The Truth about Siquijor in the Philippines

11:30:00 AM Jerik De Guzman 41 Comments




STORY: Finally making the trip to this island took me three years due to unforeseen circumstances such as impeccable weather forecasts, sudden acceptance of a job, and the impossible myths this province holds. But as they say, if there's a will, there's a way. Before 2010 ended, i was already set on exploring the beautiful province of Siquijor.

On the 26th of December, i flew to Dumaguete in Negros Oriental for my trip to Isla del Fuego, the mystical island of Siquijor. With no expectations nor hesitations, i say "Bring it on, Siquijor!"


Overview

Siquijor is the smallest province of the Philippines. Located in the central Visayan region, Siquijor is south east of Cebu and Negros islands across Cebu straight, and south west of Bohol. The province is predominantly hilly and in many places the hills reach the sea, producing precipitous cliffs. Called Isla del Fuego or the “Island of Fire” by the Spanish, Siquijor is considered by many Filipinos to be a mystical island, full of witches and other supernatural phenomenon.

I have a great fear of the unknown. The reason why i'm heading to Siquijor is because i want to prove everyone wrong.

Getting to Siquijor

I arrived early in the morning on a Sunday, the day after Christmas. I went straight to the ferry port bound for Siquijor town, in the island of Siquijor. Traveling alone and on an island that's been often untouched by local tourists, brings out the fear and excitement in me. Somehow, the feeling grew more. 

I hitched a ride on one of Dumaguete's main mode of transportation, the tricycle, and immediately got to chat with the friendly driver. 

As soon as i arrived at the port, i discovered that the fast craft at 9:30 am was already fully booked of passengers. I was then referred to another shipping company called Montenegro, that will be leaving after about an hour. I bought my ticket which was relatively cheap, and made my way to the ferry to get a seat.


First Impressions

I am the first one to sit there apart from the crew. I started to wander around, and look at all the people coming in. I am assuming they are all Siquijornons, them with their bags and excitement in their eyes for they will be joining their families for the holidays. There were a group of high schoolers from Negros who all may be vacationing in the island, too.

There were a handful of locals with their little ones, and probably one Foreigner who's sweet with his Filipina girlfriend. But after a few minutes, i discovered they all knew each other. I am sensing, a neighbor or a distant relative perhaps. Before i knew it, they were already looking at me. I look like everyone else, but i must have made an impression that I'm not from their hometown. You see, everywhere i go, i always make it a point to blend in. In Visayas, no doubt, i look like a local.

I was there just wandering, and getting a feel of the people. They were speaking in Cebuano which i didn't really understand. I think i made the right choice. 

The ship sailed, and i was bound for Siquijor. The movie that was being played on local TV was Enchanted. I just discovered now that the province boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the country at 92.3 %. It's quite impressive, and I've made a good move helping this go up higher (more on that later). A funny and entertaining movie, that most of the time, i was laughing with everyone else. Times like this, i will never forget. How can life be so complicated?

A few minutes later, and a few puffs of smoke, and we're approaching Siquijor port. From the sea, the island looked like any island in the Philippines. I have been told that as soon as you approach the island, there's a different feeling. I say, Nothing! If i ever have one feeling, it's excitement for i can see how gorgeous the beach is. It will take your breath away.


Siquijor Ferry Port

As soon as the ship docked, i stopped by and uttered "My God, your work is beautiful!" I think this is the most beautiful port i have ever been around the Philippines. Bantayan Island port is also equally beautiful, but here is a different class. It's calm, laid-back, and unbelievably sparkling. And it's right at the port. Under the midday sun, i walked till i got out of the port and near where the tricycle and motorbikes park. A few people approached me, and speaking in Cebuano. Of course, i didn't understand. Instead, i opted for a "habal-habal" and said "Villa Marmarine!" I hitched a ride and paid about a hundred pesos. Turns out, P40 is the standard rate from Siquijor port to Villa Marmarine. It's just P60, c'mon. I was carrying with me a plastic bag of surprises for the angels of Siquijor. My trip here isn't just about playtime, it's also about helping the Siquijornon people.


Villa Marmarine

I stayed in Villa Marmarine, Lonely Planet's Top Pick for best value accommodation in Siquijor. Please watch out for the review on a later post.

I spent the rest of my days, lounging and doing absolutely nothing. When I'm tied up at work, and i need to relax and unwind, i prefer heading to the beach, preferably in Visayas where i am usually at. Lying in the sand and listening to chill-out music, drinking San Miguel Beer, are some of the highlights of the kind of trip i love when it's the beach. 


