Showing posts with label Laura Gabin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laura Gabin. Show all posts

Sunday, April 28, 2019

How Pipay rediscovers her ‘power’

Scene:  Celina Villoceno was crowned Mutya sa Tagbilaran 2019.  Villoceno, who represented Barangay Dao, was crowned Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School (DCPNHS)-Miss Intrams 2011.

Scene:  If plans push through, at least 100 contestants of Mister World 2019  will visit Bohol this August as part of the three-week  once-in-a-lifetime  experience, as they battle it out to discover  who should be declared the “world’s most desirable man.” The contestants will arrive in Manila on August 6 with the final taking place on August 23 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.


For the nth time, my visit to Siquijor Island last Holy Week (the best time to explore the island) was truly enchanted where magical delights beckon around every corner.

I was with Regil “Pipay” Torralba Gucor, Edward Guyano  aka Inday Charity, Helen Castano, Jerwin Jala and Michael Lawrence Castillon — 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 almost 20 years.  

Tourist Regil “Pipay” Torralba Gucor explores the island province of Siquijor which is feared by many people because of the tales of kulam, paktol and gayuma and other mystical elements.  Photos by Leo Udtohan

Although Siquijor Island has been known for witchcraft, for us there’s far more to the idyllic island than meets the eyes.

Pipay’s second visit to Siquijor surprised her a lot since it is no longer the dreaded province it once was.

“It totally changed a lot—from a sleeping island to an enliven island where there are many hordes of tourists,” said Pipay.

She said, however, the island never lost its original charm.

“It is still a wonderful and magical island and the people are friendly,” she said. “If you’re looking for an island adventure with the charm of the countryside, Siquijor Island might just be the paradise you’re looking for.”

Stories about voodoo, bizarre rituals, and other supernatural things in Siquijor Island were the reasons why many Filipinos have dropped the island many times from their bucketlist.

St. Francis de Assisi Church.
But tourists who are coming to Siquijor have seen few overt signs of it.

Siquijor does, however, offer several white-sand beaches and other activities.

The island-province of Siquijor in the Central Visayas is the third smallest province in the country with only six municipalities-Larena, Enrique Villanueva, Lazi, Maria, San Juan and the capital Siquijor. It has a land area of 343.5 square km with 90,000 residents.

The island’s native name was Katugasan, after “tugas” (molave) tree that covered the place. The Spanish first called it “Isla del Fuego” (Island of Fire) due to the swarm of fireflies they found here, and later renamed it to Siquijor. 

Since it is relatively small, visitors can tour the island for 6-8 hours. You can rent a motorbike at P350 for 24 hours to enjoy the island for 48 hours.

Here are the “must-see’s” and the “must-do’s” in Siquijor:

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 town. 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.

 The Our Lady of Divine Providence in Maria town houses the statue of Santa Rita de Cascia, an Italian saint touted as the miraculous Black Maria.

Fish spa.
Water cascades, beaches
The province offers wonderful cascades. Visitors can swing like Tarzan at Cambugahay Falls in Lazi  town.  There is no entrance free and it is open until 5 p.m.  It has a multi-tiered waterfalls with clear turquoise waters. Look for the swing rope hanging on the tree and do a Tarzan jump for P20.

 Swimming lagoons are formed downstream where tourists can get a refreshing dip in the cool water.

For P50 entrance, one can enjoy and witness the hidden beauty of Lagaan Falls still in Lazi town. The beauty of its clear water awaits vacationers. Aside from trekking, swimming and jumping into the water from the edge of the falls, one could also swing from the vines.

“It’s a very nice place just like you are in paradise. It’s very hot and if you want to refresh just go to Lagaan falls. The water is so cold and very refreshing,” said Pipay.

The Lugnason Falls in Barangay Napo in San Juan town offers visitors time to swing like Tarzan and enjoy the cold water for free.

The Capilay Spring Park offers  a natural spring-fed swimming pool located in the town of San Juan. For swimming the pool, you need to pay P20.  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!

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.

Siquijor has a postcard-perfect scoop of pristine white-sand beaches that frozen your time.

