Sunday, June 17, 2007


We braved a visit to Siquijor with a certain degree of caution. We made a mental note not to take food or drinks randomly offered to us by strangers and to try our very best not to argue with anyone. Though most Siquijodnons are already caught in the reel of modernity, those we met still could not deny that witch doctors still live in the province, ever able to concoct potions that could either heal or kill. A staff in one of the resorts we stayed in honestly admitted that even they still get scared sometimes.

The thing that Ron and I soon realized is that despite all the talks about witchcraft and magic spells in the province of Siquijor, hardly anyone ever mentions that which has truly lured many tourists to dare a visit and eventually stay in the island: the magic brew of Siquijor’s saltwater scent, white-sand beaches, cool and clear ocean, and welcoming smiles. Take them all in and the result would be enchantment beyond belief. This was the potion that has kept Ron and I spellbound even up to the time of this writing, and probably years and years after our first visit. No exaggerations here really. We were truly dumbfounded by the beauty of the place.

I remember feeling so happy one morning as I was lying down on a native hammock, which was tied on to a couple of coconut trees atop the cliff from which Villa Marmarin sits overlooking the ocean. With my eyes closed I listened to the sound of the wind as it kissed the shade of leaves above me—a hushed cluttering that seemed like rainwater trickling down the rooftop during a minor drizzle. But it was a clear day, and as that lovely Streisand song goes, I felt truly part of every mountain, sea, and shore, hearing words I’ve never ever heard before.

That day, I woke up with the sunlight just coming in our bedside window. As I looked out, I saw Manong Fulgene, our hired driver cum guide in Siquijor, waiting for us to wake up. We met him at the Siquijor ferry pier, along with a swarm of multicab and tricycle drivers offering us their services. He won over the throng with his 150-peso price offer for a tricycle ride to San Juan and a promise to drive us through various resorts until we find one we like. He was also the one who took us to Villa Marmarin in the capital town of Siquijor during our second day on the island.

That particular morning, he was supposed to take us to the pier where we should be catching a trip back to Dumaguete for our onward trip to Dipolog. But Ron and I just couldn’t muster enough strength just yet to leave our beautiful resort, our large cottage, the beach, and the chance to listen to the story of Dagman (pronounced Damang)—a retired Japanese teacher who owns Villa Marmarin and has dedicated his years in retirement to help out the students in Siquijor. I told Manong Fulgene to just come back the next day because we had decided to stay another night.

The day before this, Manong Fulgene gave us a tour of the island. We didn’t get to see much because his tricycle had a flat tire and fixing it took up the entire morning. We were stranded at Enrique Villanueva for almost two hours and we just sat there as an old man fixed the tire. We didn’t feel even a bit irritated despite the long wait, which I found really surprising. If travelling makes me more patient, understanding and sensitive to other people’s plights, then let’s comb the world!

We were only able to stop by two places during our afternoon tour, but they were all that we wanted to see. He first took us to Siquijor’s public beach, Salagdoong Beach Resort in the town of Maria—a five-star beach for a measly 10-peso entrance fee. The water was so clear and the view was just awesome. The food from the canteen was also very cheap, and you can even while away time practicing your karaoke skills for just five pesos per song.

After shoving Ron’s confidence to the side with his rendition of Raymond Lauchengco’s “So It’s You,” Manong Fulgene then took us to the string of resorts fronting the long white-sand stretch of the Sandugan Beach. These resorts offer cheaper accommodations that’s why more tourists frequent the area. We would’ve stayed in one of the resorts if we knew about it earlier. But then at Villa Marmarin, we don’t only get to stay at a beautiful large cottage with a good view at a discounted price, we also get to help out the children of Siquijor since the resort helps fund the projects that Dagman puts up for them.

We passed by the market before heading back to our cottage so Ron could cook dinner. Just more than a week into our journey and we were already missing home-cooked meals, that’s why we got really excited when we found out that our cottage was equipped with its own gas range. We feasted on a grand meal of calamares, sweet and sour lapu-lapu, and the jumbo shrimps we ordered from the resort’s restaurant.

Our entire stay in the resort has been restful, happy, and insightful. The staff were really friendly and the owner was truly inspiring. The night before we left, we even got invited to a small party that Dagman threw for one of the workers who was celebrating his birthday. It was a simple feast of pancit, adobo and tuba but grand in thought and generosity. The workers’ families were also invited, and a young student that Dagman invited from Japan was there to keep them entertained with origami and balloon shaping.

Manong Fulgene was sitting right at the same spot when I looked out the window the morning we finally had to leave Siquijor. Honestly, I woke up hoping he would be late and we would not be able to catch our trip, but Ron’s friend was already waiting for us in Dipolog where promises of new discoveries lie in wait. So while it truly broke our heart to leave the white sandy shores of Siquijor and its beautiful people, we had no other choice but to move on.

This time, I made a mental note to come back soon and share the beauty of Siquijor to anyone who'd brave a visit. The province, as I came to realize, is its best potion and we all should come and enjoy the brew!

--The Other Sputnik

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