You guessed it right Jo! The church in the town of Maria was also busy with a service when we drove in. Yes, there was also a dead dude to be buried. Three churches and three funerals, so far. Golly! So we headed straight to Salagdoong which is a bit distant from town. And the way going there (1.8km off the main road) is a good concrete (but narrow road) mostly canopied by young trees. Young trees at that and the road already seems to be cutting through a forest. This should be a fantastic (but eerie) forested road a few more years from now. That opened the topic about witchcraft and herbalists. Charlie said frankly that he does not actually know where those would be and if there still are any on the island doing the authentic thing.
Whoa the beach! It is a white sand beach about 200 meters or so in length with a unique natural contour. Instead of the usual convex this beach has big rocky boulders on both ends and at the very middle. I think these little “hills” (esp that one in the middle) are what makes for the unique character of Salagdoong. It has been fortified with a gazebo-like viewing deck where people can hang around. And from that area, you can jump to the turquoise waters below deep enough for you to have a safe “landing”. You can actually choose your jump-off point – anywhere amongst the edges of the rock or from the protruding tree branches. Wow! Even girls of about 10 years old jumping were jumping in. And I think that’s about 25 to 30 feet high.
Needless to say, I was craving to also jump and swim ad play in the sand. But alas, I was just a little more than halfway circling the island. Before leaving, I checked out the “development in this area. I gather that every structure here was made by the local government, so this is a “public” beach where anyone is free to visit. The cottages are of course rented and I was told by an old man that it is also administered by the local government. Good for them if they can maintain the upkeep of this place.
I dropped any dreams of heading for the town of Enrique Villanueva and its beaches and whatever else might be good to see there. As agreed with Charlie on the way to Lazi, we’d also be dropping the any caves and the Mt. Bandilaan Natural Park where the Butterfly thing is. I was not sad with that decision as I knew I still had a handful things to see when I come back. So, best option was to go straight to the town of Larena and Charlie told me, he had a surprise destination that was not on my list but still possible to visit even if quickly.
The road we took from Salagdoong to Larena was a cool and scenic high road up on the ranges between Mt. Bandilaan and Mt. Cudtingan. Golly, it even drizzled while the motorbike was ambling its way up the climbing roads. I liked the remoteness and even isolation of the place. But the ascending and descending here was not for the faint hearted. At times I felt like my knee was just a few inches from the ground when we negotiated curves. And by the way, as we traveled we both had to wear our sun glasses even white it was drizzling. It protected out eyes from the rushing wind (and sometimes dust or even little insects) as we sped through.
After the winding drive up the mountains, the road abruptly descended unto Larena and we were in town yey! I immediately noticed this was a busier town compared to Siquijor. So Charlie explained to me that in fact it is the business and educational center of the whole island. He explains that it probably became so because it’s bigger seaport is the gateway of most commercial vessels from Cebu and the Mindanao port. By my request, we did not wander Larena but after purchasing extra AA batteries from one of the stores we went straight ahead to Charlie’s surprise destination – The Larena Triad Coffee Shop.
Triad is no ordinary coffee shop. It is away from the main bustle of the town and perched high up on top of a hill in Barangay Nonoc. Going up to Triad was a tricky matter but Charlie is obviously used to climbing this road. Our way up started with good pavement that continued on to a dirt road one portion of which is dominated by a ‘barkada’ of carabaos, cattle and goats just in a huddle or busy doing nothing and won’t easily heed the motorcycle’s horn, then becomes a bumpy slippery part with dirt and little stones making the road both jagged and slippery and finally ends up at a steep concrete road towards the main structure of the coffee shop.
The main structure? It’s a circular open-air restaurant cum activity center cum function hall cum sing-along bar cum view deck that has a breathtaking view of the town, the sea and the islands north of Siquijor province. I imagined this place would probably also have spectacular sunrise and sunset views but I was not about to wait for any of them. The soft cool breeze from the hills and mountains behind as I gazed at the islands in the distance was enough to lull me into a fine afternoon slumber amidst occasional chirps from birds that frequent the place. I had to sincerely thank Charlie for bringing me to this surprise destination that surprisingly was not in my list of “places to visit”.
As I tried to consume all of the fantastic vistas (hey, even the hills behind are also a nice view), Charlie pointed to a boat that we could clearly see was speeding through the waters (this is that confusing and controversial Cebu Strait a.k.a Bohol Stait - whatever). He said “that sir, is your boat approaching the town of Siquijor from Dumaguete”! Whoa! I got excited at the same time worried since our orders were just taken by the waiter. Charlie re-assured me that we were already very near the town of Siquijor and that he was sure I won’t miss that boat – the last trip to Dumaguete. So we waited a few more minutes for the snacks to arrive as I savored and took more shots of the spectacular views. Nicest to look at in this vantage point are the tips of the islands of Negros Oriental (Dumaguete), Cebu (Santander) and Panglao just fronting the main island of Bohol. Hey Pamilican could also be seen to the rightmost while Balicasag though supposedly nearer was a haze.
When our food was served, I was again up for another surprise! They cook those up way too professional like you would partake of at A1 establishments. I oh so loved the French fries that had just the right saltiness to it but real crunchy on the outside and moist and mushy on the inside. I think them little fries had a coating though am not sure if it was salt or sugar! McDonalds, KFC and Jollibee, eat your bloody recipes out! This one’s was just truly perfect! And it was just a siding to the burger and the chicken sandwich that were specialties on their own merits.
The breads were toasted to the right crispiness while the insides were not devoid of reality – meaning we could easily discern the chicken strips on the sandwich and the burger patty was more of real meat than flavored extenders. The iced-tea was thick and tasted like it should be – that will surely have even Pearl Farm’s “welcome drink” shy away in comparison. Good that Charlie and I decided to half everything between ourselves so we could taste them all. Hey, with all the ice-cream, leche flan and the many other ‘components’ of that “Halo-halo Special”, my lips thickened and my throat felt a bit sore that I had to drink a lot of water.
After a bit more of lazing on Triad’s hardwood chairs (they’re quite heavy), Charlie said it was time for us to move. And we did. Skipped the Marine Sanctuary and just drove straight on the coastal road leading back to Siquijor. My boat was already boarding! Went briefly to the Siquijor Church… what else is surprising... there was also a funeral service… so I just took a picture of the outside and we ran back to the pier, paid Charles P700, got his handphone number, said our thank yous, and off to Dumaguete I was!
I shall return… promise!
For a chronology of stories on this trip, click the following article numbers:
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35