It was early morning at the Dumaguete port. I was with my mom. But we were not headed to the same destination. She was bound for Iligan City to finally go home after we spent Holy Week at my sister-in-law’s family in Negros. I, on the other hand, was on the way to Island of Fire, Siquijor. The night before, I was already taking down notes of what to see, where to stay, what to ride, etc. I had to be efficient with my trip because I could only spend a day in the island since I had to go to Cebu the next day for a flight back to Manila. But that same night, I caught myself in a little debate with her and my brother. They did not want me to push through with my solo trip to the island. And if you’re familiar of the place, I’m sure you know why.
Why would she, a doting mother who would give up her life for her children, allow her son to go somewhere “risky” and “scary”? For the longest time, one can only hear nothing but stories of witchcraft, kulam (hex or curse), and other mysteries when talking about Siquijor. This was the picture that most people have embedded in my mind about the island ever since I was a kid. Growing up though, especially when my passion for the beach, marine life, and travelling grew much stronger, I started to look up about the island. To my surprise, pristine beaches, palm-fringed roads, charming waterfalls, and an unassuming serenity were all I saw and read — in every blog, article, photo diary there was. That was when I made it part of my to-go list. Something which no one at that time really understood given the usual things they knew the island for, my mother and brother included. When a friend knew about my trip, he even told me to “touch back the person who touches you so the spell won’t take effect.”
My mother’s boat left first and although she was not still too keen about my trip, we hugged and she told me to take extra care. I hopped on a small boat and the waves were shaking us all throughout. After an hour or so, I could not help but gaze at one of the clearest and cleanest waters I have ever seen — and that’s right at the port! Then almost twenty men, clearly motorcycle drivers, swarmed in no time offering their island tours, which I found too expensive and their trooping too intrusive and annoying. I almost did not have a choice but to ride in one of them to a beach house several blogs have suggested for visitors to stay and which would cost around 300 pesos. Not too far from the port I found a small jeepney, asked the driver if he knew the beach resort, he said yes, and off I went with just paying 20 pesos.
My driver stopped by a small two-storey, bright-yellow colored house by the beach saying it was what I was looking for. And it looked similar to the pictures online so I went down. Indeed, I was at Lorna’s End of the World Resort. Yes, that’s the name of the beach house and was the biggest reason why I particularly chose to spend the day there. It was Ate Lorna who welcomed me. Like a little kid, I ran straight to the beach, it was immaculately white and sparkling. The waters were as clear as the one by the port and I could already see a school of fish swimming near the shore. I was almost alone and I pretended to be — just me lying by the hammock, the cerulean waters, and the soothing smell of hard coconut being burned by an old lady next to the beach house. This must have been the spell and charm they were telling me about. And it was far from scary.
I asked Ate Lorna to just charge me for using the hammock in one of the huts and for the snorkelling gear I was going to borrow as well. She vehemently answered, “None. You are welcome, the place is all yours to enjoy.” What witchcraft? What creepy people? Moment of kindness part 1. I was asking her if I could go to the more popular beach given my limited time when her husband, a tall American guy, suddenly popped out and insisted I use their little boat instead and check out the marine life right at their beach. And there I was, rowing the boat which bore the name “End of the World” on its side meters away until I couldn’t see them clearly anymore, dropping the anchor, and jumping to the cold waters. It felt awesome! Again, it was a beautiful moment of silence, hearing only my fast heartbeat both because I got a bit scared I was too far and that I was happy.
There was almost no one on the highway, palm-fringed as I saw in the photos, and I got reluctant to walk farther. Ate Lorna said I could find a cold spring a few meters away. I finally reached the spring but it was already rather developed into a park where most of the locals stay to eat, chill, and play the guitar with friends during the lazy hours of noon. I am not a fan of “developed” natural spots so I decided to climb a flight of stairs leading to I don’t know where. A small church was on top of that hill and decided to pay a visit, thanked Him for the safety and beauty I’ve been feeling and seeing since I set foot in the island. I decided to ask about my way going back to the port since it was getting late and I had to catch the last ferry back to Dumaguete. I approached an old man sitting quietly in his motorcycle munching on a piece of bread. When he answered all my questions, I thanked him and slowly walked away. He called me back, “Dong! (a common term for boy in the Visayas and Mindanao regions)” and I walked towards him. He knew I know how to speak the vernacular from our prior conversation and started saying “Kaon diay ta. Pasensya na wala tika naagda ganina.” (Here, let’s eat. I’m sorry I didn’t offer you awhile ago.) My heart was trembling and I feel my tears just waiting to jump out of my eyes. Moment of kindness part 2.
I guess they were right about Siquijor…strange and mystifying. It was hard to leave the island not just because of its charming natural wonders but because every single part of the trip was a moment to solve a mystery I grew up with. And I am nothing but thankful that I was given that chance and privilege because finally, I can prove them wrong about Siquijor Island. The beach, the serenity, Ate Lorna and the motorcycle driver were all like ingredients of a potion that put me under a spell, but the kind that enchanted me to sheer beauty and pure kindness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
GRAYSON YANEZ, THE PHILIPPINES
Gray is a 22-year old Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications student. He would rather be known as (Gray)son of the beach, an island guy, a solo budget traveller and a proud Filipino. He loves to cliff dive and his life-long dream is to be a professional diver or become a marine biologist. Follow Gray on Twitter.