Exploring Camiguin Island

Exploring Camiguin Island
by Danny Tariman

My family is so excited to go to this far-away island in northern Mindanao. We took a plane from Manila to Cagayan de Oro City. It was an early morning flight and because it was the peak season for travels, the airport was in chaos with so many passengers lining up the counters and many flight delays! Anyway, this was just the beginning of our 5-day journey.

My family, very early in the morning at the White Island sand bar.
My family, very early in the morning at the White Island sand bar.

We arrived at the Laguindingan International Airport in Cagayan de Oro at almost 10 in the morning. We were met and welcomed by my Aunt Cedeng at the airport who was so gracious to lend us a 4×4 Mistibishi Strada pick-up. We immediately drove down to the city where we had a quick take-out lunch. We had to do this to catch up the 1pm boat ride to Camiguin.

We missed the 1pm boat, as we arrived at 1:30pm at Balingoan port. Still, we were not immediately able to board and had to wait until the 3pm boat. While on board, I read a news that a storm is nearing the country and is expected to pass by Northern Mindanao.

“What a time to tour this place”, I sighed. But I leave it all to the LORD to allow us to enjoy this trip!

Enjoying the early morning boat ride to the White Island.
Enjoying the early morning boat ride to the White Island.

We arrived at Camiguin port at about 5pm. We first tried and dropped by the nearest tourist spot we can pass but darkness was starting to set in; we can no longer appreciate the natural beauty of the place. And so we decided to “call it day” and rest for the night.

We passed by this restaurant in a little hut, with a few cars parked in front. Being a first timer in the place, I thought it will be a good idea to eat here since there some customers. I was surprised that it was not a Filipino restaurant but an Italian – operated and managed by a couple who migrated recently to the island.

It was the Italian-owner himself who waited on us and described the selections on the menu. It was a long wait for food to be served. I was starving already! But when the food was finally served, wow, it was really authentic Italian dishes served to us by wife (an Italian too). Earlier, I was complaining inside of me for the long wait, while the couple almost vanished from our sight. It appears that it was the couple who prepared the food themselves! Truly a must for every visitor in Camiguin! If you happen to visit the island, try this Italian resto – Shardana.

An Italian dinner in a Filipino setting in Camiguin.
An Italian dinner in a Filipino setting in Camiguin.

We had a good night rest at small but really nice and clean accommodation arranged by my cousin Dr Vivian. (thank you, doc!). We woke up early in the morning to maximize our time. At 7 o’clock in the morning, we were already aboard an outrigger boat to “White Island”. It is a sand bar in the middle of the sea, about 30 minutes ride from the shore.

White Island is an icon of Camiguin – you will see this in most photographs of Camiguin Island. Its fine cream white sand and crystal clear blue waters will seduce you at first sight. Since it was early, I think we were the second or the third group to arrive, and the place was almost ours! My son had his usual sea adventure – looking for some creatures to bring home as pet – while his sister accompanied him. I and my wife just strolled the soft, clean sand of the island.

I & my wife at the sand bar
I & my wife at the sand bar

Our next stop was the trek to the extinct volcano – the Mt Vulcan. It has the Stations of the Cross, as added attraction. You can meditate on “The Way of the Cross” as you hike to the top. But it was the time when it rained so heavy, we decided not to go up to the mountains.

At the foot of Mt Vulcan, an extinct volcano.
At the foot of Mt Vulcan, an extinct volcano.

Just a little bit across is the Sunken Cemetery – believed to be a place of burial before the volcanic eruption. Today, what only exists is a Cross on a man-made islet; everything else is submerged under the sea.

The sunken cemetery
The sunken cemetery

Few meters away is an old church ruins. The old walls of the former church still stands to this day, all covered with mosses. Aside from the ‘main’ church building, there are two other ruins structure within the yard – the bell tower and the convent. The view is nice and serene, similar to the view of Cagsawa ruins in Legaspi City in Bicol.

The ruins within the church yard.

We then proceeded to the Sto Niño Cold Spring Resort. I and my son took a dip in its large pool and indeed, it was really very cold. Brrrrr. My leg froze and hardened few minutes into the pool! The best thing is that the water is all natural – no preservatives! Kidding aside, the pool is not chlorinated but it is very clean as it is a flowing spring water. There are small fishes swimming in the pool! The resort has good facilities – several huts, clean bath rooms, food stalls, and souvenir shops.

The Sto Nino Cold Springs
The Sto Nino Cold Springs

From the cold springs, we drove a long way – over half-an-hour – to another spring resort. This time it is Ardent Hot Spring Resort We drove half-way up a mountain to reach this beautiful resort. It has big pavilion, a nice restaurant, several family huts, and many souvenir shops just outside its entrance gate.

The Ardent Hot Springs
The Ardent Hot Springs

The naturally hot water pool is lined with rocks, and surrounded by trees, wild vines and ferns. It is a forest! At the time we were swimming, it was raining; we can clearly see smoke rising from the waters as the rain drops into the pool. Enchanting! The picnic area is large; guests are allowed to pitch tents for a camping experience.

Our final stop in Camiguin island is the Katibawasan Falls. Its tall water falls gently dropping to the base of the mountain is a glorious sight! It is very tall, it was a bit of a challenge to focus the camera to take its entire length!

The Katibawasan Falls
The Katibawasan Falls

We capped our tour of the island with a hearty late lunch at the Kan-anan sa Parola restaurant. It is a decent place to eat – good food, good provincial ambiance, with a bit of an urban setting.

Before you go, don’t forget to buy a few dozens of Camiguin’s favorite food-to-bring, the Vjandep pastel. This pastel is a soft bun oozing with custard (“yema”) filling. Indeed, soft on the outside, creamy in the inside. The restaurant where we had our lunch is owned by the same people who bakes this famous pastel!

Wow, we had a great time in Caminguin, despite the on-coming storm. Thank You, LORD! Thank you Doc Vivian for the 4×4 vehicle and for our driver.

More photos:

My family at the church ruins.
My family at the church ruins.
My family at Sto Nino Cold Springs
My family at Sto Nino Cold Springs
My family at the hot spring pool.
My family at the hot spring pool.
My family at Katibawasan Falls.
My family at Katibawasan Falls.
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