Living in Cagayan de Oro City, I would say that Camiguin Island is one of the most convenient getaway to have a quick escape from the urban jungle to an island paradise. I have a fair share of exploring the island and convenient as it is, I’ve been around here for the third time already but on separate occasions. In this article, I would like to share a 3D2N cramp-up itinerary meant for the people who wants to have a quick getaway amidst there tight schedule. The goal is to explore as much as you can, having the limited time that you have and perhaps budget too. However, for those who have the luxury of time, may this article be also helpful in giving you information in creating your own itinerary.
Despite the attention that it is getting, Camiguin Island draped by mountains, cloaked in thick green wilderness, and pristine coastline, remains raw and calm. Definitively a place worth coming back.
Have you ever wondered why Camiguin has been called “The Island Born of Fire”? Well technically because it was believed that some years ago, when there was still no island, an underwater volcano erupted. The lava and other molten materials coming out from it eventually formed out of the surface of the water and was eventually cooled down by the sea water. However, legends about the island has a different say. Long time ago, Camiguin was believed to be part of Surigao, situated to what know now as Lake Mainit. There was an engkanto (spirit deity) who lives in Camiguin but it came to the point where the Kalaw birds (Horn bills) inhabiting the forest became too noisy that it greatly disturbs him so he decided to uproot his area and transferred somewhere far away where he could no longer be disturb. His decision to move greatly insulted and displeased the Diwata community that resulted to a dispute. They were so mad at him that they threw muds towards Camiguin, two of these muds form into islets which is now known as The White Island and Mantigue Island. The land from which Camiguin left formed a larger hollow and eventually filled with water and is now known as Lake Mainit. Camiguin got its name from the Kamagong, a type of ebony tree which grows in Surigao. Other sources say the Island got its name during the Spanish Exploration headed my Marco who keeps visiting the island, every time he left the island local would always say “Come Again” but because of their local tongue, their pronunciation sounds like “Camiguin”.
How to Get There
The best startup location would be from Cagayan de Oro City but if you’re coming from Butuan, you can easily take a bus bound for Cagayan de Oro and have your Drop-off to Balingoan. Bus Ride from Cagayan de Oro – Balingoan is around Php 150-170/pax and travels for around 2.5 hrs. On the other hand, if you’re coming from Butuan – Balingoan fare is Php 202/pax and travels around 3 hrs. From Balingoan, you can take the ferry to the port of Benoni.
If you’re coming from Luzon or Visayas, you can book your flight either to Cagayan de Oro City or Butuan City but the prior is most convenient. However, for those originating from Bohol and Cebu, you have the option of taking a direct boat ride to Camiguin Island but recently, Cebu Pacific has been flying directly from Cebu to Camiguin.
Once already there going around could really be easy. Not to mention, you can bring your own private vehicle through a ferry – roads are well-developed so driving around is quite convenient. Other options would be contracting a Habal-habal for a maximum of 8 hrs. pakyaw with the driver also serving as a tour guide or if you’re going in a large group, a jeepney, multicab or van will do. It enables you to save more depending on how you haggle, as for me, we contracted a Habal-habal for Php 700.00/motorbike that could accommodate 2 people. I would highly recommend Kuya Michael, he knows his job very well and he can arrange the order of your itinerary to save time traveling around. You can contact him through his mobile number at +63-926-472-4970.
Where to Stay
Places to Visit
Trekking Mt. Hibok-hibok is undeniable one of the reasons people are coming to Camiguin. It’s an active strato volcano and one of the 6 active volcanoes of the Philippines closely monitored by PHIVOLCS due to its volcanic activity with last recorded erupted dated in 1951. Mt. Hibok-hibok rises at 1,332m above sea level. It is considered as a minor climb with 5/9 difficulty and trail class at 3. It boasts its beautiful lush forest covering the trail and its volcanic crater. It may be challenging but reaching the summit is quite rewarding as it offers a panoramic view of the Camiguin’s coastline with white island and the crater on the back – it’s definitely instagrammable summit. Jump off could either be in Ardent Hot Spring or Brgy. Yumbing, depending on you, but a traverse would be nice.
