Philippines Travel: Siquijor to Mindinao

Woke up and decided that I had to try harder to find a beach bungalow on Siquijor, so I decided to tell the manager that I would take the room for another night, but spend the day touring the island looking for a beach house. He informed me that the room actually wasn’t available, as some folks had already booked it for the next few nights! So suddenly I was faced with cutting my visit to the island short and having to head to Dumaguete instead. As I finished my breakfast, he came back and announced that he had contacted the folks who were planning on coming, and they agreed to share a room for one night so I could stay! Wow, talk about putting in effort to accommodate your customers! This didn’t bring in any more money for him, as all his rooms were full either way, but it sure gave me some breathing room!

So I went back to Plan A and decided to tour the island on my rented scooter and look for a beach hut for the following night. The short story is that I visited every.single.beach.resort.on.the.island and not one had a single room available! But the upside was that I had an absolutely great day tooling around. For starters, Sigquijor has some incredible architecture: every little town has an old church, built Spanish style, and they are all quite well preserved. Many have associated towers, one particular one has an old convent across the street. But they all are stunning.

The island roads are laid out quite simply: there is one 72 Km road that goes around the entire island, and another one that cuts across the middle (east-west). The middle road rises up into the hills, quite high, and while descending that road, I came across the must amazingly fun 500 meters of road for a scooter I have ever seen, anywhere. I had to ride it about 5 times…I’m sure the locals must have thought I was nuts.
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A little further down the hill, I came across an idyllic swimming hole, with turquoise water and a real vine rope swing.

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There were lots of other interesting things….great little roads, excellent little beach cottages (all full), etc. I guess one upside during the ride was that I ran into a young couple I had been talking to on the ferry across from Dumaguete earlier who had reservations at Casa de la Playa, one of the three ‘perfect’ resorts I had tried to get into the day before, and they told me that the entire stretch of beach was infested with mosquitoes…so badly that they could not go outside or walk on the beach or anything. So with true schadenfreude, I felt better about not being able to stay there.

Later, I got back to my little guesthouse and room, and realized that I had been particularly harsh when I described it as a dingy little cubicle. With new eyes, I realized that it was not only not dingy, it was actually quite cute. The building was brand new, and nicely done. The room had brand new nipa walls, the bed actually was a high quality mattress (and to date, still the most comfortable one I had slept on in my entire Philippine visit), and reading through some notes I had taken in my LP, I saw that some travelers I had beers with in Bohol had recommended that I seek out this particular guesthouse and stay there, as it was a little hidden gem. So once again, I found that I had indulged myself needlessly in my own stupid dissatisfaction, and missed the obvious goodness right around me.

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So I went out back and found a couple of perfectly placed trees, ordered a beer, hung my hammock and laid there watching the sun set. Ahh, finally.

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The next morning, as required, I packed up my gear and drove myself down to the ferry terminal where I returned the scooter to the owner and caught the 11:00 ferry to Dumaguete. My plan was to find a guesthouse there and plan my route to get to Mindanao to visit my friend John in Gingoog. There were, of course, several routes that were possible: get back to Cebu (by bus or ferry) and fly to Butuuan, then take a bus to Gingoog….take one of several ferries that went from Dumaguete to Mindanao….take a bus or ferry to Leyte, then take a series of buses and ferries to Gingoog…it was going to take some planning.

But as soon as we landed in Dumaguete, I saw a sign for an imminently departing 4-hour ferry to Dipolog, in western Mindanao, so I bought a ticket and hopped on board.

The ride across was wonderful….just as the sun set behind Apo Island, the fish started rising all around. I saw two large fish tails rise up…I think they were tuna by the shape, but they were HUGE. Then the sea was alive with swirls from flying fish (and some others) diving below the surface as the ferry approached. I watched for about an hour, then went back inside and watched some of “American Sniper” that was on the TV.

When we landed in Dipolog, I walked off the ferry and into the little town to get a tricycle to the bus station. There was a midnight deluxe bus that went from Dipolog to Cagayan de Oro, about an hour west of Gingoog. However, having just been immersed in the visual war scenes of the movie, and knowing that Mindanao is considered a ‘no go zone’ by the US and other governments because of terror activities (although all that is in the far south, and nowhere near where I was or where I was going), my imagination was running wild. Suddenly, all the dark alleys around me were hiding Abu Sayaf operatives, all the tricycle drivers with phones were calling in my positions, all the kids on the streets were informants carrying information back to the kidnappers….I was actually starting to freak myself out for no reason, and I was happy to get to the bus station to wait for my midnight ride.

Long story short (although it’s too late for that, I know) is that the ride was long and uncomfortable, but I got to Cagayan do Oro, made another change, got to Gingoog by dinnertime, checked into a hotel, and caught a few hours nap before connecting up with John and his girlfriend for a brief hello, with plans to meet up the next day for breakfast and to plan our upcoming road trip adventure to Camiguin Island.

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