What do you write about on your first ever blog entry? It may sound simple enough for others, but for me, I guess I would have to write about a place close to your heart. This place, wrapped up in mystery and mystique, is the majestic island of Siquijor, my mother’s roots. You may wonder why I describe this island as such, but believe me, there is not enough words to capture this island found nowhere else but the Philippines.
Childhood in Siquijor
As a child, I have always wondered why people would get the chills to visit this place that was a playground to me. I later found out that Siquijor was believed to be a land of sorcerers, witchcraft, and “Aswang” or monsters that come out at night. I couldn’t comprehend this all back then because in my eyes, the best times of my life happened here. We would come home toasted after a day’s worth of swimming and frolicking around, discovering all the beaches we could ever dip in or jump into.We would rinse off from the cool water of the falls, go hiking or enter caves.
Other days, we would walk around basking in the warmth of the sun, ride our bikes and roller skate down the highway. We would even go as far as fright ourselves and run around the convent (oldest one in Asia). One distinct memory is we used to ride a tree trunk and slide it down the slope of what we called our very own “secret garden”. It was when I got older that I realized, that secret garden was not so secret after all, it was just a slope behind our ancestral home and it was pretty much a passageway of locals too. Nevertheless, this was our playground, and that thrill of being young and invincible in a place where people were spooked to put their feet on, made my childhood just marvelous, close to perfection.
Understanding the Island Better
Siquijor, apart from being known for its witchcraft and monsters, was also a challenge to get to, it was remote, away from the busy islands beside it. This geographical location added secrecy and mystery to this place, enabling it to preserve its untouched beauty which has slowly captured attention throughout time and technological advances. Nowadays, Siquijor is becoming more and more popular and is being flocked
by people from all over the world. Who wouldn’t though, this island offers peace and tranquility to its visitors, beaming friendly locals, pristine waters, and best of all, white sand beaches that are pure and endless. This is not a usual getaway where it feels like you have to compete for a good spot by the beach. I tell you, all spots are heaven. The attention that this island has caught paved way to the sprouting resorts and lodges in the town of San Juan. Visitors from all walks of life, on a roll or on a budget, will find this island as a haven. It has so much to offer for an island so small and for me, that’s what makes this mysterious Island just above and beyond majestic.
Not known to many, Isla del Fuego, or Island of Fire, is what Siquijor was used to be called. It was said that during the Spanish period, while the Spaniards were coasting along the waters of this region, they were attracted to the island that lit up like fire, little did they know that this fire was just the light that the insects were emitting. Isla del Fuego, which is part of region 7, is the smallest compared to its neighboring islands of Dumaguete, Bohol and Cebu. With only 6 towns, this island could be traversed in a day. Ironically, visitors stay for a minimum of 3 days, for some, a month, and for the lucky ones, made a living in the island to stay forever.
To Dos in Siquijor
The capital and main business thoroughfare of this province is Siquijor, Siquijor; the main attractions and pristine beaches however, are found in the town of San Juan. This strip of town has a long stretch of white Sand beach that offers visitors an array of places to stay, from resorts to home stays to backpackers’ lounge, it’s easy to find yourself in this glorious Nirvana. The diving spots could also be found in this town and is highly recommended for divers who have extra days to spend. I tell you, there are so many spots to dive in, 2 days of diving will get you still feeling short.
For those who take pleasure in walking and site seeing, I would recommend to see the town of Lazi, this is where my Mom grew up and where we spent most of our precious childhood explorations in. Even though we’re all grown up now, this town is still our home base for our longed vacations and adventures. Lazi is where the oldest convent in Asia could be found. This is just a 2 minute walk from our ancestral home. Just across this convent is the church which is also worth paying a visit if you like seeing preserved Spanish churches. For the adrenaline junkies, the famous Cambugahay Falls is also found in our town, you can jump off the falls or swing to the water Tarzan style.
If you want relax, take a dip and enjoy the cool water while listening to the easing sound of the falls and the soothing comfort of mother nature. For hikers and cave explorers, Mount Bandilaan is also found in this town, climb this highest point of Siquijor and you will see the whole island and its serenity. Just close to this site is Cantabon cave where spelunking is done seasonally. In other towns, I would recommend places that are not commonly frequented by guests. Beaches like Kagusuan, Kangabas & Gabayan are remote areas and guarantees you the ultimate local experience while enjoying world class beaches. One known destination I recommend is Salagdoong beach, it is frequented both by locals and guests. You will find rock formations in this area that lets you jump about 10 feet above water. this public property has lodging for overnighters and also has a pool to relax in after a whole day at the beach. As for divers, Siquijor has healthy marine life and is highly recommended to have at least 2 dives – my best pick is Paliton Wall. Not only does the beach have sprawling pure white sand, but beneath the waters is a wall 70-80 meters deep busting with all sorts of marine life. It’s a picture of color, life and bountiful sea creatures, it’s almost as if this wall has no ending, mind the depth you are at because this wall will let you go deeper without you even realizing, it will captivate you.
How To Get There
To get to Siquijor, the closest Island is Dumaguete City, accessible by plane just an hour coming from Manila. Once landed, ride a fast craft or ferry from Dumaguete Port to Siquijor and it will only take 45 mins. Before you know it, your toes will be digging into the white sand beaches of Siquijor. There is now an array of places to stay in once you get to this paradise, if you prefer staying by the beach, choose the town of San Juan. For those who prefer to see other sites, closer to Cambugahay Falls and Cantabon Cave, I would recommend our town of Lazi, we have also put up our Ancestral Home as a home stay for guests – Casa Mira, located just 2 min walk from the Lazi Convent. To go around the whole island, there are rentable motorcycles which I see a lot of foreigners doing, not only does it give them freedom to move around, it also allows them to feel one with the locals and with nature, enjoying the fresh breeze while exploring the island. For bigger groups and family affairs, no fuss, there are also rentable vans available, this way, the fun of traveling is shared together as a group.
So go ahead, travel around with your loved ones, crazy friends, or your travel buddy, and discover this once mysterious place, be captured by its mystique, and embrace this Island in the sun as it captivates you with enchantment.