Camiguin, Island of Fire

Camiguin is an island province northwest of Cagayan de Oro, in Mindanao. It is accessible via an inter-island ferry, which traverses the Bohol Sea.

The island, comprising of five towns, was literally born of fire - it is composed of four stratovolcanoes that straddle older volcanic structures. One of the volcanoes is Hibok-Hibok, which is active and last erupted in 1953.

The fast craft we took, the fastest way to the island,  left Cagayan de Oro at 8am and docked at Benoni port 3 hours later. We hired a small van that will take us around the island, first taking us to Enigmata, an eco-lodge located in Mambajao, the capital town. After freshening up and grabbing lunch at a carinderia, we set out to 250-foot high Katibawasan Falls for a quick dip in the cool waters and frolic under the vertical drop.

Next waypoint was the Sunken Cemetery. Yes, you heard it right. The century-old cemetery is located out on the sea, 20 feet below. According to the locals, the land where it was built sunk to the sea when the nearby Mt. Vulcan erupted in 1871.

A large cross built on a small islet marks where the cemetery is now. The coral-encrusted tombstones, like this one, are still visible from the surface, and one can snorkel or skindive to take a closer look at them.

After snorkeling in the Sunken Cemetery we went to the ruins of the Guiob church, in Catarman town. The church was also destroyed by the 1871 volcanic eruption.

Around 4pm when the sun's rays were already bearable we headed to White Island, a 15-minute banca ride away from a small jetty in Catarman. The island's attraction is the long sandbar, which , with Mt. Hibok-hibok in the background, makes a dramatic view.

The last leg of our day was a trip to the Ardent hotspring at the foot of the volcano, but I would not recommend this. The place was full of locals and tourists, many of whom are drunk. We went inside after paying the PhP30 entrance fee but immediately left after surveying the place. Dinner at Kan-anan sa Parola (Eatery by the Lighthouse, the same guys who sell the yummy pastel) capped the wonderful day.

How to Get There: Camiguin is accessible from Cagayan de Oro via the Paras Sea Cat (+63.88.857.2727), a daily ferry service that leaves at 8:30am at Macabalan pier. Fare is around PhP 400, and the return trip from Camiguin is at 4pm. The ferry goes onward to Jagna, Bohol after docking in Camiguin.

Alternatively, you can also take the ferry from Balingoan town in Misamis Oriental. It is cheaper (PhP 135) and faster (only one hr), but you will have to take a bus to/from Cagayan de Oro Agora station (PhP 110 each way).

Camiguin has a small airfield, but I haven't heard of any regular flights going into the island.

Vans and multicabs can be hired in Benoni port for PhP1800 for 8-9 hours to take you around the island, the driver serving as the tour guide.

Where to Stay: Enigmata is a good alternative from the usual lodges in Camiguin. The rooms are actually in a big tree house built on an acacia tree. Environmental conciousness is required in the hostel though; guests are encouraged to out the lights out by 11pm, and smoking is a no-no.

by Kin Enriquez

[more pics on Camiguin here.]


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