Sunday, November 25, 2012

An Enchanting Island , Camiguin – An Island Born on Fire

Sunrise View in CDO Bound for Camiguin It’s my second day here in CDO, and of course today is Camiguin Day.  I don't get to sleep well if I'm too excited about something and that's what i noticed. I had my cell phone alarm set at 3 AM for me to prepare my stuff but around 1 AM I'm awake, going back to sleep and then woke up again after 30 minutes. Darn! I'm just too excited to travel and see what's in store for me in Camiguin. I took a motorela to Agora terminal where i can catch a bus bound to Balingoan Port, my jump off port to Camiguin. There are several ways for you to get to Balingoan Port, you can take a Bus, Van or a cab if your that rich :). I took the Van hoping that it’ll be faster compared to the buses and way cheaper, but darn, I am expecting to leave CDO 530 AM but we left around 7AM. Tsk tsk, an hour and a half wasted! It was a bright day, and I just kept the complaint to myself. I seated at the front seat (alone) and one of the passengers asked me,”Miss usa lang ka?”(Miss are you one? heheheh, are you alone?) I told the old lady, yes I'm alone. I could only see surprise on her face when I told her that I wanted to just see and land in Camiguin, do some sight seeing and go back after. Even the Van driver got amazed when I told him.   The kind lady asked me if I do have contacts on the area, and I told her, none and I will just try look for some drivers to take me to the places and I wanted to see, then she offered a good deal. Told me that she has a son who can lend the motorcycle to me for a fee but of course with a driver to guide me along the way. We agreed at Php 700 which is not bIMG_1843ad after all.  Standard rate for this in the area is around 800.
Despite all the hassle, the trip was smooth and enjoyable. I IMG_1847 got to see a glimpse of Misamis Oriental, good thing the Van Driver is very informative, he is explaining a lot of things about Misamis, I just got lucky as he is a member of Camiguin Tourism Board. After about two hours, we reached the port, unscratched but less giddy. Riding a van was perhaps a better option compared to bus, as it made its stop near the port so we didn't have to rent a tricycle to go to the port.
Ferries are scheduled to leave every hour from Balingoan to Camiguin. Tickets cost 170 per person, discounts apply to students and senior citizens. We arrived just in time, i think 5minutes before the ferry will leave the po rt. I got amazed with Balingoan’s facilities, high tech, they have Baggage Xray Machines. In all fairness, its well maintained.  On board MV Hijos bound to Benoni, Camiguin. Few minutes of waiting and we were cruising towards the Island Born on Fire, Camiguin. I love the fresh air as it touches my face. There were few passengers for the trip. The vessel has two decks, i prefer the upper deck of course so I can get a better glimpse of the view of the surrounding and of course the islands that we may pass through. Though stranger, i didn’t felt threatened for this solo trip because everywhere i looked, people were smiling. They spoke Bisaya, i can understand a bit but I'm not confident answering back in the same dialect so id rather respond in Tagalog. It’s a good day to cruise and doze off, anyway the travel took 2 hours so I took a nap. When I woke up we’re few meters away from Benoni Port.
Much has been said abIMG_1867out the enchanting beauty of Camiguin, a small island north of Mindanao. Considered as an off-the-beaten-path destination especially by foreign travelers, Camiguin is diminutive in size, (the smallest province both in population and land area after Batanes) but it absolutely doesn't reflect the richness it has to offer. Here, you will find seven volcanoes ( most of them are active), scenic waterfalls, hot springs, church ruins, a sunken cemetery and friendly locals. With such attractions scattered around the island, anyone who's looking for adventure will not be disappointed. Whether it's lazying on the beach, trekking the rainforest, trying out local cuisine, Camiguin can be an ideal spot for respite and quality vacation.  I have experienced that myself.
We waited for couple of minutes for my tourguide and service to arrive. Few minutes and we’re on the road and getting ready to explore Camiguin. With a Map and a Camera, the Blue Rider is now ready for a Road Trip Adventure.    Along the road, i cant help but notice the cleanliness of the place and at the same time how green colors dominated the entire island. Just the perfect day for a day tour. Camiguin is just a small island so 1 day Itinerary is perfect.

IMG_1883First stop is the Katibawasan Falls – is one treasured gifts nature has blessed the island of Camiguin. According to the locals, the Waterfalls measures about 250 feet high, cascades to a rock pool surrounded by ground orchids, wild ferns, trees and boulders.The falls rushes down into its green pool that is really refreshing for a good swim. Tourist are welcome to swim. It is an ideal place to cool off during hot and humid days. There is however an entrance fee of 30 pesos per person since the falls is maintained by the province. Giant ferns decorate the surrounding land, carpeting the spaces and huge trees and dropping vines provides the backdrop the falls.
As far as the meaning of the word is concern, I have have not found its meaning in Cebuano or bisaya, but I can relate it with the illonggo dialect for the word "Katibawasan" which means: "To have overcome".
I didn't swim but i soaked my feet in the cold water and its very relaxing. I found some foreigners taking a dip in the water during that time.

