Road trip to Siquijor in a tuk-tuk was a project that has been brewing in our minds for quite a while from the time we saw the enchanted island from Dumaguete's Rizal Boulevard two years ago. If so, that would be traveling 400 kilometers on the road with this Bajaj RE from Cebu to Siquijor, around the island and back.
It was only a year later that we made it happen.
When I was little, Siqjuijor held a scary reputation that we were to stay away from this island for it is widely known for mysticism and witchcraft. For years, Yohann tried to convince me to go but I always declined, because of the fear that has been instilled in me growing up. It wasn't only me, in fact. When a friend in Manila asked me where we were going with our tuk-tuk and I mentioned Siquijor, he replied, "Why? Aren't you afraid?"
Yohann, however, made a clear argument that the reason they spread this information was to protect its island from outsiders so they could preserve its beauty and keep it for themselves.
Well he does have a point. On verra (We'll see)..
We purchased the Tuk-tuk, a Bajaj RE for many reasons. First, it is spacious enough for the family. Second, it is compact to easily meander through the narrow and winding island roads of the Philippine countryside. Third, due to its small size, it's easy to find a parking spot. Fourth, reasonable gas consumption, thus it is more economical. Fifth, the ease of traveling when it rains. Sixth, it is very practical for me to use for school runs, market and grocery trips. Seventh, it's faster than a conventional tricycle as it can go up to 60km/hr. Eight, it can reverse. Ninth, an open air ride allows us to appreciate the nature trip more as opposed to being confined inside an air-conditioned vehicle. Lastly, we have always wanted to see many places in the Philippines with the tuk-tuk.
Family Travel Preparation
I learned how to drive the tuk-tuk on my own on mountain roads and found it easy to maneuver. We had a roof rack built for our backpacks and a luggage rain cover customized.
A friend, Era who was also Anais' babysitter joined us on our family trip.
We booked 2 garden bungalow rooms online and checked the trip schedule of Maayo Shipping Inc. Ferry.
On the day of our trip, we drove an hour and a half to reach Liloan Port in Santander at the southern tip of the island of Cebu from where we lived.
We were at the port at around 9am, an hour early to ensure we board the Maayo Shipping Inc. Ferry. There is only one available schedule for a direct trip to Larena Port in Siquijor daily and its departure is at 10am. We purchased the tickets on the spot, presented our vehicle registration and paid an extra for our tuk-tuk to be loaded on board which included a free fare for 1 person so we only had to purchase 3. A ticket costs around Php 200 (Usd $ 4) per person.
The boat journey from Cebu to Siquijor is 2 to 3 hours.
Our back up plan if ever we miss this one was to go via Dumaguete. There are more available ferry trips from Dumaguete Port to Siquijor daily.
We arrived at Larena Port sometime after lunch and we were all famished. We had a quick lunch in one of the restaurants in Siquijor town and strolled briefly at the nearby plaza next to St. Francis Assisi Church until it drizzled.
After a long journey, we stayed in the hotel for the rest of the evening and called it a day.
It is possible to tour the island in one day. We envisioned a route that starts with a breakfast at the lookout point at Larena Triad Coffee Shop and ends watching the famous sunset perched on the white sand of Paliton Beach.
Unfortunately, the first activity didn't happen because the restaurant on the hill was not serving breakfast. Instead, there were lunch meals on the menu. I did however got my morning cuppa of freshly brewed goodness so we were good to go.
We continued our journey and made a few stops whenever we spotted something unusual and beautiful. My curiosity drove me to ask residents there and they were happy to provide information.
The next stop was Salagdoong Beach. The drive through Salagdoong Forest to get to the beach was interesting and note-worthy. The resort however was pretty old and slightly run-down but the beach was something else. Should you follow the steps on the mound, you will find yourself standing at the edge of a diving platform. There were 2 rather, one slightly higher than the other. I thought to myself, "Ooh, that's so clear. I wonder how deep it really is, but it's high. Maybe I could? Maybe I should but I am scared.."
Then I saw the sign - No Jumping Low Tide
That sign saved me and will always be my great excuse :)
Cambugahay Falls is one of Siquijor's popular sites to see. Due to consecutive heavy rains days before this photo was taken, the mystical looking clear blue water of this 3- tiered waterfall seemed to have transformed into a pool of chai latte. These were my thoughts after descending many steps to get here. Not to mention, the return ascent which literally left us breathless, along with stretched hamstrings. Kidding aside, it is easily accessible, there's no need to hike to get there.
A quick respite under the Century old Balete Tree offered us to dip our feet into a shallow fish pond for a foot spa with fish ready to feast on our dry skin where you'll end up tickled with laughter.
This was followed by a short stroll around the grounds of Lazi (San Isidro Labrador) Convent and Lazi Church across from it. The latter was under restoration last year. These are Spanish influenced massive stone edifices that are more than a century old and considered to be the oldest church on the island of Siquijor.
We didn't stick around for long as we were looking forward to see the mysterious **Lugnason Falls. **The memory that stood out the most for me here was a man that swung himself for an impressive yet dangerous monkey jump. What was great about the sights in Siquijor were the waterfalls' close proximity to roads. There were no long hikes to get there and most of them were self guided paths under a canopy of trees.
By then, we were starving. We drove to the highly recommended U.Story Bar and Restaurant in Tag-ibo for french asian fusion cuisine and to check out their intriguing interior decor but they were sadly closed for lunch.
We drove a little bit further to Coco Grove Beach Resort where Salamandas Restaurant is for a delicious lunch al fresco by the beach. Since it is a private hotel property, it gave us an opportunity to wander around. It was pricey but worth it. It gave us access to the beautiful side of Tubod Beach and for my daughter to swim there at the same time. We lingered around here for hours until it was time for us to move along.
On the way, we stopped to watch families on a picnic while their kids play and swim in Capilay Spring Water Park in San Juan, Siquijor.
Sunset Watching in Paliton Beach
To watch the sunset in Paliton Beach in silence was so soothing to the soul. There were two stretches of fine white sand divided by a rock outcrop that completely separates the two. The longer side was filled with music and young groups in drinking sessions gathered together between fishing boats under coconut trees. The other one, on the contrary, was peaceful, with a few travelers perched quietly appreciating the sea before them. We chose the latter. As if on cue, on some higher level, there was an understanding among all of us. We all sat there in silence and watched the sun until it disappeared.
Our remaining days in Siquijor were spent lounging by the pool in front of our terraced rooms at Garden Bungalows Resort while discovering more restaurants for lunch and dinners such as Baha Bar, Monkey Business and healthy dishes at Luca Loko.
It was the first inter-island travel for our tuk-tuk and we hope that many other trips like this follow in the near future.