Monday, 1 February 2016

Dumaguete - Siquijor Escapade


As the distant thunder roared at night, the flaming desire to travel never died down despite  lack of sleep and the bed weather.  

It was a rainy night of January 26 when our filled bags and satchels are ready to embark on the next adventure: Destination - Dumaguete & Siquijor.

Having been to both of these places last 2008 would have mean less excitement but when you're with a diverse group anticipating no dull moments, I expect an entirely different experience. Besides there are a few places in Dumaguete (Casaroro Falls and Twin Lakes) that I was not able to visit the last time I was there.

It was one of those spur of the moment trips; hence we decided to take a bus at South Bus Terminal going to Sibulan via Liloan Santander on board Ceres Liner. It is said that Ceres Liner has hourly trips going to Santander. Since travel time is approximately 3 hrs and 30 mins, we gathered at 4:30am to take the 5am Bus schedule. Bus fare is P185/person.

Unfortunately when we arrived at Puerto del Sur Port in Liloan Santander around 8:00am, all trips (fast craft) going to Sibulan were cancelled due to bad weather conditions. So the bus driver took us to Maayo Shipping Port and found ourselves riding the barge instead of the fast craft. The barge leaves the port at 9am. Fare is P70/person and travel time is 30 mins. 


Miraculously the sun gradually showed up as we begin our journey towards Sibulan. The then blurry destination becomes a clear vision of fun that is bound to happen.


There were several transportations available at the Sibulan port. Regrettably we were duped into taking the tricycle (P24/person) because the driver told us that the road leading to Twin Lakes is narrow and only habal-habal (motorcycles) can ascend the mountainous terrain so he carried us to where the habal-habal drivers are stationed. Unknowingly there are multicabs, jeepneys for hire and even vans for hire at the pier that can be rented for a day or less which we only realized later during our trip.

Being a group of 5, we were supposed to get 3 tricycles (2 passengers assigned each for the 2 trikes and solo passenger for the 3rd trike) but since the fare is per person, we opted to get 1 tricycle for each one of us which turned out to be comfortable on our part. We tried to haggle with the habal-habal drivers since P400/person (round trip) is a bit pricey but to no avail. However we learned sooner that the distance going up was 13.5 kms (8.4 miles) making it a reasonable price. 

Definitely it was not an easy task let alone a frightening experience. It started to rain again as we move towards the steep hill with no helmets on. The winding road was slippery not to mention being stabbed by little needles of rain every now and then. Thus the road trip already constitutes as an adventure of a lifetime. Though if it was sunny that day, the challenge would be surviving the scorching heat. 
 

As we climbed higher and higher, the fog becomes denser and denser like a scene from a horror movie where you have no idea what lies ahead as we are embraced by the mist. 


Nevertheless, the rainforest and the scenic view make up for the seemingly tiring outing; unmindful of the numbing hands & feet and body shivering altogether.


When we reached the registration office soaking wet, we paid the entrance fee of P50/person plus parking fee of P32/habal-habal. Then after the usual orientation we proceeded to our first pit stop, the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao and Danao. 


We got completely drenched by the rain, still we were amazed by its natural beauty as we went down the path. Lake Balinsasayao is said to be 306 feet deep and its water is safe for drinking. In fact the guide told us that the lake has been a source for drinking water consumption in most areas of the province. 


There are available boats going to the other lake. Boating fee is P250/boat plus P100 tip (really depends on how much you are willing to give). Approximately the boat ride was 25 mins plus trekking of 6 mins before reaching the other half of the lake which is Lake Danao. 


Ours was more like an eerie boating experience but in a favorable manner. As the 2 guides started to paddle our way to the next lake, our pathway was covered in mystical mist. We shivered at the thought on both what lurks beneath and what surprises are ahead of us. 

Then as we draw nearer, we were greeted by the morning mist of the thick forest negligent to the sun's attempt to rise in getting rid of the fog. 


Lake Danao is also beautiful though appeared to be more mysterious than Lake Balinsasayao. Perhaps because it was more quiet and free from disturbance.


It may have rained heavily for almost the entire trip but still we are thankful that we were able to witness the true beauty of God's creation and Mother Nature's bounty safely.

If the trip going up was challenging, the going down was thrilling. The raging rain followed us from the high ground all the way down to the crossing where we started off. 

After one attraction has been ticked off from the list, we rode a bus from Sibulan to Dumaguete for the next pit stop. Fare is P20/each. 

We hailed a tricycle going to Florentina Homes upon our arrival in The City of Gentle People. 


We fell in love right away when we checked out their rooms. Standard Room rate is P1500 good for 2 persons with sneak in rate at P350/person. Breakfast not included. 


The interior looks like an art gallery where walls served as canvas painted with soothing colors that are magically played; while little art pieces and replicas adorn the entire building and rooms. 


