Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Tales of Magic: Siquijor


            For most people, Siquijor is a one big spooky place but in fact it a true sense of paradise. Siquijor is the third smallest province in the Philippines in terms of population and land area. During the Spanish conquest this island province is known as “Isla Del Fuego” or Island of Fire because the island gave an eerie glow.  This glow came from the great swarms of fireflies that harbored in the numerous molave trees abundant in the island.


            Siquijor is considered to be a mystical island, full of witches, black magic and other supernatural phenomena. However, I have heard that this island is home of pristine white sand beaches, century old churches, amazing dive sites, beautiful waterfalls, fascinating cave systems and other natural wonders.  Now, Siquijor is becoming the fast growing and favorite tourist destination in Central Visayas because of its bountiful natural beauty and mystery.


So when I knew that my friend Aphrodite will be visiting again Siquijor, I did not hesitate to accompany her. Good thing when we went there, her friends from Manila were visiting the island province too and there I was introduced to them. Hello Abby and Gelo! The lovely couple who became my instant travel buddies and I was their official third wheel during the tour.


Sites to Explore/Dine:

Day 1 (Basic Tour):


Siquijor Port

            The province has several docking ports and these include ports of Siquijor, Larena and Lazi. These ports were designed to accommodate RoRo type vessels, fast crafts and other marine crafts coming from different ports across the region.


            Siquijor can be reached within an hour or more and once you arrived especially during daylight, you will be mesmerized. So far, for me this is the cleanest port I’ve ever been in my whole life. The waters surrounding the port area are enticing because of its clear appearance that would persuade you to swim right there and then upon arrival.

St. Francis of Assisi Church

            This church is considered to be the warm opening features of Siquijor (if you’re docking at the Siquijor Seaport) because it is just a hop away from the seaport. It is considered as one of the most photographed spots in the island and in front of the church a welcome marker, “Welcome to Siquijor” is found.

            At a glance St. Francis of Assisi Church emits a strong colonial vibe, giving you a glimpse of how colonial era was like. This church was built in 1793 and was completed in 1831 and was made of coral stone and used to have a nipa roof. Amazingly, the combination of wood and coral stone had stood the test of time.

Like most colonial churches; its belfry is separate from the church. The bell tower is located at a more elevated area few meters away from the church and has served as a lookout for marauding invaders. On the other hand, the convent beside the church also served as a sanctuary during these raids.
           
Capilay Spring Park

            It is an open to the public natural spring pool located at the heart of San Juan town (in the middle of the town plaza). Capilay Spring Park provides refreshing dip to everyone as it has no entrance fee; thus anyone can take a plunge.

            The pool haveb three (3) chambers which are the spring area, the swimming and the laundry pool and the flowing water eventually spills out at the nearby bay. Aside from the natural spring pool, the park serves as the playground for kids, picnic area for families especially during weekends and other leisure activities.


            To get a better view of the entire park, one can opt to take an uphill walk leading to the town’s church. However, this park may not look much for most of the visitors like me, I am sure that this place creates lasting memories living in this small town of San Juan.

Old Enchanted Balete Tree

            Here in the Philippines, balete trees are considered as the dwelling place for supernatural beings. A handful of legends and myths have been attached to this especially as the tree grows older, like this one found in Brgy. Campalanas, Lazi, Siquijor. This balete tree in Lazi, Siquijor is centuries old and believed to be 400+ years old; making it as a popular landmark in the province.



Underneath the tree, water flows thru a man-made pool or stream. In which, one can enjoy a refreshing break from touring around the island. Anyone can take its feet a dip and get an instant foot spa while enjoying a sip of fresh coconut juice.

Going here is easy and admission is for free. However, there’s a donation box located nearby the pool or stream. All donations are used to maintain the place. Few meters from the tree, vendors can be found selling amulets, charms, love potions and other concoctions which are used mostly nowadays as a souvenir.

Lazi Church and Convent

            The San Isidro Labrador Parish and Lazi Convent are breathtaking baroque architecture. They are situated across to each other and they are surrounded by fascinating giant acacia trees. The church was constructed in 1857 by Augustinian Recollects while the convent was erected in 1887.

            To provide a more vivid image, the church walls are made up of coral stones with wooden reinforcement and fill and its entrance is blocked by a net. The reason why it is blocked because the church’s ceiling is blue-painted, so it is pockmarked by birds nesting on its hollows.


