If you pick up a U.S. newspaper, the only headlines you’ll see about the Philippines are probably concerning their “unhinged” President, Duterte, and his death squads, and probably how unsafe it is also with the extremist Islamic problem, such as what exploded in the city of Marawi. But if you visit the country of 7,500 islands – or live there like I do – you’ll face a different reality; basically of that list, the Islamic extremist problem is the only one that will ever affect you.
It’s no joke. Everyone knows that the southernmost region of Mindanao is seriously dangerous for foreigners, with Islamic extremists kidnapping and beheading anyone not from the Philippines for decades.
So what’s the only thing that could get me to set foot on Mindanao soil? You guessed it, a girl.
I started dating a lovely woman from the Mindanao city of Cagayan de Oro, or CDO. Of course, not all cities or areas in Mindanao are dangerous, and when I asked if CDO was safe, she told me not to worry because she’d protect me. Not exactly encouraging security.
But I did fly in and found the city to be hospitable and friendly. And despite the fact that we had epic rains and flooding that made international news while I was there (that’s another story!), it was a great trip. And the highlight, by far, was the Dahilayan Adventure Park in the mountains outside the city.
It was no short trip to get there, as we rented a car and drove a couple of hours outside of the city and up winding mountain roads to get there. But it was a really scenic drive as the sea level thick jungle became alpine forests like something you’d find in Colorado.
We finally arrived at the adventure park, and it was definitely a small operation for a big acreage, quite the opposite of the crowded, commercialism, and overwhelming branding of Disneyland. We got a little primer on the price options and chose to start with their best attraction, the zip line. And it was epic!
In fact, the DahilayanAdventure Park has the longest zip line in all of Asia, and it was so cool. Starting from a platform on a vantage point 4,700 feet above sea level, you strap in Superman style face first facing an open valley. They actually gave me hand paddles that they told me to use as air brakes because I’d gain so much speed due to my heavyweight status (about 210 lbs.). And then, wooooshhhhhh off I go! It was insanely cool, and lasted about 840 meters through the treetops and up and down relative to the green grown and hilly scenery rushing by. I definitely came in hot and slowed down just enough not to break my neck with the help of my hand paddles. I even got the video to prove it because my girl friend went after me with the GoPro on.
Aside from that zipline, they also had a dual zipline where we go side by side (ahhh how romantic). While it wasn’t a fast-paced rip through the skies, it actually was set up more like a roller coaster following a track that wound around inside a forest with sharp turns, sudden dips, and other fun jostling.
They also had smaller zip lines for the kids and a bungee jump (pass!) and a huge slingshot-bungee hybrid (definitely pass!) that shot you over a lake.
In all, it was a fantastic excursion in a beautiful setting – and not overly expensive. I’ll remember it forever! But what’s her name again?