Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Once Upon A Long Weekend

The Bonifacio Day (Nov.30) long weekend was even longer for us working in Pasay since Dec.2 is Pasay Day. Hence, we had a 4-day weekend this year, which a lot of us at the office took advantage of. From what I've heard, some went to Singapore, others to Boracay, while a bunch of us...13 to be exact...went to Davao for some fun and adventure.Ü

It was actually my first time in Davao and if you ask me to describe the 4-days stay that I had there i'd say: It was an adventure that brought me from under the sea to the top of the mountains...literally.Ü So without any more delays, let me share to you the activity-packed long weekend that my friends and I had at the Durian capital of the Philippines...DAVAO.

Day 1: Under the Sea

The whole group of 13 actually went to Davao in batches: Batch 1 was a group of 5 guys...Batch 2 was composed of two pretty girls...and Batch 3 was a mixture of 6 people. Now, guess what batch I belong to? Shempre Batch 2!Ü LOL! Anyway, Batch 2 caught the earliest flight on that Saturday morning which was PR809 (shermpre dapat PAL Ü) leaving at 4:30AM. The adventure...for me at least...began even while I was still in Manila, with Jovy (the other pretty girl Ü) arriving at the airport 30 minutes before departure! Good thing she told me about this habit of hers (of arriving just in the nick of time at the airport) so I was expecting her to be late already...but still, this didn't stop me from turning in my seat (while waiting) every now and then especially after seeing the people at the check-in counter dwindling down by the minute.

Alas! She arrived, and we checked-in. The person at the counter scolded us for being late and told us that we couldn't check-in our bags anymore. Good thing we just had a duffel bag each plus our hand-carry so this didn't cause much of a problem.

We arrived Davao around 6AM and proceeded to where the Batch 1 guys were staying: The Green Heights dormitory (i'm not sure how to call it but it was definitely not a hotel). Their rate was P1,100 per day and the room can fit up to 4 persons.

After settling down, all 7 of us went to the Davao Scuba Dive Center, where we all availed of the P8,500 Scuba Course. The Batch 1 guys already started with their scuba course the day before so us two girls were pressured to catch up (good thing we did Ü). We took a boat going to the BlueJaz Resort where Jovy and I were to take our first scuba class at the resort's pool with our Dive Master Frank, while the boys dove at the beach with Dive Master Caroline (they already did the pool thing the day before).

We all finished our first dive of the day at around lunch time, and after lunch, Jovy and I got to join the boys diving in Davao's open water...yoohoo! I would say that this second dive is something that Jovy will never forget given the amount of saltwater that she got to drink (Hehehe...Hi Ati!Ü). Nonetheless, I admire her for her perseverance given that this is her first time to dive...EVER...while I, on the other hand, already had two intro dives before.

After our dives, we headed back to the Scuba Dive Center where we had a brief lecture on diving. Jovy and I also got our Open Water Diver Manual which we were supposed to read entirely before we were to take the exam, which was scheduled on the following day. I thought to myself, this was going to be impossible given that we (Jovy and I) didn't actually excel in our practical exercises that day and there was just not enough time for us to read the entire manual before the exam.

After the lecture and heading back to the dorm for our bath, we took a taxi going to Jack's Ridge which is apparently a must-see place when you're in Davao. Going there was like a roller coaster ride with the taxi driver who drove us, so we were just happy to have arrived alive and in one piece.Ü After a bit of picture-taking and dinner, we headed back to the dorm since we had another activity-filled day waiting for us and we all needed our R&R.

Day 2: Still Under the Sea

Day 2 started with all 7 of us packing up our things and checking-out since we will be spending the next couple of days in a different dormitory-slash-hotel. We ate breakfast and bought our lunch at Jollibee. Since we will be taking the licensure exam this evening, we were all studying while waiting for our orders to arrive and even while we were eating our breakfast. It was like we were all back in college cramming for the final exams...a panicky-but-nostalgic feeling all at the same time.

Earlier on, Jovy and I actually talked and psyched ourselves that we might not be able to get our certification during this trip since we both had a hard time with the exercises at the pool...and we were to do those at the beach today! Needless to say, we were freaked out about it and the feeling of excitement to us was mixed with fear of the unknown. Luckily, we survived...and enjoyed...all three dives of the day at Limao, Samal, even if we didn't see much interesting sea creatures in the 40 feet maximum depth that we reached (though some of us saw a seahorse...I excluded *sad*...and a crown of thorn starfish...the bad kind of starfish).

