Boracay: The Perfect Mix of Sun, Sand and Sports

Since summer is near (or has, in fact, because of the HOT weather, arrived), here’s an article I wrote in May 2007 about one of the world’s best beaches….

It was 23 years ago when my feet first touched the powder that sprinkled on this island. Then, there was no electricity. No rock bands rocked your sleep until 3:17 a.m. No Greek or Indian or Portuguese cuisine tempted your tongue. No 18-hole golf course chased down the white ball into a six-inch-hole like Fairways and Bluewater. No Flying Fish or Banana Boat or Yamaha jet-skis floated on the slippery seas. Boracay, in those 1980s and echoed by Madonna, was “Like A Virgin.”

Last week, after my 10th or so visit, my feet once more touched the powder. I despised it. You know what I hated the most? The part when, after five days and nights stranded there, your boat leaves the paradise to head back home.

I hate leaving Boracay! To my family-threesome—my wife Jasmin and daughter Jana included—there’s no other place in our archipelago that we’d rather vacation than this island strip off Panay the world calls “One of the Best Beaches in the World.”

Airsoft: “Getting Hit Is Not An Option”

It’s popular. It’s played at D’ Family Park in Talamban. In the hills of Consolacion. At the back of Tisoy’s Restaurant along A.S. Fortuna. Hundreds polish their rifles and pistols. Hearts pump fast. Bullets riddle the air. Men paint their faces. Women camouflage their bodies.

Airsoft is one very popular sport in Cebu. Yesterday, while working out in the gym, I watched the 6 p.m. news on TV and caught a glimpse of Cebu City Councilor Jack Jakosalem. He was talking about airsoft and an upcoming event at the Gaisano Bowlinplex Parking Lot.

Vacation? After summer? Try Cagayan de Oro

I’ve talked about Boracay, posted write-ups, uploaded photos. To me, there’s no place in RP more beautiful than this island off the northern tip of Panay.

But there’s another spot–just as pretty, but more exhilarating–that I suggest you visit. From Cebu, it’s only a “sleep away” when you take Trans-Asia or Cebu Ferries. It’s the biggest city (together with Davao) south of Cebu. It has an SM mall, a LimKetKai mall, huge schools, millions of Bisaya-speaking neighbors, and, perfect for tourists who love adventure, it has WHITE-WATER RAFTING.

White-Water Rafting in CDO

Last month, together with a few friends named Jourdan and Ronnie and Jingle and Steph, we got wet, our muscles ached, we starved for a few hours, swam, paddled, laughed, high-fived, and our hearts beat 168 times in 60 ticks as we did the one adventure that’s become more and more famous each year: Rafting in Cagayan de Oro. Enjoy this clip…

CDO Rafting from John Pages on Vimeo

Wall-Climbing in MetroSports

If there’s one activity I recommend all parents convince their children to try, it’s this: Wall-Climbing.

At first, staring high up at the 21-foot climb, your eyes pop wide open, your heart pounds, and your palms sweat. You’re scared. And that’s OK. That’s normal. Aren’t we all scared trying anything for the first time? But after a few horizontal walks up the wall, you gain confidence. You smile. You say to your inner self, “I can do this!” And you do it.

White Water Rafting in CDO

This summer, if you’re in search of an adrenaline-rush, take the 8pm Trans-Asia boat and hop on to Cagayan de Oro. It’s called “White-Water Rafting.” Sunday last week, I was with Dr. Ronnie Medalle, his wife Steph and son Santi; Jourdan and Jingle Polotan; and my wife Jasmin and our daughter Jana. For five hours under the sun’s umbrella, we fastened our life-vests, donned helmets, and carried smiles on our faces as we paddled across 13 kms. of water and hurdled 14 rapids. What an adventure!

Cebuano rock-climbers to conquer Thailand

Ten brave hearts will travel via Cebu Pacific on Wednesday night to Singapore. No, they’re not there to shop along Orchard Road or to visit the Night Safari. From Singapore, the 10-person team will next move by land to Krabi, in southern Thailand, then take a bus to the Au Nang port where a “Long Tail Boat” will ship them to a paradise called Tonsai. If you’ve watched the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach,” that’s it. That’s Tonsai.


That’s what will bring Wendel Getubig Jr., Patrick Costelo, Bill Carlo Chiong, Isabel Angela Pascuado, Sunshine Menoza, Crissy Pineda, Gay Nanette Belgira and my first cousin, Giandi Pages, to southern Thailand.

For 15 days, this all-Cebuano group, who call themselves “Team 330 Haiball,” will do a first: become the first-ever group from Cebu to climb the rock formations of Thailand. And here’s the interesting start: for 8 of the 10 members, it’s their first-ever trip outside the country.

Why Thailand? “Thailand is popular for rock climbing,” e-mailed my cousin, Giandi Pages. “Because of the hundreds of developed routes available for beginners to advanced/professional climbers. Plus, the scenery is superb. There are hundred-meter high rock formations with long stretches of white sand beaches at the foot. There are also a number of small rocks protruding from the ocean also developed for climbing. (“Developed,” meaning bolted routes to make it easier and safer for climbers.)

“And, of course, the parties. These parties happen after sunset, when climbers from all over the world gather and share stories. As the saying goes ‘When tired hands meets cold beer’ – by Patrick Costelo.”

It’s taken the team one full year to prepare for Wednesday’s trip. The group is led by it’s top climber, Wendel Getubig, Jr., the leader with 10 years of rock-climbing experience that started with him climbing indoor gyms using the “trad” (traditional) method of temporary anchors (slings, knots, cams).

Having never rock-climbed in my life, I asked Giandi the thrill this sport brings. “Height,” he answered. “The higher it gets, the heavier the heart beats. Also, DANGER. The possibilities of getting injured or even losing one’s life. Could be through equipment failure or pure negligence. Or the possibility of natural rock formations chipping off.”

And how about those sweaty and clammy hands…

“That’s normal,” said Giandi. “That’s why we carry a chalk bag loaded with Magnesium Carbonate powder to absorb sweat.”

Is rock-climbing dangerous? “Yes it is dangerous, but if all the rules and basic precautions are followed, and your equipment is always counter-checked by a fellow climber, then nothing should go wrong.

“The only dangerous part is getting to the first anchor which would be about 3 meters from the ground. It’s dangerous because there is a possibility of falling directly to the ground (termed as “ground fall”). But once you’ve clipped the rope on the first anchor (temporary/permanent), there is less possibility of ground fall since your rope will already be in place.”

In Cebu, the team climbs 3 to 4 times a week indoor, and they spend weekends outdoor, either day trips or overnight trips to Cantabaco, Toledo. “That’s an hour’s drive from the city, and then a beautiful 15 minute hike crossing a mini river and passing thru local villages.”

To Giandi, the most important trait of a good rock-climber is “good vibes… good attitude. Next would be patience since most climbers never achieve what they want on their first few attempts.”

Finally, I asked: What goes through the mind of a rock-climber 45 meters above the ground. Does a climber, even an experienced one, feel scared? Rattled?

“Yes, always scared,” said Giandi. “When climbing, you discover a different side of yourself. You discover your maximum strength—both physical and mental. Its a battle between physical and mental strength… and the mental strength must prevail. It is scary to go up, but at the same time it is also scary to fall! So it’s a mental decision that you HAVE to make.”