Siquijor Island, Philippines

I’m not usually a morning person, but I became one while in Siquijor. This magical island, and the Hilltop Village airbnb we stayed in, made me want to take it all in, be present and cherish every moment of each day, from sunrise to sunset. Literally. So every morning my alarm went off when it was still dark outside and I dragged my sleepy self onto the terrace to watch the sunrise. Yeah, I actually did that! And it was worth it every time.

Hilltop Village Siquijor Philippines

Siquijor – A Healing Paradise

I was drawn to Siquijor immediately when I read about it being known for its healers, shamans and tales of witchcraft and spiritual rituals. Apparently this is a reason why many domestic tourists avoid going there at all. I was extremely intrigued. To me it’s a shame that today’s scientific paradigm denies the spiritual dimensions of medicine, rejects age-old wisdom and brands it “witchcraft” and that in modern medicine profits come before people.

By word of mouth I sought out Joaquina, a traditional healer in Cantabon, who gave me a treatment in her home that included massage, herbal oils and balancing my pulse, as she called it. It was essentially a preventative visit as I didn’t have any particular complaints, besides my sometimes sore ankle. Joaquina is a lovely human being with a great sense of humor and we bonded over interesting conversations while she was treating me. She comes from a long line of traditional Filipino healers – a healing art that to my understanding shares some commonalities with traditional Chinese medicine and emphasizes prevention and addressing imbalances before they manifest in disease. I was truly grateful to have been able to have this experience and left Joaquina’s house feeling relaxed and enriched.

With Joaquina Traditional Filipino Healer Siquijor

In Siquijor I also had the opportunity to experience a natural fish spa at the Old Enchanted Balete Tree. The balete tree has stood there for over 4oo years, since before the Spanish colonizers arrived, and locals believe it’s enchanted to this day. A spring originates from its massive roots and you can sit by the pool of water and let the fish in it nibble at your feet while you sip your fresh buko juice, and relax. Truly enchanting!

Fish Spa at Enchanted Balete Tree Siquijor

Siquijor – A Hidden Gem

It’s not that there’s no tourists on the island – there are. Mostly European and Chinese, it seemed. But the island has a very local and authentic vibe. It doesn’t feel touristy at all and I loved that. Everyone we met was friendly, helpful, welcoming and genuine. It also really helps with communication and connecting that English is spoken by practically everyone!

Tricycles in Siquijor Port

Siquijor island to me is the perfect size: small enough to feel intimate, yet big enough to allow for exploration. It’s full of natural beauty: beaches, mountains, waterfalls, caves… We rented a scooter and drove around the island to explore all the little towns and natural wonders. The pace is slower, there’s no nightlife to speak of, no shopping malls, no traffic jams… Just peace and quiet that’s mainly interrupted by the sound of a rooster, a passing tricycle or an exotic bird.

Hilltop Village at Siquijor, Philippines

I cannot speak highly enough of the Hilltop Village airbnb that exceeded our every expectation. The natural beauty of the surroundings was absolutely breathtaking and I can’t wait to go back. There are now two places on my list of the most zen places on the planet where I can feel completely at peace and one with nature; one is on the island of Omenasaari in Finland and the other one, on the mystical Island of Fire, Siquijor, in the Philippines.

As if to make that point, a rainbow appeared in the sky to decorate our last dinner at Saki Restaurant at Hilltop Village. Somehow it didn’t seem like a coincidence.

Rainbow at Hilltop Village Siquijor Philippines

All images © Pauliina Parris. // All rights reserved.