Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Camiguin: Island born of fire

Camiguin is the second smallest province of the Philippines both in size and population. Only Batanes is smaller. But with a population density of 232 people per square kilometer, it is the 16th most densely-populated province.

There are two ports in Camiguin that receive ferries from Balingoan, the one in Guinsiliban which is used by those with vehicles, and the one in Barangay Benoni in Mahinog which is the main passenger terminal since it is closer to Mambajao. There is another port in Barangay Balbagon, Mambajao but this is for Cebu-bound ferries. The fare from Balingoan is PHP100 plus a PHP7 terminal fee. The trip takes approximately an hour and 15 minutes. We left a little past 2 p.m.

I arrived in Benoni at about 3:30 p.m. and took a jeepney from the terminal to Mambajao for PHP26. The trip was about 30 minutes. While on board the jeepney, I was floored by the number of ancestral homes still standing in Camiguin. The province continues to retain its character and old world charm. I would later learn after reading the DOT website that "Camiguin Island is famous for its ancestral homes gracefully dotting the streets all over the island" as well as its eight volcanoes which is why it is referred to as the island born of fire.

I got off in the poblacion area and asked people at the municipio where I could find cheap lodging. Good thing there was a pension house a few meters away. I got an air-conditioned room at the GV Pension House good for two people for PHP500. A non-aircon room is PHP350.

After freshening up, I went straight down to find a ride around town. I wanted to see as much as I could before dark. The hotel staff were very helpful and they got me a habal-habal which would take me to the sites in Catarman as well as the Ardent Hot Springs for just PHP300. It was worth it since he took me around for about 4 hours. The going rate for renting a motorcycle for 8 hours is PHP500 and that doesn't include gas and a driver.

Our first stop was the Sunken Cemetery in Barangay Bonbon, Catarman. On the way, I saw even more ancestral houses (above). As we neared Cataraman, I was treated to out of this world vistas of the Camiguin coastline, Mount Hibok-Hibok and Mount Vulcan Daan (left) up close.

The sunken cemetery used to be part of the old capital of Camiguin. According to local historians, Mount Vulcan had four recorded eruptions. It was the third eruption in 1871 that sunk Cotta Bato and its cemetery under the sea. Remnants of the structures and gravestones were still seen during low tide but the fourth eruption in 1948 buried the area deeper by around twenty feet. In 1982, a large cross was built on the solidified lava to mark this old gravesite that has become known as the sunken cemetery and one of the world’s most unique diving sites since the coral-encrusted tombstones can be visited by divers.

After a few photos, we went to the ruins of the old church which was on top of a hill. The marker calls it the church of Cotta Bato, but some accounts call it the old church of Gui-ob. The walls, and parts of the belltower and convento are all that remain of this church.

We then went back to the pension house so that I could change for the visit to Ardent. The hot spring was six kilometers from the poblacion in Barangay Tagdo, Mambajao. It is the most popular of Camiguin's hot springs. In the resort is a natural pool of about 40 degrees celsius coming from the bowels of Mt. Hibok-Hibok. The best time to go for a swim is late in the afternoon up to the evening, it closes at 10 p.m., so that you could really appreciate the warm water. You pay a PHP30 entrance fee.

While I was getting “warmed” up, it started to rain. So I stayed in the water a bit longer hoping the rain would stop. But it didn’t. So I decided to have dinner at the place. The food was nothing great and quite expensive. It was not worth it. If it only stopped raining I would have eaten dinner in the town proper.

Since it didn’t seem like the rain would stop, I decided to leave when the rain started to weaken. All I could remember was that I was shivering all the way back since I was soaking wet, the temperature was quite cold, and it was drizzling. I went straight to bed as soon as I got back to the pension house since I lacked sleep and I needed to be up at 5 a.m. the next day.

More photos of Camiguin in Multiply.
Post a Comment
Related Posts with Thumbnails