It was homey with a hint of rustic milieu and the verandah is so inviting that you can't help yourself but open and marvel at the hotel's magnificence. The beds and pillows are comfortable as well. 






This hotel is also known for the best breakfast in Dumaguete prepared at their very own restaurant called Gabby's bistro. They serve breakfast from 7:00 am to 10:00 am. Owned and operated by the young chef Gabby del Prado (son of the owners of Florentina Homes), this chic, posh and unique restaurant which sits right next to the hotel within the same compound as the Oasis boasts of delectable fusion of Western and Filipino dishes.
 



                Gremolata Fish Fillet
                  Mongolian Shrimp


Equally enticing is the bistro's architecture and interior decoration. It is vibrant, perky and undeniably a work of art. It is embellished with miniature furnitures, vintage antiques, cartoon characters, McDonald's memorabilia and photos of famous people who dined at the bistro throughout the years. 








After having our lunch at the bistro, we are so ready to set about the next item on our list of attractions which is the Casaroro Falls. 

Sadly when we arrived in Valencia terminal it was already past 3pm and the locals told us it's no longer safe to go there specially that the rain never stopped. With no other activities planned for that day, we decided to tour and explore the city's other selling points. 

Like any other travels we've made, food trips are the highlight of the vacation. We sampled local and well-received restaurants & coffee shops in the city such as K.R.I., Pasta King, 2 Story Kitchen and Scoobys. Two days in Dumaguete is not enough to satisfy our gastronomic adventures in the city. But it holds a promise for the gluttons that one day we'll be able to try those that we fail to taste. 

                    Samurai Salmon
                   
  Da Best, da best. Tuna wrapped in Nori
                    Pan Pork Steak
                   Chicken Teriyaki
                    Bulgogi Kimbap
                  Egg rolled Kimbap
                        Yolo Creme 
                    Caesar's Salad
                 Penne Carbonara
             Spaghetti Bolognese
                  Capriciosa Pizza 

Also we went to One Spa where we enjoyed a Swedish massage for only P300. The staffs and massage therapists are very friendly and accommodating. I highly recommend this spa when in Dumaguete. 

The sky is still gloomy on our 2nd day in Dumaguete and our plan of going to Siquijor is a bit dreary due to vessels being barred from leaving the port because of the unpleasant weather. 

This prompted us to stay longer unexpectedly in Dumaguete. Second day also meant transferring to a different hotel at the heart of the city - the World View Hotel. Twin sharing rate is P850 good for 2 persons with a sneak in rate of P150/person. 


In spite of the sickness of my barkada's daughter who got very wet in the rain (like most of us) while traversing the Twin Lakes, we decided to continue with our plan of going to Casaroro Falls. 


It's a good thing that we were able to heed the advice of a jeepney driver named Alex (contact no. is 09068275123) who told us to visit the falls the next day. With the agreement of paying him P1600 for the entire trip to and fro Valencia, we are finally on our way to Casaroro Falls. (Note: P2000 good for 20 people)


Canopied in a rainforest and considered to be one of the most photographed falls in the country, Casaroro Falls is a hidden gem. The rough trail, the tricky path, the slippery rocks and the 335 steps do not mean that descending the falls is a walk in the park. In fact the word scary to describe the walkway is an understatement. The nerve-racking experience of climbing, the spine chilling water wading and the unexpected need to crawl on the big rocks is not for the faint hearted.


The one thing I noticed that makes this falls dangerous is that there is no other way to escape if the water rises and overflows because it's like a basin and the only way out is by wading through the waters. As a matter of fact, as you wade and crawl you will notice that there was a guided trail before perhaps destroyed when the water overflowed years ago. And it was not a pretty sight judging from the height of the trail and the water rising up to that level. 


Personally I think the government abandoned the said attraction. There are no fees except of course for the voluntary donation you will give to the tour guides who suddenly appears out of the blue  (we gave our guide P200). Apart from that, the place seemed to be neglected and not being taken care of. 


There were a lot of foreigners who visited the falls but never stayed long just like us. After taking the proverbial picture with the falls, everyone never lingered to have a dip. I for one will not linger longer because it was getting dark and the rain seemed to be lurking at the back of the hill. What can I say, it was an accident merely waiting to happen! 


There's no other way but to wade back the same difficult footpath. Nonetheless it was a relief that we saw the stairs going up. It only means one thing, we are undoubtedly tucked away from the water. 


Ascending the stairs absolutely leaves you panting so rest if you must. It is best to bring a small bottled water to quench the thirst while gasping for breath. 


Conquering the falls was in itself a life long certification that we are adventurers in our own rights. 


Day 3 came and finally the sun is shining brightly. This is a signal that our Siquijor plan will push through. 

At around 6am, the 3 of us went to the port to buy the first trip tickets bound for Siquijor which is 8am while the other companions are busy readying the luggages. We paid P130/person at GL Shipping Lines plus the P15 terminal fee. The travel time is approximately 1 hr and 30 mins from Dumaguete to Siquijor. 

