Straddling the Visayan Sea at the southern tips of the islands of Cebu and Negros, the idyllic and mystical island of Siquijor beckons. With a total land area of 343.5 square kilometers, it is one of the smaller islands in the Philippines' central region, having a breadth of 20 kilometers from north to south, and a width of 27 kilometers from east to west.

Siquijor is the smallest province among the provinces of Central Visayas grouped as Region 7. Towards the north of the province is the island of Cebu; to the northeast is Bohol; to the west is Negros Island; to the east is Camiguin and to the south is mainland Mindanao. It is separated from other islands by the Mindanao Sea in the northeast and the Sulu Sea in the southwest. Siquijor is about one twelfth of the size of Bohol, one fourteenth of Cebu, one fortieth of N egros and one three hundredth of Mindanao. It is the 18th largest island in the Philippines.

Six towns comprise the province island: the capital town of Siquijor, Larena, Lazi, San Juan, Maria and Enrique Villanueva, in the order of their establishment.

HISTORY

Discovered by Esteban Rodrigues and Juan Aguirre of the Legazpi. Expedition in 1565, it was known to the Spanish conquistadors as Isla de Fuego or Isla de Fuegos for the Siquijor of lore is literally lit by fireflies at night swarming the branches of its numerous molave trees. One still catches such visions in secluded, woody, unlit out-oftown roads where crickets hold sway.

Since the olden times people attribute the mystique the island possesses to its renowned voodoo and folksy spiritualism, and people still come to sample its witch's brew ranging from medicines for spasms and stomach problems to little bottles of magical potions for the lovelorn or the vengeful of heart, if not to ward off the devil himself. Yet, far from flames licking a hillside warlock's seething cauldron, the fire of the island, really, is stoked by the warmth of its hardy people and the charm of the Siquijodnon smile.

During the Spanish regime, "Siquijor experienced a tortuous administrative destiny under varied administrative control", according to Jean Paul Dumont. Isolated and too small in area and population, it had always been under the control of some bigger islands in the Visayas. It was almost out of reach of administrators who did not reside there, who rarely visited it and whose interests and concerns lay with the larger islands of Cebu and Bohol.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Siquijor was ecclesiastically administered as part of the province of Cebu. The fate of Siquijor changed when Bohol became a separate province on July 22, 1854. By a royal decree, it was constituted into a politico-militar province together with the island of Siquijor.

On January 19, 1892, through the Decree of Union signed by Governor General Weyler, the island of Siquijor was joined to the province of Negros Oriental.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Siquijor was ecclesiastically administered as part of the province of Cebu. The fate of Siquijor changed when Bohol became a separate province on July 22, 1854. By a royal decree, it was constituted into a politico-militar province together with the island of Siquijor.

Isolated and too small in area and population, Siquijor had always been under the control of some bigger islands in the Visayas. It was almost out of reach of administrators who did not reside there, who rarely visited it and whose interests and concerns lay with the larger islands of Cebu and Bohol. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Siquijor was ecclesiastically administered as part of the province of Cebu. The fate of Siquijor changed when Bohol became a separate province on July 22, 1854. By a royal decree, it was constituted into a politico-militar province together with the island of Siquijor.

THE GOOD LIEUTENANT

Siquijor's political plight took another turn when the Americans took charge of the reins of government. On June 4, 1901, Siquijor became a sub-province of Negros Oriental. The American Military Governor in Manila appointed James Fugate, a scout with the California Volunteers of the US Infantry to oversee and implement development projects in Siquijor.

As lieutenant governor of Siquijor for more than a decade, James Fugate was well-loved by the Siquijodnons. His presence was taken to mean that at long last Siquijor was seen, noticed and cared for.

Until today, Siquijodnons vividly remember Lieutenant Governor Fugate for his engineering deeds. He established waterworks system in every municipality. He laid out the circumferential and other road network connecting important points of the island. He constructed school buildings in every town, bridges and a wharf.

In 1922, General Leonard Wood visited Siquijor to appraise its public works.

President Manuel L. Quezon also came to visit to Siquijor aboard the presidential yacht Casiana.

WORLD AT WAR

During World War II, Siquijor was briefly governed by Shunzo Suzuki, a Japanese civilian appointed by the Japanese Imperial Forces.

He came to Siquijor, posing as a fisherman, ahead of the Japanese soldiers and lived in a small hut overlooking the sea in the village of Camaligan, Nabutay, Maria.

