Camiguin is the second smallest province in the country, next to Batanes. Its charm lies in its being an unexciting place for people looking for a wild night on the town. Even the capital town of Mambajao tends to sleep early at night, with just a videoke pub on Roof Top for those who would want to spend an evening outside of their resorts.
The island is a perfect eco-tourism destination. Beaches, nearby islands, volcanoes, hot and cold springs, waterfalls, and lots of hiking and trekking opportunities.
Accommodations are also varied. From high-end resorts offering amenities similar to Metro Manila hotels, to back packers’ hostels at P250 per night. Island tours can be done in air-conditioned comfort by renting vans, or in the sturdy jeepney-like Multicabs, on motorbikes that can be rented for P500 for the whole day, on motorellas (like the tricycles of Metro Manila), on habal habal, or simply by walking.
On a visit ages ago, I walked around the island, all 64 kilometers of the coastal road, spending the night in resorts in whatever town I am in by end of the day. Only to move out in the morning and continue walking – - on to the next town where I would spend another night. I spent two nights outside of Mambajao then, and was back in this capital town on the third day.
On this latest visit, I rented a multicab to cover as much sights as I could in one day.After picking me up from the resort at 9am, we proceeded to the tourist-listed destinations:
Ardent Hot Spring is at the foot of the Hibok Hibok volcano, some 3 kilometers from the main road. The water is normally at 40 Celsius, making it an ideal overnight swimming destination. Accommodations are available within this resort.
We passed by a very familiar old house, with the same sign “Paradiso” that I saw some 15 years ago. Apparently, the owner of the old restaurant has maintained the lease on the old house, but now does business nearby, using another business name – - Luna Ristorante Italiano.
Old Vulcan was next, with the Way of the Cross as a stop. There are 300 steps to complete the Via Crucis, but I made do with the first 2 stations.
Nearby is the Guiob Church ruins, with a small chapel inside the ruins.I thought that the church or the government should have kept the character and feel of the ruined church, and should not have built that chapel inside the ruins. Maybe an altar using old stones would have been more appropriate.
I bought a pack of lanzones for P90 from vendors near the ruins, not wanting to pass up the chance to savor Camiguin’s most famous produce.
Next stop was the SODA Swimming Pool, that I will make sure I skip on a next tour, and advise friends not to waste time on. Nothing extraordinary here, and the pool is not even spectacular.
But Sto Nino Cold Springs is a stop I will recommend to friends. Not only is the water refreshing, the place has picnic sheds for P50 and there are women outside of the complex who would arrange to cook dishes for you – - – freshly cooked lunch (1/2 kilo kinilaw, 1/2 kilo tinola manok, 1/2 kilo inihaw na baboy, rice, and 3 pcs fresh buco was only P540, including the cooking and the utensils that they themselves will set up, and move out, of your picnic shed.
We also visited the town of Guinsiliban where I took a photo of a row of boats on the shore.
Part of Guinsiliban is Barangay Cantaan, home of the giant clams, with some measuring as long as 2 meters. The clams can be viewed live on the water, with fees arranged thru the volunteers of this park.
It was the feast of St John (San Juan) and it was a holiday in Camiguin. People went to the beach, including White Beach in Cantaan.
Somewhere near the beach, in a cluster of shrubs and a tree, I saw this sign that struck me for the way it expressed the truth and the inevitable consequence of being irresponsible with nature. Forget the grammar, but I urge everyone to keep this in their hearts.
A big group was having a program, when a dirty ice cream vendor passed by. He was immediately surrounded by the entire beach population, and it took rather long before my turn to buy 3 scoops at P5 came. It was like a scene straight out of EDSA, with the vendor literally being mobbed.
We then stopped for coffee at J&A Fishpen, a popular seafood restaurant. So popular they charge a P5 entrance fee to those who come just to take photos. I ordered coffee instead, so the entrance fee was waived.
