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Day 63- 65 Simply Stunning Siquijor!

Our favourite Island in the Philippines!


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Before I start this entry I need to apologise for the delay in our blog updates. The cause for this has been twofold; lack of any WiFi and sickness. I appreciate all your well wishes and I can confirm both of us are feeling better! We are back with a belter though... Siquijor was our favourite Island by far!

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4th February- Snorkeling & Screaming

With a decent night sleep behind us it was begrudgingly time to check out this hostel and head up to the North of the island to our guest lodge (la villa Alta) where we would spend our remaining nights here. Helpfully the hostel called a local trike driver to transport us and our stuff. On the way we struck a deal with him to rent his bike in exchange for a decent daily rate and a return trip to the ferry at the end.

While we waited for his return and for our room to be cleaned we checked out the complex and got chatting to a Canadian couple currently teaching in China. It is odd how many we have met doing this. They gave us a few recommendations for the island before obviously talk of the virus came up and our disappointment at having to miss it. After checking out the room (which was basic but did the job) and sorting out the finer details with the bike guy it was time to explore.

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Having mapped out a few key activities to add to the hit list it was time for the first; Snorkeling at the Tulapos marinade on the right hand side of the island. The island is basically a big circle with one road that we found out takes only around 1.5 hours to drive the whole way around. We have done a lot of snorkeling on this trip but we want to make the most of it before we head in land. After our Bohol and Cairns experience we were now pro moped riders and were there with snorkels in hand, following our guide to the water in no time.The tide was rough and it made swimming a real challenge. But we persevered and were rewarded by seeing a lot of marine life with the highlights being a massive school of hundreds of barricuda sand giant clams.

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Exhausted and hungry from our exertion we went in hunt of lunch. This is where we stumbled across a little restaurant owned by an American guy in a Hawaiian shirt. He was extremely friendly and got chatting to us about the island, his phillipinian wife and his varied life; he had run various companies from a t shirt company to a designing a board game to now owning pigs and a restaurant in the Philippines. The food and conversation was good. Iz tried another Filipino classic called Sisig which was one of the better dishes we have had. On the whole the food here is pretty bland and nothing that exciting. We even showed them how to play cards against humanity to help him get a game going with customers later on!

With full bellies it was back to the bike to head to Saladong beach famous for its cliff jumping spots. Upon arrival they didn't look that high yet Iz was still a little apprehensive. But when you climbed up there it definitely felt a hell of a lot higher. There were two heights; one at 20 ft (6 metres) and 35 ft (10.6 metres). After a little coaching, persuading and pressurising Iz ran up and jumped off the 6 metre one; screaming the whole 2 seconds down until she hit the water (as you can see and hear below). She really didn't want to do it but she also not one to back away from a challenge and promised she would do it once. Next it was my go. Until this point I had felt quite calm but as I stepped onto the platform the realisation of how high you were, how far the water was away and not knowing how deep it was suddenly hit me like a wall. But now that Iz had done it there was no turning back and I just jumped off into the unknown. I'll tell you now those 2 seconds felt a heck of a lot longer. Plus as I was not concentrating on my entry and holding the GoPro the water hit my arms pretty hard.

It was exhilarating as it was scary and although the thought of doing it again filled me with dread, I couldn't get the thought out of my head. So I went again. Iz true to her word decided against this and opted to be cameraman instead. Stuck behind a little kid taking ages to jump I started questioning my decision but I could see Iz below encouraging me to do it. Second time was actually a little worse as I know knew what to expectb and once on the end it was tough to force yourself off. I did this as quickly as possible to prevent the doubtful voices in my head getting to loud! This time the water slapped my arse and it hurt. But again the adrenaline was great; free falling feeling like it is the end to be greeted by the comfort of the water as you head back to the surface. Iz convinced me that she hadn't got a good video of it and that I should go again. Feeling more confident now I climbed up for my third and final jump. I considered raising the bar to the higher one but decided to stick to what I knew not wanting any injury.

Iz had a mysterious cut on her foot, probably from her elaborate run up. But you never know. I had read a blog which mentioned that many people had complained of getting small cuts from this jump, despite there being nothing obvious to justify such injuries. Siquijor is infamous for its mystery and black magic, so much so that many avoid this beautiful island because of it. According to people living around Siquijor, two kinds of witches exist in the province. These are the shamans and the sorcerers. These two groups usually fight against each other. The sorcerers seek to destroy or inflict harm while the shamans are there to heal and to save lives. I had relayed the tales of the island to Iz but she wasn't convinced about the magic... After her cut and the pain suffered in the days following she now isn't so sure. Afterwards we had a more relaxing swim in the water and enjoyed the late afternoon sun.