Suzuki was assassinated by the guerrilla force led by Iluminada Jumawan. Manos Fukuda took over from June 1943 until the Japanese forces abandoned the island when the liberation forces came in 1944.

At the outbreak of World War II, Siquijor then a subprovince of Negros Oriental was headed by Lieutenant Governor Niccolas Parami. Refusing to pledge allegiance to the Japanese Imperial forces, he was abducted by soldiers one evening from his residence at Poo, Lazi and brought to the military headquarters in Larena. He was tortured and brought to the open sea where he was killed.

Siquijorwas a sub-province of Negros Oriental until House Bill No. 652 was passed during the Seventh Congress of the Republic of the Philippines.

On September 17, 1971,President Ferdinand E. Marcos approved Republic Act No. 6398 which made Siquijor a regular province and independent of Negros Oriental. It was ratified by Siquijodnons in a plebiscite on November 8, 1971. The Province of Siquijor was inaugurated on January 8, 1972.

Thus ended Siquijor's storied four-century political journey and dependence from the bigger and more politically established island neighbors. Through the enduring efforts, wisdom and sheer dedication of its political leaders, the province has been steered towards economic progress and development.

Siquijor - Governor General Weyler
Siquijor - General Leonard Wood
Siquijor - Captain Sabihon
Siquijor - Captain Sabihon and Aloha Mae
Siquijor - Captain Sabihon and his B-17 crew
Siquijor - President Manuel L. Quezon

TROPICAL ISLAND

Famed for its 102 kilometers of pristine shoreline bordered by white-sand beaches, mangroves, coral reefs and majestic rock formations, Siquijor island enjoys the tropical sun apart from the rain the monsoon brings. The cheery climate allows for an atmosphere and a terrain perfect for hikers, bikers and nature lovers. Its seaside towns easily gives one a view of the beach's gentle waves and the blue beyond, while inland falls and caves are endless sources of fun and adventure.

Mostly of limestone, Siquijor's terrain is generally rolling. Relatively flat coastal plains are located in Lazi and San Juan while the island's interior is either hilly or mountainous. The highest point, at the peak of Mt. Bandilaan, rises some 557 meters above the sea, at the island's central northwesterly side, ready to be conquered by mountain climbers and hikers alike. From there, one can enjoy a panoramic view of the whole island.

Like most of the Philippine islands, Siquijor is studded with old churches and convents, providing land marks and centerpieces for each of its towns. A parish was first established by the secular clergy in what is now the capital town of Siquijor in 1783. The 19th century saw the establishment of the parishes of Larena (1836), Lazi (1857), San Juan (1863) and Maria (1877) by the friars of the Augustinian Recollect Order. There are churches, convents and bell towers that withstood the ravages of time, except for Larena whose church and convent were destroyed by fire.

Most notable among these Augustinian Recollect edifices are the San Isidro Labrador Catholic Church and Convent of Lazi made of indigenous coral stones and hardwood.

The Lazi Catholic Church is among the very few churches in the Philippines today which has preserved its hardwood foor. Strongly recommended by architects and art historians for their age and architectural uniqueness, the Lazi Catholic Church and Convent are declared national historical landmarks of the Philippines by the Philippine Historical Commission.

During town fiestas paying homage to patron saints, or in big Catholic holy days like Christmas and Easter, there is a festive atmosphere in the island. There are also traditional or community festivals held simultaneously with the annual fiesta in each town.

Depicting Siquijor as the "Island of Fire" is the Dilaab Festival.It is a thematic dance play (like Cebu's Sinulog) done every first day of October, during Siquijor town fiesta. Other festivals are the Bugwas of San Juan, the Saging Festival of Lazi, the Lubi Festival of Maria, the Canoan Food Street Festival of Larena and the Pamukad of Enrique Villanueva.

With a culture and a history that is a by-product of several hundred years of Hispanic heritage, Siquijodnons possess a religiosity that allows for a shy, almost convent-bred, hospitality while remaining sturdy and proud at heart.

That longing for a distinct identity shows itself in the island's bid for sustainability amidst a laid-back economy, in its steady rise in ecotourism. Indeed, things are looking up promising as the sunrise in Siquijor

Siquijor - Mt. Bandilaan National Park
Siquijor - Saint Isidore de Labrador Church
Siquijor - Convent of Lazi

THE MUNICIPALITY OF SIQUIJOR

The municipality of Siquijor is located southwest of the island, bounded by the Tanon Strait, the towns of Lazi in the southeast, Larena in the northeast and San Juan in the south. Siquijor, a parish dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi was recognized independent of Dumaguete in mainland Negros Oriental in 1783. It was the first and only parish in the island at that time it was established by a friar, Fr. Eustaquio Ruiz.

