Located at the tip of Nothern Mindanao is Camiguin Island, one of the top tourist destinations this side of the country. It boasts various bodies of water ranging from white sand beaches, waterfalls and cold and hot springs, making it a perfect swimming haven. Historical spots are also scattered all over the laid back province. Last May marked my 3rd time in Camiguin. My first time was in 2007 with my aunt and her graduate school students; the 2nd time was in 2009 together with my SGV batch mates while this trip was with Tal, Louie and Kaye. Since they were all first-timers, I became their tour guide by default.
Getting to Camiguin (from Davao) is fairly easy. We rode a Rural Tours bus – Cagayan de Oro route which ran about 7 hours. We opted to travel at night to save time (8:30PM – 3:30AM). We were rather lucky because we BARELY made the bus due to the rush of passengers. I actually sat on one of the extension seats which was quite uncomfortable (I experienced mild neck pain after the bus ride). Nonetheless, I was thankful that we made the bus ride as the next trip would have been after 2 hours. We transferred buses after reaching CDO and rode to Balingoan which is about 2 hours from CDO, via Butuan bus route. A few steps from the Balingoan bus terminal is the Balingoan port which is the gateway to Camiguin. The barge trip to Benoni Port (Camiguin) is approximately 1 hour. Overall, we had very time-efficient trips because we didn’t encounter long lag times in between.
We docked at Benoni Port at around 8:00 in the morning. Tourism being the bread and butter of most of the populace, we immediately noticed the vans, multicabs and tricycles lining up at the side of the dock waiting for tourists to avail of their services. We had a quick breakfast and jump started our day tour. (Tip: If you know someone who has a ready contact in Camiguin, better contract your transportation service before your trip. It saves negotiating time and might save you some cash as well.)
First up: Walkway to the Old Volcano. There wasn’t much to see at the walkway except for the Stations of the Cross along the stairs. There are also plenty of souvenir shops located there if you want to shop early for pasalubong. We didn’t finish the walkway steps to conserve energy; hence, we shot some pictures and took off.
We headed next to the famous Sunken Cemetery. The gigantic cross erected across the coast is a symbol of collective commemoration to the graves that were buried not only by dirt but also by the waters surrounding the island. This was due to the many volcanic eruptions that the island has encountered in the past.
Near the Sunken Cemetery is another historical spot: The Old Church Ruins. As the place is named, the spot is surrounded by old churches wrecked by a (you guessed it) disastrous volcanic eruption from yesteryear. While the deformed structures were a result of a tragedy, the people has since moved on and eventually made this a tourist attraction. Church ruins and old fortresses crept with vines are what to be expected which makes the place perfect for photo shoots vintage style.
Another spot in Camiguin is the PHIVOLCS office where relics and full accounts of previous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that have shaped the island are being showcased. They also have a functioning seismograph continually monitoring the volcanic activity around the area. We opted not to go there since the office is located a bit far, although I have been there once during my first time in the island.
A Swimming Junkie’s Paradise
We dropped our bags at our rented place and prepared our gear as we headed to the next phase of our tour: Swimming! As mentioned earlier, Camiguin has various bodies of water. And since it’s nearing noon, we decided to go to Sto. Nino Cold Springs for a cool and refreshing dip. (Tip: You can have your lunch there as there are eateries outside the resort. You can even bring the food inside with no corkage fee. We bought barbeque and rice outside and had them delivered at our rented table.)
What I like most about Sto. Nino Cold Springs is that their water is very pristine and cool (not the type of coolness that would send you shivering). You can also see small fishes swimming around since the resort uses flowing water. This was also the first time I put my Sony TX-5 to the ultimate underwater test and it passed with flying colors.
Next up on our itinerary is Soda Swimming Pool. This was my first time since I didn’t get the chance to go there during my previous visits. The pool offers nothing special, which left us wondering why they called the place “Soda”. When we asked, the lady at the ticket booth said “Didn’t you taste the water?”. Apparently the water was supposed to taste like soda, hence the name. Meh.
After the disappointment that was Soda, Katibawasan falls was next on the list. But before we headed to the falls, we dropped by the original VjANDEP, home of the famous pastel buns. We had the pastel straight from the oven, even the yema filling was still scorching hot. Yum! Now, onto Katibawasan. I have always been fascinated with waterfalls because it brings a sense of both mystery and majesty, especially with Katibawasan because of its height and water volume. Swimming there was challenging to put it mildly. A combination of the cool raging water and the windy breeze of the forest will make anyone shiver. We only stayed for a few minutes because the chills were starting to really get into us.
