Siquijor: A paradise feared
January 1, 1970
by Josette Pagana
If you’re from the Philippines, you would have definitely heard of the hearsay about Siquijor. How this province is the land of the witches, having their magic spells onto people. How it’s easily associated with “mangkukulam” or “gayuma”. I for one definitely heard of that, but did not waiver about visiting this province. I knew for a fact that there’s a reason why this province is kept away from visitors, and I experienced why.
Siquijor is a ferry away from the islands of Dumaguete, Cebu or Bohol. Usual jump off would be at Dumaguete where it’s just an hour ferry ride away. Transportation in the island is mainly composed of jeepneys and tricycles. While some tours do offer air-conditioned vehicles. But let me tell you something, if you’re in and island with mountains and seas, you do not want to be confined in an air-conditioned vehicle while in tour. You’d prefer to breathe in as the clean air as much as possible.
I’ll be sharing with you the places we went during our trip. It is possible to go around the entire island in a day, and with much energy and enthusiasm you will definitely enjoy it. There’s a lot of things to do, and believe me, in an island where chill is a perfect word, you’d definitely enjoy your stay here.
So let’s begin …
During our stay, we went to at least three beaches. We went on an off-peak season, around October-November thus some of the beach are pristine while others are a little rocky.
This beach is located in San Juan, Siquijor and when we went there were only a couple of people there. We enjoyed the sunset in this almost private like beach. The sand is slowly turning fine as the months of Feb to April slowly approaches. But to be honest, I thought the sand is already fine so I can just imagine how fine they are on its peak season. The sand is perfect for sand castle building, and you have nothing to worry about a probable glass cut because the sand and its water is as clean as it can ever be. It is beautiful. The sunset is also breathtaking. Some local residents are also selling meat of sea urchins for just Php 30 per bottle. And I know high end restaurants at Manila selling them at 4 digits, or higher. But for them, it’s that simple and cheap. This beach made me realize that if you really take care of mother nature, it will give you all the riches you’d ever need to continue living. I’ve never been in any beach as peaceful as this one.
SALAGDOONG BEACH RESORT
This one is a local government managed beach resort where you can jump off at this 7-meter-high platform. No life guard, or life vest available so jump at your own risk. I did not take the risk due to my fear of height and water but it’s an interesting experience for the dare devil side of you. Entrance fee is Php 25, while cottage rentals are Php 100 at minimum. The beach is nice though the sand is a little rocky. There are lots of visitors when we visited, since it’s publicly owned. But the place is well maintained compared to other public places, so it is an interesting location.
A brief background provided by our guide is that long ago when Siquijor is trying to be a tourist destination, an entrepreneur created a resort at this beach. However, due to the lack of tourism they had to close down. And majority of the establishment already vanished. Now, this is a public beach for everyone to enjoy with no other establishment in place. There’s a stair from the parking area that allowed us to reach this beautiful destination. Again, another pristine beach that I feel so lucky to have on our own. The water is clear, and the sand is fine. The water is turquoise blue, and there are also some rock formations around.
As we visit these beaches, it made me realize that it’s better that Siquijor is feared because they have maintained their beaches to be as clean, as private like as possible. No matter how public they all are, their people and their visitors are disciplined in maintaining their island clean. And I hope we can do just that. Be respectful for the natural beauty of one’s island, of one’s destination, of one’s home.
You cannot go to Siquijor without experiencing the beauty of Cambugahay Falls. Unfortunately for us, it rained the day before thus the falls gets all muddy thus failing to see its blue color. But nevertheless, the water is cold and clean despite its color. You can also do a tarzan like jump at the falls to completely experience it. It’s such a beauty and a fun thing to do.
SAN ISIDRO LABRADOR CHURCH
The Philippines due to its Spanish colony have so many ancestral churches, and San Isidro Labrador in Siquijor is among one of them. Built in the 1800s, this church is made of wood. Even its floors is completely made of wood where the community would wax the floor every day. The biggest convent is right across this church but is being renovated when we went.
SALAGDOONG FOREST RESERVE
On our way to the Salagdoong Beach Resort we passed by this place, and it’s perfect for those ghost stories or “kulam” stories about Siquijor. It really gives that eerie feeling. All trees are molave due to a molave sanctuary nearby as they try to preserve it and grow more of these trees.
At the highest point of Siquijor, and where you could see the sea from below it’s almost a must to take a photo around here. It’s easy to do so since there are only a few cars in their highway. It’s thrilling and exciting.
CAPILAY SPRING PARK
Didn’t I already mentioned how this island is blessed with natural resources. And Capilay Spring Park is just among some of its proof. It’s a public bath for the people where they can enjoy fresh water from the streams. It is being maintained by the local government, and cleaned twice a week. Kids just jumps in and swim because the water is clean and refreshing. Cottages are also available around for families and friends to have a picnic. It’s situated right at their town center seemingly misplaced, but seemingly the right fit to describe how simple, and blessed this island is.
OLD ENCHANTED BALATE TREE
I have to describe this a perfect place for a fish spa. For only Php 5 as donation, you can sit under this 400-year-old tree. The little fish will kill all your “kalyos” away. This one gets pretty crowded so be there a little early to enjoy the tree on your own.
LARENA TRIAD COFFEE SHOP
Located at the top most area of Larena Siquijor where the restaurant offers a great 180-degree view of the island. You’d be comforted with cold breeze and a really amazing view. We tried their drinks here, and I went for the butterscotch coffee for Php 90. There are also some breads, and pasalubongs to bring home.
You will not run out of food choices in this island. They have lots of carinderias around, and they have really good food. We tried this restaurant named Dagsa Restobar and it’s a good option at the island. Our hotel is near this place so it’s pretty convenient for us. They have boodle fight meals for groups that seems fitting in their island, with grilled items all over it. Individuals servings aren’t bad too, with big servings each. My favorite thing is their mango graham shake, really tasty and thick. Ohh and with lots of mangoes too. Despite being an island, they do not ran off good treats for their visitors.
There are lots of accommodation available at Siquijor, during our visit we stayed at White Villas Resort which is relatively new when we went thus the swimming pool is still not finished yet. But the individual villas is good and ideal for families or group of friends. Free breakfast comes with our accommodation so it’s quite a good deal. The place is good, we had two bunk beds since we’re four. The bathroom is clean which is very important, and the place is peaceful. You can definitely enjoy a goodnight sleep.
I definitely have to say that Siquijor is a very lovely place. One of my favorite places ever since I went there. It’s a beautiful sanctuary with the nicest people. The hearsays about the witch and spells may be true, or may not be true but it does not matter. Because a sanctuary like this should be kept as a secret forever, but when visited, always remember to respect and keep them clean in the same manner you’ve arrived. I like how this island isn’t about capitalism but rather sustainable living. Helping each other out to live harmoniously and properly. I hope they remain to continue living like that to be an example to the many islands in the Philippines that no matter how tourism is important, it is far more important to have a surrounding that’s clean and be a good caretaker of the nature’s gift.
If you’re going to visit Siquijor soon, always remember to keep it clean and be respectful.