The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi was built in 1774 with stone and has the usual crucible form of the old Spanish churches. The old belfry of rubble stones stands independently farther from the church. It is found in the middle of the plaza, suggesting that it maintained a double purpose as a watch tower against Moro invaders. Siquijor town was established as the provincial capital by virtue of Proclamation No. 1075.

As the capital, it is the seat of the provincial government which maintains and oversees the political administration of the whole island, ensuring for itself the bulk of the development of the island's infrastructures and facilities. However, it has managed to maintain that genteel and laid back atmosphere that pervades the peaceful and serene island of Siquijor.

Like most towns in the island, it is endowed with the beauty of beckoning beaches, natural inland parks, forests and caves. Mt. Bandilaan Nature Park is the highest peak of the island, rising at 557 feet. Its lush diversity invites for an interesting adventure.

Most famous of the islands' over 45 caves is the Cantabon Cave which takes an hour and a half to negotiate. The long and winding network can be challenging at turns but always delights with its beautiful stalactites and stalagmite formations. Another unique cave in the island is the Tulawog Cave in Barangay Ponong with its majestic formations.

Siquijor - Cantabon Cave
Siquijor - Tulawog Cave
Siquijor - The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi
Siquijor - Dilaab Festival
Siquijor - Dilaab Festival
Siquijor - Dilaab Festival
Siquijor - Dilaab Festival
Siquijor - Dilaab Festival
Siquijor - Dilaab Festival
FOLK HEALING IN THE ISLAND

Siquijor partly owes its famous mystique to its "traditional doctors" and their variety of folk healing and divination rituals, with the bolo-bolo as the most popular form. Bolo-bolo is performed with the use of a drinking glass, water, stone and straw.

The session begins with the healer feeling the pulse of the patient. By pulsation, he can tell if a patient's ailment is brought about by evil spirits or natural causes. Some healers only treat patients whose illnesses are caused by supernatural elements, while others treat both.

The healer drops a black stone, which he "acquired" through supernatural means, into a glass. He then half fills the glass with water.

Using a straw, the healer then blows air into the water as he presses the glass of water into the affected areas of the patient's body. When the water becomes cloudy or dirty, or if some objects like stones, shrubs, even bones, suddenly appear in the water, these will confirm that something is really wrong with the patient.

The healer does the procedure again with clean water until it is free of objects and no longer appears murky. An herbal oil or liniment is then rubbed on the patient's body. While others believe in the curative powers of the bolo-bolo and other folk healing practices in Siquijor, they have also fanned so much speculation, becoming, in fact, a subject of several scholarly studies. Whether you believe it or not, one thing is certain, it has become one of Siquijor's major attractions.

HEALERS, HERBALISTS AND HOLY WEEK

The annual Holy Week celebration in Siquijor island is a time when healers and herbalists all over Visayas and Mindanao come together to participate in the preparation of concoctions made from a variety of tree barks, roots, herbs, insects and other ingredients.

These are gathered during Fridays of the Lent season from the forests, sea, caves and cemeteries. The resulting brews are known to have healing powers.

The Festival starts on the Holy Wednesday by gathering the final ingredients. This day is known as "pang-alap". Activity on the Maundy Thursday is "pang-adlip" or chopping different tree bark and other ingredients said to be more than 200 kinds.

In Good Friday, healers and herbalists concoct amalgams for "black magic or occult practices". This is part of the villages' secret knowledge as there are no outsiders allowed to observe.

In contrast, Black Saturday activity is open to spectators. This time, the herbalists, healers and spectators gather together in a circle taking turns to produce mixture that also include love potions. When the brews are ready, they are bottled and sold.

This village tradition started before the 1930s, according to the people of San Antonio and Cantabon, and has been handed down from the predecessors of some famous healers such as Natalia Ontolan, Serapio Bocol, Pedro Tumapon or "Nong Indoy", Ciriaco Ponce, Juan Ponce, Martin Amis and Nicolas Agan.

THE MUNICIPALITY OF LARENA

The next town north of capital Siquijor was named after Demetrio Larena, the first Filipino governor of Negros Oriental. The town's name was officially changed from Canoan to Larena back in 1860. Majestic Larena with its queenly beauty is a sight to behold. The entrance to the town's municipal hall through the Queengate Center gives credence to its undisputed title as the Queen Town of Siquijor. It has the major port and so enjoys being the center of the island's trade and commerce.