As I said, we had three dives for the day, each lasting around 50 minutes, where we did some of our exercises (not the ones that Jovy and I were dreading Ü) and a lot of swimming under water...just simply taking in the vastness of the sea surrounding us. We finished just before the sun set and when we got to the Dive Center, we knew that we had to embark on another challenge: the licensure exam (wow, parang board exam!Ü). We had some lecture first...got a few pointers from our Dive Masters...took a few quizzes...then started on our exam. Caroline took care of checking our papers after each of us finished and to everyone's delight...WE ALL PASSED! Yippee!!! All we had to do next was fill-up the form certifying that we indeed passed and are Licensed Open Water Divers. We finished at past 11PM then took a cab going to D' Counter Executive Dormitory, which is near Davao's People's Park.

After deciding what room to take at D' Counter and finally checking-in (we took the De Luxe Rooms, which were in their newest wing, good for 3 persons at P1,350 each inclusive of 3 breakfasts...plus an extra bed since there were 7 of us), we finally got to eat dinner (yes, dinner!) at around 12MN at Taps, which was walking distance from D' Counter. We were all super smelly by then (to the point na nakakahiya na sa mga katabi namin) but hunger got the best of us (after 3 dives and an exam, who wouldn't?) so we decided to eat first before taking our much-needed bath (ang baho talaga namin, super!). An incident actually happened to us while we were there but I wouldn't want to elaborate on that since everything ended well anyway. Let's just say it involved one of us, a wallet, and two guys.

Day 3: Over Rocks & Water

Day 3 started with breakfast and all 7 of us heading to the Davao Crocodile Park, not really to see the crocodiles (but we did in the afternoon), but to start off with our rafting activity at the Davao Wildwater Adventure. We met up with the Batch 3 people there and as an entire group of 13, joined two other groups who were there for the white water rafting adventure as well.

Of course we were the last ones to arrive so after watching the video and getting our life vests and helmets, we rode the van going to the Davao River. The trip going to the river probably took around an hour and a half (we all didn't have a watch since we left all our valuables...cameras included...in the lockers provided for us at the park) and we had to stop by for a minute or two to pick up our lunch, which is included in the P2,000 that we paid per head (grabe, for all 13 of us kumita sila ng P26,000!). The package also includes a souvenir shirt for each person and 2 photo/video CDs per group of 6. All pictures and videos were taken care of by the guides and are included in the package seeing as our cameras would've gotten wet with all the river action we were to experience (unless you have a waterproof camera, which one of the other groups had, then you could bring that Ü).

When we got to our destination, we were given a briefing on how to properly wear the vest and helmet and on the do's and don't's in white water rafting. What stuck to my mind was that if you fall from the raft, these are the things to remember: (1) Don't Panic; (2) Don't Stand (since there are parts of the river that are shallow); and (3) Don't Swim (and just let the water bring you to wherever it takes you...and pray hard to God that you get out of your ordeal alive Ü).

After practice 'falling' off the raft and getting 'saved' by your buddy, we were all ready to start our white water rafting adventure at the Davao river. I took a mental note not to drink the river water if given a choice since the water looks...uhm...very uninviting to drink...not that i'm planning to do that anyway.

After getting through with the first half of the rapids, and having drifted in the river water [What is drifting? It's basically, getting out of the raft (with the guide's permission, of course) and letting your body flow with the river water. I tried this one out and it was fun, but I held on to the raft for dear life since I haven't gotten enough courage to let go of it.], we stopped by at the batuhan (Haha! It sounds better in Filipino) for our lunch of chicken, pork, veggies, and Mentos candies.

We resumed our rafting adventure after lunch where we encountered the most exciting rapid of all! All rafts actually had their little misadventures in this particular rapid except for us since...I dunno...we were better paddlers? HAHA! Anyway, the Batch 3 people actually had a nasty tumble during this particular rapid which left one of them dazed for a good minute or two. But after having saved her (we actually put her up for ransom for the other group to retrieve...hehe!) and recovering from the excitement of it, we continued on with the adventure, but no rapid came close to that exciting one we just hurdled.Ü

We had a brief stopover during the 2nd leg where we were able to take a leak (guess where? haha!) and have our jump shot pictures taken. When we finally reached the end of the river, we were told that there was a pool not too far away where we can swim for a bit (it was actually more of making babad rather than swim Ü), so we did and in just a few minutes there were 13 people wreaking havoc in the mini pool near the river.

