Travel By Heart: Samal Island, Davao – Part 02

I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. As I open my tent all you can see was the vast ocean with a few fishing boats darting the horizon. It felt like I was at the edge of the world and that this is the final frontier for me… but obviously not yet, it just felt like that.

Yesterday was a bit disappointing because I felt like, I just went round and round without really getting anywhere. So I’m hell-bent to find something interesting today. I went back to the front desk as I was about to check out and asked them if they know of a place that is worth visiting. They told me that there is a protected beach almost on the other side of this island which is home to a fish sanctuary and there is a good spot where I can do cliff jumps, the last part made me smile. This would surely make up from yesterday’s disappointment.

After packing I immediately left the place eager to find this beach, I asked around for directions as the GPS is still very unreliable. The terrain that I’m riding eerily looked the same as yesterday, I felt like I’m getting lost again. Then I saw a habal-habal driver and asked him if I was indeed going to right direction, he said “Yes’. But it felt like I’m going deeper into a jungle than a beach. The roads were getting worse and worse, to be honest it was barely a road and the weird thing is I’m going up instead of down… this made my confidence less and less.

Then all of a sudden I saw two men sitting on a bench with vehicles parked in front of them appeared as I rode up a rocky road. I told myself this must be it, low and behold. A makeshift sign that say’s Canibad Beach then a couple of meters after that, a better sign appeared. I parked my motorcycle a few feet from the better-looking sign and asked the two men if it would be ok to leave my motorcycle here, they nodded and said: “It will be safe there”.

Then without taking anything from my motorcycle, I went past the sign to look and check as to how do I exactly get to the beach. I looked down and saw a flight of concrete stairs, all I can mutter was “this is going to be tough”. I started unpacking my bags, up to this point I still haven’t seen the beach and I’m still not sure as to what is really in store for me.

With two bags one of the left and one on my right shoulder I started to descend the stairs. As I go lower and lower I started to see a semblance of a resort with its hut and tables, then finally… at long last… the beach. There were a few people there, but none of them seem to be renting the huts. So I walked into one of them and placed my bag so my shoulders could rest. The ordeal of getting here, carrying the bags and going down the flight of stairs left me hungry, thirsty and tired to the point that I completely missed that there is actually a store beside me with food, drinks, and refreshments. Then the lady called my attention and asked if I was alone, I said: “I was.” Then I asked her how much would it cost for me to rest on one of the huts, she said “It’s ok, you’re alone you don’t have to pay. If someone else comes just transfer to the other hut”. I was glad to hear this as my budget is becoming tighter and tighter.

I went over to the store to have a conversation with her and also to get something to eat and drink. Not many people here speak fluent Tagalog, but she was one of the exceptions. I told her the usual stuff, where I was from, what I’m doing there and I get the same reaction as always… that is they think I’m kind of crazy. After getting refreshed, I was eager to check out the beach since that was what I was here for. But I couldn’t just leave my gear at the hut, so I asked her if it was ok to leave at her store. I told her it won’t be long I just want to check out the beach. She smiled and said, “Just place it here and I will look after it.” I was so glad to hear that because now I was free to roam around without thinking about the safety of my bags.

I only took a few things with me, 1 GoPro, 1 DSLR a Gorillapod, my keys wallet and phone. I left my armored jacket and walked around still with full gear on, and I felt deeply out of place. Although there were just a few people around all of them are wearing very casual clothes. I realized quickly that this is not the best way to experience this, I haven’t even gone far from the store then I decided to go back. The lady owner had this confused look on her face as I walk back to her store, then she asked: “Why?”. I told her that I need to change into something more comfortable, inside the bag that I left her are my spare casual clothes… not exactly beach attire but I think it would do.

After changing I eagerly went back to the beach, ahhh…. I told myself. This is more like it, flip-flops, shorts, and a cotton shirt. When day in and day out you’re wearing the same motorcycle gear with all the armor and padding, it’s a relief to change into these set of clothes. As I walk around one group caught my eye, they were loud, a bit rowdy and young. It’s hard not to notice them as from a far you can see them soaring through the air and crashing into the water… I think I have found the cliff jump spot. I watched them for a couple of minutes just to see how the do it, what path they take to get there and lastly what spot they land on.

When I finally found the path that they are taking, I decided this is now or never. If I start climbing and I reach the top the only option for me to go down is by jumping into the sea. As I ascended to the jump spot I realised it look fucking scarier from the top than watching it from the bottom. There were a couple kids and teenagers up there with me, I watched them jump first to see where they take off. One of the bravest among them even climbed higher, got to branch of tree that was protruding and stood there looking for his landing spot, once finding it he launched himself even higher than the branch. It was fucking amazing to watch… it felt like a good 3 seconds before he hit the water.

Now my turn? Well not yet, there was this one kid who was hesitating again and again. He kept on looking for a lower spot to jump in… I looked for one as well. To be totally honest, I don’t do well with heights. Then a teen came from behind me telling him to jump in their dialect. He hesitated again and said “You go first then I will follow.” then the teen said “Just go!” after looking for a landing spot the brave kid jumped. Then the teen looked at me and asked “where are you from?” I just said “Manila” and then he replied “ahh… ok.” then jumped without hesitation. Then I was left there alone with my GoPro… No one to urge me to jump and no one to hold me back… Fuck. I gathered all my courage turned on my action cam, inhaled and just jumped. I swear if someone saw me jump I was probably the most scared looking person to jump off that cliff.

Landing in the water was good, it was deep enough that you don’t even touch the bottom even at that height. As I surface again I felt relieved, I haven’t done something like that my whole life. It was an experience that I totally did not expect doing this trip. If someone told me that once I do this tour I will end up in the edge of an island south of the Philippines doing cliff jumps with teens, I would not believe you.

Because of the exhilarating feeling of the jump I decided to do it again. But this time with much more confidence and hopefully a better angle with the GoPro. So I climbed up and jumped again. This time because I was not too caught up with the tense feeling, I was able to appreciate the view from the top. It was beautiful, it’s all clean ocean as far as your eyes can see, then of course. It’s go time… I jumped and this time it felt way better.

After taking a few more videos of the sea life I went to the shore, I was surprised to see the group sitting there waiting for me. Then they started asking me a lot of questions in their best Tagalog. Some even asked it in English just because they were having a hard time expressing themselves. But out of all the questions they asked this one young lady stood out. When I asked them why are you asking me all these questions? She said “Were young and filled with curiosity.” I found her reply extremely smart. So before we part ways I asked if I can take a photo of her… up to this day I still remember the exact moment that she said that.

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