Part IV. Why You Will Love Siquijor – The towns of Enrique Villanueva, Larena and Siquijor

The trip to the town of Enrique Villanueva is enjoyable. Along the road is the Cang-isok House that dates back to the mid-1800s. However, seeing its present state, I know that this is probably the major disappointment of the coastal tour of Siquijor.

Cang-isok house, Brgy. Libo, Enrique Villanueva. Its name comes from the seaside village of Cang-isok where it is located; but it is also known as the “Tejano House,” after Mariano Tejano, the Spaniard who built it. The house is usually closed, but the locals here say that the present generation of Tejanos continues to preserve it — except that this present photo of a dilapidated Cang-isok House by the sea does not look well-maintained. If this is a heritage house, then the government should protect this house, or they can relocate it where it can be preserved.

The Cang-isok house, around 1800s, in Enrique Villanueva, is dilapidated. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The Cang-isok house, around 1800s, in Enrique Villanueva, is dilapidated. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The Tulapos Marine Sanctuary, Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor. This is the Talapos Marine Sanctuary’s mangrove belt viewed from the Circumferential Road. Notice the growing mangrove seedlings.

The Tulapos mangrove belt viewed from the circumferential road, Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The Tulapos mangrove belt viewed from the circumferential road, Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The Tulapos Marine Sanctuary is a favorite snorkeling and diving area. It is home to a fish the locals call, the “talingting.” They also name the seabirds that feast of this fish as the “Talingtingon.” “Talingting” is the old name of Enrique Villanueva. In the past, Talingting was a barangay of the town of Larena. When it became officially a municipality in 1925, its name was changed to Enrique Villanueva, after the governor of Negros Oriental. On the other hand, all the other towns of the island of Siquijor (San Juan, Lazi, Maria, Larena and Siquijor) have been established around 1877 by Augustinian Recollects.

The Tulapos mangrove belt is a marine sanctuary. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The Tulapos Marine Sanctuary (sorry, no underwater photos- I don’t have an underwater camera). Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The Boulevard. On our way out of Enrique Villanueva to Larena, I see this beautiful boulevard. I ask Roland to park at the side walk so I can appreciate and take a few shots of this scenic view.

This is a beautiful boulevard along the circumferential road between the towns of Enrique Villanueva and Larena, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

This is a beautiful boulevard along the circumferential road between the towns of Enrique Villanueva and Larena, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The Bell Tower of the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer, Larena, Siquijor. We enter the town of Larena. The first thing I want to see is the church. But like Enrique Villanueva, there is no trace of the past in their churches except for the remaining bell tower of Larena. Since the arrival of Fr. Vicente Garcia OAR, the first Augustinian recollect priest in Siquijor in 1794, the Recollects establish several parishes around the island: Can-oan (now, Larena), Tigbawan (Lazi), Makalipay (San Juan), and Cang-meniao (Maria). This bell tower, like all old bell towers in Siquijor is made of stone. In the past, a thatched roof protected the bells. Now, the bell tower is adjacent to the St. Vincent Ferrer School, which was named after Larena’s patron saint.

The Larena Bell Tower and the St. Vincent Ferrer School in Larena, Siquijor.  Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The Larena Bell Tower and the St. Vincent Ferrer School in Larena, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

After taking a few shots of the bell tower, Roland takes me to a snack bar that plies the town’s famous delicacy. The heat was sweltering, so he brought me here. There is no signboard along the road, but I guess everybody in town know about this place because it is full. The counter says simply, “Special Halo-Halo” and it lives up to its name.

A small halo-halo place in Larena, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

A small halo-halo place in Larena, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The difference between Manila and Larena’s halo-halo is its freshness. While Manila halo-halo is made of candied fruits, Larena uses a lot of fresh mangoes, bananas and young coconut, topped with a choice of vanila or chocolate ice cream.

Larena's Special Halo-Halo and Pan de Bisaya (with bukayo). Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Larena’s Special Halo-Halo and Pan de Bisaya (with bukayo). Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The Guiwanon Spring Park and Mangrove Reserve in Luyang, Siquijor. This is a natural fresh water spring in a mangrove area.

The natural fresh water spring of the Guiwanon Spring Park, Siquijor. It is within the mangrove forest. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The natural fresh water spring of the Guiwanon Spring Park, Siquijor. It is within the mangrove forest. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Mangrove Forests are called the “rainforests of the sea” because its coastal ecosystems are highly diverse. Mangroves are also breeding grounds for many species of birds and insects. They provide a nursery for marine life, thus assuring us of a plentiful catch in the future. Most of all, they protect the coral reefs (another ecosystem) by preventing coastal erosion.

