Like most of Asia, climbing in the Philippines isn’t very documented. Most information is shared via word of mouth, and a few pamphlets are created to help climbers find specific routes once they arrive at the area. Unlike the well-documented Tonsai in Thailand, the Philippines doesn’t have a guidebook, and only recently did some climbers finally put together a website with basic information.
When it comes to climbing and vacationing in the Philippines, Cebu should be at the top of any climber’s list. Cantabaco is a relatively new crag with new routes going up every season. The locals are friendly, and the streaked limestone has something for climbers of every grade.
Cantabaco has the added advantage of not being the main tourist destination, so you won’t have bleached-white foreigners staring at you while you climb. Nor will you have local guides shouting how to do every move to their clients while hauling them up well-traveled routes.
Cantabaco is a bleached-white limestone cliff rising out of the jungle above a small village that seems to be content catering to climbers. In the evening, the sounds of nature will put you to sleep, with roosters acting as your alarm clock in the morning. This is not the main tourist destination, but Manang’s Virgie’s coffee will make the place feel like a great destination after the local rooster wakes you.
Spanish climber Enrique pinching on Gamot sa Bukol in Cantabaco, Cebu. Photo copyright – Dennis Diaz
Getting There Fly to Cebu’s small and quaint airport. Cebu itself is on many investor lists.
Jump in a taxi directly to City Link, the ride is about $4. At the city link, jump the local bus to Lutopan. The ride takes you to the heart of the mountains and jungle. Between the winding road and gorgeous old grove tress, good luck sleeping. The ride lasts about one hour ride.
Let the driver know you’re going climbing and that you want out at Manang Virgie. The drivers might think climbers are crazy, but they’ll know where to drop you off.
Season December to February is the two best months to visit and climb in the Philippines. The breeze seems to cool off the sun, while the humidity drops. During January, Cebu has loads of festivals to keep you busy on those much-needed rest days. While it’s possible to climb year-round, March, April, and May get very hot and sticky and June to September sees a lot of rain.