The Philippines – Touching Down
Sometimes, a single photo can spark a chain of events that lead to… well… living on a tropical beach, cooking over an open fire, with white sand and ocean as far as the eye can see.
A google search for “sea cliff” revelead some impressive, if sharp looking rock in the Philippines. Further research brought little more information, so we reached out to the Filipino climbing community in search of answers to our questions. We discovered a motivated but tiny group of climbers, fronted by Ina and Miel. They explained to us that they knew of the potential around Palawan, but as of yet, nobody had actually tried to climb.
The ball was rolling… more pictures promised steep overhanging compact faces above crystal clear ocean, and we began to understand the logistics and layout of the place. The climbing seemed to be on the edges of several medium sized islands, a few km off the coast of Palawan. These islands were easily accessible by Sea Kayak, and the idea of making the trip “minimal impact” started to turn in our mind. We reached out through our contacts at The North Face, and began to organize the logistics through Jundel, the brand manager for The North Face in the Philippines. We got in contact with local kayak guide Serge Farre who was able to arrange the rental of suitable Kayaks, big enough to transport both us, and our gear, and finally Goal Zero got on board, providing us with a solution for charging all our gear direct from the sun.
The team for the expedition started to take shape, with Miel Pahati representing the Filipino climbing community, Francisco Taranto Jr in charge of documenting the adventure, and last but not least, Pablo Scorza to take care of our aching bodies with his own method of Biomechanica Funcional. The Team for any trip is often more important than the destination, and can really make or break the expedition. Heaven can quickly turn into Hell if the team can’t get along with one another, so we are all really happy to be here with people we know from the past.
Everything was in place, or as much as could be expected when trying to organize things in advance in Asia. We left an unseasonably warm French winter and stopped off in a very cold Japan for 1 week of brilliant bouldering with Japanese friends old and new. Leaving Tokyo early one morning with 20cm of snow on the ground, it was quite a shock to fly just 4 hours south to Manila, where it was a hot and sticky 30 degrees. Jundel had arranged everything, and our first night passed perfectly, without a hitch. We gave a multimedia presentation in R.O.X for the local climbing community, explaining our project and opening an invitation for Filipino climbers to join us, and finally, meeting up with the rest of the team and organizing the plan for the upcoming days.
A further flight to the island of Palawan, which Miel explained was like taking a “bus” in the Philippines, found us in Puerto Princessa awaiting a real bus to take us 7 hours North to the tiny town of El Nido. If the plane were like a bus, then this bus would be more like a farm cart – powered by rocket fuel! Cramped, bumpy, and skidding round corners – they were 7 of the longest hours of our life we will never forget. We arrived in El Nido in the dark, found our way to the quite, hidden house of Serge, and tumbled exhausted into bed. Sleep came easily, especially for Francisco who was on the tail end of 48 hours of traveling, and we all dreamt excitedly of what the following days would bring.