Siquijor Island Philippines – Siquijor is a beautiful and very special island in the Visayas region (central Philippines). It isn’t a very popular destination among tourists and even less among locals, which makes it even more enjoyable because it doesn’t get crowded at all. Now you might be asking yourself, why isn’t it so popular among Filipinos? Well, there are a few witch stories going around about Siquijor so let’s talk about it !
The Magic of Siquijor Island
Filipinos refer to Siquijor as the magic island because they believe that witches live among its inhabitants. For the local people, there is no doubt about the presence of witches in Siquijor. For Filipinos, the idea alone is scary enough to make them avoid the island altogether so they prefer spending their holidays somewhere else. Siquijor’s inhabitants told me themselves that there are witches who live on the island and that some people can see them while others don’t (or maybe can’t?). They say they watch everything and everyone and most importantly, that there are good ones (called shaman) and bad ones.
Siquijorians do not really fear the island’s witches; it’s more of a mutual respect relationship between both sides. In fact, they even think that if they don’t harm them, they might benefit from them or simply be left alone. A friend who has always lived in Siquijor told me that she has always seen witches around the island and that it’s a very common thing for her now.
She also told me that something bad happened to some visitors of the island who made fun of Siquijor’s people and their witch stories. It was about a Filipino businessman who came to the island to build a hotel. Apparently, the construction work didn’t go as planned and the whole thing burned and collapsed. He started having weird dreams and left the island shortly after the incident. The inhabitants never saw him again.
Of course, I can’t tell you if these stories are true or not but I know for sure that most Filipinos believe they are and avoid Siquijor because they don’t want to have to deal with its witches.
And it’s not only about the witches, it looks like the local people have their own voodoo-like rituals to heal themselves from disease or from curses. That’s why they have a healing festival once a year, in March to be precise, where they celebrate their rituals and offer healing services (more on that down below).
Are you scared yet? Ah, don’t you worry! Siquijor is an island you should absolutely visit! The local people are very friendly and the landscape is simply wonderful! If you’re still not convinced, let me tell you you’ll have the island all to yourself! No one really comes to visit so… are you coming? I mean that in the least creepy of ways of course! 😉
How to Go there?
Since Siquijor doesn’t have an airport, the only way to get there is by ferry. There are two ferry lines to Siquijor Island:
Bohol – Larena, Siquijor
The ferry leaves the Tagbilaran Pier at 10:20 am and the trip takes around one hour and half to reach Larena pier in Siquijor Island. I recommend to book your ferry tickets online to avoid scams from local travel agencies.
Cebu City – Larena, Siquijor
The ferry leaves Cebu everyday at 1pm, stops at Tagbilaran for two hours and heads to Siquijor, which it reaches around 11PM. You don’t need to switch boats in Tagbilaran because you’ll be heading to Siquijor in the same ferry. A one way ticket costs around 350 to 450 pesos ($7 to $9), depending on the class of travel. It’s a 10-hour trip so I recommend you take the $9 ticket for a little bit more comfort.
Dumaguete – Siquijor
I went for this line to go to Siquijor. The trip lasts two hours only so if you’re prone to seasickness, I recommend the Dumaguete ferry line. There are regular departures every two hours or so and the ticket costs around 100 to 200 pesos ($2 to $4), depending on the class of travel. This ferry line will get you to Siquijor Pier. The Cebu line however, will get you to Larena Pier.
Speaking of transportation, you’re going to need a scooter to move around in Siquijor and it’s not really an option so trust me, you should rent one as soon as you set foot on the island. You can find scooters and motorbikes for rent at Siquijor Pier for about 300 pesos ($6) a day. I’m not sure you can do that on Larena Pier so you might need to rent a tricycle instead.
I think San Juan would be the best place to stay in Siquijor. It’s close to the island’s piers and the setting is absolutely gorgeous. By the way, you need to know that because Siquijor island is not so famous (yet) among tourists there are not a lot of hotels and resorts everywhere. Which is actually a good thing from my point of view. So what I recommend for your stay in Siquijor island is a Glamping Experience.
For the people who are not familiar with glamping, it’s just like camping but in a more confortable way. You will enjoy a stay in a tent by the beach and at the same time you will sleep comfortably in a bed, you will get served breakfast in the morning, sip wine whenever you want and so on… Amazing experience ! 🙂
After these few tips, let’s now review some attractions you can visit in Siquijor Island.
