I may receive grief over this but Siquijor failed to enchant me the way it did most tourists. It is beautiful, I’m not going to contest, just that for some reason it didn’t excite me the way it did other places like Siargao or Palawan. I had originally set to stay there for 5 days but I was so bored, I cut it short and moved to Dumaguete on the fourth day. This is not to say I had zero fun, hence this solo travel guide to Siquijor.
Siquijor is in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines with 6 municipalities: Enrique Villanueva, Larena, Lazi, Maria, San Juan, and Siquijor. It used to be part of Negros Oriental but became independent in 1971. The locals are called, Siquijodnon and they speak Cebuano and English. They can speak Tagalog but will not use it unless they know you cannot converse in their dialect.
The province is regarded by many as mystical, said to be home to witches (mangkukulam), shamans (mambabarang), and healers (albularyo). It’s this reputation that has many Filipinos circumspect if not terrified to visit the island despite its growing popularity. In fact, the top question people asked me when they heard of this trip is, Aren’t you scared of the witches?
To answer that, nope, I wasn’t scared. If they exist, I haven’t made an acquaintance.
How to get to Siquijor
Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have daily flights from Manila to Dumaguete, which is the easiest point of entry to Siquijor. The province doesn’t have its own airport, thus you have to take a ferry from Dumaguete, Cebu, or Bohol.
From the airport there are tricycles and habal-habal (single motorbike) to get to the port; travel time is about 17 minutes. Expect that you will be charged differently if you are a tourist, as in my case, I paid ₱150.
I booked my Dumaguete-Siquijor ferry ride with Oceanjet via Bookaway for $10.8. You might wonder if this is better than buying a ticket in the port, well, it depends. If you are visiting during the peak season, March to May then it’s best to prebook your tickets online. In the off-season, you can easily buy a ticket to the port, but do check the timetable for ferries. Oceanjet’s earliest schedule from Dumaguete is 7:20 a.m. while the latest trip is 5:00 p.m. Regular fare is only ₱250 and travel time takes about an hour.
There’s a port in Siquijor (I mean the municipality) and another one in Larena. Make sure you will be taken in a port closest to your chosen accommodation. For example, if you are staying in San Juan then you must go to Siquijor terminal.
From Siquijor port, hire a tricycle to take you to your hotel or resort. You may check the tariff rates below.
Where to stay in Siquijor
Many tourists stay in San Juan and with good reason. It’s a good jump-off point to do a city tour and this is where the most happenings take place with its string of resorts, bars, and restos.
Siquijor is not big on hostels unlike other tourist destinations in the Philippines, but guesthouses and resorts come aplenty. I got a room at Sand 1 Hostel. It doesn’t offer shared accommodation so I’m not even sure why it calls itself a hostel. Read my review of it in the link below.
What places to see in Siquijor
You don’t have to prebook a tour, you could just talk to any of the locals, specifically the tricycle drivers. Most of them are offering tours. I am personally recommending Roel, here is his contact number, +63 926 407 2172. He promised to take me to 5 destinations for only ₱1,000. However, I begged off Salagdoong beach because I was already too tired from the Cambugahay falls.
Century-old Balete tree
We started off with a visit to a 400-hundred-year-old Balete tree in Lazi. There is an entrance fee of ₱10. The tree is massive, standing between 8 to 20 meters though not as big as the Millennium tree in Aurora. Right at the foot of it is a spring that flows through a man-made pond.
The pond is filled with tilapia and little fishes that like to nibble off dead skin. When I dipped my feet into the pond the fish came running toward me for some “snack”. It felt weird, ticklish, and at times painful especially when they bit on the skin on top of the foot. Hence I kept my feet hovering and submerged just the soles.
Obviously banking on Siquijor’s tales of witches, somebody created a tourist attraction; a photo op in which you would appear as if you are riding and flying a broom. Before this trip, I saw some of these photos and I was like, there was no way in hell I’d ever do that. But when Roel took me to Hapitanan, I found myself lining up to wait for my turn.
So what happens is, you climb up on a wooden stage, take that broomstick between your legs, then a guy who is manning the area would take your photo from below. It’s just like your normal jump shot only you have a broomstick. When I saw the photos, I couldn’t help but be amused. I mean, look at it, it does appear like I am flying.
