Siquijor Island is known for its pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. However, this 5th provincial class island province of the Philippines has a reputation as a place of magic and sorcery. In Filipino we call them “manananggal” and “munughiwit” in Ilonggo. For the thrill seekers this can be an added attraction but for some, this can discourage them to visit the island.
After having done with many of the known attractions in Luzon which is the largest island in the Philippines, my family visited Siquijor for our annual family trip. With its known reputation at the back of our minds, we decided to just take extra care and be friendly with the locals.
From Bacolod City, my family was in a convoy to Dumaguete City where we took the fastcraft to Siquijor. We took the scenic mountain and coastal route via Don Salvador Benedicto and San Carlos City. We made a stopover in Tayasan to eat the famous native fried chicken of Linda’s Manokan. We were not disappointed. We also bought cheap mangoes along the highway. After having our lunch in Dumaguete City, we left our cars at the Philippine Ports Authority compound before boarding the fastcraft for Siquijor.
As soon as we got off the fastcraft at the Siquijor Port, we were in awe of the scenery before us. Clean white sand beaches and crystal clear water. This heightened our excitement. We instantly fell in love with Siquijor and forgot about sorcery.
Siquijor is a small island located in the Central Visayas Region. To its north is Cebu, to the west is Negros, to the northeast is Bohol and to the south across Bohol is Mindanao. With a land area of only 343.5 square kilometers, one can go exploring the island in a day. The resort where we stayed arranged for our day tour.
Siquijor is blessed with scenic beauty. Nature at its best. The sceneries all throughout its coastal roads are picture-worthy. The turquoise waters are in various shades of green and blue. It is so calming to the eyes. It is noteworthy that Siquijor maintains their mangrove forest.
Our first stop was to see the Balete Tree in Lazi which is said to be enchanted and is more than 400 years old. It is beautifully covered by hundreds of roots and vines. At its bottom is a pool of spring water coming from the base of the tree. Some tourists dipped their feet in the cold water with some fishes nibbling at their toes. The water from the tree supplies the village.
We visited the St. Isidore Church and Convent in Lazi. Built by Spanish priests from 1887 to 1894, the convent is the biggest convent and one of the oldest in Asia. It is recognized as a National Historical Landmark by the Philippine Historical Commission.
Our next stop was Cambughay Falls. It is a 3-tierd cascading waterfalls just outside of Lazi. To get there requires a short but quite steep hike. The warm turquoise green water from natural springs is great for swimming. There is a rope from one of the tree vines that one can swing down to one of the tiers.
We had a picnic lunch at Salagdoong Beach Resort. This is a favorite among the locals for picnics. Rightly so because the view and the turquoise waters are just amazing. They are Instagram-worthy. There are diving platforms embedded in the rock formations. Our boys had an enjoyable time cliff jumping. There is also a water slide that dives into the sea. Other activities are swimming in the beach or swimming pool, kayaking and snorkeling. There is a restaurant.
Siquijor has a Shell Museum of seashells taken from its waters and beaches. Tourists can buy shellcrafts.
We passed by Lilibeth’s to buy some “pan bisaya”. These are breads cooked between two layers of fire similar to bibingka. They were so good! Unfortunately, the bibingka took long to cook so we were not able to try them.
Before returning to the resort, we passed by St. Francis of Assisi Church and the Old Bell Tower. Built in 1783, the church is the oldest parish church in Siquijor.
The whole island of Siquijor was declared a marine sanctuary and tourist zone in 1978 by virtue of Proclamation No. 1810. About anywhere in the island is great for snorkeling. Their coral reefs offer some of the best diving spots in the Philippines for snorkelers and scuba divers.
The inner part of Siquijor is mountainous thus there are caves, springs, rivers and waterfalls. Mt. Bandilaan is the highest peak located at the center of the island. Since we took the scenic tour package of our resort, we were not able to go to these places.
Air Juan flies from Cebu to Siquijor but the best way is to take the RORO and fastcrafts from Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, Cebu or Tagbilaran in Bohol. There are two ports in the island. For those who are not from the three mentioned places, the easiest option is to fly to Dumaguete and from there take the boats to Siquijor. Sea travel is the shortest among the three points. Upon arrival at the Siquijor Port, if you do not have transfer arrangements with your resort, there are many tricycles that can take you to your accommodation.
These are some of the vessels servicing Siquijor. Ocean Jet (fastcraft), Delta 1 and 2 of DIMC Shipping, M/V Jaylan 2 of GL Shipping and M/V Kristina of Montenegro Shipping Lines.
To explore the island, the best way is to rent a motorcycle if you can navigate one. Another option is to hire a tricycle to bring you around the island. If you are a big group, you can hire a multi-cab or van. Some resorts offer day tour packages.
There are a selection of places to stay in Siquijor ranging from the budget, mid to high range. My family stayed at Coco Grove Beach Resort which for me is the best place to stay in the island. It is pricier though than most accommodations. I will write about the resort in another blog.
Really good places to eat in Siquijor is quite limited. The best ones are at the resorts and hotels which can be open to non-guests. The seafood are so fresh!
For travelers who want an easy and laid back vacation, I would recommend Siquijor Island. Its natural beauty is unspoilt. A huge contrast to the craziness of some over commercialized island destinations. I hope it remains that way and not be overrun by consumerism. The island’s long stretch of beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise waters everywhere, rich marine life and beautiful sunsets are a delight to feed one’s soul. A perfect way to recharge.
Visit Siquijor Island and be charmed by its simple beauty.