Apr 9, 2016

The Mystifying Island of Siquijor

Jaw dropping sunset at Siquijor Pier



Siquijor is just an hour away by boat from Dumaguete City, the capital of Negros Oriental and one of the best cities to retire according to expats. We have been to Dumaguete thrice and visited some of their tourist spots like Dumaguete Cathedral, Belfry and even went further south to Bais City to see the Dolphins but never been to Siquijor. Siquijor is an enigmatic land known for its myths ,faith healers and enchantments. We were baffled why is it called " Isla del Fuego", we later knew that the Spanish called it Isla de Fuego "Island born in fire" because of the eerie glow from the great swarm of fireflies that harbored in the numerous molave trees on the island.

Why Mystical?

As if to add the mysticism to the island, people even noted the shape of the island . Siquijor is like the hat of the nuno sa punso – an entity that looks like a dwarf and resides in a mound resembling an anthill. Residents of Siquijor believe that there are two kinds of shamans. The Mambabarang, who for a fee can inflict illness and death to enemies of their clients by casting an evil spell on them. The Mananambal on the other hand are folk healers, who are called upon to heal ailments and counter the evil spells cast on unfortunate people in a classic duel of good versus evil.

During Black Saturday ( Lent Season) in various parts of Siquijor, folk healers gathered to have their cooking sessions using different kinds of herbal plants and sea matters they have collected through seven Fridays before Good Friday.
Quite uncanny right? but most locals tend to disagree on this things and beliefs. They want to promote the island as a tourist destination and not a land of enchantments and Shamans.

Bound for Isla Del Fuego

From Harolds Mansion, we took a trike to the port of Dumaguete. There are four ferries that caters Dumaguete - Siquijor route ( Oceanjet, Gl Shipping and Delta) and each have different frequency departure times so its important to check their schedules. You can check the ferry schedules by clicking here. Fare cost around Php 160.00 and took more than hour to arrive in Siquijor port.

We book our stay at Princesa Bulakna in Maria the night before going here to avoid hassles, time and energy. It's a peaceful resort adjacent to the famous resorts in San Juan. As we arrived, we walked for few meters to the highway to avoid the transport touts approved by the provincial tourism. However, the rate offered us is way more expensive thus we opted to take the lone mini bus bound for Lazi as advised by the locals nearby.

Passenger vehicle that can accommodate 15 or more

St. Francis of Assisi Church

St. Francis of Assisi Church is a colonial-era structure, it was built in 1793 and was completed only in 1831. And as with most structures of that era, the St. Francis of Assisi church was made up mostly of coral stone. It is located just a few distance from the pier.

St. Francis of Assisi, Siquijor
                                                            St. Francis of Assisi Siquijor

The Kindness of Strangers

Inside the mini bus, the passengers treated us as locals. Our conversation with them ended up in laughter and smiles. We were told that once we arrived in Lazi we have to take a multicab jeepney bound for Maria. We passed by some of Siquijor's attractions like the Old Balete Tree and Capilay Spring park in San Juan.



After about 45 minutes our journey ended. We alight from the mini bus and we were approach by one of the lady passengers from the mini bus and guide us through the multicab to Maria. We hop in but we were quite skeptical because we were the only passengers inside including her kids. We later found out that it's not a public jeepney but a private one. She then instructed her husband to take us to the resort entrance which is 25 min away from Lazi. The whole ride, we convince her to accept the payment for the whole trip but she won't accept it. It was an act of kindness that was engraved in me.
When we arrived at the resort entrance, we thank the couple and bid them a fond farewell. Afterwards, we walked for 10 min to the resorts front desk.

Our Accommodation

The resort staff were warm, friendly and accommodating. They even transferred us in a big room near the resto with huge veranda facing the beach with no extra cost. Our new room has a pretty descent space inside, cable tv, hot and cold shower and free continental breakfast. The room cost per night is around Php 1,200 ($30) excluding Agoda fees.



Infinity Pool

The three tiered cascading infinity pool is nice, clean and had a great view of the ocean. Not that panoramic though, but its a great pool experience that I would highly recommend to anybody. Reminiscing my Perth Paradise Infinity Pool and Bluewater Sumilon Infinity Pool experience.

Princess Bulakna Resort Infinity Pool

Wandering Around

After a quick dip in the pool we went to explore the Orchidarium and the old Banyan tree which you can access by skywalk.We also tried the fish pedicure or fish spa near the restaurant which you can try if for free when staying or visiting the resort . It started off as a tingling sensation and moments later a more larger group appeared and started to nibble my feet. Don't worry the fish have no teeth so the experience is completely pain free.
Doctor fish nibble on dead and dry skin, which helps in healthy skin growth. This nibbling is similar to exfoliation, but done in a natural way. Research has found that these fish produce an enzyme, called diathanol, in their saliva. This enzyme fastens the regeneration process of the skin.

Going South

After a quick stroll around the resort, we decided to visit Lazi Church and the oldest convent in Asia - Lazi Convent. We walked our way to the main road to catch a motorcycle or public bound bus to Lazi when a vehicle owned by the resort happen to passed us by and stop. The driver asked if where we are headed? I answered, we're heading to the town of Lazi. Fortunately, he was going there too to run some errands. He then invited us to hop in his car and 20 minutes later we arrived in Lazi. We wish to convey our heartfelt thanks to the driver for giving us a free ride.

