Monday, March 31, 2008

Camiguin Once Again

After an event in Cagayan de Oro last year, our group headed straight to Camiguin. This was my second time to visit the mystical island. From Cagayan de Oro, we took a minivan from Agora Market to the port of Balingonan that is around 2 hours away. From there, ferries are available on a regular schedule to the port of Benoni which is around 20 minutes from Mambajao, the capital. Camiguin is an island province, and you can see that they rely heavily on tourism. It is packed with visitors during the Summer season, and very lean during the monsoons. However, having good weather all year round, it is also best to go there during these times to avoid the crowds. You can also take a three-hour ferry ride from the Cagayan de Oro Ferry Terminal to Guinsiliban, also in Camiguin.

We hired a multicab, those small trucks that can be found in the Visayas. It cost us P1,200 per day after negotiations. It is imperative that you seek transportation in Camiguin as it is a big island and there are no taxis nor much jeepneys to take you around. You can opt to hire a motorbike if you can drive one.

Since we were only here for 2 days (overnight), we managed to dart through the tourist spots that I have already seen before. I warned my group that the spots weren't as natural as they sounded. The Hot, Cold and Soda Water Springs all were refurbished to look like a giant swimming pool that you can find in Laguna. Hence it loses its natural setting. Even the Katibawasan Falls were "renovated" to accommodate a staircase and concrete banks. It was appalling. And my group did feel the same way too. After visiting the Cold Springs, we decided to cut our tour short and just head down to a river we sighted below the bridge for some fun.

After an hour of frolicking by the river, we drove more to discover new sights. Then, we decided to head off to the White Island at 4PM. Our driver said that it was usually high tide at this time, and we may not enjoy the sand bar so much. We didn't know what else to do, so we got a boat for P400 and drifted away to the island. To our surprise, the tide was low, in fact, extremely low, that the White Island indeed became an island instead of a sand bar. The sand stretched for almost a kilometer I think. This made the experience in White Island at that time very unique. You could see an interesting marine life just 5 feet below. We were even treated to a sea snake. Quite an experience. This was probably the largest sand bar I've seen. When I went here a year ago, it was in the early morning, and the sand wasn't as largely exposed. We stayed till the sun set and ate a good fresh catch of fish for dinner. By this time, we were already satisfied with the trip.

We then went back and tried to find a resort or hotel that can keep us for the night. We stayed at a very inexpensive yet decent, clean, so worth it resort called Villa Paraiso in Mambajao. It wasn't a beach resort, but it had a big pool with a large screen where you can watch movies while lounging by the pool. I took no pictures of the resort though. I forgot to take some because I was enjoying the pool and the dinner they served.

The first time I went to Camiguin, I went night diving to see the underwater trees. I was new to diving then, and having ppor vision, night diving was all bad. I also visited the most unique guesthouse in the Philippines, the Enigmata Treehouse, which is a popular guesthouse for foreigners. The place was charming and their art was inspiring. I also ate at the Paradiso Italian Restaurant which disappointed me a bit. I also ate at JA Fishpen, that serves freshly caught seafood on a fishing pen by the sea. Other Camiguin attractions included the Sunken Cemetery and the Buried Church. There's a a Stations of the Cross path that goes up a mountain. The popular dive shop is Johnny's. And, as I've said, the tourist attractions are okay and you can see the effort the government places on building up tourism. But one thing they should realize is how to maintain them while keeping them in their natural environments.

I wouldn't recommend Camiguin if you're looking for the perfect vacation. But if you're in Cagayan de Oro, it's a worthwhile visit.

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