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It’s a mans paradise and a couples enchanted retreat. It’s one of those places you must visit at least once in a lifetime. It may not be cheap but it is well worth the expense. And hey, if you have a good credit score take out a quick loan and just go.
For most Filipinos, Siquijor is a mysterious world of witchcraft and the unknown. Until 2016, most employers who are knowledgeable of the voodoo (or kulam) treat house helpers who came from the island pretty well. Tourism has done much to bring progress of this island.
The island province is the third smallest province measuring only133 sq. mi/344 sq km. with its capital also having the same name. Located in the Central Visayas region, Siquijor is around 30 km southeast of Negros, south of Cebu, and southwest of Bohol; separated by the Mindanao Sea from the northern coast of Mindanao. Today, Siquijor is one of Philippine’s favorite destinations.
Spanish colonizers called the island Isla del Fuego translated as “Island of Fire,” because at night the island at night gave an eerie glow. The fire is actually the light emanating from the great swarms of fireflies that made the numerous molave trees on the island their homes. The trees were so immense that at night thousands of fireflies would cluster on the trees. It was during the 1565 expedition of Miguel López de Legaspi that the conquistadores discovered the island. Since then, the island was under Spain so the people were Christianized. Today; the people are almost 100% Catholics.
The beautiful island
The many attractions of Siquijor are its beaches, caves, waterfalls, Natural Park and butterfly sanctuary. Along its 102 km coastlines are white and pristine sand beaches, swaying coco palms and azure seas. Like many beaches in the Visayas, you swim only during high tide and must wear flip-flops as protection against sea urchins. Coral reefs surround the island offer the best arena for snorkelers and scuba divers. For the newbie, dive courses are conducted by several dive operators. You can eliminate those extra pounds by trekking and hiking through virgin forests and sightseeing trips all over.
Recommended places to visit around the island are:
- Cambugahay Falls
This tiny multi-layered waterfall has cascading sparkling, clean and warm water generated by natural springs, small rainforests, and watersheds. An refreshing swim across warm water is a great experience.
- Cantabon Cave
An underground cave measuring 300 meters long and10 meters wide is a spectacular place to go spelunking and view the awesome stalactites and stalagmites formations. Discovered in 1985, it has become an important part of studies made by geologists.
- Capilay Spring Park
This natural spring was converted into a swimming pool that is open and free for public use.
- Enchanted Balete Tree
The tree is 400 years old and looks eerie due to hundreds of roots and vines hanging down. It also provides water to its residents.
- Guiwanon Spring Park
This is a sanctuary of various marine habitats. This resort has wooden bridges and nipa huts nestling above the ripples of shallow waters that feed the fertile ground of mangroves.
- Bandilaan National Park
Measuring 244 hectare, this man-made forest is a park that offers a breathtaking view of the land below. This is one of the biggest butterfly sanctuaries in Asia. Tourists found this place the best starting point for mountain hiking and trekking adventure.
- Isidro Church and Convent
This is one of the biggest and oldest edifices in the country and declared as a historical landmark by the Philippine Historical Commission.
- Tulapos Marine Sanctuary
This old sanctuary contains species of corals, fish and other underwater life.
Other sites that draw visitors are the following caves of Boljo, Cambasia, Canghunog-hunog, Enrique Villanueva, Maria, San Juan andTagmanocan. You might want to catch a glimpse of San Juan de Capilay Lake.
You will have your days filled with activities as caving, hiking, scuba diving, sightseeing, snorkeling, spelunking, swimming and taking tons of selfies.
The mystique island
The tiny island’s fame for beauty is overtaken by its mystery. Many visitors go to the island to witness the work of mangkukulam or faith healers who steamed their archaic ointments to treat modern ailments. Siquijor Island is reputed to be a place where black magic is regularly practiced.
Here are several names of known mananambals or folk healers who cure maladies, including natural and supernatural. Many are believed to be caused by black magic. A manghihilot is a kind of masseur who can set broken bones. A local midnight is the mananabang. A special magic is used by mambolo-bolo to treat skin ailments and many other medical problems.
Of the 50 types of major sorcery techniques existing in the island, the best-known method is called the barang, the name of a local beetle.
Barang (termed kulam in Tagalog) is a Cebuano term taken to mean all forms of malign magic or sorcery. The perpetrator is called mambabarang who cares for his beetles hidden inside a bottle or bamboo section. They are feed with ginger root. Each time, the practitioner employed his black magic, he performed an incantation whispering directions and pointing out victim to the beetles by using some means as photos, any item owned by victim or parts of the body as nails or hair. The beetles are set free to seek out the victim and enter the body through the anus, ears, mouth, nose or open wounds. The victim becomes ill that cannot be cure by conventional medical treatment and only reveals its true nature when the victim dies and flying insects issue forth from bodily cavities.
Clients of barang are people who wanted vengeance; it could be the wife of an erring husband or one who suffered serious insult or injustice. Most Siquijor Islanders consider the practice of sorcery a sin against their Catholic faith. According to tradition, if the object of barang is innocent, the sorcery is ineffective. Wearing diamonds is one way to ward off the effect of barang. It could also be counteracted when the victim consults the help of another witch doctor. Love potion
Called “lumay” in the Visayas or “gayuma” in Tagalog, love potions are concocted by practitioners. There is a tale of a bachelor who loved a woman who detested him. The man bought a love potion concocted from herbs by a mananambal, the use of which proved highly effective. People were surprised when the woman who rejected the man’s courtship developed a strong affection for the man, so intense that she wept every time they were apart. Unluckily, the magic wore off after they were wed!
If you want to experience Siquijor’s mystical side, ask a local to direct you to a faith healer, as well as shops to purchase amulets, charms, love potions and other concoctions you can give as souvenirs for loved ones at home.
How to get there
There is a daily flight from Manila straight to Dumaguete City airport (SibulanAirport) that is around an hour. Then you can charter a tricycle to take you to Dumaguete Port where several ferry are en route to Siquijor. Travel time is still about an hour.
Where to stay
Although, you can tour the Island for a day and return to Dumaguete City, it is better to book a hotel to make the most of your visit. There are good hotels and beach resorts that welcome tourists. They can even help you in your tour schedule.
These days Siquijor is still one mystique destination but the best reason is not its faith healers or love potions but the cocktail and a deckchair at any number of its laid-back and wonderfully affordable beach resorts. So pack up your bag and go!