In central part of the Philippines there is an Island of Fire.
No, no, there is no fire in there. There were Spaniards, who discovered it in 16th century, gave the old poetic name of today’s Siquijor. Why?
The island is still famous from its Mangrove forest. Today it is strictly protected and located in the north and north-east side of Siqujor only, but centuries back Mangrove forest surrounded the island as well as Molave trees were covering its hills and they were full of fireflies. Spaniards sailing by during the night just saw an eerie glow from the mountains and the shore, giving impression like it was fire, and called this place Isla del Fuego (Island of Fire).
It seems they also invented the island’s current name. According to the local legend, when Spaniards discovered the island, its king Kihod welcomed them and introduced himself in local language “Si Kihod” (I am Kihod). Newcomers were convinced he was talking about the island and started calling it “Sikihod” or actually “Siquijor”, which was much easier to pronounce.
There are much more legends about how Siquijor appeared for the first time, how it was called, who were its habitants etc. The truth is all these stories are mysterious like the whole Siquijor is mysterious to this day. For ages the island was famous as the centre of mysticism. From voodoo to witchcraft – all the stories made many locals afraid of it and even today some avoids travelling here.
And you know what? All these concerns are totally unfounded. When asking locals why they live on Siquijor, they always answer “because it’s beautiful and we love it”. When asking foreigners, especially those living longer on the island, why they are here, they always answer… Because it’s beautiful and we love it!
So, Siquijor is just perfect destination for everybody and year after year offers more for tourists. It is situated close to Negros and Cebu islands and is surrounded by usually calm sea.
The climate supports tourism the whole year. Dry season is obviously best time to visit this part of the world and best months would be December to May. However so called “wet season” is usually quite pleasant time, too, although more humid and windy, especially on September or October. The warmest month is April and the coolest September, but temperature on Siquijor island is usually high, 27.8 Celsius degrees on average. Average humidity of 78% makes it typically tropical.
Siquijor is well connected to Dumaguete with its well operating airport. Many ferryboats operate between Dumaguete and Siquijor daily and the journey takes only 40 minutes by fastest boat. The island has also small airport with regular, few times per week, connections with Cebu. Travelling around the island is very easy either by your own on rented scoter or by tricycle, or by bigger van with one of tour operators.
And what is so amazing about Siquijor? The answer is not obvious at all, and when you come, you will definitely notice there is something special and unnamed on top of all the beauty around and island’s attractions. Maybe it is because of these famous myths about magic and mysticism, which bring that pleasant feeling? Who knows…
Definitely there are beautiful white sand beaches around the island, like Paliton Beach, Kagusuan, Solangon or Salangdoong. These are the most popular ones but if you ask local guide, he may take you to the hidden places as well. Many of the beaches have direct access to stunning coral reefs, which are perfect for snorkelling. It is not coincidence Siquijor becomes more and more popular among scuba divers – there are 800 square kilometres of coral reefs around, which make it great spot for both divers and snorkelers. There are several marine sanctuaries around the island and the most popular are definitely Tulapos or Tubod.
A lot of tourists take direction towards San Juan. That is the most touristy place on Siquijor, especially for water sports and water activities amateurs. Except diving or snorkelling, very exciting way to admire underwater world could be subwing. Simply try to glide underwater like a dolphin!
Those who prefer other activities may decide on amazing bicycle adventure from top of the highest mountain on the island – Mount Bandilaan. Routes of varying difficulty can please anybody, as they were drawn through the most breath-taking areas with excellent views.
Siquijor has also several picturesque waterfalls. Cambugahay fall is the most famous and most frequently visited, but do not miss Cabugasayan or Lugnason. These are smaller, but less crowded and therefore more pleasant.
For explorers, who are not afraid of mud or underground water, Siquijor has its caves in offer. Cantabon cave is known as one of the most beautiful and adventurous caves in the Philippines. The other one – Tulawog cave is simply hidden treasure full of karst formations and limestone cascades. These are only examples, but there are much more caves which will definitely satisfy all amateur explorers.
Butterfly Sanctuary with lots of interesting species is a small, hidden eco-place run by real passionate, who can share dozens facts about butterflies and moths you wouldn’t expect.
Eco-lovers may enjoy visiting virgin coconut oil factory near Maria, where fresh coconut oil is pressed and sold. Interesting fact is that each part of coconut is used there to produce something valuable. Bags or purses made from coconut shells may be perfect gifts from Siquijor.
Mangrove forest sanctuaries are also one of the must-see spots. Walking in between the trees by wooden walkaways can leave anybody with unmemorable experience. In Guiwanon Spring Park you can rent simple tree house and stay overnight. That is excellent way to watch fireflies, which, ages ago, made Spaniards think the island was burning.
For architecture lovers, especially sacral one, there is also something interesting. Hundreds years ago Spaniards built few churches on the island. The most impressive one, Saint Isidore in Lazi was recently nominated as UNESCO heritage site. It is located in immediate vicinity of Lazi Convent, which was the largest convent in the archipelago.
Last but not least it is worth to visit one of the local healers and find out where that long-time reputation as a place of magic and sorcery comes from. You will be positively surprised!
Each year during Holy Week the famous Healing Festival takes place on the top of Mount Bandilaan. That time is the best time to meet all the healers (called “shamans”) living on the island and try the special herb mixtures they cook according to the formulas passed from generation to generation.
Siquijor can simply enchant anyone with its offer. Also people living there, who are really friendly, usually welcome you as part of their own family. All of these will make your holidays an unforgettable experience.