Siquijor is an island province1 of the Philippines located in the Central Visayas2 Region (Region3 VII)4. Geographically, Cebu is to the north, Negros to the west, Bohol to the northeast, Camiguin to the east, and to the south, across the Bohol Sea, is Mindanao. The people are called Siquijodnons.
This province1 is commonly associated with mystic traditions. It is widely believed since the olden times that the natives of this island were men of mystery and magic who can conjure and control spirits. There are folk healers whose practices include spiritualism, along with the preparation of brews and herbal concoctions for love and health problems.
The Spaniards then came in 1565 and introduced Catholicism to the locals. To-date, Siquijodnons are predominantly Roman Catholic yet their island province1 is still known as the Mystical Island.
Healers and herbalists all over the country annually come together in this island during Holy Week to perform healing, and to participate in the preparation of concoctions made from a variety of tree barks, roots, herbs, insects, and other ingredients. These are gathered from the forests, sea, caves, and cemeteries during the 7 Fridays of the Lenten season. The resulting brews are deemed to have healing powers. Thus, it is also called The Healing Paradise. See a related post: Now You Know – SIQUIJOR: ITS LEGEND, HISTORY, TRADITIONS, AND BELIEFS
Today, this province1 showcases its unique culture of blending Catholicism with traditional religious practices – a major part of its people’s cultural heritage, identity, and character.
One obvious indication of the interesting mix of religion and mysticism of Siquijor is the number of festivals held in this island:
1. March 19 – Tubod Festival, a festival held in Tubod, a barangay5 in the municipality6 of San Juan, in honor of their patron saint, St. Joseph. A short procession is held along the barangay road, with lighted candles on the way to the church.
2. Holy Thursday and Good Friday – Lenten Festival of Herbal Preparation, held in San Antonio, a mountainous barangay5 in the hilly interior of the town of Siquijor and home to folk healers. Herbalists from all over the Philippines meet here to prepare medical potions utilizing traditional ingredients and methods. It is believed that during these two days, there are many evil entities wandering around. The concoctions prepared on Black Saturday (see next festival) are said to not only possess restorative medicinal powers, but also are able to ward off evil spirits and sorcery.
3. Black Saturday – Folk Healing Festival, also held in Barangay5 San Antonio. Herbalists from Visayas and Mindanao convene at this barangay to prepare cauldron-cooked medical potions – made from a mixture of herbs, tree barks, and other secret ingredients – while participants gather into a circle, chanting incantations.
4. Easter Sunday – Tang Alap, a Lenten Festival of herbal preparation in San Antonio, in the municipality6 of Siquijor. The name, I was told, means a combination of medicine.
5. May 3 – Canoan Festival, a large festival held in the town of Larena which signifies the hard work of farmers and laborers, celebrating their successes with fresh vegetables and fruits for all to eat. It encourages farmers from the mountains to come and sell their fresh produce in the town markets. The festivities usually begin in late April, and include street dances, beauty pageants, battle of the bands, volleyball and tennis tournaments. Known artists are invited to perform in the town square.
6. May 15 – Saging Festival, a festival held in the municipality6 of Lazi in honor of its patron saint, St. Isidro de Labrador. The festival recognizes the importance of the banana in the lives of the people of this town. It also showcases the variety of bananas, a way of giving thanks for the abundance of the harvest. It begins with sports activities, beginning on May 8. Festivities in the following days include a Miss Teen Lazi pageant, a variety show, dance competitions, etc.
7. May 21/24 – Lubi Festival, a joyful thanksgiving festival held in the town of Maria, in honor of its patron saint, Our Lady of Divine Providence (Mary Mother of Jesus), for a bountiful harvest and blessings received from the tree of life, locally known aslubi (coconut). Local talents are also featured.
8. July 16 – Pamukad Festival, a festival held in the municipality6 of Enrique Villanueva to express greatness, joy and thanksgiving for the bountiful catch of fish, through the intercession of Divine power. It demonstrates the different fishing routines and rituals of the fisher folks. This festival is held a couple of days before July 16, the town’s fiesta celebration.
