The tiny Siquijor Island has now become one of the new tourist and traveler destinations in Central Visayas, Philippines. Its pristine white sand beaches, waterfalls, caves, and other sites have attracted many people seeking for a tranquil respite. And because it is sparsely populated, Siquijor is able to preserve its natural beauty – and the islanders continue to hope it will remain that way.
Mt. Bandilaan National Park
Situated at the boundary of Lazi and Siquijor towns, Mt. Bandilaan National Park may not be very high compared with other mountains in the region considering that it rises to only 557 feet at its peak. But it’s comparable to the more popular Mt. Mayon in Albay, Bicol for its almost perfect cone shape.
Mt. Bandilaan is home to indigenous flora and fauna, including the Bandilaan Butterfly Range and Breeding Farm, and the site of several caves, five natural springs, a shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the Stations of the Cross. You will also find there many of the endangered Philippine trees.
As you begin your trek up the park, you will be greeted by pristine streams at the foot of the mountain, which seem to invite you to take a dip in its cool waters. Its naturally aesthetic terrain eases your journey to the top, allowing you to appreciate Nature’s beauty along the way. While the more adventurous tourists may get excited and challenged by what could be inside the caves, the prudent ones may find delight in the panoramic view of the entire Siquijor island from the Metal Observatory Desk at the top of the mountain. Or, you may just want to enjoy the coolness of mountain breeze and the natural forest smell.
The Park could also serve as a perfect place to meditate or have a quiet communion with nature, especially during low season. And if you are religious, you may even want to pray the Station of the Cross there.
Just a note of warning, though. You must be careful when climbing up the stairs to the Observatory as there are already signs of wear and tear on some of the steps; although, the authorities governing the park are attending to this minor problem.
Bandilaan Butterfly Farm
Located within the Mt. Bandilaan National Park is the 1,460-square meter Bandilaan Butterfly Farm. It is home to 102 of both local and foreign species of butterflies and moths that feed from the huge botanical garden in the farm itself. Among the species found here include:
- Kalima, also called as the dead leaf butterfly
- Snow Butterflies from the Swiss Alps
- Birdwing Butterflies
- Philatelic Butterflies (the ones you often see on postage stamps)
- Moths of Two Continents
- Philippine Moths
- Attatus Atlas (this is known to be the biggest moth in the world)
There’s also an enclosure in the farm that holds the larvae until metamorphosis.
Since its inception, the Bandilaan Butterfly Farm has grown to become a world-class breeding facility for several butterfly species. It is even internationally-recognized for its success.
The farm is managed by competent staff who have been trained under the famous Cebuano lepidopterist, Professor Julian Jumalon. It’s no wonder, then, that when you visit the Bandilaan Butterfly Farm, you don’t only get entertained by thousands of colorful butterflies, but you also get information about each specie from the staff.
Among the more than 45 caves in Siquijor, the Cantabon Cave is most popular and offers the most wonderful sight. It was by happenstance that a group of foreign hunters discovered this island’s “hidden treasure” in 1985. Since then, the cave has drawn interest among geologists, spelunkers as well as travelers and tourists. Fortunately, it has remained unspoiled despite the number of visitors who went into it.
Located in Barangay Cantabon, 9 kilometers west of Siquijor town, Cantabon Cave is approximately 300 meters long and 10 meters wide. It is famed for its awesome jewel-like stalagmites and stalactites that glitter in the dark, and other natural rock formations. A small natural pool of crystal-clear water is also formed right in the middle of the cave, even as water cascades from hidden springs.
When you go explore Cantabon Cave, please make sure that you are equipped with durable shoes, protective gear, and flashlight. It takes about 2 hours to explore the cave, or even longer depending on how much time you spend each area.
Cantabon Cave is well maintained by barangay residents. There is even an ordinance that bans collection of stalagmites and stalactites, birds’ nests, and other natural properties inside and around the cave. Violation of which entails monetary fines and court charges.
Tulapos Marine Sanctuary
Located in the municipality of Enrique Villanueva, also called Talingting, the Tulapos Marine Sanctuary is noted for its underwater beauty. It is home to a number of colorful marine species, including batfish, or barracuda, which sometimes accompany you as you snorkel around the area. The 14-hectare sanctuary is also famed for its coral reefs, mangroves, and white sand beaches, making it an ideal place for snorkeling.
Established in 1986, the sanctuary’s inhabitants have considerably grown from just a small number of fishes to thousands of living aquatic species, thanks to the vigilant residents and community officials who are bent in preserving these marine treasures. See the wonders mangroves can do to nature!
If you want to get a panoramic view of the entire sanctuary and the vast sea, you may go up to the two-storey Mangrove Tree House. The treehouse has rooms, a bathroom, kitchen, electric outlets, and a balcony that offers you a marvelous view.
But, just a word of caution. The mangrove tree house is vulnerable to the forces of nature, so you must be prudent if you wish to stay there for a night. The local authorities, however, are seriously considering repair of the structure.
Cambugahay Falls is another natural beauty that has drawn several tourists recently. Located two kilometers north from the Lazi Convent, a national landmark on the island, Cambugahay Falls is a multi-layered falls of fresh, warm and clean waters coming from natural springs.
Going to the falls, however, means trekking through 138 treacherous steps down a terrain that could be slippery during rainy season. So, you have to be very careful. And coming back up to the main road could also be arduous, especially if you are not used to climbing up a steep hill. But generally, though, your effort is compensated with the cascading clean waterfalls, which seem to invite you to jump in.
Surrounded by jungle greenery, the falls are in three levels, the lowest of which is the largest. The upper levels are smaller with about one to three meters.
You can actually have the falls all to yourself during low season or when you go there very early in the morning before anyone does. It’s the favorite bonding place of many local families and groups, where they spend time picnicking, swimming, or just catching up with one another.
Capilay Spring Park
Nestled right in the middle of San Juan town plaza at the southwest coast of Siquijor island is the amazing Capilay Spring Park. It’s a free-flowing spring, residents had to build a concrete barrier around it to contain the water in a swimming pool-like structure. Many even call it a lake because it looks like one.
Today, the spring is divided into three chambers or pools. The upper pool is where the springs are found, gushing forth cool and clean water into the swimming area, or the second pool. The third section is called the laundry pool since it is here where local residents do their washing activities. All the water from the spring drains out into the nearby ocean.
Unlike other natural springs, the Capilay Spring Park is located along the highway, making it accessible to the public. That’s why the place has become a favorite place for local residents to spend their early morning exercises, or late afternoon stroll. Families even use the park for their weekend picnics because there is a huge space for children to play around. Kiosks, benches, and tables are also available.
Many artists also come to the park to sketch and paint, allured by the picturesque view that Capilay Spring Park offers.
These natural wonders, however, may face the risk of exploitation when overcrowding and commercialization get in the way. To preserve these attractions, let us all uphold this slogan,
Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints; kill nothing but time
and if I may emphasize,
drop your litters in proper bins!
when you visit these places.
It is very important to minimize our impact on these eco-tourist destinations so that the generations who come after us may still enjoy its beauty.