Lazi Church

Lazi Church or San Isidro Labrador Church is a Roman Catholic Church built in 1884. It was declared a National Treasure in 2012 and been nominated to be part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Philippines under the Baroque Churches of the Philippines. If you love neoclassical style churches you might want to add this to your list.

Lazi Church

Lazi Church

Lazi Church

As you enter the wooden massive door, you will notice hand carved depictions of the Station of the Cross accenting every window. The rustic interior is ordinary but quite fascinated by the intricacy design of the ceiling and enthralled with the Herringbone pattern of the wooden floor.

San Isidro Labrador Convent

Adjacent to the church is one of the largest convents built during the Spanish colonial era in 1857 and probably the oldest convent in the Philippines. The 50 meter wide stonewall convent house some collections of important church relics and paraphernalia which you can view for a fee of Php 20.00 ( less than a $).

Old Convent

Old Convent
Apart from the giant acacia trees that separates the church from the convent, you can feel the tranquility that surrounds the place. After spending an hour strolling around, we decided to go back to the resort by taking a Maria bound jeepney and spend the rest of the day relaxing.

We have been  traveling for almost 2 weeks now covering Bacolod, Iloilo, Aklan, Sipalay, Dumaguete and Siquijor. After that we still have to take a RORO from Dumaguete bound for Dapitan then take a bus bound for Zamboanga City.

Bus and ferry routes we cover
Cebu to Bacolod - 8 hours ( Bus + Ferry)
Bacolod to Iloilo - 1.5 hours ( Ferry)
Iloilo to Caticlan - 6.5 hours ( Bus)
Caticlan to Iloilo - 6,5 hours ( Bus)
Iloilo to Bacolod -1.5 hours ( Ferry)
Bacolod to Sipalay - 6 hours
Sipalay to Hinoba-an - 3 hours
Hinoba-an - Dumaguete via Zamboanguita - 6 hours
Dumaguete to Siquijor - 1 hour
Siquijor to Dumaguete - 1 hour
Dumaguete to Dipolog - 4 hours ( RORO)
Dipolog to Zamboanga City - 8 hours


PORK OVERLOAD!

We had Lechon Kawali, Pork Chop and Pancit Canton for dinner. Of course it goes with a platter of rice and some fruits. We haven't taken a photo of their menu but its good and not that expensive. You can either have it serve in the resto or to your room with no extra charge. 


UNLEASH MY INNER DAREDEVIL

The following morning we set off for the final part of our journey to Salagdoong Beach. From the main highway we rented a Habal-habal  to take us to Salagdoong beach in Maria which is 30 min away from our resort. The road leading to the beach is flank by huge molave trees with curling branches is part of Salagdoong Forest Reserve, a reforestation project of the local government. I'm not here to beach bum but to conquer the 20 foot ledge.

NEW WORLD RECORD | HIGHEST CLIFF DIVING JUMP | LASO SCHALLER 58.80 meters / 192 ft
That's an insane height. A few words of caution though  before making the jump. You have to inform the lifeguards on duty. They will notify you if  what's the best time to jump or if the tide is high enough to cushion your fall. As I was preparing my jump, we were told by the lifeguards that there's a  girl who went to Siquijor with just one goal in mind- to cliff dive and conquer it. Unfortunately after few attempts she was not able to jump and went home sobbing. Going back, the tide was high enough but I was instructed to run and leap for at least 2 meters to avoid the shallow part. The camera is ready and the lifeguards chants " Go Go Go Kaya mo yan" I run for 3 steps and leap. The adrenaline and heart stopping cliff dive lasted for 4 seconds. I landed quite bad because I was spreading my arms as I enter the water. Not that serious but I'm ok. If you have more adrenaline than me you can try the 30 feet ledge and for the less adventurous, one can choose the slide into the water instead.


Tuklasera tips:
  • Don't look down. Looking down will basically shake your knees.
  • If you're unsure about your swimming skills, don't jump.
  • Have you friends or family to chant for you :-).

Salagdoon Beach Cliff Diving


Sequence shot in clockwise starting from top left photo
he tree tunnel is part of Salagdoong Forest Reserve, a reforestation project of the local government - See more at: http://backpackingwithabook.com/siquijors-magic-of-salagdoongs-trees-and-beach/#sthash.yILOfHMG.dpuf


If you want to spend a night in the resort, one can stay in Agripino Hotel. It's a government run hotel with basic facilities. We haven't visually saw the rooms but from what I heard, it's clean and affordable.  Rate is around Php 800 - 1,500 per night.  For food items, there is a cafeteria nearby that offers good selection of Filipino and seafood dishes at affordable prices.  After a quick stroll around Salagdoong, we went back to our resort to prep our things. We were supposed to tour around San Juan  but due to lack of time we have to be in Dumaguete before sundown. 

Siquijor is becoming popular as a tourist destination in Central Visayas. Although the place is feared by some but to me, it's a place where you can find good and kind people. We will definitely be back and hopefully the Department of Tourism will cast a magic spell of road improvements, more tourism projects and promote Siquijor as a prime destination in Central Visayas.
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  1. Hi! Which resort did you stay in? Wonderful review of the Island! I cant wait to go!

    ReplyDelete

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