There are a lot of things that we tourists travel thousands of miles to see: white-sand beaches, lively festivals and parties, gorgeous hotels, and ancient ruins. But it’s pretty damn rare that we set out on our journey to witness…a tree?!
But that’s exactly the case with the Old Enchanted Balete Tree on the island of Siquijor in the central Philippines. While I hardly think it will give rise to Tree Tourism (but what a cool concept!), tourists and travelers flock from near and far to see this ancient, mythical tree and even bathe the waters that feed its roots.
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to come to Siquijor, but the Enchanted Balete Tree is definitely top on every visitor’s To See list. Siquijor is actually experiencing a huge tourist boom, and for a good reason. Located only a comfortable hour ferry ride from the fun small seaside city of Dumaguete (an important transportation hub in that island region), Siquior has now exploded on the tourism scene as one of the top-10 things to do or see in the Philippines.
But the island is still positively bashful with its new image as a tourist hub, so people are there are still super friendly, it’s perfectly safe, and many people have turned their homes into guesthouses to accommodate the tourists coming in.
Anyways, if you take the ferry over to Siquior Port, you’ll drive on a jeep or motorbike about 30 minutes along the pleasant coastal road before pulling off at the Enchanted Tree.
This Balete tree has been documented at 400 years old at least, and is center of the island’s myth as “haunted.” They even sell voodoo dolls, natural medicines, and other talismans to the tourists to perpetuate the magical moniker. But the myth of witchcraft on Siquior mostly comes from the fact that a lot of Filipino horror or spooky movies have been filmed on the island because of this same tree. But other old-timers claim that the tree indeed has haunted, witchcraft-like properties, as well as some of the residents of the island.
When you see it, you’ll be amazed at its size and crazy structure, as it’s made of hundreds of vines/roots/branches that rise from the earth and wind around each other.
Tourists line up to take photos in front of the tree, showing its impressive girth in perspective, and then sit in the pool at its base. These natural spring waters are channeled for tourists to sit and soak their feet in, and exposure to the water is supposed to be an elixir for whatever ails you. There are even good sized fish in those waters that nibble at your feet, just like the popular foot massages spas that you’ll find just about everywhere in Asia these days.
If you go, I recommend taking the ferry over to the island early in the morning, so you beat the bigger crowds that come to the tree, especially on weekends and holidays. But no matter your level of belief in the haunted fable, the Old Enchanted Balete Tree is something to behold and a true testament to the dark beauty of nature.