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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bike, Drink and Love Potion in Siquijor Island


The almost one hour ferry boat ride going to Siquijor was spent on eavesdropping on the conversations of a group of backpackers seated at the row behind me. They were the usual traveler's talk of "where you've been", "how do you find this place" "where you're heading next" and those "this one time in India". I try to listen as I could hoping to get some information I've never came across yet, but my mind seemed to wander to the island of Siquijor, mainly because part of it involves some of the earliest supernatural tales I've heard while growing up.

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Witchcraft, potions, curses and other unexplained things were the usual stories I've heard about this mystical Island, which the Spaniards used to call as Isla del Fuego (Island of Fire). However, as much as I would like to think that I am heading to a non-fiction version of Shutter Island, my paranormal excitement was quickly replaced by real-world expectations. All of a sudden I was looking forward to a scenic island, white sand beaches, the waterfalls, the church in Lazi and the old convent and most of all, quaint little towns that depicts simple living at its finest.

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I arrived at the port of Larena at around 10:00 am and was eagerly met by a dozen of habal-habal drivers. I opted to take the jeepney going to San Juan because I had reserved a room at Lorna's End of the World, but managed to get the number of one of the drivers in case I needed a ride going around the island later on. After 20 minutes I was knocking at this small nipa hut situated in front of the beach. The water was low, but the white sand blinding and felt pure and soft on your sole. Ate Lorna got out of the house and greeted me. I told her I was the one who texted a reservation a week earlier. She told me she thought I would never show up and was happy that I did, she then showed me to this fan room downstairs that comes with a comfort room and a kitchen plus a window with a stunning view of the beach - all for 500 pesos a night. 

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Took a swim here the next day. Capilay Spring park
She told me I could cook my own food, which I did during dinner and the next day's breakfast - thereby saving me money compared to eating at some of the other resort's restaurants. I wasn't feeling hungry so after resting a while I proceeded with my plans of exploring the island. I walked a kilometer to where I could either rent a motorcycle or a mountain bike. It was near the Capilay Spring park, where I saw kids swimming into this large natural spring that was converted into a pool. Renting a motorbike costs 350.00 per day and a mountain bike for 250.00

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Since there was no automatic motorbikes available and feeling like a Marlboro Tour junkie, I opted for the mountain bike. I pedaled into the first few kilometers with delight at seeing the sweeping landscape of the island. There was this golden yellow colored rice fields to left and the shimmering blue waters of the sea on my right and a dusty road ahead of me, passing by small towns with little kids waving from the steps of their houses. 

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Cambugahay Waterfalls
It was all good until cramps and fatigue sets in. Soon, I was huffing and chasing my breathe on uphill roads and feeling like an orgasm addict when I would pass a long downhill road, with the wind brushing against my face coupled with the speed I'm riding at, it was definitely a different kind of freedom. I stopped at two stores on my way to buy softdrinks hoping it could quench my thirst and re-hydrate me more. On my third stop I asked the old woman selling diesel gasoline, bracelets, beads and other items by the side of the road, how far is it to the Cambugahay Waterfalls. She looked at me in a funny way and with a smile she answered "about 11 kilometers" more. 

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the San Isidro Labrador Convent
I was like "I'm going back and will rent a motorcycle instead" - but I rested a few more minutes and asked the old woman what sorts of beads she's selling and if she knows about where I could get love potions. She smiled again and told me not to believe everything I heard about Siquijor. While there were indeed unexplained things that happened in the past and into the present, it is not something they talk or brag about. That said, stories that were told outside does not represent the facts clearly. However, she told me that If ever I'm really serious about getting me some 'love potions' she knows just the right place and person to go to.

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The San Isidro Labrador Parish
I considered her offer enough to generate these slideshow of images of women in my head whom I could use the love potion for. Too bad for me I didn't felt I have to use one for now, as my main purpose really was to enjoy Siquijor even without its mystical angle. I was thinking about heading back to Lorna's when a small multi-cab jeep stopped over and a group of people alighted to buy snacks and soda's. The old woman who I failed to ask the name, calmly talked to the driver in Cebuano as if asking for a favor. The driver in turn talked to one of the passengers and then turned to me and smiled. They let me hitched on their ride because they were also going to the waterfalls. I asked the old lady if I could leave my rented bike in her store and she willingly said yes.

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where I stayed. "Lorna's End of the World" and I feel fine
Such small deeds I will never forget. The hitched ride, the old woman - these are the things we seemingly forget to do once we find ourselves back again in the big city chasing for "big dreams" we don't really understand. It was a gesture that works like a kindness potion. It rubbed up on me and all I could ever want to do is to pay it forward someday. We arrived at the waterfalls in less than 10 minutes and I quickly enjoyed a relaxing dip. The group of people who gave me a ride egged me to join some of them to jump from the waterfalls, which was about 10-15 feet high.

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For someone who could not swim to save my life, I thought about it for a few minutes before deciding to do it. I did a Van Halen on the waterfalls and it was awesome. The moment I dropped into the water and was pulled down deeper, all I could see were bubbles and riptides. I know I was unable to breathe, but there I was having a fish-eye view, fortunately I realized my need to survive and cut short my enjoyment of being underwater and started kicking myself upwards amid swallowing enough dose of water in the process. (photographic proof of my Van Halen moment: click this link and look at the 5th picture)

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 After an hour and a half I had to bid goodbye to the wonderful people who hitched me a ride as they will be going further around the island while I will go back to pass by the San Isidro Labrador Church and the former convent across it. I texted the number of the habal-habal driver I met at the port and asked him to fetch me. After an hour he came by roaring on his motorcycle and agreed for a price of 300 pesos to take me around the places I wanted to go in the island for the remainder of the afternoon.

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We passed by the San Isidro Labrador Parish and Convent and was amazed at the stunning trees that grace the surroundings. Leaves were falling into the streets against a clear sunlight and a solemn wedding was being held inside the church. Makes me think about that love potion again and wish for the special woman in my mind to be with me that moment.

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After that we dropped by the store where I left my rented bike and with proper rest and the therapeutic massage like effect of the waterfalls, I was back again to full strength. I biked my way back to Lorna's and arrived just before the sun sets in. I capped my day with a cold San Miguel light staring at the golden horizon and listened to the crashing of the waves. I told myself, I am really in mystical Siquijor and the only mystery was how the hell I've waited this long to visit this place.
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