Now You Know – SIQUIJOR: ITS LEGEND, HISTORY, TRADITIONS, AND BELIEFS

Siquijor is an island province1 located in the Central Visayas2 Region (Region VII)of the Philippines. It has 6 municipalities4: Enrique Villanueva, Larena, Lazi, Maria, San Juan, and Siquijor (the capital, and yes, the same name as the province).

It is the smallest province1 among the provinces of the said region5, and the third smallest province in the Philippines, next to Camiguin6 and Batanes7 (the smallest).

THE LEGEND OF SIQUIJOR

Legend tells of a King (or Datu) Kihod as the source of the island’s name. Before the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, this island was the home to the Kingdom of Katugasan, from the word tugas (the local name for the Molave trees that covered the hills found all over the island). The early Siquijodnons used tugas to make posts for their homes because of its strength and durability. It was also used for making wooden plows to cultivate the rocky soil for farming.

Archeological proof – in the form of pottery and old tools excavated in the island’s caves, as well as Chinese ceramics and other objects – substantiate the supposition that, prior to the discovery of using tugas as housing material, the island’s natives lived in caves, and, that they were already in contact with Chinese traders during the pre-colonial era. The art of traditional healing and witchcraft belief systems also developed during this time.

This island province1 is indeed mysterious! First is the origin of the island. They say the island surfaced from the depths of the ocean during a great storm which once engulfed the region5. This storm was followed by a strong earthquake that shook the earth and sea. Amidst the lightning and thunder, an island rose from the depths of the ocean and became Siquijor island. In fact, how can you explain that during modern times, farmers have unraveled giant shell casings under farm plots?

Siquijor 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. See traditions and beliefs below.

BRIEF HISTORY

This island was discovered by Esteban Rodriguez and Juan Aguirre of the Legaspi8 expedition in 1565.

During the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines, the Spaniards called Siquijor Isla del Fuego (Island of Fire) because the island gave off an eerie glow at night from the great swarms of fireflies that lived in the branches of the abundant tugas or molave trees.

Siquijor was founded in 1783 and was under the province1 of Bohol9, part of Negros Oriental10 (1854-1892), then a sub-province of Negros Oriental (1901), and eventually, an independent province on September 17, 1971 by RA 6396, with the municipality4 of Larena as the capital. A year after, the capital was transferred to Siquijor town, by Proclamation 1975.

The municipality4 of Siquijor was the first parish, established in 1783, under the administration of secular clergymen. In the years that followed until 1877, the parishes of Canoan (Larena), Tigbawan (Lazi), Makapilay (San Juan), and Cangmenlac (Maria) were founded by Augustinian and Recollect11 priests.

TRADITIONS AND BELIEFS

The 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.

The Festival starts on Holy Wednesday with the gathering of the final ingredients. This day is known as pang-alap. Activity on Maundy Thursday is called pang-adlip, or the chopping of different tree barks and other ingredients, said to be more than 200 kinds. On Good Friday, healers and herbalists concoct amalgams for black magic or occult practices. This is part of the villages’ secret knowledge, and no outsiders allowed to observe.

In contrast, the Black Saturday activity is open to spectators. This time, the herbalists, healers, and spectators gather together in a circle, taking turns to produce mixtures that also include herbal potions. When the brews are ready, they are bottled and sold. This village tradition started before the 1930s, according to the people of San Antonio and Cantabon, and has been handed down from the predecessors of some famous healers.

Siquijor partly owes its famous mystique to its “traditional doctors” and their variety of folk healing and divination rituals, with the bolo-bolo as the most popular form. Bolo-bolo is performed with the use of a glass of water, a (magical black) stone, and a (bamboo) straw.

bolo-bolo session begins with the healer feeling the pulse of the patient to determine if the ailment is brought about by evil spirits or by natural causes. Some healers treat only patients whose illnesses are deemed due to supernatural elements, while others treat illnesses of both origins.

Notwithstanding popular belief in the curative powers of the bolo-bolo and other folk healing practices in Siquijor, these same practices have fanned so much speculation to the extent of becoming, in fact, the subject of several scholarly studies. Whether you believe it or not, one thing is certain, it has become one of the Siquijor’s major attractions.

The information was obtained from https://pia.gov.ph/provinces/siquijor and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siquijor

Please read related posts about my Siquijor tour: ENCHANTING 400-YEAR-OLD BALETE TREE AND FISH SPA, SIQUIJORTAKE A TARZAN-LIKE DIVE AT CAMBUGAHAY FALLS, SIQUIJOR!SERENE AND SPONTANEOUS SALAGDOONG BEACH, SIQUIJOR and GET BEWITCHED AT HAPITANAN, 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 region5. 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. In the Philippines, a province is divided into cities12 and municipalities4 (or towns), which in turn, are divided into barangays13, 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 regions: Central Visayas3, Eastern Visayas15 and Western Visayas16. It consists of 6 major islands (Bohol9, Cebu, Leyte, Negros, Panay and Samar), mostly surrounded by the Visayan Sea, and is composed of 16 provinces1, according to Wikipedia page “Visayas”.17 See the 2 other geographical divisions of the Philippines: Luzon18 and Mindanao19.

