Cruisin’ in Camiguin
With the daily ordeal of spending hours commuting in Metro Manila, everyone wishes to drive in traffic-free roads with an alluring landscape and pollution-free air.
Such scenario is not a pipedream in Camiguin, an island province off northern Mindanao that many travelers consider to be the paradise.
With only five municipalities scattered in a 238-sq. km. land area and few motor vehicles plying the 64-km circumferential coastal road, it is a virtual expressway compared to the Edsa’s gridlock.
Theoretically, if you drive at an average speed of 64 kph non-stop, you can go around its entire road network in just above an hour. But with the myriad of attractions on the roadside and interiors, it best to drive using Edsa rush hour speed so you can appreciate the charming countryside.
As the country’s second smallest province, this “Island Born of Fire” is know for its volcanic origin evident in the lay of the land.
The most convenient—and most expensive—way to get there is to fly to Mambajao via Cebu. Alternatively, you can fly to Cagayan de Oro, and take a FastCat Ro-Ro ferry to Balbagon in Mambajao from Opol, or take a land trip to Balingoan for a short boat ride to Benoni port in Mahinog town.
Another point of entry is Jagna, Bohol with regular boat trips to Balbagon. Any which way, the combined land and sea trip will take about four hours, which you would hardly notice because of the soothing scenery of sun, sea and mountains.
Pit Stop 1: Mambajao
You can select from a wide array of lodging and service providers here, being the provincial capital town and tourism hub.
For an authentic rural feel, check out Camiguin Volcano Houses or Ysla Beach Resort and Eco Camp, which combine close-to-nature ambiance and basic comfort.
There are mid-priced ones if you prefer the amenity-laden and modern-looking hotels with well-appointed rooms.
Perhaps, the most exciting way to navigate the province is onboard a habal-habal or motorcycle, or even a mountain bike if you happen to be an outdoors person, so you can feel the crisp mountain air gushing through your face.
Swing by the iconic spots—the immaculately White Island sandbar just a few minutes away from the mainland, the 76-meter tall Katibawasan Falls, and the Ardent Hot Spring which is believed to be therapeutic because of the sulfuric water emanating from Hibok-Hibok Volcano.
A new activity is the breath-taking aerial acrobatics across the island on a single-engine Super Decathlon 8KCAB plane by Camiguin Aviation, which you can co-pilot even for a few minutes.
Pit Stop 2: Catarman
About 30 minutes away is this town which hosts the ruins of Gui-ob Church which was destroyed and partly submerged by volcanic debris during Mt. Vulcan’s eruption in the 1870s, the Sunken Cemetery which is marked by a huge concrete cross a hundred meters from the shore, and the Walkway to the Old Volcano, a stone staircase with 14 Stations of the Cross leading to the peak.
Tucked in the midst of thick vegetation is Sto. Niño Cold Springs, a natural pool of icy cold spring water with a sandy bottom. Here, you can dip and rejuvenate.
Pit Stop 3: Sagay
Another half-hour road trip will take you to Binangawan Waterfalls in the bosom of Mt. Mambajao, gushing through majestic granite stones covered with vegetation, with smaller cascades nearby emanating from the rocks.
One of Camiguin’s lesser-known attractions, you might just find the tall cascade unto yourself if you are lucky.
Pit Stop 4: Guinsiliban
On the island’s southern tip is the Cantaan Giant Clam Sanctuary and Ocean Nursery in Bgy. Kabila, which is home to some 4,000 clams of varying sizes.
A local cooperative project, clams are arranged in an amazing symmetry at the marine farm, and needless to say, offers an Instagram-worthy underwater image if you snorkel.
Adjacent the sanctuary is a serene golden sand beach fringed with trees where you can laze and watch the kaleidoscopic horizon.
Pit Stop 5: Mahinog
The province’s southeastern gateway because of Benoni Port, adventurers can get physical at Taguines Lagoon Aqua Sports which offers recreational facilities like kayaks, pedal boats, Zorb balls, paddleboats, stand-up paddles, and a zipline that glides across the cove.
There also modest lodgings in the area if you want to be close to the pier.
You can view the aquaculture cages where green mussels and milkfish are bred.
Nearby is the Queobe Eco Park and Katunggan Park that teem with full-grown mangrove trees. A few kilometers up north is the Ostrich Farm where the big birds are bred.
A natural wonder is the four-hectare Mantigue Island Nature Park and Sanctuary, Camiguin’s scuba diving mecca that abounds in lush marine life.
Its western side is a beach with gleaming sand, while the other side is a small fisherfolk village.
The best time to go cruisin’ would be at this time of the year when their signature tropical fruit, the lanzones, is harvested, and which you can buy at rock-bottom prices.
Holy Week is another interesting time to visit so you can mingle with devotees who do the panaad or pilgrimage from Holy Wednesday to Good Friday by walking around the 64-km road, and which concludes with an uphill walk at the 14 Stations of the Cross on Mt. Vulcan.