Hearing the island’s name seemingly bespeaks mystery and magic. Locally, it is coined as a haven of folk healers, shamans, faith healers and practice of maligned hexing. Also, It seems that the common notion that the secludedness of the island depicts harboring mystical creature, spirits, and land monstrosities. Collectively, that was the vague picture that formed in my mind hearing those descriptions and stories. Growing up in an era of open information, these thoughts rapidly decayed. This island is a destination to be!
Nestled in the central Visayas region, the island itself is rimmed with pristine white beaches with teeming underwater life, dotted with stunning landscapes, tourist destinations and offers a plethora of activities available for travelers and adventure junkies.
FIRST TIME IN VISAYAS (the backstory)
My adventure in Siquijor started on an early January morning in 2016 at the port of Santander in southern Cebu. It is my first itinerary in backpacking Central Visayas region. I flew on a 9PM Cebu Pacific flight straight from Clark Internation Airport in Pampanga to Mactan International Airport in Cebu, took many transfers of multi-cab until I reach South Cebu terminal. Upon arrival at the bus terminal, I waited for the next trip to Oslob. Despite the wee hours, the bus terminal seemingly breaths alive because of the bright lights and active salesladies working the way to sell many sorts of refreshments, bring home treats and snack, the usual Pinoy bus terminal scenario.
Since it is my first time to set foot in any Visayan soil, I tried to fight the tiredness to savor for inaugural hours. I stood and left my backpack sitting on the bench, leaving my peripheral vision on it, and observed the towering buildings of Cebu City.
Few minutes have passed, the bus to Oslob arrived and shortly we are boarding. I took the fourth seat from the driver. As the bus is nearly filled, the wheels reversed and off we go. I kept my eyes peeled as I enjoyed the Cebu skyline first hand and first time. After having my bus ticket and paid the fare, slowly my vision faded into darkness and drifted to dreamland. Suddenly, the conductor shouted, “We are already at the pier”. It is time to alight.
There were a number of people already at the Santander port. It was past 4:00AM when I checked my wrist watch, and I asked the guard on duty at what time the ticket booth would open. He replied “4:30AM”. I thanked him and rushed to the ticket booth and almost everybody followed the queue. While waiting for the boarding announcement, the security guard instructed to fill the passenger manifest with our names. Shortly, the ticket booth window opened and we started paying for our tickets. I chose to stay outside instead on the cramped passenger waiting area to catch cooler air. Some waiting passengers are snoring, telling stories as if it is their last, drinking coffee and eating snacks and some are staring blankly into space.
I breathe the cool January air and observed the twinkling lights of Dumaguete, perfectly lined on the horizon, twinkling colorful lights. It is time to board as the porters started to bring to cargo to the boat. We rushed to the boarding gate and waited for the doors to open.
ABOARD TO SIBULAN PORT
It is my first to board a boat trip alone. The trip was only 30 minutes and kept myself awake as we traversed the strait dividing Cebu island and Negros Island. The waves are kind to the boat and the trip was pleasant. Shortly, we are docking in Sibulan Port. Oh! Another first for me. I will be setting foot on the soil of Negros Oriental province. As we walked out from the port, I asked where would the ships to Siquijor are. The security guard instructed to take the multi-cab waiting outside the gate to transfer to Dumaguete port. I joined the pack in that multi-cab and fortunately, one passenger is going to Siquijor. He gladly told me that I can join him. Minutes has passed and we are in Dumaguete Port. Luckily there are still seats available to the first boat going to Siquijor.
THE ROUGH JOURNEY TO SIQUIJOR
The dark horizon slowly turned to purple to light blue. Shortly, we are to board the passenger boat. I made a wrong move to seat at the front seats. As we started to travel the one hour journey, huge waves started to rock the boat. Some children are starting to vomit, I stated to feel nauseous. Cold sweats slowly oozing and I chose to lay my head down over my backpack. I was hoping this travel agony would end. It was past 20 minutes since we left Dumaguete Port and 40 more agonizing minutes. I just focused myself on sleeping and dozed off. The waves splashing the windows woke me up. As I peered, a land mass now looms on the horizon. At last, it is Siquijor, excitement fluids begin to boil! The Mystic Island, here I come, surely.
