Thursday, April 16, 2015

Siquijor when it sizzles

To many Filipinos, the name Siquijor conjures up images of witchcraft and bizarre rituals. This tiny island composed of six towns has been unfairly labelled for centuries, but for those who have discovered its hidden beauty and treasures, they make Siquijor as their second home.
For the nth time, my visit to Siquijor last Holy Week (the best time to explore the island) was truly enchanted where magical delights beckon around every corner.
Our group — Butch Bernas and Guilly Quibir-Licayan (of Tagbilaran City Science High School), Arjame Deniega (of Sevilla National High School), fashion mogul Maximiel Tallo, radio personality Edward Guyano, Clarence Pesquira and Michael Lawrence Castillon — was the latest batch to be invited by Fiel Angeli Araoarao-Gabin and her hubby Engr. Jerome John Gabin who, we soon found out, was an Apostoles at14 and he’s serving as Saint Peter for 17 years.  We were together in the boat with Amy Arayan (of the Bohol Chronicle) and balikbayan Alot Bagotchay who had their own itinerary. We stayed at the house of Mrs. Laura “Mommy Lou” Jumawan-Gabin (former Department of Education Supervisor), together with daughters Lanih Lei Flores and Monette May Burgon and their families.
This much the group saw and did:
Siquijor has magic. Often mistaken as “Siqui-horror” and other ghoulish stories, Siquijor reveals so much more enchantment which offers several white-sandy beaches, scenic mountains and other places of interests.  -LPU
On Maundy Thursday, we went to visit the St. Francis de Assisi Church, Capilay Spring (San Juan), the 400-year-old balite tree for fish spa in Lazi (where we chanced to interview actor-singer and Siquijor Vice-Governor  Dingdong Avanzado with his wife Jessa Zaragosa), St. Isidore Church  and Convent  (Lazi) and Mt. Bandilaan for the Healing Festival.  We were able to witness the traditional washing of the feet of the Apostles. The parishioners brought food to be blessed by the priest and shared with the Apostles. According to Mommy Lou, the locals keep the bones of the fish, chicken, pig or cow and hide it atop the “abuhan” in the kitchen with the belief that one will never run out of food for guests in any gathering in one’s house.

On Good Friday, before 12 noon, we dipped ourselves in the sea, as we were told that we will be spared from evil spirit if we did that. Others roamed around the ancient cemetery to collect “things” for
  the ritual.
The next day, Black Saturday, we went to the house of the late Juan Ponce in San Antonio, Siquijor to let Arjame, Maam Guilly, Maximiel and Lawrence see for themselves the ritual of mixing exotic herbs and rather “unusual” ingredients to come up with a potent “sumpa” (antidote) for illnesses and hex. 
Of course, we didn’t leave Siquijor without visiting the Lugnason Falls and namiesta in barangay Tambisan in San Juan! It’s very Boholano that after we ate the tagbalay gave us a bringhouse! Burp! Burp!
We missed the visit to the famous centuries-old Cang-Isok House, which is made of native material like nipa. Maybe next time.
Here are the “must-see’s” and the “must-do’s” in Siquijor:
St. Isidore Church and Convent or Lazi Church and Convent which was constructed in 1884 is the biggest convent in the Philippines and the whole Asia. -LPU
Visita Iglesia. Siquijor is also the home of centuries-old churches. The starting point for the tour is the St. Francis de Assisi Church in Siquijor, Siquijor. It is only a walking distance from the Siquijor port. Few meters from the church, in the middle of a plaza, stands the bell tower that has served as a watch tower for the sea raiders during the Spanish colonial period. In the town of Lazi, you can visit the San Isidro Labrador Church, one of the most outstanding cultural heritage churches in the Philippines, and the San Isidro Labrador Convent which is said to the one of the biggest and oldest convents in the Philippines. In the town of Maria, the Sta. Maria Church houses the statue of Santa Rita de Cascia, an Italian saint touted as the miraculous Black Maria that is dressed in black garb and carrying a human skull on one hand and a cross on the other with staring eyes!
•Giant Balete Tree and Fish spa- The 400 year-old Balete tree is believed to be enchanted because of its eerily hanging roots and vines. Folks believe that it is home to mythical and scary creatures like agta and engkanto. But the balete has real dwellers- the doctor fish or garra rufa!  It is a new and fun alternative health and beauty treatment in Siquijor to safely and gently exfoliate the feet. The fishes clean pores, remove dead skin cells and also serve as a micro massage of the feet and legs, improving blood circulation. The experience is slightly ticklish at first, but skin instantly becomes softer and smoother. WATCH NEWS HERE.
The Cambugahay Falls is the most famous falls in the Island. See its several levels of waterfalls and enjoy its cool and refreshing waters.- LPU
Cambugahay FallsSwing like Tarzan from here! Cambugahay Falls in Lazi is one of the attractions in Siquijor. It has a multi-tiered waterfalls with clear turquoise waters. Look for the swing rope hanging on the tree and do a Tarzan jump. Swimming lagoons are formed downstream where tourists can get a refreshing dip in the cool water. WATCH NEWS HERE.
Capilay Spring Park. This is a natural spring-fed swimming pool located in the town of San Juan. Visitors can have a picnic, dine and swim here. Don’t forget Tating’s creamier ice cream! It can bring delight during hot and humid days! WATCH NEWS HERE.
Mt. Bandilaan National Park. Going up a mountain can be exhausting but not in Siquijor’s highest peak. The Mt. Bandilaan Nature Park has natural springs, hiking trails, caves, and even a butterfly sanctuary. The more spiritual might be moved to reflecting by the Stations of the Cross. Visitors can climb a tower to get a panoramic view of the island and Bohol. 