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Back at the hostel we checked out the private section of the beach and watched the sun set as we lay in a hammock, although we were on the wrong side of the island for the best views. Having had enough thrills today and knowing the track up to our hostel was pretty sketchy in the daylight let alone at night we wandered to find a nearby restaurant for lunch. Drawn in by fairy lights we ate at a local restaurant. The fact it was filled with a number of tourists made us feel that there probably wasn't too much more around. Despite the pretty setting the food was fairly average but it did the job.

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5th February- lack of rain means dry waterfalls

We were up and out by 8.15am on our bikes to the Lugasom falls. We hoped the early start would mean it wouldn't be rammed full of tourists, although so far on this island we hadn't seen many other than in the restaurant. However when we arrived at the carpark one guy said he didn't think it was worth our time as the waterfall was dry and there was just a lake at the bottom. Knowing there was an entry fee, albeit a small one, and we had the Instagram famous falls tomorrow we chose to give this a miss. Instead we spent the entry fee on breakfast. We had heard rumours a place nearby did a great breakfast. They were not lying but it was a shame that most of their famous fruit bowls were not available and we had to go for backup options.

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Next it was time for... Yes you've guessed it... More snorkeling! This had been a place I was excited about; Tupod sanctuary. The snorkeling lived up to this expectation! There were so many fish, snakes and other marine life around. Plus the best bit was here you could do it at your own pace, not needing a guide. This meant we got to spend time looking at the things that interested us, which looking at the pictures largely seems to have been clownfish! But can you blame us they are so cute, curious and tiny... I imagine our love for finding Nemo also has some bearing on this.

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With a pretty standard lunch inside us we spent the rest of the afternoon on Paliton beach; playing in the sea and waiting to watch the sunset. Although cloudier than we would have liked it was still impressive seeing the whole sky transform until it turned a light red just before disappearing over the horizon. It was magical and made us realise how lucky we are to be sitting on a beach next to each other marveling at this.

While trying to recover money overspent in NZ and Aus we have tried to avoid hitting bars but today was an exception and we headed to the popular Baha bar for cocktails and a beer that wasn't a San Miguel! In the Philippines it appears San Miguel have a monopoly. It is impossible to find any other beer! Yet here they served a craft beer ????! While it wasn't anything compered to the beers tried in our previous destinations it was better than the light rather tasteless pilsner although still watery. Having read that the hotel we planned to see fireflies at was unpredictable we decided to just go for dinner instead. Today seemed to be a day plans didn't follow our intention. Usually I struggle with this but we have to accept there will be days like this and we just went with the flow. The pizza we chose was delicious and we were stuffed.

With the sun down and a little lethargic we drove back. It was tough going in the dark as although there is only one road there are just hazards and dangers we just aren't used to back home, namely; random street dogs running out or just sleeping on the road, people walking out or along the road, lack of street lights or other bikes whizzing past at any point. When this was coupled with the rain as it decided to pelt it down it made for a really tricky drive back. We must have looked a little crazy Iz in her bikini, me shirtless driving through the rain trying to avoid killing any animals.

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6th Feb- Downpour makes for great waterfalls and soggy bears!

We awoke early with the same plan as yesterday to reach the waterfalls before everyone else. The waterfalls today were the Instagramers favourite spot of Cambugahay Falls. These are the picture perfect set of 3 aqua blue small waterfalls. The plan was good, however we hadn't worked a massive downpour into the itinerary! It was pelting it down! However not easily discouraged we saddled up on the bike, tenuously made our way up the uneven path and slowly embarked on the stated 45 minute drive to the falls.

This sounds easier than it was. The rain was unrelenting and just seemed to be getting heavier. So much so we both had warnings on our phones about flooding! It also stung like a hundreds of mini needles being fired at you as we traveled at the slow speed of around 40kph barely able to see 5ft in front of us! We pulled over at a little shack and were faced with the a massive dilemma; either push on for the stated 30 minutes, but knowing it would be more like an hour, in these conditions and risk not being able to get to the falls and may struggle getting back or cut our losses and turn around now. We debated this with each other and in our own heads before deciding to try a little further and make a decision at that point desperately not wanting to miss another waterfall and a big highlight of Siquijor.