We were all tired en route back to the park and it seemed like a long one (for me, at least) even if it's supposed to be shorter compared to the route going to the river. Anyway, we got to immediately see our pictures and videos from the guide's cameras and we all had a good laugh seeing our mini misadventures. We got our souvenir shirt and CDs after then decided to look around the park and see the crocodiles, parrots, and snakes there...all these we did while we were still wet from the rafting adventure we just had since they (the park) didn't have a decent bathroom where we can take our bath, change, and dry ourselves off (although we came ready with our toiletries and stuff).

On a personal note: The entire experience was not complete for me since we didn't even fall off our raft! I was hoping we would, but we didn't, so i'm coming back for more!Ü Probably not anymore in Davao but in Cagayan, where white water rafting is actually more popular.Ü

After a few minutes of sight-seeing & picture-taking at the zoo, we took our much-needed baths (but this time, we weren't as smelly as the previous day Ü) then met up with Batch 3 (they were staying at a different hotel) at Banoks for dinner, which was walking distance from where we were staying. After a hearty serving of Lechong Manok (I think that was what we ordered...and it was really very good Ü), we went to People's Park for some sight-seeing but since it started to rain, we all decided to take a cab and have coffee at Bluegre Coffee at Matina Town Square (i'm guessing this is their mini version of Libis).

When we got at Bluegre, Jovy and I decided to share orders since we both wanted to try their Choco Torte with Cream Sauce and this other dessert recommended by Angel who's been to Bluegre before (sorry, I couldn't remember the name of the dessert but I have its picture Ü). And since we're in the land of Durian, this coffee shop offers (drumroll please...) Durian Frappes! Cool, huh? But i'm not a Durian fan so I didn't order that, although one of us did and I got to try it...it tasted like Durian of course (well, what would you expect?Ü).

Thankfully, this was our last activity for Day 3, and after having our coffee and dessert, we all headed back to our respective hotels to rest and get ready for another full day ahead of us.

Day 4: Of Mountains & Rainy Weather

As with the previous days, Day 4 started with breakfast while waiting for the van that will take us to our destination for the day: Camp Sabros. We got to rent the van, that will fit all 13 of us plus the driver, for P2,500. We had to check-out already so that we wouldn't get charged for another day at D' Counter. Good thing they allowed us to leave our things (sans valuables, of course) at the lobby, so we did just that.

After picking-up Batch 3 at their hotel, we were finally en route to Camp Sabros located at Kapatagan, Digos City, which is approximately 2 hours from Davao's city proper. Since it was going to be a long ride, a lot of us tried to catch up with our Zzzz's, which we all badly needed. Our ride was actually uneventful up to the point where: (1) we got lost...(2) the van overheated...(3) then we got lost again. Apparently, the driver of the van hasn't been to Camp Sabros yet so he didn't know exactly how to get there. But we got there anyway, after a lot of asking around and after we actually missed and passed the point going to the camp...TWICE (the first was when we missed the turn coming from the highway...next was when we missed the point where we were to park the van and start our ascend to the camp).

Anyway, before that second miss, we had one more mini misadventure with the van overheating and all 13 of us staying by the road side for a few minutes while manong driver poured water over the van's engine. When the van finally started working again (after a good push by some of the boys), we had to travel the rest of the way without aircon. Good thing we were by the mountains by then (kinda like Baguio) so it wasn't much of an inconvenience coz the air outside kept us cool & sweat-free.

When we finally reached the PNP check-point (this is the farthest that any land transportation can go when going to Camp Sabros), our foot race going up the mountain began. No one was actually prepared to hike up the mountain at that point. A bunch of us were wearing flip-flops and I was actually wearing my favorite white sandals, which is so NOT for going up mountains. Add to that the fact that it was drizzling outside...but nothing could stop us from going to Camp Sabros, so we all started going up the mountain, without any idea of how long this climb would be (it turned out to be around 20 minutes).

After the 20-minute or so hike, I was just grateful to have reached the camp in one piece...with muddy slippers and all. From an Amazing-Race-point-of-view, I was the 10th person to arrive out of the 13...i'd take that any day...wag lang ma-eliminate...haha! Though I later on learned that this was a non-elimination round (ay, sineryoso? haha!)

We were all starving when we reached the camp (since it was already lunch time) so we immediately ordered food and had lunch after an eternity (ang tagal kasi dumating nung food!). Of course while waiting, we bought some souvenir shirts which we wore during our photo shoot around the camp (hayok kasi kami sa picture!). Had we known we would be waiting that long, we would've started with the zip line since the weather started to clear up during lunch time. But there's no use crying over spilled milk.

