Sunday, November 16, 2014

Siquijor The Island of Fire

Summertime of 2014 was spent on island hopping in Visayas, I know it would take a lot of money, time and energy to finish this trip so I must make the most of it! The trip took a lot of planning before we came up with a detailed itinerary, and we chose Siquijor Island as our first destination. Siquijor was formerly a sub-province of Negros Oriental, and in 1971 it was declared as an island province and the third smallest island province in the Philippines.The original inhabitants of Siquijor came from Cebu and other nearby islands as farmers and fishermen. The town of Siquijor is the capital of Siquijor Island, so don't get confused.

They call Siquijor as the Island of Fire...why? It is said that the island's native name was Katugasan from the word "tugas" which refers to the Molave trees that covers the hills during the early times and swarmed by fireflies which makes the island flicker at night! People often associate Siquijor with witchcraft and sorcery, that's why it's called the mystical island. Some says the island are mostly inhabited by spiritual healers, witches and other supernatural elements. One would be filled with apprehension and curiosity upon arrival on the said island.

Upon arrival at Siquijor Port we took a tricycle going to Coco Grove Resort. It is located in San Juan, Siquijor, which is apporximately 20 minutes travel from the port. The resort is very spacious and clean, the cabanas are made from bamboo with roof made from nipa. It has a wide and long beach with white sands and coconut trees aligned along the beach. We ate big lunch before going around the island and we must not waste any minute for this!

Tricycles can be hired for a reasonable price in going around the island which can be done for a day, the driver as the tour guide can already take you to most of the interesting places in Siquijor. Our first stop was in  Capilay's Spring Park which is located in the town proper just across San Juan Municipal Hall. It is a natural spring pool which provides cool refreshing water to locals and tourists during hot summer days. The pool is surrounded by huge trees which creates a serene ambience, a place where you can relax and spend time leisurely.

Another interesting place in Siquijor is the 400 year old balite or banyan tree which stands just near the main road but you won't notice if you are not with someone familiar with the place because it is within the thick trees, plants and bushes that surrounds the area. This spooky looking tree has been one of those which earned most of the mysterious tales mostly scary stories which has been handed down from generations to generations that helped the island to be known all over the country. Dwarves, fairies, and things which we couldn't see are said to be the dwellers of the old banyan tree, but I didn't get scared instead I was fascinated by its appearance and even enjoyed the fish foot spa in the natural pool beside it.

Our next destination was the town of Lazi which is the home of the two old structures in Siquijor.  The San Isidro de Labrador Church and its convent. The church was built in 1857 until 1884. It is made from coral stones and hardwood. I was attracted by the curtains in the entrance door which looks so organic and unique and which makes the interiors of the church more intriguing and dignified.

 Across the old church is the convent which served as the recreation and resting place of friars during the old times. The ground floor was made from thick stone slabs and the second floor was made from thick wood. The flooring is still shiny even if it has been there for a long time, it squeaks as I walk slowly as if its going the fall apart, the smell of old wood and corals nestles in every corner which is probably has never changed since it was constructed. The town of Lazi remains naive, the rustic atmosphere hasn't changed as I have observed with the simplicity of their standard of living in the said town. I like Lazi it is one of the few places that I've been wanting to visit again.

We went back on the road and our guide took us to the one of the famous tourists spot in Siquijor, the Cambugahay Falls. But before we can get there we have to go down on that 135 stone stairs which leads to the falls itself. Yes you'll have to exert some effort in going down and may I remind you that it doesn't have a handrail and some steps are slippery and rough, so you have to be extra careful.

You'll see big rocks at the end of the it and the graceful sound of gushing water will welcome you. The Cambugahay falls in Lazi is not like other waterfalls which comes from a height and pours heavy volumes of water. Cambugahay falls for me looks so gracious it has several short layers of cascading waters smoothly flowing from one rock to another. The color of the water is aquamarine which looks so inviting, it is cold and rejuvenating! Isn't that awesome?

We have to be quick for it was getting dark then and we have more to places to go! Next stop is the Salagdoong Beach, a name which confuses me whenever I pronounce it. The Salagdoong beach is located in Maria, Siquijor, passing through a road with thousands of mahogany trees along the way, yes I said thousands because all I could see was the innumerable trees as if it'll never end. And at the dead end is a charming beach with white sand and blue ocean water. There are many activities for tourists in the resort and the most challenging ones is diving from a cliff with an approximate height of 20-30 feet that is surely a steep drop!

 I saw tourists daring and bragging with each other and I know it will a take a lot of guts to take a plunge before the glory which I wouldn't dare to even if all the saints promises me that it will be okay...I wont! Instead I diverted my attention to sunset and do you know what? The sight of the blue, pink and green sundown completed my day in Siquijor and that's very rewarding!

It went dark and my tour around Siquijor that day wasn't finished, but my eyes were filled with all the colorful and interesting scenery in the Island of Fire and even if Siquijor is being linked with sorcerers and witchcrafts, we cannot deny the fact that Siquijor's charm will remain and will continue to attract more tourists. My second day in Siquijor was too little and there's so much to see, time to go and move back to Dumaguete!

How to get here?
1. If you're coming from Manila, take a flight to Dumaguete.
2. Go to the port and take a ferry boat going to Siquijor. ( 1 1/2 hours)
2. There are two ports in Siquijor, the Larena Port and the Siquijor Port (town). It is up to you where to go.
3. When in Siquijor you will find tricycles (motorized bicycle) which can take you to your resort and can also take you around Siquijor for a negotiated fee.

Until my next blog, thank you for reading.

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