IMG_1931IMG_1920Next is the Ardent Hibok-Hibok Spring Resort – located in Mambajao , the water of the Ardent Hot Spring is 40°C warm. It is heated by the volcanic activity of Mount Hibok-Hibok.  It is then mixed with some colder water and guided into 4 seperate 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. The water in the other pools is colder and offer some refreshment after a hot bath.

 After the Spring Resort, we come across a lot of cold spring and hot spring resort but i didn't stop over,  we just passed by and went to our next destination, the ultimate destination in Camiguin Island, the Sunken Cemetery. It topped my list of must see destination in Camiguin.

The Sunken Cemetery of Camiguin Island marks the swept remains of the island’s rested locals. Driven underwater when Mt. Vulcan Daan erupted in 1870’s, the large cross has served the town's people, as well as the tourists, a scenic spot to memorialize the departed's buried there. (Wiki)

Tourist have the option to go near the cross, a boat will carry you to the large cross. The local boatmen are very friendly and safety-conscious, that no one shall be allowed entry after 4pm.  The water is shallow in the afternoon, but it can rise higher as twilight approaches. It is best to arrive at the Sunken Cemetery around after lunch as more natural light will emphasize one’s visit to the cemetery, and the water level is ideal, not too high to be unsafe returning on shore. On the way to the cross, one may catch a good view of Mt. Hibok-hibok in its mysterious aura. This volcano is the most active of the seven volcanoes in this pear-shaped island. The island also boasts its immense balance of flora and fauna, the soil is gifted of minerals, thanks to the volcanoes.  Touching down on the Sunken Cemetery gives an overwhelming feeling of excitement and curiosity. This is somewhat a popular enchanted spot per local folklore.  Being a location reminiscent of the deceased, it is no wonder that the sunken cemetery is dramatic to imagination. 
IMG_1949The terrace and the cross are aged structure, and the reserved and mystifying air of the Sunken Cemetery only adds to its appeal especially for nature lovers. A Camiguin trip is not complete without experiencing the peculiar feeling of the place.  From a distance, one can see how lonely and solemn the place is. Entombed below the Cross are the lives lost to the history the people had been through, and place in itself already gave birth to the residents’ culture, history and tourism.
IMG_1951After taking pictures and breathing in some fresh air,I went back shore. If the timing permits, it is also captivating to take a view at the waters below where one can put his imagination at work. There live some fishes and reefs that share the same abode to the tombs of the Sunken Cemetery.  Visiting the Sunken Cemetery allowed me to appreciate more the many interesting things about the whole Island of Camiguin. The history of the sunken cemetery is undoubtedly tragic but the way the people of Camiguin valued this historic site and its heritage made me see the kind of people they are. It truly defines their courage, resilience and faith to survive the challenging tests of times.

 Some creative shots taken when I went to the sunken Cemetery
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IMG_1992IMG_1994Just few meters away from the Famed Sunken Cemetery is the Catarman Church Ruins.  The devastating volcanic eruption in 1871 wiped out the Spanish settlement of Catarman that was established in 1697. The remains of an Old Spanish church, ruins of adobe walls, belfry and convent are mute witnesses to the wrath of nature. It also allows us a glimpse into the culture of Spanish-era Camiguin. When i went inside the premise a little girl approached me and sold some candles, she said its 3 pesos each candle. I gave her Php 20 and told her to give me just 3 pieces and she can keep the change.  I don’t know but while i was praying in front of the crucifix, a tear fell down, tear of joy maybe that I was able to reach that far and experienced God’s greatness through the wonderful things I just discovered.

Off we went to our next destination, the Sto Nino Spring Resort, its a hot day so its a great escape to go to a cold spring. Santo Niño Cold Spring is a water park for the whole family. It has pools with a refreshing 20 °C cold water. I don't have any plans to swim but I wanted to get inside to take a look at how its done and get some snap shots. I paid 20 pesos for the entrance fee, sat in one of the cabanas, ordered some drinks to rest and soak my feet in the cold water. I haven't had the chance to try it but the lady said that the water has live tiny fishes. If you stood still, the fishes would clean your body or feet by removing excess skin. Something only Santo Niño Cold Spring has in Camiguin.
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It’s quite a long and tiring day but I got to discover a lot of wonderful places in Camiguin. Locals should feel proud that they have all of these in just one little island, you have mountains, beaches, hot and cold spring resorts, heritage places and a lot more.  At exactly 3 in the afternoon I headed back to Benoni Port to catch a ride back to Balingoan. Another 5 hours travel to get back to CDO.


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