The minutes quickly passed as our tricycle roared off into the humid streets of Siquijor. It was already two in the afternoon, and again, we disembarked and found ourselves staring right into a gnarly body of a huge Balete tree growing at the end of a shallow swimming pool.
|VINES STRAGGLING DOWN THE TREE|
The tree is said to be around 400 to 500 years old, depending on who you ask, and is definitely the biggest of its kind in the island. Balete or banyan trees are usually parasitic in nature, creeping up on unsuspecting healthy trees and wrapping itself around it until the host finally dies. This leaves a hollow core in the middle where one can enter if it becomes big enough.
|THE HOST TREE APPEARS TO BE ALIVE AND WELL|
This banyan tree, I assume, is still growing, its host still healthy and breathing. There might come a time when it may reach the grandiosity of Aurora’s own gargantuan millennium tree but right now it remains a far second, in my opinion.
|CARE FOR A SWIM?|
Although Siquijor’s balete may pale in comparison in size to its northern counterpart, what it lacks in magnitude it makes up for with its uniqueness. At the base of this huge tree is a cold spring that streams out into a pond, a likely reason that explains the tree’s longetivity and size.
|WELL-DESIGNED POOL, A BIT SLIPPERY THOUGH|
The locals have since dammed the stream with concrete and placed an overflow near the road, turning it into a public pool of sorts. The bottom remains untouched and is still composed of gravelly material and sand. The pool is actually well-designed and not haphazardly done. Interestingly enough, they also populated it with small fishes that follow visitors around, expecting to be fed with bits of bread.
|A LOCAL TAKING A BATH BY THE POOL|
Our guide told us to submerge our feet in the water. We obligingly dipped our bare feet, and the fishes swarmed about, biting our skins off. Instant foot spa! The water is a bit murky due to soap use by the locals when bathing and laundering but I guess the fishes have already adapted to it as evidenced by their sheer number.
|SCHOOL OF FISHES UNDER THE TREE|
The weather was so hot that day. The water below the banyan was quite inviting and the fishes uber numerous that I finally gave in to temptation. I took off my shirt and pants, and with only my boxers on, swam along with the golden fishes below Lazi’s mysterious balete tree.
It seems that Siquijor’s magical tree put a spell on me and to this day, it’s still one of the most vivid memories I have of Isla del Fuego.
~ UPDATE 2015
This last visit to Siquijor, after checking out Lugnason Falls, we specifically told our guide Dennis (0947-7898337) that we won’t be dropping by Siquijor’s Balete tree anymore since we’ve already seen it years back.
|KOREANS TAKING SELFIES BY THE TREE|
However, the road en route to Cambugahay Falls, our next target destination, passes by the renowned tree. And before we overtook it, he asked us, “last chance, don’t you really want to get down?” With the rain pattering non-stop, we thought, alright, why not, we really wanted to wait for the rain to pass before dipping at Cambugahay.
|THE BALETE TREE REMAINS UNCHANGED|
The famous balete tree seemed unchanged after more than four years when I first saw it. It still has that creepy vines reaching all the way down to its base and its leaves seem as lush as before. The pool though has been altered somewhat, its bed is still made of pebbles and sand, but the seats surrounding it have now been set with non-slip tiles.
|LOVE POTIONS, ANYONE?|
While waiting for the rain to stop, we took shelter on the nearby stalls selling coffee, snacks, souvenirs and what else, but anting-anting (charms) and gayuma (love potions)! These makeshift stalls were new to me, but I actually welcome them as not only would it be a good chance for Siquijorans to make a few pesos, but it also gave us a chance to have a cup of coffee while dipping our feet into the pool for the usual fish spa! And surprise surprise, we saw some mid-sized tilapia joining in the fray too! Lol.
|GOOD FOR MY FEET, LOL|
|NOT FOR THE TICKLISH|
As we were enjoying our coffee right by the pool, a host of Korean tourists poured out of a van and joined our company. The tourism scene in Siquijor has definitely grown since my first time in the province. Back then, you’d hardly find any foreign tourist in the island, but now, they arrive daily by the boatfuls!
The rain abated as we sipped the last dregs from our cup; time to see Cambugahay Falls once more!
Century Old Balete Tree
Address: Siquijor Circumferential Road, Lazi, Siquijor
Entrance Fee: Donation
GPS Coordinates Map: 9.120970, 123.575373
Recommended Siquijor Island Tour Guide
Kuya Joam: 0927-6932095
Fee: Php1,000.00 inclusive transportation, port pick-up, lodging transfer and lots of stories :)