This is Part 2 of our travel experience in Camiguin island in the Philippines. You can read about Part 1 here.
We left our accommodation at Villa Paraiso in Mambajao and moved closer to the pick up point where boats depart for White Island. We did not have any prior reservations for our next inn for the night but there are lots of smaller inns around the area as well as Camiguin’s major one – Paras Beach Resort.
Additional read: Travel Guide to Camiguin Island, Philippines
We found a single detached bungalow type of room at Pabua’s cottages. One room was enough to accommodate all of us: 4 adults and 2 children. We paid PHP1,400 (US$30) for one night.
What was the main purpose of settling in this part of town, away from the center? White Island! Yes, that famous sandbar a few meters aware from the shore of Camiguin.
Two kilometers off the coast of Agoho, Mambajao is Camiguin’s popular uninhabited island called White Island. Sometimes it is in the shape of the letter C, sometimes the letter I, depending on the ocean tide. It has a picturesque Mt. Hibok Hibok and Old Vulcan as its backdrop.
Unfortunately, a strong tropical typhoon was entering the Philippine area of responsibility and intensified monsoon windds. The sea became a little rough and since typhoon paths sometimes become unpredictable, all boat operations to White island were halted.
We can’t believe that we’re actually in Camiguin and cannot go to White island! It’s like going to New York without ever seeing the Statue of Liberty! So what do we do now? We just stood there looking out at sea and we took jump shots.
I love my travel companions, they didn’t ever let one negative situation ruin anything on the trip. We all made the best of what we had at that moment and decided to rent a multicab instead for PHP1,400 (US$30) which included driver services and fuel cost. The driver promised to take us to 7 tourist spots for the whole day, with random history lessons thrown in. We never bothered to haggle; it was a good bargain for us and these drivers I bet are tired for tourists who haggle even if they can pay the meager amount. Here’s the list of places the driver/local guide took us:
I call this “almost Hawaii”, no explanations needed. I wish you could also feel what I felt while I was standing here, with the sea breeze on my face. I regret not bringing my proper SLR camera with wide angle that day.
~ with 2, out of 4 brothers Jay and Michael who accompanied me and the kids on this trip ~
Sorry, we’re a family of jump shot fanatics.
2. Walkway to the Old Volcano and stations of the cross
The walkway is an 8 kilometer path with 14 human-sized station situated at Mr. Vulcan in Barangay Bonbon, Catarman. The spot is actually one of the famous tourist destination in the island especially during the Lenten season as it serves as a pilgrimage site to Roman Catholic devotees.
While there, we bought the island’s most famous produce: the lanzones! It wasn’t the season for it yet so it was a little expensive at PHP80 per kilo. We finished it like we’re eating peanuts!
We did not climb up the stairs to the top because we wanted to save our time and energy. Our guide said it would take at least 2 hours to go up and then go down again.
3. The Sunken Cemetery
The Sunken Cemetery of Camiguin island marks the swept remains of the island’s rested locals. The entire town cemetery was driven underwater when Mt. Vulcan Daan erupted in 1870’s and the large cross has served the town’s people, as well as tourists, a scenic spot to memorialize the departed buried here.
Years ago, gravestones were visible during low tide. There are small wooden boats that take tourists up to that cross but we did not opt as the weather forecast said the seas might get rough and during monsoon season, weather changes very fast so we did not risk.
4. Old Church ruins of Bonbon, Catarman
The old church ruins of Bonbon or the Guiob church ruins is one of the oldest and unique structures of the island. Old because it was built sometime in the 16th century and unique because it is made from coral stones. It was later turned to ruins by the 1871 Mt. Vulcan eruption.
~ in the above photo, Pristine and Benjamin are facing the main altar of the church or what remained of it ~
When the volcano erupted, earthquake shook the town mercilessly until houses and other structures were down to rubble. But that was not the end of it. That evening, Mr. Vulcan unleashed its most devastating power and destroyed what was left of the town.
The old Guiob church ruins was one of the structures that remained standing after the disastrous eruption. Although the church has lost its roof, its sturdy walls and columns still stand today.
~ Pristine and Benjamin with Uncle Jay ~
We went around the area to the back, on the cliff side. The sea is getting rougher by now as the typhoon nears. The wind was strong and it felt so refreshing.
5. Sto. Nino Cold Springs
Located in Catarman, the Sto. Nino Cold Spring has a pool measuring 25 meters by 40 meters, It is 2 meters deep of cold spring water sprouting from the sandy bottom. Judging from Pristine’s screams and the look on my brother’s face, the water was very, very cold!