As the boat docked, I hurried myself to the exit and there I am, having set foot to Siquijor. I was filled with excited and started to take selfies, which I rarely do.
White beach would welcome you at the right, beside the port and the sea tides are low. Unlike other ports I have visited, this one is unique. The surroundings water are almost crystal clear with teeming marine life. What a perfect way to welcome visitors to the island.
As I exited the port through the long pathway, you will be welcomed by individual drivers and tour guides offering their services. There were Kuya Allan Buctolan, my driver and tour guide waiting for me in red shorts, from his white tricycle standing out amongst the lined gray and dark tricycles. There are motorcycles for rent too if you know how, a good tip to save cash.
The sky was overcast as we left the seaport. I started with the St. Francs of Assisi Church, the first church you will see upon exiting Siquijor port. I posed myself within the big WELCOME TO SIQUIJOR letters. This time, I forgot to enter the church premises and marvel its structure. This I should do when I return. I was too excited to roam around.
Then on the boulevard, not far from the church. I saw few locals jogging the length of the boulevard with the amazing view of the sea adding up the fresh cool air you breathe. You should have the obligatory picture here.
After which, I asked him if he knows an inexpensive homestay and replied that there many good lodges and inns in San Juan, which is about half an hour from Siquijor town. We tried to inquire with other backpacker’s inn along the way but they are fully booked and there we found Casa Miranda.
Casa Miranda – A beautiful resort in the long stretch San Juan Beach is about 30 minutes away from Siquijor town. I asked the owner if there are available rooms since I do not have a prior reservation. She offered me a matrimonial fan room with its own balcony and own bathroom. For Php350.00 (as of posting) a night, it is an awesome deal. Along with me booked in this resort, is a British woman who stayed for almost a week, a German couple, two Norwegian friends, and so Spanish-Basque solo traveler. I am the sole Pinoy guest booked that time.
After checking in, I prepped myself and hurriedly ate my Php55.00 breakfast there, a typical Tapsilog, my pocket saver. Few moments passed for mandatory rest, I am ready to explore the island of Siquijor.
- Camera, Check!
- Pocket money, Check!
- Cellphone, Check!
- Room keys, Check!
- Bottle of Drinking Water, Check!
I sat on the wide white tricycle of Kuya Allan and off we go. The tricycle can fit 5-6 passengers plus 1-2 at the rear of the motorcycle. How on earth do Siquijor have big tricycles but in Pampanga, are too cramped to fit two passengers?
LET’S EXPLORE SIQUIJOR
It was about 30 minutes from Casa Miranda to reach our first destination – the Enchanted Balete Tree Park. Located just right beside the main road, you can easily recognize a pool where tourists can try a public fish spa for free, but there is a donation box which I believe is for the maintenance of the park. The fishes are quite bigger in size comparing to the ones we regularly see in other spas in the metro. I had ticklish feet but still try this and it was my first time! You can really feel the individual fishes nibbling on your feet. I was the sole tourist when I arrived which added to my wonderful experience here in Siquijor. Few minutes later, another group of tourists joined me.
The Balete tree here is not as massive as with of Baler’s but is equally enchanting and exudes a mystic feel. The pool of water beside its roots house the bigger fishes, I think almost a foot long. Kuya Allan, my guide, said he can bring the fishes out from the roots and would have them try to nibble my sole, I said no. I am afraid that they might scrape deep into my flesh. Lol. Kidding. I just let the fishes have the peaceful swim there amongst the balete tree’s roots.
Please do not forget to give a donation for the upkeep of the park and avoid littering. The locals are giving their best to maintain for future visitors.