Traces of its colonial past remain in two of its surviving Hispanic era structures. There is the Campanario or the St. Vincent Ferrer bell tower in North Poblacion. Completed in 1889, the tower is made of coral stones. Another is the former headquarters of the Spanish Guardia Civil which now exists as the main building of the Larena Primary School.

One is treated with a panoramic view of Larena up Palingkod Hill in the nearby barangays of Helen and Bagakay, and be enthralled by its local fauna in the Municipal Tree Park found in Bontod. With its natural charm, Larena opens itself as a gateway to the island as a leading eco-tourism destination.

It takes pride in its developed beach resorts complete with tourism facilities such as those in Barangay Sandugan, lke Islander's Paradise, Kiwi Dive Resort and Casa de la Playa.

The usual treat of delicacies abounds like the native pan bisaya, torta, sugar-coated peanuts called pinyato, and cuchinta. Larena is also known for its kind of pork sausages, the Filipino chorizo and longaniza. The five-night Canoan Food Street Festival from April 25 to 29 every year gives credence to the name origin of Larena which is Canoan, meaning Kan-anan or eating place.

The venue of this festival is the Universal Street along the Larena Public Market. Every day before six o'clock in the evening, this street is closed to all types of vehicles including commuters. Tables and chairs are arranged to resemble an outdoor restaurant. Various cuisine and delicacies are sold customers who enjoy dining and listening to the music provided by a live band. The week-long festive mood of the Canaan Food Street Festival fills the air as balikbayans, home for a holiday, exchange nostalgic pleasantries with friends and family.

Siquijor - Gov. Demetrio Larena
Siquijor - Larena Town Hall
Siquijor - Larena Pier Terminal
Siquijor - Palingkod Hill
Siquijor - St. Vincent Ferrer bell tower
Siquijor - Dilaab Festival

THE MUNICIPALITY OF ENRIQUE VILLANUEVA

Once a barrio of the municipality of Larena, the town got its name from a former governor of Negros Oriental, Gov. Enrique Villanueva, who was instrumental in creating the municipality on January 1, 1925. Formerly known as Talingting, the place harbors a species of bird, fish and tree that all bear the name Talingtingon.

Situated some 22 kilometers northeast of the capital town Siquijor, it is rich in marine resources. The main tourist attraction is the Tulapos Fish Sanctuary and Tree House that boasts of sea world teeming with colorful tropical fish and corals ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling. On the beach, a tree house was built on top of one of the mangroves, offering a picturesque vista that doubles as a lookout for possible intrusions into the sanctuary.

Many beaches dot the town's white-sand-coated coastline, among them in the barangays of Camogao, Binoongan, Lomangcapan, and in Poblacion, the town center itself. Among the islanders, the town is largely known for its giant hobo, a kind of fish trap large enough for a person to dance inside. For those who love fresh-water adventure there is the Kanghulugan Falls and for the wannabe spelunkers the Binoongan, Tangon and Samba caves await.

The Hard Rock Cottages of Bitaug is the place to go to for the weary backpacker seeking for serenity and solitude without losing the necessary comforts and amenities. The cottages are built on hard rock formations overlooking the wide blue sea of Talingting.

Excellent dive sites include those of Daquit Shoal, Tulapos Sanctuary, Cedric Wall and Kiwi. If you are lucky, you can catch the Pamukad, a fish-harvesting activity of the local fishermen that seemingly takes on a ritualistic dimension.

Pamukad comes from the Visayan word bukad, to reel in or to catch fish. Fishermer gather at the shores on the early morning of the Pamukad to prepare the tools of their trade in small outrigger canoes called sakayan. The array who serves as the boat captain is responsible for the identification of the actual location of the hobo or fish trap and for making the olin or the leader. The Pamukad requires the skillful ability of the fishermen in paddling, rowing and reeling the catch. It also requires sacrifice, patience and perseverance in facing the odds of the sometimes temperamental and unforgiving sea.

At the end of the Pamukad, the fishermen are welcomed in the shores by waiting women and children to share in the catch. Merriment and a big feast ensue, as the women busy themselves preparing the catch to make sutukil (sinugba-tinola-kinilaw), an all-in-one menu of grilled and broiled fish, with raw, vinegar-soaked fillet-cut fish meat on the side. Sweet potatoes, manioc and rice wrapped in banana leaves complete the banquet, which is usually downed with tuba, the popular Visayan coconut wine. The rest of the catch is then sold to the waiting buyers.

