February 25th, 2018
Sheer exhaustion and a deep longing to disconnect from the mundane city life prompted me to plan for a short vacation away from home. Then the idea of visiting Camiguin came to my mind. I initially planned to spend this short getaway with my son but last minute changes happened and he ended up throwing tantrums so it left me with no choice but to go solo. I packed up light and embarked on a solitary journey 220 miles away from the city.
Camiguin Island is the second smallest province in the country next to Batanes. It is where the famous Mt. Hibok-Hibok can be found. Apart from that, six more volcanoes nestled in the island. Scary? I don't think so. Camiguin has this irresistible charm that you couldn't help but be mesmerized by its beauty even from afar. It is indeed small but it has so much more to offer. Hiking, beach bumming, chasing waterfalls, taking a dip in the cold and hot springs, you name it. You can do all that in this paradise. It's perfect for all kinds of travelers.
HOW TO GET THERE?
From Ecoland terminal in Davao, I took the bus en route to CDO. The bus was scheduled to leave at 8 pm.Travel time was approximately 7 hours. Fare is 620 PHP.
If you are coming from Manila, book a flight to either CDO or Butuan. There are direct flights from Cebu to Camiguin as well.
From CDO, head to Agora terminal. There are buses bound for Butuan. Take that bus ride and alight at Balingoan terminal. Travel time is approximately 2 hours and the fare varies. I was charged 160 PHP on my way to Balingoan but I only paid 120 PHP on my way back to CDO. Crazy, huh? By the way, choose the air-conditioned bus cause it's faster.
From Butuan, just do the opposite. There are buses plying to CDO from Butuan. Alight at Balingoan terminal. Once you've reached Balingoan, board a ferry to the island. The port is just a short walk from the bus terminal. Travel time from Balingoan port to Benoni is roughly an hour. Fare is 170 PHP plus 15 PHP terminal fee. Ferries are available as early as 4:15 am and the last trip is at 5:30 pm as far as I can recall.
GETTING AROUND THE ISLAND
There are plenty of "habal-habal" (motorbike) in the island. You can charter one for an island tour and just pay 800 PHP. Don't forget to treat your driver for lunch. You can also rent one if you know how to drive. The rental price is 500/day, but you can get a cheaper deal if you'll rent it for several days. If you are in a group, hire a multicab and pay 1700 PHP for an island tour good for 8 hours already. But still, prices may vary depending on your haggling skill. Perhaps you can get a discount and save more. Motorella is the most common public transport used by locals on the island. Fare is 10 PHP.
WHERE TO STAY?
Various hotels/resorts are scattered on the island. Mambajao is the capital of Camiguin and the most touristy spot as well. There are plenty of accommodations to choose from. As a backpacker, I personally recommend GV Hotel in Mambajao. If you are not into fancy rooms and amenities, then this is a good deal. Rooms are pretty basic but all the staff are friendly and helpful. I stayed in their air-conditioned room for 620/night and I still had a good night's sleep. :)
WHERE TO EAT?
I am not a foodie, but I will include this section anyway. :D If you plan to visit Camiguin soon, don't forget to check out Viola's Snack Bar. They have the best 'halo-halo' in town. Their 'siopao' and 'palabok' are so yummy. Give them a try, I swear you won't regret it. La Isla Cocina, Luna Ristorante, Guerrera and Checkpoint Restaurant are also popular among tourists.
WHAT TO DO IN CAMIGUIN?
The most exciting part for every travel junkie, is of course, visiting some scenic spots. Here are the best tourist attractions in Camiguin:
-Don't forget to stop by and catch a marvelous vista of the deep blue sea with an impressive green hill that adds a dramatic effect. No entrance fee. Sweet!
Gui-ob Church Ruins
-Situated in the municipality of Catarman, you'll see the remains of an old church and convent devastated by the eruption of Mt. Vulcan on 1871. It was once a majestic architecture, ruined by an unforgiving calamity, yet its remnants is still breathtaking up to this day. No entrance fee but there's a donation box. Any amount will do as long as it comes from the heart.
