Siquijor Rises as One of the Top Tourist Destinations
The beauty once shrouded by dark tales is now on the tourism map
Decades ago, when non-locals heard the word Siquijor, their initial reaction was that of fear and repulsion. They even dreaded associating with anyone from Siquijor who happens to go to their places. For them, the island is a place of ghosts, and strange traditions. And that the people were sorcerers. That’s why any brave soul who did dare venture into the island was loaded with tons of warnings from their peers, like:
“If someone gives you a gift, don’t accept it.”
“Don’t spit anywhere on the island.”
“Beware of anyone patting you.”
“Don’t look straight into the eyes of a Siquijorian.”
Ironically, the very people who dreaded Siquijor were those who have never set foot on the island. They just heard the rumors handed to them since the time of the Spanish Conquistadores.
Interestingly, though, Siquijorians are the least bothered about the stigma tagged at them. Although they are profoundly hurt by the false accusations, they don’t attempt to change how other people view them. Instead of trying to disprove the rumors, they embrace it. After all, they have nothing to explain to anyone. By doing so, they enjoyed the serenity of their place. A place free from pollution, crime, and stressful city life. For so long, they also have kept the beauty that the island is naturally endowed with.
Getting to know Siquijor Island
Located in the Central Visayas, Siquijor is the third smallest province in the Philippines after Batanes and Camiguin, respectively. It lies southeast of the more known islands of Cebu and Negros.
When the Spaniards first spotted the tiny island in 1565, they called it ‘Isla del Fuego’ (Island of Fire). It was because a great swarm of fireflies over the molave trees on the island projected an eerie glow that the Conquistadores mistook it for fire. And since then, dark tales of black magic spread wildly.
There have been the brave souls from other lands who did venture into Siquijor - perhaps for curiosity’s sake. Curious at how may a “sorcerer’s place” look like?
And were they astounded!
The turquoise waters and unspoiled beaches were among the first sights that surprised them. For they never expected that the “land of sorcerers” could be that beautiful. As they got deeper into the island, the first tourists further found that there were, indeed, so much in the mystical sleeves of Siquijor. Non-Siquijorian Filipinos and foreign tourists discovered important realities that dispelled their misconceptions about the island. They realized that the quiet and peaceful environment make Siquijor the ideal place for those who want to get away from the hurly-burly of city life. They learned first-hand how friendly and welcoming the locals are. And just like the rest of the Filipino people, Siquijorians are genuinely generous with their smile.
Through the word of mouth from these first tourists, many were encouraged to visit Siquijor. Since then, the number of visitors kept on increasing year after year. And finally, Siquijor finds its place on the tourism map.
What Siquijor has to offer
Siquijor may be a small island. But it offers a lot of sites to explore and activities to experience. Whether you go to the established destinations or follow the unbeaten path, be ready to be mesmerized in the island.
Generally, the entire island of Siquijor is surrounded by white sandy beaches. I say generally because there are at least two areas where the beach has turned gray due to the runoff from the old manganese mines. But the waters in these two areas, however, are now clean and clear.
Some of the beaches have been developed for tourism. While many others still remain as they were. Actually, I’d love these places to retain its natural beauty - raw and unspoiled!
Anyway, to name just a handful of the many beaches that Siquijor prides itself on, check these out:
Paliton Beach. Paliton may not have the same powdery white sand as that of Boracay. But, unlike the latter, Paliton is not crowded. [I hope it would remain as it is.] You can even have the whole stretch of the beach to yourself. And it’s a perfect place to view of the sunset.
Coco Grove Beach Resort. This has already created a name for itself in tourism. Many visitors have come and keep on returning to Coco Grove.
Salagdoong Beach. If you count yourself among the brave ones, you can try cliff jumping at Salagdoong Beach. There’s a boulder right on the edge of the beach that offers platforms from where you can jump into the clear aquamarine waters. The highest platform is 35 feet high.
Kagusuan Beach. Kagusuan is one of the unspoiled beaches in Siquijor. Had it not for a tourist who wrote an article in a travel magazine, no outsider would have known this tiny, hidden paradise. Kagusuan is ideal if you’re looking for a place to spend some quiet moments with nature. The beach features some limestone boulders that add to its natural beauty.
If you love watching the underwater life, Siquijor Island offers some marine sanctuaries where you may find endemic species. But you should not expect huge marine life here. Irresponsible fishing habits in the past took its toll on the aquatic resources. The sanctuaries are made to preserve what has survived in the indiscriminate fishing.
There are at least two waterfalls in Siquijor. The Cambugahay Falls and the Lugnason Falls are set amid different and unique landscapes. And each has its own enticing force you can hardly resist.
Another thing that you may enjoy doing on the island is spelunking. Siquijor boasts of 45 caves. If you’re not claustrophobic, go ahead and explore them. One of the more popular caves is the approximately 300-meter long and 10-meter wide Cantabon Cave. This underground chamber is noted for its huge gem-like stalagmites and stalactites that glow in the dark. Its rock formations are also impressive.
Mount Bandilaan National Park
Mount Bandilaan is the highest mountain on the island. In this reserve and park, you get to enjoy varied attractions, like the indigenous fauna and flora, the endemic Philippine trees, the five natural springs, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. Some of the caves are also found on Mount Bandilaan.
Especially on Lenten Season, the Catholic faithful visit the park to perform the Stations of the Cross. Tourists also come to observe the religious custom.
Siquijor Butterfly Sanctuary
Located close to Mount Bandilaan National Park, the Siquijor Butterfly Sanctuary is now a favorite destination for families. The 1,460-square meter sanctuary is a world-class breeding facility. It’s home to about 102 local and foreign butterfly species and moths.
Not only will you admire the beauty of the insects. The hike towards the sanctuary itself is an awesome journey. Spectacular sights accompany you every step of the way. And once you reached the peak of the mountain, you get an unobstructed view of the ocean surrounding the island of Siquijor.
Fish spa massage
A cool spring in Campalanas does not only refresh you. The little swimmers in it will gladly give you a free ‘spa massage’ when you dip your feet in the water. Yes, there are several Garra rufa fish species in the spring that would gently nibble at the dead skin on your feet. At no cost at all!
Siquijor is also home to some centuries-old buildings. Among which are the Baroque-style St. Isidore Church and Convent in the municipality of Lazi. Erected in 1887, the Convent is one of the oldest in the Philippines and the largest in Asia. Both the church and convent are evidence of the Spanish settlement on the island in the past.
Want to know more attractions in Siquijor? Visit the island for yourself and discover the countless treasures in this mystic place.
You don’t have to worry about where to stay in Siquijor. Depending on your budget and preference, you may book a room in any of the beach resorts, homestays, or in backpackers’ lodges. There’s even a new facility called Kamp Aninipot that offers unique accommodation experience.
For a place that had been stigmatized as a land of sorcery, you might think that cases of violence abound. But the truth is that Siquijor Island is noted for its zero crime rate. The locals enjoy a peaceful life here. And tourists - both from abroad and other Philippine regions - keep coming to this island paradise year after year. In fact, the tourism industry here is booming.