After travelling by air, land and sea, we finally stepped on Siquijor soil. The fast ferry ride from Dumaguete to the Siquijor port was the worst I can remember. We were seated at the very back part of the boat, where the air conditioning unit was (either that or it was the engine itself that was roasting our calves from under our seat). I knew it was a bad sign that the cabin crew were handing out small plastics that could serve as a barf bag. Thankfully, I didn’t find a need for it.The weather was scary. It was drizzling and there were menacing clouds over the island. Literally! Parang yung island lang ang merong dark clouds. It didn’t look that bad before we got to Siquijor. Para tuloy ni-re-reinforce nya yung mystery ng island. Krizelle of Coco Grove welcomed us and commented, “Maalon!” in her sympathetic Visayan tone. She had with her a small blackboard with a cute, colorful welcome (Welcome, Raz, Norman and Suzan). May GMA7 pa sa blackboard, palibhasa it was our friend from GMA7 who helped us book in Coco Grove.
Darkness raced to envelop the sky as we drove from the port to the resort in San Juan. I noticed the eerie quietness of the province, but convinced myself that it was probably the weather and the Manileño impressions of Siquijor as an island of aswangs. Naturally, that was a running joke among us throughout our stay there.
We were booked in Royal Palm 1, a room good for a family of four. On the ground floor was mini bar, sala/living room set, a small wardrobe with a full body mirror, the bathroom with toilet and bath, and a bed good for two (four if pinilit). On the small loft were the air conditioning unit and two single beds, which Norman and Tutei took. Already, naglolokohan na kami about flying creatures visiting us later in the evening.
Everything in Coco Grove was great. Service was great. The people, the beach (wasn’t powder fine but it was white), the restaurant, the clientele (which were mostly Europeans). The gardens were beautifully landscaped. The rooms were paired in stand-alone nipa huts, spaced just far enough to give everyone privacy. There was a spa, and a bar open till midnight, though we didn’t make full use of that. Two swimming pools, a marine sanctuary and a dive shop (also didn’t get to snorkel). The restaurant had its own French chef and everything in the menu was great. The fruit drinks were all fresh. The staff were all pretty and friendly. All things considered, the lack of a television set in the room was made up for.
The next day, Saturday, after breakfast, we rented two habal-habal (hubble-hubbles, according to Lonely Planet – more commonly known as motorcycles) and went to the neighboring town of Lazi. I drove a yellow habal and Tutei rode with me. Norman rode on another one with our tour guide.
Our first stop was a century-old Balete tree. I would never have imagined being interested in seeing a tree as part of my itinerary, but that tree was majestic, you can’t help but feel humbled beside it. Then we took a photo op at this point in Lazi where you get to see a panoramic view of the west side of the island.
Our next stop was the Lazi town proper, where we got to explore another century-old structure. A convent which now services the town as a school.
Right in front of it is the Saint Isidore parish church, made of lime stone and beautifully time-worn.
After taking a few more pictures, we headed for our intended destination: The Cambugahay Falls. We climbed down 135 steps to the falls, took a dip and customarily took photos with the photogenic triplets that comprised the popular tourist destination. It was simply rejuvinating.
On our way back, we were all dripping wet (except si Manong driver ni Norman). Siquijor’s roads are paved but less sophisticated compared to Camiguin’s. There were also less vehicles on the roads, but it allowed us to soak in the beauty of the island. Lazi could very well have read “Lazy,” but in a good way. It wasn’t just quiet, it was almost serene.
In the evening, we sampled more of the Coco Grove restaurant’s sumptuous dishes. Afterwards, we headed to the direction of the loud music pumping from the nearby basketball court. We were already given a heads up by one of the staff about Saturdays leading to the fiesta being disco nights, and truth be told, we were all looking forward to it. It gave us another agenda for the trip. Siquijor is beautiful but really, there wasn’t much to do.
We got cold feed during first trip to the basketball court. We were intimidated by the crowd from afar. The lack of a crowd, that is. We didn’t want to stick out in a sparse crowd of locals who probably knew each other by name. We decided to go back and considered opting for the videoke bar instead. That intimidated us too after we heard a couple singing a duet. The videoke bar looked like it was a private residence having a private party.
We hung out in the hotel’s lobby and killed time by talking to boyfriends overseas (Tutei), picking on a hermit crab (me), fantasizing about the foreign guests in the hotel (Norman) and dodging huuuuggge salamanders (all three of us).
When three Czech guests of the hotel passed us on their way to the basketball court, we decided to give it another shot. Thankfully. Cause soon as we got to the basketball court, watching the locals dance to a weird mix of old disco songs of yester-decades, present day hip hop hits, local rap songs (mostly from Andrew E), and ballroom tunes, proved too tempting to resist. We paid the entrance fee, ordered ourselves a London gin, bottles of Sprite and Coke, and little packets of Ding Dong, and after biding our time waiting for the perfect moment, ultimately debuted on the dance floor. Tutei and I reminisced on old 90’s dance steps while Norman was by himself on the table, left alone so he can muster the courage to approach and introduce himself to the Czechs (kudos cause he eventually did!).
The next day, Sunday, was spent entirely in Coco Grove. We lounged by the pool area. I read a book while sipping fresh pineapple shakes. Tutei and Norman drank cocktail drinks by the pool bar. Later, we went to the beach and took some more pictures. By late afternoon, we all signed up for a massage in the resort’s spa. We capped the evening by having dinner on the beach, underneath the stars, with torches lighting our delicious meals.
Early the next day, we left Siquijor for Dumaguete, where we bought pasalubongs from Sans Rival cafe. It’s almost unbelievable how differently the island and the sky looked the day we arrived and that day of our departure. It was a perfect metaphor to how much our impression of Siquijor changed from dark and mysterious to bright and paradisal.