After ordering take outs and ate it at our hotel, we checked out early and went straight to the pier. 

The ferry boat ride was a bit bumpy and nauseating but thankfully we arrived safe and sound in Siquijor at 9:30am.

As there were prior arrangements done for both the transportation (P2500 both coastal and mountain attractions) and the accommodation which is Diamond de Siquijor (aircon room is P1200/day with a sneak in rate of P200/person), we just left our bags at the hotel and then continued with our journey. 




We first visited the coastal attractions such as the I Love Siquijor obelisk, the Welcome to Siquijor Monument, the Guiwanon Spring Park (P10/person entrance fee), the Pan Bisaya (native bread) which is surprisingly yummy, the Cang-Isok House (Oldest house in Siquijor), and the Salagdoong Beach (P25 entrance fee/each and P60 parking fee) where we ate our affordable lunch. 








In between these attractions, we went up to Larena Triad Coffee Shop where one can stand in awe of the most beautiful scenic view of Siquijor and sample their best tasting Buko Tarts (P12/pc).


In the afternoon, we went to Lazi Convent (said to be the oldest and largest convent in Asia), Lazi Church (also known as San Isidro Labrador Parish which is Century Old) and proceeded to Cambugahay Falls (tour guide tip P150) where we took a dip in the freezing cold waters and got our free massage at the 2nd waterfalls. If you are more adventurous, you may opt to try the “baging” swing (rope vine swing) at the first falls where you can jump in the water which is chest deep. 




Siquijor is known to be a home to Mamarang, Mananambal or Manghihilot (Healers and Voodoo practitioners) that's why we visited one. Her name is Anecita "Annie" Ponce who is featured already in various local documentary/magazine shows such as Korina's Rated K, Aga Muhlach's Pinoy Explorer, Jay Taruc's I-Witness and Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho! 


Her house is filled with herbal medicines, love potions (lumay) and amulets or charms (anting-anting) said to ward off sickness, casualties and misfortunes. Well we didn't go there for the love potions but for my barkada's business to prosper so she bought the business charm. 

After a tiring trip to the hill, it's about time to pamper ourselves with the fish spa at the Balete Tree (P5 entrance fee). The then ghostly image of the Century Old Balete Tree has been transformed into a mini park with souvenir shops and food shops. More like the highlight of the said attraction is focused on the fish spa (no charge but accepts donations) experience rather than the old tree which ultimately became just a backdrop of the whole event thereby losing its luster in the process. 



Our last pit stop before eating our dinner is the San Juan de Capilay Spring Park. It is of course free of charge and anyone who wants to swim can actually do it if they wish to do so. This park is good for family picnics, barkada gathering or simply having "emo" moments. 


The original plan was to dine at Coco Grove after Capilay Spring Park but since the restaurant opens at 6pm (we arrived there at 5:30pm) and strictly informed us that we cannot take pictures of the resort because we are not registered guests,  we opted to have our dinner at dagsa restaurant where the boodle fight commenced. The dagsa boodle with native chicken, shrimps, Sinigang na baboy, boneless bangus, grilled squid and achara comes with unlimited rice. 


The food was astonishingly delicious though service is a bit off what with the delayed serving of food. But I would still recommend this best tasting resto in Siquijor. 


The assurance of having a pleasant and comfy bed waiting for us at our Beach House Resort implies a sweet ending of our day’s fun-filled excursion. The harmonious symphony of the  splashing waves and the sound of nature lulled us to sleep. 

Mornings at Diamond de Siquijor is like waking up in paradise where roster’s crowing and birds singing create a sweet-sounding melody perfectly. Add to that the hospitality of the owner Irene. She may be reached at 09501247156 (smart) and 09975831152 (Touch Mobile). Landline number is (035) 4809324. Aircon rooms by the way comes with free breakfast for the 2 guests. 



The ferry boat departs at Siquijor 8am and arrives in Dumaguete 9:30 am so as early as 6:00 am which is the same time Diamond de Siquijor serves breakfast, we are all packed up and ready to go. 

We had an early lunch prior to heading to Sibulan port upon arrival in Dumaguete. Consequently, we bought our pasalubong at Merzci conveniently located at Lee Super Plaza where there are trikes bound for Sibulan as well. Fare is P20/person and travel time from Dumaguete to Sibulan is estimated at 20 mins depending on the traffic. 

Sibulan to Liloan Port Fare is P62/person (fast craft) and travel time is 30 mins. Please be informed that beside the ticketing agent bound for Liloan Santander is a Ceres Liner staff who issues bus seats in the form of a small paper bearing the seat number pre-assigned. This will ensure that you have a seat available once you’re onboard the bus upon arrival at Puerto del Sur (Port of the South) in Liloan, Santander. 

The 3-day recreation may be short lived but it was jam packed with happy memories notwithstanding the sporadic rain showers and intermittent weather for the entire tour.