The prospect of swimming with the butandings or whale sharks excites me. Nothing can beat being one with the huge and gentle sharks that do not include us in their diet. Whale sharks are large fishes that grow around 40 feet, weigh approximately 20 tons, and has a life span of a hundred years.
I have had a fear of sharks in the past, and I still can feel a little bit of that every time I plunge into deep water. After all, it was during my childhood in 1975 that the first movie, Jaws, was released, and the scenes were terrifying — like that of the head of a shark victim in a hole at the bottom of a boat (only to discover in media lessons that Steven Spielberg filmed it in a swimming pool).
But nothing of that sort happened.
With the Escarezes and the Ateneo High School’s delegates to the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) convention, we are picked up at 4 AM in Cebu City, and travel south for approximately two hours and a half. The van is spacious and we are able to catch on sleep before our date with the butandings.
During the trip, I have to request the driver to stop for a few minutes to take some photographs as the early morning sun rises to illuminate seascapes, towns, churches and vignettes of early Sunday activities. Here are some of the photos.
The Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church (Our Lady of Patronage of Mary Parish Church), commonly known as Boljoon Church, has been declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines and a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. It is also under consideration for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Philippines as a member of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines . I am very glad that I stopped to take these photos; I hope to return soon for an in-depth discovery.
We arrive at a quarter before 7 at a little beach resort in Tan-awan, Oslob, Cebu. Mau, our guide, is very gracious. She speaks fluent English and Visayan, but struggles a little bit with Filipino (understandably so, because Visayans have a historical aversion to Tagalog). On a table prepared for us, we are served a local breakfast of glutinous rice and slices of a whole mango, with a choice of coffee or native tablea chocolate. Once ready, we move towards the briefing center which is already filled with tourists. I learn that whale watching activities begins at six in the morning.
These are the things I remember from the orientation:
1. The distance between you and the whale shark should not be less than 4 meters.
2. You should not wear any sun protection or lotion because it will contaminate the water. They will ask you to take a shower to remove any lotion. My advice is this: just take a brief shower whether to remove lotion and/or to acclimatise.
3. Life vests are mandatory.
4. Do not be scared if the whale shark swims toward you; just let them pass.
5. For those in boats, whale shark watching is limited to 30 minutes only.
6. Do not use your flash in taking pictures; whale sharks are sensitive to light. However, if you want your experience to be photographed or videoed, and you do not have an underwater camera, you can request the guides to take them for a fee. Our photos below have been taken by firstname.lastname@example.org.
With numerous boats bringing you to a comfortable distance from where the butandings are, you will quickly find yourself in open sea. Check these photos.
After a sumptuous lunch of spicy native chicken soup, grilled fish and pork belly at the beach resort, we head towards Tumalog Waterfalls. A steep incline down to the foot of the falls is navigable by motorcycle or by foot. A motorcycle ride to and from the falls costs Php 50.00. Since it is advisable that you pay them upon return, the drivers will teach you how to identify your ride once you’re done enjoying the falls – they have on their shirts numbers as huge as those of basketball jerseys. Mine is 63.
Once you are close to the area, Mother Nature will alert your senses. You will see lush bamboos and greenery framing the falls. You will hear the soothing sound of water dropping to its basin. You will feel the spray moisturizing your skin. Every single thing is wet (and so, waterproof your things).
The beauty of Tumalog Falls lies in its diaphanous curtain covering a very wide cliff. Tumalog is unique — water drops like rain on moss-covered stones. Tumalog Falls is a “horsetail waterfall” because its waters are closely in contact with the rocks; its waters do not plunge into its basin. Here are the pictures.
At the end of your trip, you can buy some fresh coconuts from vendors like this mother who also sells some softdrinks and Filipino merienda.
But never leave Cebu without trying out their lechon or spit-roasted whole pig. You can check Zubuchon, dubbed by world-renown chef, Gordon Ramsay, as the best in the world.