A 3-week backpacking trip in the Visayas at the most unfortunate time

Threats from a local terrorist group named Abu Sayyaf shook the sleepy town of Inabanga, Bohol early this week. There were death reports of soldiers, policemen, and even the leader of the group, and most residents of the town got rattled with the war. Well, who wouldn’t be? That’s Abu Sayyaf. They are known for bombings, beheadings, kidnappings, and all cruel things done in the name of money.

And here I am, traveling around the Visayas at the most unfortunate time not only because of the terrorist threats but also because of the earthquakes happening all over the Philippines. A 5.4-magnitude hit Batangas, Metro Manila, and other parts of Luzon, packed with a series of aftershocks; a 5.9-earthquake hit Luzon; another 5.4-magnitude hit Bicol and Eastern Visayas, and a 6.0-magnitude rattled central Mindanao—all happened in a week or two.

Of course, that didn’t stop there. A man from Cebu, who is under the influence of drugs, stabbed a teenager from Makati and a four-month pregnant woman from Dumaguete to death during a longboarding competition in Siquijor prior to my visit. (May their souls rest in peace.)

I have waited for this trip since 2017 came in, but the world keeps on throwing shades. Let’s jump into the bright side of things, yes?

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I was on Lakawon Island back in November 2016 and a lot has changed five months after
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Friends from Bacolod namely Caitlin, Febs, and Michael

Bacolod

I just finished my four-day trip to Bacolod on April 7 to 10. I got reunited with my local friend Michael who took me to El Ideal and Balay Negrense upon my arrival.

I went to Lakawon Island on my second day, where I revisited a local bartender friend, met three bubbly women, and met another woman who went back to her hometown Victorias City to reconcile with her then-boyfriend. Let’s just keep the latter’s identity under the name ‘Nakakaloka.’ I had a good talk with Nakakaloka when I was on Lakawon. We even planned to go to Bantayan Island the day after, but I convinced her to come with me to Siquijor instead. When I came back home to the hostel, I immediately went to my room and worked on two articles due next day, which made me decline Michael’s invite to go out that night, but viola: a short brownout came just when I needed electricity the most. I was alone in the four-bed room, so I came down the lobby in a heartbeat. I then had a good conversation with Febs, the front desk officer on duty that night, until the electricity went back on.

My supposed trip to Dumaguete on my third day came, but Nakakaloka ghosted and ditched me. And that’s okay because she reminded me not to trust anyone easily again. On the bright side of it, I was able to spend my last two days with Michael and Febs in Victory, Chikaan, and Balay Bintana. The two even offered the sincerest prayers over me before I leave from Dumaguete, the jump-off point to Siquijor.

Febs and I are still thankful up to this day that I declined Michael’s invite and that the brownout came. I’ll be back in Bacolod for the both of you!

Dumaguete

Guess what: I trusted someone easily again when I reached Dumaguete. He’s someone I met on Facebook, and I asked if I could couch surf for a night; he humbly accepted despite the short notice. Let’s keep him under the name ‘Bongga.’ I arrived in Dumaguete bus terminal at 12 MN where Bongga picked me up and had a quick catch-up along the way. Bongga is also from Paranaque and the thought of it instantly gave me a sigh of relief!

But I got a little bit worried when we reached a village filled with trees. I was alone with someone I just met on Facebook, and we were in a village filled with trees. Damn.

Nasaan tayo? [Where are we?]” I asked.

Ito yung village… Seminaryo kasi ‘to. [This is the village. It’s a seminary.]” he said.

I was surprised. As far as I know, women are prohibited to stay in seminaries, but they still welcomed and gave me a private room for free. I was so happy I landed in the right (but wrong) place after my trust issue with Nakakaloka and a 7-hour bus ride from Bacolod!

Thank you, Bongga! Til we meet again!

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Waiting sheds are more fun in the Philippines
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Boats made up of cans are a popular toy in Siquijor. Most kids like Hans rush by the beach to pull and race their toys under the heat of the sun

Siquijor

I’m on a week-long trip in Siquijor now, which is an hour and 30-minute ferry ride away from Bohol. The island-province is currently on a high alert. Policemen and soldiers are dotted around ports and destinations to keep both locals and tourists safe from terrorist threats.

I spent my time by the beach with the local kids on my first day and went back to Enchanted Balete Tree and Lazi Church yesterday.

Ate, paano ako pupunta sa balete? May tricycle ba dyan? [Ate, how do I go to balete? Is there a tricycle outside?]” I asked ate Cherry Mae, the niece of the owner of the inn I’m staying in.

