Siquijor: The Mystical Island
January 1, 1970
by Jhanz V. Gimotea
Isla Del Fuego Adventure
Amongst the 7,107 islands of the Philippine archipelago, no island can match the reputation of the mysticity of the island of Siquijor. It was discovered by Spaniards in 1565 and because of it’s eerie glow from afar, it was named as “Isla del Fuego” which means “Island of Fire”. But this charming little island which is the third smallest province in the Philippines is in fact more than just that. It has a much talked about folklore of witchcraft but has an equally deep rooted religious history of Christianity brought by the Spanish conquistadores. The peculiarity and uniqueness of the island made it as one of the most controversial tourist destination, even locally. You can buy souvenirs like love potions and voodoo dolls. The island is very popular for quack doctors and faith healers who worships the spirits and often holds some ceremonial rituals during holy week as they believed their powers are magnified during the time of the lenten season.
In Siquijor, majority of the landmarks are century old churches like the St Francis near the ferry port the moment you set foot on the island. But still, inspite of the controversial reputation of the island, nothing beats the aquamarine water and pristine white beaches that surrounds the whole island which you can actually tour around for less than 3 hours.
Trip to Dumaguete City
From Bacolod City, we traveled to Siquijor Island via Dumaguete. We stayed for one night in a famous hostel, Harold’s Mansion. For hotel accommodations, I recommend Harold’s Mansion as most backpackers stay there from all over the world. They also book tours to Dauin and Apo Island reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving. Their price is suitable for backpackers and it comes free with a sumptious breakfast at the roof deck where there is also a pool table where you can play and socialize with other hotel guests. Dumaguete is the capital of Negros Oriental and is 215 kilometers away from Bacolod which is also the capital city of Negros Oriental. The travel time is around 5 hours riding a van. Many backpackers flock this small city because it is a strategic tourist jump – off site to so many islands in the Philippines like Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Apo Island, Cagayan De Oro, Tagbilaran and a lot more which boasts of beautiful white sand beaches and coral reefs. Dumaguete is tourist friendly as it has plenty of cheap hotels, affordable restaurants and a decent night life. In the Dumaguete boulevard, there are rows of hotels, restos and bars where travelers can dine and relax to their hearts content. For desserts, Sans Rival is a popular home grown cafe which has delicious cakes and pastries. Visitors always buy Sylvannas for take out to bring home as presents to their families.
We ate roasted whole chicken at the Hacienda Sr. Pedro, an equally popular restaurant near one of the most historical places in the city called the Belfry Stone Tower which was an ancient lookout for Moro invaders which according to history, saved the city from the usurpers. We also experienced the night life in Hayahay, a strip of bars named after a local term which means relaxation. There was a live band and a couple of restaurants and bars. We went home around 1am and quickly went to bed to be able to sleep for a few hours before going to Siquijor.
We woke up around 5am and ate our breakfast as quickly as we can. We proceeded to the Dumaguete port and paid for a ticket bound for Siquijor. It was a one hour ferry ride at 160php. When we arrived at the port, I approached one of the local transport rentals and befriended a driver named “Toto” and arranged for a day tour to the whole island. The price for the whole multi-cab is 1800php. We headed out to the first stop which is the St. Francis Church, a few meters away from the port. There is a garden at the right side of the church with a big message, “Welcome to Siquijor”. We also went to the ruins of San Isidro Convent and from across the street, we visited the San Isidro Church. The next stop is the most relaxing of all. We enjoyed the foot spa on a pool at the foot of a century old Balete tree.
The Century – Old Balete Tree Fish Spa
If you have not yet experienced this, I recommend you should give it a try. The entrance fee is just 5php and it is so worth it. But for those who are vey sensitive and is prone to being very ticklish, this is not for you. Fish spa treatments were originally for the treatment of psoriasis which was not really proven effective. The fishes are called doctor fishes and they nibble through the dead skin looking for food. You have to really contain yourself and avoid giggling as movements disrupt the fishes from getting in contact with your skin. Other people who believes in alternative medicine thinks that the nibbles he doctor fish makes improves the blood circulation coming from or feet and can improve our health. You can opt to order coffee or chat with people beside you and even take selfies to capture the fun and the experience.
After which, we headed to the Cambugahay falls, where we went on unlimited Tarzan swings and taking a lot of videos and pictures of our stunts. To go to the falls, you need to go down more than a hundred steps and there you will see two cascades on top of each other. We went up to the first one and we can see a lot of people having fun swinging on a rope before letting go to hit the water. There are those who are just swimming around feeling the fresh water as they wade and cool themselves in the clear spring water. My group went for several Tarzan swings before declaring they had enough and decided they are starting to get hungry and needs to proceed to our next destination where we can start cooking our purchased meat and fish. We travelled for about 20 minutes through a road thickly covered with a canopy of trees, you cannot determine it is high noon as the sun can barely penetrate through the leaves.
Salagdoong Beach Resort
When someone talks about Siquijor, the first place that comes to mind is this resort. It is owned by the province of Siquijor and they are in charge of the upkeep. There we brought our marinated pork and fish and started grilling them for lunch while others are already gearing for their cliff jumps as this resort is famous for it’s 20 feet and 40 feet jumps which is usually a part of every visitor’s bucket list. It needs to be high tide though before you can jump or there might be a tendency you will hurt yourself. They also have a private restaurant inside although I would not recommend it for the bad customer service. You have to pay for a deposit for having your food brought to a hut a few feet away and worst, they refuse to deliver it there and you have to pick it up yourself.
Overall, the resort staff is very accommodating which does not include the private restaurant. They even helped us in grilling our food and lent us their cooking utensils come night time when the private restaurant closed down early because of the festival in the island which left us and some visitors with nothing to eat, isolated from the market and other restaurants . Everything ended well as it gave us an opportunity to get to know the other tourists staying in the resort as we shared our food, boodle fight style. Afterwards, the other group played really good chill music, so we were able to socialize and drink a little before we retired for the day.
The next morning, we woke up very early to catch an early ferry trip back to Dumaguete We made a quick stopover to Sans Rival Bistrofor lunch and bought some sylvannas to take home with us. We ordered the delicious Callos and shrimp gambas. Overall, it was an amazing experience filled with a lot of thrill seeking adventures. It is truly a perfect getaway with a touch of city life, white sand beaches and freshwater falls.