OK, I was on Negros island and wanted to spend one night on the adjacent Siqujor island. How difficult can that be in a country of over 7,000 islands where ferry transport is de rigeur? Answer, more difficult than I could ever have imagined, not to mention extremely expensive by local standards. If you don't want to read through this tip, which will be a little long, my potted advice is do NOT repeat NOT try to take a motorcycle on the fast ferry.
Here is what happened, and it is probably my own fault for not researching thoroughly enough but it was an expensive mistake from start to finish.
I arived at the gates of the port and was immediately charged a port fee of a few pesos, no problem. I am not sure if that was for the bike or me. I was "adopted" by a porter who directed me round to the ticket office where I paid about 350 pesos carriage for me and the bike. Then I was approached by another uniformed (and armed) guard who demanded another few pesos off me. This was not a ripoff, as it was all receipted and the sum was different from that on the gate, suggesting to me that one fee was for me and the other for the machine.
I was then directed to a window where I had to pay another fee via the porter, this time a Custms clearance. Now, can anyone explain this to me? A Customs clearance to go from one Philippino island to the next, with the bike properly registered and everything. It is like me having to pay Customs duty on a trip between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Complete madness but, again, all properly receipted, although the porter did add a few pesos but no problem. At this pint the whole procedure had taken about one hour so I was glad I had left plenty of time.
This is where my lack of preparation came in. I had wrongly presumed that it would be a roro (roll on roll off) ferry but no, a banqua outrigger boat puls alongside. Porterage on was going to cost me 300 pesos. This may not sound like much but I know for a fact that a lving wage in this city is about 125 - 150 pesos a day. In fairness, it was a tricky job and they did it well but it was ten minutes work, they must have loved it.
The crossing to Siquijor was hot, choppy and sondtracked by the obligatory rubbish soft rock ballads so prevalent here but pretty quick. We arrived at Siquijor and it all begins in reverse. 200 pesos this time to unload, show my Customs papers and pay another port tax to the armed guard n the gate and finally I was on Siquijor, about 1000 pesos the poorer and a bit annoyed.
After a lovely day riding round the island, it was time to return and I thought I would play clever and go to Larena where I had been assured there was an afternon roro to Dumaguete, thereby cutting out all the porterage fees at least. Wrong. In the way of Philippinonferries, the afternoon boat (Montenegro line) just wasn't running, despite being advertised online and on the "latest" published poster. Here we go, back to the fast ferry. Lo and Behold, no ferries n Saturday. The reason? They are Seventh Day Adventists and do not sail on Saturday. I had always thought Sunday was the day of observance for Christians but apparently not.
After an enforced second night on Siquijor (not such a hardship) it was back to the port next day and the same thing in reverse. Port tax (only one this time. Why? No consistency?), 350 peso fare and 200 to load the bike. At least I didn't need another Customs clearance. I was directed by the porter to the Coastguard office to present my papers. The officer was lying on a bed watching basketball and didn't even move. I waved my papers at him and he dismissed me with a reciprocal wave. Glad to see it was money well spent. Another uneventful journey and I was back at Dumaguete, paying another 300 for offloading before being hit for wharfage. Wharfage? I was riding a 125cc bike from the quayside which is perhaps 300 metres from the gate but paid about 130 for the privelege. This operation took visits to two adjacent windows and about 20 minutes. One more port tax at the gate (why not two this time?) and I was back on safe ground with a determination never to do this again.
Bear in mind you can rent a bike right beside the port in Siquijor and ask yourself a question. Is it worth it? I think you have the answer. If the Philippines is trying to encourage tourism, this is certainly not the way to go about it.
The main image, if you are wondering, is some of the paperwork involved (some of it was surrendered) in this fool's errand.
I shall crosspost this on my Siquijor City page in case someone might miss it.
We took Delta Fast Ferry from Dumuagete ( Ocean Jet also serve this route ) to Larena Port.
Upon arrival you are overwhelmed with 'offers' of transport. Always ask the price to your destination before accepting; ( for example 'how much to Siquijor town' ) and then say, 'No, it's too expensive', the price will reduce dramatically... Afterwards most hotels or hostels have good deals on motorbike hire. Do not hesitate to hire a motorbike, they are easy to drive and give you lots of flexibility. We had a map of Siquijor, and on the occasions when we stopped at a crossroads for example, there was always someone ready to give advice on the best route. The locals are so friendly and we were treated like royalty.
To reach Siquijor Island you need to go via Dumaguete, the capital of Negros. From here, fast crafts depart to Siquijor Town, the capital of Siquijor. The speed ferry will take around 1 hour and cost PHP190.
Dumaguete is served by air to/from Manila.
Daily ferries travel by sea between Dumaguete, Bohol and Cebu.
Between Cebu and Dumaguete, I used the fast craft from Ocean Jet. The journey via Tagbiliran (Bohol) took 3,5 hours and cost PHP800 (return/tourist class...one way same price) and was rather convenient with aircon, movies and snacks/drinks.
Departure from Cebu Pier 1: 06.20 am (22/10/2006)
Return from Dumaguete to Cebu: 15.00pm.
There are at least 2 other companies traveling the route but both arrived in the middle of the night in Dumuguete so a bit inconvenient, I thought.
If you didn't arrange a pick up on arrival in advance, you can use a combination of waiting jeepney / tricylces to get to your accommodation.