In mid-January of 2016, when I believed I had the family looking for options for where to settle for a few years, enough time for our daughter to go to school and have some semblance of a normal life, we found ourselves in Dumaguete, a quiet and actually beautiful city that has inspired many a writer looking to find his voice. Dumaguete is the capital city of Negros Oriental, in the island of Negros, one of the many islands in Central Visayas of the Philippines. We spent New Year there without fanfare, enjoying each other’s company, living the simplest life we have had in some years. From Dumaguete, we decided to take a ferry to the neighboring tiny island of Siquijor, where we stayed at one of the more expensive resorts – Salamangka Beach and Dive Resort.
We almost never choose expensive accommodations but we only started looking for accommodations in Dumaguete, ran out of options, and eventually decided we deserve this, even just this once. We took our breakfasts at the restaurant or by the pool while sunbathing and swimming. The pool-side bar afforded us to swim while getting semi-drunk on cocktails and enjoying live jazz music.
We were lucky in our timing because the owner had some of his friends over from New York who are professional musicians and they made beautiful music from sundown til late. When my then-boyfriend and now-husband’s mother asked us what we were doing and we told her, she infamously asked, “What about real life?”
A year later, I found myself sweeping the floor of our big flat in Torino at mid-morning, checking off my Daily To-Do Housecleaning List after I droped off our daughter at her school where she spends about 8-10 hours everyday, murmuring to myself, “So, this is real life huh?” Because apparently, for the past four years, we were living a “fake” life. A life that revolved around traveling, taking one plane after another, finding ourselves at airports from one city to the next, in countries around the world. Honestly, I needed a vacation from that vacation. It had been going long enough.
Still, our time spent in Siquijor was one of our most memorable, work-free, and stress-free family trips.
We stayed three nights at the Salamangka Beach and Dive Resort. Mornings were for diving and swimming while afternoons were for exploring outside the resort.
We spent two afternoons at neighboring Coco Grove Beach Resort, sipping cocktails and enjoying the sunset. We paid a little fee that allowed us to go snorkeling on the beach in front of the resort even if we were not guests. This is allowed because there is a small patch of property between the resort that is considered public. If you find yourself there, it is worth checking out.
On our last evening in Siquijor, we dined at U Story Guesthouse, a beautiful restaurant one of the guests at our resort told us about. Our experience was superb and we regretted not having found the place sooner. A relaxing place with great food and even better ambiance, owned by some French nationals, and from the looks of it, frequented by other expats on a regular basis.
A trip to Siquijor would not be complete without going around the island for a bike ride. We rented a motorbike, had lunch at Villa Marmarine in the town of Siquijor, dropped by Salagdoong Beach which I always found unimpressive but go to anyway because I enjoy the drive through the forest, made the effort of visiting the Cambugahay Waterfalls, and did a customary last stop at the Enchanted Balete tree before ending the day.
On my very first trip to Siquijor many years ago, I was three months pregnant with my daughter and I spent the ferry crossing from Dumaguete to Siquijor throwing up everything I had in my stomach. I swore I would never go back to the island unless they had their own airport. They still don’t have their own airport, and to be honest, unlike Boracay or El Nido, this is one of those tourist destinations where nothing seemed to have changed in the past years. It is still the hot, quiet, and relatively empty island I remember it to be. With the onslaught of tourism in the Philippines, it is good to know that there are still places that are relatively untouched and retain its magic. Speaking of magic, this island is known for witchcraft. What that means to the island, for better or for worse, Siquijor island certainly holds its own charm.
Travel information for Siquijor is here.