The Mysterious Island of Siquijor...

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January 31st 2013
Published: February 10th 2013
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Our next island is surrounded by rumours of witchcraft and black magic with some Filipinos steering well clear for fear of what may happen to them. Of course we poo poohed all this but each one of us secretly hoped that we might find something a little surreal and were looking forward to finding out what the island of Siquijor might offer. We started to wonder whether the rumours were actually true when Dale’s camera broke on the ferry across.. was it trying to tell us something? The next bit of bad luck for our group came along when Achim & Anita lost 10 entries to their blog… would this be the end?

We were still travelling with Anita & Achim for our ferry over from Dumaguete (136PHP) and had read in the LP that this island offers some of the best value accommodation in the Philippines, something we wouldn’t necessarily agree with after our visit. We’d decided to focus on the North of the island and headed for the handful of resorts that are found about 15 minutes outside Larena. Anita & Dale walked the beach to check each one but they were all either fully booked or only
Cambugahay FallsCambugahay FallsCambugahay Falls

with Sophie!
had expensive rooms available. We really didn’t fancy a ride around to the other side of the island so took the best option available which was the Casa de la Playa offering a basic room (no tv, hot shower or aircon) for the pricely sum of 900PHP. The Casa is in a nice setting and the beachfront rooms look amazing (but well above our budget) so we told ourselves we’d do our best to find something a little better the next day.

We spent the afternoon settling in and checking out the beach. It’s a nice beach with some mangroves and these always offers lots of interesting things to look at when the tide is out which came later on in the afternoon. We found lots of hermit crabs, mud skippers, starfish, urchins (Dale’s nemesis) and weird alien starfish & worms (Sophie’s nemesis)! There would be no way we’d be going out in this water with no shoes on!

The next day we hired some bikes and set off to explore. The sun was shining which provided the perfect backdrop for riding around this beautiful island.. Villages are small and in between are rice paddies and jungle areas and we all loved the journey, it was our fist time on a bike for a while and we immediately remembered why we’d enjoyed this mode of transport on our previous trip as it does give such a sense of freedom. Our first stop was a beach which had been recommended to us by Bambi at Harolds, we had a bit of trouble finding it but after asking around we found the overgrown sign, parked up our bikes and walked the 500m down to Kagusua Beach. There are barricades blocking the path with signs saying it is dangerous for tourists which we thought was a bit strange until we later found out that this area has been purchased by a developer so is effectively private property… but it didn’t say no backpackers so we carried on! It’s such a shame that it’s been sold on as a huge resort built on the land will surely destroy the beautiful coved beaches and clear turquoise water that we found but we guess that that’s the way things go and we were just thankful that we’d got to see it now before the bulldozers move in.

Heading clockwise around the island next we visited Cambugahay Falls. These are picture postcard waterfalls which are perfect for swimming and massaging yourself under the water, it even has little cave areas just like you’d find in a posh hotel and the whole area was quite spectacular. What is not perfect however, is the gang of locals that appear from the bushes as soon as you get there waiting for any opportunity to take your things. Thankfully we’d been warned of this by many people including the bike attendant at the top so took it in turns to swim in the water while the other 2 looked on. Although it wasn’t the best experience having them hanging around we did find it quite amusing that they were so obvious, all wore white or bright t-shirts and were less than stealthy in their movements so chances of getting away with much were pretty slim even without the warnings!

Venturing on we got to the next set of resorts on the South of the island just outside San Juan and we asked about available rooms in each one, again we were met with them all being full or being well out of our price range. There were some lovely places, some with swimming pools and lovely gardens but sadly nothing suitable for us. If you are coming to this island we’d recommend pre-booking your room if you can otherwise you might be left having to pay 1,000PHP+ to put your head down for the night. We did stop for dinner at the Danish Dive Resort which was a beautiful setting and the food was amazing but our budget really couldn’t meet the asking price of these rooms even with a discount so we enjoyed it while it lasted watching the sun setting and made our way back North in the torrential rain that had arrived just in time!

After asking around in our area again we did manage to change rooms the following day, it wasn’t much cheaper but we got a huge beachfront cottage at the Islanders Resort for 1,700PHP which we shared with Anita & Achim so spent the day chilling out by the beach, enjoying the fabulous view over to Negros and being lulled to sleep in the evening by the sound of the waves.

For our final day on the island we’d planned a trip to the mountains to see if we could find out about the healers & shamans that were supposed to live up here. The weather wasn’t on our side today, it was raining but undeterred we set off armed with rain jackets and were secretly a bit glad… Dale had had visions of this island being covered in mist & cloud and this is what our day would provide!

