Perhaps the clear water that springs from beneath a huge rock and flows to form an aquamarine pool before rushing off to sea reminded the Spanish friars of the life and times of St. John the Baptist and led them to name this place northeast of Siquijor island as San Juan.

Long before it was organized as town and parish at the same time by virtue of the Acta del Año 1863, the community was already called San Juan.

Hence, the choice of San Augustin de Hippo as patron over the more logical St. John is also a bit confusing. It might be due to St. Augustine’s standing as “holiest among wise men and wisest among saints” or because the first San Juan parish priest, Fr. Nicanor Araniega, was an Augustinian but — whatever the reason — the town celebrates its traditional fiesta every August 28.

Old belfry

Fr. Ramon Eraso replaced Fr. Araniega as parish priest in 1864 and he began construction of the town church and convent. The opening of a four-kilometer road to the north and another 13-kilometer stretch to the south was also credited to him.

The St. Augustine de Hippo Church has undergone full renovation and the only evidence left of the old stone structure is the belfry.

It is however among the six churches visited by pilgrims who go on a Round Siquijor pilgrimage.

Village of Macapilay

Before it was even called San Juan, the community went by the name Macapilay. Folklore says Capilay was the name of the ruler of the village when the Spaniards first arrived in Siquijor island. He and his wife were said to be the first to seek baptism.

Its establishment into San Juan town and parish in 1863 concluded negotiations between the gobernadorcillos of Siquijor and Lazi. Don Francisco Ortiz represented the politico-military Governor of Cebu Don Miguel Creus y Campos and acted as moderator.

Worded in Castilan, the Acta del Año 1863 delineated the present territorial boundaries of San Juan. It was signed by the concerned parties on Oct. 24, 1863 and ratified by Governor Creus on November 6 that same year.