The area has a restaurant, native cottages, cookout facilities and restrooms for visitors. Outside, several local vendors offer order-to-cook services for chicken, pork or fish dishes. We ordered 1 kilo of pork (roasted), 1 kilo of fish (vinaigrette) and 1 kilo of free range, organic chicken (soup), 1 kilo of boiled rice and coconuts! What a sumptuous lunch that costed us very less. Ah, I love life in the province!
I only dipped my ankles in the cold water and firmly decided never to get in! Benjamin won’t be able to bear the cold, I imagined and Pristine was feeling so cold and got out of the water. I think this place would be so good during the scorching summer months in the Philippines, from March-May.
6. Tuasan Falls
I was amazed at its high drop and the flash of white against the dark green of the forest made it more beautiful to look at. Unlike Katibawasan falls, the first water falls we visited, the drop is more forceful and the water is colder too.
Our guide said it was difficult to reach Tuasan falls before the concrete roads were built. Tuasan wasn’t very much visited because it was far and involved an hour long trek with a steep uphill climb back.
7. Ardent hot springs
It was starting to rain when we left Tuasan falls. We still have another tourist stop: Ardent hot springs. The driver also took us to the soda water pool but because it was raining so hard and we were still shivering from the cold swim at Sto, Nino Cold springs, we opted to go straight to the hot springs. I could use a soak on a natural hot spring and was pretty excited!
The local hot spa is a natural pool of about 40 degrees centigrade springing from the depths of Mt. Hibok Hibok.
The rain continued to pour that afternoon and had no plans of stopping. It was a unique experience – the feel of the cold rain on our faces while our bodies were soaked in the subtly warm (volcanic) hot spring water. The hot spring water temperature dropped because of the cold rain. I would have enjoyed it more if it were warmer.
Ardent hot spring has picnic huts, cookout facilities and restrooms for visitors.It is ideal for night swimming, a place to rejuvenate both mind and body.
Entrance fee is P30.
It was becoming difficult as monsoon rains continued to shower us. Benjamin felt very uneasy with the pouring rain on his face. We didn’t want to get out from soaking in the hot spring as it got so cold once we’re out! But we had to as our driver was waiting and soon the sun will set.
We stayed for the night at the cottage we rented and slept very early. The monsoon winds have now become stronger so we didn’t venture out for dinner and instead had pizza we bought on our way home. We slept at 8pm from exhaustion from our day trip and food coma from pizza flour ingestion. Evil gluten!
Around 11 pm, I woke up from the loud noises of things flying outside, some onto our glass panel windows. The typhoon was miles and miles away north but it felt like it was above us! Imagine if a typhoon actually hit the island!
The next morning, we called the port and learned that ferry operations back to Mindanao island has stopped operating until further notice. We have ran out of clean clothes to wear! My brother and his wife brought less clothes than I did so they had to buy shirts and shorts from the nearby souvenir shops at Paras Beach Resort.
We took our breakfast at Paras Beach Resort and called the port again by 9:30 am. Luckily, we were told that a ferry will depart Benoni port to Balingoan at 1pm. We packed our bags and got on our friend’s car. Chris was so kind to offer to take us to the port!
The weather was clearing up so I sent photos to my mother who was very worried back in Cagayan de Oro. The ferry departed at around 1:30 pm and everything was ok, or so I thought..midway, the waves and winds became stronger. Mind you it is a very short ferry ride, less than 2 hours but I prayed so hard we’ll arrive safely.
Never travel again by sea during the monsoon season! The shore might be calm but it’s a different story in the middle of the ocean. I was so scared. But did that make me swear not to visit Camiguin again? Of course not! Maybe just not in July or August!
Our trip to Camiguin island was epic, despite the typhoon scare, not being able to go to White Island and risk of being stranded for another day or two in the island. I am still glad we made that trip (although I am not sure how many prayers my mother made until we appeared at the front door!)
It was also extra memorable as it was the first the time I travelled with my siblings, as adults. I’ve been separated from them for years when I left to study in Japan. They were only grade school children that time and though I would visit every year or two, I feel that I am not too familiar with them at all, especially now as adults. And you know what I found out? They are awesome siblings, a great support for me and my kids especially my husband was not with us during this trip and…they are great travel buddies.
We promised to go back to Camiguin again and I can’t wait for that to happen. Soon!