BY RICKY MONTECILLO
April 17, 2017
Like a lot of Filipinos, we also went on a trip last Holy Weekend from April 13-15,Thursday to Saturday. We were able to take PAL flights to Dumaguete enroute to our final destination in Siquijor located in Central Visayas.
It was a bright summer day when our plane arrived in Dumaguete Airport. The weather was sunny with blues skies. It was a good sign of things to come and we were excited as we arrived at the small and quaint airport. Like many of our travels, it was with my lovely wife Tina and my dear daughter Samantha.
Siquijor is a charming island off Dumaguete. From the Dumaguete Airport, we just took a 15 minute ride by tricycle to the Port in the main boulevard of the city. We were able to book for the MV Coco Princess for the hour long ferry to Siquijor island for Php 450 per person. This is a bit expensive compared to the other ordinary public ferries which costs around 120-150 pesos. Coco Princess is for the exclusive use of Coco Grove Beach Resort guests.
Unlike Boracay and Palawan, not too many Filipinos go to Siquijor. But this is partly the reason why the small island has kept its charm. Even during the Holy Week, it doesn’t get crowded. Funny how we all want to getaway from the maddening crowd in Metro Manila, only to be with the same crowd in Boracay, Baguio and Palawan.
So Siquijor is really a breather. It has maintained its provincial allure. The tourists here are mainly the locals from Visayas and Mindanao. The foreigners are mostly Europeans like French, Italians and Germans.
Docking in the Siqujor port, there was no crowd at all.It turns out the pier we went to is exclusive to our resort. Coco Grove Beach and Dive Resort, where we stayed, does a great job in coordinating movement of the guests from the time you arrive at the airport, to the port and onto the ferry and finally in Siquijor island.
Coco Grove Beach and Dive Resort. Now this is a place where other resort owners can learn a lot from. For the reasonable and affordable price range of its rooms, it offers first class accommodation. The Coco Grove is located in a beach front property. The cabanas, rooms and facilities are spread out in the sprawling land area. The place was fully booked but not once did we feel crowded. It is the only resort in the beach cove.
Our stay in Coco Grove really made the big difference. We were so impressed. The place is beautiful, the structures were tastefully designed and well built in the midst of wonderfully landscaped grounds. Service is superb,too.
I didn’t get his name, but the locals say that the resort is owned and run by an Australian old timer who is about 80 years old already. He and his wife live in the nice house at the end of the beach cove. We were told that the couple adopted Filipino children who are now already adults. I hope they share their business culture to other resorts in the Philippines.
Coco Grove has three big swimming pools spread across the place. They also have three main restaurants, the main lobby, the Salamandas and the Sunset Bar. There is free wifi in these three locations.
On our first day, we swam in the big pool with a bar and had some drinks until the sun was about to set.
At the “golden hour” as Samantha said, we went to the beach front near the Sunset Bar. It was a perfect sunset, with beer in hand and being with your loved ones and being away from work, it really feels like being away from it all. We also had a BBQ dinner later on.
The following day we made arrangements for a Coastal Island Tour. We booked a Multi-cab van all to ourselves for 1800 pesos for the whole day. Siquijor is small island and one whole day is all you need to go around the island. The roads are all paved and I noticed that the vehicles do not overspeed.
Many other tourists took the newer vans while others took the tricycles. Some of the younger tourists rented scooters to go around the island. The vibe is Siquijor feels like Hawaii, only it is more natural and provincial. No traffic at all and the routes are scenic. The roads give you mountain views and coastal scenes. So refreshing.
There are many off-the-beaten-path sites you can adventure into like mountains, caves waterfalls. But we decided to go to the popular destinations.
First we went to the Four Century Old Balete Tree or the Banyan Tree. They say that the tree is inhabited by spirits and it actually is the source of fresh water for the community. At the foot of the tree, there is a pool of spring water with some small guppies. We dipped our feet into the pool as the fishes take small bites. It feels ticklish as the small fishes eagerly gather around our feet.
The Banyan tree is huge with its numerous big old vines. Just looking at it gives you the creeps and I guess it must look creepier when night falls. We just paid a small 20 peso per person donation.
From the Old Balete tree we proceeded to the St. Isidore Chruch and Convent in Lazi town. It is an old church built during the Spanish occupation way back in 1884. That’s 133 years ago! The structure is well preserved, even the interiors appear untouched by antique scammers.
I took note of the wooden flooring inside and this is the first time I’ve seen such flooring. I pray that the Parish priests do not get fooled into agreeing to a free renovation of the church by unscrupulous contractors who are really after the authentic antique tiles, floors, statues and other old materials.
We prayed the rosary inside the church.
Next stop was the famous Cambuhagay Waterfalls. It is a popular destination in Siquijor about 30 minutes from Lazi town. When we arrived we hired a guide / lifeguard who accompanied us down the 133 steps down to the falls.
When we were near, I saw a glimpse of the water falls from where I was standing and I saw its color blue green clear water.
There were many visitors but it was still not crowded. It had three levels and we went to the highest level first. The locals set-up a swing made up of a thick tree vine. They also built a platform where you could swing then jump into the water “Tarzan” style. For 20 pesos it was unli-jump!
Samantha, Tina and I jumped several times, taking pictures and videos to record the feat. I love waterfalls and swimming in them. There’s something about natural waterfalls that amazes me every time. We spent a couple of hours there, swimming, jumping and enjoying the place!
Next stop was the Salagdoong Beach. This is also a popular public beach run by the local government. It is located in the town of Maria. Here, there was quite a number of visitors. They made a cemented bleacher as its beach front and from there one can sit and relax and jump directly into the clear blue sea water. Despite the many people, somehow the place was still charming. Many of the tourists were jumping from the platform built atop the cliff at the far end of the small cove and they were having a good time.
We didn’t stay too long cause we were hungry already and the place was too packed to eat. So we went on to the town of Larena where the Triad Coffee shop and restaurant is located. We drove through the scenic coastline and passed through the town of Talingting where we had a photos taken.
There is also a pier in Larena. We went to the top of the mountain to eat at the Triad. The resto is like a view deck where you can see a bird’s eye view of the island.
It was nice too because it was breezy. We ate our late lunch there before we headed on towards our resort.
Before reaching Coco Grove we stopped over at another old church in the town of Siquijor, the St. Francis of Asisi. It is smaller than the St. Isidore church but it is actually older. This was built in 1783 or 234 years ago! They say it’s the first Parish Church built in the island of Siquijor.
We returned to Coco Grove at around 4pm. We paid our driver and guide Jay-boy his fee and we went straight to the big main pool of the resort of enjoy the jacuzzi. We were tired from day long tour and the strong pressure of the water soothed our bodies.
Our day didn’t end there. We just rested a bit and then enjoyed another sunset by the beach. Beer in hand, with my loved ones, and another spectacular sunset.
On our third day, we still had time to have a good breakfast and some swimming before we took the MV Coco Princess back to Dumaguete and take the 3:45 pm flight back home.
Enchanting, charming and unspoilt. Siquijor Island, check.