9. Between August 27-30 – Bugwas Festival, a festival held at the town of San Juan to celebrate an abundant and bountiful harvest in honor of their patron saint, St. Augustine of Hippo. Bugwas means a spurt of water coming from an underground source, that flows freely in the open ground. The town is blessed with abundant spring waters responsible for giving the farmers a bountiful harvest, and the fisher folks an abundant catch, thus making the lives of the people fruitful and happier.
10. Third week of September, including September 17 – Araw ng Siquijor with Solili, a week-long celebration, a celebration of the island’s founding anniversary as a province1.7 It features a parade, trade fair, sports competition, cultural presentation, and a pageant for Miss Siquijor.8
The Solili Festival is what separates Siquijor from the rest of the country, and is the highlight of the Araw ng Siquijor celebration.8 Every 17th of September, relatives of grooms from the town of Lazi size up and get to know the brides-to-be. The practice revolves around the Solili Binalaye, a traditional marriage ritual among the people of the town of Lazi.7, 8 This celebration is reminiscent of the courtship between Tukmo and Punay, and, as a tribute to the newlyweds, merrymakers dance the Solili, capping the festivity with shouts of “Solili Binalaye”.8 Both parents of the married couple are presented with a feast and lectures about the realities and hardships of their married life.9 The Solili Festival rituals are depicted through a street dancing competition.8
11. October 1 – Dilaab Festival, a festival held in the municipality6 of Siquijor, which gives due recognition to the natural assets of the island, and is in honor of the town’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, who is known as a lover of nature. It is one of the biggest fiesta10 celebrations on the island with all kinds of activities and shows lined up each year.
Note that Siquijor festival dates may vary. These are usually observed two or three days prior to the town’s fiesta.10 Occasionally, locals opt for longer celebrations and extend the duration of the festivities.
The information was obtained from the Wikipedia pages “List of festivals in the Philippines”11 and “Siquijor”12, and the websites https://www.mysiquijor.com/SiquijorFestivalDates2010.html and https://www.cocogrovebeachresort.com/special-events/siquijor-fiestas/.
I did not have any chance to visit this island during any of its festivals but, perhaps, it is a reason to return soon.
Please find time to read my other posts about Siquijor:
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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy or lazy to Google such terms:
1A province is the primary administrative and political division in the Philippines. It is the second-level administrative sub-division of a region3. There are 81 provinces (called “lalawigan”) in the Philippines. Each province is governed by an elected legislature called the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and by an elected governor. Remember, a province in the Philippines is divided into cities13 and municipalities6 (or towns), which in turn, are divided into barangays5, formerly called barrios. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Provinces of the Philippines.”14 See a related post: Foreign Seniors Ask: WHAT ARE PROVINCES IN THE PHILIPPINES?
2Visayas is one of the 3 major geographical divisions of the Philippines. It covers 3 administrative regions3: Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas and Western Visayas. It consists of 6 major islands (Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Negros, Panay and Samar), mostly surrounded by the Visayan Sea, and is composed of 16 provinces1, according to Wikipedia page “Visayas”.15 Visayas is located at the middle part of the country; the 2 other geographical divisions of the Philippines are Luzon (in the northern part) and Mindanao (in the southern part).
3A region is the first-order administrative division in the Philippines. There are 17 regions in the Philippines, based on geographical, cultural and ethnological characteristics. It is further subdivided in provinces1, composed of cities13 and municipalities6 (or towns), which in turn, are divided into barangays5. The regions were initially identified in 1972, through Presidential Decree No. 1 of President Ferdinand Marcos. Since then, other regions have been created and some provinces have been “transferred” to another region. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Regions of the Philippines.”16 See Foreign Seniors Ask: WHAT ARE THE REGIONS OF THE PHILIPPINES?
