‘Scary’ isn’t the first word that popped in my head as soon as the island of Siquijor loomed in the horizon. Captivating , stunning, and all other words synonymous to beautiful, those you’d immediately blurt out. The port itself was a sight to see, it was by far, the cleanest and the most beautiful port that I have ever seen. As our boat docked, crystalline waters welcomed us together with a cool breeze of wind and the mid-day sun highlighted the vast radiant shoreline.
As we drove past the streets I hear nothing but the wind as it makes its way across every strand of my thick hair. The silence was maddening like a girl compulsively verbalizing about her cheating boyfriend. I began to wonder why the streets were almost empty.
The port was good and the roads were paved. Streetlights are everywhere. I have only seen a few and I can already say that it’s promising place, but why weren’t there more people here? Considering that it’s a high-season.
Right. Im in Siquijor.
And right from the get-go she made me discover that silence is something I can actually hear.
I grew up listening to stories and watching documentaries about magic potions, shamans, sorcerers and witches. According to the stories, they abound in Siquijor, also known as the mystic island and the 3rd smallest province in the Philippines. The sleep-deprived eight-year-old me would immediately stop playing video games and sleep early whenever my mother or my nanny would say that there is a sorcerer from Siquijor perched on top of our roof. But as I grew older I believe in those old wives’ tales less and become more interested to see the island I once thought was the scariest.
We boarded the hotel shuttle and bombarded Kuya Ron, the shuttle driver, with questions about wakwak, witch doctors and magic potions. “Those are just stories” said Kuya Ron. He quickly debunked the age-old island reputation as a place of sorcery and unearthly beings. He even told us catchy stories including the reason why the Spaniards called Siquijor as ‘Isla del fuego’ or the Island of fire. I guess he is used to tourists like us, that’s why he patiently answered our silly questions one by one. His smile after every question thrown at him is as good as the smiley face printed on his lime green shirt.
Enroute to our lodge, we had our first stopover at St.Francis of Assisi Church. Built in 1793 and was completed only in 1831. And as with most structures of that era, the St. Francis of Assisi church was made up mostly of coral stone into what appears to be stone blocks and sits in some very attractive grounds with numerous religious images along the perimeter and a freestanding bell tower.
The mere presence of what is known as the oldest tree in Siquijor, the 400-year old Banyan tree is what made the place truly enchanting. It is said to be the home of the spirits, and in cities, legends tell of it being haunted by a white lady. It shadowed the stream of water flowing underneath it, which the locals made into a small pool of clear, fresh water. It’s easily accessible from the road and renting a motorcycle is the best way to get there and be around the island. Even though there are people who suddenly appeared from nowhere and hailed out on motorbikes asking if they can get a ride. We experienced it several times!
Speaking of motorbikes, somewhere around the forsaken island, we stumbled across the island’s most beautiful spot–Cambugahay Falls. People will surely enjoy this three-tiered falls for countless reasons. No wonder why it’s one of the main drags of the province right now. After dipping in the cold water you can swing and jump off from a vine that hangs near the first level of the water falls and break the steady stream of aqua-green water like a lucky coin flipped in a placid lake.
The beaches of Siquijor will have you lost first through winding roads under a canopy of trees that eerily resemble the places you only see in horror films before it rewards you sweet refuge. A quiet, white pebbled beach, shaded by tall coconut trees and varying layers of blue, turquoise and green welcomed me. It is what every beach person(like me) could ask for.
A very huge rock boulder divides the two beaches at Salagdoong. This limestone by the beach is where they made an observation deck near the cliff, from there you could see both sides of the beaches and some interesting local life of the fishermen in the area. You can see the seabed atop the cliff. It is indeed a breath-taking view. Adventure junkies can jump off the cliff and surrender to gravity.
One fine afternoon, while waiting for the sun to set, we swam in the crystal clear waters of Salagdoong. A sea urchin floated ashore. I scooped it using a plastic cup and showed it to my friends. They poked it. We all giggled like we experienced paradise. And perhaps we did.
““Keep taking leaps of faith, even if you have to try a few times. Jump until you are free.” —Satori
This island promises a real escape from your everyday city life. It is the kind of vacation you should be bragging about. A vacation away from the endless honking of buses, the people pressuring you to be mediocre yet pretend they want greatness from you, the deadlines and Mcdonalds fast food chains.
The tales of enchanment about this place are indeed true—but not for the reasons you may have always thought.
Siquijor is like a mysterious woman’s heart—studded with secrets. You may hear stories that shrouds her like a perpetual haze but you’ll never know if any is true. So you have to experience her on your own. You have to explore her and get lost in her spell. Then you’ll find out that the only mystery is that you’ve waited that long to know her better.