Siquijor is known to many Filipinos as the home of witchcraft and enchanted forests. It’s a smallish sized island off the coast of Dumaguete, easily accessible and surrounded by crystal clear waters, marine sanctuaries and the world renowned dive sites of Apo Island and Dauin on Negros Island.
It is surprising given it’s relatively easy access, natural beauty and white sand beaches that Siquijor is not a more popular place for tourists to visit. There is some development, but compared to some other islands I have visited here it is still quite unspoilt and retains it’s charm and makes it ideal for a relaxing quiet get away. Another bonus is that the prices are very reasonable. I guess that the ghostly stories are a double edged sword, they serve to keep people away but at the same time allows the island to maintain it’s backwater appeal.
My trip started by flying into Bacolod Silay airport in Negros. This was then followed by a 6 hour bus ride to Dumaguete. In future I would recommend definitely flying directly to Dumaguete. I effectively wasted a whole day in travel to get there, and the same coming back, making my 4 day trip only really 2 days of actual activity. There’s two boats going to Siquijor a fast craft that takes a little under an hour, and the slow boat that takes around 90 minutes. Travelling to Siquijor I opted for the fast craft. It was the next boat leaving and I just wanted to get there after the long journey (flight from Manila in the morning, bus ride all afternoon). The fast craft gives airline style seating in an air-conditioned communal cabin area. Sure it was comfortable, but in reality I prefer the slower boats where you can sit out on the deck and watch the sunset and the view. They also have the added bonus of being cheaper!
Upon arrival at the port of Siquijor it was going to cost 250 peso for the trike going to our chosen hotel for the night. It was around a 20 minute journey from the port. Instead of this we opted to rent a motorcycle for 300 peso a day. We would be needing one anyway to get around the island to the places we wished to visit.
There is one main national highway that runs around the circumference of the island pretty much following the coast line the whole way around. This makes navigating your way around the island pretty straightforward, it’s hard to really get lost.
We had chosen to stay at Charisma Beach resort in the town of San Jose. We found the place pretty easily as it was well signed from the national highway. It’s a quant little resort with several rooms available. Beach front cottage with fan, poolside rooms with aircon and a dormitory style backpackers room at the rear. There was only one other person staying at the resort when we were there, a single female traveler from the UK. This made the place very peaceful and we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
The resort is owned and run by a nice husband and wife couple. Daniel, who is originally from London, England, and his wife Giselle from General Santos City, Mindanao. They were both very accommodating and entertaining giving the place a real feeling of being “part of the family”. The place is very homely and great value. 1,750 peso per night got us a nice room with hot shower and aircon, poolside. The fan rooms can be had for 1,000 a night. Very reasonable considering that there is a well maintained pool and nice beach front to be had. The beach was a little dirty in places with plastic and trash being washed up on shore. However it was clear that Charisma and another resort up the road had been trying to take care of the beach area infant of their property by cleaning it up. If the barangay put some effort into cleaning up the beach area it could be a much more pleasant area to sit and swim. We actually considered changing hotel for our second night possible on the other side of the island where we might find a cleaner beach. However, after looking at a few other places during our tour around the island, on balance we felt the good value and the friendliness of the staff at Charisma meant we decided to stay for another night.
On our first full day at the island we headed first to the Enchanted Balete tree. This tree is around 400 years old and has a mysterious source of water coming from underneath it forming a small pool that has fish swimming around in it. The true wasn’t quite as impressive as the one I had previously visited in Baler, Aurora, but it was still worth he stop off. it’s easily found at the side of the national highway and there is no official entry fee just a donation box. There was a lady sling Buko Juice there, I’m not usually a big fan of Buko Juice (fresh coconut juice) but on this occasion it was delicious with a pleasantly sweet taste. I had never tasted Buko juice like it before.
From the Balete tree we headed to Cambugahay falls. These are one of the main highlights or tourist attractions on the island. Easy to find (it’s not on the national highway but on another road that cuts up towards the centre of the island). If you don’t have a motorcycle of your own a trike can take you there for a reasonable price. There is a small but very cheap entrance fee. No guide is needed it’s simple to get to the falls just follow the 136 stone steps leading down from the road. The falls themselves are not spectacular and high, but they are very quant and pretty to look at. The main thing here though is swimming in the turquoise waters. It’s a very beautiful place to spend an hour or two relaxing and swimming. There’s a tarzan swing that you can swing out on and drop into the water, and the falls are safe enough to jump from the top into the waters below. The water just underneath the falls is deep, but it quickly becomes shallow, making it safe place for all the family to swim and enjoy. You can walk upstream a little way to several other falls and small lagoons that are a bit more peaceful and away from the “crowds”. The area is clean, either being kept clean by locals, or rather I would like to think that people are not littering at all. It’s always bothered me when travelling in the Philippines that often the visitors leave their trash behind. If you were to ask them why they have gone there, they say to enjoy nature, well there won’t be any nature left to enjoy if people keep on littering.
From the falls we headed back down to the coastal road and to Salagdoong beach resort. This is on the opposite side of the island to where we were staying at Charisma beach. There is a lovely forested road that leads to Salagdoong from the national highway. The canopy of the trees has formed a tunnel like road through the forest. It certainly has an enchanted feel to it and adds fuel to the fire of the Siquijor spooky forest stories. Again, I was surprised at how well priced entry was, 15 peso per person! Great deal I thought. There’s a small restaurant there serving Filipino affair which we ate at as by this time we were feeling a little hungry having not eaten since Breakfast. However, before eating, I wanted to partake in the main attraction that brought me to Salagdoong, cliff jumping! They have erected several concrete diving platforms at various levels up the cliff beside the beach. The highest is probably around 20 or 25 feet high. The crystal clear waters below are deep enough to jump into safely. However as they are so clear you can still see the bottom when you look down from the dive board and wonder if it really is deep enough! Don’t worry, I didn’t bottom out or come even close. For those who aren’t yet very confident at jumping from heights, the best method is to run along the platform and just run off the end of the board. Standing at the edge and actually jumping takes a lot more thought and seems to cause every fibre of your body to scream at you not to jump! It’s quite an exhilarating jump, and definitely good for those who haven’t done any cliff diving before.
From Salagdoong we continued our drive around the circumference of the island back to Charisma beach.
On our second day we decided to head to Cantabon cave. There are some 45 caves in Siquijor island, making it a spelunkers paradise. Cantabon cave is not very technical but still provides some enjoyment with stalactite and stalagmite formations that are comparable to those found in the more famous caves of Sagada. You secure a guide complete with helmet and head torch at the barangay hall in Cantabon. It was 300 peso per person including the gears and the guide, which again I found to be quite reasonable. The trip to the cave including the short walk from the barangay hall to the cave and back takes around 2 hours. It’s not a through cave, but and out and back. The exit at the opposite end is too small to really fit through.
The motorbike ride up to Cantabon is also quite nice, with views across the island and the sea towards Apo island and the mainland of Negros.
Our short trip to Siquijor was interesting and fun experience. 2 days wasn’t enough time to do everything this place has to offer, I will definitely be back to spend more time exploring other waterfalls, swimming in the turquoise waters of the enchanted lagoons, dive the clear waters and marine sanctuaries around the island and run the trails through the forests.