The Holy Weekend (Easter Weekend to me) is a big event in the Philippines, as a nation that its 80% Roman Catholic. For Easter weekend I decided to go with a fellow traveller to Siquijor, a small island near the big city of Cebu that is steeped in mystic tradition and tales of evil spirits and myth. I was advised by several Filipino friends that I should be very wary if I do go there and not to accept things from locals as they may have spells or curses attached.
I arrived on the Thursday in the hope of seeing the famous witchcraft ceremonies on the Friday and Saturday. On both of those days I ventured up into the mountainous centre of the island. On the Friday we came across the islands fiesta that was taking place. It was a family affair with seemingly half the island out for food and drink and relaxation. It was perhaps not what I was expecting and so we returned to the coastal town, in the hope of something more unusual on the Saturday when the main herbal preparation day was to take place.
We went back up on the Saturday and there were far fewer people around, but unfortunately not many of the old traditional healers either. We saw one couple preparing some medicine that is used as a cure all. Once prepared they placed some of it on hot coals and the smoke it emitted is supposed to have healing properties. Further up the hill we came across a small area that had some old ladies preforming traditional massage and using prepared healing oils to cure various issues. The lady who massaged my back told me I had ‘wind’ in my joints and suggested it was because I was often in cold environments.
It was wonderful to see the old healers in action but it was perhaps not what I was after or expecting. From the stories I had been told it would a dark and dangerous event with many strange medicines being brewed, in reality it was just a small fiesta with a token offering of what the islands traditional healers used to do. But nevertheless, Siquijor was a wonderful place and the warmth of the local people was infectious, as always in the Philippines.