In a spiritual sense, Pamukad also means the outpouring expression of reverence, devotion and thanksgiving accorded to the Supreme Being. Talingtingons fervently believe that wherever they may go and whatever they may do, there is always the element of the divine.

That is why every catch is offered to the heavens with adoration and thanksgiving for the divine intercession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the town's patron saint in whose honor the Church in town is named after. If you have the feel for history and culture, you can head off to the old bamboo-and-wood affair known as the Cang-isok House which is considered to be the oldest house in Siquijor. While at it, you can just as easily take a leisurely walk down any of the streets and witness the quiet rural customs of the townsfolk unfold under the swelter of the tropical sun. Then, feast on native rice cakes called bibingka from Pari-an and the homey pan bisaya (native bread) of Cangmangki and Libo. You can buy your pasalubong or gift of native bread also at the only drive-in bakeshop in town, along the national highway in Camogao.

Siquijor - Enrique Villanueva Tawn Hall
Siquijor - Tulapos Fish Sanctuary
Siquijor - Tulapos Fish Sanctuary
Siquijor - Pamukad Festival
Siquijor - The Cang Isok House
Siquijor - Our Lady of Mount Carmel

THE MUNICIPALITY OF MARIA

In the olden times , in a certain village in the island, there lived a beautiful woman named Kangmenia. Aside from her beauty, she was well-loved by the people for she was as kind as she was fair. It was in her honor that they named the village after her. A parochial town was constituted by the Recollects in 1880 within the village and dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin under the name of Our Lady of Divine Providence. That same year, the name Kangmenia was changed by the Spanish friars to Maria in honor of the Blessed Virgin, a change the people did not find hard to accept. Thus was born the town of Maria.

Today Maria is as much a fair maiden by the bay, peacefully nestled on the eastern seaboard of the island, two towns away from the bustle of the busier towns of Larena and Siquijor. In the center of the town is the old church and belfry of Our Lady of Divine Providence.

It is built out of square-shaped sea stones using tender melt carabao skin as block binder and white powderous silt and limestone as interior wall plastering. Beside the church is the public market under the shade of acacias. In the nearby seaside park is the old guard post and watch tower the Spanish built in 1897 to protect the town from pirates.

The most famous beaches in Siquijor happens to be in Maria. With a shoreline streching some 23 kilometers, the beachfront is sandy and rocky with picturesque limestone cliffs. Princesa Bulakna in Barangay Candaping and Salagdoong in Barangay Olang are outstanding for their sugar-white scarpet of sand and first-class amenities. Near Salagdoong is an islet called Polo. It is 500 square meters of lush foliage with a gorgeous reef ideal for scuba diving.

Barangay Olang also features the Olang Art Park, a nature park which doubles as a sanctuary for artists from writers and painters to musicians who gather to immerse in each other's works or to refresh their artistic visions in the hope of producing their most famous work. One can greet the sunrise in a tree house and ease the day out enjoying the sunset best in the park's performing center.

Poblacion Norte has the only monastery in the province: the Poor Claire Monastery which was constructed in the early 80s. It is run by nuns under the Franciscan Order.

Maria celebrates the Lubi Festival, a lively and colorful cultural tradition held every third week of May, showcasing the various products and uses of the coconut, anything from its fruit to its palms and sturdy trunk. Along with the popular lubiscuits and coconut candies, the town offers other famous pastries and delicacies such as torta, coco polvoron and sesame balls.

Siquijor - Maria Tawn Hall
Siquijor - The Lubi Festival
Siquijor - Maria Public Market
Siquijor - Salagdoong Beach
Siquijor - Our Lady of Divine Providence Church
Siquijor - Poor Claire Monastery

THE MUNICIPALITY OF LAZI

In southern end of Siquijor lies the captivating town of Lazi. Founded by the Recollect friars as a parish in 1857, the town was originally known as Tigbawan, a name derived from a plant known to grow along its bays. It is the second town south of the capital, after San Juan.

During the american occupation, the title of the town's chief executive was changed to president. Foremost among them was Narciso Tangcalagan who headed the town from 1918 to 1921. Later, Telesforo Lumacad was elected municipal mayor during the Japanese occupation. He was forced to surrender to the Japanese authorities in exchange for the lives of all other municipal officials whom the Japanese threatened to execute.

