History of Siquijor, Philippines

1Very little is known about Siquijor and its inhabitants before the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th Century. During its occupation, however, caves in the island yielded old China wares that imply earlier encounters with Chinese traders. The original inhabitants called “Siquijodnons” came from Cebu, Bohol and other adjacent islands. The native name was “Katugasan” derived from the molave tree that covers the hills. The Spaniards, however, called it Isla de Fuego or Island of Fire because of the swarms of fireflies found in the island. Esteban Rodriguez of the Legazpi Expedition in 1565 led the first Spaniards who first landed on the island. He was captain of a small party that left Legazpi’s camp in Bohol to explore the nearby islands that are now known as Pamilacan, Siquijor and Negros.

Founded in 1783 under the administration of secular clergymen, Siquijor became the first municipality as well as the first parish to be established on the island under the Cebu Diocese. Administratively, however, Siquijor was under the Bohol province. The first Augustinian Recollect priest, Father Vicente Garcia arrived in Siquijor in 1794 who was later followed by other priests of the same order and founded the parishes of Larena (initially called Can-oan), Lazi (formerly Tigbawan), San Juan (Makalipay), and Maria (Cang-meniao). With the exception of Enrique Villanueva, all of the other five municipalities had been established as parishes by 1877. In 1854, Siquijor was constituted as a politico-militar province with Bohol by royal decree. On January 19, 1892, the island was joined to the province of Negros Oriental through Decree of Union by Governor General Weyler, and became sub-province of Negros Oriental under Lieutenant Governor James Fugate in 1901.

In 1971, Siquijor became an independent province by virtue of Republic Act No. 6398. The capital was officially transferred from Larena to Siquijor in 1972 through a plebiscite held on November 8, 1971 and confirmed through Proclamation No. 1075.