•Beaches – Siquijor has a postcard-perfect scoop of pristine 
white-sand beaches.  Salagdoong Beach in Maria town is famous for its climb jump and rock formations. The town of San Juan has the best resorts in Siquijor. The undeveloped Paliton Beach in San Juan has sugar-fine, white sand that could very well match Panglao’s white-sand.  You can enjoy Paliton beach without the noise of overdevelopment and the nightlife. It's a place where you can relax and enjoy the beach...and to catch beautiful sunsets!
The fish spa is a new and fun alternative health
and beauty treatment in Siquijor to safely and
gently exfoliate the feet. 
•Oging- They are not foreigners but many of them can be found in Siquijor. People who have very white hair to the point of being snow-white, flour-like freckled white skin and very white eyes are called “Oging” in native Siquijor. Since, the island is associated with magick and mysticism, most of the people believe that “ogings” are children of engkantos. In medicine, "Ogings" are known as albino, people who lack color pigmentation in thei bodies. Albinism as a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to the absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin.

•See a
 mananambal- In spite of the long presence of Christianity, Siquijor is noted for herbal medicine, witchcraft, magick and superstition, with San Antonio as the center of shamanism. There are many mananambals in San Antonio, most prominent is the Ponce family. The province of Siquijor has gathered the mananambals who practice several styles of healing for tourism through a Healing Festival during Holy Week. For seven Fridays, the herbalists and sorcerers roam the forests, seas, caves and cemeteries to gather medicinal herbs and roots to make amulets, charms, love potions and other concoctions. They cook their concoctions on Black Saturday.  If you’re still craving a taste of Siquijor’s mystical side, ask a local to point you to a faith healer or sorcerer. The famous Bolo-Bolo folk healing method is a must try.
Siquijor is noted for herbal medicine, witchcraft, magick and superstition, with San Antonio as the center of shamanism.- LPU

How to get there:
Sea- Travel to Siquijor by fastcraft from Cebu (five hours) or Dumaguete (45 minutes) and Lite Shipping from Tagbilaran to Larena, Siquijor (three hours) every Monday, Wednesday and Sunday at 7 p.m.
Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at, follow leoudtohan at Twitter /Facebook.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Are you ready for your summer getaway?