Ardent Hot Spring is one of the most visited spot in Camiguin. It is always best perfect to have a dip after a long climb from Mt. Hibok-hibok. It is located in the mountainside of Hibok-hibok volcano which supplies the hot water. The water comes right out of the forest with a temperature of supposedly just above 40°C. It is then mixed with some colder water and guided into 4 separate pools which are arranged in cascades. The highest pool also has the highest temperature of 40°C while the second pool is the biggest with about 35°C and perfect for swimming but that was decades ago as the locals would claim. Unfortunately, when we get there, the water is no longer hot but lukewarm and it’s not even crystal clear anymore. There must have been some changes in the volcanic activity underneath that affected the Spring.
White Island is an uninhabited sandbar located in the northern shore of Mambajao, Camiguin. It is one of the most popular tourist destination as it offers a fine white sand, glistening blue water and a picturesque background of Mt. Hibok-hibok. A boat ride going there could cost you around Php 400-500/ roundtrip so it is advisable to go in a group and have someone split the cost if you want to save. It is best to go there early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the scorching hit of the sun, otherwise, you can rent an umbrella where you can rest yourself under a shade. You can also find a sari-sari store the sells food and drinks while in the island and if you’ve got an adventurous taste bud, you might wanna try their Swaki or fresh sea urchin for Php 20.00/each.
Cross Marker and Sunken Cemetery
Aside from the renowned White Island. The Cross Marker and Sunken Cemetery has been the identity image of Camiguin in any travel ads you came across to. Located in Bonbon, 16km from Catarman proper, a huge cross was installed 20m from the shoreline way back in 1982 as a marker to the underwater graveyard that sunk during the 1871 volcanic holocaust. It served as a scenic spot to memorialize the graves of their forefathers. Visiting the area is for free and a lot of locals would volunteer to have your picture taken with creative poses perfect for your Instagram, just don’t forget to give them a little tip, they’ll appreciate it as much as you do. However, if you want to take a closer look, you can ride a boat for Php 20/pax to take you there. Today, the sunken cemetery has become an interesting dive site, as eerie as it may sound but you can still catch a glimpse of gravestones and crossed beneath the water where various marine life has inhabited. A minimal fee of Php 50/pax is collected for snorkeling activity.
Walkway to the Old Volcano and Stations of the Cross
Not far from the Cross Marker is the Walkway to the Old Volcano and Stations of the Cross situated at Mt. Vulcan in Brgy. Bonbon, Catarman. The area has always been a famous destination especially during the Lenten season for its Panaad Pilgrimage where Roman Catholic Devotees trod an 8km walkway complete with 14 human-sized Stations of The Cross that leads to the peak of Mt. Vulcan Daan. A Php 10.00/pax entrance is collected for those who want to hike the summit.
Bura Soda Spring
Bura Soda Spring is famous as it is the only Soda Spring in the Philippines. The volcanic spring if Bura has been developed in 2007 into two large pools filled with clean, fresh and clear soda water to provide a good a refreshing and unique experience for both adults and kids. According to locals, water from this spring taste like pure soda but be reminded that it is still a pool and you’re not allowed to drink from it. However, a drinking faucet was also developed for those who wanted to experience it. Study says that drinking Soda water helps prevents Osteoporosis, reduces Cardiovascular diseases risk and lowers blood pressure. For only Php 30.00/pax entrance, you can already enjoy picnicking in a beautiful scenery and a refreshing splash of Soda water. It is best to take your lunch here, they offer menu of local dishes that they’ll freshly cook for you starting at Php 150.00.
Sto. Niño Cold Spring
If you can’t get enough of coolness of Soda Spring, make Sto. Niño Cold Spring as your next stop for a much colder water attraction. The water temperature is more or less 20°c chillingly cold but best for fighting off the scorching summer heat. If your beers aren’t cold, you can stick them underwater and they will be chilled in a few minutes. An hour dip would be very refreshing, not to mention the small fishes ready to serve you for a foot spa in exchange of your dead skin cells for food Lol! Regular entrance Php 30.00/pax and you can rent a picnic cottage for around Php 50.00.
If you’ve had enough of the springs, try the falls. Aside from awesome beaches and refreshing spring, the island also boast its natural waterfalls, one of the most famous one is the Katibawasan Falls, located at the foot of Mt. Timpoong, just 5km southeast of central Mambajao. Measuring about 250 feet high, the falls is a lovely clear stream of cool waters rushing down to a partially man-made pool basin surrounded by ground orchids, wild ferns, trees and boulders. However, you cannot go near the waterfall itself, the area has been barricaded with a rope for safety limitations. Aside from the possibility of falling debris, there are naughty monkeys inhabiting the forest that might throw some stones on you.
