A day before going to Siquijor, my mother warned me about the “mambabarangs” which have made the island province well known. I’m sure she doesn’t believe this, she only wanted me to not go so I wouldn’t have to borrow money from her (my salary allotted for this trip came late). Wait ’til she hears about my plan of going to Basilan. Ha! Although I heard those stories, I never believed them one bit. Siquijor felt familiar to me. The people there speak Bisaya after all, which I am fluent in. I started this trip with a long bus ride from my hometown Sagay to Dumaguete. I arrived at the terminal at 4:45am but the bus arrived at 5:45am. It was supposed to arrive in Sagay around 5am but I heard the driver talking about how the conductor woke up late. The bus trip was even made worse by the condition of the highway in Negros, both Occidental and Oriental. Anyway, I arrived in Dumaguete around 12:30pm. There I met my friend Maybelle who was going to be my travel buddy for this Siquijor trip. She took me for lunch to Nevas, which by the way sells very affordable dishes (for P115, you get soup, pasta, fried pork, rice, brownies and iced tea), and gave me a wonderful gift.
We took a RoRo boat from Dumaguete to Siquijor. This only cost us P100 each. I had a larger amount in mind which I listed on my budget, so this was great news for me. Other faster boats were available but we were too late for them. There was still a bit of a storm on that day so the sea was rough. What was supposed to be an hour and 15 minutes of boat ride, as advertised on the shipping lines’ booth, became more than two hours.
We arrived in Siquijor at about 6pm. There we met Kuya Tata whom we hired to be our guide for the next two days. He is nice and quite an honest man. He also did not talk a lot which I appreciated. If you’re looking for a guide around Siquijor, then he’s the man. His number is 09351927565. They are being regulated by the Siquijor Tourism Office so they have fixed rates.
For the all-day Siquijor Island Coastal Tour, they charge P1000. And for the three-hour Cantabon Cave Tour (I think this is referred as the Mountain Tour), they charge P1200. However, if you know how to drive a motorcycle, you can save a lot by renting one for about P300 to P350 a day.
We first had Kuya Tata drive to the resort where we were staying, Coral Cay. I found this because I was looking for a nice place that was a bit affordable. They have rooms for as low as P1000. I took the beachfront suite (they named it Layo) because it had multiple beds and, as you guessed it, it was right in front of the beach.
The beach at the Coral Cay Resort, however, was not really swimmable. You can still swim but you have to wade through many seaweeds that are scattered along the beach. There were less seaweeds on my last night so either there were people cleaning them or the water just took them back to the sea.
The prices in the restaurant were okay if you compare it to the prices in Cebu or in other major cities, but when you go around Siquijor, you will realize there are other more affordable options.
The staff at the resort were always friendly and were always willing to help, so I appreciated that. We were allowed to swim in the pool at 9pm even when they have posted that the pool is only open until 8pm.
I was coaxing Maybelle to run with me early the next day. I had a scheduled 16km run for my training but I woke up late, so training would have to start next week. I swear I’d get on it.
Instead, we just took some pictures around the pool.
We started our Island Tour the next day at 9:30am. Our first stop was the Capilay Park. It was right in the middle of the city and at first, I found it weird that there were people swimming in the lagoon (I could only imagine how it would look if people started swimming in the Bacolod Lagoon). Kuya Tata told us that the water in the lagoon at Capilay Park came from the mountain. That made me feel less weird about the people swimming there. There was a grotto on the hill and a church above it.
We then headed to the Old Balete Tree in Lazi. I did not really pay attention to the tree. What got me were the fish that would feed on people’s skin. They’re small, don’t worry – the bigger ones don’t have the appetite for human skin. I had a little burn on my left foot and they attacked it. They were less focused on my right foot.
Kuya Tata then took us to what he called the “Overview.” It was just a simple spot in the uphill part of the highway where you can take a good, well, overview of the sea. At this point, I realized I had to use the landscape mode on my camera because I was still not good in adjusting my manual settings. The preset mode made my pictures look better. I know some photography purists are secretly bashing me now.
After a few minutes on that spot, we went to the Lazi Church and the Lazi Convent. The church was already closed when we got there so my friend Maybelle just lit a few candles in the small hall beside the church. There was also an “open” version of the church downhill, complete with an altar, pulpits and pews, under a big tree just a few meters from the actual church. I thought it looked medieval or at least ancient (I’m not really good in history). The convent was just what it was – a convent. We did not get to take a look inside.
Then off we went to the Cambugahay Falls. There was a payment of P20 for I guess the vehicle or our group of three (I tend to forget small details). It would be fun if you are willing to jump using the vine or from the top of the falls. In my case, my friend was willing to jump, so I still had fun. I should really learn how to swim so I could be a daredevil next time. The view of the falls was also great. A local in the area volunteered to be our guide without us asking. He was a big help when Maybelle jumped off multiple times. He was there to grab her to safety. We gave him P100 which we think was more than the usual tip he gets. Also, as I was reading reviews of Cambugahay Falls today, there were a few commenting about the number of steps going down the falls. They said it was more than a hundred. We never noticed.
