Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Experiencing nature’s beauty in Camiguin

Ritche T. Salgado - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - If there is one word that would best describe Camiguin, it would be natural.

Located two and a half hours away from Cagayan de Oro City, Camiguin Island

boasts of beautiful natural sceneries, amazing natural wonders, and a culture deeply rooted in

Filipino Catholic tradition and its people’s close communion with nature.

A recent trip to learn some of the best practices of the different local governments of the island through the guidance and assistance of Camiguin Coastal Resource Management Project (CCRMP) allowed me the rare opportunity to experience a truly harmonious relationship between man and nature.

CCRMP is funded by the New Zealand government through the New Zealand Aid Programme.

Waterfalls, a hot spring, a rich underwater paradise, and a pristine island that interacts with the tides are but some of the wonders that Camiguin Island can boast of.

But what would even make these natural sites a wonder is the fact that despite the many activities around these places, they hold on their rich natural beauty, thanks mostly to the community’s active participation in their protection.

The whole island, although quite small at 238 square kilometers (you can go around the island in a day), has five municipalities: Mambajao (famous for the lanzones, although the fruit is harvested throughout the island), Guinsiliban, Catarman, Mahinog, and Sagay.

These towns comprise Camiguin province, and its unity is its strength when it comes to the successful implementation of protection programs for the environment, particularly on coastal resource management.

The day we arrived, we were treated to a hot spring bath at Ardent Hibok-Hibok Spring Resort. The resort is none like Laguna’s hot springs, where water from the spring is channeled into tiled pools. On the other hand, Ardent’s pools blend smoothly into the terrain, giving one an experience of being one with nature. In alternative therapy, this one-ness with nature allows for a more complete healing of the body.

Ardent is perhaps one of Mambajao’s most successful government ventures, giving the municipality an income of 12 million pesos in 2012 alone, this according to Mambajao’s vice mayor, James Ederango.

The next day, we had an interesting breakfast at Enigmata Treehouse EcoLodge and Sculpture Garden where we met a lady who is absolutely in touch with nature and the spirits of the earth, Rosalie Zerrudo.

An artist, a spiritual traveler, and an earth sprite, Rosalie believes that experience is the essence of one’s travels, and this philosophy she brings in conceptualizing her Enigmata, aiming to re-introduce them to their original state, and that is being one with nature.

The main highlight of the day, however, was the trip to Mantigue Island, Mahinog’s treasure and a perfect model on the challenges that government face in implementing environmental projects, especially if it affects a certain community.

Mahinog Mayor Alex Jajalla revealed that when the program was started in 2007, it did not come without opposition. In fact, at present, a part of the island is still being decided in the Philippine courts as to whether the local government has the right to develop it and protect its natural resources, or whether the island’s locals, who were originally from the province of Bohol, own the piece of land that they have claimed.

Jajalla said that half of the settlers already accepted the offer of the local government, wherein they were given at least 1,000 square meters of land in Mahinog, P5,000 for materials to be used in building their house, free service from the town’s carpenters, P1,000 worth of groceries, and free demolition of their old houses in the island and transport of recovered materials to the relocation site.

Jajalla also said that priority is given to the settlers when it comes to work or economic activities in the island, which he said will be converted into a no-man’s land once everything is settled, in order to ensure the protection of the island’s rich ecosystems, and at the same time address the economic concerns of the the people in his municipality.

Another enchanting island off the coast of Camiguin would be White Island, an uninhabited sandbar with land area and shape varying with the tides. It is popular among tourists wishing to get that perfect shot with Mt. Hibok-Hibok and the Old Volcano or the wide ocean as its background and the white coral sands as foreground. Its water teems with life and is popular among divers and snorkelers. This is also the place to go to enjoy the perfect sunrise or sunset.

Evelyn Deguit, project manager of CCRMP, revealed that since the project started in 2008, 30 marine protected areas have already been established, and at present they are focusing on the institutionalization of these coastal resource management projects, making the different local government units realize their economic potentials.

With tourism as the most potent avenue to raise income among the different marine protected areas, each municipality has identified different mascots that will enliven tourism activities in their area. These mascots are representations of unique species, or what they call flagship species, from each area like sea turtles for Catarman town and Jackfish for Mahinog town.

Truly an island blessed by nature, Camiguin has learned to value its natural resources through the CCRMP, realizing the potential of a rich natural resource in enriching the livelihood of its people, and in the process creating a rich source of income for the respective local government unit.

Camiguin can be reached from Cebu via Cagayan de Oro City or through Jagna, Bohol. For more information, call the Camiguin Island Tourism Office at (088)3871097 or CCRMP at (088)3870573. (FREEMAN)

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