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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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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