Haunted Siquijor Island
The place that time continues to forget
If you’re looking for somewhere off the beaten trail, and I mean really out of the way, Siquijor is the place for you. It’s such a remote place in the Philippines, the Filipinos don’t even go here! The island has a reputation of being haunted mostly due to the mangkukulam natural healers who reside there. Siquijor is an island believed to have risen from the ocean in an massive storm is also considered a land riddled with mysteries and unusual religious beliefs. The Spanish who originally colonized here called Siquijor the Fire Island or Isla del Fuego. Black art is a famous practice for most people in the island, where many of them take pride in their mystical powers. Located approximately a 2 hour ferry ride off the eastern coast of Southern Cebu, there definitely isn’t a large queue of backpackers who have found their way here yet.
The island doesn’t have any towns which would be considered overly large by Filipino standards. The port towns of Siquijor and Lorena are by far the largest, most likely due their limited connection to anything beyond the isolated world which exists here! There is not an abundance of restaurants or shops, though there’s enough to keep yourself adequately comfortable.
Immediately upon arriving to the island, you will most likely be approached by hagglers trying to rent you a motorcycle. This isn’t a bad thing.. they are actually the cheapest bikes on the island for rent, and much more convenient for getting around than the very irregular Jeepneys or painfully slow Tricycles found here. We managed to get a deal of roughly 200 pesos/day (approx $5 USD) with an upfront payment for 5 days – and had the balance returned to us upon return of the bikes.
Now, with bikes at hand, we set off to find accommodation. The majority of places to stay are found on the outskirts of the coastal towns. They’re often quite small, and quite basic. You may need to try a couple places before finding one which suits your needs. I opted to get a truly basic experience and ended up renting a sheltered hammock on the beach for 50 pesos/night ($1.25 USD). Though of course there are other options, I really enjoyed my time at Lorna’s End of the World guesthouse. I thought this would be a rare opportunity to get down to the bare necessities on an island which already feels quite primal.
There are several attractions which may be of interest. They are almost all accessible by the Jeepneys, though a motorcycle here would definitely prove to be more reliable and versatile.
There are a few waterfalls, a large underground cave, many old churches, a sacred tree, quaint towns, jungle treks, beaches and voodoo ladies which can all be visited around Siquijor. I’d have to say my personal favourite Siquijor attractions included the incredible turquoise waters you could swim at in Cambugahay Waterfall, and my mangkukulam (voodoo) healing deep in the mountainous jungle by a witchdoctor. The caving was fun too, though it’s a little challenging in some areas, you do get very wet, and I didn’t find that they practiced much conservation techniques by allowing people to man-handle the stalactites and other formations. It’s still a fun experience, though I’ve been to some caves in other parts of the world where the guides were more informative and had better preservations techniques.
They say it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. This destination actively challenges that saying. Getting there is quite possibly going to be the most challenging task out of your stay here, and it’s not overly entertaining. There are very infrequent boats which depart from Dumaguete and from Oslob which head to and from the island on specific days. Some of the tickets can only be purchased on the day the ship is leaving, and the cheapest seats (especially the sleepers) sell out quickly. There is currently no airport operating to and from Siquijor.
A possible suggested route (the one I took), would be heading south on Cebu, if planning on swimming with the Whale Sharks in Oslob. From there you can take the 2 hour ferry over to Siquijor. Leaving, you can either return the same way, or catch the ferry towards Dumaguete and continue your journey. The only challenge is that the ferry to Dumaguete on Negros leaves quite late at night, meaning you arrive at unfavourable times.
View Where Sidewalks End in a larger map
There are many places to stay, but bare in mind that many of them are quite limited in their capacity. The majority of the guesthouses are scattered on the outskirts of the costal towns. You’ll find them to be quite basic, and most places do not offer internet at the time of this publication. Some provide kitchens or bar-b-ques, which can help cut the cost food while there. There are a few dorms, which is one of the cheapest options, or if travelling as a couple, or in small groups (or if you just like your privacy), there are singles, doubles and triples scattered at various locations. As mentioned earlier, if you really want a rustic experience, see if you can rent a hammock and sleep by the sea. Mosquitos are almost non-existent here, and crime is still at a minimum. I would suggest leaving any valuables inside the guesthouse, mind you.
As with much of the Philippines, I found the best food was at the tourist hotels and restaurants. Being a bit of a foodie myself, that was one of my only let-downs of visiting this otherwise beautiful archipelago. It felt the only way to get safe, edible food, especially in the remote areas, was to go somewhere which catered primarily to tourists.. at relatively high tourist prices! That said.. I was expecting Siquijor to really be lacking with the quality of even the tourist food, given as how it’s so remote and isolated, but ended up finding quite the opposite. I ate perhaps some of the best food I had in the Philippines while staying here! My favourite had to be the chicken burger with mango salsa on fresh out-of-the-oven buns! Mmmm.. I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it!
I would suggest visiting Siquijor only if time is not a huge factor. This will give you some lean way in case boats get rescheduled, or you are not able to get there (or leave) as quickly as you may want. If you have some time to unwind and enjoy yourself, this is an absolutely wonderful island to explore and break free from the fast paced world.
Have you ever found an island which just seemed totally isolated from the world? Where was it, and what unique things did you find while there?