Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mythical Island of Enchanting Siquijor Philippines

My long overdue post...

Siquijor is an Island province of the Philippines located in the Central Visayas region. The Island of Siquijor is known to many as the mystical and magical island of the Philippines, the third smallest province in the country, in terms of population as well as land area. During the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines, the Spaniards called the island as "Island of Fire". Because of the Molave trees and the fireflies in them at night.

Siquijor is said to have magic potions, shamans, sorcerers and witches - perhaps it is very fitting for an island with a mystery to its name, that the island itself is rumored to be quite the center of mystique. Since old days people have seen Siquijor as an island of voodoo and witchcraft and still to this day many superstitious Filipino's prefer not to visit the island.

But as for me, its the other way around just the thought of those superstitious beliefs exist on this era really makes the trip more exciting and fun. From the moment I stepped out of the fast-craft, I knew that the port is just one of the many beautiful things that I will see in the island.

Siquijor Port-The cleanest port I've ever seen. 

From the port we hired a trike (tricyle) for Php 200.00 going to VILLA MARMARINE our home for two days, the hotel has a homey atmosphere and it is managed by Japanese couple. Its a small resort with four cottages and restaurant.

80% of Siquijor's transportation is Tricyle.

Shoreline of Villa Marmarine. Behind me is the main house of the hotel that serves us our restaurant as well.

Overlooking view at Villa Marmarine's Main House/ Restaurant

Sunset at Villa Marmarine 

Our Cottage

On the second day we decided to stroll the island. Take note you can tour the island in one day. This is possible because the circumferential road that spans all of the island’s 6 towns is just 75 kilometers long and passes mainly along the coast. You can rent a trike for P800 to P1,200 for a whole day tour (again this depends on where you are going) – with your driver acting as a tour guide as well. You can also rent a motorbike (P800 or so for a whole day) and go wherever you wish. The only setback is that you may not know the way to lesser known destinations. We rent a trike for Php 1,000.00 and the driver also serves us our tour guide. 

First we went to Capilay Spring Park. Siquijor province is home to many natural cold springs. Situated at San Juan is located at the southwestern portion of Siquijor province. Capilay Spring Park is among the well-known natural spring parks in Siquijor. This natural, open-to-the-public swimming pool is right in the middle of the town plaza where everyone is free to take a plunge into its refreshing spring waters. This spring park has three main areas, such as the upper pool, the swimming pool and the laundry pool, all flowing into the nearby ocean. There is also a playground, kiosks, and booths around the park which are perfect for families or friends who want to have a picnic. 

Next we stopped by at Siquijor's famous old enchanted balete tree in Lazi which is believed to be 400 years of age. I'm not very fond of Balete trees thanks to local horror films and to my very superstitious ancestors here in the Philippines, balete trees are known as hosts to scary creatures and spirits. I have no idea where this myth originated but i grew up listening all this kind of stories, I'd have to see one to become a believer. ha!ha! Lazi's 400 year old balete tree is huge! And it's branches set it's foliage to a wide canopy that covers the pool in it's bottom. The gloomy weather that day did not seem to bother me much because of the cool, and calm atmosphere the tree gave on the visitors below it. There is a pool area that one can cool off and the water is surprisingly clean with fish swimming in it and some locals wash there clothes here.

Our next stop is the town of Lazi, located fifteen kilometers from San Juan. It is the home of the popular St. Isidore Labradore Church and Convent. Known as the largest Convent in the Asian region, surrounded with many acacia trees. The planning and construction of this religious edifice was started by the Augustinian Recollects in the year 1857 and was finalized by Filipino artisans twenty seven years later.

St. Isidore Labradore Church

The San Isidro Labrador (Lazi) Church and Convent is reputed to be the biggest and among the oldest convents in the country, it has been declared a historical landmark by the Philippine Historical Commission. The church complex was built by the Augustinian Recollects in the latter half of the 19th century. The church has two pulpits, the original retablos, and wood floors with herringbone pattern. The church walls are approximately a meter thick, The walls are reinforced with log post which are embedded in the wall. The pediments of the church are made of wood panels. 

it was great to know that the old church was well preserved....

the old stairs and its railings with its old wooden floor.

St. Isidore Labradore Church...aging gracefully in time. We had a fun time taking pictures of the well-preserved structure.

