Siquijor Island, called also Isla del Fuego (Island of Fire), was discovered by Spaniards in 1565 and soon was annexed to Spanish Empire. Of course it existed before, but after it was colonialized it changed its roots and lots of Spanish influences are present even today. The names of towns, churches, local language – everywhere there is something “Spanish”.
Later it was in American, for a short time in Japanese and again American hands and finally got independent in 1971.
Today Siquijor Island is famous from its magic and sorcery, shamans, healers and folk festivals. Also it is known as one of the most interesting diving destinations with number of coral reefs surrounding the island. All of that make Siquijor one of the best holiday gateways in The Philippines. Majority of visitors come to swim in azure seawaters, relax on white beaches, dive and snorkel, admire waterfalls, explore caves, climb the mountains, meet healers, take part in fiestas. But there is much more, also for history lovers.
After Spanish conquistadores discovered the island it became religion bastion of Augustinian Recollects who founded several parishes and started conversion of the natives to Christianity. Centuries-old religious landmarks recall those times, especially old churches, which should be on the list of must-see of every visitor. One of the reason is they are old and it is visible, unfortunately. It seems that local authorities do not invest enough to keep these buildings in a good condition. It’s a pity, because they are the examples of beautiful architecture and may disappear soon.
So, if you are coming to Siquijor Island, try to find time to visit them.
Start from island’s capital – Siquijor and its St. Francis de Assisi Convent and Bell Tower located close to the ferry port, in the central point of the town. The church was constructed from rough whitish coral stones. Founded in 1783 is in quite good condition now.
Next head toward Maria and stop for a while in Larena to have a look at St. Vincent De Ferrer Bell Tower – hexagonal tower, from 1889, made of coral stones and rubbles.
When you reach Maria, you will easily spot Our Lady of Divine Providence church (1887), located by the main road. That is a big and old one with weird and a bit scary Santa Rita of Cascia statue holding human skull in one and crucifixion in other hand.
Next stop should be Lazi. There are two important heritage places: San Isidro Labrador Church and San Isidro Labrador Convent.
Church in Lazi is the biggest one on Siquijoir Island. It was constructed in 1857 and is made of coral stones inlaid with wooden reinforcements and fill as well as beautiful, original wooden floor.
If not the presence of the tower it would look like a barn, but when you enter the building you will be impressed how treasured it is. That is why San Isidro Labrador Church is candidate of the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site, despite the fact it is in critical shape today and needs solid investments.
Opposite to the church there is another famous building – San Isidro Labrador Convent, erected in 1887 in Filipino style: ground floor made of coral stones, upper floor made of wood. Ground floor was adapted by local elementary school, while upper floor, mostly rusty, has one room dedicated to the museum (entrance fee 20PHP) with interesting and valuable exhibits, unfortunately, not secured properly. It’s a shame on local authorities they allow to keep also this building and museum in such a bad shape.
Both Lazi Church and Lazi convent has the status of National Cultural Treasures.
That could be just perfect place to create cultural and historical centre of Siquijor Island, and hopefully it will happen.
So, why not to spend a day on Siquijor with a dose of its colonial history?