Sunday, September 26, 2021

Adventures in Samar - Caving, Canyoning, and Sightseeing

Sep 2021, Samar Island, Philippines

We actually made 3 short visits to Catbalogan, the capital of Samar Island, Philippines in September 2021. The initial reason was to go caving with Joni Bonifacio of Trexplorers. Dave loves caves, and Joni is THE caving expert in the Philippines. I am not a big fan of caves unless it is a big lighted cave with handrails and a nice walkway (ie Luray Caverns in the USA). So, with the cat off to the vet for emergency surgery, I took advantage of the situation and stayed onboard to "wait for the cat". Dave went caving with our friend Paul from s/v Ttaack, and Paul's girlfriend.

Joni Bonifacio's Trexplorer Shop

They had a blast--hiking to 2 different caves and then exploring each cave. But it was a strenuous day, and Dave's shoes were not up to the slippery cave floors. He came home with a fairly significant gash in his forehead from a slip and fall. Joni arranged everything, including motorcycle transportation to the starting point, porters to carry gear and food, and proper helmets and good headlamps. Joni carries an iPhone in a waterproof box and takes prolific pictures. At the end of each adventure, he put together a short video about the adventure. There are a few pics here you can scroll through (and click on each picture for a bigger version if you want), but if you're into video, here's the Youtube link for Dave and Paul's Trexplorer caving adventure:

Transport to the Start of the Hike

Kids in the Village Where the Hike Started

Hiking in to the First Cave

The Entrance to the Lobo Cave Complex

All Properly Kitted for Our First Cave

Some Serious Cave Exploration!

Cave Pearls!

So we hiked in to the first cave, then came out, had lunch and hiked to the second cave.

A well-deserved lunch before our next hike!

And Onward and Upward to the Second Cave

This Cave Is Even Bigger!

At least it's bigger in some places!

Whew! Finally done and resting before hiking out!

This was really an exhausting trip--way more strenuous than they had imagined. (I was really glad I had opted out for this one).

On a second visit to Catbalogan, Dave and I went "Canyoning" with Joni. We only had a vague idea of what this was, but it sounded like fun--rappelling down into a river canyon and walking down the river. What it actually turned out to be was a series of 7 waterfalls as the river descends into the valley, and we rappelled down some of them and jumped down others. And waded and swam down to the next one. It was a fun trip--a little physically challenging, but not too bad. Besides the actual rappelling, there was a 2 hour hike up along the river bank to the top of the canyon. (This part Joni never mentioned in his description of "canyoning").

Starting Our Hike With the Porters Who Carried all the Gear

Getting Kitted Out with all the Gear

We Practice Rappeling On a Tree

Our First Rappel Looks Pretty Scary!

Dave Sez "Ladies First!"

Joni Requires a Thumbs Up (Dave not so sure!)

We Made It! Only 6 More to Go...

In Some Places There Was a Lot of Rock-Scrambling

More Rappelling--This One With a Jump at the End

And Jump!

In Other Places We Did Some Serious Swimming

Joni Had Packed in a Nice Lunch for Us!

We did a total of 7 descents, and a lot of rock scrambling and/or swimming in between each one. Lots of fun, but we were glad to finally reach the bottom. I kept wondering... what if there's a heavy rainfall? But I'm sure Joni had that figured out. We felth very safe with him. He has led a number of international caving, mountain biking, and canyoning expeditions. And his gear was top notch.

If you want to see a play-by-play of our canyoning trip with more detail, Joni made a 30 minute Youtube of our day of canyoning adventure.

On another day, our new friend Gary invited us to go hiking over on Daram Island nearby (SW of Buri). We went in his speedboat. On arriving in the little town at the base of the hill, we asked for a guide to show us the way. We ended up with 4 nice young men.

Gary's Speedboat

The Town at the Base of the Hill

Narrow Streets Along the Waterfront

Someone's "Car" Parked by their House

We Go Searching for a Guide

Our Guides

It was a nice day, but hot up on the hill with no trees. Great views, though!

The Long Hot Hike Up the Hill

Friendly Fellow

At the Top we Find a Big Monument

And a GREAT View

We loved hanging out at Buri Beach and Catbalogan Town. Sorry we didn't have more time to hang there. For those of you who want to know where it is... here's a Google Maps Link

Next... some of our "inland adventures" touring around Samar and Tacloban.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Day Trip to MacArthur Memorial National Park in Tacloban

Another thing Dave wanted to do while we were in the Catbalogan area was bus to Tacloban to see the MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park.

Short history lesson: In brief, at the start of World War II, General Douglas MacArthur was in command of all US troops in the Philippines. When the Japanese attacked Manila a day or so after Pearl Harbor, it quickly became obvious that the Japanese were way more prepared than the Americans were. As the defense of the PHilippines turned into a seige, President Truman ordered General MacArthur to leave the Philippines ASAP, rather than risk capture by the Japanese. In the stealth of night, MacArthur escaped in a PT boat, eventually making his way to Australia, where he assumed command of Allied forces in the Western Pacific. When he arrived in Australia, he made his famous "I Shall Return" speech.
One of the PT boats that escorted MacArthur out of the Philippines

And after 3 years of bitter fighting, taking back the western Pacific island by island, he did return to the Philippines. This park commemorates that historic day when we did return to help liberate the Philippines.
At the Park

Though MacArthur acted like the return to the Philippines was all his doing, he had a LOT of help, and not just from Americans.
Commemorating some of the "Helpers"

Statues depicting MacArthur and Staff Wading Ashore

Other than the statues and the placques, there wasn't much to see. The "Museum" was closed.

The other place Dave wanted to visit was a hotel where MacArthur stayed, and which has a little historical gallery.
Hotel Alejandro