Siquijor (pronounced See-kee-hor), is an island province in Central Visayas (the third smallest province in the Philippines) that lies southeast from Cebu and Negros and southwest from Bohol. It’s tagged as a mystical island. It has a reputation as a place of magic and sorcery that either attracts visitors or keeps them away. It was discovered in expedition in 1565 and was known to the Spaniard as Isla de Fuego or “Island of Fire”. That was because the island gave off an eerie glow. This glow came from the great swarms of fireflies that harbored in the numerous molave trees which forested most of the island.
It took us about two hours of calm ride with Ocean Jet Ferry from Tagbilaran (Bohol) via Dumaguete (Negros – exit port to Siquijor) to reach the Island of Siquijor.
We were mesmerized when we finally set our feet on the island of Siquijor.
There the jeepney to the Coco Grove Beach Resort already waited for us.
The clear water from the port, the naturally peaceful place and the warm people – what’s not to like about this place.
After traveling for less than half an hour from the port, we had finally reached the Coco Grove Beach Resort (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g664445-d650741-r296807542-Coco_Grove_Beach_Resort-Siquijor_Island_Visayas.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT ) in the town of San Juan. The resort is situated few meters away from the main road and on one of the nicest beaches on the island.
After coming from secluded Anda province in Bohol the sheer size of the resort was almost overwhelming . Since this was so called green season we had the feeling of being almost alone in the entire resort. This was really great because the kids could enjoy the pools and the beach as long as they wanted.
The Island of Siquijor can be toured around in one day since the circumference of the island is only about 80 kilometers. But one day isn’t enough to squeeze in all of the beautiful attractions that can be visited in the island. It’s easy to get around (it has one road that runs in a circle around it), that’s why we rented two scooters (not at the resort but at the shop in front of it, because it was much cheaper) so we could see and experience as much as we could on our own.We were a bit worried about Nia ridding the bike with us since the last time she did it, she was still in a baby carrier in front of Tina. But we had no problems. After few minutes on the bike, she fall asleep. No worries about Svit and Edita since they were experienced pair already.
Here is what we have seen on Siquijor:
The Old Enchanted Balete Tree:
This old balete tree is located at Barangay Camapalanas in the town of Lazi. It took us about half an hour to reach the spot coming from San Juan. As almost everything else on Siquijor this tree also has its own legend, since it’s known as home of the spirits. There’s also a myth that white ladies are said to appear near the tree. It is said to be the oldest and largest balete tree in the whole of Philippines. It is believed that this tree is already 400 years old. What the kids liked about this place is there’s also a waterway which is situated fronting the balete tree that is filled with numerous fishes. You can relax with your friends or family after a long tour around the island with a free fish spa below the tree. There is no fee for this but a donation box is placed beside to help maintain the place.
Constructed by the Spaniards in 1884, the Lazi convent is assumed to be the biggest and the oldest in Asia. It is also believed to have been the vacation house for the Diocese’s priest at that time the church has two pulpits, the original retables, and wood floors with herringbone pattern. The church walls are approximately a meter thick; the walls are reinforced with log post which is embedded in the wall. The façade is veneered with coral stone, while the rest is made of fill. The pediments of the church are made of wood panels.
Cambugahay Falls are located 2km north of the town of Lazi. The falls is one the famous attractions in the island. The falls consists of streaming multi-tiered waterfalls, with fresh and clean warm water running off from natural springs, watersheds and small rain forests of the higher mountains.
A parking fee of PHP 10 per motorbike has to be paid when visiting the waterfalls.
The waterfalls are situated 135 steps down from the main road. Don’t worry about the steps as the long way down gives you a reward at the end – a nice scenery of the waterfalls as well as it tempting warm lagoon.
