After a day of diving in Apo Island, Ate Claudia and I crossed the Bohol Strait to visit the neighboring island province of Siquijor, a totally contrasting experience from the city life of Dumaguete.
Only one hour by fast craft from the port of Dumaguete City, Siquijor is a small, mystical, laid back island with rich history and endowed with amazing natural attractions. The island, slightly bigger than Camiguin, has a 75-kilometer circumferential road that spans in its six towns of San Juan, Lazi, Maria, Enrique Villanueva, Larena and Siquijor, the provincial capitol.
Its attractions include old churches, waterfalls, natural springs, century-old trees and structures, caves, and white sand beaches. Numerous diving sites also dot the water surrounding the island.
We took the 9AM Delta Fast Craft from the port of Dumaguete to Siquijor. A P175 (P160 for fare and P15 for terminal fee) short ride to the province and by 10AM, we were already in the port of Siquijor. Tricycle and multicab drivers mobbed us as we exited the port, they were all offering island tour.
We noticed that if there’s one thing lacking in Siquijor, it is the regulated tourism. There is no organize way of attending to tourists, not even standard rates of tours. With so many offers and sales talk, it was Haypee who got us. At first he priced us P1000 for five-hour trike tour of the island, but we haggled and brought it down to P700. We needed to be back to Suquijor port before 3PM to catch the last trip of Delta Fast Craft to Dumaguete. He made sure we would be back in time for the trip.
So our tour went on with first stop at St. Francis of Assisi Church and Belfry. Located just outside the port, the church is the oldest in the province which is said to be constructed from 1795 to 1831.
Next stop was at Capilay Spring Park, just along the main highway in the town of San Juan, a favorite hangout for locals and tourists for its cold water originating from the natural spring. The complex was converted into a public park with pools, cottages, trees and well designed landscape.
Just a few minutes away from Capilay Spring Park is a smaller spring with the century-old banyan (balete) tree. This is the oldest tree in the island and a popular landmark of Siquijor due to the myths and legends attached to it.
By lunch time, we were already in the town of Lazi, home to the San Isidro Labrador Parish, one of the few remaining Baroque Churches in the Philippines, and a candidate for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The church was established by Augustinian Recollects in 1857. Across from the church is the convent and museum. The convent, which was erected in 1887, is one of the oldest and biggest in the country. Entrance fee to the museum is P20.
Also in the town of Lazi is the Cambugahay Falls, one of the main attractions of the island. It is a multi-tiered waterfalls with the cold water coming from the natural springs in the mountain area of the island. We had to go down the 135-stone steps from the jump-off point along the road just to see the falls.
From the town of Lazi, we headed to the neighboring town of Maria for our last stop – the Salagdoong Forest and Beach in Barangay Olang. But an unfortunate thing happened on our way to Salagdoong when our trike broke down, it was half past the hour of one in the afternoon. Haypee stopped at a repair shop to ask for help from the mechanic and after 30 minutes past and some workaround, the trike was back to its shape and we continued our tour. We reached Salagdoong Beach past 2PM and just spent a little time exploring the area.
Salagdoong Beach is now a developed beach. With slides, cottages, halls and rooms, the public beach is being managed by the local government of Maria and a popular destination for tourists. Entrance fee is P15 per person and parking fee (for our trike) is also P15. They have restaurant inside and rooms for those planning to stay overnight.
Twenty minutes before 3PM, Haypee advised us that it takes almost an hour back to the port of Siquijor. To our surprise, it was almost 3PM, and the last Delta Fast Craft leaves on the same hour. But our worry eased a bit when he said that there is a Montenegro Ferry that leaves at 3:45 PM.
We quickly left Salagdoong Beach and Haypee drove his trike in full speed. We took the short cut road, the one that crosses the mountain area of Siquijor from Maria to Larena instead of the circumferential road that will pass to Enrique Villanueva. By 3:30 PM, we reached the port just before the ticket counter stop issuance of tickets. Whew!
We thanked Haypee and bid him goodbye. He was such a kind tour guide so we handed him a little over of what we agreed earlier.
The Montenegro Ferry fare was cheaper at P109, plus P13 terminal fee. The ferry is bigger than Delta’s but a bit slower. Travel time from Siquijor to Dumaguete was two hours, inclusive of almost half an hour stop before docking in Dumaguete.
Before going back to our hotel, we walked to the nearby baywalk and ended the day with sweet treats from Sans Rival.
It was a mystical day for Ate Claudia and me, we had a glimpse of the beautiful island of Siquijor in just a day. It was short but an experience we will forever cherish.