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Christmas in stunning Siquijor

i love siquijor

Next island please!

On arrival in Siquijor Town, on the island of Siquijor, we immediately took a tricycle to San Juan on the west coast to try to find a place to sleep and spend Christmas.

siquijor boat

We spent over an hour trying to find accommodation. Nothing. Everything was full except dorms which we weren’t keen on for Christmas, and then there were crazy expensive beach side villages which would have cost us our week’s budget in one night. Eventually we ended up at Sunset Viewpoint. 3 small beachfront cottages, very quiet and with a free kayak to use! Bonus! There was a kitchen and a fridge so we could stock up and save a bit of money.

home for xmas

Our little bit of heaven!

On our first evening in Siquijor some locals were having a family Christmas party and using the communal kitchen and seating area at our beach bungalows.

shower jm

Even an outdoor shower!

sunset siquijor

Sunset from our private beach

They came and invited us to join in the fun. It really was great fun. We had been warned they liked to drink a lot over Christmas but jeez did they drink! Shot after shot of Filipino rum, something we both hate. JM was a good sport and had two rum and cokes before they were so drunk they didn’t realise he wasn’t drinking it. They were so friendly and the food was delicious. A great start to our Christmas celebrations.

family night jm

Crazy family 1

family night soph

Crazy family 2

Scooter time! Waterfalls, churches, beaches and a pamper session for JM. 

Our second day on the island we hired a scooter for the day. There weren’t many roads on the island, but the ones there were were in good condition and nice and comfortable to ride on. At last!

road siquijor

Siquijor’s roads

rice field siquijor

The islands beautiful scenery

First stop Lugnason waterfalls. Not on the usual tourist path but it was our favourite on the island and a must see – take a packed lunch or breakfast to chill with. We went fairly early in the morning and other than 2 local kids, we had the whole waterfall to ourselves.

tagibo waterfall 2

tagibo waterfall 1

Next stop, going anticlockwise round the island, was the famous old mysterious balete tree just west of Lazi town centre. Beneath this beautiful old tree was the natural foot spa where the fish nibbled and ate the dead skin off our feet.

400y old batane tree

Magic tree

Unfortunately due to a ridiculous amount of cuts and blisters on my feet from the canyoning, I was advised not to. Booooo. Jean-Max really enjoyed himself though. The bigger fish took quite a fancy to his feet!

fish foot jm

fish foot eating

Pampered JM!

lazi church inside

San Isidro Labrador Parish

After JM’s pampering we headed to Lazi to visit the San Isidro Labrador Parish and convent, built of sea stones and wood and known as a ‘National Cultural Treasure’ by the National Museum of the Philippines – Beautiful. Later, with the heat of the Filipino sun on our heads, we decided to go to the most popular waterfalls on the island, Cambugahay Waterfalls.

soph steps to waterfallThey were a little busier than Lugnason, but still not overcrowded and incredibly pretty.

jm diveThere was a tarzan swing being used by everyone and anyone and a plunge pool to jump into from the top of the waterfall. The fresh, clean water definitely cooled us down.

jm jump tarzanJM with excitement decided to cut his toe badly on the rocks so we waited a while for the bleeding to stop! Good one! 😉

jm foot hurt

The main road runs all the way around the island. We decided with a few days left in Siquijor to save the east coast for another day and took a road inland towards the centre of the island. There were viewpoints and countryside to see! The centre of the island was just beautiful. Rolling countryside, small, quiet villages and that was basically it. So peaceful. We also visited the interesting Siquijor butterfly garden. It was very expensive but the owner was so passionate about his work we wanted to help in a small way.

blue butterflyblack butterflyred butterfly

chenille

jm butterfly

JM’s new friend

We continued up to the viewpoint, located almost smack bang in the centre of the island on one of its highest hills. From the top there was meant to be a 360 degree panoramic view. After finally finding the place, we discovered the trees pretty much obscured 300 degrees of the panoramic. A shame but the 60 degree view was pretty good.

selfie smile

Viewpoint

We finished the day by cutting the island in two, heading north towards Larena on the north coast. We were glad to be staying in San Juan because Larena and the north coast seemed to be constantly pummelled by the wind and waves (when we were there anyway).

scooter team

Scooter team

When we finally arrived back in San Juan late afternoon, we decided to ask around about any Christmas events happening in the town. We visited a lot of restaurants and resorts with few doing anything different or special. We already knew we wanted to go to Midnight Mass at the local church, but we really wanted to do something else. When we almost thought nothing was going on we popped into Tori’s Backpacker Lodge. They were having a Christmas Eve party with their guests only, but they took pity on us and invited us to join in the fun. Thanks! There was going to be a buffet of traditional Filipino food. Perfect.

Christmas day was looking even better when we were invited to our friends, who we’d met on Apo Island to have a Christmas BBQ on the beach next to their villas. Amazing. Our Christmas was sorted.

Before the end of the day we decided to check out potentially diving in Siquijor. We didn’t read anywhere that it was a ‘great’ place to dive and a must do, but we thought why not. There were a few dive resorts in the area so it couldn’t be that bad. We checked out the only two independent dive centres and booked 2 dives with Last Frontier Centre for the next day.

xmas sunset

Another beautiful sunset

We ended the day at a great restaurant called Baha’s not far from where we were staying. There was brilliant live acoustic music and reasonable happy hour prices – the décor was so beautiful, very Balinese.

Happy Christmas Eve!