The Japanese Imperial Forces arrived in Lazi on November 10, 1942. They announced their arrival by shelling the shorelines starting at Cang-abas Point. The bombing wrought havoc and damage to properties along the shore.

Renowned for its top nature spots, Lazi is inviting. It has clear turquoise waters such as in Napayong or in a beach with majestic rock formations known as Bacong. There is the popular Hakbal Bato or Takbal-Bato, two huge stones mysteriously jutting out in the shallows, one leaning on the other in a form that suggests that of two forlorn lovers.

Along Lazi coast are the white sand beaches of Guiwanon and Balas-balas, among others in the barangays of Simacolong, Gabayan, Campalanas and Talayong. In Talayong Marine Sanctuary, divers enjoy the profusion of marine life, from the brilliantly hued soft and hard corals to numerous species of multi-colored fish.

One can also enjoy the beautiful lagoon of Tigbawan. Trekkers must go up cone-shaped Mt. Ilihan and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the surrounding barangays.

On the summit is a big cross that the Catholic faithful frequent during the Lenten season. Down in Campalanas, along the main road, stands a majestic century-old enchanting balete. Believed to be the oldest and the biggest in the island, the tree springs clear water from down its roots providing water the to the residents. Not infrequently, one can see people washing their laundry or enjoyably taking their bath alfresco.

Caves are also found in Lazi. The more popular are the Talayong Cave, which used to be the hiding place of the residents during World War II, the Ilihan Cave of Simacolong, and the Lahong Cave of Cangumantong which has a cold spring. Waterfalls make for a refreshing detour from the sweltering visit to the caves. One can either trek by the river or through a forest and be rewarded with the breathtaking scenery and the languid pools of the three-tiered Cambugahay Falls of Tigbawan.

There is also the serene Kabugsayan between Cangclaran and Kinamandagan, and Kawasan downstream with its 5-meter drop down two to three meters deep of cool pristine waters perfect ect for swimming.

Easily one of the most beautiful towns in the island, Lazi is blessed with the marvelous confluence of its natural wonders and the artistry of its people.

Known to the locals as the Music Town, this once sleepy pueblo has awakened from its slumber with the rousing ensemble of its first concerto in a family of musicians, the Lumacads. Named the Grand Old Man of Music in Lazi, the late Telesforo Lumacad, a former mayor and board member of the town and the patriarch of the Lumacad family formed the town's very first orchestra: the Island Swing Orchestra in the 1950s. Since then, music has been part of the heart of Lazihanons and has spread throughout the world in a new generation of Lazihanons forming bands in Manila, the Middle East and in Germany.

Christmas is likewise delightful in Lazi, when people organize a tree lighting contest in the main thoroughfares, making the yuletide nights magical, fascinating and truly merry. The town fiesta falls on May 15 honoring St. Isidore the Farmer. The weeklong celebration includes sports, cultural events, shows from showbiz personalities and orchestra or band performances.

It is also the occasion of the Saging (Banana) Festival, a street parade showcasing the usefulness of the fruit in the lives of the people. In colorful, artfully crafted banana-inspired costumes, performers begin the festival with street dancing which culminates in a showdown depicting the legend, varieties and versatility of the plant, a basic source of livelihood. To the Lazihanons, the banana is the Plant of Life.

Siquijor - Lazi Tawn Hall
Siquijor - Mt. Ilihan
Siquijor - Cave Ilihan
Siquijor - Saging Festival
Siquijor - Century Old Balete Tree Church
Siquijor - Cambugahay Falls
THE LEGENTS OF SIQUIJOR

From the town of Lazi comes the marvelous tales on the origin of two of its natural wonders.


One was a tale of how Cambugahay Falls came to be. Legend says that the very falls of Cambugahay was once a cliff at the foot of which was the house of the three sisters. Now the sisters, the prettiest in the whole land, were as haughty and as vain as they are most beautiful.

One chilly evening, an old woman shivering of cold and hunger knocked on their door. She begged to be taken in for the night but the three haughty sisters had only contempt for the old woman and pushed her away. The old woman mysteriously disappeared.

Soon after, the earth shook violently and a huge waterspout fell on the cliff where the three maidens lived. The cliff went under the turbulent swirling waters and the house, along with the three sisters was swept by the waterspout that fell on them that night.

On the cliff was formed the waterfalls with the clearest cascades dropping through three tiers, perhaps to remind the people of the three beautiful and haughty maidens.


