April 5-8, 2023
Siquijor Healing Festival
Location : Mount Bandilaan National Park, Siquijor Island, Philippines
Where Angels Fear to Thread
Siquijor has always been known as the foreboding island where sorcerers and witches cook up their powerful potions and cast spells to wreak havoc on their hapless victims. This is where elementals run wild and free.
When I was a kid, no one from Manila nor any part of the Philippines would dare go to Siquijor. That mentality persists to this day. It was the non-believing foreigners who took advantage of this and bought land for cheap. Now, nearly all posh resorts are owned by foreigners.
In a brilliant marketing move, the authorities demystified Siquijor with a rebranded name, "Mystic Island". Now, tourists come to buy love potions and tricycle drivers have found a lucrative sideline bringing out-of-province locals in search of a "sorcerer" - for a commission, of course!
Pahi Uli (Healing Festival)
During Holy Week, Siquijor hosts a healing festival where shamans from near and far congregate to celebrate and share their special gifts. This year's event was named, Pahi Uli.
Not only the shamans from Siquijor will be in attendance but shamans throughout the country, most notably, from Mindanao, where sorcery is allegedly practiced as well.
Shamans and Yogis
As a practicing yogi where siddhi or supernatural power is part of the landscape, I'm equally curious about this mystic occult practice. My understanding is that this occult power is harnessed externally (passed on by a dying shaman, acquiring a talisman, etc.) while the yogis develop this siddhi unintentionally (as an inevitable by-product of meditation) and it is sourced from within. While shamans capitalize on their powers, yogis are supposed to ignore whatever siddhi they inadvertently developed.
Tourists and Potion Seekers
I was surprised to learn that people from outside Siquijor cross the seas to be here for this occasion to buy the renowned potions - to have someone fall in love with you, to protect you from evil spells (especially if you know you have enemies), or for good luck (popular with business people).
A boatload of people descended into Siquijor for this occasion. In my residence alone, a group of 20 people from Iligan, crowded themselves into a small room just to be a part of the celebration.
It was an uphill climb on my motorbike until I reached the highest point in Siquijor - Mount Bandilaan. It was around 2pm. I prepared to sleep in the park on my jungle hammock. A few people were in attendance. A few booths were selling magical oils, potions and talismanic bric-a-brak. There was a singer and guitarist on the makeshift 'stage'. Unfortunately, I missed the main event for the day - wood chopping at 10am as ingredients for the potions. There was one who was still chopping wood, but it was hardly a spectacle. I even climbed up the tower. But after an hour, everything felt repetitive. I didn't want to wait til the wee hours just for me to be able to sleep on my hammock. Shortly after arriving, I felt the need to go back home. Perhaps I expected too much of the event.
Even if not for the Shamanic event, it's still worthwhile coming to Bandilaan Nature Park for its viewing tower. A 15m tower was constructed on the highest point in Siquijor to afford a 360° view of the surrounding waters and the neighboring islands. The breeze is also refreshing...even on a hot day.
I was first taken there by Marlon (affectionately referred to by locals as, "nice guy but drinks too much"). Kris joined us. Best to bring binoculars since everything else seems too far away...even the waters, since you're practically in the middle of the island.
I had misplaced expectations that this event is somewhat similar to India's Kumbh Mela where yogis gather from all over India to celebrate, commune and show their super human skills. Well, at least in spirit, maybe.
Mysticism is normally shrouded in secrecy where you have to know someone who knows someone who can give you a general direction on sourcing a healer who needs to be searched deep in the forest (Hansel & Gretel style). This healer is supposed to be obscured in myth, folklore and other-unworldliness.
It was a surprise for me to see healers having their associations, being registered with the Local Government Units and parading their wares, not unlike a fish monger selling fish in the market. I guess they have come out of their 'caves' to co-mingle with the mainstream (in fairness, the healers are very much a part of the local population who live side by side with everyone else and look like everyone else).
Given all the hype, is this mysticism valid? In my humble opinion, given my limited knowledge, yes, it's true, but rapidly declining. Why? Mysticism is largely eclipsed now by urbanism and increasing materialism. The remaining shamans are getting older and there's hardly anyone willing to take their place. It's a tradition that's sliding off the slippery slope. Maybe another generation and they would be gone...except for the neo-shamans who make a living on Facebook or Youtube plying their trade to the vulnerable, the desperate, and the gullible.
