In the Philippines, when people talk about “Siquijor” they instinctively associate it with witchcraft, magic, folklore and mythical beings.
You see, most Filipinos grew up hearing frightening stories about this supposedly scary island and how it is home to many age-old tales of kulam, aswang and the infamous Balete tree.
Which may all be true many years back (according to our guide), but is now just a common misconception (or is it?) when it comes to describing what this tiny mystical Island has to offer.
Some may say that the stories often linked to the island are part of its curse, but I would like to think that it’s not. I’d say it’s part of this beautiful islands mystique and charm.
Because little does everyone know that this incredibly quaint island is home to some of the best-kept secrets in the Philippines.
HOW TO GET THERE
First things first, just like any other paradise there are no airports in Siquijor and in order to get to the island, you must first fly to Dumaguete and then take a two-hour ferry ride to the port.
Upon arriving at the port you’ll be greeted by this incredibly clear blue water, which I think is quite possibly the cleanest and most beautiful port that I have ever stepped on.
The island itself is pretty small so getting around is quite easy. You can either rent a motorbike (PHP 300 a day) or book a van from one of the DOT accredited travel and tours in the area.
The Spanish called it “Isla de fuego” or Island of fire for the immense glow caused by the swarms of fireflies that used to inhabit the island’s mangroves.
Hence, on our first stop, we visited a very popular protected mangrove site and spring park resort to best showcase what Siquijor has to offer.
Guiwanon is a spring park and mangrove preservation that is located by the main road in Luyang, Siquijor.
It is famous for this small freshwater spring that is linked to the open sea. The location of the spring within the mangroves was so enchanting and peaceful that we were all literally just waiting for the fairies to appear.
At first, I was reluctant to venture inside the mangrove thinking that It was just another nature reserve but then greens, the wooden walkways, and the clear waters soon crept in on us.
After the short walk through the mangrove forest, there’s a big wooden hut towards the end where guests can enjoy the cool sea breeze and a nice view of the surrounding area.
There are also a couple of rentable huts within the reserve, but aside from that, there is really nothing much to see here, unless you plan on swimming or staying overnight.
In the main town of Siquijor, there aren’t many modern or tall buildings but you’ll find a handful of old structures from the Spanish era like this century-old church of St. Francis of Assisi (also know as Siquijor church)
Built from 1795 to 1831, the church and the bell tower of St. Francis of Assisi serves as a welcome landmark to everyone coming in and out of the island because the church itself is just a few meters away from the port.
When we arrived the interior restoration of the church has already been completed but sadly, the iconic bell tower was still under repair due to the damage caused by the last earthquake in Bohol.
After our quick visit in the main town of Siquijor, we then visited the other unique thing that Siquijor is also famous for (no, I am not referring to curses and spells) but the Traditional Folk Healing.
Located far away from the town proper, hidden inside small villages you’ll find a select few individuals who are said to have been blessed with the powers of healing thru different means.
One of them is “Rogelio P. Lugatiman” a healer who makes use of a small rock, bamboo shoot and a clear glass with some water.
Unlike most healers in the area, Rogelio practices a healing technique called the “Bolu-Bolo” a term that was born from the sound that he makes when he blows through the water with his bamboo shoot.
It is a form of a contactless healing that is done by blowing air through a bamboo shoot while walking in circles around the person who wishes to be healed.
As he blows thru the bamboo shoot, debris coming out of the bamboo shoot miraculously sprouts out of nowhere, he then repeats this process until not a single debri will come out of the straw which means he or she is healed.
Everyone was skeptical at first but most of the participants said that they somehow felt a small sigh of relief after the healing. It is said that the Bulo-bolo mostly just heals skin diseases.
There are a number of different type of healing methods in Siquiour, but sadly we only go to visit two of them, the Bolu-bolo and the traditional “Pausok”.
A gift of healing that is said to have been passed on for generations to family members in the same village or family tree.
Pausok is another healing ritual that is done by wrapping the person with a cloth while sitting under a pot of smoking coal. The healer then rubs oil gathered and made by the family to relieve themselves from illnesses and pain. And much like other healers in the area, they too only accept donations.
Despite the scary stories attached to its name, the locals and the Siquijor tourism board are trying their best to promote Folk healing as a form of an experiential tour for tourists and pilgrims alike.
When I first arrived in Siquijor I already fell in love with the islands peaceful setting and the warm hospitality of the Siquijodnons (residents of Siquijor).
