Friday, December 2, 2011

Fear Not SIQUIJOR: 5 Ways Not to Fear the Island of Fire

Forget the eerie stuff you usually read about the Island of Fire. Of all the islands I’ve visited in the Philippines, Siquijor tops the charts in terms of budget, accessibility, and the slow and laid-back feel of what a tropical island should be.  Read on to get the lowdown on how to have a pleasant Siquijor trip, without the scare!

1.     Make sure the tricycle driver is clear with your destination. Most visitors get to Siquijor via ferry from Dumaguete or Cebu. Upon arrival at the port, tricycle drivers abound and most likely will utter “Villa Marmarine? Bente lang (P20 only)”. Although I don’t have anything against VM, in fact I even read raving reviews about it, yet my budget only allows the affordables in San Juan not exceeding P500/room (JJ’s Backpackers in particular). So I told the driver, “JJ’s bente lang”. He nodded and off we went. We were only a few meters away from the port, when he said, “ah JJ’s? That’s too far away, about 10kms. I thought you said Villa Marmarine.” This spat between us went on and on as I reminded him that it was clear from the beginning that I said JJ’s. Until finally, he said “I’ll just transfer you to a different transport.” And we were brought back to the jeepney terminal, which was also walkable from the port. We got on the jeep to San Juan and the tricycle driver asked for P16 for “transferring” us. I frowned, shook my head in dismay and almost immediately he defensively said, “Hindi ko po kayo niloloko (I am not deceiving you).” This incident almost ruined my entire vacation, so I hope somehow you will not fall into the same trap.

Jeepney from Siquijor port to San Juan: P20
2.     Rent a motorcycle. The best way to explore the island! Depending on your driving skills, rental shops abound around the island ranging from P270–350/day OR P35/hour. They offer manual, semi-automatic and automatic. To fuel up, you can buy gasoline from any stalls along the road displaying Coca-cola liter bottles containing green or red liquid. Siquijor is a small island, you can visit it in two days. Get a map from the tourism office right outside the port, and most scenic spots are easily accessible.

Motorbike rent (8hrs): P 280
Fuel (full on 2 liters, roundtrip from San Juan to Salagdoong Beach in Maria): P 120

3.     Try the Island Fresh Milk. Because I haven’t. And now I’m crying over spilled milk. As we were preparing to head out for breakfast, John, our lodge owner asked if we were interested to buy small bottles. An unsure nod, we hit the toilet first for a quick bladder break. On our way out, I saw the delivery truck rolling slowly away from us. Sigh. We missed it by a few seconds. While driving on our motorbike to Lazi, I kept on seeing their almost dilapidated signage and was curious, but not enough to ask if they were still operating. Only later did I find out that they are, and supply FRESH milk to the entire island. No wonder JJ’s shakes are delectable. 

4.     Dive properly. A trip to Siquijor would not be complete if you don’t go to
Salagdoong Beach in Maria to dive.  One of the attractions is really a dive board placed in a rocky outcrop where you can choose from either the 5 or 7 meter drop. We chose the 7 meters. I took a quick peek at the edge of the board and got scared stiff. I couldn’t move and couldn’t bring myself to jump. Three adventure seekers lined up behind me and were pretty encouraging and not really hurrying me up. “Just look at it once. Walk back, race forward and jump. Make sure your legs are straight and don’t spread your arms open.” Easier said than done. As I took a last look, I followed their advice, and walked back, raced forward, then dropped. It must be the looooongest jump in my life. Why was it taking forever? Where’s the water? And suddenly, my butt hit the water and it hurt big time!!! I forgot to straighten my legs. Halfway through the jump, I guess I got tired waiting and my legs formed in such a way as if I was sitting on a chair. As I got out of the water, all I could scream was “Ang sakit ng pwet ko (my butt hurts)!” Other thoughts running through my mind are: bowel-inducing and major wedgie.

contemplating before the dive

5.     Watch out for falling coconuts. Since Siquijor is an island with a laid-back feel, we thought that an evening walk would be appropriate. The main road is just a few meters away from the shoreline, so while enjoying a leisurely stroll, you could actually hear the soft sound of the waves crashing. But watch out for a creaking sound, as it may just be a coconut ready to fall out from the tree. Within a few seconds, a coconut dropped two meters away from us. Travel partner and I were petrified as both of us remembered reading an article about someone being killed by a falling coconut while on vacation. Now, I promised to give you a scare-free article, right? But I just have to bring this up. Five minutes before the incident happened, we were moseying along the dark part of the street when an old hunched lady greeted us with an eerily slow “Evening”. Was that coincidence or what?


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