Rock Climbing at Cantabaco in Lutopan-Toledo Cebu Philippines

Cantabaco, is a quiet little barangay in Toledo City, Cebu, Philippines. From my research and from what foreign visitors say, it is said to be one of the best limestone crags in Southeast Asia (and perhpas in the Philippines too!). This place is about 2.5 hours from Cebu City and from what I researched, has a bolted limestone wall, with 5.6 to 5.14 difficulty in terms of the walls, has an option for doing some rappelling, a visit to a nearby freshwater river, and also I've heard of some caving but for now I'll be sharing to you just rappelling and climbing.

Getting there and back:
For this trip, we had the help of a local who happens to be a friend and colleague at work in guiding us to the place. So the options I'll be sharing may not be a complete guide:
-Option1: Take a bus at the South Bus Terminal. Buses bound for Toledo City, Balamban, or Aloguinsan are the ones to board. Pay your fare of about Php80.00 (which is subject to change without further notice or as you read this) and tell the conductor that you are going to Lutopan. It is the only major intersection on the right side of the road and you would know by the sign and the number of habal-habal drivers there.
-From Lutopan, take a five-minute ride to Cantabaco and you can just ask the locals where the crag is.
-Cebu-bound V-hires are usually occupied already when they pass Silangan road, so it’s best to take a habal-habal to Lutopan terminal to catch a ride back to the city especially if you’re traveling as a group. The last V-hire trip back to Cebu City is around 7:00PM normally.
-Option2: V-hires at the Cebu City Link Terminal are available but are more expensive compared to the bus and goes for another route (comfort + aircon). These vehicles pass through Manipis access road, and this should take you straight to Cantabaco.
-Option3: A private vehicle which may be more comfortable (if your not a commuter type), especially if you’re bringing plenty of climbing gears or tents and other stuff like food and all.

This should be what you see from the Road
Right after that is this stream that you need to cross
You'll see this sign and should prepare for the entrance fee of Php5.00!
You'll have to do some trekking to get there
Ohh and you'll see this uphill stairway to heaven, which is a good warm up by the way. :)
Don't let my blow-by-blow narration fool you, this whole getting there process will just take you about 10-15minutes :)

 After settling and taking in the views, we decided to take on the first challenge which was rappelling 30 meters above the crag. At first it sounded cool but we had to do some trekking and upon seeing the view and height, it does make you think twice or ten times!

Trekking around moss, algae, rocks and plant life

Have a break, have a selfie

Practice climbs + Trekking
Groupie at the top of the crag right before rappelling down

It's my turn and have a pic with the view. Photo by: Jessa Sepe
and down I go! Photo by: Jessa Sepe
a very buwis buhay selfie, one hand on go pole, one hand holding down my weight
That was a not so good idea, which left me with limited time to reconfigure my go pro and had to get my hands in proper position for rappelling

The rappelling was an awesome first time experience for me, one of the guides even told me they've had some foreigners rappel the crag facing down. Are you kidding me?! Being a first for me, the trekking already gave my legs another set of warm-up which didn't help the shaking when rappelling down. Going here is one hell of a workout, and we haven't done any exhausting rock climbing activity yet.

Eat and recover your energy

Power nap

Group Chillin
After each of us have successfully conquered this first challenge of sorts, we decided to take a break, ate our lunch and chilled for a bit while also waiting for our guides to gather up their gear before heading to the much awaited Rock Climb down the crag cause this area was the most difficult part which I'll show you below.

Look at that flat wall, only pros rule this section of the crag!

Why go rock climbing?
Rock climbing in the Philippines, is almost an unknown sport. Well people from the city will most probably know of wall climbing but when you mention rock climbing, you'll probably get some blank stares Kroo.Kroo..Krooo.

#Shoefie + Final Contemplation
We are very fortunate indeed to have this right at our backyards within the Island of Cebu. It's really ironic that the best, whitest, cleanest, unspoiled limestone cliffs in Cebu has to be recognized by foreigners first before we can appreciate it for ourselves. Cantabaco’s limestone wall is a known in the international climbing scene, so there’s a regular stream of foreign visitors in the place. Why not go there and try it for yourself and help in promoting and maintaining the place?