4Central Visayas (Region VII) of the Philippines is a Philippine region3 located in the island group of Visayas2, with Cebu City as its regional center. It has 7 local government units17 (LGUs): Bohol, Cebu, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Regions of the Philippines.”16
5A barangay in the Philippines is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, headed by a barangay captain, aided by a Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council). It is the native Filipino term for a district or village. It was formerly called a barrio. In a metropolitan area, a barangay is an inner city neighborhood, a suburb, or a suburban neighborhood. The word barangay originated from the term “balangay”, a kind of boat used by a group of Austronesian people who migrated to the Philippines. A number of barangays grouped together is called a district. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Barangay.”18
6A municipality is a small, single urban administrative division, or local government unit (LGU)17, in the Philippines which has corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by law. It is a unit under a province1, subdivided into barangays5, and is called town, or bayan. In the Philippines, a municipality is headed by a mayor, a vice mayor and members of the Sangguniang Bayan (legislative branch). It can enact local policies and laws, enforce them, and govern its jurisdictions. It can enter into contracts and other transactions through its elected and appointed officials, and can tax as well. It enforces all local and national laws. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Municipalities of the Philippines.”19
7Siquijor became an independent province on September 17, 1971, by virtue of Republic Act 6398, under President Ferdinand Marcos, according to the Wikipedia page “Siquijor”.12
10Fiesta is the Spanish term for (religious) feast or festival. It is a special event, usually observed annually, by a community, centering on some characteristic aspect of that community and its religion or cultures. It is often marked as a local or national holiday. Many festivals are associated with the religious commemoration and thanksgiving for good harvests and thanking gods. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Festival”.20 In the Philippines, towns celebrate annual fiestas in honor of their patron saint or as thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest.
11“List of festivals in the Philippines,” accessed March 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_festivals_in_the_Philippines
12“Siquijor,” accessed March 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siquijor
13A city in the Philippines is the local government unit17 in the Philippines headed by a mayor elected by popular vote. A vice mayor serves as the presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (city council), which serves as the city’s legislative body. Congress is the only legislative entity that can incorporate a city in the country. Upon receiving its charter, a city also receives a full complement of executive departments to best serve its constituents. There are 145 cities, as of 2016, in the country. All these were obtained from Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines.”21 See a related post: Foreign Seniors Ask: HOW MANY CITIES ARE THERE IN THE PHILIPPINES?
14“Provinces of the Philippines,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provinces_of_the_Philippines
15“Visayas,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visayas
16“Regions of the Philippines,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regions_of_the_Philippines
17A local government unit (LGU) in the Philippines is divided into 3 levels: provinces1 and independent cities22; component cities23 and municipalities6; and, barangays5, according to Wikipedia page “Local government in the Philippines”24
18“Barangay,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay
19“Municipalities of the Philippines,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipalities_of_the_Philippines
20“Festival,” accessed April 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festival
21“Cities of the Philippines,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_of_the_Philippines
22An independent city is a type of city13 in the Philippines which is administratively and legally not subject to a province1 so it does not share its tax revenues with any province. The national government and its agencies serve such a city through sub-offices of the region3 it belongs to. It is subdivided into 2: highly urbanized city25 or independent component city26. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”21
23A component city is a type of city13 in the Philippines which does not meet the requirements of a highly urbanized city25. It is under the jurisdiction of a province1. If such a city is located along the boundaries of 2 or more provinces, it shall be considered part of the province of which it used to be a municipality6. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”21
24“Local government in the Philippines,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_government_in_the_Philippines
25A highly urbanized city (HUC) is a type of city13 in the Philippines with a minimum population of 200,000 as certified by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), and with the latest annual income of at least 50 million pesos, according to Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”.21 There are currently 33 such cities in the Philippines (see link – Foreign Seniors Ask: HOW MANY CITIES ARE THERE IN THE PHILIPPINES?
26An independent component city (ICC) is a type of city13 in the Philippines which is autonomous from the province1 in which it is geographically located and has a charter that explicitly prohibits its residents to vote for provincial officials (unless allowed to do so). It does not meet the requirements of a highly urbanized city23. There are 5 such cities in the country: Cotabato, Dagupan, Naga, Ormoc, and Santiago. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”21