While the convent is an attractive old building with stone arches, capiz windows and a slanting corrugated iron roof. It was built in the traditional Filipino stone house or bahay na bato in a U-shaped structure. The ground floor was made up of coral stones, similar to the church and the upper floors are wood. The convent used to serve as the resting and recreation place of the friars during the era. However, today the ground floor serves as a school for local kids and the upper floor serves as the church and convent museum.


I can say the church and the convent are huge and magnificent structures standing still amidst of the natural and man-made destructions. It is a living testament endured the time. In fact, the church complex was nominated by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to UNESCO as candidate for World Heritage Site. In addition, the National Historical Institute declared the church and the convent as national landmarks due to its religious, historical and architectural importance to the entire Philippines.


Cambugahay Waterfalls

            Enjoy the clean and refreshing multi-tiered Cambugahay waterfalls. These multi-tiered waterfalls can be reached 135 steps down from Lazi’s main road and I guarantee you that you will be rewarded by the exquisite beauty of the waterfalls.



            The waterfalls cascades all the way from natural springs, rain water and water sheds and makes numerous wonderful swimming lagoon before it discharges into the nearby Lazi Bay. The highlight on these waterfalls is the chance to jump using a swing. It is popularly known as the Tarzan jump. The swing is safe and the water below isn’t too deep or too shallow.

Salagdoong Beach

            Salagdoong beach is a nice yet secluded beach in the far side of Siquijor and it is a popular day trip excursion. This beach is popular because of its azure waters and endless blue skies. Dreamy isn’t it? Aside from having those quality, Salagdoong beach is famous for its twin beach separated by a boulder of rock. This is where one can get a fabulous view of the sea and sand. It is also a place where you can enjoy some adrenaline rush activities like cliff diving and direct to the sea slide.




            The beach is government owned and I’m glad to see that it is well maintained in terms of cleanliness and its facilities. Moreover, the government even constructed huts and cabanas surrounding the area where every tourist and locals can have a relaxing lunch or picnics. (Take note: Entrance fee is Php 15.00) Another must-see before reaching Salagdoong beach is the man-made molave forest. It is quite a sight because the molave trees were planted symmetrically.

Cang-Isok Old House

            Cang-isok old house was built in the mid 1800’s and considered to be the oldest uninhabited house in Siquijor. It is made from indigenous materials such as bamboo, nipa sheets and hardwood which made it sturdy and tough. I was fascinated on how this house survived over the years along the coastline of Siquijor despite of the several typhoons in the past years.
             
Lilibeth’s Pan Bisaya

            Take a traditional gastronomic treat from Lilibeth’s Pan Bisaya in Brgy. Binuongan, Enrique Villanueva, the smallest town in Siquijor. Try their best tasting pan de bisaya and other sought pastries like the torta and ensaymada. Pan de bisaya is famous all throughout Siquijor and even to other nearby provinces. It is a tasty bread stuffed with bukayo and cooked using a traditional clay oven, just like the one we usually see in cooking bibingka.


            Pan de bisaya is best when it’s hot and partnered with coffee. It is also one of the best buys for pasalubong. Indeed, it was a gastronomic experience and taste of Siquijor like no other. Yummy!

Day 2 (Mountain Tour):


Lugnason Waterfalls

            This waterfall is located in Brgy. Napo, San Juan Siquijor. It is a ten minute uphill drive from the national road and once you arrived, be prepared for a long descent to reach the water. Lugnason Waterfalls is a cluster of limestone rock that is a wide opening drop from a stream uphill. If you have been to Tumalog Waterfalls in Oslob, Cebu this is the miniature version of it. Sad to say, when we went there Lugnason Waterfall is completely dry because of the summer season, so basically we didn’t enjoy it.

Cantabon Cave

            Exploring the Cantabon Cave is another must-try adventure when in Siquijor. Upon reaching the place, we coordinated to the barangay officials for our tour. They required us a guide and gears in which agreed. So, we hired (2) experts to guide us all throughout the cave and gears (helmet and flashlight) which is available for rental. The guide’s fee is Php 500.00 and the helmet and flashlight are Php 100.00.



            It took three (3) hours for us to explore the cave (back and forth). The cave is fascinating; there are plenty stalagmites and stalactite formations which will make you stare in awe. Most of the way is wet and sometimes we would wade in hip-deep water. 