The mangroves of the Guiwanon Spring Park, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The mangroves of the Guiwanon Spring Park, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

You can live in these tree houses at Guiwanon Spring Park and Mangrove Reserve. You can help plant trees. It is called, “Assisted Reforestation.” It means that we can help in the regeneration of the forest — in this photo, recreating a mangrove belt. Around 50% of our mangroves in our coastal areas have died, and reviving them will help the future of our children.

You can rent these tree houses for a very cheap price. Guiwanon Spring Park, Siquijor

You can rent these tree houses for a very cheap price. Guiwanon Spring Park, Siquijor

The Assisted Reforestation process is simple: Fishermen and those living on the coast collect the seeds, and raise them in mangrove nurseries. When they reach around 30 cm. they are ready for planting. Like students and teachers, we can plant suitable seedlings in a dedicated area for mangroves.

These are mangroves from seedlings. See the newly planted seedlings (right corner). Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

These are mangroves from seedlings. See the newly planted seedlings (right corner). Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

A word of caution if you are going to plant mangroves. Be sure that the trees to be planted are endemic to the area. Check that these mangroves are not planted on sea grass beds, rocky coastlines, and coral reefs. They will alter the habitat of many marine species. One invasive tree will alter the whole. And when a seedling is not suitable, it often dies. Thus, mangrove seedling mortality implies fund wastage. In 2014, @cebudailynews said that DENR spends 9.5 million pesos for mangrove and forest rehabilitations in Yolanda-affected area. Imagine, how much is wasted whenever these newly planted seedlings die.

Information and a meeting place at the Guiwanon Spring Park, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Information and a meeting place at the Guiwanon Spring Park, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

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St. Francis of Assisi Bell Tower, Siquijor, Siquijor. The coastal tour* ends at the St. Francis of Assisi church, a stone’s throw from the port. I take a few photos of the bell tower to make sure I am able to document everything.

The bell tower of St. Francis of Assisi Church in the town of Siquijor, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The bell tower of St. Francis of Assisi Church in the town of Siquijor, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

I arrive at the beach resort at 6:30 PM. I pay Roland and I promise him that I will promote his services to those who will consider Siquijor for relaxation.

This is Roland Borja (Mobile: 0926-8061594).

Siquijor's local government empowered tricycle drivers to be tourist guides. This is Roland Borja (Mobile: 0926-8061594). Promote them to others to help them out.

Siquijor’s local government empowered tricycle drivers to be tourist guides. This is Roland Borja (Mobile: 0926-8061594). Promote them to others to help them out.

I prepare for a quick swim at dawn. I make a quick order of tinola at the small restaurant. The cook comes out very apologetic that they use native chicken. I tell him that that will make my tinola even tastier! He is very happy that I preferred native chicken. I make an additional request for more vegetables, and the cook shows me four freshly picked green papayas with the sap still dripping into his hands.

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The fear of Siquijor is in its reputation as an island of sorcery and witchcraft. My experience tells me that Siquijor is a place for awe and wonder. The Spaniards in the past called Siquijor, “Isla del Fuego” or the island of fire, named after the numerous fireflies that lit the island at night (They also have a firefly sanctuary).

But I discover that the fire is also in the hearts of its inhabitants. There is reason for me to fall in love with Siquijor and its people.

The sunset in Damulog, Siquijor is majestic. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The sunset in Damulog, Siquijor is majestic. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Final note. The mountain tour also takes a day. The tourist guides (tricycle drivers like Roland) will take you to Mt. Bandilaan National Park in Cantabon. Mt. Bandilaan is often compared to Mayon Volcano because of its almost perfect cone. But I have yet to see OUR Mayon’s rival! Mt. Bandilaan is around 1,394 feet high, and is 557 feet above sea level. They also have a Butterfly Sanctuary and Farm, the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the Stations of the Cross. When you reach the Last Station of the cross, you will see the Metal Observatory Desk. You can climb to the top and there you will be gifted with a 360-degree view of the whole island of Siquijor.

If this post is useful and valuable to you, please tell me about it and your adventures. I would love to hear from you. Here are the links to the other parts of the story.

Part I: Why You Will Love Siquijor

Part II: Why You Will Love Siquijor: The Town of Lazi

Part III: Why You Will Love Siquijor: The Towns of San Juan and Maria

Part IV: Why You Will Love Siquijor: The Towns of Enrique Villanueva, Larena and Siquijor

 

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