Friday, September 20, 2013

Camiguin: The Anticipated Interlude

 One would say "Tsada" or "chada" to appreciate something beautiful or pleasant.  "Tsada ang talan-awon"  translates to "the view is beautiful," is an example.  Though sounding funny, this is an unparagoned Visayan word to Cagayan de Oro, which I found so fitting to describe Camiguin.

This pear-shaped island is ensconced in the Bohol sea off the tip of the Northern Mindanao.  Highlighted to be one of Northern Mindanao's (Region 10) up and coming tourist destination boasts of natural wonders and historical opulence.
Mr. Mylo Dahilan, a DOT accredited Tourist guide
Let me just say that you can easily fall in love with Camiguin and be lured by the majestic beauty of it's minor islands, Mantigue Island and White Island.
Off the coast of Mantigue Island
The captivating crescent-shaped sandbar, White Island
I've wondered around the thought of not enjoying this trip, for one, this is the first time I'll be traveling without my husband and kids.  Second, I'll be leaving tons of work in Manila.  But without hesitation I managed to revel in the tour prepared by the Dept. of Tourism. But the islands of Camiguin will surely enchant one with it's rural peacefulness, good-hearted people, fresh produce and safety, just like how it did to me.

Getting to Camiguin

A.  From Manila/Cebu
From Manila, you can fly with Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.   For now, there is no direct flight yet from Manila to Camiguin.  You book a flight to Cebu and fly to Camiguin through Cebu Pacific, with four flights in a week only.

B.  From Bohol
 You can also squeeze it in your Bohol itinerary.  From Jagna, Bohol, take Paras Sea Cat which leaves at 1:30 PM from Bohol and arrives at Benoni Port.  The cost is only P400 for the main deck and P600 for the business class.
Docked at Balingoan, Misamis Oriental

C. From Cagayan de Oro
Paras Sea Cat can also take you to Camiguin coming from the port of Balingoan, Misamis Oriental.  Coming from CDO city, take the bus from Lapasan, to Balingoan, which is only 88kms.  The ferry ride is also P400 for the view or main deck while P 600 for the business class.


Camiguin 101

Known for the Lanzones Festival (third week of October), which is by the way, around the bend, Camiguin is rich in natural bounty.  Almost every houses own at least a tree of lanzones, some mango trees and coconut also can be seen here and there, which primarily explains why Camiguingnons' dishes are richly laden with "gata" or coconut milk.

Camiguin holds the title- the island born of fire.  Aside from being hemmed with captivating beaches and bays,  this island with an area of approximately 238 sq. km. has an infinite 64 km national road belting around with it.  The island has seven known volcanoes, and is the resting place for Mt. Hibok-hibok.  It is an active volcano but remains dormant since its last eruption in 1951.  With this hot springs are abundant.

Camiguin is Governor Jurdin Jesus "JJ" Romulado's pride and joy and have put a lot of effort in maintaining its cleanliness, sustainability, safety and security.  "We all have it here, the best beaches in the world, hot springs, cold springs, majestic falls, antique churches and houses, and soda spring.  Say what?  Soda spring? Yes, something like that of 7Up or Mountain Dew, it's the Bura Soda Spring made in to a pool, in the foothill of Mt. Hibok-hibok.

Locals can speak and understand Tagalog and English, but the main dialect spoken is Cebuano or Visayan language.

Going around is so easy, as motorelo can be found all over the island.  For backpackers and extreme adventurists, you can also hire a "habal-habal" or motorbike to get you around.  Resorts can also accommodate you with their transportation modes, which vary depending on the resorts.

Mantigue Island

photo from the internet
On the third photo above, behind me is the astounding view from a few meters away to Mantigue Island, also known as Magsaysay island.   A powdery white sand beach crowned with verdant greenery and an island trekking experience is what you will expect.  No doubt Camiguin is so proud of this island, really nothing else in the world compare to this.

It is not fully open to the public, for the municipality of Camiguin is strict in managing over the island to preserve it as  nature park and a unique habitat for the a vast species of marine organisms including coral reefs.

To go there you need to ask permission with a letter of intent stating your purpose of visit to the island.  Also, they make sure that visitors to the island will reach the island to and fro safely.  Weather in the island can be rough at most times and tides are harder to manage for the boatmen.

Check resort packages with this on their itineraries, this will truly complete your Camiguin experience.

On Mantigue, the caretakers can provide you with meals and  a short tour around the forest trail with a character.  Make sure to ask for Mang Ikoy, who will gladly share information about the island and take your photos with every bit of fun from playing around with the word "beautiful."  "Nagbaon talaga sya ng synonyms ng "maganda", tulad ng "wonderful, amazing, magnifecent, etc."

White Island

A sand bar is a stretch of coarse sediment that is built by waves offshore from a beach, one best example and perhaps one of the magnificent can be found also in Camiguin.   White Island is a barren land composed only of white sand, crashing sea waves, shells and sometimes beach bums like me.