After the tickling fish spa experience, I bought souvenirs and bring home treats available in the park. There are refreshments available too should you wish to quench your thirst. I spent some time looking around the park. Even the sun was high, its thick canopy blocks the heat and the January cold air added the pleasant climate that time.
The roads in Siquijor offers alternating scenic views with hardly any traffic. Here is one of the view. You would notice that few multi-cabs for public transport. The majority of the locals travel through habal habal or charter a tricycle.
The St. Isidore de Labrador Church, or commonly known as Lazi Church is one of the baroque churches in the Philippines.Upon arrival, there would be someone who would offer candles and rosaries to you and expect old people who would ask for alms. Remarkable about this church are the retained wood floorings and two pulpits. The church also has a distinct smell of old wood to make the experience inside the church unique.
From memory, it is the only old church with the wooden floor I have ever visited and is really unique. It is forbidden to go upstairs in the pulpit as some parts of it are decaying because of age.
One of the rooms in Lazi Church
View of Main Door from Inside
I was not able to visit the old convent building that time. Something I would look forward on my revisit in the future.
We moved next to Cambugahay Falls and there is a section of the road that is really dusty – free natural powder anyone! We passed through a quaint town and noticed that there are barely locals outside. I do not know why and did not dare to ask too. I only saw a handful of locals walking the streets.
As we arrived at the parking lot near the signage to Cambugahay Falls, there are other vehicles already there. At last, I am not alone anymore. The person-in-charge in the parking are would approach you and assist you in registration and paying the parking fee. You do not need a guide actually to falls as the trail directs to the falls, but Kuya Allan still accompanied me. He shared stories of the previous tourists he guided as we descend the stairs to the falls. At last, the sound of gushing water became louder and the falls came into full view. What a relaxing experience. I took shots of the different tiers of the falls and waded my feet on its shallows parts.
Stairs leading to Cambugahay Falls
Cambugahay Falls is one of the must-visits in Siquijor. It is a three-tiered waterfall which visitors can easily hike. The sound of gushing water is eargasm!
The water is deep so be careful unless you swim really well. I saw few tourists jumping from the tier 3 falls into the deep pool. You can even swim below the main cascades of the falls. I did not try to swim because I do not like the feel of wet clothing along the trip that time and there are no changing rooms there – a warning. There are locals selling refreshments and coconut juice near the stairs. There are few tables should you wish to have a picnic beside the falls. Just bring your trash along with you. The falls area is so relaxing and pleasant. I wish I could have stayed longer but I need to hop on to the next destination as I will be spending only one full day on the island.
Try the “Tarzan Style” jump in the first level – just make sure you are a good swimmer.
I left Cambugahay Falls only my feet wet as I try to wade the shallow portions of the catch basin. Was it a wrong decision on not trying to dip? YES! Therefore, I shall have plans to return and experience it.
It is time to ascend the stairs again and expect to catch your breath a bit, but this is a no-worry zone for hikers. I was not able to count the steps, though, as I enjoyed the surrounding environment. Thick canopy, cool and fresh air, birds chirping and fading sound of gushing water as you slowly ascend. At last, the road level came into sight and the never ending locals forcing you to buy their refreshments. Is it encouraged to buy to them? YES! Because the money you pay them goes to their dining tables or books for their children.
It was almost noon when we reached Salagdoong Beach in Maria, Siquijor. The sky went clear, unlike the overcast morning. You would be passing an eerie forest which seems forever to traverse. Instead of focusing on the fear, I enjoyed the scenery, the quietness of the surrounding, and cool air.
Feeling the white sand in Salagdoong Beach
Before entering the resort, you have to register and pay the entrance fee. As we parked, I rushed to the beautiful beach. It is amazing! Fine white sand beach. There are picturesque rocks formations and a cliff diving facility. There are two diving boards which you can try. I just posed for a picture there.
I sat and rested beach area and felt the white sand and sun on my skin. Now I can feel the noontime heat. There are few tourists that time, two Europeans and I think a Chinese couple.
