“SIQUIJOR is the fount of witchcraft in the Philippines.”
Such is how it is known for most of the locals which is mainly attributed to the traditional healing process observed in the island whereby there is heavy use of herbal and medicinal potion. But to be clear, there is no account of life activities of witches in Siquijor. If anything, bewitching for those who have traveled to the place means being captivated by its white sands, fiery sunset, rich marine life and warm people.
In size, Siquijor is small. In fact, it is the third smallest province in the Philippines. A greater part of it is hilly and mountainous, particularly at its center. It is divided into six towns:
- Siquijor, the provincial capital which receives most of the tourists via the main seaport and the only airport in the island;
- Larena, where you can find the second seaport and few of the best diving sites;
- Enrique Villanueva, which nestles an abundance of mangrove trees along its coastline that are now a protected natural habitat;
- Maria, which brags of Salogdoong beach and its cliff-diving adventure;
- Lazi, the southernmost town which takes pride of the old baroque San Isidro Labrador church;
- and San Juan, which has a relatively flat coastal plain that holds a lineup of white sand beaches.
The main trade of the island is agriculture, although the recent years have seen a rapid growth in tourism which is slowly becoming a major source of income for locals. Despite its growth in economy, the island remains laid back and purely out of touch for any signs of urban life -there is no shopping mall or any big establishment, except for high-end resorts. The main mode of transportation is tricycle, which becomes limited at night when streets are mostly empty.
QUICK FACTS & TIPS ABOUT SIQUIJOR
- The image of Siquijor being a place of witchcraft and sorcery stretches as far back as the Spanish era. It was believed that the Spaniards had learned the process of traditional healing and had since dubbed the place as the “Island of Witches.” In an effort to counter this belief, the local government holds a Healing festival every Holy Week where faith healers and herbalists showcase in public the process of traditional healing: from gathering, preparing and brewing of medicinal potions indigenous to the island.
- Apart from being dubbed as the “Island of Witches”, the Spaniards also called Siquijor as Isla del Fuego or “Island of Fire” because of the eerie glow it gave off from the great swarms of fireflies that gathered around the numerous molave trees at their first sight of the island.
- Even today, fireflies are omnipresent in Siquijor especially at the mountainous areas at night.
- Public transport in the island is limited, and goes to almost zero availability at night. The main modes of transit are public tricycle and motorcycle which are used for travel within or from one town to another. Fare for short distances or within the town is P8 while going to another depends on the town, with fare ranging from P20-40. Jeepneys are also available but run between Siquijor town and Larena only.
- Except for its principal towns, there is not much place to eat in Siquijor. It is recommended that you slip some food items while going on a tour.
- For cellular network, Globe and Touch Mobile have a strong signal while Smart works around 1-2 signal bars only for most of the places.
HOW TO GET TO SIQUIJOR
Siquijor is pretty much off-the-beaten path because of its poor accessibility. It has an airport but is exclusive for Airjuan, a seaplane operating service that takes direct flight from Cebu.
Most travelers go by ferry from these destinations:
- Iligan City
- Tagbilaran City of Bohol
Click here for the shipping lines and schedule.
If you are coming from Dumaguete (where most tourists depart by ferry), the seaport is near boulevard where you can buy tickets for most shipping lines, except for Oceanjet which has a ticket booth few steps outside the seaport. (Your tricycle driver should know the location of the ticket booth.) Travel time takes for about an hour and a half for all shipping lines, except OceanJet which takes for about 30-45 minutes only but with a ticket fee of P250. OceanJet schedule: 7:00AM, 9:30AM and 1:00PM only.
TOP ATTRACTIONS IN SIQUIJOR
There is a lot to explore in the island if you are more of the sight-seeing side of travelling. But if you only have a limited time, perhaps a full day, I’d rather that you enjoy the beaches and sunset at San Juan area (its an array of public and private beaches and the finest ones in the island), than going for a day tour through its hilly and mountainous terrain which is naturally time consuming. Siquijor, at San Juan or from its seaport at Siquijor (town) have the best view for sunset.
If you insist going on a tour, here are the top attractions that you can cover for a day or two. The attractions are arranged by its town.
St.Francis of Asisi church
San Isidro Labrador church
Mt.Bandilaan Nature Park
Enchanted Balete tree
Capilay Spring Park
MUST-TRY ACTIVITIES IN SIQUIJOR
- Sunset viewing! I have been to a lot of destinations in the Philippines, and Siquijor (apart from Boracay and Manila Bay) is one that gives off the best sunset especially during February.
- Beach bumming. What’s good about Siquijor is that its beaches are chiefly pristine, free from admission fees and are zero-to-less crowd, except for Coco Grove. Check out this link for the list of beaches in the island.
- Scuba diving. The entire island was declared a marine reserve in 1978 and has one of the richest and underdeveloped marine sanctuaries in the country. Some of the notable diving spots feature a Japanese ship sunk by American forces in 1945, an underwater cavern and cathedral, apart from the beautiful coral patches and an abundant marine life. Here are some of the dive sites.
