There has been a lingering rumor that the island province of Camiguin derived its name from the phrase “come again” because of its alluring pull that entices you to return to the southern getaway.
But that’s getting ahead of the story.
The country’s second smallest province, it is monikered the “Island Born of Fire” due to its volcanic origin evident in the lay of its land. It is also known as the country’s “lanzones capital” because of the abundance of the saccharine-tasting seasonal fruit harvested in the last quarter of the year.
But aside from the sweet fruit, which takes center stage during the annual Lanzones Festival, Camiguin celebrates on a daily basis the sweet life that everyone can indulge in in this nutshell paradise.
Excitement begins at the provincial capital town of Mambajao, which hosts a wide array of lodging—from the authentic rural feel, budget accommodation, nature-themed resorts, to amenity-laden hotels with well-appointed rooms.
Expats will be pleasantly surprised that the island has become a foodie’s paradise with the presence of international dishes owed to the number of foreigners who have made Camiguin their home.
The most interesting way to explore the province is onboard a trusty habal-habal (motorcycle), which can be self-driven or hired with the driver. With only few vehicles plying the 64-kilometer circumferential coastal road, it enables one to cruise leisurely, admire the panoramic countryside and make pit stops for the obligatory snapshots, food-samplings, souvenir shopping and other call of whims along the highway.
What to do
A breath-taking activity, quite literally, is the aerial acrobatics plane offered by Camiguin Aviation, which flies you across the island on a single-engine Super Decathlon 8KCAB that you can co-pilot for a few minutes. Piloted by Captain Sean Clarke, the flight offers a bird’s eye view of the island’s myriad of attractions.
Guests can swing by and dip in the waters of the 76-meter tall Katibawasan Falls, and Ardent Hot Spring which is believed to be therapeutic because of its sulfuric water emanating from Hibok-Hibok Volcano.
Another must-see is the White Island, an immaculate powdery sandbar just a few minutes away from the mainland, named by Skyscanner travel portal as among the country’s best in 2017.
A few minutes away is the touristic town of Catarman – home to the Sunken Cemetery, which was submerged by volcanic debris during Mt. Vulcan’s eruption in the 1870s and is marked by an iconic huge cross a hundred meters from the shore. If you got what it takes, you can snorkel around the area and see the marine life around the sunken graveyard.
Nearby is the Walkway to the Old Volcano, a 1,000-step stone staircase with the 14 Stations of the Cross leading to the peak that affords a rewarding, commanding view of the island.
After an arduous climb, rejuvenate at Sto. Niño Cold Springs, a natural pool of icy water with a sandy bottom, shut out from the outside world by the lush greeneries.
Adventures, again and again
In the bosom of Mt. Mambajao in Sagay town is the lesser-known Binangawan Waterfalls, which gushes through majestic granite stones covered with vegetation, with smaller cascades nearby emanating from the rocks.
On the island’s southern tip is the Cantaan Giant Clam Sanctuary and Ocean Nursery, home to some 4,000 clams that are arranged in an amazing symmetry in the marine farm, and is an amazing sight to behold for snorkeling.
Adjacent the sanctuary is a golden-sand beach fringed with trees where you can laze and watch the kaleidoscopic horizon.
Adventurers can get physical at Taguines Lagoon Aqua Sports in Mahinog, which offers recreational facilities such as kayaks, pedal boats, Zorb ball, paddleboats, stand-up paddles, and a zipline that glides across the cove.
Other nearby sights area are the aquaculture farm where green mussels and milkfish are bred, the Queobe Eco Park and Katunggan Park, which teem with full-grown mangrove trees, and the Ostrich Farm where the big birds are bred.
Lovers of the underwater world can marvel at the four-hectare Mantigue Island Nature Park and Sanctuary, Camiguin’s scuba diving mecca which abounds in lush marine life. Beach bums meanwhile can bask in the gleaming sand and feast on freshly-caught seafood sold at the island’s fisherfolk village.
With its laid-back allure, you will surely give in to the long-standing joke about Camiguin’s etymology, and will surely come again … and again.
The fastest way to get there is to fly to Mambajao via Cebu onboard Cebu Pacific Air or Philippine Airlines.
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 from Jagna, Bohol with regular boat trips to Balbagon.
By BERNARD L SUPETRAN
Photos courtesy of the Provincial Tourism Office