Spellbound by Siquijor

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Siquijor Island Beach
Many travelers can attest to the allure of the island province of Siquijor. Located in the Bohol Sea close to the major islands of Cebu, Negros and Mindanao, Siquijor is a destination both feared and loved. Feared because it is mystical; plenty of stories about witchcraft abound. Loved because of its beauty; the island is home to heartbreakingly stunning natural wonders.

For years, the local government of Siquijor has capitalized on the fear and lore that surround the island. Siquijor is known as the home of formidable the “mangkukulam” who can make the subject of the craft puke worms in a heartbeat. Whether or not this is true, most travelers find the stories irresistible and coming to the island is the only way to satisfy their curiosity.

A Little History

There are many reasons why Siquijor is considered mystical. For instance, the Spanish conquistadores became spellbound by the glowing island which they named Isla del Fuego (Island of Fire). As it turns out, the glow was all due to the thousands of fireflies that live among the leaves of many molave trees in the island. When they arrived on the shores of the island, the then king introduced himself as “Si Kihod”. The Spaniards apparently mistook the introduction as the name of the island which they later changed to “Siquijor” because it “Si Kihod” was hard to pronounce.

Legend also has it that the island came to being after the Visayas was engulfed by a storm. Siquijor was born from the depths of the ocean amid thunder and lightning, thus the name Island of Fire. This event may have been true since farmers found giant shells in the highlands.

Getting There and Getting Around

To get to the mystical island, travelers would have to jump off from Cebu, Dumaguete or Iligan City. There are three major ports in the island, the most important of which is the one in Larena. The Larena port is the hub for fast crafts plying the route between Siquijor and the nearby islands.

A great way to see the island and circumnavigate the coast is on a motorbike. Rentals are available at key points in the island, mostly market areas in major towns. Resorts also offer guided tours on jeeps and small vehicles. If you would like more reign on your itinerary, arranging a rental bike or a habal-habal tour around would be cheaper and more adventurous. Most tours take you through major attractions around Siquijor: churches, beaches and quaint settlements. Public jeepneys are available but may be scarce during late afternoons unless there are boats arriving at the port. Outrigger boats may also be hired if you want to get spectacular views of the coastline.

Popular Attractions

Beaches – The coast surrounding the island of Siquijor is made of glorious white sand beaches. Siquijor beaches are idyllic, offering a peaceful (often rustic) experience to travelers. Some beaches have become home to resorts that offer accommodations and dining venues to guests. It is easy to reach the beaches are there is a coastal road around the island.

Dive Sites – Being in the Visayas and the heart of the Coral Triangle, travelers in Siquijor can expect to discover spectacular kingdoms in the waters close to the island. There are plenty of excellent places to snorkel and scuba dive around the island. To name some, there’s Sandugan and Tongo Point for colorful reefs, Salagdoong Beach for corals, fishes and the occasional shark, and Paliton Beach which has underwater caves to explore. Close to the port in Larena is a wreck of a Japanese hospital ship. The famous Apo Island is also close by.

Springs and Waterfalls – For a small island, Siquijor is surprisingly rich in natural wonders. Its jungles are relatively untouched and serve as home to waterfalls and springs that are fit for swimming and explorations. The most popular of these attractions are the Cambugahay Falls in Lazi and the Capilay Spring Park in San Juan.

Related Article: Waterfalls in Mindanao

Heritage Buildings – The town of Lazi is home to a rich history that dates back to the Spanish era. The San Isidro Labrador Church and the Lazi Convent have been declared a National Historic Landmark of the Philippines by the Philippine National Historical Commission. The convent is the largest not only in the Philippines but in Asia.

The Healers – The aura of mysticism Siquijor is known for is owed mainly to the traditional healers living in the island. These faith healers are sometimes mistaken to be practitioners of witchcraft because of their bizarre ways of healing. Their traditional practices (rituals and the creation of concoctions) are showcased during the Faith Healing Festival held every Holy Week. Contrary to some beliefs, these healers are not witches; they are in fact respected members of the society and are often approached for advice on health concerns.

The Old Balete Tree – The balete tree has long been associated with Filipino lore characters, especially the formidable kapre, a giant who smokes a giant cigar and lures women into his clutches. One such tree exists in Siquijor and the island’s mystery is associated with it. It is now a major attraction and a visit is not quite complete without dropping by for photos.

There is definitely a lot to do and see on the beatiful island of Siquijor. Even if you just hang out of the beach you will more than rewarded by the natural beauty that surrounds you.

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