Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint why you fell for a place. It could be the famous sights, the great food or the lovely people. But every now and then a place gets under your skin and you don’t really know why. There’s some kind of magic in the air, something that pulls you in. That’s how I feel about the small island of Siquijor in The Philippines. It doesn’t have spectacular sights, there’s not that much to do, but after one hour on the island I knew I was in love.
Siquijor is a small island in the Visayas, like there are so many in The Philippines. I’ve thought long and hard about why I loved this particular island so much. And I think it’s because Siquijor combines all the wonderful things The Philippines have to offer on a small scale.
Beautiful beaches, landscapes and waterfalls
The Philippines are famous for their great beaches and abundant rice fields. Siquijor offers beautiful white beaches, a hilly interior, neon green rice paddies and the Cambugahay Falls. Stunning views are basically everywhere. And if you’re an avid scuba diver, you should hit the waters surrounding Siquijor for a couple of amazing dives.
The Filipinos are one of the most open, enthusiastic and curious people I’ve ever met. It’s very easy to talk to them, also because English is their second language. Filipinos have an incredible zest for life, and singing and dancing are very important to them. Hence the karaoke, which is everywhere! While driving around on Siquijor, my arms got tired from all the waving. I kept smiling and yelling ‘hello’ to everybody we passed. Loved it.
Watching village life go by
You’ll pass many small villages while driving around the island. You’ll see cows and chicken roaming the roads and you’ll even spot some cock fighting in back gardens. Not really my thing, but it’s a popular pastime in The Philippines. People are chatting together, children are playing hide and seek and sometimes you’ll catch somebody practicing karaoke. It gives you a nice peek into Filipino village life. A word of warning: this peek includes the cry of the roosters. Especially in the middle of the night, since their biological clock is somehow totally off.
One of the things that distinguishes The Philippines from their Asian neighbours is the main religion. Most Filipinos are Catholic, so the towns are not dotted with temples, but with churches. The church of St. Francis of Assisi and the Lazi Convent on Siquijor make for a nice short visit.
A hint of magic
Many Filipinos refuse to spend the night on Siquijor, because it’s considered a ‘magical place’. According to them, Siquijor is home to sorcerers and healers and full of black magic. We didn’t have time to explore this side of Siquijor, but it does add to the mystery of the island.
Exploring off the beaten track
I don’t know why, but The Philippines are not firmly on the tourist map. Yet this country has so much to offer and there are hundreds of islands to explore. Siquijor is a great place to start. Just rent a motorcycle, hit the road and stop whenever you find a special spot that might deserve a more thorough exploration.
Where to stay?
Siquijor has many great places to stay all around the island. We stayed at Villa Marmarine, a lovely, quiet guesthouse above a small beach.
We took the ferry from Dumaguete, on the island of Negros. It’s only a 45-minute ride.
Rent a motorcycle! Usually I’m not a fan of motorcycles, since I’ve never driven one and I feel it’s kind of dangerous to learn to drive on Asia’s insane roads. But on Siquijor it’s no problem: the island’s coastal ring is practically devoid of traffic.
You can rent motorcycles everywhere on the island. We just got confused when we had to buy gasoline. “You’ll see the Coca Cola sign”, promised the owner of our guesthouse. We kept looking for a sign, but all we saw were rows of Coca Cola bottles filled with green liquid. And yes, that was the gasoline. You’ll buy it by the bottle on Siquijor!