3Central Visayas (Region VII) of the Philippines is a Philippine region5 located in the island group of Visayas2, with Cebu City as its regional center. It has 7 local government units20 (LGUs): Bohol9, Cebu, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Negros Oriental10, and Siquijor. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Regions of the Philippines.”21

4A municipality, or town, is a small, single urban administrative division, or local government unit (LGU)20, 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 barangays13. A town is locally called “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.”22

5A region in the Philippines 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 cities12 and municipalities5 (or towns), which in turn, are divided into barangays13. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Regions of the Philippines.”21 See a related post: Foreign Seniors Ask: WHAT ARE THE REGIONS OF THE PHILIPPINES?

6Camiguin is the second smallest province1 in the Philippines, both in population and land area, after Batanes7. This island province is located in the Bohol Sea, geographically part of the Northern Mindanao Region (Region X)23, and formerly part of Misamis Oriental province. The provincial capital is Mambajao, also the province’s largest municipality4 in area and population. It is famous for its sweet lanzones (see related post – Savoring Pinoy Delights: THE LUSCIOUS LANZONES) to which the annual week-long Lanzones Festival is dedicated, held every third week of October. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Camiguin.”24

7Batanes is the smallest province1 in the Philippines, both in population and land area. This archipelago25 province is the northernmost province of the country, and is located in the Cagayan Valley Region (Region II)26. Its capital is Basco, located in the island of Batan. The entire province is listed in the UNESCO tentative list for inscription in the list of World Heritage Sites27 (see a related post – Seniors, Now You Know: WHAT ARE THE WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN THE PHILIPPINES?). Seven intangible heritage elements of the Ivatan28 are undergoing a process to be included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists29 between 2018-2025. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Batanes.”30

8Miguel Lopez de Legazpi (1502-August 20, 1572), also known as El Adelantado and El Viejo (The Elder), was a Spanish navigator and governor who established the first Spanish settlement in the East Indies when his expedition crossed the Pacific Ocean, from the Viceroyalty of New Spain, in modern-day Mexico, and arrived in Cebu, in the Philippines. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Miguel Lopez de Ligazpi.”31

9Bohol is a province1 located in the Central Visayas Region (Region 7)3, consisting of the island itself and 75 minor surrounding islands, and considered the 10th largest island in the Philippines. Its capital is Tagbilaran. To the west of Bohol is Cebu, to the northeast is the island of Leyte, and to the south, across the Bohol Sea, is Mindanao19. It is known for the Chocolate Hills, its beaches and resorts, and the smallest primate in the world called tarsier (see a related post – Short and Simple: THE PHILIPPINE TARSIER). The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Bohol.”32

10Negros Oriental, Oriental Negros or Eastern Negros, is a province1 located in the Central Visayas Region (Region 7)3 of the Philippines. It occupies the southeastern half of the large island of Negros, and borders Negros Occidental, which comprises the northwestern half. It also includes Apo Island, a popular dive site for both local and foreign tourists. Its capital is Dumaguete City, the seat of government and the most populous city of the province. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Negros Oriental”.33

11The Recollects were a French reform branch of the Order of Friars Minor created at the end of the 15th century, commonly known today as the Franciscans, best known for their presence as missionaries in various parts of the world. They wore gray habits and pointed hoods, took vows of poverty, and devoted their lives to prayer, penance, and spiritual reflection. In 1897, Pope Leo XIII officially dissolved the Recollects order and integrated it as a part of the Franciscan order, officially changing their name to Friars Minor. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Recollects”.34

12A city in the Philippines is the local government unit20 in the Philippines headed by a mayor elected by popular vote. A vice-mayor serves as the presiding officer of the city’s legislative body – the Sangguniang Panlungsod (city council). 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.”35See a related post: Foreign Seniors Ask: HOW MANY CITIES ARE THERE IN THE PHILIPPINES?

