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Siquijor

Facts and Figures
Area: Coastal circumference of Siquijor is 102 km, and total land mass is 343.5 square km. This makes Siquijor the third smallest province in the country both in terms of population and land area.

Languages: The main language spoken in Siquijor is Cebuano. English as well as Tagalog is also spoken by most of the residents.

Population: According to the 2000 census, there are a total of 81,598 Siquijodnons, as the residents of Siquijor call themselves. The same census also states that Siquijor has 17,351 households with an average household size of 4.70 persons. The annual population growth rate is 2.19%, which is slightly lower than the national growth rate of 2.36%.

Education: Literacy rate, one of the highest in the country, is at 92.5%.

Climate: Siquijor has a dry season from around December to May, while the other half of the year is markedly more humid. Annual rainfall is 1,305 millimeters, with mean temperature of 27.8 degrees C and humidity of 78%.


Local folklore

Bolo-bolo healer in action

Bolo-bolo healer blowing through the wooden straw

For ages people of the Philippines have attributed Siquijor Island with mystique and eerie phenomena. Still today the folksy spiritualism plays a large part in the image of the island, and believers still come to sample the witch brew, ranging from potions intended to cure fever or stomach cramps to love potions or concoctions for those vengeful of heart.Bolo-boloOne of the many healing rituals performed on Siquijor is that of bolo-bolo. It is performed with the use of a drinking glass, water, stone and straw. The sessions usually begins with the healer taking the pulse of the patient. By doing so, the healer can supposedly tell if the affliction is caused by natural or unnatural means. Some refuse to heal patients if the nature of the sickness is profane, refering instead the patients to the doctor. Other healers claim they can cure both natural and unnatural ailments. Regardless, the practise is the same.

The healer drops a black stone into a glass, the stone allegedly having been acquired through some sort of magic. Then the healer half fills the glass with water. Using a wooden straw the healer then blows bubbles into the water, whilst holding the glass against the patient in the area affected by the disease.  Gradually the water will become brown, murky or even blackish. Sometimes small stones, shrubs, bones or other material will appear in the water as the healer keps blowing bubbles. This procedure is repeated a  until the water no longer become tainted when the healer blows, by which time the patient is supposedly cured. Sceptics may of course speculate the healer slowly regurgitate or spit material through the straw, but in a world with too many shopping malls and not enough magic such thoughts are perhaps just dull. Regardless, whether you believe in bolo-bolo or not, the mysticism of it and many other arcane practises is one of the things that define Siquijor.




History of Siquijor

The Island of Siquijor is known to many as the mystical island of the Philippines. The name of the island has changed a few times though history though. The island’s native name used to be ´Katagusan´, from tugas, the molave trees that cover the hills. Because of the molave trees and the fireflies in them, the island was earlier poetically known to the spaniards as Isla del Fuego - The Island of Fire. Siquijor - The island’s present name, is claimed to be after King Kihod, a legendary ruler in power when the Spanish explorers arrived. When the Spaniards discovered the island they were alledgedly greeted by this King Kihod, who presented himself with these words ‘si Kihod’ (I am Kihod) The spaniards mistakingly thinking that he was talking about the island adopted the name Sikihod which later changed to Siquijor, as it was easier to pronounce. A more down to earth explanation of the name, is that it comes from the native term quidjod which means the tide is going out.

Perhaps it is very fitting for an island with a mystery to its name, that the island itself is rumored to be quite the center of mystique. Since old days people have seen Siquijor as an island of voodoo and witchcraft and still to this day many superstitious Philippinos prefer not to visit the island. Interestingly one of the first sights to greet new arrivals is a billboard with the picture of the governor, who in no uncertain terms states that witchcraft on Siquijor does not exist. One cannot help but wonder if he’s heard of reverse psychology.

An old legend tells how Siquijor arose from the depth of the ocean during a great earthquake that shook the whole Visayas. Whilst lightning pierced the sky and the storm raged over the seas Siquijor emerged out of the waves. While it may in actual fact have taken millenia of tectonic action to shape the island, one must admit the story holds a certain truth, even if it’s somewhat embellished. Farmers in the highlands of Siquijor still unravel giant seashells in their soil.

Myth and legends aside, Siquijor was discovered by the Spaniards Estaban Rodriguez  and Juan Aguirre during the Legazpi expedition in 1565. Siquijor and the rest of the Philippines was under spanish sovereignty until 1898 when they ceded the Philippines to the United States.

During World War II Siquijor wasn’t spared, though it wasn’t in the center of severe military action. The island was occupied by Japanese detachments between 1942 and 1943. The Japanese established a garrison, but met resistance from Philippine guerrillas, who engaged in sabotage and sought to cause havoc to the Japanese properties. Initially the imperial Japanese forces appointed a civilian -Shunzo Suzuki -to govern Siquijor during this period but he was quickly assassinated by guerrilla forces. Another Japanese - Mamor Fukuda took control until the allied liberation forces came in 1944 and forced the Japanese to abandon Siquijor.