Siquijor's priced possession are its white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, with absolutely no soul in sight. In the resort where i am staying, i am the only Filipino tourist staying there. And most of the time, i got the quality time i needed so badly. I have this special spot just under the rock formations where i would shade if it's too hot, and lie on my sarong sleeping.


I remembered Max (Villa Marmarine's main guest officer) who was apologetic when i asked what's to do in Siquijor. He said that apart from the island tour, there's not much to see. I told him, "Don't be sorry. Exactly, that's why i am here". 


Witchcraft and Voodoo

Before i left for Siquijor, i have told a few friends of mine where I'm heading. Their reactions weren't so good. "What will you be doing in Siquijor?", one said. "Prepare to be hunted!", another one said. Advices started pouring in like when someone touches your back, do the same to him/her. Don't throw cigarette butts anywhere. Be nice to everyone. Don't take anything that's offered by a stranger. The list goes on.

To be honest, i didn't follow any of what my friends said, and i think that's what made all the difference. Subconsciously, maybe i wanted to prove everybody wrong. Maybe, a part of me wanted to find out the truth about Siquijor.


First night in Siquijor

I live to tell this story. It's an early night for me, and after chatting with other tourists after gate ball, i went back to my shack and started to sleep at half past ten. It was windy and breezy, and very quiet- a truly relaxing night. The waves from the ocean can be heard and i immediately fell to sleep in a few minutes. I woke up just before midnight hearing considerable sounds on the roof. It must have been something that i haven't heard the whole day and night. Although, first impressions were that of a typical horror movie, of manananggals, and other elementals. I shrugged it all off and went to sleep. 

The next day, i was contemplating on what that was. It must have been the trees swaying, or bats. Who knows? All i know is how can something so hellish be found in an island that's close to paradise. God must have really loved Siquijor, He made this island perfect.


Conclusion

It's just so sad, that it took a Swedish family, two Dutch guys, two American girls, and a couple more Northern Europeans to make me realize how blessed i am to have visited Siquijor.

I got to chat with a lot of them, after they finished playing gate ball. Dagman was kind enough to treat us all for a couple of big grandes of Gold Eagle and SMB. It was a good talk, getting to know them, and how long have they been staying. I've also met the family who's been in Siquijor for ten days now. From that chat, i just realized one thing. All of them could only speak of kind words, and much appreciation for this island.

On a lighter note, I also made so many friends with a lot of the people in Villa Marmarine, Max who i initially thought was Japanese, turned out to be a native of Lanao Del sur, and Michael who was the go-to guy in gate ball, lawn tennis, and even day and night diving. and of course, all the charming waitresses of Villa Marmarine. 


I remembered the tip i received regarding locals tapping you in the back. Nothing happened to me. In fact, it was a symbolic welcome to the family. I felt like a friend, a brother - a part of the family.

Every day and night of my stay in Siquijor, i have been drinking beer from the bottle and glass, and was offered a drink in one of the occasions. Again, nothing happened to me. 

REALIZATIONS: When will the time come, that we Filipinos, see the hidden beauty of this province? We're all so afraid to discover our own heritage, and our country. If the people who are not bred in the Philippines can see something, there must be something. It is really, really sad. My heart is broken.

Good thing, people, it's never too late.

41 Comments:

Cedric said...

It looks beautiful indeed! At least di nasayang 3 years na pagaantay mo. :D

Sweetness said...

woot!!! Galing! Im excited for my trip na tuloy ^^ as part of my 30 before 30 project is another solo backpacking trip and I have decided to go to Siquijor by the last quarter of this year. As usual your blog post will be one of my guardian angel :) http://mypocketfulofsunshine.blogspot.com/2011/01/30b430-update-25-cast-spells.html

@Cedric yes, atlast!!! And it's all worth it! Siquijor is now a personal favorite of mine, apart from Guimaras and Marinduque. Lovely, lovely province. Watch out for my next post on circumnavigating the whole island riding a motorbike. it's a cool one, i promise!

@Sweetness thanks so much! i highly recommend Siquijor. It's simple but boasts of the best natural wonders. The people there are just amazing. I am actually in love now with the province. And i hope more and more people, do come! So far, i have a friend whose there now, another blogger who's also there. A few more friends going there soon. Let's all help out this province!!! Sure, will check out your blog! I haven't made my list of things to do before 30! he he

Sweetness said...