I chose to have lunch here since the nearest eatery is about 30 minutes away. I perused the menu and ordered a meal for us. It is one of my rare meals since the food is quite pricey but the ambiance is worth it. Cool, fresh air, plus the amazing view of the beach and the sound of waves mild crashing.
After our lunch, I had my required afternoon caffeine dose and head to our next destination.
Before reaching the mangrove park, we passed by an old house along the road. It is actually the oldest house in Siquijor according to Kuya Allan. The character of the structure adds to mysticism feels in the province.
Must try too in the province is the delectable pan de coco of Ate Lilibeth, as featured in “Byahe ni Drew” travel show.
I felt the afternoon sleepiness as we ventured to our next destination. Alternating towns, forest, and beaches are my views as we circle the island province. I am hoping that the caffeine would get into my system and restart me.
At last, we arrived at our next destination, the Guiwanon Spring Park – sounds like my surname – Guiwan.
After registering, I rushed to the boardwalk, taken photos and savored the environment. Another eargasm moment, different bird species singing their way inside the mangrove forest. I was lucky I am the only visitor that moment.
After visiting the park, we drove back to Siquijor to search for more souvenirs. Unique souvenirs here are the different potions and healing oils.
Tired of the whole day touring the island, I returned to Casa Miranda and took a nap. I forgot to alarm and when I woke up, the sun starts to set. Immediately rushed to the shore with my camera and took shots of the fantastic sunset. Along with me is a Spanish-Basque tourist. He said that this is the most amazing sunset he ever witnessed.
This amazing sunset capped my Siquijor experience. I will be returning here with friends for sure.
I had my dinner on a nearby barbecue stand and ate under the stars and beside the beach. Before going to sleep, I spend an hour on the beach taking snapshots and sat on the hammock. It was one of the best beach I experience.
I have a heavy heart as I woke early morning to board the first trip to Dumaguete.
Siquijor is worth a visit and worth re-visiting.
SUMMARY OF ITINERARY
- First Trip from Dumaguete to Siquijor
- St. Francis of Assisi Church
- The Boulevard
- Check In at Casa Miranda + Breakfast
- Balete Tree
- Lazi Church
- Cambugahay Falls
- Salagdoong Beach
- Cang-Isok House
- Lilibeth’s Pan De Coco
- Guiwanon Spring Park
- Early Check Out and take First Trip to Dumaguete
Casa Miranda +63 917 910 6995
Allan Buctolan +63 916 641 9570 (Driver/Guide)
Actual Expense for Solo Traveller:
|SOLO DIY TRAVEL IN SIQUIJOR||COST|
|Santander Port to Sibulan Port||PHP 70.00|
|Sibulan port to Dumaguete Port (multi-cab)||PHP 10.00|
|Dumaguete Port to Siquijor Port (Jaylan)||PHP 140.00|
|Tricycle Tour (driver Allan Buctolan)||PHP 1,000.00|
|Casa Miranda Room||PHP 350.00|
|Food in Casa Miranda (breakfast snacks and drinks)||PHP 165.00|
|Parking Fee in Cambugahay Falls||PHP 20.00|
|Salagdoong Beach Parking Fee||PHP 40.00|
|Lunch with driver in Salagdoong Beach||PHP 250.00|
|Entrance Fee in Guiwanon Spring Park||PHP 10.00|
|Barbecue dinner||PHP 70.00|
|Casa Miranda to Siquijor port (Tricycle – pre-arranged)||PHP 250.00|
|Siquijor port to Dumaguete Port (Aleson)||PHP 100.00|
SITES I MISSED AND FUTURE PLANS IN SIQUIJOR
- Visit Triad Coffee Shop
- Visit San Isidro Convent
- Visit Lunason Falls
- Visit Mt. Bandilaan National Park
- Visit Cantabon Cave
- Check other beaches
- Triad Coffee Shop
- Capilay Spring
- Try other resorts
- Bring friends along
DAGHANG SALAMAT SIQUIJOR, MUBALIK GYUD KO!