Our second semester starts in January, right after welcoming the new year. The hustle begins but all the pigging out and bumming over the holidays continue to put our bodies on vacation mode. That means that by February, we’re already behind on administering exams and checking lab reports. In other words, the real hustle begins in February. Understandably towards the end of the month, we’re already close to burning out.
We are fortunate enough to be living in Cebu where the charter day falls right before the EDSA Revolution anniversary. We are guaranteed a two-day holiday every February and this year, these holidays come before the weekend. And so, along with four other colleagues, I had to take advantage of the long weekend and fly to Camiguin for our much-needed break.
If you think being a college student is hard, try being a college teacher. Don’t get me wrong. I find my job fulfilling but dealing with my students can easily go from endearing to annoying. Hence, a vacation here and there is a necessary expense. Travel is my chill pill and my happy pill. It is the pill that keeps my sanity in check and this particular medication that I’m on is made in an island called Camiguin.
Hailed as the island born of fire, Camiguin is believed to have been formed from land movements that accompanied several volcanic eruptions. The island houses a total of seven volcanoes, some of which are still active.
Located in Bohol Sea, off the northern coast of Mindanao, Camiguin is the second smallest province in the Philippines in terms of population and land area. However, it boasts of pristine beaches, cold and hot springs, lush forests, and majestic waterfalls. As if that’s not enough, Camiguin is also home to enthralling underwater sites like expansive table corals, giant clams, and an underwater cemetery. You will never run out of things to do in this little paradise!
I’ve rounded up some of the things that you must try in Camiguin. There are more sites you can visit but these are the only ones we could accommodate in our two-day stay in the island.
All photos that appear in this post were taken by Clyde Blanco. Follow @itstheclydeon Instagram.
Come to White Island for your vitamin sea fix. It is a shape-shifting sandbar with verdant mountains in the backdrop. (I was later corrected that these were in fact volcanoes.) There is a considerably interesting underwater scene. Unfortunately for us, the sands were shifted too far away from the best coral reef in the area. I guess that’s reason enough to come visit again.
Walking barefoot is a good idea since the sand is super fine. If you’re planning on taking home some sand for a souvenir, forget about it. As we were leaving, they washed our feet so we wouldn’t be bringing any sand to the mainland.
The best time to visit is early morning or late afternoon because the sun can be very unforgiving. There are no structures in the island save for some beach umbrellas that you may rent for a small fee.
As we made our way from the seascape and into the mountains, the scenery quickly changed from blue to green. In the midst of towering cliffs and lush greenery, we finally made it to Katibawasan Falls. Its water cascades from a 75-foot cliff to a rocky pool. Whether you are taking a dip in the cold water or having a picnic at the stone tables, the falls is spectacular wherever you view it from.
If you’re not into swimming in cold waters, Ardent Springs might just be your thing. Because of the island’s volcanic history, hot springs are abundant in the area. Ardent Springs is the best of them. Several pools of various temperature are available to choose from. The resort also has a restaurant where you can have your lunch.
Tuasan Falls is perhaps one of the less popular falls in Camiguin. The construction of new roads made it possible for more people to experience this gem. It only opened its doors to the public very recently. In fact, at the time of our visit, no environmental fees were imposed.
In the town of Sagay, one can find a swimming pool overflowing with soda water. A natural spring fills the pool with water with high dissolved CO2 concentration. If you want to confirm it, you can taste the water yourself. Taste it from the spring, of course, not from the pool.
Sto. Niño Cold Springs
Here’s yet another spring. It’s freezing cold this time. Most people just laze atop rubber boats because the water can be intolerable.
In the 1870’s, Mt. Vulcan Daan underwent a series of eruptions that submerged some parts of the town of Catarman. Among the structures that went underwater was the cemetery. Today, a large cross stands on top of the original site. A small banca will take you to the cross. We were unable to dive that day but I managed to dip my underwater camera in the water while we were making our way to the cross. A thick coral cover has already taken over the graveyard. It would have been an interesting dive for sure. Nevertheless, the site alone was worth it. From the cross, one can see Mt. Hibuk-Hibuk which happens to be an active stratovolcano sitting on top of old volcanoes.
This is my favorite spot in Camiguin. Mantigue has a very rich marine life which is what one can expect from an area which has been a marine protected area for several years. Snorkeling is a must!
There are no permanent structures in the island but native cottages are available for picnics. An assortment of fresh seafood are available in the island. Just take your pick and the locals will cook them for you however you want.
Giant Clam Sanctuary
Learn all about giant clams from kids! These clams or taklobo as they’re locally known are enormous. The area houses over three thousand of them. If you can, try SCUBA diving but snorkeling or skin diving will do as well.
Most churches become tourist spots because of their history. Sagay Church isn’t one of those churches with large buttresses, intricately detailed altars, and a rich history of forced labor. In fact, Sagay Church is not an old church from the Spanish era. It is fairly new but what makes it uniquely interesting is the fact that it is made from native light materials like old branches and driftwood. Churches are usually built to last centuries but I can only guess that the people of Sagay know fairly well that the church is the people, not the structure.
Getting There and Going Around
The sole airline operating in Camiguin airport is Cebu Pacific Air. As of this writing, the airline only covers flights coming from and going to Cebu. If you are coming from Manila, a connecting flight from Cebu is necessary.
Another option is to fly or cruise to Cagayan de Oro City and take a two-hour bus ride to Balingoan Port. From there, one can take a ferry to Benoni Port in Camiguin.
Going around the island requires chartering a van or a habal-habal. Renting a motorbike would be cheaper if you are traveling alone. However, extreme caution is necessary if you are driving it yourself. The roads are concrete but they can be difficult for someone who is unfamiliar with the terrain. Expect sharp turns, steep slopes, and cliffside roads.
We were fortunate enough that Sir Jonnie, our dean, happens to be from Camiguin and has volunteered his brother to chauffeur us around and make the necessary arrangements.
Where to Stay
There are several hostels and inns in the capital city of Mambajao but we opted to spend the night in Catarman where most tourist spots are located. We stayed at Creek Traveller Cottages for P1500/night. Our cottage had two queen beds and a single bed. It is a traditional native hut on the outside but it had some modern luxuries like air conditioning, an en suite bath, flat screen TV, and a strong wifi connection.