To get there you need to hire a motor boat.  In our case, we got a boat from the municipal to bring us and we got off from Balbagon Port, just a few meters away from the resort where we are staying-  Bahay Bakasyunan sa Camiguin, in Mambajao.  For boat rentals, the fee is P 600 for  four passengers, with boats that can carry at most six passengers.  However, additional fees might be incurred, which would depend on the resorts or boatmen and P 20 environmental fee on top of that.

It would be best to go there by 6 to 8 am to experience the whole island.   By 10 am, half of the island would be submerged already.  The boat ride takes about 20 to 30 minutes.  We had to wake up by 5 am and leave not later than 5:30.   The shape of the sand bar varies with the tide's current.  On this peculiar sunny morning, a crescent-shaped island greeted us.  You can also see Mt. Hibok-hibok and Mt. Vulcan form one side and the vast blue sea from the other.


Look how crystal clear the water is.


There is nothing really much to do here but bum around, enjoy the scenery, swim, and of course take photos, so, to make your visit unforgettable try eating fresh sea urchin.  For P 50, you get three urchins, cracked right in front of you, drizzled with local vinegar and served to you with a fork.  It's a rare delicacy known as uni in Japanese cuisine (served with raw as sashimi or sushi) and ricci in Italian made into pasta sauces, also served raw with lemon.

It was delish! The texture is comparable to raw oysters but it actually is the roe of both female and male sea urchins.  The taste is a cross in between the oysters and fish roe. Just be careful handling it, for it is spiny.  Don't ever hold a live one or your feet be spined by one, for it is very poisonous.  And there is only one immediate way to relieve you of with the poison and the way is disgusting.  The poked part needed to be washed with fresh urine.  But I guess we need to check the scientific explanation to it.


You can have fun with the sand as well, or just stare at the sea and contemplate on your life's current status.

Here are some the pictures I have captured on White Island.




On the way back to the resort, you can not miss seeing this light house near the airport.


Pampered much, we were brought back to Bahay Bakasyunan for our breakfast.  Almost all, if not all the resorts have their own docks or wharf.


Never miss out on having Camiguin's hot chocolate, called as sikwati (derived from tsikwate, which probably would have been shortened from "tsokolate")

You can also take this home and buy "Maestrado's Tablea.  It comes in chips as big as a five peso coin and two pieces is enough for a hot cup of choco.


Our blithe and respite stay was hosted by Bahay Bakasyunan sa Camiguin.  A resort by the bay with that top-notched service and facilities.  Will provide a more detailed review of BBC and other resorts and hotels accredited by the Dept. of Tourism on another post.

Exploring the Camiguin


 The huge cross on the middle of the sea is significant in the history of Catarman, which used to be the capital of Camiguin.  The cross actually was built to serve as a marker for the once land mass of graves.  This area in Catarman is known as the Sunken Cemetery.  Boats are waiting on the bay area for you to be taken to the cross if you want to.  The place is also a good diving spot, where corals have grown  on the tombstones of the cemetery.

The street leading to the site serves as a shopping haven for pasalubongs like handicrafts, baskets and trinkets made by the locals.





 Backpackers love Camiguin.  In fact, there was one who once trekked the mountain who ended up settling in the island and have decided to dedicate his life in taking care of the one the  trek to the mounts.

Because of the many volcanic activities around the island, hot springs also abound.  One example is the Ardent Hot Spring Resort.  Ardent can accommodate you while you relax in their differently layered pools with hot spring water, cascading from the top of the hill.  They are open 24 hours a day, you can even spend a night swimming at the pools are dipping your aching bodies to their hottest pool located at the foot of the resort. They also have a restaurant and a store near the pool.

If you are not fascinated by the warm sulfuric water of Ardent, how about a cold spring of water.



My interlude with Camiguin Islands was indeed short but sweet.  The locals have a saying that if a visitor was able to go around the whole 64 km national highway, they will come back to the island.  What do you think?  Was I able to go around the whole island?

11 comments:

  1. I would spend a lot of time and invest some of my vacation money in Camguin. just by seeing your photos I am starting to fall in love in the islands. thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! The place is really nice! My dad wanted to bring us to Camiguin for a vacation but we just can't seem to match our scheds. He has been to there a couple of times though. He wanted to bring us because he said that the place is awesome and the food is great. I'm not a fan of seafood so I'd pass on the urchin. But I lalalalalalalove lanzones! We have lanzones at home (given by who knows who) too. Plus, Tablea's the best! You could really taste the cocoa and we also use it too cook champorado or champorao (what we call it in Zamboanga).

    xoxo
    Pauchee C.

    ReplyDelete
  3. i've heard so many things about Camiguin and Mantigue, didn't really give that much thought since i read this!
    ganda pala talaga sa Camiguin!

    ReplyDelete
  4. wow - nakakaexcite talaga ang camiguin. will be there this nov. bookmarked :)

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  5. the place looks amazing. A beautiful gift from God :)

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