Visiting the mystical island of Camiguin
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (Pilipino Star Ngayon) - March 12, 2015 - 12:00am

CAMIGUIN ISLAND: I was in this magical island since Sunday for my first real vacation, with my friends, Francisco “Kito” Unchuan, Boy Tan, Larry Reisland, Noel Zosa, Louie Hermosisima, Richard Unchuan and Benito “Bugs” and his son Charlie Unchuan. I’ve been invited so many times by the Unchuan family to visit this place as they have an ancestral home in Camiguin. Wealthy families from Cebu and Cagayan de Oro also have their roots in Camiguin like the Neri and the Chan families.

So finally we all decided to hop over to Camiguin via Cebu Pacific Air (CPA) ATR-500, the only airline that services (it’s only a 30-minute flight from Cebu) this island that is known for its famous Lanzones whose motto is “The Island Born in Fire.” When another family friend of the Unchuans heard that we were going to Camiguin, he also decided to come along and brought his yacht with him and so we were able to circumnavigate the whole island not just by a van, but also via a yacht. Indeed, some are just luckier than others and what a lucky break for me.

When you drive around the 64-kilometer island of Camiguin via a car or van, you will immediately notice that all their roads are well-paved with complete markings on dangerous curves and for us in Metro Cebu and Metro Manila… zero traffic! When you are driving around… there are certain sections along the route that you don’t meet another vehicle, including motorcycle. But to get the better view of Camiguin… you should see it via a boat/yacht or a banca because as you go around the island… its view changes and has a different perspective. Camiguin is a very beautiful island to view from the sea especially on a clear day where there are no clouds.

Camiguin lies north of Northern Mindanao and it is right in the middle between Butuan and Cagayan de Oro. Despite it’s being a small island, Camiguin has seven, count them, seven volcanoes. Such a small island, but its volcanoes rise so high up majestically some 1,900 ft into the sky. The famous of all is Mt. Hibok-Hibok at 4,370 ft, Mt. Mambajao at 5,143 ft, Mt. Tres Marias, Mt. Ilihan, Mt. Timpong the tallest at 5,294 ft, Mt. Uhay and the old Vulcan, which is a bit ironic as it is the youngest volcano in the island.

The last time Mt. Hibok-Hibok erupted was way back on Dec. 4, 1951 (I was only seven months old then) where some 3,000 people were killed and caused people to evacuate the island. We had dinner with Camiguin Governor Jurdin Jesus “JJ” Romualdo and he told me that today the population of Camiguin stands at nearly a hundred thousand people. Perhaps this is due to the fact that there has been no eruption in Camiguin since 1951.

Last  Sunday we took a motorboat to the island of Mantigue. This is a rather rare island that’s probably a few hectares in size, which has a forest in the middle of a great white sand beach. Gov. “JJ” Romualdo told me that in the old days, there were no residents in Mantigue Island. But later a couple of hundred people started living in that island. So now he has a program to relocate the residents of to the mainland of Camiguin and thus, Mantigue Island will strictly be for tourists only. Mind you, much of the island has black sand beaches. But in Mantigue they have white sand and also in White Island, which is a sand bar.

But there are white sand beaches almost everywhere in the Philippines from Mactan Island to Palawan to Boracay. But how many islands offer you great views and waterfalls? Indeed, one thing that I didn’t expect was the Katibawasan Falls, which lies at the foot of Mt. Mambajao and is 250 ft tall and is nestled in a virgin forest cover. Yup, you can swim the waters around where the water falls…but there’s a rope to prevent you from being struck by tons of water falling on your head. I didn’t swim there because the waters were really very cold, but foreign tourists braved the cold water.

It’s kind of surprising that Camiguin has so much water despite it’s being a small island. Up head we drove to the Ardent Hibok-Hibok Hot Springs. Now this was my kind of place as it had heated pools like rice terraces and the lower you go the hotter the water. Gov. Romualdo told me that he had to put nets over the pools to ensure that the leaves of the trees above you do not dirty the pools. This is where we all took a swim for a few hours.

What Gov. Romualdo is proud of is that his island is the most peaceful island in strife-torn Mindanao. Perhaps because he has no Muslim terrorist problems. However there were two negatives while I was in Camiguin. First that we suffered from a 48-hour brownout from Sunday to Monday. Power was restored only on Tuesday dawn. Secondly we came here on the wrong season… as it is not Lanzones season. We also dropped by the Tuawasan Falls, which was a small waterfall, but with a bigger water volume than the Katibawasan Falls. This could be a source for hydropower if anyone cared to harness this natural resource. Indeed you should visit Camiguin.

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