A small island ringed by bigger neighbors, Siquijor is better known for its moniker Isla del Fuego. It is also known for a group of inhabitants known locally as mangkukulam that dabble in witchcraft and the mystic arts.

Just as widely established but not as publicized is its popular standing as a religious pilgrimage destination and pilgrims regularly follow a route of church visits, candle lighting, and prayers to ask for blessings and healing or plead for intercession.

It might seem hard to imagine sorcery existing alongside piety but this small island province of highlands and caves and waterfalls and coastlines has somehow managed to find harmony in the contradictions of mysticism and religion.

Siquijor beginnings

The Spaniards called it Isla de Fuego or Island of Fire because of the reddish glow created by swarms of fireflies that used to congregate in abundance on local trees, some stories say.

It later became Isla de Siquijor, from the name of the only town in the island at the time. Siquijor, the town, still exists today and it started out as a Catholic parish like all but one municipality in the province.

The founding of Larena (Cano-an), Lazi (Tigbawan), San Juan (Macapilay), Maria (Cangmeniac), and Enrique Vilanueva (Talingting) followed throughout the years.

Siquijor was separated from Dumaguete and turned into an independent parish on Feb. 1, 1783 under the patronage of St. Francis of Assisi, the first to be established in the island. The Diocese of Cebu ministered to the parish on ecclesiastical matters but civil administration of Siquijor was done by Bohol, which already had its own governor, and later by the Province of Negros Oriental. Siqujor became a full-fledged province on September 17, 1971.

Island parishes

The second island parish, Canoan, now Larena, was established on June 14, 1836 with St. Vicente Ferrer as patron saint.

A visita or district of Siquijor called Tigbauan was declared an independent town named Lacy, records in the National Archives showed, “by virtue of a decree of Governor General Manuel Pavia y Lacy on 31 May 1854.” The separation of the parish of Lazi from Siquijor followed in 1857. Fr. Toribo Sanchez, who became Lazi parish priest in 1882, was credited with the town’s current stone church and convent.

In 1863, the parish of San Juan was founded and had Fr. Nicanor Arciniega as its first priest. One more parish, now the town of Maria, became independent from Canoan in 1877. Talingting, meanwhile, was founded as the town of Enrique Villanueva in 1925.

Round Siquijor

The churches in these six Siquijor towns are part of the circuit that makes up the Round Siquijor pilgrimage.

Pilgrims go on Round Siquijor for various reasons, among them for thanksgiving or pray for blessings and healing, or to ask for intercession.

First stop
St. Francis of Assisi Parish Church

Many pilgrims start the round in the St. Francis of Assisi Parish Church, also known as Siquijor Church.

Devotees light seven candles just near the church where a chapel houses the image of St. Francis of Assisi, the town’s patron.

Prayers that accompany the lighting of the candles:
Patron Saint prayer
The pilgrim’s special intention

The Siquijor church is plain and functional and its style may have been inspired by the simplicity of its patron.

Second stop
St. Augustine of Hippo Parish Church (San Juan town)

San Juan is 10 kilometers away or 15-20 minutes by car from Siquijor town via circumferential road. The Spanish friars who named the town may have been reminded of the life and times of St. John the Baptist when they named the town of San Juan.

The fully renovated church, which overlooks a clear spring, still has its old coral stone belfry.

Devotees light another seven candles at a spot beneath the shade of a huge tree.

Prayers that accompany the lighting of the candles:
Patron Saint prayer
The pilgrim’s special intention

Third stop
San Isidro Labrador Parish Church (Lazi town)

Dedicated to the patronage of San Isidro Labrador, the town of Lazi has a grand church and an even grander convent.

Historian Fr. Pedro Galende describes the town’s stone church as magnificent and noted such design rarities as the triangular pediment made of wood instead of coral blocks and floorwork with herringbone pattern.

Candle-lighting is done at a spot by the sprawling convent patterned after the balay-na-bato, a building style introduced by the Spaniards. Pilgrims light another seven candles here.

They also say the:
Patron Saint prayer
Prayer for special intention

It takes around 30 minutes to reach Lazi from San Juan still following the circumferential road.

Fourth stop
Our Lady of Divine Providence Parish Church (Maria town)

The town of Maria where the church of Our Lady of Divine Providence Parish is located makes up the fourth stop in the Round Siquijor pilgrimage. From Lazi, Maria is only 12 kilometers away or about a 20-minute drive.

A mission of Spanish priests and laymen from neighboring islands went around spreading the faith in Siquijor, converting first the town that’s also named Siquijor, then Larena and Lazi, before doubling back to a settlement that later grew into what is now Maria.

The church in Maria is built on a plateau that is around 15 kilometers above sea level and the irregular terrain may have been a contributing factor to its conservation.

Devotees light their seven candles near the main church entrance. It houses an image of town patron, the Virgin Mother of Divine Providence.

With the lighting of the candles, they solemnly recite the:
Patron Saint prayer
Prayer for special intention

From Maria, pilgrims proceed to Enrique Villanueva.

Fifth stop
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish Church (Enrique Villanueva town)

Locals named the place Talinting after a kind of birds that made it their home. It was part of Cano-an, which later became the parish and town of Larena. After many years had passed, Talingting was also established as a town named after the late Governor Enrique Villanueva on January 1, 1925.

Enrique Villanueva, dedicated to the patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, is the fifth stop in the Round Siquijor pilgrimage.

As they light seven candles at a chapel that houses the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, devotees also say the following:
Patron Saint prayer
Prayer for special intention

The townspeople of Enrique Villanueva are mostly into farming and fishing.

Sixth stop
St. Vincent Ferrer Parish Church (Larena town)

Less than 10 kilometers away from Enrique Villanueva is the St. Vincent Ferrer Parish Church, the final stop in the religious undertaking that is Round Siquijor.

Larena is located on a hilly perch that has a clear view of the neighboring islands of Dumaguete, Bohol, and Cebu. Called Cano-an at one time, it was renamed after the late Gov. Demetrio Larena.

The St. Vincent Ferrer Parish Church is a modern structure. Devotees light their final seven candles and say their prayers before an image of the town’s patron saint.

The same prayers are said as candles are lighted:
Patron Saint prayer
Prayer for special intention