Enigmata is an artists’ haven. I liken it to Tam-awan Village in Baguio. I met two resident artists, Vincent and Venson, who toured me around the area. I commented about the name, and how appropriate Enigmata, from the root word enigma, is to the place. Until I was told that while it was a good coincidence, Enigmata is actually Bisaya for “open your eyes”. Because that is their mission: to open people’s eyes to their various art forms. painting, including using sand as the medium, sculpture, installation art, the creation of things like bongoes, beads, etc. Anything creative. They even have accommodations for backpackers, dormitory-type or private rooms. I said I will definitely stay in this place at least one night when I return.
Our last stop for the day was near Bahay Bakasyunan sa Camiguin, the resort I was staying in on the day of the tour. We went to Katibawasan Falls. It is 240 meters long, cascading from the top of a mountain onto a lagoon. It is a breathtaking sight, with the forest around it lending serenity to the gushing water. Picture perfect.
I stayed on the first night in Camiguin Golden Sunset Beach Club, booking what I thought was a beachfront cottage. As it turns out, it was a room in a structure with 4 rooms facing the sea, at P2,600 per day when off season. Other rooms cost P2,000 per day. I was welcomed by the guy who took my booking, and was ushered to my room. I also met Philip, an Englishman who owns the place, married to a Filipina. He goes by the local name Pipong, speaks Bisaya and Camiginon, having been in the Philippines very long. He even wrote a clear perspective of the Pinoys to brief foreign guests. Try to click on that when you go to their website : http://www.camiguinisland.com phone (+6388) 3879613
I stayed on the second night at Bahay Bakasyunan sa Camiguin, BBC for short. Clearly THE place in Camiguin. Nice de luxe rooms like 5-star hotel rooms for P4,375 per day, with room rates going down to P3,700 as you go farther away from the pool. Standard nipa-hut style rooms, air conditioned, go for P2,359 per day. Wi-fi is available. The restaurant and the bar overlook the sea. Lovely place. Book them by phone (+6388)3871057 or go to their website http://www.bahaybakasyunan.com. I am definitely staying at BBC on all my next visits, and recommend this and only this resort hotel to friends. Until, of course, a better place comes along.
I also checked on the popular Paras Beach Resort. It is, for me, the second best choice in Camiguin. Room rates start at P1,950 with a suite going at P3,450. There are also 2-bedroom cottages for P5,500 (standard) and P5,900 (de luxe). Phone (+6388) 3879008 website: http://www.parasbeachresort.com
While I did not check in at Jasmin by the Sea, I went there to check it out, being listed on Lonely Planet as the best value place in Camiguin. Indeed, they could very well be. A room facing the water goes for P800 per day, no airconditioning. There is a fan, but it may not have to be used as the breeze enters the room. I plan to stay here one night when I return. Contact (+6388) 3879015
Ardent Hot Spring has rooms for P3,200, air con. And a dormitory for P440/day, up to 7 persons in the dorm. Contact (+6388) 3870508
Finally, another place I will stay in at least one night – - Enigmata. They have rooms for P950 and backpackers’ quarters for P250 per head per day. website is http://camiguinecolodge.com/ Contact them at (+6388)3870273
How to get to Camiguin
The usual route is via Balingoan, an hour and a half away from Cagayan de Oro. Take a ferry from Balingoan to the port of Benoni in Camiguin. Travel time is 1 hour.
Mambajao, where most of the resorts are, can be reached by motorella, if you have not arranged for pick up with your resort. My pick up cost me P400 on a Multicab.
From Cagayan de Oro to Balingoan, you can get into a bus at Agora terminal. Or take a taxi that will charge a flat fee of P2,000.
You can make arrangements for pick up, island tour, or boats to nearby islands from the resort. Or even arrange to hire a motorbike.
You may want to contact the driver who toured me around. He owns the multicab. Whole day tour of the island is P1,500 (P1,800 if booked from the resort). His name is Criz Jabay, with mobile phone number 09215637788
Here are sceneries from Cagayan to Balingoan.
Camiguin is beautiful. It almost tells you “Come again !”. I say, surely.