—This is a multi-part blog post.—
Almost everyone who goes to Siquijor do an around-the-island tour via the Circumferential Road. Our tour starts in San Juan, then proceeding to Lazi, Maria, E. Villanueva, Larena and finally to Siquijor before returning back to San Juan in a complete loop. Even though I wanted to, we avoided the inner part of the island because of—guess what—witches. My parents and the driver were just being catious of the supernatural. It’s sad because I wanted to go spelunking there.
Anyways, together with our tricycle driver from last night, our tour started at 08:45 and we drove to our first destination: the Capilay Spring Park and the San Agustín de Hipona Church, both which are situated in the población of San Juan near our guesthouse. We were the only visitors there. The complex features a recreational park with a playground, picnic area and a huge spring pool where locals bathe during the weekends. You need to climb a hill to reach the old church which is beside a school. You can trace ancient corals on the rocks on the face of the hill, proving the fact that the whole island was once under the depths of the sea.
From San Juan, we proceeded to Lazi where many of the attractions in Siquijor are located. We first went to the Century-old Balete Tree in Campalanas. Plenty of foreign tourists were present and we were the only Filipino visitors there. Most of the tourists fancy around a caged baby Philippine Macaque wearing a shirt, diaper and drinking from a baby bottle. But the main sight is not that—it is the giant Balete tree (Ficus sp.) and the freshwater spring coming forth from its foundations. The Balétê tree is a symbol of mysticism here in the Philippines because fairies, giants, dwarves and other creatures are said to live there. One activity in the park is that you can dip your feet in the water so that a bunch of Doctor Fish and Tilapia can munch on your dead skin cells. There’s an entrance fee of P10.00 and you can stay there and dip your feet in the spring as for the fish to nibble on as long as you want. In front of the parking lot is a mini zoo which features caged forest animals like fruit doves, bats, fowls, civet cats, crows, mice and pythons. There’s no entrance fee but you can give a donation. I just wish that the animals are well cared for; a civet cat there doesn’t look that healthy.
Still in Lazi, we then went to the Lazi Convent and the San Isidro Labrador Church. Towering centuries-old Acacia trees greeted us upon arriving, providing cool shade to everyone in the street and giving the area a bucolic, Spanish-era feel. Unfortunately, the convent was closed because it’s under renovation. On the other hand, we were able to explore the church both inside and outside. The walls of the Lazi Church are made from coral limestone—you can see outlines of corals and shells if you look closely. The interior is as antique as it can get and the church retained its original raised wooden floor. The courtyard of the church is simply beautiful and gives you a glimpse of an Italian countryside church. We offered prayers and lit candles in the candle area near the amphitheater before we proceeded to our next destination.
Cambugahay Falls. If you’re reading this far down then you might have heard of this place already somewhere. It is the main tourist destination in Siquijor and it is very obvious why: the place is magical. The green of the thick forest, the blue of the water and the yellow of the limestone formations all combine to create a perfect picture. It’s like your vision of a perfect jungle paradise. The falls have three levels and you can go Tarzan swinging on the first one. There’s plenty of lifeguards and guides around who will readily take a picture of you with the falls because they believe that more pictures will spread word about the falls and encourage more tourists to go there. Another good thing is that it’s all for free. Still in Lazi, it can be reached by descending a flight of stone stairs. Make sure to bring refreshments for the climb back up.
We ate our lunch at the town center of Lazi in a restaurant near the port facing Mindanao. I only find it weird that their “Java Rice” in the Visayas is completely different. Ours in the North is the yellow kind while theirs is this red kind with ketchup. Both taste OK anyway.
Salagdoong Beach. Another major Siquijor tourist attraction that you must include on your itinerary. Located in the Municipality of Maria, it is about a thirty minute drive from Cambugahay Falls in Lazi. You must traverse the thick Salagdoong Forest Reserve first before reaching the beach. There’s a cheap entrance fee of P35.00 per person and P25.00 parking fee for the tricycle. There’s plenty of tourist and the place is wonderful. There are complete amenities there and you can choose from a multitude of beaches there, some can only be reached by boat. There’s also this iconic cliff diving spot that I didn’t try
because I can’t swim well.
From Salagdoong, the continuation of the tour took us to the northern side of Siquijor. This part has more mangrove forests than beaches in my observation. Mangrove forests are deteriorating throughout the country and it is lightening to see them being strongly protected in Siquijor. In Enrique Villanueva, we just did a stop over at the Smile Talintingan marker at the bay walk and took pictures there. Our driver said that Talinting is a local name of a fish and it was also the name of the present E.Villanueva. We also saw the old square and church of E. Villanueva and kilometers of mangroves nearby.
The side of the road from E. Villanueva to Larena is full of thick mangrove forests. We went straight to Luyang in Siquijor, Siquijor near the border with Larena and visited the Guiwanon Spring Park. There’s a cheap entrance fee of P10.00 and you can go around the forest via elevated wooden bridges. You can also relax in a house out on the sea that you can reach by crossing winding bridges. In the depths of the forest, you can actually see freshwater gushing out from the ground and overflowing towards the sea! The water is so clear that you can see plenty of fish darting around. In the distance, there was a large school of fish jumping out of the water, probably fleeing from predators. You can also see many pipefish and schools of eel catfish among the sea grass below. The caretaker said that mud crabs come in huge sizes there in the mangrove forest, which roots sustain the ecology in the coast.
We then drove to the capital of the island—the Municipality of Siquijor. We went to the local market to buy our food and also went around the city center where the Siquijor Church and Belfry are located. We also bought souvenirs in affordable prices.
We quickly went back to San Juan which offers the best view of the sunset in Siquijor. The beach comes alive with people only during the sunset when the locals get out of their houses and watch the fiery skies turn dark little by little. Swimming at sea is the best way to end the day.
We spent the next two days in San Juan and swimming to our hearts content. We rented a kayak and I rowed from end to end of the beach, talking to people riding jetskis along the way. We literally had the whole beach by ourselves! Apo Island is visible from afar and I just wish that I had the stamina to row my kayak towards there and swim with sea turtles. 😂
We also borrowed snorkeling gear from Pearl Divers nearby. Pearl Divers also offers very affordable scuba diving lessons! On snorkeling, the more you go out the sea, the more corals and fish you will see.
Oh, wow that rhymes. However, you must first pass a belt of urchins which is the reason why I ended up having spikes embedded in my legs and knees.
One thing that I observed is that there were little to no FILIPINO visitors in SIQUIJOR. You’ll see foreign tourists left and right but will scarcely encounter Pinoy backpackers.
We left Siquijor for Dumaguete in the afternoon of our third day there. Even at the port, the sea was so blue and the beaches were so in-your-face as if the island is taunting you to run out of the pier, bask in the sand and stay. That’s the magic of Siquijor Island—it will lure, entice and impress you. Like a potent love potion, it will make you feel so enamored that it will make you want to return, or even stay, definitely.
—This is a multi-part blog post.—