Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Siquijor: Siquijor, the mystic island

I took the M.V. Don Martin from Tagbilaran to Larena in Siquijor. People told me that the ship left the port at 10 p.m. But by 8:30 p.m, my traveller's instincts were telling me to go. And I got there in the nick of time since the ship was scheduled to leave at 8:45 p.m.! Everything has been so photo finish for me when it came to ship departures. Hehe! Lesson number one, always ask schedules from people at the pier. They know best! Hehe!

The trip took a little over three hours and costed PHP246.40. On the way, friends were warning me about the island and teaching me ways to counteract the spells of the magbabarang or mangkukulam (black witches), that I should find the nearest lodge available and close all the windows, etc. Thanks! That wasn't any help since I was arriving at 12 midnight! Hehe!

Mysticism in Siquijor becomes most active on Black Saturday. In the belief that with the death of Jesus Christ, creatures not of this realm roam the earth and share their healing powers, albularyos or mananambal (witch doctors) converge in the barangay of San Antonio in Siquijor to prepare healing potions. Using ancient incantations, they throw into a big cauldron a mixture of coconut oil, herbs, tree bark, roots, insects, dirt and other secret ingredients to create a potent brew that is said to cure various ailments.

Anyway, I arrived in Larena in one piece. Hehe! At the port, I immediately asked for the schedules to Dumaguete and the nearest lodge. It turns out, the nearest lodge was a few meters from the port. Thank God! The trips to Dumagute left from the neighboring town of Siquijor which is the provincial capital. I had wanted to leave by lunch but they had a 10 a.m. and a 3 p.m. departure closest to lunch so I didn't have any choice.

The lodge was very basic. A room, bed and electric fan all for the price of PHP150. Good enough for a few hours of sleep. I woke up at 6 a.m. and got ready for the trip around the island. But first, I stopped by the bell tower of Larena in the town proper which was a short walk up. The lodge owner told me that they used to have an old church just like the rest of the towns, but it was demolished by some priest and replaced with a new one. Just great! At least the bell tower was still there.

From Larena, I took a jeep to Lazi. The Church of San Isidro Labrador is a national cultural treasure. Anyway, what I expected to be an hour took close to three hours! Jeeps in Siquijor drive extremely slow and I mean an average of 20 to 30 kph! And we stopped here and there to pick up passengers and load stuff on board. So instead of catching the 10 a.m., I had no choice but to take the 3 p.m.

On the way to Lazi was Maria where another bell tower and church stood. While the jeep was waiting for passengers at the market, I took some photos of the bell tower. The Church of the Nuestra Senora de Providencia was still intact. Good! After a few minutes, we were off to Lazi. Finally, after a long and slow trip, I was in front of the church.

The convent in front of the church is said to be the biggest in Asia. Sigh! I wished that we had this grand architecture in the Philippines today. The last great builder was none other than former First Lady Imelda Marcos whose edifice complex envisioned the Cultural Center of the Philippines and its adjacent buildings done ny national artist Leandro Locsin. But everything today is stunted by our tingi culture. Many, if not most Filipinos have small dreams. It is time to make this country great again by encouraging young people to think big!

I had wanted to go to nearby Cambugahay Falls. I tried looking for a habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) to take me there but then given the time it may take to get to Siquijor, I decided to forego the trip and go straight to Siquijor. It was another slow trip to Siquijor. It was so slow, I thought I might even miss the 3 p.m.!

When I got to Siquijor, I went straight to the
Church of St. Francis of Assisi. In front of the church was another fortress convent. Impressive! Like most convents, it was being used as the parish school of Siquijor.

While waiting for the ship to arrive, I trekked to the nearby beach to check it out. Photos are at the top. Although the better beaches are a few minutes away.

Then I had lunch at this lodge beside the port. At least it was a real meal. Hehe! I had survived on crackers and other snacks the whole day. The Delta fast ferry for Dumaguete left at 3 p.m.
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