It's the Climb ~ LSS
The Fall
When seeing foreigners do their climb (both men and women), it's very obvious that these Rock climbers have really great bodies. Climbing is a full-body sport afterall. It engages every ligament and muscle in your body. From the tip of your toes until the very last joints of your fingers, which I learned the hard way! But despite failing (not reaching the top) in 2 routes, I'd definitely give this a try on top of my trail running. I'd say it's money well spent compared to going to the gym and lifting weights here and there. But before I go back, I'll have to train myself first.

Photo by: Jessa Sepe with Jessa Climbing :P
Sheila was the first to draw first blood with the crag in our group
And the rest followed!

Lessons Learned:
Lots of learned lessons here the hard way, so please bare with me a little more:
-There is only a few of local climbers in the area who have minimal climbing equipment, it is advisable that you bring your own stuff if you plan to stay for days. If you're already a climber of course. But these guys can be easily found since locals know them already.
-First time climbers (like me), your guide should be able to lend you necessary equipment such as a rope, rock shoes, harness, carabiners and other equipment. You may have to take turns with other climbers or with the group you are with.
-Local guides do not charge a fixed fee for their services. It’s up to you to give them a very generous tip for their services. We paid about Php300.00 or so for rental + services and a little group tip doesn't hurt as well!
-So you'd think we just came and went a way with wonderful experiences, well mostly. Despite me being covered up, I still ended up with cuts, scratches, wounds, and bruises. These limestones are amazing, they cut me without cutting through the clothes I was wearing, DAMN! My colleagues on the other hand had bigger scratches, cuts and bruises. #BattleScars
-Rock climbing is an full-body-exhausting-sport, be sure not to over-exert yourself or else you’d have to endure sore muscles the next day. So if you're sport is internet surfing (like most bloggers I know), then you better prepare yourself ahead.
-Bring (or buy before hand) your own food so you can have lunch on site. You may also have lunch at the small carinderias (eatery) places which I only spent less than Php50.00 which I swear was more than enough compared to the same amount spent when you're in Cebu City.
-Bring some insect repellant (lotion, spray or a katol) because ants and mosquitoes live abundantly in the area. They'll catch you off guard mostly while you are resting or waiting for your turn to climb.
-Charge your gadgets before hand or have some backup battery packs or the like since there are no outlets you can plug-in and charge your devices :P

My personal Budget:
Transportation = Habal-habal (Php20.00) + Bus/V-Hire (Php160.00) + Contingency (Php100.00)
Food = Ice cream (Php10.00 -reward!) + Lunch (Php50.00) + snacks (Php45.00)
Guide Fees = Equipment rental + services (Php300.00)

TOTAL SPEND estimate = PhP700.00 - 800.00

Not bad for a weekend day trip, I'd say that's money well spent compared to going in MALLS! :)

Important Tips/Reminders:
-It's best to go do this as a group, to have moral support and for safety (spotters) too!
-Groups are awesome since you get to share costs! But still bring some extra/emergency money.
-Just because the photos look cool doesn't mean that you can take climbing lightly. Climbing is inherently DANGEROUS! Every time you climb, your life hangs in the balance.
-Get at least proper training or preparation. At the very least you should have tried wall climbing or have the basics of climbing for safety.
-Always, Safety First! It depends on you since the outcome could either be that you will succeed, you get seriously injured, or you die. Seriously!
-You can find guides and negotiate for price or the like via facebook, just type in the search box "CANTABACO CLIMBING FRIENDS"

Photo by Jessa Sepe
 This experience is best shared with friends and some strangers-now-friends, too! :)
Rock Climbing at Cantabaco in Lutopan-Toledo Cebu Philippines Rock Climbing at Cantabaco in Lutopan-Toledo Cebu Philippines Reviewed by Vernon Joseph Go on Sunday, July 06, 2014 Rating: 5

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