[PHOTO AT LEFT - The exhilarating skyride in Danao]

MANILA, AUGUST 18, 2009 (PHILIPPINE STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit - To each man, his own madness,” my late dad Vincent “Ting” Dayrit would often say.

Being my father’s daughter, I embrace this philosophy but always with great caution and weighing the risks. Growing up, I often had to convince Dad whenever I wanted to do a certain thing like study or work abroad, pursue my fields of interest or engage in what he considered a perilous activity like scuba diving, parasailing and the like. Most of the time, I would eventually gain his permission but admittedly, it was the exercise of preparing arguments and rebuttals to defend and win my case before Dad that made me appreciate each activity to the hilt.

Today, I understand that any extreme challenge has two faces; one may be confronted spontaneously without warning while the other may be anticipated and thus prepared for. My new penchant for seemingly daredevil, adrenalin-pumping activities is born of my desire to elevate my wanderlust to more pulsating, life-changing levels. From the exhilarating zip-line rides in Albay to wakeboarding in CamSur, from the helicopter ride to take photos above steaming Mayon Volcano, to parasailing 150 feet above the cerulean waters of Boracay.

Now here comes the country’s newest and most exciting extreme-adventure park called E.A.T. in Danao, Bohol. In fact, our very own Tourism Secretary Ace Durano recently inaugurated the park and tried the thrill-seeking Canyon Plunge and invited me to experience this “ride of your life” myself. Very timely, Cebu Pacific, my preferred carrier because of its beautiful airport in NAIA Terminal 3 in Pasay City, with its great service, inexpensive airfare plus countless promotions, launched its “Wandering Juan” project allowing Pinoys to explore the country and savor the many new travel jewels like the E.A.T. Danao Adventure Park.

Danao, once a sleepy fourth-class municipality, has recently earned a reputation as the country’s extreme adventure capital, as it launched its latest attractions — cable car or “sky rides,” the country’s longest 450-meter zip-line or suislide, rappelling, kayaking across the winding Wahig Ihabangan river, cave spelunking and the Canyon Swing or “The Plunge” patterned after the death-defying ride in New Zealand. The adventure park is located at Brgy. Magtangtang, 72 kilometers (just a two-hour ride away) from the City of Tagbilaran. For very affordable accommodation for visitors, there is the Danao Eco-Lodge within the vicinity of the park.

E.A.T. Danao is the town’s newest brainchild, as spearheaded by its self-effacing Mayor Tom Gonzaga. Tom is so low-key he barely puts his name on the projects he enacts in his town. Instead of his own name blaring from billboards and signs in his town, the phrase “A Project of the LGU” is all visitors will see, proof that Tom gives the credit of the success of Danao back to the many people whose hard work and dedication to the local government unit is worthy of emulation.

Danao offers unique and exhilarating activities in different categories set amidst verdant valleys framed by the majestic expanse of mountain ranges. To trim down the choices for the individual tourist, specific activities were grouped into three: “E” for Extreme, Economic and Educational trips; “A” for Adventure; and “T” for Tours. Other activities there include river tubing, village and historical tours, camping, boulder climbing, organic farm visitation and root climbing.

During the two-hour drive from Tagbilaran to take the Canyon Plunge in Danao, nervousness accompanied the thrill of the inevitable. Being chauffeured by gracious, outdoor sports enthusiast Mayor Tom himself, with my best friend and two-time CMMA awardee Bum Tenorio and gorgeous friend Mel Martinez, the scenic drive seemed endless. Perhaps knowing this locale was the site of the country’s longest revolt of Francisco Dagohoy, I must have commiserated with history. We learned from Mayor Tom that the Dagohoy revolt from 1744 to 1829 stemmed from the saga of his brother Constable Dagohoy who was requested by the Jesuit Gaspar Morales, in charge of the Inabangan district, to bring back a renegade indio who had fled to the mountains. The renegade killed Constable Dagohoy instead, thus Francisco requested a Christian burial. Father Morales did not allow the deceased brother to be buried on consecrated grounds because he had been killed in a fight. For three days, the corpse remained unburied. Angered by this harsh treatment, Dagohoy swore vengeance and organized Boholanos to join him in the longest revolt in the country against the Spaniards.

Mayor Tom pointed to our group the mountain where the Filipino hero Dagohoy built his fortress during the revolt. That fortress was just near the launching pad of The Plunge and I felt all the more compelled to embark on the stunt. I remarked, “Whatever happens, guys, the leap may be insignificant today, but part of history tomorrow!”

Realizing that too much reflection can kill spontaneity, I became more resolute about mustering my courage. Gracious Makati councilor Armand Padilla, who led our group, advised us to practice fear management as we faced each adventure. I agreed, saying the only fear is the one created in the mind. As I gathered my strength to take The Plunge, Bum attempted to convince us not to do it and vise versa. He even texted my three sisters Jaqui, Michelle, Yvonne and only brother Mark to dissuade me from doing the death-defying stunt. Unfortunately for him I had already secured their nod of approval because I assured them of its safety. Mayor Tom said the plunge and suislide are both capable of carrying five tons working load and a maximum of 200 and 50 persons a day respectively while the sky ride can accommodate eight tons of working load and can carry 190 passengers a day.

The irony of all this unfolded when we all took the 450-meter zip-line suislide where we lay facedown and slid securely across the 300-meter-high gorge. We incessantly screamed “Darna!” After Bum’s turn on the zip-line, he announced that he, too, would do the Canyon Plunge as long as it was captured on video for evidence. Our videographer, Monet Lustre, gamely and bravely rappelled down the cliff for the best angles. The men at the Canyon Plunge hurriedly strapped the giggling Bum into his harness before he could change his mind.

When my turn came, I whispered, “It’s just my God and me!” Everyone shouted “Bombs away!” and like a free-falling pendulum, I swung freely, a thousand feet above the picturesque gorge. Hearing your own breath and pounding heartbeat from such an altitude amidst such an expanse is a surreal and peaceful adventure. For about 10 minutes, swaying above the lush Danao vegetation and the inviting Wahig river, my eyes combed the scenery replete with breathtaking beauty. It was an opportune time for a very serene and private conversation with God. Suspended in disbelief for a few seconds across the canyon, I thanked Him for all the countless blessings, for keeping my loved ones happy and healthy. As they handed us the cable to pull us up from the ravine, we even flashed the “L” sign in remembrance of our dear Tita Cory, a salute to valor and courage. Shortly after the plunge, Bum posted our experience on Facebook. Many thanks to Makati councilor Jojo Javier and gracious wife Babylet who took our photos and provided us with M&M chocolates for our glucose fix before and after the plunge.

Looking back, it was an awesome encounter between man and nature, feeling secure in God’s omnipotent presence. A leap of faith, literally. In the face of extreme challenge, you ponder why we pursue such hurdles, then suddenly all fears melt away and peace pulls you through. Truly a geography of blissful moments worth savoring for a lifetime.

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For more information, please call PACER Travel at 521-8884. You may also call Danao municipal tourism officer Ana Loinda Saluan at 0917-3021701. Cebu Pacific Air has launched its Wandering Juan Travel Journal Photo Contest online to showcase their flair for travel, but with a twist. Each entry must include a pair of tsinelas — something all Pinoy travelers never leave home without — to represent the adventurous wandering Juan attitude. For contest details and prizes, please log on to www.wanderingjuan.com.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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