At the South Palms in Panglao, the highlight here is the fantastic beach.
The rooms are stylish and well-appointed.
 – Contributed Photo.
Summer has started.
This was the official announcement last Wednesday from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pag-asa). The agency reiterates that Philippines does not have a "summer" as we only have two seasons: dry and wet.
And there’s no better way to build memories and beat the heat than an epic summer escapade!
Not decided where to go for a summer getaway?
Take a cue from our Boholano friends.
Benjie Oliva—  Anda, Bohol. To patronize our own and to support our local tourism industry.
Donglee Camacho— In the municipality of Anda because it is complete. They have a church and a beach.
EJ Relampagos—  Japan because it’s the most picturesque country according to a friend who has been travelling the world...and I love to take pictures of details.
Edik Dolotina—  My hometown. To relax with family. A family staycation during holidays is joy like no other.
The glorious, powdered-sugar sand in Anda town in Bohol. –Photo by Leo Udtohan
May Hope “Dice” Arcenal—  It would be Palawan and Batanes. Why Palawan because would like to experience the beauty that it offers being one of the Seven Wonders of the World. About Batanes would love to be part of their unique culture and enjoy the vast greeneries and unharmed environment with the touch and display of true  honesty.
Queenie Melody Fullante—  Wish I was still a student so I could spend wisely my summer vacation. Anyway, I’ll be spending my Holy Week in Davao. Once back in Bohol on Easter pohon, back  to normal routine: work, JVI projects, and Queenie Duties. And I think will start to bustle for  Miss Bohol 2015. Nothing really biggie for me this summer but thank God for my inborn suntan, everyday feels like summer.
Merly Diez Bantugan—  Part will be spent with the family at the white beaches in Panglao, trip to Cebu for a change and part with friends in Palawan this mid-May... for  unwinding and purely leisure, may God bless these  plans!
Ryan Sines— I want to spend my summer at Alexis Cliff Dive Resort in Panglao. I haven’t been there. If I am not busy, I will try to set a sked with my friends after the Saulog and Mutya sa Tagbilaran. I’ve heard Alexis is a hidden paradise fronting the sea. I would like to try cliff diving for a super summer adventure!  
DinDin Calope— Bantayan Island. I wanna experience the best beach and shoreline and the serenity... as what I’ve heard from people.
The cold and clear running water from the
Ughuban Spring in barangay Cambuyo
 in Garcia-Hernandez, Bohol is
perfect for your summer relaxation.
 –Photo by Leo Udtohan
Reigh Monreal—  Have you heard of the three Bohol Surprise tour packages? Each package takes you to a circuit of stopovers beyond the usual nature and heritage tours. The tours have been developed through a project called Ecotourism Bohol which is assisted by the Japan International  Cooperation Agency. For details, please inquire at the Bohol  Tourism Office. It is, therefore, still Bohol for me this summer. Why go to other places when there are a lot more to discover in your own?
Dr. April Lumuthang-Froilan— Summer getaway? Just in our very own Bohol where white, pristine beaches are also found. Why? I will be hitting two birds  with one stone. If I stay, private practice continues-beautifying Boholanos especially the balikbayans...on call all the time! He!He!He!
Karen Batuhinay—  No vacation leave for us this summer. We will be on duty at the airport serving incoming and outgoing tourists/passengers of Bohol.
Tess Labunog-Sumampong—  I love to go to Tagaytay! I’ve never been there. I want to experience Tagaytay’s cool weather, refreshing scenery and great food. My friends said that it is a food haven with its many restaurants, cafes and farms offering a wide array of food options.
Ariel Fullido—  My dream summer escapade is an inter-island mini cruise, counter clockwise just around Bohol, in a yacht from Panglao, to Anda, hopping from Balicasag and  Pamilacan isles. Then off to Pitogo and the underwater grotto in Danajon reef in Bien Unido, before speeding around the islets of Taibon. In tubigon, try to anchor at Dumog and sample the white sand dunes, before taking  a dive in Cabilao, and berth at the end of the day at the harbor view of Bohol Tropics. Now is the time to view from a distance the coastlines around the paradise island of Bohol!
The golden leaves become more transparent
during the summer in Loboc-Bilar forests.
 - Photo by Leo Udtohan
Atty. Julius Gregory Delgado—  I will be in Sagada. It is both cultural and personal. Cultural because it will be my first time to visit the place, interact with locals, see the hanging coffins.  Personal because being in  a pristine mountain range will give me that much needed breather for  me to reflect and think things over. #WhereDoBrokenHeartsGo
Mayette Gasatan —  My summer getaway will be here at South Palms Resort in Panglao. As an officer of this resort, I have to see to it that we will give our best Boholano services and products to our tourists. I am doing this not because this is my job but I’m also happy and proud offering our tourists assets (our beaches and our being hospitable- a unique trait of a Boholano) to the tourists.
JP Maslog—  Exploring my home province of Bohol would be my best option this year specifically the least known yet equally awe-inspiring as the world renowned  sites like the chocolates of Carmen or the surrealistic beaches  of Panglao.
PSSupt Dennis Agustin—  Bohol. Because we have to comply with the security requirements in our Oplan to keep the Lenten season safe and protect vacationers and tourists.
Van Delima— There are a couple of my favorite spots for lounging around Bohol or just so to on any beach to kick back and relax, perfect for the hazy days of summer 2015. Well, most families or rather individuals might spend their vacay on a cozy resort with infinity pools; or a trip to Venice beaches in Italy for the lucrative high tax payers. Me? I am the opposite of both worlds, a summer getaway could mean an aura and an atmosphere of totally spontaneous relaxing and partying, good food and art. While I plan to stay in Anda de Boracay for a night or two, then paddle on a boat rental to Lamanok Island where I wish to spend hours on shore semi-NUDE. I can set up camp for the night bonfire , beer etc then back en route head amongst the greenery of the island where I would probably meet backpacking locals or tourists. Being thrown into something where I don't really know what to expect is exciting, I want to blissfully spend the summer holidays with relatively affordable and fun experience!
Pat Ruiz— I am going to the towns of Placer and Corpus in Masbate. Natural and pristine beaches; simple organic food and simple people.  Most of all, no congestion. I was there last year for two days. Now, a week. Will share  you some photos.
Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at, follow leoudtohan at Twitter /Facebook.