So Christmas Eve started with a luxury delicious bowl of coco pops with fresh milk, before we headed to the dive centre. It was such a nice experience. Calm, organised and friendly. The guys wanted us to have a good time and they were enthusiastic about the diving. They took us to their favourite spot, Paliton wall. The dive was great. The wall was covered in colourful healthy coral and in the marine sanctuary at the end of the dive had a huge diversity and abundance of colourful fish. It really was a lovely dive and gave us hope that the best in Philippines was still to come! Oh, and that not all dive centres are useless in the country and just have dollar signs in their eyes when a customer approaches them. Sorry rant over! We celebrated a great morning and two good dives with an ice cold beer on the beach afterwards.

san juan beach

In the afternoon we hired the scooter again for a day and a half to make life easier going backwards and forwards to different friends, parties and churches!

siquijor centre

cadeau de noel girlfriend

Christmas present for his girlfriend!

Tori’s Backpackers was a really fun evening, meeting fellow travellers and some locals who worked at the resort. The buffet food was delicious and they made us feel really welcome.

xmas eve crew

Christmas Eve party

xmas dinner

Yummy food

xmas eve selfie

Happy Christmas Eve

The guests had organised a secret Santa amongst themselves, although they didn’t know who they were buying for. We didn’t get involved but it was so lovely to see everyone having fun. The secret presents included tambourines, ceramic bowls, the huge base for a water container…….!!!? torches, drinking glasses, basically everything a traveller wouldn’t want or find useful except the torch. All very random, but very funny. By 10pm we headed back to our cottage and got ready for Midnight Mass. This was a first for me, but I had always wanted to go. We arrived to the beautiful, fairly modern Church of San Juan just before 11pm. There were 100s of locals ready for mass and all ridiculously friendly and welcoming. We met up with our friends who we’d be seeing on Christmas Day, Marleen and Leon, and Doni and Karin before entering. More tourists arrived but they left within 20 minutes of the service. JM and i stayed until the end with Leon and Marleen and we really enjoyed it. I had no idea what the Priest was saying but there was a lot of broken English in the mass.

xmas mass

Midnight Mass

It didn’t matter, it was still an amazing night and it was great to spend the most important part of their Filipino Christmas with them. JM remarked on how similar the service was to that back home in Paris.

Merry Christmas! 
home beach

Merry Christmas everyone!

xmas selfie

First Christmas spent together in 7 years! Yay

Christmas day morning for us = midnight, Christmas Eve in Europe. This meant the Rinkel family would be fast asleep and the Jardin family were finishing their 7 hour long dinner. JM phoned home to a very tipsy and merry family. A good and funny start to the day.

We decided to continue our road trip on Christmas day. We didn’t need to be at our friend’s place until 4pm and they said they had everything under control so we had the whole day to explore. Although I was very VERY homesick, exploring on scooter was definitely the best remedy.

mangrove tulapos

Scooter trip scenery – east coast

palm trees

Scooter trip scenery – west coast

We just drove and drove with all the locals waving and shouting “Merry Christmas!” Our first main stop was Salagdoong Beach, known as one of the best beaches in Siquijor.

salagdoong beach

Salagdoong Beach

We would agree in terms of swimming, since everywhere around the island seemed to have a sharp rocky, coral shoreline when it’s low tide: you have to walk a long way before being able to swim. But the place felt a little run down and abandoned. The water however was crystal clear and very inviting. JM was in luck because there were diving platforms. Me being me, and not wanting to chicken out, I also jumped from the 10m board. Only once though and just to impress JM – that’s love for you!

soph jump

Not another jump!

soph walk on water

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

After a bizarre lunch at a beach side restaurant we continued south to Kagusan Beach. So much quieter, with no infrastructure and free entry compared to Salagdoong beach.

kagusan beach

Kagusan Beach

We didn’t stay too long before we realised how late it was and had an hour to get back and get ready for Christmas dinner and, more importantly, go find a bottle of half decent wine to take with us. – Mainly for myself and Marleen’s consumption.

The perfect setting and great company for Christmas Day!

We arrived fashionably 30 minutes late (not that they seemed to notice!) with a bottle of wine and dressed in our finest attire – Well more like the only clean clothes we had left! Our friends had already started on the bbq and spent the whole day preparing the food. We felt so bad just rocking up but they seemed to be really enjoying it all. We helped as much as we were allowed. They did such a wonderful job.

xmas table BBQed fresh fish and Liempo, roasted vegetables, jacket potatoes, salads, soups, noodles, fresh bread made by the staff at their villa resort, just food heaven.

xmas crew

Top chefs!

xmas bbq

xmas bbq fishIt was perfect. What made it even nicer apart from the wine of course (we hadn’t had any for 2 months that’s why we were so happy!) were our friends had invited the staff to join the party and they were really happy and thankful! After eating the best food we’d had so far in the Philippines and even since before Myanmar, we were serenaded by Leon around a bonfire! Could it get any better?! At the end of the evening Marleen surprised Leon with a late celebratory birthday cake – double celebrations.

xmas birthday

Happy belated birthday Leon!

cheers leon and marleen

Cutest Dutchies ever!

birthday celebration

Really Marleen??!!!!!

I managed to speak to my family on facetime halfway through the evening, something I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do all day, topping off a great, but rather homesick Christmas day in the Philippines. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else though!

xmas bonfire

Christmas Day beach bonfire

On Boxing day we left Siquijor for Bohol. 3 or 4 days on the island was the perfect amount of time. Before leaving we decided to take the free kayak for a spin. After a quick hour and a half on the water and some snorkelling around one of the many marine sanctuaries, we headed to the port to catch our next ferry.

san juan rainbow

Rainbow on our beach!

One thought on “Christmas in stunning Siquijor

  1. AvatarLeon

    Really Marleen? Disgusting.. 😉
    And JM you shouldn’t have the fish clean your feet. That’s why you cut it afterwards. Doctors advice.. 😉

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