By PAULINE FAYE V. TRIA
Images by CZAR DANCEL
Video by DAVID CLARENCE RIVERA
The island of Siquijor, home to some 90,000 people, has always been believed to be a place of spell-casting witches and voodoo dolls, but there’s more to it than legends and myths. It was dubbed as Isla del Fuego or the Island of Fire by early Spaniard colonizers because when looked at from the sea, it seemed as if the island was on fire, but it only appeared so because of the swarm of fireflies circling the molave trees that lit up the island.
Discovered in 1565 by the Legazpi expedition, Siquijor is a perfect starting point for island hopping and is comprised of six towns: Siquijor, Larena, Enrique Villanueva, Maria, Lazi, and San Juan.
Instead of trying to dispel the rumors, the people of Siquijor has embraced the weird magic that surrounds the island.
Myths on healing
Aside from the picturesque views and adventure-filled sites, people flock to Siquijor for healing. Locals claim that most tourists visit during Holy Week or undas, seeking for a remedy to their ailments. A known healing ritual in the island is the bolo-bolo healing ritual. I met Rogelio Lugatiman, 70, who claims to be a healer in the bolo-bolo ritual. The ritual only needs three things: a bagakay or a piece of bamboo stick, water, and a black stone. This is not just any ordinary stone. Rogelio says that in 2013, the stone was sent to him by Our Lady of Fatima in a dream, where she called on him to be a servant of healing. He initially refused, but she was relentless, appearing to him again and again until he finally agreed. He went to the river and fished out a stone, which he believes to be blessed by Our Lady of Fatima.
The bolo-bolo ritual is done by placing the stone inside a jar filled with water, and the healer blows on the water with the bagakay, until dirt or sand appears inside the water, which signifies the “sickness” of the individual. The healer then will keep on blowing on th
e water while circling the individual, until the water becomes clear which means he or she is “healed” and the sickness is gone. Rogelio says the bolo-bolo healing ritual is best for skin diseases.
Another healing ritual famous in Siquijor is the tuob healing ritual or pausok. This is done by wrapping the individual with cloth and is told to sit under a jar of coals that have been lit, and the healer rubs essential oils while chanting a mantra, which is believed to be a healing mantra.
More than just rumors
More than the broomsticks and the sorceress, there are actually numerous spots to enjoy and to have a splendid time. A well-known spot for tourists is the Guwanon spring park resort. Located in the middle of a mangrove above water, this place can hold around 40 people and is home to multiple species of mangrove and lush vegetation.
There’s also the St. Francis de Asis church which is made entirely of coral blocks, due to the island being surrounded by the sea. The church wasn’t built ordinarily, because the coral blocks were pasted together with carabao water buffalo skin, egg white, and salt water.
In the mood for a challenge? Go spelunking inside the Cantabon cave. With more or less 500 steps, this cave is not for the faint of heart. Discovered around 100 years ago, the Cantabon cave has a mini waterfall inside, with stalactites and stalagmites hanging from its ceiling. Many mineral formations can be spotted inside the cave, such as what the locals call the “water rice terraces” which looks exactly like the Banaue rice terraces except water streams through it.
Relax with the many beaches of Siquijor, such as the Paliton beach. With its clear waters and white sands, this beach kicks Boracay island right out of the water. Another famous beach in Siquijor is the Salagdoong beach. Relax with its vibrant crystal clear waters with a duyan right in the middle for you to sleep in.Want to feel some adrenaline? You can with its famous cliff diving site, where you can jump and feel the excitement of adventure. Finally, end your trip by experiencing the breathtaking sunrise by hiking up to Kangmangke mountain, located in the town of Enrique Vilanueva. The hike up may be quite strenuous, but when you see the beautiful sunrise, it all becomes worth it.