A very interesting island off the southern tip of Cebu and Negros is the mysterious Siquijor. This island paradise has long been known to be the home of healers, locally called as mangkukulam, which are often mistaken as wizards or witches. Even up to this day, a handful of healers can be tapped in the mountainous parts of the island, specially during the holy week or around halloween.
Mysterious it may seem, but the island is slowly developing its tourism footprint. Siquijor is accessible through Dumaguete (Negros Oriental), Cebu City, Plaridel (Misamis Occidental) and Iligan City in Mindanao. The popular mode of transport is a fastcraft from Dumaguete City. There is no airport in the island, so travelers must have to get to the island via sea.
The island province of Siquijor belongs to Region VII or the Central Visayas Region. Region VII also includes the province of Cebu and Bohol. Compared to these provinces, Siquijor’s tourism program has yet to develop fully.
What makes Siquijor interesting? If I base it on the several visits I made in the island, I would say that Siquijor for one, has stretches of unspoiled white beaches without the commercial development similar to that of Boracay. The beaches in San Juan provides wonderful opportunity for sunsets, while the eastern side, specifically in Salagdoong Beach and the Kagusua Beach are good spots to watch the sunrise.
Sunset in San Juan town
The island also takes pride of its old churches. The best preserved is the San Isidro Labrador Church in Lazi and its nearby convent. In the capital town of Siquijor is the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, which is one of the most photographed churches in the island. Other old churches include the Sta. Maria Church in the town of Maria which has an unusual image of Sta. Rita de Cascia, and St. Augustine Church in San Juan.
St. Francis of Assisi Church (Siquijor)
There are also natural wonders in the island. Cambugahay Falls (Lazi) is also a popular site. Cold springs, Capilay Spring Park in the town of San Juan is also worth the visit. The enchanting centuries-old Balete in the town of Lazi provides the much needed atmosphere of mystic in Siquijor. Mt. Bandilaan, the highest peak provides a good view of the Siquijor and the neighboring islands. The Guiwanon Spring Park in Maria is a mangrove site which is also a marine conservation area.
Trees of Lazi
Siquijor was once called as Isla del Fuego (Fire Island), coined by the Spaniards most probably because of the fireflies that glow in the island at night. I have yet to experience or the least snapped a photo of this nocturnal eye delight. But this would be part of my to-do list if given a chance to visit Siquijor again.
A view of Lazi Church from the convent window
The island healers, often thought of as people into the black magic art, gather up for the Faith Healing Festival during Holy Week. Some of the common rituals include the Bolo-bolo (chanting, praying, blowing through a glass of water), cooking of concoction on Black Saturday, among others.
Such character of the island can never be found in other places in the country. It’s what Siquijor is all about.