A trip back to Siquijor, the Philippines’ most mystical island.
HOLY WEEK 2015. THE FIRST TIME I VISITED SIQUIJOR with new friends Mya, Rachel, Mel and Nelia. We’ve all heard stories of (shapeshifting evil sprits) aswang and shamans and their magic potions. We even went up to Mount Bandilaan on Good Friday to meet some of the sorcerers and witches (mangkukulams). Our group rule was, never to go out alone or drink from open bottles. One night, we went home riding a tricycle. I sat in the back of the driver. All my life, I lived in big cities so I never expected the town shut down at 8PM. Everything was dark, still and disturbing. The experience was nothing like any other – eeriness reeked the streets. I did not dare look at the cemeteries we passed. Only one or two locals popped from behind trees. All the while I kept thinking, “I hope our tricycle doesn’t break down.”
4 years later, in 2019 I came back for my second visit. This time, I went with Nina, Jessica, Efren, Aldrin and Evelyn. Just a few minutes ride from the Larena port, we found Siquijor’s first and only Jollibee. The eerie nights were long gone – it seemed like hundreds of new accommodations popped up along the highway. On the boulevard near Siquijor town, enterprising locals set up BBQ stands where hordes of tourists feasted on grilled chicken, fish, pork and balbacua soup. Siquijor’s dark streets were now illuminated by road studs which were tiny reflectors on the ground that help drivers see better at night.
Siquijor has evolved for the better. My mother-in-law said 10 years ago, she stayed in one of the two known accommodations on the island. I bet when she comes back now, nothing will differentiate Siquijor from Valencia or Camotes. Tourists now can only see glimpses of the “Mystic Island” through love potions and healing wines sold in the souvenir center. Yet to me, I remember that recondite air about Siquijor so real it never quite left me. I was glad I felt it then.
Getting There from Cebu City is convenient. We took the 8AM Saturday fast craft from Cebu City to Tagbiliaran then Tagbiliran to Larena, Siquijor, arriving at 12noon (total travel time 4 hours). The trip cost about Php1,200 per person. There’s also a new GP line service from Cebu to Siquijor leaving on Friday 10PM and arriving in Lazi, Siqujor at 5AM.
Stay We loved the beachfront property of our accommodation in D’s Ocean View Beach Resort. Located in the Dumanhog area, it’s just a 5-minute tricycle ride to Siquijor town’s many food choices, including the boulevard night BBQ.
What to see and do Become tarzan for a day rope swing jumping in (1) Cambugahay Falls. The (2) Lazi Convent built in 1887 using indigenous hardwood and coral stone is one the largest convent in the Philippines and a historical landmark worth seeing.
Transportation We found the best transport rates with Kuya Noynoy who drives a spacious blue tricycle that fits 6 people. Reach out to me if you want his contact info. Also, try to avoid the drivers by the ports– we found them overpriced. We simply asked our accommodation’s front desk if they knew anybody and they gave us more affordable options. Motorcycles without a driver can be rented starting at P300 per day.
About the Author
Crystal Neri is a freelance writer who has filed stories in the US, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Australia. She lives in Cebu City where she covers travel and entrepreneurship at crystalneri.com. Say Hi to her (@nericrystal) on Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to her newsletter: