Lazi: Beyond Cambugahay Falls

The town of Lazi in Siquijor is renowned for its Cambugahay Falls so on our first trip to that province 6 years ago it was high on our list of places to visit. Not on a recent return trip, however. With some people in our group nursing ankle and back injuries, negotiating the 135 steep steps going down to the three-tiered falls was out of the question.

the first tier of Cambugahay Falls in Lazi, Siquijor
Cambugahay Falls

There’s more to Lazi than Cambugahay Falls, however, and this return visit gave us a chance to see a popular spot that we failed to visit in 2013. After beach-bumming at Maria’s Salagdoong Beach, we headed down south on the Siquijor Circumferential Road to the town proper of Lazi and a late lunch at one of its unassuming eateries.

Cambugahay Falls. 2nd tier viewed from a vantage point
The second tier of Cambugahay Falls

Not too far from the town center is the San Isidro Labrador Parish Church (St. Isidore Labrador Church), commonly known as the Lazi Church, a structure built mainly of coral rock. This church was declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1984 and acknowledged as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2001.

the facade of the San Isidro Labrador Parish Church in Lazi
The facade of the San Isidro Labrador Parish Church

The Baroque-style San Isidro Labrador Church is also nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List since 2006. We easily noticed the pinkish hue of the façade and church walls – an indication of the use of coral rock.

another view of the San Isidro Labrador Parish Church
The pinkish hue of this church reveals the use of coral rocks in its construction

There are actually two more notable Roman Catholic churches in Siquijor. We had previously visited the Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence in Maria’s poblacion in 2013 and passed by that same building on our ride to Lazi. The second is the Church of St. Francis of Assissi in Siquijor town – a church with its belfry located several meters  away.

the Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence in Maria and the Church of St. Francis of Assissi bell tower in Siquijor town
LEFT: The Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence in Maria; RIGHT: The Church of St. Francis of Assissi bell tower in Siquijor town.
the Church of St. Francis of Assissi
The facade of the Church of St. Francis of Assissi in Siquijor town. As in some churches in the country, the bell tower is separate and several meters away.

But back to Lazi: across the street from the San Isidro Labrador Church is its convent, another structure designated as a National Historical Landmark. This convent is said to be the biggest in the country and in Asia.

the San Isidro Labrador Convent
Just across the street from the San Isidro Labrador Convent is its convent

The first floor of the convent is made with coral rocks and the second with hardwood. There’s a museum inside featuring old religious artifacts and antiques. We got to observe this museum inside in 2013 but during our recent visit the convent seemed to be closed. The convent was used as a school but in later years that school was moved to another location.

San Isidro Labrador Convent
Front view of the San Isidro Labrador Convent
closer view of the San Isidro Labrador Convent
This convent took 8 months of restoration work in 2017

Motoring further along the Siquijor Circumferential Road towards San Juan, we arrived at our last Lazi destination: the Centuries-Old Balete Tree. The balete tree is a strangler fig tree that starts by attaching itself to a tree, growing hanging roots, then encircling the host tree before suffocating and killing it.

the Centuries-Old Balete Tree, Lazi
Lazi’s Centuries-Old Balete Tree is reputed to be 400 years old

Many Filipinos have associated these trees with the supernatural, believing that the balete harbors creatures from the underworld such as dwarves, kapre (tree demon) and tikbalang (horse demon). One look at the huge balete with its numerous hanging roots and you begin to understand the superstition ascribed by locals to the mystical-looking tree. And since Siquijor has long been associated with the occult, the Centuries-Old Balete Tree takes on an even more sinister reputation for visitors.

fish spa
The fish spa beside the balete tree

We did not encounter any spirits at the huge balete tree, however, just as in all of our trips to and around Siquijor. Our more interesting encounter here – besides the view of the huge tree and its hanging roots – is the fish spa. Water from a spring running from beneath the tree was collected into a pool where several fish nibbled at the dead skin on our feet.

(Also located in Lazi is the Lagaan Falls. It’s not as big or as popular as Cambugahay but for these same reasons it’s not as crowded. There are also some small caves behind the waterfalls. There are few dining places in Lazi but the town has the Hapitanan Café and Restaurant, a nice stop for coffee and meals.)

Lazi was the final leg of our one-day Siquijor tour. There are a few remaining spots that we had to leave out on this trip but with the island province only 1.5 hours away by fast ferry from Dumaguete, it is relatively easy to visit Siquijor again. Go here for directions on how to get to Siquijor.

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