Monday, May 27, 2013

Enchanting Siquijor day 1

Siquijor's sea port. I have never seen a port this clean!

I was totally ready to accept that our trip to the mysterious island of Siquijor was jinxed.
First, my tour guide's father died so he couldn't take us around the island. He said he would bring a substitute tour guide who I never even talked to.
Then, we almost missed our flight! I was so busy with my plans I mistook our time of arrival in Dumaguete for our time of departure! Luckily, I checked our flight details just before going to sleep and found out our flight was for 7:10am and not 8:25am.
And what do you know? Our flight was delayed by 30 minutes, which led to our missing our ferry to Siquijor! I won't even go into how my betadine solution leaked all over my first aid kit...

Siquijor is reputed to be the land of witches and monsters and while we're already in the age of the internet, most Filipinos are still wary of the island. Don't accept drinks that may have their saliva on them, they said ... if they touch you, touch them back so you won't get sick, etc... were the bits of bad luck a sign to stay away?

Nope! Our trip went fine! In fact, I think the totally unfair reputation Siquijor has gotten is a blessing because it has kept the bad kind of tourists away. The type who leave trash and write stupid graffitti on caves and trees.
And what brave travelers get instead are pristine beaches, kind people and a peek at laidback provincial living.

From the airport we went to Dumaguete's sea port which was very clean and well-kept. There were cellphone charging stations and drinking water stations. The toilets even had a bidet. The only thing I didn't like was the "helpful guy" in front of the various ship ticketing booths who directed us to this or that booth. It turned out that he didn't even work for the port. He was just a guy who would ask for spare change after "helping" you. I advise you to deal with the shipping lines directly.
All aboard! Ocean jet's ferry to Siquijor

I had read online that at times, the sea could be choppy so I bought some pills for my family but it turned out we wouldn't even need them. The sea during the summer season is fine. It may also be because we rode an Ocean Jet ferry which was one of the larger ships so we didn't feel the waves at all.

Tip: You might like to choose the non-aircon seats on top. They are cheaper and the fresh sea breeze is better than the weak aircon breeze below. They do have movie screenings but the volume is turned down so low you'd have to be a lip reader.

We arrived some 40 minutes later at Siquijor's astoundingly clean sea port and were met by Tata and Irvin Bation (0915 809 3286) our substitute tour guide. They showed us a map of the tourist spots in Siquijor and while I only wanted to see a few spots, their enthusiasm convinced me to take the whole tour.

Tip: If you want to rest  or have senior citizens with you, you might want to skip parts of the tour so you can check in to your rooms at the resort. The tour takes some 5 hours and riding on a big tricycle can be exhausting.

First stop was a short visit to the Siquijor church which had ropes in front of the door, like curtains. Then it was time for  lunch at _Yanz . The food was ok and very affordable. I highly recommend the panci bam-i.

We then went to a Guiwanon mangrove sanctuary which also had rooms for rent. It's a great place to relax and learn about mangroves, too. Entrance fee is only P10 but I do wish they'd spruce the place up a bit. Especially the wooden bridges. Just for tourists' peace of mind.

Irvin showed us another mangrove site with an amazing view of large waves crashing on a break point in the distance. But we had a lot more to see so moving on...
Look at how inviting the water is!

Next stop was picturesque Salagdoong Beach which is a public beach maintained by the local government. And a good job it was doing. It was wonderful. There was a cemented area where the brave can jump off the cliff into the clean, sapphire-colored water. There were also slides but they were broken. The best part: the entrance fee was only P15
Salagdoong has two beaches separated by a huge rock formation: A pebbly side and a fine sand side

Tip: If you want to experience Siquijor's beaches without spending too much, go here. There's also a very affordable government-owned hotel nearby called Hotel Agripino, just don't expect too much.
Lazi convent

For a little bit of local culture, we then went to Lazi Church and the Lazi convent, which used to be the largest convent in the country before it was repurposed into a school. Adaptive reuse is what they call it now. Too bad the church was closed, but they really were huge! How could other Filipinos even think that monsters lived here? Anyway, I'm glad the people and the priests preserved their centuries-old historical treasures.
Lazi Church

From there we proceeded to Cambugahay falls which is reached by going down a long flight of stone stairs. There are 3 levels of water so clean and cool, we were almost tempted to jump in. There is even a rope that you can use as a swing as you leap into the pool.

Tip: Senior citizens may opt not to go here. The view is lovely  but the climb back up those stairs are hell on their knees.
Crystal-clear waters of Cambughay falls

After huffing and puffing our way back up, we went to see the giant balete tree which had a natural spring running under it. The local government has also built a cement structure around it and as an added bonus, you can get a foot spa! Just put your feet in the water and tiny fish will eat off the dead skin. My pa and brother enjoyed this immensely. No entrance fee but donations are welcome
Fish spa by the balete 

It was getting late and we still had one more spot to see: Capilay Spring Park. It's another natural spring that the government turned into a public pool where everyone can just jump in to cool off. The water was very clean and I must say I'm impressed with how the local government was able to harness their natural treasures to benefit the citizens. I'm even more impressed by how the people have kept their public spaces so clean and lovely! What's more, the water then flows into a smaller pool which is used by the locals to wash their clothes. Best part: it's absolutely free

Capilay Spring Park

If I was to pick just 3 spots you must see if you're pressed for time, or if you want to make your island tour more leisurely, I'd say: Salagdoong beach for the breathtaking view, Lazi church and convent for a peek at their cultural heritage  and Capilay spring park, a shining example of how government and townsfolk can work together to develop their natural resources for Siquijor citizens' benefit.

Siquijor is blessed with  natural beauty and I'm glad the people know how to take care of it. Note that very few tourists go to this island and that's a shame. The province has so much to offer if you want to relax and de-stress. If you're looking for the provincial life experience, this is a good place to start.


cris said...

HI! May I ask what ferry you took and how much is the fare? Would you know if we can buy tickets a day before our actual trip? Thank you!

mojacko said...

hi we took the ocean jet, which might be beter than the other ferries because it's bigger so you won't feel the strong waves and you won't get seasick. i think you can purchase your tickets ahead of time. best contact them to be sure.


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