Kagusuan Beach

I consider this place as a small piece of paradise. It is located down south of the town proper of Maria, before the town of Lazi. Kagusuan beach is quite secluded and considered to be a deserted place as there is no available resort or even a hut around the area. It is just you and the beach itself; it is the complete opposite of the Salagdoong beach.


However, with its stunning rock formations, long stretch of white sand and turquoise clear waters made me say that it is the best beach for me in the island. It is the place perfect for moments of solitude

Other Activities:

Mt. Bandilaan

            It is known as the island’s highest peak. It rises at 557 meters above sea level and it is a sacred place for healers and sorcerers during Holy Week. This is the venue of the Healing Festival, where they perform rituals and brew concoctions.

            Plus, Mt. Bandilaan is a home of many endangered Philippine trees. Thus, it is called to be the mountain where trees you only read about. Other interests near the area include the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, Way of the Cross, watchtower, butterfly sanctuary, etc.

Healing Festival

            During Holy Week, healers and herbalists from Visayas and Mindanao come together in one event. It is held in Mt. Bandilaan and in the villages of Cantabon and San Antonio. They perform healing and participate in the preparation of concoctions made from a variety of tree barks, roots, herbs, insects and other ingredients. The resulting brews are known to have healing powers.

            The ingredients are gathered during the seven (7) Fridays of the Lent Season from the forest, sea, cave and cemeteries and the festival starts on a Holy Wednesday. This is the time where they gather all the final ingredients. While on Maundy Thursday is the chopping of all the ingredients of more than 200 kinds and on Black Saturday they are being mixed and brewed and when it’s ready it is bottled and sold. This tradition started before the 1930’s and it has been handed down from the predecessors of some famous healers.

Where to Stay:



Treasure Island

            My visit in Siquijor wouldn’t be complete if not because of this resort. Treasure Island is a beach bungalow resort peacefully situated in Brgy. Solangon, San Juan, Siquijor with 6 living quarters with 4 having kitchens. Take note: The rooms are big and clean and it has its own comfort room for a very minimal cost.

Treasure Island offers a comfortable and modern accommodation in a tropical setting. It has also a bar and restaurant available on the ground providing breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and refreshments. The resort is owned by Clarissa Avenoha whom is married to a Swedish national.

For more information and bookings:

Treasure Island Beach Bungalows Resort
Contact Number: +63915-4345679
E-mail Address: treasureisland@outlook.com

How To Get There:

            There are no commercial flights available as of the moment though Siquijor has an airport that could cater small commercial aircraft. The nearest operating commercial airport is in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.
           
            From Dumaguete Airport, flag a tricyle going to Dumaguete Seaport or Pier in Looc, located near the Rizal Boulevard. At the port of Dumaguete, there are numerous shipping lines operating and one can opt to ride the fast craft or RoRo to either the town of Siquijor, Larena or Lazi.  Travel time for fast craft is approximately an hour and with almost two hours of voyage for RoRo.

            Meanwhile, the ports of Cebu, Tagbilaran and Iligan have direct links to the province of Siquijor via ferry or boat. These major cities were made as possible gateways to the beautiful island province.

Getting Around:

            Touring around the island is easy. For guide and transportation, I highly recommend our tricycle driver Kuya Dexter Malicay. You may reach him thru his mobile number: +63908-6210050. He knows where to bring you, shares stories about the places you visit and guarantees guests are safe.

            If you happen to hire him, please send my warm regards.

Thank you for reading and sharing!

For more photos, kindly visit: Mystical Island: Siquijor

4 comments:

  1. Because of your post I travelled with Dexter as well, and created a FB business page for him. Maybe you would like to support and share it on FB too? He is a great guy!
    https://m.facebook.com/Siquijortouristtransport/

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    1. Wow! Thank you so much for reading and visiting my blog. Good thing you were able to meet Kuya Dexter. I'm very happy that I was able to help him in some little ways. Yes, I agree he is kind and great driver and we are very glad that he was our driver during our visit. I already liked the Facebook Page you've created. I'll edit this post and include the page you created. Thank you JC! Enjoy the Philippines and I hope to meet you in person someday!

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  2. I remember wayback when I was a kid the tugas tree near moms place during the night glows with fireflies. I imagine it was fairies dancing arround the tree.

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    1. That's right. Is your mom from Siquijor? If so, you were so lucky then because you were able to visit the place before tourists flocked.

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