What comes into your mind when you hear the name “Siquijor”? If someone is asked this question he would likely answer: charms, magic formulas, voodoo dolls, love potions, sorcery and others. Unusual and paranormal, these things made Siquijor as one of the most popular tourists destinations in our country. Local and foreign tourists flock to the island in order to witness the supernatural events that are happening especially during the Lenten Season.
Isla del fuego. Siquijor is known to many as the Land of Fire. Before at night, when the sky has darkened and the bay waters have subsided, fireflies illuminate the environs. Afar, the island seems to be like a burning bush.
In order to get to the island a traveler can ride a fast craft or a pump boat. I decided to ride the pump boat because it’s cheaper and I will have a closer view of the sea. It is best to travel at dawn to avoid the huge, turbulent waves and to see the sun slowly creeping over the horizon. Peeping at the window in my seat, I paid attention on how our boat bravely sliced every single wave that comes along our way, creating white bubbles all over the area. Flock of birds catching their first meal for the day will surely entertain bored and sleepy travelers along the way. At a distance, I constantly take a glimpse of the silhouette of earth’s protrusion covered partly by clouds.
Finally, the hour and a half journey is over and she’s here. Right in front of me. The pristine emerald-green water, the powdery white sand and the swaying palms clinging to the ocean’s edge welcomed me to Isla del fuego.
Our boat docked at Siquijor the capital of the province of the same name. With the usual Filipino kindness and hospitality, the locals asked me where I’m heading and if I need a ride.
Timid yet amiable. Calm yet touching. Bucolic yet not silent. These were my first impressions of the island. Looking at her from where I’m standing, she is slowly deceiving me. She is opening my eyes to see the wonders that laze behind her. How I wish the city life were this tranquil.
As my eyes roamed around the island, I saw something familiar. A bell tower. It reminded me of the place I came from and indeed this island is one of those greatly influenced by the Spaniards.
Just a few meters away from the pier is where the bell tower is standing and beside it is a church. I decided to visit the church and I found out that it was constructed in the 1783 and the patron saint is St. Francis of Assisi. When I was staring at the walls of the church, I noticed something different, its walls are not grandiosely ornamented. Nevertheless, the church is worth a visit.
To start my day right, I went to Larena -- a 15-minute ride to the northern part of Siquijor by a multicab -- to have breakfast at a friend’s house. After savoring the meal and a bit of freshening up I rented a motorcycle and hired a driver to tour me around the island.
My next stop for the day is the municipality of Maria on the eastern part of the province. The journey to Maria was simply astounding. The sun was up, covered partly by clouds and without harsh heat. It was a clear day with stiff winds blowing; I must have spent all my efforts to capture the picturesque view of Siquijor Island from our vantagepoint. The vista of the mountainside was so enthralling that it held me to awe.
The rolling terrain that stretched toward the horizon was covered with lush floral area that brings to mind the images of an old movie. One of the most visited spots in Maria is the Salagdoong Beach Resort. There a traveler will find himself literally at land’s end where the eternal battle of the land and the sea is constantly being fought. The view of the waves splashing the rock formation at the edge of the island is a priceless vision.
After the scenic view in Salagdoong, I jaunt into the historical municipality of Lazi. There one can find the Lazi Convent that was constructed in 1884. It is the largest and on of the oldest, convent in Asia. The beautiful carvings in the staircase and the century old wood plates on the floor will surely capture the eyes of the travelers. Just in front of the Lazi Convent is the church of St. Isidore Labradore. Unfortunately, the convent is not being maintained and it is slowly dilapidating.
The next stop in trip is the town of San Juan. The town is home to stunning white sand beaches and friendly people. At a small restaurant beside the town’s plaza, I decided to drink coffee and take some snacks. Fortunately, the owner of the place, Aling Nene, is very friendly and very hospitable. She told me that the main attraction of the island is its people. She said that the people in Siquijor are friendly and loving. Aling Nene also added that there is a unique kind of hospitality the “Siquijorians” can offer. Before we ended the conversation she offered us her homemade torta- a local delicacy. Honestly, I enjoyed eating the cake-like dessert she offered.
Just in front of Aling Nene’s eatery, is a picturesque view of the white sand beach and the graceful waves kissing the edge of the sea. Afar, I can see a silhouette of the mountain ranges of Mindanao resting in the ocean and cloaked in the clouds.
With this magnificent vista just in front of me, I can’t stop from contemplating on the beautiful things that I have seen in this island. For me, Isla del fuego is a young lady dressed in a black ball gown. She wearing an ugly mask similar to the face of a wicked woman. She is seated in the corner of the room waiting for someone to offer her a dance and to remove her mask and reveal her true identity.
It is when you take off the mask that you can see the totality of one’s beauty.