“Asa diay mo manaog, day?” the conductor asked.
“Sa kanang naay beach.” Clueless as we were, Virhenia and I rode the bus bound south with the hope of finding emerald water, tempting enough to yell “manaog mi!” to the bus driver. The provincial road in southern Cebu constantly hugs the coastline.
The view on the right
The towns we passed by looked like framed pictures in a digital media frame. From the bus window, the view automatically changed in a millisecond’s span.
The view on the left: Santander’s Puerto del Sur
Upon seeing the intimidating ranges of Negros, the white-pebbled beach, the azure sky, and the cerulean sea beckoned me to yell “anhi ra mi!” We hurriedly gathered our things and disembarked the bus eureka-faced. We found it!
“Duol ma nis port, Te, oy!” exclaimed Virhenia. Soon I realized Santander’s Puerto del Sur interrupted the blueness of the water on our left.
“Bati tan-awon sa pictures!” she grinned because she knows my stand on that.
We saw a Westerner and three Asians probably Japanese or Koreans about to board the boat fully geared up for scuba diving.
The water has degrees of color: translucent in the first two or three feet, then cerulean, and then indigo. The indigo sea harbors either rocks or a seaweed conglomerate in the bottom. Or indigo resembles the deepness of this strait.
Just around the bend, with the port out of sight, the water was clearer and deeper.
Two women with two boys were already soaking. A group of young men gathered in one shade drinking mestiza, a concoction of Tanduay and any soft drink. Siquijor, from afar, still looks beguilingly gloomy and inhospitable. The same feeling I got upon watching it from Dumaguete. But unlike its aura from a distance, Siquijor is a quaint and quiet place abound with white-sand beaches, old churches, and falls, without any trace of witchcraft and magic.
It only takes a calm fifteen-minute boat ride to cross the distance between Santander and Sibulan, Dumaguete. From Cebu’s tip, the island of Negros Oriental looked inhabited, with its mountains graciously dominating the horizon.
Volter, Volter’s Girl, Bryle
Yes, Our Heart Needs No Mending
“Naay lilo sa unahan.” Ate Hasmin was the second to inform about the whirlpool. Liloan derives it names from the supposed whirlpool dwelling in the middle of the strait. Most of the places here in the Philippines are named after the character inherent in them: Tuburan (tubod – spring), Mabolo (fruit), Danao (puddle). The name of the place harbors many stories, some forgotten, some ironic.
The cute kids—Bryle, her nephew, and Volter, her son—seemed comfortable in the water. After a while, she asked if I was a Catholic. I was tempted to say no. It was predictable what came next. She introduced Presbyterianism. I asked what makes it apart. “There is application,” she said. All religions should have.
Ate Hasmin was a good-hearted woman with a gentle face and voice. She shared us their sliced fried and boiled bananas and jackfruit (my favorite fruit). We ended up eating in a group and talked about life.
What brought us to Santander? They perceived we were mending a broken heart. Indeed, a place has the ability to heal a heart. In my case, I ended in Santander with the promise of meeting storied people like them, with the hope of expanding the heart, with the possibility of fulfilling those.
A boy named Amboy approached Virginia who rested from snorkeling.
I teasingly shouted, “Tarunga’g diskarte, Do!” which made the women laugh (Ate Hasmin, Ate Cecil, Racquel, Jeannie).
Snorkeling in the Almost Unsnorkelable Strait
The surge of tide is unconquerable with my flabby arms and damaged left leg. One benefit of being a fisherman’s daughter is the skill to understand the water movement. The sea can be predictable unlike the much-loved and -dreaded river. On high tide, the swelling strait’s currents surged eastward. Santander’s tip curved like an unfinished C and the surge moved to that direction. I braved the fierce thigh-deep water, ten to fifteen meters far from the curve and moved to the chest-deep part while withstanding the current. Santander’s seabed is a continental slope. We call it kantil. I swam with all might to the deep water and just let the surge carried me while snorkeling. I did several rounds with the promise of seeing the three neon damsel fish, several domino damsel, two dog-faced puffers, and an another group of silver fish till my limbs said no. The boys kept on reminding us not to go too far from the shore cause we might suck into the invisible whirlpool.
Me: Assessing the water
Virhenia kicked her legs noisily like a duck flapping its wings on the water. Her butt stuck out with her head bent under the water. I collected some stones and shells for my plants while she finished off.
Thirty minutes past two, while changing into fresh clothes, the guys gawked at us. One of them remarked I rather changed fast. I kidded with a sarcastic undertone if he wanted me to change slower for him to see. It cracked Racquel up. Ate Hasmin gave us a ride to the provincial highway.
We didn’t want to leave, but we had to. Traveling is a waking realization. It is one of the countless analogies of life. We have to move on, we have to look forward to getting to the next destination, and let the memories accompany us to the next town. It is all right to look back.
By the shore
South Bus Terminal–Liloan Santander P168
Pebble Beach Entrance Fee P30.oo
1 Goggle, 1 snorkeling gear, & life jacket P 250
Santander can be a good side trip for your Southern Cebu Adventure.