Another tale is about the mysterious pair of rocks found on a beach in Simacolong called Hakbal Bato.

The locals say it all began when long ago there lived in the village a princess called Maganda. Her mother died giving birth to her which endeared her more to the people. The king loved her daughter so much who grew up to become very beautiful, indeed.

One day, a Chinese junk anchored at Maganda's favorite spot in the seashore. The captain of the vessel disembarked and paid due homage to the king. He invited the king, the princess and the subjects of the kingdom to take a look at the silk, jewels and other precious things they brought with them. But the princess caught sight of the captain's young son looking at her. Their eyes met and their hearts melted for each other.

When night came, melodious strains of love songs wafted through the kingdom as the captain's son played on his violin. Early the next morning Maganda slipped unnoticed and went to meet the captain's son. He leaped from the vessel when he saw the princess and went to embrace her.

But the king saw and was filled with rage and aimed at the embracing lovers with his arrow. The captain's son pulled Maganda closer and covered her with his body. The arrow flew swiftly and hit his heart through his back. A fairy, taking pity on her, turned Maganda into a mermaid and sent her swimming into the sea. As a reminder to everyone of the tragic fate of the lovers, two rocks sprouted from the spot where they embraced.

Thus today, on the shore of Simacolong, one can spot two stones, the bigger one seems to embrace and protect the smaller one.

THE MUNICIPALITY OF SAN JUAN

Once part of the sprawling town of Siquijor as a village called Capilay, San Juan came on its own as a municipal unit on November 6, 1863, reducing considerably the size of Siquijor and part of adjacent Lazi. Now it is that ravishing town right to the south of Siquijor. San Juan rivals Lazi and the beaches of Maria in the grandeur of its diverse natural attractions. It is the tourism center of the island.

Accross the San Agustin Church with its more than a century-old belfry right in the middle of the town is the fantastic waters of the Capilay Spring Park. The refreshingly cool waters of this natural spring flow gently into a sparkling pool, providing the centerpiece of the town's picturesque plaza which both bathers and sightseers frequent. Children are a common sight romping in the playground and families regularly gather in its wonderful manicured gardens. The town is a haven for nature trekkers, scuba divers and spelunkers alike. A lot of pristine beaches and enchanting resorts are scattered along its coast, some on rocky promontories. At the top of the list is a scenic cove called Paradise Bay in Cangmunag, Coco Grove in Tubod, Coral Cay in Solangon, Royal Cliff in Maite and On the Rocks in Tag-ibo. For divers, Tambisan Wall, Paliton Wall and Paliton Staghorn are a must, all of them just 6 to 8 kilometers off the shore in Coco Grove Resort in Tubod. San Juan is terrific for those who are into spelunking, or just for the plain curious and adventurous of soul. Solangon offers the biggest cave in the area.

However, the most breathtaking is in Canghunog-hunog which offers nature lovers an awesome view of its underground mini waterfalls. In Napo, the hidden falls of Lugnason is both magical and mystical, as is the Bulalakaw Forest in Catulayan, Napo and Tag-ibo with its endangered animal and plant species. Once a year, for one week in August, Capilay Spring Park is transformed into a wonderland of pomp and gaiety for a celebration is in order. It is the Bugwas Festival which highlights the town fiesta every 28th of August, the feast of the town's patron saint, St. Augustine. Bugwas means a gush of water from the ground, symbolizing a fruitful harvest for the farmers and a rich catch for the fishermen of San Juan. In the end, Bugwas, its dance and rhythm, is a metaphor of the natural spring of Capilay, the source of the town's life itself.

Siquijor - Capilay Spring Park
Siquijor - Tubod Marine Sanctuary
Siquijor - Lugnason Falls
Siquijor - Bugwas Festival
Siquijor - San Agustin Church
Siquijor - Paliton Beach
SEEING SIQUIJOR THROUGH VISUAL ARTS

One good thing about Siquijor is not only the colors of the island - saffron sunsets, aquamarine seas, luxuriant and lush hills - can be seen everyday from one's windows. A variety of hues are also permanently captured on the canvas of its artists. Feel this magical island pulsate with creativity and artistry as you visit them in their studios. Better yet, bring home a masterpiece to remind your wanderlust once in this island.

