Sunday, May 20, 2012

Backpacking in Siquijor

Last week I did what I haven't done in almost ten years -- travel alone. My Bibe had a work-related event, so I went by my lonesome. Destination: Siquijor. It was a quasi-budget trip for me. I got me some cheap accommodation but I didn't hold back on food. I ate what I felt like eating but even then, everything was still quite cheap in general.

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Question, though: I traveled with a backpack. Does it make me a backpacker?

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A welcome sign at Siquijor town, with the church of St. Francis of Assisi in the background.

Siquijor isn't really on top of most Filipinos' travel lists because I think its reputation precedes itself. It's been unfairly associated with aswang, kulam (hex or curse), and mythical folklore whatnot. Sure, some Siquijor locals would vouch for the existence of kulam, shamans and all their potions, but aswang? They'll laugh at you. But I think this perception of Siquijor adds up to its charm and mystique nonetheless.

Siquijor is an island province, and a very small one at that. One can easily tour the whole island (or at least circumnavigate it) in a day or less. With a mostly hilly terrain, the island is blessed with white-sand beaches and excellent dive sites. From what I saw, tourism here caters mostly to the backpacker type (perfect for me then!).

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The beach along the Siquijor town port at low tide.

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My view from inside a tricycle.

While most of my countrymen shy away from Siquijor, white people (mostly Europeans) easily make up most of the province's tourist arrivals. It also comes as no surprise that most resorts here (and there are a lot!) are owned or co-owned by Caucasians. Majority of these resorts are located in the town of San Juan, with a few in Sandugan in Larena, and a couple more scattered along other parts of the island. There are also some inns available inland and a few beach houses for rent, ideally for longer stays.

It was already the start of the lean season when I arrived even when May still belongs to the peak season category elsewhere in the Philippines. Siquijor's tourist composition explains this scenario. Because most of its visitors are from the West and since it's already summer there, there's no more winter to escape from. That said, tourist arrivals are expected to start picking up again beginning September when it starts to get cold in that part of the globe.

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The beach at Sandugan at low tide.

The beaches here remind me of Anda, Bohol -- sandy in parts, rocky in some, but altogether shallow. It's not really the best for swimming and your best bet is to wade into the waters during high tide. But I didn't care. I was just happy enjoying the peace and quiet. It's also good to note that a healthy population of mangroves still stand along parts of Siquijor's coastline.

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Low tide at Sandugan.

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What looks like a flooded tree is actually a mangrove far out into sea, but where it's still shallow obviously.

Siquijor largely remains a laid-back place where, as I observed, tricycles and motorbikes are the primary modes of transport. Also, quite a few still fish here, and it's not at all the large-scale type.

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A fisherman readies his baits at Paliton Beach.

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A simple storage for fishermen's nets and other gear at Paliton Beach.

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A fishing team-up in the middle of the day along San Juan Beach.

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Fishermen readying their boats for a night of fishing along Sandugan.

With beaches, diving, springs, old churches and everything else in between, Siquijor offers visitors a variety of spots to check out in all six of its towns. I visited a number of them, which I'll feature in a subsequent post.

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Sunset at Sandugan Beach.

The island province is fairly accessible from Dumaguete, Cebu, Bohol, and even Iligan in Mindanao. Tourism, as it seems, is given enough attention by the local government. Transportation and tour rates are even regulated, easily eliminating the risk of visitors being duped into paying excessive sums. So everyone is very much welcome here.

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The tourist assistance center right outside the gate of the Siquijor port. They'll help you with anything here.

Take a look at:
Where I stayed
Where else I went around Siquijor
My Siquijor lookbook post

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GETTING THERE:

Via Dumaguete City
This is my preferred route because it's the easiest, especially if you're coming from Manila. Philippine Airlines flies twice daily to Dumaguete, and Cebu Pacific, thrice a day. I've also heard that Airphil Express will also operate flights soon.

From the airport, it's a fifteen to thirty-minute ride via tricycle (price dependent on your haggling skills) or taxi (Php 200 flat rate) to the port area. Here are your options:

Ocean Jet, leaves at 7:40am daily. Fare is Php 200 for tourist class and Php 350 for business class.
- Delta Fast Ferries (Tel. +63352253128), leaves at 6:00am (Monday and Saturday) and daily at 9:00am, 10:30am, 1:30pm, 4:30pm. Fare is Php 160. Their boats seem very old and dirty, though.
- MBca Jaylan and Jaziel of GL Shipping Lines (Tel. +63354805534), leaves daily (except Saturdays) at 5:45am, 10:15am, 12:00pm, and 4:30pm. Fare is Php 140.

The abovementioned options are either fast crafts or fast motorized boats where travel time is approximately an hour. A Php 15 terminal fee is also levied on each passenger. There are also several pump boats plying the route but I have no info about them. Bigger but slower vessels likewise run trips:

- M/V Jaylan 2 of GL Shipping Lines (Tel. +63354805534), leaves daily (except Saturdays) at 12pm.
- Montenegro Shipping Lines, leaves daily at 10am for Siquijor town and daily at 6pm for Larena town.

Schedules change so it's still best to confirm them directly with these companies before your trip.

Via Cebu City
Palacio Shipping Lines (Tel. +63322554540 / +63322537700) operates trips twice-a-week between Cebu City and Larena, Siquijor (via Tagbilaran City). Travel time is approximately 7 hours. Check schedules with them directly.

Another option is to travel by bus or van from the Cebu City South Bus Terminal to Lilo-an (approximately 3 hours). From Lilo-an, there are regular ferries to Sibulan, which is north of Dumaguete (approximately 20 minutes); fare is around Php 50. From Sibulan, take a jeepney to Dumaguete (est. Php 15, 10 minutes), then proceed to Siquijor via any of the Dumaguete options above.

Other options
- From Tagbilaran City, Bohol: Palacio Shipping Lines (Tel. +63322554540 / +63322537700), twice a week.
- From Iligan City: M/V Siquijor Island (Tel. +63322380296), Tuesdays and Fridays.

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Once in Siquijor (whether in Siquijor town, Larena or Lazi), it's fairly easy to hire anything from a motorbike, a tricycle or jeepney/multicab to your resort. Rates are standardized. Seek assistance from any tourist information center outside the port.

26 comments:

  1. wow! I am planning to go backpacking soon! I really want to go to Bohol...maybe Siquijor is next! thank you for this! :D

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  2. This place looks great and you look cute!!

    www.meryswardrobe.blogspot.com

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  3. Lovely look :)

    Adam,
    http://bmagazyn.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Gorgeous place, I wish i will be there :)

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  5. Wow!!! really great pics!!! love the one of the Mangrove, maybe I steal it :P


    Great you can travel.
    mytigermx.blogspot.mx

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  6. Dude you just made me want to go to Siquijor REAL BAD. Your photos are amazing. Definitely doing this -- ASAP!

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  7. Nice weather and looks like a great trip!
    would you like to follow each other?
    A
    xx
    http://epiquemoi.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sir ang gwapo nyo!

    Anyway, thank po sa tip sa Siquijor. It was helpful as I am planing of going there next week.

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    Replies
    1. hehe. thanks and glad to be of help to you.
      i hope your trip went well.

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  9. How much is the fare from iligan to sequijor??

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    Replies
    1. Sorry, I have no idea. I suggest you call the shipping line directly to inquire. :)

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  10. Lovely photos and great information on this small island - thanks for sharing! :-)

    ReplyDelete

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