Siquijor Island Philippines – Balete Tree, the Siquijor’s Magical Tree
To start my journey in Siquijor, I went to see the Balete Tree. It’s the oldest tree in the island and apparently, it’s 400 years old! They say it’s enchanted and many rituals are performed around it. It’s also used as a confessional Siquijorians turn to when they make a mistake and regret it. They stand behind the tree, put their hand on its trunk and confess their deed out loud. It’s kind of the island’s church so it’s a sacred tree for the people of Siquijor.
You’ll notice a pond under the tree where many fish are swimming! I’m not sure why this pond was created and how they got fish inside it, all I know is that it’s a fish pilling pond now so instead of throwing pieces of bread to the hungry fish, throw them your feet’s dead skin to feed on. I’m barefoot most of the time so I had a lot of that. Dead skin, I mean. And the fish loved it!
Don’t get distracted though, not all the fish are as tiny as the ones you see in the pictures. This bigger one was after my toe!
Siquijor Island Philippines – The San Isidro Labrador Church
You probably know that Filipinos are predominantly Christians and this is due to the fact that they were colonized by Spain for centuries so the Philippines, and Siquijor for that matter, have many nice churches you can visit.
The San Isidro Labrador Parish Church (the name has nothing to do with the dog breed by the way!) was built in 1884. It looks (and feels) like a considerably old church but a charming one nonetheless. You can visit it if you’re interested, it’s a very well-preserved church! I went there on a weekday but I think it would be more interesting to visit it on a Sunday during Mass.
Siquijor Island Philippines – The Cambugahay Falls
I think this is my favorite spot in all of Siquijor Island. It’s really not far from San Isidro. You just have to walk through this lush greenery to find the amazing Cabugahay Falls. This heavenly oasis seems to be lost in nature; its water is fresh and invigorating and I would go there almost everyday to freshen up.
You can dive into the deep pool all day long, you’ll be no match to the local people whose dives and flips will surprise you!
There’s really nothing much to say other than you should absolutely have a swim in Cambugahay if you get the chance to. Don’t hesitate to wander around the surrounding forest, there’s beautiful scenery to enjoy!
FYI, if you want to see more beautiful spots in SE Asia, make sure you read this blog post: Top places to visit in Southeast Asia.
Siquijor Island Philippines – Mount Bandilaan and the Healing Festival
Mount Bandilaan is the island’s highest peak and even though the road leading to the mountain is in really bad shape, I think it’s worth the trip. A breathtaking panoramic view of the island will be waiting for you! If you start hiking up the mountain in the afternoon, you can make sure to enjoy a terrific sunset view once you get there.
Mount Bandilaan is also where the Healing Festival is held every year. I think it’s on the 20th of March if I remember right. It lasts three days and all the local people get to show their culture and their traditions to the public. They run their market stalls during the day and explain to the public how they heal people using traditional methods. These methods include massages, dancing, rituals involving a shower with water and soft tree branches, and of course potions made from natural ingredients found around the island, which you can buy at the festival of course.
You might not be interested in festivals like these but it’s still interesting to see how ancestral practices and traditions have survived modern times. There’s a very peaceful aura about Siquijor Island, have I said this already? There is! I’m not saying it’s the witches who are behind the “feel good place” that is Siquijor Island but I can’t deny it’s filled with good vibes!
Siquijor Island Philippines – The Beaches
Last but not least, let’s talk about the island’s beaches! Siquijor has many beautiful beaches where you can relax away from tourist crowds. The picture above is in San Juan but here’s what you should do: hop on your scooter and go for a ride along the coastline. If you spot a beach you like, get off the scooter and laze away the endless sunshine hours.
Okay, here’s one beach recommendation (see picture below): Kagusan Beach. But I promise you there are many more almost everywhere in Siquijor!
For more beach recommendations in the Philippines, make sure to read these blog post: Best Beaches in Philippines.
There you go, I’m sure you’ve come to a decision about Siquijor Island and whether to like it or not now! It’s definitely my favorite spot in the Philippines, I can’t have second thoughts about this, so if you do visit the island, please be nice to everything and everyone! Otherwise, I happen to know a not-so-nice witch who gets things done around Siquijor! 😉
If you go there and stumble upon a nice place I haven’t mentioned in this blog post, please share your experience in the comments down below! Feel also free to share this blog post with your friends and follow me on social media for more adventure stories via Facebook, Facebook Group, Instagram and Pinterest.
See you around, fellow travellers!