Hiking along the way to the entrance, you can see multiple stalls selling clothes, souvenirs and kiping, Camiguin’s delicacy made of thin cassava wafers with coconut syrup. Php 20.00/pax entrance fee will be collected upon entering the white gate, where you will immediately have your first glimpse of Katibawasan Falls. A concrete stairway was developed with roughly 70 steps going down but the best views are from the top where you can behold the towering beauty from its peak to the pool below.
Aside from the renowned Katibawasan Fall, Tuasan Falls, located in Mainit, Catarman, is the newest emerging attraction starting to gain popularity among the tourist. Personally, I find this more beautiful than Katibawasan but unknown to many tourist. The pristine waterfall in its raw beauty is situated inside the forest purely formed by nature, the pool where the water cascades consists of natural rock formation which complements with the flow of cold-bubbling drops directly going to a mini-lagoon with crystal-clear water surrounded by rich flora. Thanks for the suggestion of Kuya Michael, I came to discover this hidden gem.
This waterfall is also less visited due to limited accessibility with underdeveloped road, but passable with by Habal-habal and 4-wheel drive vehicles. Entrance is still for free until development is started. You might wanna bring your own food and water in going there as you can’t find anyone selling in the area, just make sure to be responsible for your own trash.
Old Guiob Church Ruins
Your last stop should be the Old Guiob Church Ruins where you can pass by going back. Located in Brgy. Bonbon in Catarman, the Old Guiob Church Ruins was one of the structures that remained standing after the disastrous eruption of Mt. Vulcan in 1871. Constructed from way back in 16th Century during the Spanish Era, it’s amazing how its sturdy walls and columns built from coral stones have survived the havoc. Today, the old ruins still stand and serves both as a beautiful physical reminder and relic of Filipino faith. It is currently maintained by the Local Government Unit of Camiguin along with locals who continue to beautify the surroundings to preserve its image and make it more attractive to tourists. You can still find the old bell tower, old convent and old tree preserved in the vicinity which are already there prior to the destruction brought by the eruption. There’s no entrance fee but a little donation could go a long way to aid the locals for its maintenance.
Your last day in Camiguin should be dedicated to Mantigue Island, a.k.a Magsaysay Island, is a small 4.4-hectare island off the coast of Mahinog. Its beauty lies in the white powdery beaches, its amazing coral reefs and clear blue waters. Around 2008, It has been declared a National Park and Sanctuary of different marine species. Since then, it has been a favorite playground for diving enthusiasts like me. If you’re lucky enough, you might even have sightings for sea turtles swimming around as part of the island has been their hatching area. Unlike the bare beauty of White Island, Mantigue island is rich in vegetation where you can set a picnic under shaded areas. There are also chairs and tables offered for a minimal fee but consider it free when you order lunch there.
The boat station going to Mantigue Island is located in Barangay San Roque, Mahinog, more or less 30 minutes away from Mambajao. Boat rental costs Php 550.00, maximum of 6 pax, life jacket already included. Entrance fee is Php 10.00/pax but an addition Php 50.00/pax is collected as Snorkeling Fee if you want to go explore underwater.
Tip #1: Before you head home, hope you still find the time to drop and taste some of their delicacies or buy some pasalubongs. Vjandep has been the most popular pasalubong center that humbly started in Camiguin.
Tip # 2: Make sure to catch the last trip of the ferry, it would still be a long way home from Balingoan going back to CDO or Butuan so it would be a good idea to grab something to fill your stomach in Balingoan bus terminal.
This is only an estimated calculation of expenses that only applies to average cost of the whole trip. Things may vary according to how you budget with factors that includes your food and accommodation or the places you go, might be lower or higher than the projected costs. If you’re going alone and covering as much as you can, then it might be more expensive, however, going in a group will enable you to save as much as you can while covering most of the destination since you can split the budget.
Hope my article helped you. Let me know what you think?
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PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED BY ISSEY TANAKA – KUYA FISH CAMPAIGN INC.
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