Salagdoong Beach in  Barangay Olang in Maria town is famous for its cliff diving/jumping.  For P30 entrance, visitors can enjoy swimming in its pristine waters.  There are two jump-off points at Salagdoong at the height of roughly three to four storys.

“It is basically about conquering one’s fear. Fear is inevitable at first, but after you do it, you become more courageous,” said Fiel after her Salagdoong experience.

The town of San Juan has the best resorts in Siquijor. The undeveloped Paliton Public Beach in San Juan has sugar-fine, white sand that could very well match Boracay’s white-sand. Few meters from Paliton Beach is a still an unnamed “secret cove” where it offers white-sand beach with clear waters. Here, visitors can enjoy the 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.

Fish spa
The 400 year-old Balete tree in Barangay Campalanas in Lazi town 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! 

For P10, visitors can try a new and fun alternative health and beauty treatment in Siquijor to safely and gently exfoliate the feet. The fish 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.

 “Oh my G-d, I was so amazed to see an old balite tree. And the fish spa, it’s so  giluk. I love it,” said Pipay.

Love potion
In spite of the long presence of Christianity, witchcraft exists in various forms on the island with Barangay  San Antonio as the center of shamanism.  It’s in a hilly part of the island with a mystical yet primitive vibe.

Siquijor is known for white-sand beaches. Photos by Leo Udtohan

For the past years, the provincial government of Siquijor tried to rebrand itself from “mystical island”  to Asia’s “healing island.” It gathered some mananambals (folk healers) who practice several styles of healing for tourism through the provincial government approved Healing Festival during Holy Week. 

But it is during Holy Week both the “white” and “black” witches make concoctions and recharge their “powers”.  Mananambals from Visayas and Mindanao visit the mountain villages of Cantabon, Punong and San Antonio to participate in a ritual called “tang-alap” (searching).

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 to make “sumpa” (counterspell or anti-dote).  

Pipay was lucky she was allowed to “join” during the ritual-- the mixing of the “ingredients” of the “sumpa” and chopping of the herbs --at the house of one of the folk healers.  She was also taught the secrets of making the most effective “lumay” (love potion).

Pipay is trying to make some herbal potions.
“The feeling is different.  It gives you a glimpse of how these potions are made with so much reverence,” said  Pipay.

If you’re still craving a taste of Siquijor’s mystical side, ask a local to point you to a faith healer.

Local flavors
 Seafood is abundant in the area and they have lots of local seafood dishes. Fresh sea urchins (salawaki) is sold at cheaper price. Some Siquijodnons even eat this raw right by the beaches. Sea-liciously sweet! 

Some restaurants offer “sangkutsang balakasi,” a famous delicacy. This dish is made of eel stewed in vinegar and spices and coconut milk. Locals said it gives men renewed virility.

Peanut brittles and banana chips are good pasalubong items.

The  Lilibeth Pan Bisaya, the famous bakery in the province, along the national highway in Enrique Villanueva town sells baked  breads in charcoal oven. They have tortang Visaya (a spongy, sweet and oily mamon that uses tuba as leavening agent) and pan Bisaya (bread with a filling of “bucayo”).

There are woodcarving shops selling wooden statues such as “bulul” all over the island.

While Siquijor is still known for alleged witchcraft in various forms, Pipay said her "fear" vanished when she saw the island’s untouched places and felt the island’s hospitality.

The locals helped her to love the island more, she said.

One of the island’s residents is Mrs. Laura “Mommy Lou” Jumawan-Gabin, a retired school district supervisor and a former member of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)-Siquijor, who has many good stories to tell about her province.  

“Siquijor has changed a lot.  The development will surprise you,” she said.

Even when retired, Gabin, 78, along with her family, continues to support activities and programs that preserve and promote culture, the arts and religion as integral components of tourism.

Gabin said that though it would still be the same mystical island maligned with the things associated with witchcraft, the beauty and goodness of the place and the people itself is already therapeutic. 

"Don’t be afraid. It is a home of peace loving and God-fearing people,” she said.

 “We have white beaches but no evil witches,” she added.

That’s real magick.

How to get there:
You can take a ferry from nearby Cebu City, Dumaguete in Negros Oriental or Tagbilaran City in Bohol, which are all accessible by domestic flights from Manila.

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