Siquijor Diaries Day 1 – Throwing Caution To The Wind

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The last time I went to Siquijor was 3 years ago, May 2015. When the chance to visit the island again presented itself, I had ambivalent feelings. So many memories were created there, mostly happy. After I broke up with my boyfriend of 7 years, the place only evoked pain, and I swore I’ll never set foot on that island again.

But my feet was itching to go, and I could hear the waves beckoning me home. Yes, Siquijor was home. I left a part of my heart there.

The first part of my day was spent resort hunting. I arrived on Sunday, January 21, 2018 around 9 am. I usually plan everything but this time, I had no accommodations yet. I was on a let’s-see-how-this-goes mode. The island was littered with many resorts and specialty lodgings. I wanted to try the backpacker types. My first stop was Casa Miranda in San Juan.

I was given a room for 250 a night. Wow, what a steal, I thought to myself. A woman showed me my room. My face fell. It was cramped. I’m not picky but I wouldn’t step barefoot in the bathroom. What can you expect from a 250 a night room? But that’s not the worst part—it was the lock to the room. One swift kick and anyone could come in. I didn’t think I would feel safe in it, and I’m quite attached to my laptop.

The guesthouse was beside the road, and so was my room. There was a group of foreign tourists staying. Rowdy. Internet was slow in these parts, but I knew that already. I decided to just eat breakfast and move along. I went to the nearby Tori’s Backpackers.

As luck would have it, they couldn’t confirm if they have an available room for me. A dorm space was available, but the guests haven’t checked out yet. I had to wait for hours. I didn’t like waiting and the uncertainty, so I decided to head out to Buco’s Beach Resort in Maria.

Buco’s Beach Resort was a good 20 minutes from San Juan. It was a little out of the way, but I didn’t mind. I love the solitude of the place. Homey was the first word that came to my mind. The resort was pet friendly too, a major plus in my book. If the people running the place loved animals, then they must be nice. And I was right.

I was given a big room that could easily accommodate 4 people. It was 950 a night, air-conditioned, clean bathroom with basic necessities, hot and cold showers, a mini veranda. There was internet too. Not bad.

You couldn’t bring food from the outside, and I wouldn’t have minded, until I saw the prices of their menu items. Rellenong Talong (eggplant omelet) for 400?! Grilled pork belly at 600??? Whoa! It was waaaaay too expensive! I decided that I will stay for a night, and move elsewhere.

I hired a motorbike and a young man for my wanderings around the island. My first stop was the church of Maria. It housed one of the 7 creepiest statues in the Philippines, Santa Rita of Cascia, otherwise known as Black Magick Mary.

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church interior

I’ve always wanted to visit her, but there was a time when the parish priest decided not to display her statue. It was due to the reputation she was getting. According to the stories, the statue walks around especially after sunset. Dirt and grass would be found at the hem of her dress. Sorcerers and black magick practitioners were said to petition her for wishes, and the parish priest wasn’t too happy about it. She was said to favor women who had been wronged or abused. I was so excited!

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The statue was beautiful, in an eerie sort of way. It looked alive, especially the eyes. Her gaze seemed to say here’s another idiot and her silly superstitions (kidding!). I know I’m weird because I get excited by stuff that would probably scare some people.

I left the church to go to my next destination—a bolo-bolo healer. A bolo-bolo healing was a form of white magick, involving a glass of water, a bamboo straw, and a magical black stone. I was sad when told that the original bolo-bolo healer Conching Akay aka*Manang Conching had passed away. My guide assured me he knew of someone in the town of Enrique Villanueva. He said there are many copycats, but the one he knew was as good as the original. Unfortunately, when we got to the healer’s place, he wasn’t around. Tough luck!

On the way to the healer’s place, we passed by the oldest house in the island, the Cang-isok house. It was built in the early 1800s.  It was amazing how it withstood the ravages of time.

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Years ago, I saw some magic tricks performed by a guy I made friends with. Let’s call him V. His family was a practitioner, but in 2015, he told me he stopped practicing as he had been experiencing some bad luck. He made the anchovies in the bagoong (fermented fish usually anchovies, in salt) swim, reattached a cut abaca rope, and made my slippers walk on its own. My guide knew of someone who can perform the same magic. His name was Vicente Tumala aka*Manong Cente. He was also a healer. He lived in the mountains of Cang-asa, Lazi. It was 3:30 pm.

My guide said the healer’s place wasn’t far, but it was! We travelled for what felt like 30-45 minutes, on small roads that are made for motorbikes only. Houses were sparse. There was a good 20 minute ride where there were no houses in sight, and no cellphone signals. The surroundings looks dark and sinister, and for the first time, I was really scared, scared of my surroundings, suspicious of my guide. I mean, there was not a soul in sight, I was in the middle of nowhere, all I could see were trees, it was dark, and a million horrible scenarios started forming in my mind. I even started calling all the saints I know. Help me God!!! What have I gotten myself into this time? What was I thinking?

I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally saw houses. Manong Cente wasn’t home. Of course, I hissed under my breath. I told the guide that I wanted to go back to the resort as it was getting dark. All through that time, I never showed any fear, even if I felt like I was going to piss in my shorts any minute. I was just happy when we reached the main road. I was tired, I need a shower, and beer.

That evening, I talked to the resort caretaker about what happened that day. She said I have nothing to worry about as Siquijor crime rates are really low. It was unheard of tourists getting attacked or anything. I remembered what my friend V told me years ago. He said crime rates in Siquijor were low because most people are afraid of the **needle.

*manong/manang – a term used to call elders

**needle – in reference to the needle used in paktol or voodoo dolls, a black magick practice in Siquijor

To be continued…

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