Siquijor felt like home, so it was perfectly fitting that this would be where we’d spend our first Christmas together, as a couple.
We ended up choosing Siquijor as we’d met a great Filipino girl, Gerlen, on a bus in Palawan, and she’d mentioned her aunt owning a hostel on a chilled beautiful island, overlooking the sea, with a kitchen (to prepare Christmas dinner), nearby shops, cheap barbecues, and karaoke. It sounded perfect. At just under seven quid a night, the place sounded like a bargain, so we snapped it up, and it ended up being one of our favourite places in all of the Philippines.
The ferry to Siquijor – on 23rd December – was pretty hilarious, with families heading home for the Christmas break with hundreds of bags (many just containing food and snacks… our kind of people!); fighting cocks in cages, and even pet dogs. The ferry took forever to get there as people took ages loading on and off with all their Christmas shopping, but it was all very sweet!
When we finally arrived at Siquijor, we loved it on sight. All deserted beaches, rocky wild shores, and easy-going scenic palm-tree fringed roads that looped around the island and were half-empty apart from motor bikes and tricycles. We caught a trike to our apartment – Lorna’s End of the World – and were welcomed in with a massive warm welcome from Gerlen and her siblings. We were shown our room and it was just what we wanted! A little rustic, but spacious with a huge double bed, a kitchenette, and a patio, with doors that opened out onto the ocean view so we could see the sea from our bed!
We checked out the immediate vicinity and found a super friendly shop lady across the road who sold ice-cold giant beers, had a karaoke bar on the side, and assured us she was open throughout the Christmas period. Heavenly. Gerlen hooked us up with our own huge 20L bottle of water to go in our water cooler, and we were set! We put the Christmas album on, got our Christmas hats on, stocked the fridge with beer, and hung in the hammocks to watch the sun set.
Only a couple of hours had passed when Gerlen popped up to ask us if we’d like to join her family on the beach for dinner. We were taken aback by the warmth and hospitality, and immediately accepted, and we dined on delicious barbecued pork they prepared on a fire on the beach, with rice and veggies and lots of Tanduay rum! We sat out on a table on the sand, and chatted away, catching up on events since we’d last met, and it felt like meeting up with old friends.
After dinner (and LOTS of rum) we decided to hit the karaoke bar across the street – our first shot at karaoke, a favourite Filipino past time! Given we were mostly girls, we chose a load of feminist hits, from Gloria Gaynor to Spice Girls, and everything in between (mostly Queen and Abba). I got a real taste for it, and we kept the rum and coke flowing from the lovely shop owner ( – a litre of rum costing about one pound!) The night ended with more rum swilling on the beach and defending my new sisters against some sleazy men who’d tried to join our group. Girl Power was definitely the ongoing theme of the night…!
The next day was Christmas Eve and despite having a hangover that could have kept us bedridden all day, we hauled ourselves into the bright sunshine to walk into town to do our shopping for Christmas lunch! Being still drunk/hanging gave us a determined edge, and we managed to find everything (chicken, veggies, potatoes, beers) in record time. We even found wrapping paper! We returned home to wrap our presents, dance around to Christmas songs, and decorate our new home with our Christmas tree, baubles, Christmas banners and twinkling Christmas lights.
We were visited by our old travel buddy Bill who we’d met in Palawan, and he seemed suitably impressed with our Christmassy flat (as did our neighbours!) – and we arranged to go for Christmas Eve drinks later, but subsequently passed out with hungover exhaustion / overexcitement!
Christmas day itself was really magical from beginning to end. We woke up with Christmas tunes and a breakfast of chocolate oatmeal on the balcony overlooking the sea, then we shared a beer and started giddily opening our big bags of presents! Sam really spoiled me and got me exactly the kind of gifts I wanted – along the kids’ gifts theme – stuff like a Frozen pencil case and gel pens; bubbles; a bear piggy bank; earrings; nail varnish; paint set; mini dolls; a fan; sandals and clothes (admittedly, I picked the clothes!). I got him a more boyish variation on the theme, stuff like a toy keyboard, a slinky, bat and ball set, water bottles, and some much-needed new clothes! In lieu of any kind of real dessert, we also bought each other loads of chocolate! Mmm.
I felt bad that he’d so clearly won the presents, so I offered to sort out Christmas dinner and the cooking for the day, which actually turned out to be really therapeutic after so long out of the kitchen. I prepped the veggies and made the gravy (using some granules brought from the mainland), and had to improvise the roast potatoes and yorkshire puddings as we didn’t have an oven, so I deep-fried the potatoes on the hob and made the yorkies in a pan!
After a delicious lunch and a fair whack of beer, Sam took an afternoon nap while I overdosed on downloaded Christmas films like National Lampoon’s and Muppets Christmas Carol, to the distant soundtrack of locals belting out Christmas karaoke tracks down the road. Later on we went to visit our mate Bill and his new friends for a little beach party down the road.
We took a bottle of rum with us and there was leftover rum to go around from their antics the previous night, so we all got very merry around a big camp fire on the beach, and someone had even found some smokes, so we got even merrier, resulting in Sam acting pretty hilariously, much to everyone’s amusement. Chatting turned into delirious giggling, and we crawled along the coast trying to find an open shop to buy more rum, eventually admitting defeat and returning to ours for a midnight snack of chocolate and banana pancakes, one of my favourite things to cook!
Boxing day was very subdued, and although we’d planned a tricycle tour around the island with Bill, we ended up getting up too late and instead mooched around at home, cooked some big pasta and veggie lunches, and I went for a stroll down the wild sandy coastline, finding a spot of shade under a palm tree to plonk myself down and listen to a few podcasts. Walking back along the rocky sea at low tide listening to some dramatic Classical songs on my phone, I felt a moment of complete contentment and realised I really didn’t want to leave the island in a couple of days’ time.
Another reason the island felt so much like home was because we’d developed a little family. Gerlen had left on Christmas Eve to spend the holiday with her son back in Dumaguette, but we’d inherited a family – their deaf grandma, her sister and her aunt who frequently visited us to discuss the latest dramas in their family, and with the eccentric drunk Swedish artist who rented the flat next to us, or just to nosey around and see what we were doing. Although annoying at times (especially when were were trying to hang out naked in the apartment!), they also felt familiar – in good, and annoying ways – just like family.
On our final day we got our arses in gear and took the tricycle ride around the island, which only made us fall for Siquijor even more. Our sweet driver took us around the island highlights – starting with a magical old Belen tree where you can dangle your feet into the water for a free fish spa. I was too scared but they loved all of Sam’s dry skin!
Next onto Cahugay waterfalls, which were all cool jade waters and dense jungly backdrop. Given the shallow seas / low tides on our side of the island, it felt great to be finally immersed in water!
Finally, we visited Sabantahang Beach which is a pretty little cove with a private beach, and we were joined by loads of holidaying Filipinos who were really funny to watch: most had come with about a week’s worth of food and Tanduay rum and coke ( – we had totally found ‘our people’) – and milled about on the beach and in the sea, getting slowly drunk and chowing down on cookies. They even let us drink some of their water and coke that they had left over by the end of the day. So sweet!
We spent our last night going out for BBQ chicken with our apartment neighbours and taking down their travel tips for our remaining time in SE Asia. I conked out pretty early but Sam stayed up pretty late drinking rum with the boyfriend of the couple.
Given we’d essentially overstayed by a day in Siquijor (unable to leave) we were faced with an absolutely horrendous two days of travel, to meet up with our buddies from home who were visiting, and who we were supposed to meet in Borocay on the evening of the 28th! So, on the morning of the 27th, we embarked on our long overland journey across four islands in two days….!