I remember the stories back in the day during my grandparents that the countryside is rife with elementals, fairies and spirits who practically co-existed with the population. The locals talk about their day-to-day with mention of this elemental and that elemental. It was really part of their landscape.
But with the growing human population and shift in thinking, encroachment infringed on the existence of these other worldly creatures. Similar to the final scene in Lord of the Rings when the fairies, the elves and the dwarves left Middle Earth saying the humans have already taken over...that the ensuing time and era is that of the humans.
Like the rapid decline of animals and plants due to loss of habitat, the shamans are facing that extinction death knell as well - this is now the age of apps, A.I., Tik Tok and social media.
--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
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The Boulevard Opening(May 5, 2023) Lazi's boulevard has been on a an on-off construction phase for the longest time. Finally, an official opening was kicked-in, albeit, the Boulevard has not been finished yet...more »»
More on Siquijor Island:
Siquijor Island Local Info
Jeeps - there are only 2 routes for jeeps within Siquijor Island - and they are rare. Most people have their own motorcycle transport.
Food - these were suggested by a local to me
Siquijor Island Map
Siquijor - Dumaguete Boat Trips(as of Jan 2023)
Siquijor - Tagbilaran - Cebu City Boat Trips(as of Jan 2023)
En route to Cebu City, the ferries usually make a stop-over to Tagbilaran (Bohol) to pick-up more passengers or unload.
Siquijor - Plaridel Boat Trips(as of Jan 2023)
Siquijor - Cebu (Liloan) - Cebu City BUS Trip(as of Jan 2023)
There is only one bus plying this route - Sugbo Urban. Tourist class coach, a/c, comfortable, Sun-Fri (these dates keep changing). P420 for bus, P275 for ferry to Liloan. Larena Port around 5 am, makes a clockwise roundtrip around Siquijor Island - Larena, Enrique Villanueva, Maria, Lazi (stops at Lazi market for breakfast and leaves 6:50 am), San Juan, Siquijor (arrives 8am, P50 from Lazi to Siquijor Poblacion) and catches the 1pm ferry at Larena Port (Sundays at 3 pm) for Liloan, Cebu and resumes its land route. Arrives Cebu City (South Bus Terminal) 10 pm.
Sugbo Urban is the cheapest and most convenient way because it goes around the island (clockwise) along the circumferential road, passing through - Enrique Villanueva, Maria, Lazi, San Juan, Siquijor...and back to Larena where it takes the ferry at 1 pm. This saves you the hassle and high transport cost of a tricycle. Besides, it's a long trip from the other side of the island to be taking by tricycle.
Suggested Destinations After Siquijor Island
These are the nearest popular destinations from Siquijor by boat
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- July Chronicles July 31, 2023
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- The 64 km Bike Ride May 16, 2023
- Lazi Fiesta May 15, 2023
- The Boulevard Opening May 5, 2023
- April Snapshots April 1-30, 2023
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- Exploring Siquijor with Marky Mar 25 - Apr 11, 2023
- Siquijor Healing Festival April 5-8, 2023
- The Talk at United Church of Christ April 2, 2023
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- Lagaan Falls Mar 9, 2023
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- Bolo-Bolo Natural Spring Mar 2, 2023
- Reasons to Get a Wife March 1, 2023
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- Amazement from Drivers License Renewal in Siquijor Feb 15, 2023
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- Lazi: A Monthly Stay Jan 21, 2023
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- Capilay Spring Jan 17, 2023
- Siquijor: In Search of Resonance Jan 9-14, 2023
- Riding Around Siquijor's 86km Coastal Road Apr 3, 2012
- Exploring the Cantabon Cave of Siquijor Feb 23, 2012
- Jovee and Missy's Excellent Adventure Nov 6-7, 2010
- Freediving in Siquijor's Marine Sancturaries Apr 23-24, 2010
- Island Tour of Siquijor Apr 22, 2010
- Kram's Siquijor Wedding Apr 21, 2010
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