Sunday, January 11, 2015

Siquijor: The Island of Mystical Charm

Siquijor, San Juan, Lazi & Maria, SIQUIJOR
Date: JAN 09, 2015

The province of Siquijor is known for mysteries that surround the island. The stories about witches and wizard proliferates the minds of outsiders whenever they hear the name of this place. But because of my curiosity, I wanted to know if the mysteries on this island were real. What kind of magical charm does Siquijor have and travel bloggers always say that they were captivated by this island’s beauty?


The guards started calling the passengers who would ride the fast craft at 09:38 AM. I handed my ticket as I exited the port and went straight to the vessel. I thought that it would be similar to the air conditioned type in Marinduque and Masbate, but it was different – it was an open air vessel just like the ones in Santander, Cebu.

The sky was gloomy, but it wasn’t raining; and at 10:04 AM, the fast craft began to leave. The sea’s condition was fine at first, but as we approached the island of Siquijor, the waves turned rough. It became higher and stronger, and it keeps on crashing to the fast craft. Everyone aboard were being thrown out of their seats, and I felt nervous because the fast craft might sink if this continued.

As we were getting near the island, the rain became much stronger and the sea turned deadly – seems like Siquijor doesn’t want unwanted visitors to step on its territories! Thank God we made it to the port safe at around 11 in the morning. Now that I am here, let us begin exploring the island of mysterious charm!

Port of Siquijor

Best view when the sun is up! Gloomy skies turned the sea dark
This was the most beautiful port that I’ve seen – situated between the island’s clear, turquoise waters and white sandy shores! And in fact, the port is one of Siquijor’s main tourist spot, so I guess the provincial government is doing everything they can to preserve its beauty.

I decided to stay inside a carinderia while waiting for the rain to subside, and when it stopped, I went outside looking for a tricycle driver that would take me around the island. And then I met Kuya Tata, the one scheduled that day to take tourists around. He even showed me a map containing all of the province’s tourist spots, and then we began exploring!

St. Francis de Assisi Church

Welcome to Siquijor!
He first took me to St. Francis de Assisi Church, also known as Siquijor Church, just a few meters from the port. It has a sign in front that reads “WELCOME TO SIQUIJOR”.

Siquijor Souvenir Shop

Our next stop was the provincial capitol, but before proceeding there, I asked Kuya Tata to take me to a nearby souvenir shop so that I could buy my souvenirs early. We went to the town center, and there I bought a handful of magnets and key chains, and a small bottle of “bagoong”. And because this is the island of magic, love potions and amulets were also being sold at this souvenir shop.

Siquijor Provincial Capitol

The capitol's facade
Looking at Google Maps, I mistakenly thought that their provincial capitol is located behind the church. However, according to Kuya Tata, they already had a new one built near the hilly parts of the town. We had to drive through this muddy rough road and at the end of it stood their provincial capitol – a brightly orange colored, one storey building.

Coco Grove Resort

I wanted to swim but I am not allowed to
Our next destination was the town of San Juan, lined up with beaches that have fine white sand. The road to San Juan won’t bore you either – on your left would be the mountains and hills of Siquijor, and on the right would be miles after miles of white sand beach (without the crowd). Kuya Tata took me to the “best” resort on the island – Coco Grove Resort, and let me explore the beach while he patiently waited outside.

Demonstrating how fine the sand was
Anitos adorned the resort’s reception area, and just a few meters from here was a pond filled with kois. You would have to take the stairs to get to the beach front – and seeing it for the first time, I was in awe. There was an endless horizon of white sand being washed upon by the sea’s clear and shallow waters – just like the photos of Maldives or Bahamas that I’ve seen on the internet. The atmosphere was calm, and I’ve only seen four tourists enjoying the beach (very relaxing indeed!)

I can assure everyone that Coco Grove Resort’s beach was the best I’ve seen in the province – but a night at their rooms might cost thrifty backpackers like me a fortune!

Capilay Spring Park

Just trying to relax
Located at the heart of downtown San Juan was this spring park. According to Kuya Tata, the water from the park is being transported directly from the springs located above the mountains. The pool has a rich blue-green color, with schools of fish swimming below.

Century Old Balete Tree

I've seen this before! In Aurora
Hoping for the fish not to bite my toes off
Our next stop was the town of Lazi, and the first destination we came upon was their century old balete tree, similar to the one in Maria Aurora, Aurora. There was a small pool in here, offering fish spa services – but the fish were way too big! And it tickles A LOT! And I was too paranoid thinking that they might bite my toes off. Just like Capilay Spring Park, there was no entrance fee but donations are welcome (any amount would do).

San Isidro Labrador Parish Church and Convent

The church facade
View inside the church
The old convent, right across the church
This is what I call “The Spooky Church”. I’ve read and heard eerie stories about this church, but it wasn’t that scary. The convent and the church looked really old, and at the time of my visit, there were only three of us (tourists) in there. I went inside the church, and there was outright silence. I could hear the wind rushing through its tainted windows, and as I was on my way out, the door shut! Kidding aside, there were no doors. Just hanging beads!

Cambugahay Falls

Falls beside the highway, great!
Our next stop was Cambugahay Falls, still in the town of Lazi. Located beside the highway, it was very convenient for tourists to visit the falls! There were no entrance fees, but there was a P20 parking fee, and people here might also offer themselves as guides.

After paying for the fees, I began descending from the highway, using the stairs. It was steep, but after trekking for a few minutes, I managed to reach the falls. Cambugahay Falls consists of cascading multi-level waterfalls, and the most famous section has a deep turquoise blue pool where tourists could swim around.

I checked the upper parts of the falls where the water was coming from. It looked like a giant staircase, and the water was rushing in every level. Since my time in Siquijor is limited, I decided to leave the falls and head straight to the last destination on my list.

Crocodile View

The crocodile is on the upper left part of the photo
On our way to Maria, Siquijor, the tricycle I’m in came to a stop. Kuya Tata told me that we were at the Crocodile View - where one could see rock formations from afar that looked like crocodile heads, hence the name.

Salagdoong Beach

Slide straight into the sea!
Before we get into the beach, we had to drive inside this magnificent man made forest. And then, a few kilometers after that would be the beach itself. There was a P25 entrance fee plus P25 parking fee. The beach was beautiful – but it was deserted. No one was there, except for me, Kuya Tata and the beach staff. There was also a giant slide made of concrete, but according to one of the staff, the previous storm damaged it, and visitors were not allowed to use it as of the moment.

The beach also has a 25ft high platform for cliff diving, but I was too scared to jump (I regretted it later on). We left the beach at 4 PM, and raced to the town of Larena to catch the last ferry bound for Dumaguete.

I slept as we drove through the quaint town of Enrique Villanueva, and woke up at the port of Larena minutes later. It was already 5:05 PM, and I handed my payment to Kuya Tata and thanked him for taking me around. I asked for his contact details and hurried inside the ferry after purchasing my ticket so that I won’t be left behind.

Throughout my journey in Siquijor, I noticed one thing - there were only a handful of tourists visiting the island – 30 something foreign tourists and only three Filipinos. Maybe the reason was the notoriety of Siquijor being the island of the sorcerers – but if you would ask me, there is nothing to be afraid of! The island is full of natural wonders and friendly people – its mystical charm captivated me.

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