What I Saw:
In Photographs: Siquijor
How I Did It:
Download itinerary and budget (UPDATED)
Note that the environment that I call home is relatively restrictive. Manila is, for the most part, gray with concrete and smog, and offers little easy respite for the weary. True, a lot goes on, but this jaded Manileña can only make her rounds so many times. Compounded with parents who over-worry, I think it was only a matter of time that my enclosures start to feel like cages, and I know why the caged bird sings.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve traveled alone before, but to places where I would have a relative’s house as home base, and into territory that my parents are familiar with. This is my first “out of nowhere” trip (i.e random, baseless, without agenda), which I’ve done absolutely on my own — that I financed, researched, planned, fulfilled, and completed with my money, courage, and wit.
I had gotten to the point where there was an unbearable feeling of inadequacy that I have from not being free to test my mettle. And how unfair, because most of these factors are merely circumstantial. Hence, an overwhelming pressure to do things that inspire me, and be amazing; obviously, lately, I feel as though I am not. I could use more of an education on the ways of the world, more so than what I have under my belt today.
And so, I did it!
Overall, it was a wonderful experience! I feel empowered by it, and encouraged to do it more, and often.
I got on my Cebu Pacific flight to Dumaguete at 6 AM, and arrived at about 7 AM. I took a 15 minute tricycle ride to Dumaguete’s Sibulan port, and then got on the earliest available roro (barge) to Siquijor. There is an option to take a fast craft, but I don’t do well on boats, so the slower, steadier, open-air roro would be less problematic for my sensitive stomach. The fast craft would have taken 45 min-1 hour; the roro took me an hour and a half. A small price to pay for the assurance of not hurling.
By around 11 AM, I had made it to Tori’s Backpackers Paradise in San Juan, where I roomed in a dorm, along with five other people. The couple who owns it — Tomas (a Czech) and his wife, Ria (a Filipina) run a steady hostel, and make you feel right at home. And the food was great! I had some of Tomas’ Czech Goulash with dumplings, which I thought was perfect comfort food after a long day of running about.
I had put together a detailed itinerary for my trip, but as soon as I got there, it was obvious that I wasn’t going to follow it. I rented a scooter, for Php 350/day, (not a bad price, but if you ask the right people, you can get it down to Php 150) plus gas at Php 50/liter, and ticked off all my noted locations one by one. I even managed to add a couple more of side trips.
In one afternoon, I hit both the Old Enchanted Balete Tree, and Cambugahay Falls. The balete tree is about a half hour scooter ride to the east of San Juan. It towers before you, in all its humbling majesty. All 500 years of it. You can expect to pay a very small fee of Php 5, and a donation, if you like. At its base is what I assume is a man-made fish pond. Dip your feet in its cooling water, for a special spa treatment of small fish nibbling at your toes.
Another half hour away, eastward, are the three tiers of Cambugahay Falls. In October 2014, some locals volunteered as guides, and unofficially act as watch guards over guests personal belongings. The amount of people who go there make it difficult to keep track of everyone, and everything, and things get stolen. It was apparently a good idea to go in the afternoon, because when I got there, there were only ten of us tourists, at most (not including the locals).
I assigned Day 2 to be exclusively for the beach. Again, I headed east of San Juan, and about 2 hours later, I arrived Salagdoong Beach. I had heard that this was a developed area, but I had imagined a longer stretch of swimmable beach, and fewer people. I suppose I would have enjoyed it more if I had gone during a low season.
I headed 45 minutes southeast, and found myself in the secluded Kagusuan Beach. I liked it here so much, I came back the day after. Some locals, who were there for a picnic, made friends with me. Even for a Filipino, I am amazed by how friendly the Siquijor locals are! Is it my cosmopolitan upbringing? I don’t remember it being like this in the other parts of the Philippines that I’ve visited.
Anyway, I went up there to check out a Healing Festival, which is an annual event, and held for 4 days during Holy Week. I found booths were different kinds of healers camped out to offer their services. Later during the day, I was told that these are “commercial” healers, and that the legitimate ones are found in the forest.