@Pinoy Blog Journal, weeehhh im thinking of rebooking tuloy hahaha October is kinda far pa LOL but oh well, you have waited 3 years, whats 9 months?! Go Siquijor! hahaha.. and yes can't wait to hear your things to do before 30 ^^

I've been wanting to go to Siquijor too. I'm not put off at all by its negative image. It actually adds to its charm and mystery. Nice post on Siquijor Jerik :)

Chyng said...

the fact that you chose it as the most beautiful spot in pinas, i booked a flight to dumaguete right away!

@Sweetness he he he yes, it's the truth! love ko talaga Siquijor! Di mo na lang mapapansin October na! I am so excited for your Siquijor trip! Mag-eenjoy ka for sure! Yes, i also have to think over my travel bucket list! he he

@lakwatsera de primera thanks so much! actually, it's one of the main reasons why i went to Siquijor. I just want to prove everyone's connotation about the province. the people there are friendly, and all talks of witchcraft and elemental are not true at all!

@Chyng you're going? that's great news!!! i will be posting more entries in the coming days. Siquijor is unforgettable! sarap mamuhay dun pramis, and it's very relaxing too!

ayan said...

o god... this place is awesome..
siguro kasi i wasnt expecting it to be this beautiful..kaya gulat ako ng makita kanna.. lalo na yon on the way sa mangroves sa enrique villanueva.damn yon tabi ng hi-way beach.white sand,difrent shades of blue yon tubig..parang bahamas(as seen on tv) haha.tas yon cliff dive sa salagdoon.. woohoo..
same sentiments sa port.. fav ko pa rin yon bantayan.. ewan ko both beaches are beautiful..pero theyre so different..

hahaha! halos sabay lang tayo nagpost ng siquijor... long overdue na articles ko on visayas. si bidge gustong gusto na rin pumunta :) btw i am so digging your new simple layout with big photos!

ay typo... si bridge.

@Ayan buti naman nag-enjoy ka! Siquijor is not a popular tourist destination in the Philippines, but as soon as people start realizing its potential i'm sure lahat diyan ang punta. the good thing about traveling to Siquijor is it's relatively still cheap, and chances of bumping into another traveler non-existent! San ka na? Kumusta?

@Pinay Travel Junkie oo nga, was reading the post. Grabe, you were still pregnant when you went there. Galing, you were still able to travel around. Good Job! Ganda ng Siquijor, i hope more and more people get to go there. Di kasi tayo mapapahiya after natin mag-blog about it! Also, thanks! Napagod na ako sa magulong lay-out gusto ko na simple. he he thanks again!!! I also have to mention, putting the Philippine flag on you blog header was an excellent decision! Go pinaytraveljunkie!!!

ayan said...

cebu na.. sinulog na =)
para sa kin the "scare" thing that pinoy associated with siquijor adds charm to the place..pogi points for siquijor na may ganun sya concept compared sa ibang islands na maganda lang..hehe

edsan said...

I am still a neophyte in travel article writing. Truly, your blogs inspire me much. How I wish I can visit Siquijor and post an article about the place in my site. Your post had wiped out the scare in me about the place.

@edsan thanks so much for the comment. i always make it a point to write, one-so i can remember the trip later on, two-so i can inspire people to travel. i am pretty sure you'll be able to travel to Siquijor in no time. Siquijor is absolutely beautiful, and i will do everything to convince people to give this province a try. Thanks again. By the way, lovely blog. Will read about your stories too!

@ayan i highly agree with you. yun talaga ang charm niya. imagine, iilan lang ang places around the world where people still fear of the unknown. i said nga how can something so beautiful like siquijor magkaroon ng talks about elemental and witchcraft. but yes, hopefully more and more people will soon be able to conquer their fear and make their way to Siquijor. There's still time for them. how was your trip, still in Siquijor?

Webbloggirl said...

such a beautiful island..wish to go there one day!

@Webbloggirl yes it's such a beautiful island! hope you could visit the Philippines soon. let me know when you're going our way. cheers!!!

astig ng experience mo sir, from the ferry to the drinks. sayang di ko napuntahan ito when i backpack central visayas

Anonymous said...

i'm from Lazi, Siquijor living here in Calif, USA...thanks for all your kind words about our island. there are few places to see, e.g. Cambugahay Falls in Lazi, one of the oldest church & convent in the Phil, also, in Lazi...there will be few of us going home in May to celebrate Lazi Fiesta, it sounds like a 3-day party starting on May 13th, actually for some of us could be few nights... best time to visit is during fiesta, few in May, Siquijor Day is in Sept,

@journeyingjames ikaw pa, for sure one of these days, eto naman ang mapupuntahan. balitaan mo ako brad ha! have a safe trip to cdo and camiguin! Post your entries soon! Good job!