We had lunch in a carenderia in Lazi proper. I suggested this so we could save more. We originally planned to eat in Salagdoong Beach, which Maybelle said also had an affordable menu, but it was still 40 minutes away and it was already 12:30pm.
After lunch, we headed straight to Salagdoong Beach. The beach was clean and had crystal clear waters. There were also plenty of fishes even in the shallow parts of the sea. The beach was a bit rocky though, but hey, if it was that clean, who could complain? Maybelle, apparently wanting to challenge herself again, wanted to jump off the cliff. I couldn’t even make myself stand on the cliff, but she was contemplating on jumping off it. She did jump twice! I was happy to see her jump while I just waded on the beach.
While we were leaving, the German woman who was also staying in Coral Cay and had the same tour itinerary with us until that point approached me to ask about going together to see Cantabon Cave the next day. We agreed to talk about it when we get back to the resort because we were on our way to our next destination while she was going to Barangay San Antonio to meet the local healers because she was interested in their ability to talk to spirits, but I never saw her again. I felt guilty because this is another time that I look like a jerk, but somehow relieved that I was not going together with someone I just met. I’m awkward around people I don’t know as what my blog title clearly suggests. About the German believing in spirits, I found it funny that a Westerner would believe in such thing, while we just laughed about it.
After Salagdoong, it became a lazy afternoon. Kuya Tata took us to a store that sells local delicacies, torta and pan bisaya. Maybelle bought something we could eat for merienda. I wasn’t really hungry so we didn’t get to finish everything she bought. I brought the leftovers back to the resort.
Then Kuya Tata drove us to a spot where where mangroves were planted and another spot which looked like Siquijor’s version of a boulevard. We just had some of our portraits taken there.
The penultimate stop was the Guinawon Spring. There was a payment of P10 per person. The mangroves there looked scary and intriguing. I was thinking of Pirates of the Caribbean while I was looking at these small mangroves. They also have treehouses which we were told can accommodate backpackers. The treehouses looked nice so I might be staying there next time I get to Siquijor.
Our last stop was the Welcome Siquijor sign and the souvenir shop near the port. Then it was time for Maybelle to go back to Dumaguete because she still had work the next day.
I slept early in the evening after a few bottles of beer. I had canned tuna, which Maybelle brought with us, for dinner. I also decided that I would just settle my bill in the resort so I could check out early the next day.
Kuya Tata fetched me from Coral Cay a few minutes before 5:30am so we could get to the Cantabon Cave early and so I could catch the 11am ferry trip to Dumaguete. We got there around 6:15am and we had to register in the barangay hall first. They were still not open at that time but the people living around the barangay hall, who were also apparently working there, were very accommodating to register me and provide guides for me. I had two female guides who accompanied me. I felt nervous because they were small women and I couldn’t expect them to pull me when I would be having a hard time during the trek.
This was my first time spelunking. I have been to the Underground River and another small cave in El Nido but they were really not spelunking. From the moment we entered the Cantabon Cave, I already found it difficult. I had to duck for long stretches because I was too tall for the passages. There were also a lot of sharp stalactites and stalagmites (I don’t know which is which). I enjoyed the mini swimming pool. I was glad the water was just waist deep so I wouldn’t have to feel embarrassed to my guides. The most difficult part, I would say, was crossing between two rocks with a wide gap. In that wide gap was a very deep trench of water. I was finally relieved when we got to the end of the cave which they named, the king’s bed. It was a magnificent rock formation. Then we had to go back the difficult passages again. I had a few wounds from this activity but it was worth the workout. I’m not sure if I’m going to do spelunking again, but this pumped me up.
My camera wouldn’t work in the dark, or maybe I just don’t know how to set it to work in the dark. I only managed to take a couple of fairly good pictures (the next two) inside the cave using my camera and had to resort to my phone to take other pictures.
We managed to finish the trek in about two hours. We went back to the barangay hall to shower Pinoy-style (balde and tabo) and to settle the payment. They charge P500 for the guides for the first three guests but since I was alone, I had to pay the full amount. They also charge a total of P40 for the helmet and the headlamp. I gave a small tip to my wonderful guides. I finished everything at 8:38am and then we started the trip back to the town proper. Kuya Tata took me straight to the port where I was able to catch the 9:30am ferry trip. Before boarding the ferry, Kuya Tata took a few shots of me at the port.
I arrived in Dumaguete at 11am and took the bus going to San Carlos at 11:45am. I arrived in San Carlos after a five-hour hot and dusty trip. From San Carlos, I took another bus going to Sagay.
Siquijor is a backpacker’s haven. I want to go there again and bring my family, especially my mother, with me. Almost everything is affordable and you can go around the entire province in just one day! If you have P5000, you can already spend 3 days there. Their tourism office is doing a great job especially in regulating tricycle drivers to become tourist guides. It is not overdeveloped yet so I hope it stays that way.