Photos by: Anna Oposa
Known as the “Island Born of Fire,” Camiguin is one of the smallest island provinces in the Philippines but has an astounding seven volcanoes, thus earning the said nickname.
But ah, great things come in small, geologically complete packages. This tiny island, which is composed of only five municipalities, holds all possible tropical landforms you can imagine: hot and cold springs, waterfalls, beaches, and volcanoes. I first explored Camiguin with my two best friends, Juancho and Donna, in May 2010. It was our first time to set foot in the beautiful island of Mindanao. I fell in love with the place so much that I convinced my entire family to travel to Camiguin and spend Christmas there just a few months after.
Once you reach the pear-shaped island, there will be brightly colored tricycles called motorellas at your disposal. However, multicabs are more convenient. These are like minivans where the passengers face each other. Multicabs can hold 10 to 12 people and are easier to catch in different parts of the island. Prices for a one-day tour of Camiguin start at the sound of PhP2,000 (±USD46.51), with the pier as the starting point.
Keeping the fire burning
Among the seven volcanoes, Mt. Hibok-Hibokis the most popular hiking spot. The last eruption of the volcano, which took some 3,000 lives, was back in 1951. No major volcanic activity has been recorded since then. From the Benoni port, take a forty-five-minute car ride to Mambajao (PhP 50 or±USD1.16), where you secure a permit from the office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (PhP100 or±USD 2.33). Then, hop on a motorcycle bound for the Ardent Hot Springs, the usual jump-off point to the summit. On a clear day, the three- to five-hour trek to the top of Mt. Hibok-Hibok will allow you to see nearby islands like Bohol, Eastern Mindanao, Siquijor, and the White Island.
The volcanic activity is responsible for the island’s unique landscape. The Mt. Vulcan eruption of 1871 ravaged the first major Spanish settlement built in 1679. Its stark reminder is the Guiob Ruins, remnants of the ancient Spanish church, convent and belfry. The trail of Mt. Vulcan also has monuments depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross as a memorial for those who died. Succeeding eruptions caused the nearby cemetery to sink. The fourth and last eruption (so far, that is) was in 1948. Locals planted a large cross on the solidified lava in 1982 as homage to the sunken cemetery, now one of Camiguin’s most famous landmarks.
Don’t go chasin’ waterfalls
A 15-peso (±USD 0.34) entrance fee takes you to the Katibawasan Falls. The surging, 70-meter waterfall towers over us and creates a cool mist around the trees, ferns, and orchids that line the rock pool. The area could easily serve as the set for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. When we went, only Juanch was brave enough to swim in the cold water. Another waterfall we failed to see is the Tuasan Falls. Because it is not accessible as Katibawasan, it would be advisable to allot half a day for Tuasan. Getting there means hiking through the barrio of Mainit and passing a river bend.
The volcanoes are also responsible for the springs and the country’s only pool of soda water found in Camiguin. Since Camiguin is quite small, it is possible to see all springs in one whole day. However, it would be best to see two to three springs in one day as not to confuse your body from the different scenes and temperatures. The Bura Soda Water Swimming Pool in Bura, Catarman provides a commanding view of the horizon where the fields meet the seas. It has been said that the Ardent Hot Spring(entrance fee of PhP30 or±USD0.70) is best enjoyed in the evening, when the 40-degree Celsius temperature of the water provides a calming balance with the cold mountain air. While it looks like a heated pool because of the manmade slide and railings, the Ardent Hot Spring is very much alive. Take a closer look at the water and you’ll see fish swimming right beside you! The Tangub Hot Spring is located near the sunken cemetery. Its temperature is a bit more unpredictable, because it is located beneath the seabed. The Tangub Hot Spring’s heat directly depends on the tide.
Since my friends and I went during the brunt of the Philippine summer, we had a more relaxed experience at the Sto. Niño Cold Spring. The entrance fee is only PhP40 (±USD0.93). The large pools of cold water were surrounded by huts and picnic tables for rent. The rich minerals of the Macao Cold Spring turned its water into a piercing blue. The Macao Cold Spring is fringed with century-old trees, making it appropriate for Act 2 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Since Juanch, Donna, and I had been to other white-sand beaches around our archipelago, we didn’t set high expectations for White Island. We woke up just as the sun was rising and took a 10-minute, two-kilometer boat ride to the popular sand bar (PhP500 or±USD11.63 roundtrip). It is recommended to bring your own food and drinks, especially if you want to have a picnic under the sun. When we reached the narrow strip of gleaming white sand, Donna and I could not stop saying, “Oh my god.” It looked like a photo from a coffee table book had come to life.
The location of the sand bar had Mount Hibok-Hibok and Vulcan as the background, showcasing the Philippines’ impressive biodiversity from ridge to reef. We spent the whole morning on White Island. People usually stay two-four hours, depending on the tide. Since it is a very small patch of sand, it disappears when the tide is high.
Locals will tell you that the best time to visit Camiguin is in the third week of October, when they hold their annual Lazones Festival. The lanzones is a sweet, beige-colored, fleshy fruit available in selected tropical countries. But the fertile volcanic soil of Camiguin has created a different breed of lazones; they are consistently sweet and relatively larger compared to lanzones grown in other parts of the Philippines.
Other than October, Camiguin and its people embrace visitors throughout the entire year. Because of its size, the entire island can be seen in two days. But it has a rural charm that would make you go back and choose Camiguin as a vacation spot again—just like I did.
At a glance
Cebu Pacific Air
Distance - Approximately 729 kilometres from Manila
Travel Time – Approximately 4 hours to get to Camiguin from Manila.
Via Plane from Manila to Cagayan de Oro (CDO)
Via Bus from Agora Market to Balingoan
Via Ferry from Balingoan to Camiguin
Via Ferry from CDO Ferry Terminal to Guinsiliban, Camiguin
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