It was already past 2PM when we started with the zip line, which was a tandem zip (with a partner)...and at around that time it started to drizzle again. My partner at the zip was Jovy and we were screaming when we started the zip...stopped in the middle...then started screaming again when we were about to reach the end. I actually got scared towards the end because I didn't have any idea how these guys were going to stop us given our speed. I thought it was going to be an abrupt stop, which was unimaginable with the speed the zip was going. But it was wrong for me to underestimate these guys who's been running the place since 1994. The stop was definitely not abrupt, but nerve-wracking nonetheless. And being the scaredy-cat that I am, I closed my eyes for fear of what was about to happen when we stopped.

The next zip was a solo one, but we had to climb up a bit to reach the starting point for that second zip. Having now known what to expect, I was a bit braver than the first one, but still a bit scared. So, still armed with my digicam (I have both my zips documented in videos Ü), I solo zipped going back to the starting point just as it was starting to rain.

After we all finished that second zip, the rain started pouring in. We tried to wait for it to stop but it didin't so the camp refunded us back P100 each from the initial P300 that we paid since we didn't get to do that last zip which, I think, was supposed to be like an open air cable car ride (had we known lunch was going to take a while to get served, we would've started zipping earlier on). We still tried to wait for the rain to stop since we didn't want to go down the mountain with the rain pouring down on us but we were left with no choice but to face the rain head on seeing as we all had a flight to catch (and we were two hours away from the city proper). So with our things protected from the rain with plastic bags, and my head wrapped in one as well (I was trying to make a fashion statement, but failed Ü), we headed down for that 20-minute walk to the foot of the mountain.

Upon reaching the van in one piece and cleaning up our muddy feet, we started our way back to the city-proper. I was asleep throughout the first leg, which I learned was the scariest part of the trip since the road was like going to Baguio via Kennon Road. Good thing, I thought, since I didn't want to stress myself even more with worrying if we were going to get to our destination safe and sound or not.

When the 7 of us got dropped-off at D' Counter, the rain started pouring again so it took a while for us to hail a cab going to the Dive Center, where we were to get a copy of the videos of our dive, as well as give them a copy of our ID pictures (for the license Ü). Only three of us got to the Dive Center since the rest had a hard time hailing a cab and when they finally got one, decided to go straight to the airport since it was already getting late. The three of us at the Dive Center waited quite a bit for a cab to bring us to the airport but to no avail and it was already getting late and we had a flight to catch. Since it was already getting late, Maeng from the Dive Center, decided to bring us to the airport despite the distance and the flood (it was really raining very hard at Davao that night). Thank God for people like Maeng!Ü All 3 of us would've kissed him with delight when he offerred to bring us to the airport, but of course we didn't. We actually didn't know how to thank him since we have nothing to offer but our dirty clothes (we haven't been able to shop for pasalubong yet) so we just decided to thank him by sending food via LBC once we get to Manila.

We arrived at the airport just in the nick of time (told yah this was going to be an adventure 'til the very end Ü) but still with a bit of time to spare to freshen up (we hadn't had time to do that since we arrived at the city from camp) and buy pasalubong at the airport (Jovy and I finally got to buy suha at the airport at P650/crate with approximately 14 pcs. or 9 kilos of suha). Needless to say, we were the last passengers to check-in and we actually had a bit of chit-chat with those at the check-in counter when they learned that all of us were actually PAL employees (if you're wondering where the Batch 3 people are, they caught the earlier flight...the 7 of us were at the last flight, PR22). That last flight was at 9:40PM and we haven't had dinner yet so imagine our hunger when we got to the plane. We survived though, with the barquillos bought at the airport's pasalubong shop and the japanese cookies (those were yummy!) served at the plane.

We arrived Manila at past 11PM that night. We all went straight home since we all had to go to work the next day. Talagang sinulit namin ang 4-days sa Davao (the Batch 1 boys were there for 5 days), with the trip starting early in the morning in Day 1 and ending super late in the evening of Day 4. And talaga nga namang araw-araw kaming umuuwi ng basa: Days 1 and 2 with salt water...Day 3 with river water...and Day 4 with tubig ulan. We thought we'd be dry that last day but no, we still got wet...kasi yun ang trend.Ü Hehe!

So that's the end of the 4-day Davao trip I had with friends over the long weekend. Will I be doing this type of from-under-water-to-the-top-of-the-mountains adventure again anytime soon? Hopefully YES! And with the same group of people that I was with coz they're just super fun to be with!Ü


Post Script: The Divers...especially Jovy and I...were still having dizzy bouts even 4 days after that last dive of ours. I'm guessing this is just normal since it eventually stopped. Oh, and we were also a bit bingi after...but that too went back to normal after a few days.Ü

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