Siquijor is an island province located in the Western Visayas (Region VI) of the Philippines, 977km south of Manila, and bordered by Negros Oriental and Cebu in the southeast and Bohol in the southwest. It is the country’s third smallest province in terms of land area and population.
Whisper the name Siquijor to a Filipino and witchcraft and sorcery immediately come to mind. The mystical and magical island of Siquijor is home to healers, shamans, and witches, making it an interesting place to visit.
Head to San Antonio if you are on a quest for sorcery, witchcraft and magic. San Antonio is a small Siquijor village where elderly men and women, plus other herbalists or “arbularyo” from Visayas and Mindanao come together during the Lenten Season to prepare folk and herbal medicine in a ritual called the “Tang-Alap”. Participants throw barks of trees, roots, herbs, dirt, insects and other “secret ingredients” into a large coconut oil-filled pot to make various medicinal potions. On Black Saturday, the herbalists gather around the pot in a circle, chanting incantations believed to give the brew its power. They believe Black Saturday is also the day when entities and other spirits roaming the earth are open to sharing their magical secrets.
Immaculate white sand beaches are concentrated in San Juan on the province’s west coast, just south of the Siquijor capital.
Salagdoong Beach, about six kilometers northeast of Maria, a municipality situated at the middle of Siquijor’s east coast, has crystal-clear turquoise waters, unique rock formations and miles of shore. A two-kilometer stretch of forest leading to the beach makes this an even more enjoyable journey.
Sandugan Beach in Larena is found on the northeastern coast of Siquijor. More tranquil than the other beaches of the island, Sandugan can be reached by tricycle or jeepney from Siquijor port.
See Mt. Bandilaan, the highest point in the island with a peak of 557 feet, and located in the 244-hectare Mt. Bandilaan national park which was a reforestation project in 1983 and is now home to endemic fauna and flora. Bandilaan’s attractions include the butterfly open range and breeding farm, the different stations of The Way of the Cross along the park’s trail, a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, five natural springs, caves and Camp Bandilaan, which provides a stunning 360-degree view of the province. Ride the local motorcycle called “habal-habal” or rent a jeepney to get to Bandilaan.
For a spot of spelunking, go to Cantabon Cave, located 10km from the town of Siquijor. Cantabon Cave, one of the island’s 45 caves, is a lovely maze of small streams and waterfalls, stalactites and stalagmites. After spelunking for one-and-a-half to three hours, visitors are rewarded with the sight of a pool with refreshing spring water, perfect for a dip. Spelunking fee is P600 (US$125), which covers guide and porter fees and the gas lamps you will use.
Visit Tulapos Fish Sanctuary and Tree House, the biggest marine sanctuary in the northeastern tip of the island province and home to a rich marine life and mangroves. A fee of P25 is charged for the upkeep of the Tulapos Fish Sanctuary.
An interesting stop is Cang-isok House in Enrique Villanueva, a municipality in the upper east coast of the island’s province. It was built in the 1800’s and is the oldest standing house in Siquijor and probably the Visayas region. The “century house” as it is also called was built on stilts along the shores of Barangay Libo, three kilometers from Siquijor town. Made of bamboo, nipa sheets and the Philippine hardwood tugas, Cang-isok is an interesting testament to solid building work, having withstood the elements and rough tropical storms.
The quaint Maria Church on the eastern coast is a good place to visit for local history and local color. Not far from the church is a shrine of Mother Mary, which gives one a panoramic view of Maria’s beautiful seaside. Other churches to visit are the Lazi church and San Isidro Labrador church and convent. San Isidro Labrador church and convent, reputed to be the biggest and among the oldest in the country, has been declared a historical landmark by the Philippine Historical Commission. The San Isidro convent museum fee is P20.
Another interesting stop is Cambugahay Falls, three layers of falls tucked into a forest by a roadside in Barangay Tigbauan in Lazi town.
Where to stay
Coco Grove Beach Resort facing San Juan beach is perfect for snorkelling and introductory dive training. The resort has villas and huts with private toilet and shower. Night time entertainment includes in-house singers belting out popular and classic tunes, and on Fridays and Saturdays, performances by The Siquijor Kultura Dance Troupe and. Rooms from P4,800 per night, +6335 225 5490, +6335 522 1962, +6335 422 9820.
Popular Salagdoong Beach Resort in Olang town in Maria, is a good base to enjoy Salagdoong Beach. For those who want to wake up to a beautiful sunrise on the Salagdoong beachfront in Maria, Hotel Agripino is the way to go. Rooms from P800. Book via the Siquijor Provincial Tourism Office, +6335 344 2088, +6335 480 9173, [email protected]
Lonely-Planet-recommended Coral Cay Resort in Solangon, San Juan prides itself on being eco-friendly. On top of kayaking, diving, mountain biking and other activities, it also offers use of its gym and spa. Rooms from P1,035, +63919 269 1269, +63915 450 2902.
Casa dela Playa located on Sandugan Beach in the municipality of Larena has beachfront cottages. Houses from P1,100, +6335 484 1170, +63917 323 2656.
Islanders Paradise Beach and Restaurant is another Sandugan Beach resort offering cottages from P950. Contact +63918 332 0906.
Read about contributor Elaine Lubag's blog on Siquijor where she shared some of her personal snaps.
Originally published in InFlight Traveller June to July 2008. Updated October 2016