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.


Welcome to Siquijor, Philippines
Welcome to Siquijor, Philippines
Siquijor End of the World
End of the World – not far from the truth!
Siquijor - makeshift sailboat
Makeshift fishing sailboat
Siquijor Lorna Guesthouse
Lorna Guesthouse as seen from the sea

 

Hammock bed
My bed for a week!
Siquijor Hammock Life
A room with a view, please!
Siquijor Century-Old Balete Tree
Century-Old Balete Tree
Siquijor Cantabon Cave
Inside Cantabon Caves
Siquijor's Mangkukulam (voodoo)
Siquijor’s Mangkukulam (voodoo)
Siquijor Mangkukulam (voodoo lady)
Siquijor’s Mangkukulam (voodoo lady)
Siquijor - St Isidore Church in Lazi
St Isidore Church in Lazi
Siquijor Cambugahay Falls
Siquijor Cambugahay Falls
Siquijor Cambugahay Falls
Swimming at Cambugahay Falls

 

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.


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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.

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!
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.

Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.

Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time). 

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.
This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!

Follow this link for our ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Tours – packages that are highly personalized and tailored at your request.

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?

About the Author:

From a young age, Ian was always a wanderer. He's since travelled to all 7 continents, and has spent the majority of his life pursuing this passion. Follow him in his off-the-beaten-path adventures and discoveries!

18 Comments

  1. flip August 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    interesting… ive never been to this island and yet im from the philippines lol…

    • globe_trottah August 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm - Reply

      You and most of the rest of the Filipinos, my friend.. and the ones who live there rarely leave the island either!! haha. Worth a look if you ever have the chance 🙂

  2. Lyndsay/ Discount Travel Blogger August 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Never been here either, but i’ll get there one day…:)

    • globe_trottah September 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm - Reply

      I hope you get/make the chance to! It was one of my highlights of travelling not just in the Phils, but in SE Asia in general. I love Siquijor!

  3. Waegook Tom August 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Ahh Siquijor! I’ve never been – I was planning on visiting the Philippines this year with my vacation but sadly won’t be able to, and Siquijor is the island that I would have spent my time on. This is a great report, and it looks magical.

    I wish somebody could transport me to that hammock right about now. Getting sleepy just looking at it…

    • globe_trottah September 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm - Reply

      Hey Tom! The Phils may not be on your agenda this year, but I’m sure you’ll be making it there sooner or later. I’d definitely sugget this spot when you go. A forewarning.. it can be quite the journey to get here, but the treasure that awaits is well worth it! I wish I could transport back to that hammock right about now too!

  4. James Clark August 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Oh man that looks great. I spent a night there then only half the next day as I found out the ferry I wanted wasn’t running anymore, so I had to leave early. A great place to ride a motorbike around at least, but that is about all I did.

    And now I have that Ween song in my head, thanks to your heading.

    • globe_trottah September 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      Wow James.. only 24 hours is surely just a taste, but I know the irregular ferry schedule makes it a bit of a challenge, especially for those of us with short visa allowances! At least you got a taste, and know there’s something magical which awaits you on your next journey there 🙂

  5. Micamyx|Senyorita August 14, 2012 at 12:14 am - Reply

    I was there for almost a week on the 4th week of March and I consider it as my second favorite island in the Philippines. so magical! I really blame the media for tarnishing its reputation, but at the same time I am thankful that not much visitors come in order to preserve its beauty. It is a quaint place and their waterfalls are my favorites especially Cambugahay and Lugnason. I need to go back to do some spelunking in Cantabon Cave or splurge on one of their high-end resorts.

    • globe_trottah September 1, 2012 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      Hello Micamyx 🙂 A week was about the amount of time I spent there as well. It’s definitely a favourite of mine as well.. but if it’s only your second favourite, what’s your first? 😛

  6. Swexie September 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful posts, Ian. I haven’t been to Siquijor but maybe I’ll go there in the near future. Reading from a foreigner’s perspective is interesting. I’m eager to read more posts about the Philippines from you =)

    • Ian Ord December 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      Hey Swexie! I LOVE the Phils!! I’m hoping to revisit in the first few months of the new year!! I’d love to go back to Siquijor too, though I know there’s plenty of other places I need to get to as well! 🙂

  7. Journeying Pinay October 3, 2012 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    i love Siquijor. i went there (solo as usual) in February 2012. the only thing i did not experience is the witchcraft. they were afraid something might happen to me. spelunking in cantabon was really an adventure. jumping at the waterfalls, not once, not twice 🙂 was really refreshing and enlivened my spirits. it was an enchanting place. an exotic beauty all in one.

    • Ian Ord December 21, 2012 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      Hey Journeying Pinay!! I love Siquijor as well… the witchcraft was something special 🙂 You’ll need to go back just for that alone, if not all the other beauty of the island!! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  8. […] and I can only choose 3 favourites??? Ok, my first experience there I completely fell in love with Siquijor. I know it’s not overly popular with Filipinos because it’s said to be haunted, but I […]

  9. babe November 25, 2015 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Hi,

    Can i get the contact number of this mangkukulam please?

    Thank you,

    babe

    • Ian Ord November 25, 2015 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      Hi there, thanks for your comment! I’m afraid there was no contact number posted or available at the site. We found this place simply by renting a scooter and driving up the mountain-side. There was many along the way, and we pulled over at one that seemed the most inviting – but it was in a hut that was falling apart somewhat – I’d be surprised if she even had a phone, to be honest! 😉

      Riding up the mountainside, you will find many locations, and locals there can always point you to the nearest one. Good luck and have fun!

  10. Kim Reed September 24, 2016 at 11:09 am - Reply

    I am lucky that I found this site, just the right info
    that I was looking for!

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