“Nako, wala. Malayo yun. Ingat ka ngayon ha, delikado. Alam mo ba yung sa Bohol? [Oh no, there’s none. Balete is far from here. Take extra care today. Have you heard about what happened in Bohol?]”

We had a quick talk about the mishap until a tricycle came and I alighted in Enchanted Old Balete Tree. I was enjoying my fish spa when a group of soldiers came to check the welfare of everyone on the spot. We’re okay. I’m happy to know how prepared and vigilant the policemen and soldiers were. When they left, I continued my exploration on the tree. I learned that the water from the fish spa comes from an underground cave beneath the tree. Some say the cave is 24-feet deep, some say it is 60-feet deep, but the depth doesn’t make the tree less enchanting. Don’t you just love learning new things about the places you’ve been to? I do! It’s like rewatching an old movie for the tenth time and noticing something new for the first time!

I then spent my whole afternoon in Lazi Church where I met Duhaylungsod sisters named Fatima and Mikee. They kept me company the whole time and asked me a lot of questions.

May boyfriend ka na? [Do you have a boyfriend?] Mikee asked.

Wala [None],” I said.

Meron kasi dito wala pa siyang girlfriend… Yung pulis doon. [We know someone who doesn’t have a girlfriend. The policeman from there.]” she teased.

Ano ka ba, bata pa siya! [Stop it, she’s young!]” Fatima said.

We parted before sunset and I hope I could bring them to Salagdoong Beach or Cambugahay Falls while I’m here.

It’s 5 AM as of typing and I have two beach trips by 8 AM. My sound sleep got cut short earlier because of the power interruption at 1 AM, so I went out only to be deafened by the silence and be blinded by the darkness, which led me to write this piece. Brownouts make me hate alone times, but I’m thankful how it has been leading me to beautiful phases since I was in Bacolod.

The power got back at 2 AM and I can’t sleep anymore because there are two fat-ass rats running around my room and a cockroach decided to fly on my bed. I miss home, but I shall move to Bohol for a ferry ride to Camiguin next week if all is well in the province by then.

The sun is popping, the tide is rising, cocks are clucking, birds are chirping, dogs are running, motorcycles are racing, my stomach is grumbling, new chances are coming, and a new day is spinning. Hope you are enjoying yours, every day.

World in my words,

Mikee

11 thoughts on “A 3-week backpacking trip in the Visayas at the most unfortunate time

  1. You sure have interesting travel stories and I like the names the you gave to some people you met.

    Nakakaloka is nakakaloka indeed! I’ve always hated unreliable people; I just think they are disrespectful and not to be trusted again. Good thing there are other people who are better company during your Bacolod trip.

    Is Bongga a seminarian then? Why is he on Couchsurfing? And the place he listed is a seminary? How weird and cool at the same time.

    I haven’t been to any of the provinces that you mentioned. I’d like to go and visit them too before the year ends.

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  2. That was a really engaging, if in some parts depressing read. Certainly, the opening paragraph was immediately striking and an experience I have unfortunately shared. Nevertheless, while there was undoubtedly some dark aspects of your trip, I’m glad you managed to find the bright side.

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  3. I was holding my breathe while reading about Bongga. haha I felt like Oh my God, is this gonna be the end of my life? Would I end up like those backpacker girls who were abducted by a stranger? haha Glad you were safe. Haven’t been to Siquijor and I want to go to there too. Even though, it was unfortunate times to travel in those places, at least you had great memories to bring back home. Always be safe! Happy travels! xx

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  4. When I started reading the post, I was Gosh! why are you visiting this place! But at the same time, I could understand the feeling of a wanderlust. You have given very interesting names. Seriously again Bongga incident held my breath for some time but thank God you are safe. I am glad you took up this trip, and could you build up the unforgettable memories for life.

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  5. Great job backpacking locally. It is something I’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had the time to do so for the longest time. I haven’t been around the Philippines at all. Such a shame. I’m happy to see articles like these. Keep it up! Stay safe! 🙂

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  6. It is so sad to learn that the shadow of terror also looms over the Philippines. I thought the beautiful and peaceful country of the Philippines was spared this. Definitely, such events mar our travels. But probably the best answer to such groups is to continue with our travels and that is what you did. Really commendable.

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  7. It is an unfortunate experience. However, I feel travel teaches us a lot. I can see that a lot more bad things could have happened to you but you applied your mind and sneaked out of troubles. Kudos to your courage and the fact that you have detailed it out for your readers!

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