BEWITCHED BY THE ISLAND OF FIRE

By Ruth Santos 

Siquijor is the third smallest province in the Philippines but this island packs a punch of sights for tourists. Located in the Central Visayas region, Siquijor is enshrouded with mystical traditions, it is a place of magic and sorcery.

It was said that Siquijor was first dubbed as the Isla del Fuego or Island of fire by the Spaniard because of swarms of fireflies that gave the island a fiery glow. However, according to folklore, there was once a great storm that engulfed the whole of Visayan region, and at the same time a strong earthquake shook the earth and sea. And amidst the lightning and thunder, there arose an island from the depths of the ocean’s womb which became known as the island of Siquijor, the Isla del Fuego, or “Island of Fire”.  To this day, highland farmers have found giant shells when they are tilling their land, continuing the belief that indeed Siquijor rose from the sea’s bosom.

Siquijor is famed for the ‘hush’ presence of its mountain-dwelling mangkukulam (witches) who sings incantations, make spells, brew potions out of herbs, roots, insects and tree barks to heal different ailments. But, the Island of Fire’s most popular healing rituals is found in its natural attractions – beaches, waterfalls, caves, forest walks and many more.  Come and discover the bewitching beauty of Siquijor.

What to see:

Kagusuan beach,  Salagdoong beach, Siquijor beach, and San Juan Beach – Be enthralled with the pristine beach and turquoise waters. The beaches are great for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

Tulapos Marine Sanctuary – 14 hectares of coral reefs, white sand beaches and mangroves. An unspoiled snorkeling spot full of majestic marine flora and fauna.

Cambugahay Falls – a 3-tiered waterfalls draped by lush wilderness perfect for an afternoon dip and Tarzan jump.

Capilay Spring Park – a natural spring park located right at the heart of San Juan town.  A favourite of tourists and locals alike for dining, hanging-out, or swimming.

Cantabon Cave – to venture in, you need to register in the town and hire a local guide.  The cave is full of fascinating stalactite and stalagmite formations, and a small and relaxing pool.

San Isidro Labrador Convent – a National Historical Landmark of the Philippines, it is reputed to be the biggest and one of the oldest convents in the Philippines.  It was constructed by the Spaniards in 1887 and was completed in 1894.

Lazi Covent – declared as a National Historical Landmark, it is the largest convent in the Philippines and Asia, together with the Lazi Church.

St. Francis de Asisi Church – meditate at this century old stone church.  Its high belfry tower served as a watch tower to warn residents from sea raiders.

The Old Balete Tree – The spooky-looking ancient tree is supposedly enchanted.  Covered in hundreds of roots and vines, it is a perfect location for an eerie photo-op

Mt. Bandilaan – At over 1,300 feet high, it is the highest peak in Siquijor, giving a scenic view of the province and neighboring islands.

Mt. Bandilaan Nature Park – a scenic park featuring natural springs, hiking trails, caves, and a butterfly sanctuary.

Guiwanon Spring Park – located at the town of Maria, it is filled with mangrove forests. Delight in the scenic surroundings, savor the fresh air, hang out at the tree houses or dine at the restaurant on stilt.

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www.charismabeachresort.com

Santa Rita de Cascia – clad in black garb with a human skull on one hand and a cross on the other, it is an eerie-looking statue of Santa Rita de Cascia, the miraculous Black Maria and the patroness of all hardships.

Folk Healer – ask a local to direct you to a faith healer. Dubbed as witches of Siquijor, they make their potions out of tree barks, herbs, and roots every Black Saturday. The bolo-bolo is a popular ritual featuring an old lady chanting a prayer and blowing through a stick on a glass of water with a black stone. Some also sells amulets, charms, love potions and other concoctions.

Where to stay:

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www.ustory-siquijor.com

Resorts:
• Casa de la Playa
• Sandugan Beach, Larena, Siquijor 6226
• Charisma Resort
• Chell’s Guesthouse
• Das Weisse Garten Haus
• Coco Grove Beach Resort
• Coral Cay Resort
• Danish Lagoon
• Das Traum Guest Haus
• Diamond De Siquijor
• Dondeezco Beach Club & Resort
• Dumanhog Blue Wave Resort & Restaurant
• Firefly Cove Beach Resort
• Flora’s Dive and Resort
• Hambilica Ecolodge
• Hard Rock Cottages
• Infinity Heights Resort
• Inn The Shade
• Islandia Beach Resort
• Islander’s Paradise Beach & Restaurant
• JohnLhea Beach & Leisure Resort
• Kalachuchi Beach Resort
• Karlsson’s Guesthouses
• Kiwi Dive Resort
• Ming’s Native Guesthouse
• Norwegian Dream Beach Resort
• On The Rocks Cafe and Guest House
• Paraiso Beach Resort
• Princesa Bulakna Resort
• Royal Cliff Resort
• Salagdoong Beach Resort
• Salamangka Beach and Dive Resort
• The Bruce
• Treasure Island
• Villa Marmarine
• Lazi Beach Club
• U-Story
• White Villas Resort

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www.royal-cliff-resort.com

Other Places to Stay:
• The Swiss Stars Guest House and Restaurant
• La Costa Chalet and Café
• C Zars
• Rady’s Pension House
• North Haven Lodge
• Siquijor Guest Room
• Siquijor Lodge and Restaurant
Located in Pulangyuta on the National Highway.
• Webs Legacy Inn
• DECS Beach Cottage

How to get there:

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www.kalachuchi.com

The best way to reach Siquijor is through Dumaguete Port.

From Manila, budget airlines fly daily to Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.  The plane ride is approximately one hour.  From Dumaguete Airport, you can hire a tricycle to take you to Dumaguete Port.

At Dumaguete Port, there are several ferries to choose from that are bound to Siquijor (Delta Fast Craft, JL Shipping Lines, Ocean Jet, Montenegro, or Roro boats). Travel time is approximately 1 hour.

There is an airport in Siquijor town although there are no scheduled commercial flights.  If you have the budget, it is possible to rent a private aircraft to fly you there.

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www.princesabulakna.com

How to get around:

Once you arrive at Siquijor, motorbikes (habal-habal), EZ rides (multi-cab), and tricycles are available. These can also be rented per day.  Rental price are cheaper for longer term.   For motorcycles, make sure that the helmets are included. Before renting, be clear if the fees per day means 24 hours, or just the whole day (8am to 6pm).  Jeepneys also ply the route between the main towns, although infrequently.  Bikes and private vans are also available for hire. It would be wise to ask your accommodation to arrange pick-up from the port.

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