A Leaping-Hog Day Canyoneering from Alegria to Badian | Cebu

How LSS-ing on a Van Halen song helped me ‘Go ahead and jump’

Whenever I hear the word "canyoneering," I immediately think of the gorges of the Colorado Plateau in the United States, recalling the glossy National Geographic pages I read as a kid. Imagine my surprise when word spread from Southern Cebu about a similar activity stretching from the waterfalls of Kanlaob, Alegria to the Kawasan Falls in Matutinao, Badian.

Marky Ramone Go

Both towns are in Southern Cebu, about three hours from Cebu City. This region of the province is brimming with potential destinations for thrill seekers and nature lovers. When I met my friends Josiah, Lisa Marie, and Dane at Moalboal the day before, my thoughts were on the adventure that lay ahead of us. A big part of what made me excited for our canyoneering adventure was picturing myself leaping from a 23-foot cliff into the flowing waters.

Trying to summon courage from my lone cliff jump experience, a 10-foot cliff dive at the Cambugahay waterfalls on Siquijor Island, I took note of the fact that the obstacle that awaits me is twice as high. Excitement and quiver took control of me. David Lee Roth's vocals "Go ahead and jump (jump)" suddenly keep ringing in my head. Recognizing that a full day stood between me and that moment, I spent the rest of the afternoon simply admiring the spectacular sunset as seen from Lambug beach. We started early the next day to avoid the crowds at the canyon trail. We arrived at the jump-off point, which is literally defined as having to 'jump' from the aforementioned 20-23 foot cliff to begin canyoneering.

There will be no opportunity to build momentum or experience an adrenaline rush. It's either you're in or you're backing out. And there's no way I'd put on all this gear, including a helmet and a life vest, just to bail. There was a small group ahead of us, and I saw them each kill for a few minutes before jumping - with one girl taking almost forever. Understandably, when I saw Dane take the first jump, I assumed it would be a piece of cake. However, when I planted my feet at the edge of the rock, looking intently at the guide's direction on where I was supposed to drop, I felt a pang of hesitation. Fearing that I would create a bottleneck of queueing jumpers, I took a step back, composed myself, and stepped one foot forward again, deciding to go for it. At the time, Van Halen's David Lee Roth should have been proud of me.

My jump probably lasted a second at most, but it felt much longer because as I felt my body rapidly descending, I was able to adjust my arms by putting them over my shoulders in an embrace position to cushion my impact. My body slammed into the water with tremendous force, thanks to the laws of physics and my 170-pound frame. I was immediately swallowed a few feet beneath. I noticed bubbles forming everywhere, and a surreal moment occurred as if Brian Eno's 'Deep Blue Day' was playing as a soundtrack for the few seconds I struggled to float. I let go of both my hands and feet and floated down the river to a safe spot where I clung to a protruding rock. I absorbed the high sensation generated by my jump by rubbing my eyes and wiping my nose. "That was fun," I thought to myself, wondering if I should climb over again. Before I could carry out my plan, one of our guides from Kawasan Canyoneering Company informed me that "may isa pa kasing taas nyan at tatlong optional" (there is another one as high as that and three more optional jumps).

At that point, I was certain I would complete all of the jumps, including the three optional cliff dives our guide had mentioned. Lisa Marie's high-pitched shriek announces her own leap. She landed with a thud, causing a large squelch of water before floating away with a big smile on her face. Josiah was the last of our band members to jump, holding a selfie stick with his GoPro camera; he let out a long "Wheee" until he entered the water. We were ecstatic as we high-fived each other.

We spent a couple of hours after our first jump navigating canyons and admiring the stunning rock formations that were shielded from the full glare of the sun by towering trees of a lush forest. In between, we floated along the flowing river's crystal clear green waters, which led us to pockets of lagoons and inside small pool caves.

There are sections where you can either slide over a smooth rock into a pool of water or make shorter hops. The river has a variety of trail characteristics that add to the excitement of the 4-5 hour canyoneering experience. My favorite part was floating on my back with arms and legs outstretched, staring at the blue sky above, shadowed below by jagged rock edges and bended forest trees. Just looking at the circling images while drifting freely in round motion gave me a sense of newfound freedom.

The landscape becomes more fascinating when we begin to see moss-covered stalactites dangling from the upper canyon walls, where drippings of water create a shower-like appearance. One of our guides instructed us to feel the warm water emitted by the wall. I touched the water, ran my palm over the drippings, and even drank from it; as clear as the cold waters of the flowing stream, it not only quenched my thirst but also delighted my already daring soul.

Our guides signaled us to climb a huge mound of rock already crowded with other canoers and, surprisingly, a group of barbecue sellers. I asked one of the barbecue hawkers how they got to that location in the middle of nowhere. A lady vendor pointed to a rope that they use to ascend to a trail that leads to the forest and a nearby community. While savoring our relaxed pace exploration of the gorges running from Alegria to Badian, I hear our guide telling us  "This is the second jump".

Sophie Gianan

We took advantage of this rest stop to rehydrate with bottled water and a few sticks of grilled hotdogs while watching the others leap. The height is nearly identical to our first jump, but into a smaller pool. Again, I used the same strategy of mentally marking my landing spot first, taking a step back to take a deep breath, and then stepping forward without hesitation to make my jump. I hear that deafening splash again in a split second! The sensation of being underwater again followed. Reliving the incredible high I felt after my first jump, I let out a mellow yell. 

After that, the trail gradually changes to a different backdrop as we begin to walk over land and into small pockets of streams before leading to a larger lagoon where a soaring 40-foot tree is firmly rooted by the base of the large natural pool - to which our guide pointed as the 'first optional jump.' I considered climbing the tree to jump, but decided against it due to exhaustion. I just saw a group of local kids and a few foreigners climb one of the thick tree branches before diving into the water with sinister screams.

The next optional jump was only a few minutes away, and it is the second highest on the canyoneering trail. We had all agreed that we had enough waterfall jumping experience, so we passed up this leaping opportunity once more. A Caucasian man was on the verge of hurdling himself when we arrived to visually check how high it is. He sighed a few words and made the sign of the cross before throwing himself. When I saw a roaring splash below me and saw him emerge with a wide grin, any remaining courage in me to jump vanished instantly. "That was bloody high," I think to myself, my English accent thick.

Swimming at Kawasan Falls

Of course, the highest point was the 40-meter-high Kawasan Falls. While filming from a nearby vantage point, we noticed our guide Bonny drop his pack and position himself unflappably at the edge of the waterfall's mouth. "Watch," he says calmly, as if he's done this dozens of times before. He surveyed the water beneath him while performing a standing backflip motion. A few seconds later, he dazzled us with a somersault in the air and a perfect ten dive entry into the waters below, eliciting thunderous applause and amazement from the people below. We capped our own canyoneering experience by dipping and swimming in the sparkling green waters after emerging at the base of Kawasan Falls with tired bodies but euphoric spirits. A back massage provided by the heavy flowing waters of Kawasan became the icing on the cake for a fantastic day filled with thrills. We also left with a renewed appreciation for the magnificence set of nature that exists in this part of Cebu province.

How to Get Here: Book a Cebu Pacific flight to Cebu City - then take a bus heading to Badian / Kawasan / Samboan at the Southern Bus terminal and get off at Kawasan Resort which is along the highway.

All photos from Josiah Sicad of Lakas ng Trip