Siquijor Island bears the stigma of being a place of magic and strange traditions. But instead of trying to change such a reputation, its people embrace it, using frightening tales to add to the island’s unique charm.
When non-residents hear the word Siquijor, their common reaction is that of fear and repulsion. The frightening tales concerning the island are apparently so intense that the mere mention of the place sends chills down to their spines. They believe that Siquijor is a land of ghosts, witches, and sorcerers. And when they know someone is going for a tour of the island, they bombard this person with a lot of warnings, like:
“If someone gives you a gift, don’t accept it.”
“Don’t spit anywhere on the island.”
“Beware of anyone patting you.”
“Don’t look straight into the eyes of a Siquijorian.”
But the irony of it all is that the people who dread Siquijor Island have never actually visited the place. Most often than not, they have just heard the scary stories as gossip.
And although this stigma has profoundly wounded their feelings, residents of Siquijor do not attempt to change such convictions. After all, it would take a very long time, or even a lifetime, to dispel the false beliefs that have been deeply embedded in closed-minded individuals. Instead, Siquijorians just laugh off the issue and embrace it as part of their unique charm.
Siquijor Island is the third smallest province in the Philippines after Batanes and Camiguin, respectively. It is located in the Central Visayas region, lying southeast of Cebu and Negros Islands, and southwest of Bohol.
Since its discovery in 1565 by the Spaniards, or perhaps even before that, Siquijor has been associated with mystic traditions and magic. When they first sighted the place, the Spaniards called it “Isla del Fuego” (which literally means “Island of Fire”) because of the eerie glow coming from the great swarms of fireflies that gathered on the abundant molave trees on the island.
Siquijor Island’s natural beauty
The stigma that has kept other people from coming to Siquijor has somehow brought a positive effect on the island’s natural beauty. Had it not for the positive testimonies from foreign tourists and other Filipinos who dared visit the place despite admonitions, Siquijor’s “jewels” would have been exclusively for Siquijorians alone to enjoy and cherish.
Non-Siquijorians and foreigners who dared go to Siquijor have discovered some important realities that have helped banish their misconceptions about the island, especially when they experienced these things first hand.
The locals are friendly and welcoming. Actually, just by listening to the tone of their voice when they speak, you will feel their gentleness and caring attitudes. As with the rest of Filipinos, Siquijorians are always generous with their smiles. They are honest and always ready to tour you around the island and show off their natural treasures. And they have a lot to offer.
The entire island is surrounded by sandy white beaches and pristine waters. Some of these beaches have already been developed to promote tourism, while many others are still left unspoiled. Anywhere you go, you’ll be tempted to swim or just sit around and admire the sunset - if you happen to be in the western part of the island at dusk. Or, if you stay on the eastern side and rise very early in the morning, you’ll catch the sun gently rising from the horizon.
You do not have to worry about where to stay for the night when in Siquijor Island, either. There are homestays and luxury resorts available in many places.
Mount Bandilaan National Park
This park and reserve is home to many attractions, including:
● indigenous flora and fauna
● endangered Philippine trees
● the Bandilaan Butterfly Range and Breeding Farm
● several caves
● five natural springs
● a shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes
● Stations of the Cross
Bandilaan Butterfly Farm
The 1,460-square metre Bandilaan Butterfly Farm is a world-class breeding facility of about 102 local and foreign butterfly species and moths.
Of the 45 caves in Siquijor Island, Cantabon is most popular. This approximately 300-metre long and 10-metre wide cave is known for its marvelous gem-like stalagmites and stalactites that glow in the dark. Its natural rock formations are equally awesome.
Capilay Spring Park
This free-flowing spring in the southwest coast of Siquijor Island flows right through the town plaza. Residents had to build a concrete barrier around it to contain the water into a swimming pool-like structure. The upper chamber of the pool from where the spring comes has become an instant natural “fish spa”. If you submerge your feet in the water, several small fish will nibble on your feet’s dead skin. A lot of tourists keep coming back to this place for this special spa session with the fish. Many artists, too, come to the park to sketch and paint the picturesque view of Capilay Spring Park, and the sunset.
Siquijor Island is home to some centuries-old churches, among which is the Baroque-style St. Isidore (San Isidro Labrador) Church and Convent. Located on the southern edge of the island the structures are reminiscent of the Spanish settlement on the island. The church was constructed in 1857; while the convent, one of the oldest in the Philippines and largest in the Asian region, was erected in 1887.
For a place that has been tainted by the stigma of sorcery, you would think that cases of murder and violence are a common scenario. But the truth is that Siquijor Island has a zero crime rate, and the locals live peacefully.
An increasing number of foreign tourists have been coming to Siquijor Island unperturbed by the negative stories. They make up a significant percentage that contributes to the booming tourism industry there.
It’s either you visit the island to satisfy your curiosity and learn about the mystery surrounding it (and discover Siquijor’s beauty in the process); or remain in your belief that it is home to sorcery, and miss out on the beautiful aspects of the island. The choice is yours!