Thursday, August 8, 2013

[Throwback (Travel) Thursday 08.08.2013] Camiguin Island by my lonesome

Since I featured an unusual diner at Cagayan de Oro last week, I thought of venturing not too far away from that city for this week's throwback post -- Camiguin Island.

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"Meditating" under the sun at White Island, Camiguin.

All Saints'/All Souls' Day weekend of 2003, I found myself aboard a fast craft from CDO to Camiguin. I was alone on one of my little side trips while out of town for work. I'm not sure, though, if the fast craft ferry service is still around today since it had already been an on again, off again thing at the time. It seemed that even if this mode of transport effectively cuts travel time in half, most people still preferred the hard way: a two-hour bus ride to the port of Balingoan, then another hour aboard a slow ferry.

We arrived at the port of Benoni, from where a 30-minute van ride going to the town of Mambajao, the island's capital, only cost me a measly Php 20 at the time. Once there, I scouted for a place to stay and settled for an inn at the town center that only cost Php 100 a night. It was just a fan room with a single bed and a common bathroom and toilet. You can say I was in a backpacker mode or something.

Camiguin is a small island, which can be toured in a day. Originally I planned on renting a mountain bike to go around the island but they already went out of vogue and gave way to motorbikes, which can be rented for just Php 500 a day back then. I didn't have a driver's license, though. Good thing someone with a motorbike offered to tour me around. After a quick thought, he quoted a price. And without an ounce of vacillation, I hopped on and off we glided. Why would I hesitate with Php 350?

The walkway to the old volcano
My driver first brought me to the foot of the walkway to the old volcano where statues depicting the Stations of the Cross were strategically built all the way to the summit. No, I didn't make any attempt at ascending the stairs. During Holy Week, though, swarms of devotees do so.

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My driver-slash-tour guide was also my photographer. Not bad for Php 350, although I gave him Php 500 for being such a good guide.

The sunken cemetery
Not too far off was the Sunken Cemetery. Although you cannot literally see the cemetery (unless you probably swim into the sea), a huge cross stands a few meters from the shore to mark the spot where the community cemetery once was, following the catastrophic volcanic eruption of Mt Vulcan in 1871.

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Cross marks the spot: the Sunken Cemetery.

The church ruins of Catarman
Another structure ravaged by that same eruption was the church of Catarman. What used to be a fascinating work of architecture during the Spanish colony only had remnants of sturdy adobe walls and a belfry, with grounds now generously carpeted with grass.

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Taking time outside the ruins to text from my Smart Amazing Phone. Yes, I owned one.

Sto. Niño Cold Springs
We headed to the Sto. Niño Cold Springs for lunch. I also indulged in its biting cold fresh water, awakening my senses in an instant.

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Oh, me and my funny long hair.

They've built a pool that openly welcomed the sun, a saving grace to many a shivering body. The place was brimming with activity -- the incessant prattle and laughter of families around, kids balancing themselves on inflated tires only to fall into the water, faces etched with hesitation over plunging into the pool, and more. Simplistic as it may seem, it was fun.

Taguines Lagoon
It was quite a long drive before our next stop, the Taguines Lagoon, but it was a scenic drive nonetheless. There I found myself squinting in the bright early afternoon sun while checking out the fish bred in abundance inside submerged pens. There was a restaurant aptly serving fresh catch that afforded an unobstructed view of the lagoon while walkways built on top of the water allowed visitors to enjoy the view at different angles.

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Pensive mode.

Katibawasan Falls
Occluded by steep cliffs and lush foliage, Katibawasan Falls was another worthy stop. As I waded in the shallow pool, I stood in awe at the sight of the single-column whitewater gushing down from atop the ravine.

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The Katibawasan Falls.

The waterfalls's cool, powerful mist forced me to retreat into shivers. At that point it felt like the water was blasts colder than Sto. Niño, especially since it was going late into the afternoon and the sun was nowhere to be found. Though not as majestic as Tinago Falls in Iligan, I still liked it for what it was -- wonderful waterfall.

Mt. Hibok-Hibok
Next we drove up to the Phivolcs Observatory. Unfortunately, this government facility that supposedly monitors volcanic activity in the island was closed on weekends. A tad disappointed, I took solace in the mere sight of Mt. Hibok-Hibok, arguably the most famous of Camiguin's seven volcanoes. Hiking, by the way, is a common activity on this volcano.

The view on the other side was equally resplendent, as you could see the rest of the island right below.

Ardent Hot Springs
My third and last swim for the day was at Ardent Hot Springs, with its scalding water rightfully mixed with cold spring produce flowing freely into gradated pools. After battling it out earlier with two icy waters, here I was lounging in their exact opposite. The feeling of having your enervated muscles (and mind as well) relaxed was pure unadulterated pleasure, invigorating so to speak.

White Island
The next day I woke up ready for some tanning. The same driver took me straight to a residential strip that was just a few steps away from Paras Beach Resort. We hired a boat that would take us to White Island and back for Php 200. The going rate at the time, though, was Php 250, with Php 50 going to the "canvasser."

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White indeed! The White Island sand bar.

The boat ride only took a few minutes. White Island is actually just a sand bar, one that constantly changes shape in tune with the tide and the weather. It was completely bare -- no trees, no shade -- absolutely nothing. Some people, however, took refuge in shabby makeshift shelters, some in tents. As for me, I submitted myself entirely to the sun, unmindful of everything else.

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Hands resting on my butt, I was simply taking in all the views. That's the main island of Camiguin in the background.

The sand, while white, was a little coarse, and the beach was a very gradual slope that made the water really shallow. Nevertheless, the water was pristine and very inviting.

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I'm not sure what's with me but apparently, I had a propensity for resting my hands on my butt while posing for pictures. Haha!

**************
I then geared up for a ride back to the port, then back to Cagayan de Oro. It may be a very short trip but it was definitely a nice one. With such a positive experience with my driver/tour guide, who was devoid of any opportunistic greed, I can say that Camiguin is a friendly place to visit. These thoughts and more lingered as I sailed back to CDO while helping myself with the sweetest lanzones.

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