AUDIE ESTRELLADA
Audie considers himself as a full time visual artist and searches the Muse of his next work by traveling around. He either paints it from life, or takes snapshots and work on it in his studio. His paintings show realism and are testaments of his discipline and determination. He has won several awards, including the Grand Prize of the prestigious Art Association of the Philippines Painting Competition and the Outstanding Siquijodnon in the Field of Visual Arts. His studio Isla de Fuego Art Gallery is in Bontod, Larena.


ULYSSES ANDORA
Ulysses juggles law and visual art. This lawyer discovered he can paint six years ago so he'd rather preferred to be hobbyist than an artist. Art and law tend to move in different direction, he said, but he reconciled this with the philosophy that art and sophistication govern the colorful life in whatever way. If in the courtroom there is the art of persuasion, in every other slice of life, there is that art in the quest for perfection. As life defines art, art becomes the law of life in turn, thereby making them inseparable.


LEO BOMEDIANO
The Larena-based school principal and selftaught painter started painting at twelve. His love for nature sparked his passion for visual arts such that his knack for sketching paved the way to painting. From 1980 to 2000, the multiawarded painter collected prestigious awards for his works including the Grand Prize of the Dona Modesta Gaisano Foundation Painting Competition. His studio and gallery is in Candigum, Larena.


MALVIN LOMOSAD
An apprentice of Bomediano, Marvin started with charcoal and water color painting for movie advertisements. In 1995, he started working as an artist-illustrator for the local government of Enrique Villanueva where he did his first group show. He paints in the cubism and impressionism styles using oil, soft pastel, pen and ink, charcoal and watercolor. He was a semi-finalist in the 2007 Metrobank Painting Contest. His studio and gallery is in Poblacion, Enrique Villanueva.


Siquijor - Audie Estrellada
Siquijor - Ulysses Andora
Siquijor - Malvin Lomosad
ONE ISLAND. ONE DAY. SO MANY WAYS TO EXPLORE

Siquijor has a 75 km. long circumferential road leading to eco-tourism and heritage gems spread across the island-province's six towns. And a day isn't enough to explore all and sundry. Still, if you don't plan on staying overnight in Siquijor, here are some suggested pit-stops to spice up your brief escape.

SIQUIJOR

The St. Francis of Assisi Church and Belfry is the first attraction to welcome your arrival at the port of the provincial capital of Siquijorthe point of entry of fast-ferries coming from neighboring Dumaguete, Bohol and Cebu. Built in the 1700's, its convent has a museum. Note the intricate coat of arms on the convent's doorway.


SAN JUAN

The Capilay Natural Spring Park is a public square along the highway with pools and cottages. It turns into a nightlife hub at night with live bands and partying. The park is best viewed from the town church, which is located right behind it. The Campalanas' centuries-old balete juts out in the middle of a natural spring, which folk healers utilize as a venue for cleansing rituals. Known for its humongous length and girth, get a kick out of seeing yourself dwarfed by the balete during picture-taking.


LAZI

The San Isidro Labrador Church and Convent was declared a National Cultural Treasure and is in the running for a coveted spot in the UNESCO World Heritage List. It houses the Siquijor Heritage Foundation Museum featuring religious artifacts including the only existing image of St. Joseph in his deathbed. Before heading out, treat yourself to a foot massage by the convent's large capiz windowsfor a minimum fee, of course. The multi-tiered Cambugahay Falls is 135 steps away from the main road. After all that legwork, you deserve a relaxing dip.


MARIA

The Salagdoong Beach Resort is governmentdeveloped and owned, complete with cottages, slides and snorkeling area. Entrance fee is only P15 per person. Hungry? It also has a quickservice restaurant.


ENRIQUE VILLANVEVA

The Tulapos Marine Sanctuary is the oldest and best-managed MPA in the province. Visit its tree house that's resting within hectares of mangroves and wait for the beginning of sunset.


LARENA

Being the commercial center, Larena is the last stop for dinner and some souvenir shopping. Then, catch the evening slowboat trip from the port of Larena to Bohol and Cebu. Daily fastcrafts are available in the next town, Siquijor, but the latest of them departs mid-afternoon.


Tips adn other bits to remember

This day tour itinerary is ideal granting you make it to Siquijor early morning via fast-ferry from Dumaguete (fast-crafts coming from Cebu and Bohol arrive in the evening). To get around, scooters, tricycles or multi-cabs are available for rental or special trips. Motorcycle rental charges you on an hourly or daily basis, while multicab rates can go from Pl,000-1,500 depending on your haggling skills. Tricycle rental should be cheaper than the latter.