visit

12. Surf in Siargao. Head down Siargao and learn to surf! Unlike kitesurfing or wakeboarding, surfing is more spiritual because it’s just you, the board and the ocean. It requires upper body strength because you paddle out to the break on a buoyant board, stand up, and ride the wave to shore. Siargao draws its power from the Philippine Deep. Beginners can try their luck around the corner from world-class surf Cloud 9 called Jacking Horse. The best months to learn is when the surf is generally smaller during the rainy season (it’s sunny down south) from May to July, and for advance surfers, from August to the beginning of November when it gets the most typhoon swells and the best winds. Contact Gai Olivares (0920) 901-2072, or visit


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