Friday, July 24, 2015

Our Initiation into the Siquijor Mistique

I have to put in some blogging hours before I get out of the habit again.  As I have said I have a lot of story backlogs but I would love to continue on with my impossible Visayan journey early this July.
The Siquijor coast on a slow Saturday afternoon
Tourists are welcomed into the island by the St. Francis of Assisi church

Our second leg took us to the legendary island of Siquijor. As early as 8 am we left Dauin town to make it to a midday ferry ride going to the alleged island home of wizards and witches, which they collectively call as mangkukulam and mambabarang

We were supposed to ride a 12:30 PM ferry (for a 30 minute trip) but as soon as we reached the Dumaguete Pier we were practically forced (even bullied) by the porters and fixers to ride a slow boat which takes 1 hour, slower by 30 minutes. I just found myself dragging my bag to an about small to medium sized vessel, almost resembling a small ship.  In less than 15 minutes, Pinky and I reached an 'airconditioned' room inside the boat with a battery of bunk-style double beds.  Five minutes after, we have settled into our assigned bunks.  We then heard a loud rustling sound of metal and in no time at all, we were told we were already at sea. I looked at my watch and it was 11 AM. 

Rough road to San Antonio

The sea trip indeed lasted an hour. I counted the minutes as I discovered there was no internet signal.  my Cel indicated that smart had a low reception. But the fellow lying down on the next bunk seemed to have a signal as the whole hour he had his mobile phone stuck to his ear.  I myself contented with the few lives I had reserved in my Pet Rescue game installed on my cel-phone which easily got exhausted after 20 minutes. Our bunk room had 3 windows and I could not see the view of the sea from the lower bunk bed I was assigned to.  Pinky who was at an upper bed just uttered 'we are a few hundred yards from the shore' that I realized that the hour was up. When we got out of the boat and onto land, I looked at my watch.  It was 12:15.  We were on time by the boat's schedule but very much ahead of our intended itinerary.  

Batino trees towering over the other trees
Voacanga outside healer's home
The first thing we looked for was the schedule of the ferry on the next day, as we decided to stay in Siquijor overnight and head for Cebu on a Monday, it was Saturday. We asked the tourism desk located at the gate of the Siquijor Pier.  They gave us two options.  There were several trips going back to Dumaguete on Sunday.  It would mean that we would have to return to Negros Island, stay overnight and ferry again to Santander in Cebu Island early on Monday.  To reach Cebu City we still would have to ride a four-hour bus trip from Santander going north. I thought it would be too taxing for us to do all these transpo-transfers.   
A big clump of ubod palms
Option two presented to us was by shear luck.  Since we wanted to leave on a Sunday, the same boat that took us to Siquijor would go back there on Sunday night at 10 PM and head straight to Cebu City. We would reach Cebu Pier before 6 AM Monday. We decided that we would take option 2 as it would omit one accommodation night in Dumaguete, the tiring transfers and it would mean that we have one full day on Sunday to go around Siquijor.  We were confident that we got one problem solved.  

Our experience on the island of Siquijor could not be told in one sitting.  But for this blog session I would have to tell you about what we did first on the island.   Pinky did not feel well the night before as she had some stomach cramps.  I too had an allergy attack because the room we stayed in Dauin was quite dusty.  

Ate Annie's home
Before we decided on where we would stay to sleep, we hired a tricycle to bring us to traditional healer. We had no idea where, so we relied on our driver to recommend where we could find one.  He said he knew a good healer and he drove us off from the pier straight into the steep roads leading into the mountains. Pinky decided to ride behind the driver Ronald.  It left me with a lot of elbow room to admire the flora of the adjacent hillsides into the mountain. It was about close to an hour trip going up the rolling terrain.

Bottles of herbal stuff are claimed to have been collected from the surrounding forest
Love and protection bracelets contain potions prepared by the healer
Anxiously awaiting what the healer will do
The mountain is still significantly covered with greens.  There were many tree varieties but are already interspersed with the expected exotic mahogany, native batino and dita, and several palms including buri, coconut and another that Ronald called 'ubod' (which I suspect is a Heterospathe).   I almost got a stiff neck looking from left to right while staring at the surrounding vegetation. 

Later on the trees and greens were interrupted with the presence of a few houses and eventually it became obvious we reached a residential area, a small barangay up the mountains.  When we saw the church, it was then that Ronald told us that we have reached the town of San Antonio. A few more minutes we reached the house of the healer. 

Gently easing into the massage 
The traditional healer's home was a typical rural house and it had a small sari-sari store in front. As we entered we were greeted by Ate Annie who just arrived coming from the town to buy supplies. She immediately attended to us asking what we were feeling that was not right.  She proceeded doing her healing on Pinky first. 

Under the blanket and whispered with prayers 
The ritual consisted of initially telling Pinky to sit on a wooden chair in the middle of the small room. She then covered her with a heavy blanket neck down and smoked up a small pot underneath the chair, which appears to contain some herbal stuff which smelled like incense. Ate Annie massaged Pinky from the head to the neck while murmuring some prayer incantations. When it was my turn she did the same steps on me, but also asked me to lie face down on a bamboo bench and massaged my back.  

Some of her massage strokes were really painful.  But overall it felt relieving, especially after it was over. After an hour we found ourselves again riding on Ronald's tricycle, on our way down the from San Antonio to Siquijor town proper. When we reached our Siquijor accommodations (Villa Marmarine) we got to rest for only an hour and we already had the energy to explore the beach and enjoy the sunset.  That night I coughed less and slept quite comfortably, considering our room was not air-conditioned at all. Pinky said she slept very well. Probably the Siquijor mistique was quite agreeable to us, which properly prepared us for a jam-packed schedule of sightseeing the following day.    

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