Camiguin Island

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Camiguin Island is the second smallest province of the Philippines, next to Batanes. Known for their sweet yema-filled bun called 'pastel', this small island province in Northern Mindanao region is also a popular vacation destination. Living in Luzon for almost three decades, I always have it on my bucketlist to experience what Mindanao can offer in terms of tourism. When my friends were planning to go on a Northern Mindanao Tour (CDO-Camiguin-Bukidonon-Lanao del Norte), with no second thoughts, I told them I would join.

In order to reach Camiguin, we booked our flight to Laguindingan International Airport in Cagayan de Oro. To avoid the hassle of commuting with all our belongings, we hired a service vehicle from Lags Van Rental agency. It was a very good decision, we experienced a relaxed travel from the airport to Balingoan Port, a RORO port, where we took a passenger ferry along with so many cargoes that brought us to the port of Benoni in Camiguin.

Balingoan Port - In the middle of our sea expedition, the ferry malfunctioned and we had to wait for a rescue. Another ferry pulled us until we reached Benoni Port. It took some time to set-up the ropes that's why we were so delayed with our planned schedule of activities for the day. I heard from some regular passengers that it happens frequently on this particular ship, I wondered why they keep using it. It was actually scary knowing we have lots of load.

Benoni Port - Several multicabs await passengers arriving in Camiguin port. The locals offer their services for a whole day tour. The driver/tour guide we've chosen was kind and very polite.

The multicab dropped us to Pabua's Cottages in Mambajao, our chosen accommodation. It is a few steps away from the shore where boats going to White Island are docked. After checking-in, we immediately changed our clothes and started with the tour. It was already in the afternoon and considered as a very late start.

Walkway to the Old Volcano and Stations of the Cross - Our first stop was Mt. Vulcan. As per statistics, 95% of the province's population are Roman Catholics, no wonder why they built the 14 stations of the cross on this natural attraction. In the beginning, we walked on concrete stairs but eventually on unpaved trail. It was a very tiring hike (without proper attire!) but we felt so happy and fulfilled upon reaching the last station, the "Resurrection of Jesus Christ". The view on the top was so scenic, we saw the Sunken Cemetery from afar.

Old Church Ruins - How could  this devastation became even more beautiful? The old Catarman Church was destroyed by volcanic eruption in the 80's and only the wall structures remain. These sturdy and massive walls, partly covered with mosses and surrounded outside by tall trees is a must-visit spot. Candles are being sold near the entrance for those visitors who would like to offer a prayer.

Sunken Cemetery - the huge commemorative cross was a popular marker for the old cemetery that is now below sea level. For a certain amount, tourists can go near the cross. I remember this spot used as a filming location of 'Ouija', a Filipino horror film in 2007. The place for me is totally beautiful but melodramatic at the same time, I've felt goosebumps knowing so many tombs are under the waters and the loved ones of the deceased lost even their remains.

Tuasan Falls - Before it totally gets dark, we rushed to Tuasan Falls located in Barangay Mainit. The road going to the falls is quite new and wide. Most of the falls I've seen were hidden but this one is easily accessible since it is located near the new road, nonetheless, it is still fresh and unspoiled. Its basin is shallow so we weren't  able to swim. The water was so cold too and it started to rain. We just enjoyed the calmness of the surrounding and watched the water flowing from the top.

Sto.Nino Cold Spring - Before this Camiguin trip, I haven't seen a natural cold spring yet so this one was new to me. It was already evening when we dipped our tired bodies in the cold pool. It was so challenging! We started to dip our legs first, next, we submerged half of our bodies until our entire selves totally adapt to the chill. It was dark but since there were spotlights beside the pool area, we were able see how clear the water was.

We had a bountiful dinner at Luna Ristoranti, the famous Italian restaurant in Mambajao. There was a heavy downpour while we were eating. We had to walk on the rain going home to Pabua's.

The next day, we enjoyed the Western buffet breakfast on CheckPoint restaurant, located on the second floor of a building beside Luna Ristoranti. It is owned by a foreigner who was so friendly with the customers. It has the view of Mt. Hibok-Hibok, it was really fascinating!

After our breakfast, we were about to go to the White Island Sandbar, the supposed highlight of the trip. The weather was perfectly fine but the waves were so disturbed at that time. At that day, no boat was allowed to sail by coast guards and the boatmen will be fined if they do so. It was a very unfortunate day for us but we had no choice but to follow the local government rules. We waited until lunch time but still they didn't allow the tour. It was a miss but maybe next time, when I visit this wonderful island again, Mother Nature will give me a chance.

Note: Picture below was taken only at the jump-off point. :(

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