Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Enchanted Island of Siquijor


I visited Dumaguete to try my luck and find a pawikan in their natural habitat in Apo Island. No matter how tempting swimming with the butandings (whaleshark) may sound, I did my homework and learned about the negative effects of this tourism to the lives and natural habits of these gentle marine creatures. (They become dependent on feeding and eventually weaken their hunting abilities, associate all boats to feeding time, hence they get too close and injure themselves with propellers etc.) So I packed my bags, bought new water pouches and snorkel and booked a day trip to Apo Island. Unfortunately, the skies didn't agree with me (again). The hostel's weekend trip to the island was cancelled due to heavy rains and thunderstorms. On my second day in Dumaguete, I made a call and went ahead with plan B: stop whining, jump on a ferry and visit Siquijor.

Siquijor is a small island province located in the Central Visayas Region. This island has long been labeled as a land of witchcraft and sorcery, featured in several Pinoy horror movies. Others may find this scary, but I personally think it adds to the character and charm of the province. I spent two days in the island, and it felt like being transported to a different era where the roads are huge and almost always empty, most business (meaning sari-sari stores and few, small food places) close at seven or eight and crabs, not stray cats, cross the streets. I loved it!

Here are my journal notes from my #SiquijorChronicles. If you're on the lookout for pristine beaches, rich marine life and want to escape the noisy city life, this is the place for you.




Going to Siquijor from Dumaguete City is a breeze. There are numerous fast crafts traveling to and from daily with trips as early as 5am to as late as 7pm. You can check the schedules HERE, but they change the schedules sometimes so best to check from the pier. Dumaguete pier is right in the heart of the city along the Rizal Boulevard so it's easy to find. There are several fast crafts but I prefer Ocean Jet because they have newer, bigger boats. Fare is about Php 160.00/person/way.  There are fast crafts and RORO from Cebu, Bohol and other provinces, too.

We arrived at Siquijor port in less than an hour, and boy, the waters in the pier is already so blue and sparkling clear, I had to fight the urge to jump!

The best way to wander around Siquijor is via motorbike. There's few public transportation available other than tricycles which can rip you off. It's better to rent a scooter for Php 300/day if you know how to drive. Unlike in Dumaguete where they will ask for your license and wearing helmet is a must, the folks here are very "relaxed". But be responsible and make sure to be always on the legal and safe side.




We took this short cut from the town of Larena to Maria, in search of the famed Salagdoong beach. The road goes through steep mountains and ravines so be extra careful, but it's rustic and extremely beautiful and definitely worth the shot.  





Siquijor island is pretty small and you can actually drive around the whole island in a day. Beach hopping is also very easy. Just be ready to be a "cowboy" since there are only few decent facilities in their public beaches like Salagdoong in Maria (above). They also have man-made slides and platforms for cliff diving, though I prefer if they leave the rock formations alone. It's beautiful as is!

We had to drive wet (and got dried) on our way to the next beach. It's cold, I got wind burns and my hair's a mess, but hell, it's fun! So loosen up a bit and leave your worldly cares behind. ;-)   

Siquijor also boasts of very rich marine sanctuaries and dive sites in almost every town. So for licensed scuba divers, you might want to keep Siquijor in your list.



If you're into history and culture, visit the old church and bell tower of St. Francis de Assisi right in front of Siquijor port. They also have the massive convent and St. Isidore de Labrador Church in Lazi.

I didn't have enough time to go spelunking or visit the old enchanted Balete tree but I guess these are good reasons to go back.

Since we're also feeling a bit romantic, we went to Coco Grove Beach Resort in San Juan, one of the more luxurious resorts in the island and capped the day with a candle light dinner by the beach. It was a good night talking about colors, the other side of the world and the years to come.


With my favorite travel buddy, J. 


 
That was a long post! Thinking about this trip gets me giddy already. I can't wait for my next adventure. Come explore the Philippines. Happy traveling! :)

From the Nook,
Dang

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