Across the St. Isidore (Lazi) Church is a large convent, which was used for rest and recreation of the Friars. It is a U-shape structure, with stonewalls at the first level, and wood studs and panels at the second floor. The convent has width of about 50 meters and a depth of about 50 meters. Most of the partitions of the convent have been removed, but the design elements are seen in most parts of the structure. The convent was constructed in 1887 and was completed four years after. It was believed that prior to the building of the St. Isidore Church and Convent in Siquijor, there was a church and convent already standing but the conditions of the old structure were starting to deteriorate hence construction of a new structure was initiated. Aside from the convent and church, friars in Siquijor also spearheaded other projects such as the Casa Real, schools, irrigation systems, and bridges.So when visiting the province of Siquijor, a trip to St. Isidore Labradore Church and Convent is worth adding to your itinerary.

The Convent.

Lazi town is a proof that Siquijor is more than just beaches and historic structures but also nature's wonder lays the islands most popular destination is Cambugahay Falls.It lies in a ravine so one has to descend a total of 135 steps from the road to get there. The falls has three major tiers or levels. Each one is relatively shallow in height but makes up in width what it lacks in height. All three tiers have turquoise-colored catch basins that invite the visitor to a refreshing swim. These waters come from natural springs further up the mountains or hills in the central part of the island and continue on down into Lazi Bay.

Welcome to Cambugahay Falls!!!

First Level

Second Level a far.

Second level up-close.

Third Level.

We spent less than an hour at Cambugahay Falls then decided to continue our swimming session at Salagdoong Beach Resort our last but not the least stop over for the day. Salagdoong Beach is Siquijor's famous beach located in the town of Maria, its five kilometer ride from the highway. Before reaching the beach you'll passed by those human made forest. Salagdoong Beach is a government owned resort that is famous for its postcard worthy landscape, floating rock formations, fine white sand, cliff diving and slides facing Pacific Ocean.

Beautiful Rock formation in the middle of the beach with human made slide.

I slide!!! 

Right side of the beach with amazing rock formation.

Left side of Salagdoong beach.

Salagdoong Beach front.

Standing at diving cliff flat-form facing the wide calm Pacific Ocean.

As I said above Salagdoong is famous for its cliff diving. During the low tide, the water reaches up to 12 feet and during the high tide, it can go as deep as 50 feet. Looking down at the 20 foot drop made me nervous at first, especially I'm not a good swimmer, and the idea of jumping off in an open wide sea, gave me goosebumps. I'm glad and thankful that my partner was waiting down on me to catch me since I'm jumping off without a life vest, so it took me a few minutes before I finally went for it. When I took the jump, I was screaming out loud calling names of my parents and God name hahaha just to relish the free fall. For its height, it was a short fall and before I knew it, I was already in the water whooping for joy. It was awesome. Daebak! an amazing experience and I'm so glad that I was able to do it and would definitely do it again and again.

My extreme cliff diving while my facial expression while jumping off is so EPIC. hahaha Daebak! na Daebak!

I would like to give credit to the local government of Siquijor for keeping clean and well-maintained Salagdoong Beach despite being a public beach and so are the locals for being well disciplined. I hope that stay forever and tourist would not exploit the island.

Thank you for taking time to read my post. Please note prices mention on this post may change without prior notice. As I said; this my long overdue post I visit this island last February of 2011.



Getting to Siquijor
There are no direct flights to Siquijor from Manila or Cebu but there are daily flights on Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines to Dumaguete City, the nearest commercial airport. From the airport at Dumaguete you can take a trike (P100-150) to Dumaguete’s port. It’s just a short 15 minute ride.
And if your coming from Cebu City (like us) you can take the fast ferries like Ocean Jet Fast Ferry Travel time is approximately 1hr and 20mins.

In Dumaguete port there are several ferries bound for Siquijor town or Larena. You can choose between the fast ferries such as Delta Fast Ferry or Ocean Fast Ferry that can make the trip in 45 minutes to an hour or the roll-on, roll-off (RORO) ferries that take vehicles on board and can take almost 2 hours to make the trip. These ferries leave as early as 5:30 AM and as late as 7PM. The schedules for travel times can change so you may need to check online just to make sure what exact time these ferries depart for Siquijor.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

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