Island of Fire and a Secret Beach

Called “Island of Fire” by the Spaniards who docked on its shores in 1565, Siquijor is known for mystical healers, relaxed villages, quiet beaches, and–hence its Spanish nickname–fireflies.  Though government-posted signs declare that, despite a prominent folklore presence, witchcraft-practicing healers don’t exist on Siquijor, one friendly born-and-raised local man we met outside a bakery in Lazi (a town on Siquijor’s south coast) claimed you just have to ride to the top of the Mount Bandilaan in the island’s interior; there the mangkukulam (healers) can indeed be found.

Not destined for the mountain this trip, we’ll never know…

But, witchcraft or not, with its winding coastal road (sometimes paved, sometimes not), kids waving and shouting hello from dilapidated wooden porches, hunched one-horse farmers plowing their land in the late heat, gardens blooming with recycled plastic bottles lined up along metal fences–rendered beautiful as planters for the local flora–ancient, red-roofed churches, and everywhere, palm trees, climbing up into the warm blue air and coaxing your senses to expand, release, receive, relax—this island heals.

Our Siquijor home, Islanders Paradise Beach Resort, is located on the island’s northern tip, Sandugan Point.  After a lazy first day that started with omelettes, proceeded to a slow beach walk, carried on with an afternoon beverage and massage at the next-door Kiwi Dive Resort, and ended with a sunset, hammock, and sleep to the waves, we decided that day two would consist of exploring more of the island.

By motorbike, of course…

With a well-worn tourist map one of the Islanders’ staff rummaged out of a pile of books, a couple ill-fitting helmets, and our cameras, we took off, following the coastal road south through tiny villages with tidy, run-down homes and cows and pigs the size of cows and gas stations selling diesel out of coke bottles and chickens strolling along the concrete, through Larena and on to the island’s capital, named–no surprise–Siquijor.

Five towns are scattered along the perimeter of the island: Larena, Siquijor, San Juan, Lazi, and Maria.  Most populated is Siquijor, where we stopped for a bike break and a wander through the main streets.


As in the rest of the country, tricycles dominated the roads…


And the town’s church took center stage…




Along with its bell tower.


From Siquijor town we rode on, stopping for lunch (coconut rice and steamed veggies for me–fresh fish for Joe) and a beach stroll at Villa Marmarine


and then to a tiny, secret beach we discovered next to the more popular Paliton Beach, in the middle of the east coast, where we floated in the clear, warm water, seaweed brushing our feet, and after, from the shore, watched a small crew of local fisherman carry their canoes into the sea…

and take off on the green waters.

I think this beach was the most idyllic place we found in the Philippines.

Sky, sand, palms, water, sun, quiet, and some sort of mango-like fruit the fishermen gave us…

confirmed my belief that islands–small and sometimes poor, but plentiful in trees, air, water, sand and pure, genuine joy–can heal. They heal us from schedules. They heal us from cell phones and laptop screens and sidewalks and car exhaust.  They dispel pressure and worry, sore throats and congested minds.  I want an island in my soul, to keep with me, to ride a mental motorcycle to on days when the city/future/past/to-do list/compression of time is tying knots in the tops of my shoulders.  An island to ride to before I sleep and maybe, every now and then, when I wake.  Or maybe I’ll just look back at these words and photos and remember.

(*** means photo by Joe)

Next Up: Butterflies and Waterfalls…


One thought on “Island of Fire and a Secret Beach

  1. People here talk about Steve Jobs and our loss of his gifted mind, when they see my iPhone. They ponder how might technology now advance without him. It’s funny to me, when I am asked this standing in a similar paradise to Siquijor. I now see that it is only plants which will continue to advance us.
    Beautiful post, my friend. I am so on your page right now.
    Beso grande.

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