Up and up we went, the roads around this island are all paved and are pretty good so the ride was a smooth one… well it was until we rounded a corner covered in oil, mud and rain and managed to come off the bike. It wasn’t too serious, just cuts & grazes but we felt sure it was another sign! Dale had been saying the day before that he wanted to visit a healer but we had nothing that needed healing so this provided the perfect opportunity for him to stop at the first healer house we came to so he could get fixed up! To start with she didn’t do anything too exciting, just a bit of alcohol on the wounds but a massage soon followed with healing leaves being applied to his shoulder and a strange whispered chanting in his ear which Dale thought was slightly erotic! Anita was also keen to get some treatment and she also had a massage followed by being smoked.. that involved various herbs being lit below her so they started smoking and a blanket being wrapped around her presumably so she could absorb the smoke. Whether or not this actually works who are we to say but it was all very interesting and the healer lady was incredibly welcoming and answered any questions we had. We finished the visit with a cup of herbal tea.. again who really knows what went in this and what it did but it tasted ok and it was warm after being in the rain so we all enjoyed the experience. We didn’t however get to see the blood leeching (trick) that Dale had seen on Michael Palin years before.. maybe this one has been sussed out and isn’t used anymore! 😊

We continued on to the top of the mountains, it really was raining quite hard by now and the cloud was down so we couldn’t really enjoy any of the views that would surely be quite spectacular but it was fun and added to the mystery of this area. The mountains had one final strange experience to offer us though and this really did set our hair on end…

Sophie & Anita wanted to stop at a spooky church Sagrada Familia in the town of Cantabon for some photos. The mist was down and it looked like something straight out of a horror movie so we took some snaps outside then decided to take some of the inside through the entrance gate. Sophie took some photos which came out ok but when Anita took a few there were some strange marks on the image. Anita tried again and the same marks were there. We checked the lens on her camera.. all ok.. Sophie took another photo and hers came out fine with no marks. Finally Anita took a test shot of Sophie.. the photo was ok with no marks so it couldn’t have been the camera and we had no idea how these marks were getting on the image. Needless to say we got a bit spooked and hot tailed it out of there! We still have no idea what was wrong.. was it the spirits in the church making an appearance after Anita’s healing? We really wanted to put her photo on here so you could see it against Sophie’s normal photo but Anita really didn’t like them on her camera so deleted the photos before we could use them!

We got back down to sea level and were determined to visit the beach we’d planned to so off we went in the rain to see if there was somewhere for lunch at Salagdoong beach. When we got there the resort was a bit like a deserted Butlins and had quite a bit of construction work going on but we stopped anyway, more to shelter from the rain. They clearly weren’t expecting many visitors judging by the availability on the menu, everything we picked was “no have” so in the end we asked them to list what they did have and picked from that and even then they returned saying they didn’t have one item! This happens a lot in Asia and always amuses us!

When we got back to our resort later on a final drama had unfolded in our absence, thankfully it didn’t involve us but only served to confirm our view that this island did bring bad luck to those who were brave enough to come within it’s distance.. well maybe that or it confirmed that sometimes people do stupid things just for a bit of money…

There was a small group of people in the reception when we arrived and after chatting to them it turned out they were lucky to be here at all. They were split into one group of around 7 people who were on a 1 hour island hopping tour around Bohol and 2 French divers also from Bohol and both groups had come in on 2 separate boats.

They had both set sail that morning in fine weather before the rain & clouds had set in and neither crew had seemingly checked the weather for that day. The island hopping group’s boat had run out of petrol when the clouds came down, their boatmen were arguing with each other with no backup plan. This left them drifting about for 2 hours in huge waves with only a piece of tarpaulin to protect them until eventually they came across the diver’s boat. This boat had petrol but were lost with no idea how to get back
Inside the Sagrada Familia ChurchInside the Sagrada Familia ChurchInside the Sagrada Familia Church

This is Sophie's photo of the church.. as you can see no strange marks on this one!
to Bohol! With one boat towing the other they eventually managed to make it to dry land and asked the tourists to get off and ask about buses back to Panglao (on Bohol).. only to be told that there was no bus to Panglao… BECAUSE THEY WERE ON SIQUIJOR!!!

We have heard some stories in our time but this really was pretty extreme. The boatmen must have been so inexperienced to have no idea what island they were on! Luckily the group saw the funny side now they were alive and on solid ground but what they had gone through was pretty serious, at worst they could have died if they had kept on drifting and it was only by pure luck that they bumped into the divers boat who were able to help them. The next day the boatmen wanted to take them back to Bohol but they were obviously resisting and opted for the ferry which we didn’t blame them for at all, they hadn’t yet paid for the trip and the boatman assumed that by returning them to Bohol he would get paid.. not likely!

This showed us how easy it is for a relatively simple trip to go so wrong and will certainly make us think before we jump on any old boat from the beach again.

Despite the bad luck, related or unrelated to the mystery of Siquijor we really enjoyed our time on this island. The people are genuine, scenery is beautiful and the beaches are beautiful, we would have stayed longer but we had a camera which needed some attention and this was not in the healers remit so back to Dumaguete we went hoping that our luck will change for the better.

Additional photos below
Photos: 41, Displayed: 31


Huge food Huge food
Huge food

at the Danish resort

10th February 2013
Resort Beach

Just "the right" amount of post-processing -- great job :)
2nd March 2013
Resort Beach

Hello Sir
Thank Ali. I have been playing around with some of our point and shoot pictures in Snapseed while we wait for our other one to be fixed in Manila. Have to say i really like the HDR effect but trying not to get tempted by using to much.
11th February 2013

funny story about the lost tourists! scary too. they could have made it all the way to vietnam or malaysia

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