Say “Siquijor” and what comes to mind? Mangkukulam, mambabarang, and other mystic matters. In fact, for many Filipinos, the mere mention of the place brings shivers down their spines.
To be honest I had a very different notion of what Siquijor is. My family and I had gone on a trip to Dumaguete last week and decided to take a “side trip” to the nearby island province. Dumaguete itself is a wonderful city, filled with old world charm accentuated by the warm glow that envelopes it in the afternoon. But we were told that Siquijor was more “untouched,” surrounded by white-sand beaches and filled forests, mangroves, springs, and other natural attractions. We were also curious about its reputation as the “supernatural” capital of the country so we decided to take the morning ferry on our second day.
Now I don’t believe in kulam, barang, and that kind of stuff, but what I was concerned about was that there would be nothing to see or enjoy in the island. No offense to Siquijornons, but for some reason I had imagined it to be more like a “barrio” with nipa huts, dirt roads, and old ladies sweeping the yards outside their homes. When we got there, however, we were immediately greeted by a Paradise-like coast that was picture-perfect — and this was the pier.
We quickly realized that the tourism industry in Siquijor was more developed than in many other places we had gone to. There was a tourism office extension right at the pier, and there a young and courteous police officer showed us a map of the spots we should visit. He also directed us to a tricycle driver and told us exactly how much we should pay him — nothing more, nothing less. We really appreciated this because it meant we would not be overcharged by our driver/tourist guide.
We drove around the entire island in one day, visiting spots like the spring-fed swimming pool in San Juan, the century-old balete tree in Lazi (where you could dip your feet in the fish spa), the St. Isidore Church built in 1857, the Cambugahay waterfalls, and the government-run but very well-kept Salagdoong Beach Resort. We actually asked our driver El (yep, that’s his full name) where we could find a mangkukulam or mambabarang, and he flatly said there were none in Siquijor. The island, as it turned out, is not what many people make it out to be.
Here’s a video I made of our trip. I hope you enjoy it!