- Fireflies viewing. It’s arguably what started Siquijor’s tale of mysticism. Catch a glimpse of these fireflies at the highlands at night in Kamp Aninipot while camping out. Contact them at +63 0975 626 9710, +63 975 626 9710, +63 975 621 7225 or visit their website. Kamp Aninipot also features hobbit-inspired houses that are lined up on a hill overlooking Siquijor town and San Juan.
- Cliff jumping at Salagdoong beach. The adrenaline rush it gives made it one of the early favorites in the list of attractions in the island. Plunge deep from a 20-feet or the other 35-feet high cliff and re-emerge victorious on your i-did-it triumphant smile!
- Rope swinging! Either at Cambugahay falls in the town of Lazi or at any beach resort in San Juan area, this activity is fun-filled and free of charge!
- Fish spa underneath the shades of the enchanted Balete tree for only P10.
SIQUIJOR SAMPLE ITINERARY
In getting around Siquijor, the wiser option is to go by a tour package since the attractions are far from each other (except for the beaches in San Juan). Luckily, most resorts offer a tour which can be arranged prior. If you haven’t, as soon as you disembark at the Siquijor port, a tour arrangement will be offered to you by tourism accredited operators. (Be wary of those that are non-accredited.) You can go for an island tour, a mountain tour or a combination with the following suggested rates: (You can choose among the list of top attractions cited above.)
- Island tour– P1,000.00
- Mountain tour – P1,200.00
- Coastal Tour – P2,500.00
- Mountain Tour – P3,000.00
- coastal/mountain tour – P3,500.00
If you want to do it yourself (DIY), grab a motorbike and have the sample itinerary below as your guide:
Total expenses: P2,000+ (assumes a party of one and includes lunch for 2 days and motorbike rental)
|Siquijor Church (St. Francis de Asisi)||8:00AM|
|Lazi Church & Convent (San Isidro Labrador)||9:00AM|
|Salagdoong Beach and Cliff Diving adventure||10:30AM||P75|
|Capilay Spring Park||1:00PM|
|Coco Grove resort (day use)||P200|
|Tubod beach (marine sanctuary)|
|Sunset at Paliton or Coral Cay beach||5:00PM|
You can sneak in a scuba diving activity in the afternoon, but if you plan to leave for the day, make sure to drop by at the seaport first to buy a ticket.
Best places to go for lunch:
- Big Belly Burger and Restaurant +63 917 21 6608, 022 802 8858 | Price range: P88-P120 per order | located at Siquijor town
- Das Traum Restaurant +63 955 295 2684 | Price range: P20-P75 per order | located at Siquijor town
- Baha Bar +63 998 548 8784 | located at San Juan
Motorbike rental (located near Siquijor seaport). Price ranges from P250-400.
- PLS Motorbike +63 975 314 2903, +63 919 526 7801
- GreenMonkey +63 917 954 4960
- Braap Rent-a-bike +63 936 355 5469
- Ding +63 955 706 2459 (Motorbike tour only, good for 2 persons)
- Biduk +63 997 106 0895 (Motorbike tour only, good for 2 persons)
- Dennis Caspes +63 0947 789-8337, +63 936 110 7863
- Joam Camingao +63 927 693 2095
WHERE TO STAY IN SIQUIJOR
The best accommodation in the island can be found at San Juan area, if you want to enjoy the beach. For more options, see the list below:
TORI’s BACKPACKERS (where I stayed)
Maite, San Juan
+63 907 132 6666
JJ’s BACKPACKERS VILLAGE
Solangon, San Juan, Siquijor
+63 918 670 0310
DAS TRAUM GUESTHAUS
Pangi, Siquijor, Siquijor
+63 955 295 2684, +63 917 429 0299
For glamping (glamorous camping) experience:
San Juan, Siquijor
+63 908 531 9763
+63 0975 626 9710, +63 975 626 9710, +63 975 621 7225 or visit their website.
with camping ground
Others (mix of mid-range and high-end resorts):
CORAL CAY RESORT
Solangon, San Juan,
+63 919 269 1269, +63 977 814 3972, +63 915 450 2902
with scuba diving service
HARD ROCK COTTAGE
Bita-ug, Enrique Villanueva
With motorcycle and mini-van rental
CASA DE PLAYA BEACH & RESTAURANT
Sandugan Beach, Larena
+63 928 309 3737
ISLANDERS PARADISE BEACH
+63 919 590 7516, +63 918 332 0906
Candaping B, Maria, Siquijor
+63 919 338 3362, +63 921 7598120, +63 919 256 7256
COCO GROVE BEACH RESORT
Tubod, San Juan, Siquijor
+63 939 915 5123
with scuba diving, island tour and hopping services
Siquijor Circumferential Road, Siquijor
+63 912 209 5781
English to Cebuano (the main language in the island)
Good morning – Maayong buntag
Good afternoon – Maayong hapon
Good evening – Maayong gabii
Thank you – Salamat
Where is… – Asa ang…
How much – Tagpila
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