Leaving friends for a second time is even more difficult than the first. After spending time on tiny Apo island, we decided to head back to Siquijor for another five days, before leaving the Visays altogether. Apo and Siquijor are both accessible from Dumaguete, a transitioning city we’ve ended up spending a number of nights in, if you add up all the individual stops.
We left Dumaguete in the morning, and the ferry was calm. When we arrived on Siquijor, we waded through the hassle of pedicab drivers to a gentleman renting motorbikes. We got the price down from 350 Php a day to 250, and realized that having a previous visit under our belt, is a real asset when dealing with anyone trying to sell you something.
“Is this your first time on Siquijor?”
We drove into San Juan, arriving at Czar’s Place. Our friends were dumbfounded to see us, and came running out to greet us with big hugs and curious faces. Thus begun a visit that felt more like a reunion than a vacation. We didn’t do a single touristy thing over the course of our second time on Siquijor, and we were rarely alone.
After a short nap and a shower, we ventured out to Capilay Spring Park Restaurant to see if Russell and family were around. They were, and we snuck up on them. When they saw us, Russell jumped over the table to greet us, and Helen nearly cried. We were instantly embraced, food was offered, and we began chatting like old friends.
Over the course of our days on Siquijor, we lounged, laughed, ate and drank with people, and before we new it, San Juan was beginning to feel like a second home. Cheri, my new friend at Czar’s told us we could use the kitchen to cook our own meals if we wanted. She injured herself in a motorcycle accident the day we arrived, and we took her up on it, making extra food for her when we could. Since we were the only guests staying there, we became a bit like family. One evening we got ambitious and decided to have a dinner party.
That day, Tyson and I ventured into the market to purchase food. We bought three small, frozen chickens, as much veggies as we could find, and rice. We were trying to decide how much rice to buy, and we thought to ask the ladies behind the counter what they thought.
“Are you cooking for foreigners or Filipinos?” they asked.
“Filipinos” we relied.
“You’d better get a lot then. Filipino’s love rice!” We ended up getting two kilos, which was way too much. I think the staff at Czar’s will be finishing that bag for some time to come.
We invited Russell and family, Cheri, Paul and Marlito, for a total of seven guests, plus ourselves. Cheri’s mom and another boy, Francell came along, and we happily set out more plates.
We prepared a feast, and in true Western style, we cooked a huge stirfry, complete with carrots, snow peas, zucchini, cauliflower and beans. Tyson created a sauce for the chicken which he concocted from a variety of spices found around the borrowed kitchen. The cookware was battered and bruised, and the propane stove took some getting used to, but the whole thing was a success. When our friends arrived, they marvelled at our cooking, asking what we’d used to season our dishes. At the last minute, we’d decided to pan fry some potatoes, which is very different from the way people here eat them. Our guests were pleasantly surprised, and we had a number of enquiries about the veggies. People here don’t eat a lot of vegetables, and as a result, not many are grown or sold. Actually, it’s a real problem, because many Filipinos aren’t getting the nutrients they need, and diabetes and other diet-related health problems run rampant.
We spent the following days with our friends, and a few late nights enjoying rum at Capilay Spring Park Restaurant. We got invited to a fiesta, and I spent most of the time enthralling a gaggle of 9 year old girl by delightedly answering personal questions. The fiesta was held at a residence not far from where we were staying, and from where I sat, I could see into the kitchen, catching glimpses of huge cauldrons on a fire pit stove and women busily at work, preparing more food. When I finished my generously offered meal, I poked my head in to return my dish and say thanks. Around the corner, a smiling gentleman was up to his neck in pig guts, and cleaver in hand , he had the bloody carcass spread over a large wooden table.
Tyson went spearfishing with Russell, and played basketball with a number of local boys we’ve been getting to know. His team even won a game. I went into Siquijor town to do a bit of shopping and internet stuff with Cheri. I also wandered into San Juan one morning, and when I walked past an elementary school, a few young girls waved and smiled at me. I stopped to say hi, and they laughed shyly at the size of my nose. I didn’t mind. They were friendly and curious. People here actually want bigger noses, which boggles my mind. I asked the girls which one of them wanted to trade, and I even got a few volunteers!
On the night before we left, Helen and Russell prepared some pancit, and we set up a little picnic in Capilay Spring Park, near their restaurant. We ate, drank and commiserated about our impending departure. With sadness, we bid them farewell, and the following morning, we headed into town for more ferry fun.
When we arrived at the pier, I took one look at the rough, angry water and shook my head. The wind was strong, and as dark clouds rolled in, we decided to wait out the storm. We found cheap accommodation at a shabby little lodge near the pier, where we could keep our eye on the water. Built like bathroom stalls out of cardboard-like plywood, the rooms were barely larger than a bed. The mattress was thin, and our sleep was poor, but we woke up at an hour that harkens back to Tyson’s work days, and caught the 5:50am ferry to Dumaguete. The water had calmed down overnight, and our trip was smooth.
We arrived, haggled over cab fare with a few drivers, and hopped into a tricycle, which took us to the Dumaguete airport. We approached the Cebu Pacific Air counter, and asked to book two tickets to Palawan, our next destination. Tyson handed over our credit card, which is how we discovered that they only accept cash. Of all the places to decline a credit card, I was not expecting an airline at a decent sized airport to insist on cash only. We asked where the nearest ATM was, since we weren’t carrying nearly enough to pay for our flights, and the lady pleasantly informed us it was back in Dumaguete. As I put palm to forehead, Tyson and I just looked at each other in astonishment. We mulled over the thought of haling down another pedicab driver, and retracing our route back into town, and then out again. Knowing better than to get exasperated with the situation, we sat down for a moment to regroup.
Then a lightbulb in Tyson’s head flickered on, and we went across the street to a cafe with wifi, ordered breakfast and a rare cup of brewed coffee, and booked our tickets online. We missed the early flight, but they ended up being cheaper.
Our next destination is Puerto Princessa, Palawan, where we’ll spend a few days, and hopefully get a chance to check out the underground river that just made the Wonders of the World list. From there we’ll board an eight hour bus to El Nido, where we’ll lounge out the last week of our visas, and then we get the official boot from the Philippines.
We’re not sure what our plans over Christmas are yet, but we’re heading to Phnom Penh in early January so I can start my new job!