Circumnavigating Siquijor Island, Philippines on a Motorbike
STORY: I'm still in Siquijor and having a grand time! The next day, i texted the same moto-driver that brought me to Villa Marmarine. I booked him for an island tour, riding his cool "habal-habal" / motorbike. We ripped Siquijor's awesome highways, passing through all of the province's six towns, stopping at each town to wander around. The view of the coastline is mind blowing. This is definitely the best way to travel around Siquijor.
I left Villa Marmarine Resort around 9AM and started my journey circumnavigating the island. Although Dagman, even went out of his way to go to my room and personally invite me to join him and the rest of the guests riding a 4 x 4 for the island tour, I still went on my own. I politely said no as i prefer to tour the island riding a motorbike. I have already envisioned how my journey would be. Siquijor is a small island, just like Guimaras, and just like Marinduque. The reason why i am fascinated about Siquijor is because it's compact, laid-back, and you can just relax and live Life! During my trip, i got to observe the people, and discover the charm of each town. This lead me to discover the REAL Siquijor.
My perception of the island's mysticism and supernatural phenomenon has already faded. After re-fueling and buying refreshments, we started cruising. The road was good, and the scenes were just amazing.
San Juan, Siquijor
I actually wanted to check out the beaches of San Juan as i have heard good reviews about them. As soon as i arrived, i found myself and my driver/guide to be the only people anywhere within a hundred meters, except for three old sea gypsies. My driver asked me if i know what the sea gypsies were doing. Of course, i had no clue. Apparently, they were taking out the white sticky substance out of the sea urchins called Salawaki/Tuyombeing ,and putting them in an old bottle of Tanduay. It's a native delicacy and is being sold in the market, and also exported to Negros Island.
My guide wanted me to try it, suddenly, all the messages of not taking anything from stranger started popping in my head. But then again, how will i know if i don't try it out? So i did taste this delicacy, and it was actually really good, even though it's raw. Just like "kilawin". I was craving for it after a few days but couldn't find one in the port.
I wanted to take a photo of the three sea gypsies, and the driver suggested that, too. But, i felt it wasn't right, and it's just so typical. I've realized a lot of things during the day that i never thought i would. I am starting to shy away from taking photos of local people, unless they give me their permission. Anyway, after checking out the beach, i said my goodbyes to the gypsies. Nothing happened to me and continued on with my journey.
Still in San Juan, we detoured to a famous tourist spot called "Capilay Spring Park", a day tripper's local tambayan, where people would go to cool off from the heat of the day, relax and drink SMB, yet again. Overlooking the spring is the grotto where i stopped by to pray for a safe voyage ahead of me.
Erected a parish on 14 September 1863 with the advocacy of San Agustin, San Juan, formerly called Macapilay, was once part of the Siquijor parish. Redondo (1886, 191) describes the church as in dilapidated condition and made of tabique, the convento likewise of tabique was in better condition. The first parish priest Fray Nicanor Archiniego was responsible for building the church and convento as well as the casa real and the escuela. He opened roads to Siquijor and to Lazi.
Formerly called Tigbawan, Lazi was made a parish, independent of Siquijor on 8 August 1857 with the advocacy of San Isidro Labrador. It had old church of stone and mortar, however, a new church was in the process of being completed and the convento was in poor condition because its wooden members had deteriorated, reports Redondo (1886, 192). By 1884, Lazi had a new church and in 1891 a new convento. Both are attributed to Fray Toribio Sanchez who began working on the convento in 1887 using coral blocks and hardwood. Other constructions initiated by the Recollects were the casa real, escuela, bridges and irrigation system.
Built at the initiative of the Recollect friars, the church belonged to the chaste neoclassical style. The convento has the distinction of being one of the largest built in colonial times. To raise funds for the convento, a public subscription was launched among the parishes and missions of the Recollects. A poster seeking for donations for the Lazi convento is kept in the archives of Xavier University’s Museo de Oro in Cagayan de Oro. The unusual size of this convento, a oversized bahay na bato, with an arcaded first floor, was probably intended as a regional rest house or sanitarium for missionaries in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Erected a parish on 16 October 1880 with the advocacy of Nuestra Señora de Providencia, Maria (formerly Cangmeniac) was once part of the Siquijor parish. Redondo (1886, 192) describes the church as dilapidated and made of tabique with a nipa roof; the convento was even worse made of thatch and wood.
Santa Rita de Cascia (also referred to as Santa Rita de Siquijor)
The image of Santa Rita is displayed wearing all black with an intense look in her eyes, dark skin around her eyes, and morbid expression. She is holding a skull and a cross (which others say used to be held inverted) on her right hand.
“She is sometimes called “Black Magic Mary” on the place where the statue was, in a place where there are many abandoned churches and undiscovered caves that some others say have become the realm of bad spirits, and that island is called Siquijor. She holds a skull that, according to legend, belonged to a woman’s husband whom she killed for reasons nobody in the island seems to know. She also holds an inverted cross.
The statue, according to local myth, sometimes walks in the evening, and then returns to the church before sunrise. The local church goers say that they see that she still has dirt on her feet from her walk during the night.”