It was really hot and humid and I would have joined them in a second if Nia would agree to stay with her mom… But as it turned out later, the whole Philippines trip was her daddy phase which meant that she was literally glued on me. Yes, yes, I know…in a couple of years I would probably be ready to pay her for such attention 🙂
Salagdoong Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Siquijor. The beach is located just a couple of minutes ride from the town of Maria and it took us more or less half hour to reach it from Lazi town.
There’s an entrance fee of PHP 25 per person to enter the premises. There’s a hotel and restaurant inside as well as pool area with the pool that didn’t not see any water in it for quite some time.
Despite of being a public beach, managed by the Government, Salagdoong beach remains to be clean and well maintained. Our thought was only that they over did it whit concrete slides. And also the cliff smells like urine. We were surprised that despite this resort is already a developed property, the beach is still somewhat pristine. The sand is white and the water is clear with its color shade changing from blue to turquoise.
Since the old times people believed that the Island of Siquijor is mystical because of the presence of the folk healers and their practices of spiritualism. Up to these days people, not only in the Philippines but other nationalities around the globe, still come to witness the preparation of the brews and potions, no matter what their believes about white or black magic are.
One of the many healing rituals performed on Siquijor is that of bolo-bolo. It is performed with the use of a drinking glass, water, stone and straw.
Siquijor has a history of being shrouded in sorcery, magic, healing and mystery. Some research I found highlighted the sorcery and the mananambals, the traditional healers. Other research I found discussed white magic and black magic. And still yet other research talked about people coming from all parts of the world to gain access to plants and herbs that are grown only in that area.
Since we were here of course we had to try. We’ve arranged the meeting with the healer, who is a carpenter by profession.
But since bolo- bolo healing is a gift, the person performing it can never refuse the request to do it no matter what he’s doing at that moment. We were driven to the healers place and when we arrived he stopped doing his carpenter job and started the ritual on us. The guide explained us the procedure and so it began. Tina, Edita and I did it while Svit and Nia just watched it with full attention.
The healer drops a black stone into a glass, the stone allegedly having been acquired through some sort of magic. Then the healer half fills the glass with water. Using a wooden straw the healer then blows bubbles into the water, whilst holding the glass against the patient in the area affected by the disease. Gradually the water will become brown, murky or even blackish. Sometimes small stones, shrubs, bones or other material will appear in the water as the healer keeps blowing bubbles. This procedure is repeated a until the water no longer become tainted when the healer blows, by which time the patient is supposedly cured. Skeptics may of course speculate the healer slowly regurgitate or spit material through the straw, but in a world with too many shopping malls and not enough magic such thoughts are perhaps just dull. Regardless, whether you believe in bolo-bolo or not, the mysticism of it and many other arcane practices is one of the things that define Siquijor.
They usually don’t require or request any payment from the clients, although most people give a donation of some kind. Bolo-bolo doesn’t work for more serious forms of illness such as cancer and healer will tell people if he cannot help them. But for conditions such as various pains, skin ailments or even some digestive issues, there are clients who claim this healing method has worked for them.
Most people on the island will go to Cebu or larger cities to get medical help for serious medical conditions. But having access to the bolo-bolo healer for other health issues really is beneficial to them given their limitations of funds and medical care facilities.
Above all, the main assets of Siquijor Island is the peacefulness of life, their friendly smiling people waiving at you as you drive by, and their genuine hospitality that make every visitors stay delightful and unforgettable. The natural beauty of the island provides special touch that makes Siquijor uniqueness far different from the country’s tourist destination…
Well, if you’re tired of the all-time crowded Boracay or Panglao, this is the exact opposite of it. Quiet, less tourist, less night life, an island that truly defines SIMPLICITY. Also a very good spot for snorkeling, diving, exploring amazing corals and more.
This turned out as one of the most amazing trip that will never forget. We’ll always remember this beautiful island!
The only downfall was that we couldn’t get to Apo Island which is famous for diving and giant turtles you can swim with. But sadly the boat that operated that route broke down one day before we were scheduled to go. Maybe next time:)