View part 1 of the Siquijor series here.
On our second day in Siquijor, the ‘engineer’ unrolled before us a map of the island. His neighbors affectionately called him as such since he previously worked overseas. He showed us where we were in San Juan that time, and then the various tourist spots that we will visit that day.
I actually did not care where we were headed that morning. But I do remember requesting Lorie, our trip organizer, that we include the Cantabon Cave in our weekend itinerary. That became our second stop after a short trek to Mt. Bandilaan (557 MASL), the highest point in the province.
Mt. Bandilaan and Cantabon Cave
The trail to the peak is quite straightforward. All you need to is follow the Stations of the Cross along the way. We were later told that if we arrived during the wee hours in the morning, we would have glimpsed the Black Saturday rituals of the fabled shamans of Siquijor.
Bandilaan was a warm-up of some sort to the surprises that were in store for us at the Cantabon Cave. I was interested with this cave because this was featured in a Magandang Gabi Bayan Halloween special many years ago. During lent, it is said that this was a gathering place for those who dabble in the dark arts. But despite our curiosities and perhaps muffled screams, we did not experience anything paranormal that time.
Instead, what we had was one adventure we could not forget. For spelunking novices like us, Cantabon was certainly not a walk in the park. We waded through neck-deep waters and into pitch-dark caverns. We then carefully negotiated slippery paths and narrow pathways with only the faint glow of our local guide’s emergency lamp. At some point, we had to crawl our way just to get to the King’s Bed, a stunning limestone formation.
But I do regret ‘sleeping’ on the King’s Bed for a quick photo. I would later learn when I got to visit the Puerto Princesa Underground River that this is actually a big NO-NO as it would contaminate the fragile speleothems.
From Lazi to Salagdoong
We were a little bit exhausted by the time we reached the 19th century San Isidro Labrador Church (or the Lazi Church). It is currently on the tentative list (as an extension of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines) of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Across it is an old convent, where various religious artifacts and heirloom icons are on display.
Our final destinations that afternoon were the Cambugahay Falls and the Salagdoong Beach Resort. The cascades were very inviting but I just opted to watch my friends enjoy the waterfalls.
But I could not resist swimming at the Salagdoong Beach Resort on the other hand, even if the water gets too deep quickly.
We did a few more jump shots at this beach, just before our camera batteries got drained. The sun was setting right behind us, which reminded us to send off the engineer back to his family at San Juan and to contact our kind-hearted hosts at Larena.
What I’ll do differently next time
There are many things I would do differently if I could visit Siquijor again. All the jumpshots we took would probably still be there, but I would probably give each frame a much needed context like a ‘Welcome to Siquijor’ signage as a background. I would go inside the Lazi Church and appreciate its exquisite wooden floors. Or maybe I’ll drop by the Santa Maria church where the intriguing image of the Santa Rita de Cascia, sometimes referred to as the ‘Black Magic Mary,’ is housed.
But I must put an end to all this travel wishlists. Because if you get to travel to a place for the first time, you must appreciate it for what it is, even if you only get to explore it for just 25 minutes.
We only stayed for 2 days in Siquijor, but it is enough to make us say that it is really a charming and photogenic island. It is blessed with gorgeous beaches, waterfalls and caves. It also has a unique heritage – one that reminds you that once upon a time there were some people who walked on this island and believed in the unexplained mysteries of the universe, long before the Spaniards even set foot on its beautiful shores.