Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines

Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines


As well as beautiful beaches and stunning waterfalls, there was a side to Siquijor that captured me before I even arrived. I’d been travelling Southeast Asia for almost a year and while I still loved all the popular beach-based activities that the region is famous for, I was looking for a change of pace. Something different. When I heard about the mystery that shrouds Siquijor and its reputation for healing by magic, I knew I wanted to see it for myself.

When we arrived at the port of the island late in the evening, electricity hung in the air from a brewing storm. Moments of calm were interrupted by sharp gusts of wind and I had the strongest sense that the island had a life of its own.

We piled into a tricycle to our beachside accommodation and began to plan the next day.

Siquijor’s tradition of healing by magic may sound spiritual but it’s actually tied to reason. For many years there were no hospitals on the island and the locals had to cope without any healthcare to speak of. Using practices passed back through generations they took to tackling problems relating to the body and mind with ‘Bulo Bulo’, the art of healing by magic.

I should mention that the emphasis is very much on ‘good magic’. I didn’t hear any reference to curses or spells and instead, there was the sense that living a good life will induce good karma. That’s an ethos I’m on board with!

My sister and I got up early and organised a scooter tour with a local guide who promised to take us to a reputable healer who lived up in the mountains. With no specific ailments that needed healing, we set off with an open mind and hoped to have a unique experience we’d remember in years to come.

One thing we hadn’t realised was just how far up the mountain we’d be going. Our little moped stuttered up steep sections of dirt road as we passed through villages deep in the forest. It was, without doubt, the most off-grid we’d ever been – we saw no shops or restaurants, just the most basic of wooden homes and people working on the land who looked up at us with curiosity.

Finally, we arrived at our destination – a modest house on the roadside. Our scooter driver signalled to his contact, a local woman who beamed at us and greeted us in broken English. The only route to the healer’s rural home was on foot and we were led through a field of tall grass to a small hut alone on the hillside.

There, our healer smiled at us and although his face was wrinkled and wizened, I couldn’t have guessed his exact age. While he could speak no English, the local lady explained what he was doing as he prepared a glass of water and cleaned a circular black rock. She told us the rock is crucial to Bulo Bulo and is matched to its owner by more than choice. Once a healer has found his rock, he must dispose of it and wait for it to return to him naturally. We were a little unsure what to make of this but waited patiently until he was ready to begin.

I opted to go first and sat beside him whilst he placed the rock in the glass of water. Next, he selected a bamboo tube and started to blow into the water whilst moving the glass around my head. The water clouded which the woman explained was a representation of my aura. I’ll admit to being a little worried – it was filthy!

The healer tipped out the water, replaced it and repeated the process twice more until the water remained clear when he blew through the tube. Was it possible that my aura was being cleansed as he did so?

My sister’s turn was next and although her water came up cleaner than mine in the first round, it took more rounds to clear it completely. We mused later what this could mean. Although we never came to a solid conclusion or knew whether our auras were genuinely in a better shape of health, we did know one thing: we’d had a real local experience. Not many backpackers to the Philippines get past the beaches and lagoons and engage in an ancient local tradition in the rural mountains. We were definitely glad we did!

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SEE – Photos & Videos

WSE Travel - Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines - An ancient Balete tree

An ancient Balete tree

WSE Travel - Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines - Beach life on Siquijor

Beach life on Siquijor

WSE Travel - Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines - Cambugahay Falls

Cambugahay Falls

WSE Travel - Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines - Cambugahay Falls

Cambugahay Falls

WSE Travel - Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines - Cambugahay Falls

Cambugahay Falls

WSE Travel - Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines- Cambugahay Falls

Cambugahay Falls

WSE Travel - Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines - Islandia Beach Resort

Islandia Beach Resort

WSE Travel - Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines - Our $25 beach hut

Our $25 beach hut

WSE Travel - Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines - Siquijor beach

Siquijor beach

WSE Travel - Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines - We got around mainly on tricycles

We got around mainly on tricycles

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GO – Getting There

The only way to reach Siquijor is by ferry. The island is set below Cebu and Bohol which are the two most common departure points. Many travellers visit Bohol first and catch a direct ferry to Siquijor like we did. It’s also possible to come from Cebu in a day if you change ferries in Dumaguete.

WSE Travel - Visiting a Local Healer on Siquijor Island, Philippines - Map

Siquijor Island, Philippines – Map

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Do – Activities & Attractions

For the rest of our time on the island, we lounged in the clear water of the Cambugahay Falls and visited the ancient Balete tree. The roots of this tree trail into the pool of water beside it and you can sit and enjoy a free foot spa from the little fish who swim in it.

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Stay – Accommodation

We stayed at Islandia Beach Resort for around PH1,500 a night – a total bargain as we had access to their private beach. The hotels own much of the beachfront on Siquijor so keep this in mind when booking your accommodation. If you’re keen to spend time on the beach it’s worth paying a bit more for a hotel with its own rather than staying inland.

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Eat – Restaurants

Coming soon!

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Time – Seasonality & Schedules

Peak season for visiting the Philippines is November to April but we visited in June and still had a great time despite the fact it was fairly hot and stormy.

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Safety – Possible risks

The island of Siquijor is one of the safest in the Philippines. Due to the sense of moral good that comes with the healing culture, the locals fear any bad karma that can result from doing bad deeds or breaking laws. The only thing I’d recommend is to ask your accommodation for advice and recommendations when visiting a healer. Firstly, because you won’t be able to find one yourself and secondly because it is best to be with a reputable tour guide when you travel off-grid like we did. In situations like this, you could also consider keeping family and friends in the loop about your movements.

Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.

Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.

Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).

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Pay – How much does it cost?

You are expected to leave a small donation when visiting a healer. While there’s no set price, I would suggest around PH200-300 per person.

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Responsible Travel – Best Practices

Even if you have no belief in magic whatsoever (I imagine most of us don’t), treat the local customs with respect as they are culturally important to the locals. Many local healers won’t like you taking photos of them or their practices – so ask first and handle the situation sensitively.

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Reality Check – Be Aware

Heading into the Siquijor hills means heading off the grid – maybe more than you ever have before! So be aware that for the couple of hours you’ll be there you’ll be far away from shops, conveniences and mobile phone reception. So plan for that and bring your own water (plenty of it in the heat!) and any food or snacks you need. The locals in this area don’t see too many Westerners so be prepared for some curious looks but know the Filipino people are extremely friendly and welcoming – bring a big smile and everyone will be happy to see you.

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JOIN US! WSE Travel Packages

This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!

Follow this link for our ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Tours – packages that are highly personalized and tailored at your request.

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Have you ever been to a city that had a really unique historical or cultural feature? Where was it and what made it so unique?

Please feel free to share your stories and thoughts in the comment section below!

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