History of Siquijor
Just below the islands of Bohol and Cebu lies the little island province of Siquijor. With a land area of 337.49 km², making it one of the smallest provinces in the Phillipines. As of 2010, it has a population of 91, 066, with most of them speaking the Cebuano dialect. Just like Cebu and the other provinces, it also has its own share of an interesting backstory.
Pre-Spanish Colonization Period
Little is known of the island aside from the fact that it was ruled by a king named Kihod from which the province is named from. There is a folklore that tells the story as to how the island came to be. Before it existed, the Visayan region was battered with a big storm accompanied by an earthquake of the same magnitude. As lightnings and thunders roared from from the skies, an island rose from the depths of the ocean – and this island would then be known as Siquijor.
Spanish Colonization Period
Before it was called as such, Siquijor was dubbed by the first Spaniards who saw it as “Isla de Fuego” which literally means “Island of Fire”. That was because of the eerie glow the island gave off when viewed from afar – this was actually caused by the swarms of fireflies that are currently living on the molave trees on the island. A crew from Miguel Lopez de Legazpi’s expedition led by Esteban Rodriguez departed and landed on the island. Upon landing there, they met the island’s ruler, King Kihod.
Due to a misunderstanding, they treated the king’s introduction as the name of the island itself – King Kihod uttered the words “Si Kihod” which means “I am Kihod”. Thus, the island was then named as “Sikihod” spelled as “Siquijod” in Spanish. It was then changed into Siquijor because the Spaniards found it hard to pronounce the said name.
In 1783, Siquijor(not the province but the town) officially became the first municipality and parish on the island. It was governed by the archdiocese of Cebu but was under Bohol when it came to civil administration. More parishes were created in the island after the arrival of the Augustinian order. Every municipality in Siquijor were established as parishes by 1877 with the exception of Enrique Villanueva.
Before the Americans came, Siquijor was part of Negros Oriental. It became a sub province on 1901.
The American Rule
When the Americans occupied the country, they sent James Fugate of the California Volunteers of the U.S Infantry to watch over Siquijor and implement development programs in the area. He acted as Lt. Governor of the island for 16 years. Aside from that, a unit of the American Cavalry Division came and stayed over for some time.
The Japanese Occupation
Siquijor, just like any province, wasn’t spared by the Japanese. The inhabitants of the island met heavy artillery shelling from the Japanese. Their warships shelled Lazi and a garrison was then built there. Nicolas Parami, who was then assigned as Lt. Governor of Siquijor was taken away by Japanese soldiers on his residence and was never seen again – he was taken away because of his refusal to pledge allegiance to the Japanese Imperial forces.
Siquijor was governed by Shunzo Suzuki, though only briefly as he was assassinated by guerilla forces led by Illuminado Jumawanin of Caipilan, Siquijor. He was replaced by Mamor Fukuda who governed the island for a year – he vacated the province along with the remaining Japanese forces during the arrival of the liberation forces in 1944.
During the occupation, American forces continued to supply the guerillas and allied forces in the province by sending in submarines and ships with supplies. They also helped evacuate residents off the island. The province was then liberated by mid-1945.
Siquijor was then recognized as a separate province twenty six years later on September 17, 1971. The capital, which was Lorena back then, was transferred to Siquijor.