Fortunately the rain appeared to ease up as we neared our destination, but there still was no knowing how long it would hold off. But we had made it... Somehow. We paid our obligatutory entry fee and descended down the steps to the falls. We were rewarded for our efforts with this remarkable sight completely to ourselves (well other than a few locals selling food etc). They were stunning and lived up to the beauty seen in the pictures (as you can see for yourselves below). Although the rain had put off a lot of people we weren't alone for long, yet it was still much quieter than I imagine it would have been on a normal day. After snapping a few photos and hiding in the little cave behind the waterfall for a while we decided to give the rope swings over the falls.

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Iz was a little apprehensive again, not really being a fan of heights. But she is keen not to have any regrets and having overcome her slight fear of heights with the cliff jumping was ready for the challenge again. After paying our 90p fee for the privilege, Iz was ready with hands on the bar, facing the pool and waterfall before her. On the count of three, Iz was released from the platform over the pool. Contrary to her screams she released and entered the water with surprising grace! I promptly followed suit and we both completed 3 more jumps each... You know to get our money's worth and because it was so fun! Feeling brave I opted for the higher podium. Knowing I was being filmed I tried to turn to face the camera... This was a huge mistake as it meant when I let go I had somehow twisted my body and was heading towards the water face down! I'm sure you could have heard the slap of the water against my belly echo around the place. I can also tell you now that it was as painful as it looks in the below video! I hit the water and all the air left my body. I felt broken and unable to move, slowly drifting towards a rock to regain my bearings! Although as with riding a horse, I tried not to let this phase me and got straight back up for one more jump.

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Despite this little pain we loved every moment of it and the rain had so far failed to make a return. After a pit stop at a very local market, whereby we seemed to be the main attraction, and some lunch we were back on the bikes to head to the century old balete tree. This tree is considered the biggest and oldest on the island and therefore a focus of some magical rituals. What makes it really mystical is that a natural spring flows right underneath the tree with nobody knowing where it flows or why. Now a man made pool has been built and fish placed there to get tourists to pay for a fish spa. The tree sounds much better than it is. It's right on the side of the road filled with tourists getting the dead skin eaten off their feet. We were very impressed and decided not to pay the needles entry fee and took a picture from the road.

It was here though where we had our first real experience of haggling. Izzy wanted a top with a quoted fixed price of 350 pesos. Although she did manage to get it for 300 pesos (£4.50) we still knew we had come off worse in the exchange and vowed to do better next time.

Not wanting to push things too far with the weather we rode back to the hostel. Again this appeared to be the right call as the rain started again as we were around 5 minutes away. With around 4 hours to kill before we had to head to the boat, taking us back to Cebu before our onwards flight to Boracay, we tried to catch up on blog.

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Well that was until through a conversation with the receptionist of our guesthouse we realised that we had somehow got the departure time wrong. Instead of the thought 8.45pm it was leaving at 7pm! Queue panic!! We had arranged for the bike guy to pick us up at 6pm so we could allow for him to be a little late (as is common here) and for dinner but we now had to be there at the port at 6.30pm with a 20minute drive ahead! The time was now 5.50pm! Izzy had explained our situation to the receptionist and not wanting to risk any delays opted to take her up on her kind offer of a lift with her husband. With hearts pounding and feeling guilty about the guy coming for the bike who would now have a wasted journey we were on the way. We made the port in time and fortunately only had to pay an additional £3 for our error and emergency transport. I messaged the bike guy to apologise and asking him to cut up my national insurance card I had used for deposit when all of a sudden he showed up and gave me back the card! Apparently he had arrived on time and passed us on the road. But instead of being angry he drove to the port to return my card. This really sums up what majority of the people we have met here are like. We apologised profusely and thanked him before heading into the port.

Annoyingly the boat was around 90minutes delayed. So all that rushing, anxiety and panic was for nothing in the end. But we weren't too know this and were thankful we were there on time as if we missed this boat would have also missed our flight! Once finally on the boat we settled into our bed. Thankful that we had a bed this time for our overnight journey and not the bench we had previously! After some snacks from the canteen for dinner and finishing off our latest Netflix series we got comfy for our voyage.

Only in the Philippines would you need this sign on the ship:

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We docked around 5am and got a taxi to the airport, via one of only 4 HSBC ATMs that don't charge for cash withdrawals in this country. Killing the remaining time looking around gift shops before our uneventful flight to a small airport a ferry ride away from Boracay.

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Posted by Bears on Tour 20:03 Archived in Philippines Tagged waterfalls siquijor cliff_diving salagdoong cambugahay_falls tubod_marine_sanctuary paliton_beach la_villa_alta

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