Walkway to the Old Volcano
-This place is commonly frequented by devoted Catholics during Holy Week for the "panaad". Climbing the stairs can be excruciating, but you'll be rewarded by the view at the top. I didn't really go far enough cause my knees and legs couldn't take it anymore (sign of aging). It's still worth the climb though. :D Environmental fee is 5 PHP.
-One of the remains from the eruption of Mt. Vulcan. I remember checking out travel blogs about Camiguin and this has been the most photographed spot aside from white island. Truly, this place is beautiful in its own simple way. No entrance fee. You can also charter a small boat that will take you to the giant cross marker and pay 100 PHP.
-It is said that the water in this pool taste like soda. Unfortunately, I did not take a plunge so I could not really say so. However, the place is still worth visiting and the clear water in the pool is really inviting. Give it a try when you pay a visit. Entrance fee is 30 PHP.
Sto. Niño Cold Spring
-Another attraction included in the island tour is the cold spring. Just like soda pool, the water here is crystal clear, inviting you to take a dip, relax and beat the heat. Entrance fee is 30 PHP.
Ardent Hot Spring
-Up for a relaxing bath? Then don't forget to visit Ardent hot spring. According to my guide, the water in Ardent used to be so hot that it can even boil an egg. Hmm, interesting.. For a more relaxing experience, try their whole body massage for only 250 php. Their masseuse is highly commendable! Entrance fee is 30 PHP.
-Another majestic tourist attraction in Camiguin is no other than Katibawasan falls. Measuring about 250 feet high, it's ice-cold water will surely leave you shivering. I visited the place at 7 am after watching the sunrise at white island, and yes the water was so damn cold! Entrance fee is 30 PHP.
-this is perhaps the most popular spot in Camiguin. This uninhabited sandbar is truly naked with zero vegetation. Perfect for sunbathing and if you are planning to get tanned, then this is the spot for you. It was my second day in Camiguin when I visited white island. I went early to catch the sunrise and it was indeed a lovely experience. Boat to white island is 550 PHP, but you can share it with your fellow travelers. I met two lovely ladies from CDO and Iloilo so we shared the boat ride. I shelled out 170 PHP. Bang for the buck!
You may also include Mantigue Island in your itinerary. Boat can be chartered from the town of Mahinog. It will cost 550 php round-trip, good for 6 people. I didn't take the opportunity to visit Mantigue cause it was raining hard at noon. The rain stopped past 4 pm so I contacted my go to driver Kuya Manny. I asked him if we can tour all five municipalities in the island. He agreed and it turned out be the most enjoyable experience I had during my stay. All five municipalities can be toured via Camiguin's circumferential road. Circling the whole Camiguin took us almost two hours. From Mambajao, we passed through Catarman, then head to Sagay. The municipality of Sagay has the most stunning sunset ever. Next is the sleepy town of Guinsiliban and then Mahinog where the port of Benoni is located. You will be greeted by spectacular views along the road. Lots of old houses can be spotted too.The locals are really warm and welcoming.
The simple life and the very laid back atmosphere inspired me even more to look for the good in everything. This whole journey made me realized that indulging yourself in solitude is the most rewarding thing to do. I learned to trust in other people's genuine kindness, talk to strangers and ask for directions. I chose to believe in myself, drop all worries and inhibitions. I should've been warned about this, but I guess it's too late now. Solitude is indeed very addicting!
Since I was traveling alone, I shouldered all the cost for this trip. I spent 6650 PHP in total but if you are in big groups, you can definitely save a lot. Here is my 3days/2nights summary of expenses:
Bus from Davao to CDO 620x2 = 1240
Bus from CDO to Balingoan= 160
Bus from Balingoan to CDO= 120
Ferry from Balingoan to Benoni and vice versa= 370
Accommodation 620x2= 1240
Island tour= 800
Boat to white island= 170
Tour all five municipalities= 300
Extra (entrance fees, fare etc)= 500
By the way, if you want a reliable tour guide for your upcoming Camiguin getaway, feel free to contact kuya Manny at 09067233881. There you have it. Have a happy trip and keep safe! 😘
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