Siquijor very nearly didn’t happen for us. On account of parts of Mindanao currently being a war zone the foreign travel advice map wasn’t looking good for travel to several Filipino islands. Large parts of the south are swathed in “don’t even fucking think about going there” red, and many surrounding areas, including Siquijor, are covered in “have a proper think about whether you really want to go here” yellow. We thought about it. We wanted to. Even if it did involve two fucking boats each way. I do not like boats.
I’ll be honest, I’m writing this far enough after the event for all of the brain cells containing transport and cost details to have been replaced with vodka, but getting from Panagsama Beach to Siquijor is a rather convoluted affair. You’ll need to get a tricycle to Moalboal proper which will likely involve pre-caffeine bartering with a driver. Then you’ll need to flag a bus to Bato and sit on that fucker for over 90 minutes. Once you’re off the bus you’ll need another tricycle to Liloan Ferry Port where you can catch a ferry to Sibulan Port, then from there you’ll need to catch a jeepney as close to Dumaguete port as possible (you’ll still need to walk a bit) for the boat to Siquijor where you’ll get to spend a couple of hours trying to will your stomach contents to stay where you left them. There are, apparently, fast craft options but my unwillingness to part with money outweighs my dislike of having to spend too long on a boat.
Once you’re there the usual plethora of humans will try to convince you that you need a private tricycle to your destination. You don’t. I mean, you can if you want, or you can rent a scooter right from the port, or you can jump in a multicab and pay a lot less to get yourself to where you need to be. We opted for the last, the fun part of this being we didn’t know where we needed to be. We hadn’t settled on accommodation, we’d pin-dropped a few places on Maps.ME and ogled them as we cruised past, thinking we’d ultimately want to stay somewhere vaguely walking distance from San Juan should we want to go somewhere for dinner where I could indulge in a few San Miguels without having to operate a scooter back. We kept coming back to JJ’s Backpacker Village but the Tripadvisor reviews were fucking awful with talk of rude and aggressive staff, and homophobia had been mentioned.
We got off the multicab not far from JJ’s and checked out a few places but they just didn’t feel right. They were beachfront and reasonably priced but at this time of year the tides bring all manner of storm debris onto the beach. At JJ’s they cleaned the beach every morning and they seemed to be the only ones that bothered. We could also rent a scooter through them thus saving us the hassle of trying to find one in San Juan, and they sold cold beer. The clincher was the fact that a private double was the same price as two dorm beds. Sold. We’d just try not to upset the staff.
We just chilled by the beach for the rest of the day, applying booze liberally to our faceholes. We haven’t seen a sunset in a while on account of the fact, in all of our infinite wisdom, we’d seen fit to travel the Philippines during the wet season. Siquijor, you stunning little rascal, you. You dropped one of the most epic sunsets on us that evening, a sunset so breathtaking I had to dust the sand off my jaw before photographing it repeatedly and informing Instagram what had just happened. Yeah, I think we were going to like it here.
The following morning we shuffled to reception to see if we could make breakfast happen, ordered a couple of silog meals and the 3 in 1 coffees we’d both become slightly addicted to, then made ourselves comfortable on the tables at the front until we were asked, “Don’t you want to have breakfast on the beach?” Well… yes. If that’s an option, yes we do. They were more than happy to bring our morning sustenance to us whilst we gazed at the ocean and planned our day. And our day was to involve much scooting and inserting many tourist attractions into our eyeholes, predominantly waterfalls. I like waterfalls, they’re one of my favourite things in the world, and Siquijor has way more than its fair share.
Cambugahay Falls are the popular ones and rightfully so. At the time of visiting they were free, you just paid a minimal fee for parking your scooter and you could leave it safe in the knowledge it’d be looked after. There are two levels of waterfalls and you can swim in them both. You can also hand a few pesos over to a kid in charge of the rope swing for as many attempts at looking like an uncoordinated, fat, white lump as you wanted. No fancy acrobatics for me, I can barely hold my own weight up with my puny arms. I just jumped, held onto the swing for as long as possible (approx. 1.6 seconds) before plummeting into the water as gracefully as a drunk elephant on roller blades, usually tits first. Tarrant wisely stayed out of this one, instead choosing to sit back and record my shame with my GoPro.
You can lose hours here, I think we splashed about for a good 90 minutes. I could have stayed all day but as tiny as Siquijor is there was still enough to see to warrant getting a move on. We emerged from the falls, suitably wrinkled, to head off to find more waterfalls. Locong Falls are more like cascades then waterfalls and we had the whole place to ourselves. We didn’t spend a huge amount of time here, largely because the locals looked at us like we’d shown up naked and announced plans to orchestrate an international orgy using local produce as sex toys for that ultra authentic feel. We’ve no idea why, we just got the feeling that maybe we weren’t meant to be there so we chilled for a bit then decided to go in search of lunch before I started considering stray dogs a viable food source.
As we scooted down the main road circling the island we saw a wooden shack on the side of the road advertising itself as a grill and restobar so we stopped and turned back. They had cheap eats. Our favourite kind of eats. We chucked some silog into our faceholes whilst we chatted to the woman there. Turns out this was her boyfriend’s venture and she was just here helping out whilst he got it off the ground. We liked it a lot. I dunno, it’s just a really nice, simple idea randomly situated on the side of the road not far from Lazi. They sell other stuff too but if I don’t eat a silog meal at least twice a day now my digestive system goes into shock.
So there’s this tree, and they call it the enchanted balete tree, because it’s a balete tree (which I think is what Filipinos call banyan trees) which is said to be haunted. It’s also known as the century old tree and it’s thought to be over 400 years old. As if that’s not cool enough, there’s a pool at the base of it (man made, but they reckon no one knows where the water comes from which is slightly disconcerting) and in this pool are those doktor fish that are partial to a bit of dead human flesh. You can stick your feet in and screech hysterically in a very conspicuous un-British manner whilst they nibble on your toes, but there are also these bigger fish that you generally don’t associate with fish spas. You’ll be sat there trying not to visibly cringe because fish are eating your feet and if you think about it, that’s just weird, when one of these beasts swims up and you’re convinced it’s going to make off with your whole heel. But they’re actually really gentle, like they’ve got a foot fetish or some shit.
Okay so one last waterfall before we head home. Well we thought it was one anyway but it turns out that Lugnason Falls is one of a series of twelve waterfalls known as the Zodiac falls. There’s meant to be some manner of trail you can follow to see them all but Lugnason Falls is the biggest. It’s not that I don’t like a waterfall hike, and it’s not the walking down that bothered me. I just didn’t fancy the idea of walking back up a muddy hill much. Lugnason will do just fine, thank you very much. A group of kids were climbing up it and jumping off it when we rocked up, it looked like fun. I decided to try this and managed to get a whopping metre from the surface of the plunge pool before panicking that I was too high and sort of launching myself backwards with all the grace of a badger on ketamine. Today’s road trip certainly did a lot to highlight a few of my many inadequacies.
Anyway, as sweaty as Siquijor was it was starting to get chilly frolicking in the shade in water as cold as a Tory politician’s heart. We dried off and headed back to JJ’s to get washed, fed and changed in time for the biggest night of the week on the island; Friday night at Czars. I could feel my liver shuddering just typing that.
Siquijor, The Philippines
Stayed at: JJ’s Backpackers Village