13A 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.”36

14“Provinces of the Philippines,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provinces_of_the_Philippines

15Eastern Visayas Region (Region VIII) is a Philippine region5 located in the island group of Visayas2, with Tacloban as its regional center. It has 8 local government units20 (LGUs): Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Ormoc, Samar, Southern Leyte, and Tacloban. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Regions of the Philippines.”21

16The Western Visayas Region (Region VI) is a Philippine region located in the island group of Visayas2, with Iloilo City as its regional center. It has 8 local government units20 (LGUs): Aklan, Antique, Bacolod, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, Iloilo City, and Negros Occidental. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Regions of the Philippines.”21

17“Visayas,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visayas

18Luzon is one of the 3 major geographical divisions of the Philippines. It is the country’s largest (ranked 15th largest in the world) and most populated island, as well as its economical and political center. Luzon is composed of 8 regions5: Bicol, Cagayan Valley, CALABARZON, Central Luzon, Cordillera, Ilocos, MIMAROPA and the National Capital Region. The 2 other geographical divisions of the Philippines are Visayas2 and Mindanao19. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Luzon.”37

19Mindanao is one of the 3 major geographical divisions of the Philippines. It is the second largest island of the country and covers 6 administrative regions: Caraga Region, Davao Region, Northern Mindanao, SOCCSKSARGEN, Zamboanga Peninsula, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). It is composed of 22 provinces1 and 33 cities12 (27 provinces and 33 cities, if associated islands are included). The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Mindanao.”38 See the 2 other geographical divisions of the Philippines: Luzon18 and Visayas2.

20A local government unit (LGU) in the Philippines is divided into 3 levels: provinces1 and independent cities39; component cities40 and municipalities4; and, barangays13, according to Wikipedia page “Local government in the Philippines”41

21“Regions of the Philippines,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regions_of_the_Philippines

22 “Municipalities of the Philippines,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipalities_of_the_Philippines

23Northern Mindanao Region (Region X) is a Philippine region5 located in the island group of Mindanao19, with Cagayan de Oro as its regional center. It has 7 local government units20 (LGUs): Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro, Camiguin, Iligan, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental and Misamis Oriental. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Regions of the Philippines.”21

24“Camiguin,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camiguin

25An archipelago, island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster, or collection of islands, or sometimes, a sea containing a small number of scattered islands, according to the Wikipedia page “Archipelago”.42

26The Cagayan Valley Region (Region II) is a Philippine region5 located in the island group of Luzon18, with Tuguegarao as its regional center. It has 6 local government units20 (LGUs): Batanes7, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Viscaya, Quirino, and Santiago. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Regions of the Philippines.”21

27 A World Heritage Site (WHS) is a unique landmark, or geographically and historically identifiable place, which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific, physical or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. UNESCO mandates a nomination process. It starts when a country lists its significant cultural and natural sites to form a Tentative List. It can then place sites selected from that list into a Nomination File which is evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union. These bodies then make their recommendations to the World Heritage Committee. The Committee meets once a year to determine whether or not to inscribe each nominated property on the World Heritage List, and sometimes defers or refers the decision to request more information from the country that nominated the site. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “List of World Heritage Sites in the Philippines”.43 See a related post: Seniors, Now You Know: WHAT ARE THE WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN THE PHILIPPINES?

28The Ivatans are a Filipino ethnolinguistic group predominant in the islands of Batanes7 of the Philippines, known for their stone houses of coral and limestone, designed to protect against the hostile climate in Batanes7. Their origins remain untraced among scholars, but they are known to be an Austronesian group, i.e., a group of various peoples in Southeast Asia, Oceania and east Africa that speak Austronesian languages. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Ivatan people”.44

29The UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists consists of important intangible cultural heritages45 worldwide, established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to ensure better protection for these treasures and the awareness of their significance. The list was established in 2008 when the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage took effect. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists”.46

30“Batanes,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batanes

31“Miguel Lopez de Legazpi,” accessed January 29, 2019,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miguel_Lopez_de_Legazpi

32“Bohol,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohol

33“Negros Oriental,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negros_Oriental

34“Recollects,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recollects

35“Cities of the Philippines,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_of_the_Philippines

36“Barangay,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay

37“Luzon,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luzon

38“Mindanao,” accessed January 29, 2019,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindanao

39An independent city is a type of city12 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 region5 it belongs to. It is subdivided into 2: highly urbanized city47 or independent component city48. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”35

40A component city is a type of city12 in the Philippines which does not meet the requirements of a highly urbanized city47. 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 municipality4. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”35

41“Local government in the Philippines,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_government_in_the_Philippines

42“Archipelago,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archipelago

43“List of World Heritage Sites in the Philippines,” accessed January 29, 2019,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Philippines

44“Ivatan people,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivatan_people

45An international cultural heritage (ICH) is a practice, representation, expression, knowledge, or skill, as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts, and cultural spaces that are considered by UNESCO to be part of a place’s cultural heritage. The Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was drafted in 2003 for its protection and promotion. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Intangible cultural heritage”.49

46“UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNESCO_Intangible_Cultural_Heritage_Lists

47A highly urbanized city (HUC) is a type of city12 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”.35 There are currently 33 such cities in the Philippines (see link – Foreign Seniors Ask: HOW MANY CITIES ARE THERE IN THE PHILIPPINES?).

48An independent component city (ICC) is a type of city12 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 city47. 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”35

49“Intangible Cultural Heritage,” accessed January 29, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intangible_Cultural_Heritage

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