Go with the flow. Let go. Live on the edge.

 

These cliches took on a whole new meaning for me when I ventured into an unexpected journey to Mindanao during the Holy Week. In spite of the fear the recent kidnappings down South had initially evoked, I decided to join my brother and his friends to spend a few days of tranquility of body, mind and soul. Imagining myself on a paradise island with sandy white beaches, I immediately booked a red eye to Davao. Though they were going there to climb Mt. Apo, I had my own itinerary, to take the more familiar road of rest and relaxation in a less threatening environment. Comfort and safety first.

 

But this trip was to change my idea of fun. I was hoping for long quiet days in the sun, but ended up living out three days of being wild, on the edge, at the end of the rope. Literally, that is. It all happened so fast I barely had time to breathe.

 

Day 1: Go with the flow.

After arriving in Davao City early in the morning, we took a short rest and sampled a famous restaurant called Penang’s. Then my journey of adventure began as we headed for a wild river which was an hour and a half drive from the city. Our host said it’s called “the river tube”. It was only upon arriving that I understood why. The idea was to ride a rubber tube (“salbabida“) on raging waters, pretty much like river rafting without the raft. Each of us had a guide to make sure we get to the end of our joy ride alive and still kicking.

 

Sure it was fun, but there was an element of danger as well. Although the river was only knee-deep, you can hit rock or boulder, lose balance and somersault into the air (as one of my companions did), or simply drift away, losing your guide. I almost hit rock-bottom a couple of times, injured my hand, gulped water after being engulfed, but my guide told me to relax and just go with the flow. Forget instinct, drop your guard.

 

After more than an hour of turning and tossing in the wild river, I felt so breathlessly good I wanted to just go on, endlessly carefree, like the river.

 

 

 

Day 2: Let go.

 

 

 

Our host drove us for more than three hours to his own adventure park named Kiwa, located at Midsayap, North Cotabato. The long drive was an adventure in itself, passing by the town of Pikit, a war zone for Muslim secessionists and the military. During the trip, our host entertained and terrified us with historical anecdotes of the armed conflict in Pikit, as I listened with eyes wide open. By midday, we arrived at Kiwa adventure, a haven for extreme sports like rappelling, wall climbing and ‘ziplining’. Midsayap Cotabato Hotels

 

Wasting no time, they wore their climbing gear and harness, as if for battle, and prepared to climb the 15-foot “tower” by a hanging ladder, and rappel back down. Watching them dangerously climb one after the other, I thought there was no way I was going to climb the “tower”. So I tried the less scary rides like the mini-zipline and cable car for kids. But as the day wore on, and everybody (except me) had tried and survived all the physically challenging activities, I had this aching sense of shame for being such a chicken. How could I pass up on this challenge? What is it in the act of climbing, or in me, that makes me violently resist it?

 

For the first time in a long while, I came face to face with fear. They all urged me to try, shouting “Go Alvin!” Then out of nowhere, I heard the call of the wild within, and the next thing I knew I was making my first step up the ladder, and the next, and the next. I could hear them cheering me on. By the time I reached the top, I was too numb and exhausted to feel anything, including fear. Slowly I released the rope to pull me back down. And as I touched the earth, I felt born again.

 

 

 

Day 3: Live on the edge.

 

 

 

Unknown to me, the last leg of this trip was to be the most challenging. It was as if the whole thing was arranged in increasing degree of difficulty, like an obstacle course, a labyrinth of danger, and I was desperately looking for a way out. But as I discovered throughout this journey, there is no such thing as a way out.

 

After spending a night at a friend’s rest house with a spectacular view of Mt. Apo, we moved on and headed for Camp Sabros, owned by my host’s brother and named after the Sacdalan Brothers. Located at Digos, Davao del Sur, the scenic, pine tree-filled eight-hectare camp boasts of extremely terrifying but challenging thrills such as the 400m twin zipline, treetop rappelling and its latest and scariest adventure of all: the 800m zipline. There were cable lines everywhere, each hanging over deep and densely-forested ravines, and leading to God knows where.

 

There seems to be an invisible welcome sign that says, “Abandon all fears, all ye who enter here.” But since I was in a company of daredevils and in a place made for daredevils, I guess it’s perfectly alright to be a daredevil myself. So it was easy for my friends to convince me to try the twin zipline, knowing it’s supposed to be for two people. But no sooner did we land than we rode up the slopes for the ultimate 800m zipline. As I watched my friends courageously “zip up, up and away”, I was overcome with the old familiar relentless fear. Here was my defining moment. My ultimate battle, not with the fear of falling or even dying, but with Fear itself.

 

After the triumphs of the last two days, it would be anticlimactic to back out now. Like all mortals, I seek glory and not shame, freedom and not bondage, victory and not defeat. So there I was, the last man standing, on the edge, and a prayer and a second later I was soaring on invisible wings, defying death, gravity, but most of all fear, flying high above forests and trees, but most of all myself, into the unknown, and fabulously enjoying every moment of it.

 

source:Manila Bulletin – Sat, Jun 16, 2012 http://ph.news.yahoo.com/wild-days-084415000.html tags: Midsayap