Whitewater Rafting: 12 tips to enjoy the trek

Summer of two years ago, Jasmin, Jana and I hopped to Cagayan de Oro and rode the one sport where you paddle, swim, walk under a cave, brave the turbulent waters and, after five hot and wet hours, emerge all-smiling. It was an excursion to remember; an adventure to thrill your memories. Here are 12 suggestions for those planning the CDO junket….

From left: Ronnie Medalle, John Pages, Jingle Polotan, Jana Pages, Santi Medalle, Jasmin Pages, Jourdan Polotan and Stephanie Medalle

1. Relax. When you first board the red inflatable raft and stare ahead at the winding river littered with boulders and strong current, you feel intimidated. You’re anxious. Jittery. In my case, bringing along my eight-year-old daughter was a risk. Is the ride safe? For children? Yes. Choosing, the Level 1 (beginner’s) rapids, the family enjoyed. Again, the word to remember: Relax.

2. Go today. The water is less volatile and the sun is bright yellow. Plus, of course, it’s summer—the children are off school. And there’s no fun unless you’re with your girls and boys, right?

3. Savor nature. When we jumped on the expedition in May of last year, once you start paddling and you open your eyes and smell the sights, you feel enamored by God’s gift called nature. Cliffs hang. Trees sway. Blue skies paint the earth’s ceiling. The almighty sun is burning. You marvel at God’s design.

4. Laugh. “We are passing through the longest hanging bridge in the Philippines,” our guide told us as we looked, up ahead, at a bridge that was short, wooden, rickety. We knew he was joking—yet he wasn’t. “It’s the country’s longest bridge because when you look to your left, that land is Misamis; and when you turn to your right, that is Bukidnon!”

5. Expect the unexpected. Nearing the finish of our five-hour-long voyage, the guide told us that we were to go near the wall of a cliff. He said, we’ll do a “Kiss The Wall.” Well, guess what: Kiss the wall we did. Near the 12th rapid, the guide maneuvered too late and, coupled with the strong current, our inflatable raft collided with the sharp edges of the wall. My wife Jasmin’s back was hit. Worse, our raft tore a hole at the side so that from thereon, we slowed down to the finish because of our deflated raft. The lesson? Nah, it’s OK. It’s a sport. It’s all “part of the fun.”

6. Lift weights. Build muscle. Ha-ha-ha. Why? You’ll need it when you paddle from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. In our group, Jourdan Polotan’s mighty left forearm steamed us through. Lesson: the stronger your upper body, triceps and biceps, the better.

7. Eat. Eat a full breakfast. Eat along the way. This was our mistake. Stephanie Medalle brought some cookies for all—but the rest of us did not. So we starved. We were so hungry by noontime that instead of shouting “1… 2… 3…” as we paddled, we yelled, “BAR… BEE… Q… LECHON!” After that, we screamed, “HUM! BA! HUM! BA!”

8. Wear long-sleeves. Thinking like I was heading for Boracay, I wore sleeveless. Bad move. Dr. Ronnie Medalle, who was on his fourth river ride, wore the perfect attire: a long-sleeves wet suit, shorts and aqua shoes.

Jingle and Jourdan Polotan, Ronnie and Steph Medalle

9. Don’t bring a camera. Why not? The rafting company, very wisely, assigned several people along the route to take everyone’s photos. And, at the end of the trip, you can purchase a CD with all your pictures.

10. Put on sunblock. Wear inexpensive sunglasses—and leave that Oakley at home.

11. The more friends and family you bring, the more fun. Our group of eight: Jasmin, Jana, and myself; my two closest buddies—Jourdan Polotan and his wife Jingle, and Dr. Ronnie Medalle, his wife Steph and Santi, their six-year-old son—we’ll never forget the bonding we shared.

Ronnie, John, Steph, Santi (swimming), Jourdan, Jingle, Jana and Jasmin

12. Finally, where to book your excursion? The best is Cagayan de Oro River Tours Corp. Last year, they charged only P700/person (inclusive of lunch after the trek)—a very reasonable rate. Visit their website at www.raftingcdo.com.

In CDO, enjoy God’s gift to man!

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!


  1. Our family is glad to see your photos. We never thought there is Medalle Family base in Cagayan de Oro. We are also Medalle Family from T. Padilla Cebu City. Our father is Antonio Medalle. Now we are living in Quezon City. Thanks. Nice meeting you!

  2. Hey John!

    Great tips, I should go whitewater rafting sometime.

    P.S These pictures look familiar. Did you get them from a previous article you made?

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