Santa Rita de Cascia was born in Roccaporena, Italy in 1381. She spent 18 years of her life living with a defiant husband who was later on killed in a vendetta. Within that year, her two sons died. Rita became a nun and received the wound of Christ on her forehead in 1441, as though she had been wearing a crown of thorns. Santa Rita de Cascia is known as the patroness of impossible causes, battered wife, difficult marriages, sickness, widows, wounds.
I went to different churches in different towns in Siquijor. I usually stop for an hour or two in every town to catch my breath, and relax my butt from the ride. It's good to discover that religion and faith still plays a major role in the lives of the people here. I hear masses are still heard at the break of dawn and at just before dusk. But the rest of the day, no one's there. So, i pretty much enjoyed silence and sanctity of these century-old churches.
People say that once you're in Siquijor, you'll feel the chills and goose bumps. It's not true. Now, I'm really trying find out how the myth started. Continuing on, i started passing by quiet highways and again, no people in sight. It's mysterious, and the quietness is a little deafening. I am headed for Siquijor's most popular natural attraction, 2 kilometers outside Lazi.
I went to Siquijor's best attraction, Cambugahay Falls and swam under the heat of the sun. It was surprisingly warm, and even though it's advertisement is topnotch, i found myself swimming alone there. Then, a few Turkish tourists came to take a dip. Funny thing is, as soon as i hike up to the highway, many vendors were selling cold drinks. You got to make some money, and i commend them for the brilliant idea of selling Powerade and bottled water. What impeccable timing, eh?
Located along the main highway of Lazi is the biggest Balete Tree in Siquijor. I paid a visit, and saw a couple of locals who just finished swimming in its man made water lagoon. There were little fish in it, and donation is advised to preserve the attraction. When i arrived, Fra Lippo Lippi's Later was blasting so any fear of the unknown is scrapped.
After that short stop, i managed my way to ride the motorbike again and continued heading for the town of Maria which is just amazing, passing by virgin forest, and other untouched wonders such as lagoons and cliffs. If there's a town that interests me the most, it's this town. I've heard of amazing coves, and virgin forest that is inhabited, so that i am particularly interested in.
It was nearing lunch time, and i initially made arrangements to meet up with the rest of the guests of Villa Marmarine in Salagdoong Beach Resort to have lunch. The road to the resort was a long ride passing by huge trees so the ride was a bit breezy. You have to pay minimal fee to get inside, and for the motorbike.
Supposedly, the best beach spot in Siquijor is Salagdoong beach. True, it's clear of twigs, sea urchins, and other natural distraction. But it's also very populated, and highly overrated. There were just so many people there, and the owners (local government) even managed to construct a slide like that of a theme park. Imagine my reaction. I saw the rest of the Villa Marmarine peeps as soon me and my driver/guide finished off a big bowl of shrimp soup and buttered chicken. We drank a big bottle of SMB by the beach, and talked about how locals live their lives here, the real deal. After about an hour, i told my driver/guide Erwin, it's time to go and find a spot where there's not a lot of people.
Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor
After hours of seeing the coast, it's nice to view rice paddies and greenery. The areas between the towns of Maria and Enrique Villanueva offer great scenery. Although i didn't see any farmer, they must be having their siesta, I was told that siesta is big here, and in these towns, people actually go back home from work to sleep.
The road from Maria to Enrique Villanueva was different. It felt dark, gloomy and bit tantric, i must say. There was not much to see, not even a single soul in sight. The sea was rougher this side of the island, and there were no sands, but mangroves and weird rock formations and trees.I heard that one of the reasons why the town is also the poorest is because there's not much to see here. But the pride of this town is the Tulapos Marine Sanctuary.
The oldest house supposedly has already lost its spot because the roofs were re-made recently. Me and my guide started laughing, just because what should the owners do: Let it be, and suffer the rain eh or rebuild it?
I told my guide, i had a hard time finding Marlboro lights around Siquijor. He said we should have quick stop-over in Larena, another popular town just before Siquijor. You see, for the past days, i have been smoking Fortune tobacco and it's the most popular here. Anyway, i was able to buy one in the "bayan", and gave my pack to my driver/guide.
We then started heading to the town gym. Oh, there's a basketball match when we arrived. We stopped by for a few minutes and started watching the game. It's a local SK tournament between two baranggays.
I noticed that although the province is blessed with its rich heritage and natural wonders, it's still a poor province. I noticed the players wore sneakers with broken rubber soles. I felt said, and humbled. These kids have a bright future ahead of them. Who knows, they could be basketball superstars someday. I just hoped i knew how to help them. It pains me to know the condition of our fellowmen in Siquijor. I really do.
After a while, I was smoking when someone approached me to borrow a light from my stick. I was thinking, what if this is it? The curse? Hell no! My driver also threw the butt in a garbage bin under the tree, same as I. Nothing happened to me, again.
A few minutes later, we speeded away and headed for Siquijor town. I got back to Villa Marmarine after 7 hours, and more than a hundred kilometers of awesomeness. I felt alive and energized. But i could also feel the pain in my butt. What the heck, it's all worth it! The best way to tour the island is by riding a motorbike where you could make a stop anywhere you like, and get the real feel of the province. I ordered two bottles of SMB and swayed by the hammock chillin' in the beach.
Life in Siquijor is bliss!
Additional text and info about the churches from here and here