Out of all the places I visited in Siquijor, Cambugahay, the three-tier waterfalls would be the most memorable. I’d seen many waterfalls in the Philippines yet never one with blue waters. Cambughay is on a different level, the water is clear and inviting.
Part of the attraction is jumping into the waterfalls. For only ₱20, you can jump as many times as you like.
You bet your A I was scared, but I wanted to do something adventurous. I’m not a strong swimmer so I rented a life vest for ₱100.
There I stood on the edge of the platform with a sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. I was afraid but I knew in my heart that there was no turning back. A man asked me to bend my knees a little and to let go once I hear his signal. I took a deep breath and held on to the rubber-covered handle that was fastened to the rope.
The man whispered to my ear, “Two, one, bend…”
Before I could think, I was already off the ledge. There I was dangling on top of the water.
I released my grasp from the handle and in split seconds, I was already into the water. It’s not something that you could process as it happens, it is that fast. Before you knew it, it’s over.
Knowing I had just conquered fear, I couldn’t help but be proud of myself. It helped that my guide cheered me on.
After that jump, I followed the guide to the second tier of the falls where there are small caves behind the cascading water. There, he told me some things about himself. His name is Ricky Sacapano, a former Olympic athlete now working as a guide and an emergency responder in Siquijor. I didn’t get his number, but you could ask for him in the registration area if you want to get his services.
Just before I left the place, I went up again to do a second jump.
The last stop of the day was Paliton, which according to the locals is the most beautiful beach in Siquijor. The sun was high, it was time to get me some tan. I spotted a group of foreigners swimming on the blue waters. On the other side of the beach, there were some people taking photos on the bent coconut tree.
I lay out my shawl on the sand and sunbathed for 30 minutes or so. There I rested to the sound of the waves and the people’s chatters. I overheard the foreigners, they were speaking in French. One of them, a woman was busy getting her own bronze. She was so white I wonder how long would it take for her to get a tan.
When at last it was time for me to leave, I looked at my skin and was satisfied that I had grown at least a shade darker. Then I saw the sunbathing French girl, still as pale as the first moment I saw her.
Other sites to see in Siquijor
Now for the places, you could do as a side-trip, here’s a list.
If spelunking is your trip, you could check out Cantabon Cave. It was not part of my itinerary and as you can see in the photo below my outfit wasn’t cave-ready.
Mt. Bandilaan is a natural park and is the highest point in Siquijor. It was empty and quiet when I went there. My guide told me that the best time to visit is during the holy week. It is when the healers and witches go there to do some rituals meant to enhance their powers. Personally, I’d recommend you skip this area unless you are going during the festivities.
We stopped on the side of the road so I could appreciate this view. Fulgen said that this is called Cabilao, one of the spots that he liked showing to his guests. I must say it does look beautiful.
San Isidro Labrador Parish Church and Convent
Restoration of the church is currently ongoing, hence I was not able to enter. It is more popularly known as Lazi Church. Just across the street is the oldest convent in the Philippines where you can find a museum.
Capilay Spring Park
If you want to beat the heat the local way, take a dip at their public swimming pool, Capilay Spring Park. I happened to pass by it one afternoon as I was searching for a place to eat. It is located along Circumferential road.
Visiting a healer in Siquijor
Siquijor’s tourism does not only rely upon their beautiful sceneries but also on its claim to mysticism. Healers are said to accept visitors searching for alternative remedies or guidance from the divine. You will find them in the mountains of San Antonio and most of them offer their services in exchange for a donation. Visiting these people is not necessarily reserved to the believers of the supernatural and the occult. In fact, many tourists, including myself, met them for the experience.
I went to San Antonio the next day. An old man has come to pick me up from the hostel in a single motorbike. He said that he was sent by Roel as the latter had something to do that day. He is Polgen, he said; I thought, what a weird name. How do you spell it? I asked, to which he answered, F U L G E N.
I realized he doesn’t have a weird name, it’s short for Fulgencio.
We drove for over 30 minutes to San Antonio. Who you will meet depends upon who the driver knew personally, not so from a healer’s popularity or reputation.
