Thanks to CinemaOne’s countless screenings of “Magandang Hatinggabi”, I have come to associate Siquijor with Angelica dela Cruz and her huge hairy hump. This, along with the turnover of aswang duties to her from Jaclyn Jose in the form of a black stone drenched in saliva, taken from the depths of Jaclyn’s semi-human guts. If I got something out of that film other than could-have-been bladder explosions caused by delays in bathroom visits as the hairy “manananggal/mambabarang/aswang” might be hiding just behind the bathroom sporting a unibrow and a dark grin, it is this curiosity for a land as mystical as Siquijor.
It was a sunny Tuesday morning, and as I try to jumpstart my search for the secrets of Siquijor, what greeted my wandering soles was the surreal beauty of the island. The waters were clear and blue-green, making Siquijor Port an attraction in itself.
We reached the island paradise by Delta fast ferry (PhP160) from Dumaguete, a 50-minute cruise by the waves of the Visayan Sea. Ricks and I met up with our friend-cum-guide Efren and his wife Xyrille for a 5-hour flash tour of the island with designated stops at scenic nature spots and heritage sites.
The tour kicked off with Capilay Springs Park, a public nature park with fresh spring water to soothe the tired muscles and negate the scorching heat of the sun.
Next was the oldest balete tree in Siquijor, said to be a century old, enchanting and eerie with countless roots hanging loose from its strong trunk. We walked around the fabled tree with gentle steps, whispering courtesies, not wanting to displease the inhabiting entities. We noticed a hollow part in the tree’s core which seemed like a portal to another dimension.
We were surprised to see a lady washing clothes by the small channel just below the tree where fresh spring water flows. More surprising perhaps was the fact that there were fish swimming by the channel amidst the lady’s detergent bubbles. We dipped our toes hoping for a complimentary fish spa but the fish apparently disliked calluses.
Off we went to the next stop, St. Isidore Labradore Church and Convent. Located in the municipality of Lazi, this beautiful heritage site was declared as a historical landmark by the National Historical Commission in the 1970’s. The church, as with most old catholic churches in the Philippines is made of native coral rock.
- the church was closed for the day and I’d hate myself if I won’t be able to view the ornate interior. So I inserted my lens in a small break in the church’s heavy side door to get a glimpse.
The convent, built in 1887, is said to be the oldest and largest convent in Asia. Beside it is a private sectarian grade school. Kids were lazing around the convent with their cliques and silly pigtails. It was so cute that I can’t miss capturing their smiles in photographs.
Cambugahay falls was the next pitstop, a three-tiered (cake?!) waterfall than can be reached through a 135-step stairway lined with well-rounded rocks.
Saving time and dry clothes, we decided against swimming and raced to the town of Maria to see the old church and belfry which served as a watchtower in the olden times.We wanted to climb the steel staircase to reach the top of the tower but unfortunately, access was closed during our visit.
Racing to catch our 3PM ferry ride back to Dumaguete City, we decided that our last stop would be St. Francis of Assisi Church and Bell Tower in the municipality of Siquijor. Constructed out of coral stones and nipa, the church also has a bell tower built to give people an early warning of pirates coming.
The short but tiring day was finally over and it was time to bid paradise goodbye. Though I cannot truly prove the nonexistence of creatures which have made the island famous and fabled and mystical, I am quite convinced that the reason why this island is shrouded in mystery, from an outsider’s vantage point, is that it wants people to see it for themselves. It revives the dormant wanderlust and eventually lures travelers to throw caution to the wind and set sail for the island of pristine beaches, beautiful people, rich heritage, and diverse nature spots.I, for one, fell prey to this. And yes, what bewitching beauty Siquijor truly is.