And one thing I like about Siquijor is how tiny the whole island is, in fact, you can literally explore the whole island in less than a day. Hence, Siquijor is the perfect place for DIY’er and day trippers.
For beach lovers, there’s a handful of beautiful white sand beaches on the island that you can visit and enjoy without having to travel far.
Aside from beaches, guests can venture out and explore many of its beautiful waterfalls, caves and scenic hiking trail.
One of our first stops was the famous three-tiered Cambugahay Falls at the town of Lazi.
Quite possibly one of my top 5 favorite waterfalls in the Philippines. We spent almost 2 hours of our tour here.
Sadly, we arrived late in the after and the place was already filled with tourists so I suggest that you guys visit the place in the morning when water is still clear and blue.
Surrounding the waterfall area, there are also 2 platforms with rope swings, each charging 50 pesos for the whole day. One rope swing is slightly higher than the other but both are equally fun. Definitely, a must try when visiting Siquijor!
But if you want something less crowded and more personal then you can consider Lugnason falls.
An equally beautiful waterfall but with fewer crowds of tourist and unlike in Cambugahay waterfalls, the rope swing and cliff diving here are free!
After chasing waterfalls, we then went straight to exploring what lies beneath the mystical land of Siquijor.
The Cantabon cave, a cave network found at the heart of Siquijor is home to some of the most magnificent rock formations in the region.
Probably one of the most beautiful and underrated caves in the Philippines, Cantabon never failed to amaze me as we ventured further inside the underground passage.
Inside, you’ll witness different rock formations as you duck, crawl and wade your way through knee-deep waters, so EXPECT to get wet and dirty!
The whole tour takes roughly around 2-3 hour to finish. Do note that before entering the cave, it is mandatory that you register near the school to book a guide and get the proper safety equipment.
After our muddy adventure, we then ended the day by taking a dip and enjoying the beautiful sunset at Salagdoong beach.
The perfect place to relax and experience the most exciting and thrilling attractions on the island, jumping off a 40ft cliff and into the crystal clear waters.
One thing I liked about Siquijor is that you’ll never run out of things to do in this tiny island.
You can be jumping off of cliffs in the morning and in the afternoon you can find yourself enjoying a fish spa next to a 400-year-old Balete tree.
There is even a quick highway stop wherein you can relieve your fantasy dreams of being a witch on a broomstick (at least only in pictures) You see, It’s stuff like this that makes Siqujor unique and charming in its own way.
WHERE TO EAT
There aren’t any fast food chains or big fancy restaurants in Siqujor, but you’ll be surprised because you’ll never run out of options.
For breakfast, you can try out this famous roadside bakery shop that serves delightful charcoal baked bread and goodies.
Owned and operated by Lilibeth himself, “Lilibeth’s Pan Bisaya” is the best makers of pan de coco, salbaro, ensaymada and pandesal in town! Definitely, a must try!
But if you’re looking for something a little bit fancier yet still has that local feel to it, then Baha Bar is the place to be.
They serve mostly local Filipino food and a couple of drinks, matched with an awesome ambiance of the place. The only drawback is that they’re a bit expensive.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation in Siquijor is relatively cheap, but there aren’t many big hotels or resorts in Siquijor. Hence, I highly suggest that you’d stay at one of the many local “homestays.”
A homestay is a popular form of lodging (much like Airbnb but offline) wherein you live with a local family in their own house and experience authentic Filipino hospitality.
During our 3 days and 2 nights, we stayed at Dapdap sunset grill. It was the cutest house by the beach with friendliest owners.
In my opinion, staying at a homestay in destinations like Siquijor is the best way to immerse yourself and enjoy a beautiful place like Siqujor. (in photo: Estela homestay)
Staying with them, it felt like it was more than a bed, but an experience. (in photo: Estela homestay)
Overall, as you can see there’s certainly no shortage of fun and relaxing stuff for you to do in this scarily beautiful place called Siquijor.
I came here with an open mind and was honestly expecting my experience to be little creeped out, but in the end, I only fell in love with the unspoiled nature and the friendliness of everyone that I met.
It’s really not that hard to not fall in love with a place like this, isn’t it? Plus, there’s nothing really frightening or scary about Siquijor, like what we used to hear in the stories.
For such a tiny Island, Siquijor sure is packed with lots of adventure filled experiences and many more adventures that are waiting to be discovered.
Live an Awesome Life,
NICO of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our stay in tour in Siquijor was courtesy of the Department of Tourism. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.