Here’s a good choice for a summer vacation…..
For four hours with friends and family, it’s the perfect way to bond. If you want your mind nervous and your heart pumping 170 beats per 60 seconds, traverse through its winding, rough waters. Searching for an experience this April and May that you won’t forget in 25 years? Hop on that inflatable raft, paddle, and ride this roller-coaster that’s named the most popular tourist attraction in Cagayan De Oro City.
White-Water Rafting, it’s called and, among our 7,107 islands, the best spot to try this adventure is in CDO. From Cebu, you take the 8 p.m. boat, close your eyes and, when you awake at 5 a.m., you’ve docked. Or, with Cebu Pacific offering P88 flights, that’s an even quicker way to land in one of Mindanao’s most progressive cities.
Two years ago, with J and J—my wife Jasmin and daughter Jana—we jumped on this excursion. It was the 27th national anniversary of our group, the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP), and, very timely, the venue was CDO. Thousands from all over our archipelago converged in Cagayan; we held our BCBP gatherings at the giant Lim Ket Kai convention hall for two days and, when Sunday arrived, it was our free day…. time to get wet!
That morning we arose at six. We boarded a jeepney, rode for 30 minutes then reached the starting point by 8 a.m. With us in that morning trek from BCBP Cebu were Loloy and Alice Atega, Dr. Hoppy Sto. Domingo, and, from our group that would ride the same raft, eight close friends: Jourdan and Jingle Polotan, Dr. Ronnie Medalle, his wife Stephanie and their son, Santi; me, Jasmin and Jana.
Upon arrival, we slipped on our life-vests, donned the helmets then headed to the shallow water to listen to a 10-minute orientation.
“Good Morning! How’s everyone?” the head guide greeted our huge crowd—around 150 of us. He spoke of the fun, the experience, the teamwork needed to perfect the ride, then added, “Plus, later you will see a lot of lava rocks.”
Lava rocks? That’s unusual, I told myself.
“Yes, lava rocks,” he continued, “you will see a lot na nang lavada sa rocks!”
Ha-ha-ha-ha, we chuckled.
Next, we were taught the various ways to paddle. Then, in a serious tone, he said, “And you know the best way to paddle? It’s called the ‘S’ paddle.” He then drew an ‘S’ in the water then splashed all of us! Everyone joined in wetting each other as another round of laughs ensued.
“You will pass through a total of 14 rapids,” he explained, “and, as you pass through each one, I want you to congratulate yourselves by raising the paddles then screaming, ‘AHOOO!’”
In unison and to practice, we all raised our paddles and shouted…. AHOOOOO!
Finally, the time had come. Our eight-person group boarded a red-colored inflatable raft as our personal guide, Glenn, sat at the back. (The saying goes: “The guide is the driver while the ones who paddle are the engine.”)
Jourdan Polotan sat at the front. A leftie with biceps like Hulk Hogan’s, Jourdan sat at the left. Right-handed, I sat on the right. Perfect. We could paddle using our dominant arms. On the second row were Ronnie and Steph; third row sat Jingle and Jasmin. The two children with us? My daughter Jana and Ronnie’s six-year-old son, Santi, sat in the middle of the raft.
From left: Ronnie Medalle, John Pages, Jingle Polotan, Glenn (tour guide, back most), Jana Pages, Santi Medalle, Jourdan Polotan, Jasmin Pages, Stephanie Medalle
We were all set and awaited the other rafts to go ahead. Scared? Anxious? Intimidated? Yes. Unlike Jourdan and Jingle who experienced this in Indonesia and Ronnie (who was on his fourth try)—this was a first for me and Jasmin. Plus, we brought along Jana—all of eight years old.