For a couple of weeks now, my desktop wallpaper at the office has been featuring a series of photos taken during our trip to Dumaguete and Siquijor. You know, the beach, mountain sceneries type. It’s supposed to relax me, give me something pleasant to look at every once in a while during the day. On the contrary, though, it’s contributing to my stress. Every time I see the shots in all their 1280 x 1084 glory I am immediately filled with anguish. I’d sniff, and whimper, “I should be there. I don’t want to be here working on these reports. I wanna go back!”
Who wouldn’t whimper? Look!
These are the glorious kayaks that were amazingly available for free at the Coral Cay Resort in Siquijor. I think the management decided to provide the kayaks to resort customers for free (you just have to sign them out) because their while the beach is very pretty, the water actually hosts a thriving seagrass ecosystem, and unless you fancy an intimate encounter with a jellyfish or a sea urchin, swimming is not a very attractive option. Even if you snorkel to observe the marine life, tips of seagrass would reach out and tickle your belly, and there’s only so much of that you’ll be able to take. The kayaks, on the other hand, were very attractive, and saved us from regretting our choice of resort. They have a pool for swimming anyway, he he. It was my first time to try my hand at kayaking too, and I am pleased to report that no, I did not send myself tumbling among the numerous sea urchins festooning the seafloor waiting for me to make a fool out of myself.
So now I look at pictures of those kayaks and go, wouldn’t it be nice to just paddle out to sea, lie back, rest my hands under my head, and just – be?
The rest of Siquijor island we explored via a multicab driven by the persevering Manong Dili, who was the most patient and persistent among the multitude of multicab drivers who thronged upon us when we disembarked from the ferry at the Siquijor pier. Or maybe Manong Dili just showed up at the right time, when all the other drivers have either lost interest or gone off to pursue other potential passengers. Manong Dili quoted us a reasonable 20 pesos to take us to our resort, patiently took us to three different resorts until we decided on Coral Cay, and, which was probably what he was counting on all along, got us to book him for an island tour the next day.
I don’t exactly know why, but I previously thought that Siquijor was among the poorest provinces in the country. I haven’t really looked up the numbers, but driving around the place I wasn’t exactly struck with the impression that the people were living in crushing poverty, at least not like in remote places of, say, Mindoro. The place just has this unpretentious, self-sufficient look, as if they were quite okay with where they are and not really taking great pains to be too much on either the rural or modernized side. The houses were not shanties teetering on the side of the road, there are trees or crops all around, most the roads are paved, there are signs of small industries, and once in a while you chance upon the familiar rural sight of a family pig tied to a tree.
We chose an abbreviated island tour and just went to two major sites, the Cantabon Cave and the Cambugahay Falls. At the Cantabon Cave (the “most famous of Siqujor’s 45 caves”, according to the tourism brochure), we negotiated a P600 guided trek through the cave, which took about a couple of hours. We were told that the cave was about 1 kilometer long, making the two-way trek just two kilometers (update: we might have been misled on this, though, because according to this article, the cave is just 300m long). It doesn’t sound that hard, but considering that I spent a good deal of the time bent over to avoid boinking my head on the stalactites, clambering up rocky inclines, or just dealing with a fogged up pair of eyeglasses, it was a bit of a challenge for Little Miss Sedentary Life me. It was just the right bit of challenge, though, just enough to keep things interesting, and make sure I fully appreciate wading through the cool stream running along all through the cave.
The access to the cave was secured by a makeshift grill gate, so that only legitimately paying and guided tourists are allowed to go in. The measure was necessary since in the past thieves have come in to “harvest” the stalactites, and indeed, we came upon a few that were cut cleanly across, as if somebody had an urgent need for a stake to kill a cave-dwelling Dracula.
Still, the cave was still well-preserved, with the guides proudly pointing us to the areas where the limestone was still “alive,” still growing and layering over each other forming various shapes, and perpetually being washed clean by a glistening sheen of cool clear water.
to be continued