Last stop before ending the tour is Ardent Hot Spring, which is like a mega Jacuzzi. The water temperature can reach up to a maximum of 40 degrees Celsius. While the water might smell a little funky, it’s not because of libag or anything unhygienic. The culprit: sulfur. We soaked our tired bodies into the hot water for a quick rest before heading back to our rented place. (Tip: If you’re not gonna stay long at Ardent, you can leave your belongings nearby instead of renting a cottage.)
We passed by Mambajao, Camiguin’s capital to buy food and rice. We had Chooks-to-go for dinner and immediately called it a day as we were scheduled to wake up very early for tomorrow’s destination. We didn’t stay in a resort to save some pennies. (Tip: Lots of resorts with room accommodations can be found across the island such as Paras Beach Resort and Caves Dives Resort (me and my SGV batch mates stayed there last 2009). Be prepared to shed some extra moolah though.)
The Wave Less Traveled
We woke up at 5am the next day since we were expecting for a very early trip considering the place we stayed was a bit far from White Island. The perfect time to go to the vanishing White Island is during the early hours of the morning (6-7AM) when the island isn’t covered with water and the sun has barely risen. We had been previously warned by our contracted boat driver of the possibility that we weren’t gonna be able to cross the raging ocean due to the large waves. The waves were apparent for some days as the island had been recently hit by Tropical Storm Chedeng a week before that.
At first, the boat driver refused to go through the trip arguing that the waves will be too much for the small boat. We waited for some minutes thinking that the waves will eventually subside. We were getting a bit hopeless when finally, another boat driver gave in to our negotiation and financial bargaining. The waves were still big and scary but what the heck. No Camiguin trip would be complete without a visit to White Island. With our small rented boat, off we headed to White Island.
White Island is 20 minutes away from our place. It was scary at first, thinking that the boat could capsize any minute should there be a huge wave coming. We also had no life vests so that’s really assuring. Good thing we got to pass by several caves and saw amazing rock formations from the island’s side. (Tip: For a shorter yet less thrilling ride to White Island, you can go to the mini boat terminal near Paras Beach Resort where you can avail boat services.)
Finally after the 20-minute boat ride (scary I might add), we arrived at White Island. The place was jam-packed with tourists as the waters swallowed near half of the island due to high tide. It was a bit stressful at first due to the volume of people but we adjusted once we settled down. We rented chairs and a table to place our belongings so that we can freely roam around the island.
The waves around the C-shaped sand structure were quite vicious as they were coming on all sides. The weather was a bit gloomy when we arrived (my previous visits had sunny weather) but sunlight eventually came through after a while. We enjoyed swimming very much as the water was very clear matched by the fine white sand. Of course no island tour would be complete without pictures, especially underwater and jump shots.
After a satisfying dip at White Island, we again boarded our small boat back to our place. But, since our boat ride wasn’t the usual trip, we had a bonus destination: Sunken Cemetery, up close and personal this time. We went to the structure where the big cross was erected. I was particularly excited since I’ve never been that close to the cross during my past visits.
Once we got back to the house, we hurriedly rinsed and packed our bags. We fetched a jeepney (which was very rare considering it was a Sunday) for a ride to Mambajao and then transferred to another jeepney on the way to Benoni Port. We planned on eating at J&A Fishpen for lunch but time didn’t permit us. Instead, we had a quick lunch at one of the eateries near the port before heading to the barge back to Balingoan. Upon reaching Cagayan de Oro, we went to Limketkai mall for a little stroll and stopped by at Missy Bon Bon. I’m a fan of this little pastry shop as they serve one of the best-tasting gelatos. They also have cakes, bread and other baked goodies ideal for pasalubong if you’re tired of bringing the same old VjANDEP pastel or Slers chicharon. If only they would open a branch in Davao…
After we bought baked treats and devoured our gelato, we proceeded to the bus terminal for our final trip back to Davao. Getting to the bus was fairly inconvenient as there were also many passengers taking the night trip but we were lucky to get seats. We arrived in Davao at 2AM and lazily went home for a nice and well deserved rest. -rod-