Fulgen took me to a modest house on the side of the road. There reside Annie and Ando, a couple who are both folk healers. I only met Annie, a dark-skinned woman in a long white dress, probably in her late 40s. She had me sit on a chair to do a ritual. One of her children came out with a pan that emitted smoke, not sure if they were from coal or barks of wood. They put it under my seat and they covered me with a blanket.
Annie then started massaging my back and my chest with oil while murmuring some unintelligible prayers. This ritual is supposed to cleanse my energy. The whole thing only lasted for about 10 minutes.
Curious, I asked Annie about their herbs and amulets, which she claimed to help people find luck in money and love. To use a love potion or what we call in Tagalog as gayuma, one must already have a prospect in mind.
The potion is a bottle with herbs that you fill up with your favorite perfume. You then wear the perfume every time you meet the object of your desire. You also need to dab a little bit of the potion on a photo of the person. Just hearing about it made me a little bit uncomfortable. I mean, isn’t that a violation of another person’s free will?
These potions and amulets don’t come cheap I tell ya. The smallest bottle is worth ₱500, the biggest would set you back at ₱2,000. The cheapest amulet you can buy from her is worth ₱1,000 and it doesn’t even look fancy.
Now here’s the funny part. Annie does palm reading for free so after our little “smoking ritual”, I asked her to do my psychic reading.
I held out my hand and she started asking me some stuff to confirm what she could read on the lines of my palms.
“You are a spender,” Well yes I am.
“Somebody in your family was sick,” Well yes and she’s already dead.
“Your life is rifed with sufferings,” Well yes, when I was younger.
Then I started asking questions.
Am I ever going to abroad to work? “You will have a difficult time.”
So that’s a no? “You will have a hard time but whatever you want to do will happen, you are quite capable to achieve your goals.”
Am I ever gonna get married? “Yes, but there’s a woman who will desire your partner.”
Hmm… I wondered what to do with that info. I mean if you have someone, isn’t it normal that other people could want him to?
I’m not sure if I want to have kids, but will I have them? “Yes, nine children.”
Wait, what?! Nine children! I don’t even want kids and you’re telling me I’ll have 9?! And even if I want to, don’t you think I’m too old to be having that many children?
She looked at me and asked, “How old are you?”
She seemed surprised, “You look like you’re in your 20s.”
Umm thanks but nope, in fact, I’ll be 37 soon.
“I meant, if you started having kids early you will have nine.”
With that, all I could do was stare at her. I was thinking, wow, her reading is adjustable.
How to Get Around Siquijor
The main mode of transport in Siquijor is a single motorbike. You could rent one for a day, rates are between 250 t0 350 pesos. Finding a place to rent is easy, there are numerous ads and signs on the road. But the simplest way to do get a bike is to talk to the staff of your guesthouse or resort.
Where to Eat in Siquijor
Most of the time, I dined at the beachfront restaurant called Aloha just across the street of my hostel. There’s nothing to rave about the food but I loved the view of the beach.
Business establishments here are mostly on a cash basis. I only found two that accept credit cards, the Coco Grove resort in-house restaurant and Baha Bar. The mango shake of Baha Bar is amazing, you should try it. The coconut chicken of Coco Grove was also delicious.
I didn’t experience the nightlife in Siquijor but I heard that Monkey Business is a good place to go. Fyi, they don’t accept card. I went there for lunch and I did like their take on spicy chicken. Couldn’t say the same about the iced coffee, I think they put a dash of liquor in it; too bitter for my taste.
Tips and final thoughts
First, bring cash, lots of it. I only found ATM in Siquijor and it wasn’t even working and as I mentioned earlier, most establishments only take cash. I find the province to be very expensive, in fact, a bag of chips that normally costs around 20 pesos in Manila is worth 30 pesos in Siquijor.
The power outage is frequent especially during the night, it’s best to book a stay in a place with a generator.
Many people only do a day trip to Siquijor, now I know why. Beyond the sightseeing, there’s not a lot to do on the island. If you are a restless person like me, I would advise you against staying for a long time. One night is enough.
Would I recommend going to a healer? Sure. Whether you believe this kind of stuff or not, it still makes for a unique experience.
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