@Anonymous thank you very much. i appreciate everything you said. i went to all of these places, and i have to tell you that Siquijor is now one of my top three best destinations in the Philippines. i loved every minute of my stay in the island, and my mission is to spread the tip that Siquijor is simply amazing. i tell my friends, and through this blog, even people i don't know about the province, hoping one day they could visit it. thank you. my birthday is on may 13 so i guess that's why this province is close to my heart! :)

xiscibiel said...

hi! i'L be in dumaguete by march. how do i get to that port from the airport? thanks.

@xiscibiel wow! that's good news! mag-eenjoy ka sa Negros and Siquijor. Basically, maraming tricyle na nag-aabang na sa airport. Just tell them na sa port ka papuntang Siquijor. But there's two ports in Siquijor and magkaibang barko. Magkaiba rin ang port ng mga barkong yun sa Dumaguete. Basta sabihin mo lang sa driver kung san ka sa Siquijor punta: Larena or Siquijor town! If you have more questions, let me know lang! tulungan kita!

I really loved these series about your trip in Visayas. I hope I could do the same someday. I've been living in Luzon for almost 23 years and I think it's already time for me to explore Visayas and Mindanao. I like the way you narrate your stories. It's like introducing us the unique features of each town. And this post, definitely changed my view about Siquijor. Grabe ang ganda nung beach! Paradise talaga! Kasama na rin ang Siquijor sa mga must see destinations ko. Thanks for sharing this and keep up the sharing!

Anonymous said...

Hi, is it okay to link this site? i work in this backpackers hostel and i think this nice blog will surely be useful to our foreign guests who views our website.

Ella

@mylovelylife88 I am from Luzon too, and 27 years living in Manila. But i really really adore Visayas. Wala pa akong napuntahang province na di ko nagustuhan! Siquijor is really really lovely. I want to help the province and also offer people who are asking where to go, a fresh alternative. True, Boracay is Boracay and i love the island. But i prefer kasi quieter places and mas rustic na destination. Siquijor is one of my top three best destinations in the Philippines, along with Marinduque and Guimaras. Thanks ha!!! :)

@Ella Sure No Problem! I am just a traveler. And so far, of all the places I've been to, this resort just showed me hospitality to the next level. Let me know when it's up! Thanks, Ella! Tell Dagman and the rest of the crew, hello from Manila. I wish to come back soon!

Anonymous said...

i went to siquijor for the first time last may 2010 to attend a downhill speedboarding event. the immediate feeling that i got when we docked at the port was that siquijor is so laidback. from the port to the place that we stayed in, time stood still as commercialization is barely noticable.

i was impressed with the charm of siquijor, one should really see this gem in our country, as a matter of fact i will be back this april.

@Anonymous Wow! I'm glad you had a really good time in Siquijor. The province is one of my top pick for best destinations in the Philippines. I have a few friends of mine who are into skateboarding and they love it there! Yes, going back there this April... Good Job! I would love to come back anytime soon. If you're looking for a chill out place to stay, head to Villa Marmarine. The people there are absolutely one of a kind. Very friendly people too. I love Siquijor because it's so laidback. Coming from Manila, all i need is some tropical vibe. I found it in Siquijor!

Akiko said...

Awesome place! i wish i can visit there someday.

@Akiko i highly recommed Siquijor - one of the most underrated and off the beaten destination in the Philippines. Only a handful of foreigners make their way here. And no Filipino tourist in sight. I love and miss Siquijor!

I can't wait to go to Siquojor and prove everyone wrong too =)

@Christian | Lakad Pilipinas up until now, i still can't stop raving about my Siquijor trip. Truly, one of the hidden gems of the Philippine Islands... All talks aren't true. the people are so woooonderful. i can stay in Siquijor for a few months, no problem!

I'm from Cebu, lapit lang ng Siquijor sa amin but I haven't been there (yet), but planning to. Hopefully sana tuloy na talaga this October *crossing fingers!

I'm expecting this little island to charm us too! The mysticism surrounding it makes it even more exciting hehe

I know. I've been to a lot of provinces in the Philippines. Siquijor still places high in my rankings. Love everything about this province. I just wish i know more people so i can fully immerse myself with the daily grind of life here.

I also have same reactions when I told my relatives of planning to see the province. Hay, Pinoys are really mapamahiin but what the heck, your trip was a worthy travel. And many travelers has been to the province and they only have good and beautiful words to spread about Siquijor. It's time to prove everyone wrong about Siquijor.

Ian | Going Places I agree with you 100% Siquijor is simply magical. :)