(Exploring the Adventure-Filled Island of Camiguin)
I'm obsessed with volcanoes and water. It started with Tagaytay; my family often went there when I was a kid. Taal Lake made an impact on me. I became curious about the sea and the other local volcanoes afterwards. I later found out that the country's most popular volcanic peaks are found in Luzon.
On my way to Butuan eight years ago, I first saw Hibok-Hibok Volcano. I was filled with longing; I wanted to set foot on Camiguin Island and explore its vicinity. That would happen eight years later.
The River Wild
Tikoy Tan invited me to visit Camiguin. I first met her in San Juan, La Union, a few years ago. She and her friends have a passion for outdoor adventure. What could be a better way than traveling with them?
Everyone who wants to go to Camiguin must use Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental as a jump-off point. Upon arrival there, we went to Baraga Dansolihon, which was not far from the local airport. Only Cagayan River is found there; but this body of water is arguably the city's most popular destination. Most of us haven't tried water-rafting, but our trepidation was squashed by thoughts of getting wet and wild. It was cloudy and raining when we set foot on the riverbank. I thought the bad weather would spoil our rafting. It turned out otherwise.
All of us had a blast. The best part about water-rafting is through the rapids. I was worried when the rubber raft was near it - would the velocity and turbulence throw me off balance? Good thing I didn't fall off, as I learned moments that water-rafting was like riding a bicycle. I also tried not to get nervous, which made me look forward to the succeeding rapids. In between rapids, we tried to savor the drenched, almost-surreal landscape. We heard sounds of a bird or a monkey from time to time. When our guide told us that the river separated Cagayan de Oro from the province of Bukidnon, I became curious about what the other side looked like.
What was probably the highlight of our cruise was passing by a branch-covered, limestone-like cliff. They say snakes cross the river and take a rest in there when the weather is hot and dry. Some of us were relieved that it wasn't so. We were wet all over by the time our rafting was over. We felt it wasn't enough, though we'd been on the river for about an hour and a half. We wanted another round, but there was an island waiting for us.
When Time Stood Still
We departed for Camiguin at dawn. It was sunrise when I saw Hibok-Hibok Volcano at close range. The entire peak was covered with trees, which could mean that the last eruption happened a long time ago. I also noticed the provincial capital when the jeepney we were on passed by Mambajao. Its many structures looked like they were built several decades ago. It wouldn't surprise me if some of them existed since the American Occupation. It felt like time stood still in this place. No one seemed too curious to explore around, as everyone was excited to frolic in the sea.
We checked in at Paras Resort, which was located on the outskirts of Mambajao. Some of us were tempted to take dips in the resort's lovely pool, but we were distracted by a sight in the distance - a white sandbar. A few hours later, everyone was excited as the boat made its way to White Island.
White Island is arguably Camiguin's most attractive destination. The sandbar's shape depends on the ocean current. It was G-shaped when we got there. The local who guided said it can also look like the letter C or L. I also found out that on a clear day, the islet was a photographer's treat, with Hibok-Hibok making a perfect background. I was lucky to take pictures of clouds that looked like smoke coming out of the volcano. For a brief moment, the inactive peak looked active. It may not be majestic like Mayond and Taal but during that sunny afternoon, Hibok-Hibok was absolutely gorgeous.
We were told there were lots of springs around Hibok-Hibok, but Tikoy had a better idea for our itinerary the following day. We didn't get enough of White Island yesterday, so we went to Mantigue Island the next morning. The small, undeveloped isle is surrounded by white sand. Some went snorkeling, while others lazed in the open huts and savored the rustic surrounding.
After a quick lunch, we headed back to Camiguin to visit Katibawasan Falls. It's located several kilometers away from Mambajao. The jeepney went up a dirt road and into a wooded highland. Like Lanao's Tinago Falls, Katibawasan is located in a ravine. Everyone gaped at the falls' immense height; I estimated it to be more than 200 feet. We dipped into the pool below the falls, but some didn't stay long. The water was cols. It was too cold in my case; if not for my sinus allergy, I could have stayed longer.
We cut our visit short because we had to reach another destination before sunset. In Barangay Catarman, which was ten kilometers away from Mambajao, were structures destroyed by one of Hibok-Hibok's past eruptions. They looked like an old church and a house. Covered with vegetation and surrounded by lanzones trees, both could have an been an eerie sight if not for a small church that was built within the ruins.
The most prominent landmark on this part of the island is the sunken cemetery. A huge cross marks its underwater spot. The cross looked scenic when the sun was almost down, but my eyes got hooked to a small stretch of black sand facing the cross. I couldn't tell what year the old crater spewed these dark sands, but I considered it unique for a country renowned for white beaches.
We arrived back in Cagayan de Oro before noon the next day. Our trip to Manila was scheduled in the afternoon. That gave us enough time to visit another destination in Cagayan de Oro, the Malasag Eco-Tourism Village. Located on a slope outside the city proper, Malasag offers a panoramic view of the Misamis Oriental coastline. A cafe was built on a spot where visitors can appreciate this spectacular view. Not far from the cafe are native houses, where visitors can stay overnight. Beside the huts is a mini-zoo, which houses some of Mindanao's endemic birds.
Hibok-Hibok can't be seen from where we stood, but breathtaking images of the volcano came to mind as I stared at the Misamis coastline. There was no shortage of attractive places in this part of Mindanao - island or highland.
(First published in Zest Air Inflight Magazine on August 2010)