Later, I ran into a fellow dormer — a Hungarian named Peter, who saved my life. I had a brief encounter with a couple of stalkers, but I managed to slip out of it safely, thanks to Peter. See, it helps to make friends!
Together, Peter and I managed to squeeze in another site. Lugnasan Falls is only 10 minutes away from Tori’s, and is smaller in area than Cagbuhayan, but slightly higher and equally majestic.
I could have stayed another day, just to get everything out-of-the-way. Siquijor is a relatively small place; you can round out the island in a day, if you wanted to. And really cheap, too! For everything, including lodging and flights, I may have only spent less than Php 6,000. You can download my spending record at the link above.
Along the way, I picked up a couple of things:
- I am completely capable of managing entirely on my own, despite others thinking otherwise.
I live a life wherein everything is pretty much handed to me. Not that I am complaining, but I’ve always hungered for reality. A lot of my frustrations at this stage in my life have come from struggling to prove that I am smarter and more capable than what I’ve been given the chance to. For this, I am grateful, for it leads to more, and grander dreams that I am now sure that I can carry out. I have barely scratched the surface of my capacities, but the jump is always the most daunting part of the dive. And I fully intend to dive blindly, and head-first from hereon out. Nothing can stop me now.
- When traveling alone, you are at the mercy of yourself, and of others.
I had no one to baby me and give me anything and everything I either needed or wanted during this trip. I had to figure everything out for myself, and that included a LOT of planning, and convincing my parents to let me do it. There were times when even I was not sure about how I was going to manage. But, before anybody else can be convinced, I myself had to be. It requires mental resilience and determination on my part to even conceptualize the whole thing, let alone fulfil it successfully. I was at my mercy, but I trusted myself despite my demons.Obviously, when you travel, you don’t do it in a vacuüm. On the one hand, you travel because you want to expand your knowledge of places and people. On the other hand, there are some real dangers (and there were), the chances of which are increased just because I am a girl.However, I honestly would not have been able to manage as well as I did without the help of strangers. I relied heavily on this, being forced to assume that they might be willing to help at the least, and trust that they are good people at best.As it turns out, you can’t trust everybody, but you can’t not trust anybody, either. There are more good people than there are who will take advantage of your vulnerability.
- Vulnerability invites the world.
When traveling in a group, you get comfortable, and don’t necessarily have the opportunity to lay your defenses down enough to meet new people. Even if you do, you could get lost in the shuffle and miss out on genuine connections. Going it alone afforded me the vulnerability to meet, and personally converse (often in-depth) with so many people whom I would not be able to meet, otherwise.I’m generally a pretty friendly girl who does not have qualms about striking up a conversation with a stranger (depending on their demeanor). Holding one up is a different story. On the other hand, people don’t normally initiate conversation with me because, so I have been told, that I am quite intimidating. But being by myself proved to be a different experience. I could be sitting by myself on a secluded beach, and little girl will come up to me to ask for my, name, and where I am from. She and her friends will gather around me, and as me genuinely inquisitive questions, born out of a sincere interest in the new and different.That being said —
- Adopt a sincere interest.
Being a citizen of Manila, I’ll admit that I’ve developed a mindset of believing that everyone here as pretty much the same story. Obviously, this is far from correct, but it seemed that way for a very long time. And I got complacent.More than places and things, I need to develop a sincere interest in people again, and dig deep enough to recognize the delicate nuances among them.Often, what holds me back is fear — to be rejected, or that I might be inadequate to continue what I’ve started (which seems to be a recurring pattern in my life story), but I must trust that I may be someone worth getting to know. Keeping that in mind that these people might be vulnerable, too. And it really wouldn’t hurt to be the first to extend a hand.
- Be present.
Being mindful of surroundings — of people, and places, and the life that transpires between the two. Actively participate in people’s lives. Come out from the wings, and take the stage. Assuming a passive role does not make memories out of you. What is enthralling about being in the background? Contribute. Say something. Say yes!I had intended on writing separately about birthday resolutions, but they’ve all seemed to blend in together. Regardless, they all come from the same place — the pieces of walls that I break down, which have barricaded this free spirit for much too long.