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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Camiguin: A Definitive Guide to The Island Born of Fire

camiguin mantigue island boatEXPERIENCE

Mantigue Island Nature Park

What to experience? 

Swim in pristine blue-green seawater beside white sands and under the sunny blue sky.

Eat fresh seafoods such as Tuna Kilawin (my personal favorite), Tuna Sinugba (grilled, must-try) and Guso Salad (seaweeds).

Take photos around the nature park which is adorned with wild plants growing above the white sands.

Experience a mini-forest adventure inside the island too!

What to eat?

camiguin mantigue island tuna kilawin tuna sinugba guso salad food eatTuna Kilawin. My personal favorite. If you like eating uncooked seafood, this one's a must-try. Tuna Kilawin is made up of tuna marinated with vinegar and spices, Filipino-style. My friends used to tell me to slow down in taking it in because it doesn't get digested easily but to no avail- haha!

Tuna Sinugba. Sinugba means to grill. This one's a winner too! I think ate 2 cups of rice that day.

Guso Salad. I love this seaweed. Guso is agar-agar in English and they abound in the shores of Mantigue Island. Right after our mini-forest adventure, we were led to a spot where people residing in Mantigue Island harvest Guso. It was a beautiful sight to behold and I can say that it is one of the best experiences I've ever had as a travel blogger.

What to bring?

camiguin mantigue island tuna kilawin tuna sinugba guso salad food eatThe usual swimwear, goggles/snorkeling equipment, sunblock and camera.

When to go?

We went there during the first week of July when it was already rainy but the experience is still good only that we needed to hurry up that day because it was already starting to rain. I highly suggest that you visit the island when there is less rainfall.

How to go?

From Mambajao, look for the jeepney that is going to the port going to Mantigue Island in San Roque (P20). From San Roque, ride a boat going to the island (P550, back and forth).

How much?

Entrance fee is P20.

How long?

camiguin mantigue island friendsIf you can, try to budget a whole day trip for Mantigue Island. We gave it half a day and I still found myself wanting to stay (even though I am not much of a fan of beaches and island hopping). It's that good.

Who to go with?

I suggest that you go with 5 travel buddies since a boat can only accommodate up to 6 persons.

Who to meet?

Since not too many people go to Mantigue Island, you will only meet a few tourists and very friendly government employees who take care of the island.

Why is it a must-try?

Despite being a Filipino, I don't like beaches and island hopping that much but Mantigue Island converted me into one that day.

Notes

Try not to haggle too much if you are dealing with the boatmen who shall be taking you to the island. Try to see that it is a way for you to help them in your own little way.

If you love Guso like me, maybe you can try buying fresh ones from the friendly locals who we met in the shores. I enjoyed the sight too much, I wasn't able to inquire about it.

Ardent Hot Spring

What to experience?
camiguin ardent hot spring bridge
Soak yourself in spring water warmed at the foot of the volcano, Mt. Hibok-Hibok. Talk about unli-water and unli-heater, eh? This one ranked 2nd in my list of favorite places in the Philippines. My first is Sonya's Garden in Tagaytay.

What to eat?

I am not sure if they sell food inside the resort but I think you can bring in some. Absolutely no eating near the pools though. Also, try to get some Iping being sold outside the resort. An Iping is a big round crunchy snack made of kamoteng-kahoy topped with Latik sauce. I don't like crunchy foods that much but this one's a must-try!

What to bring?

Your usual swimwear. No need for goggles nor sunblocks. The resort is made up of man-made pools with warm spring water and the whole place is surrounded by big trees that blocks off the sun. It's that perfect.

camiguin ardent hot spring slideWhere to shop?

There are souvenir stores outside the resort where you can buy Batik scarves, ref magnets, shirts.

When to go?

You may visit Ardent Hot Spring at any season. If you're the type of person who likes steam baths and spas, this place is for you.

How to go?

Since we came here through a rented van for a whole-day trip, it was very convenient for us. But you can come to this place from Mambajao through jeepneys and motorelas (or relas, single motorcycles with body to accommodate more people) which are available within the island.

How much?

Entrance fee is P30.

How long?

I suggest that you allot a few more hours to this piece of paradise. Although we only stayed for only around 2 hours, it was a fun one nonetheless. You can stay here for half a day or whole.

Who to go with?

Ardent Hot Spring, I shall say, is perfect for the whole family. There are deep pools and shallow pools. The shallower the pool, the warmer the water.

Who to meet?

camiguin ipingThis is a favorite spot of expats who chose Camiguin as their place of retirement. We have met a Norwegian man who married a Filipina in that place. You will also find local Camiguinlons equally enjoying the whole experience.

Why is it a must-try?

I use warm water when taking a bath. If we share the same preference, just imagine yourself taking a bath in a warm spring with tall trees safely surrounding you. Paradise!

Notes

If you love quiet times, this is a perfect spot for that too. It's also perfect to share the experience with your special someone. The ambiance of this place is romantic.

If you travel in groups (ideal number is 6), I suggest that you rent a van that will help you tour your chosen spots in Camiguin (including Ardent Hot Spring) for 1 whole day.

camiguin katibawasan falls full shot Katibawasan Falls

What to experience?

Katibawasan Falls is the highest waterfall I have ever seen. The first time I saw it, I praised God because only Him can create waterfalls.

What to eat?

There are stores outside the entrance to the waterfall that sell Iping and other snacks. You may bring your own picnic foods to the place though.

What to bring?

Your usual swimwear and lifebuoys/salbabida.

Where to shop?

There are shops outside the entrance where you can buy Batik scarves, ref magnets, shirts.

Where to sleep?

You cannot stay overnight in Katibawasan Falls.

When to go?

Katibawasan Falls is a must-visit place at any time of the year.

How much?

Entrance fee is P20.

How to go?

It is very ideal that you travel in a group (ideal number is 6) so that you can rent a van. However, jeepneys and motorelas are also available in Camiguin.

How long?

camiguin katibawasan falls salbabidaYou can stay in Katibawasan Falls for 1 whole day especially if you love swimming in cold waters and taking photos of nature. Personally, I can only stay here for a few hours because I love swimming in warm water more (Ardent Hot Spring). Nonetheless, marveling at the beauty of the waterfall is already an experience on its own.

Who to go with?

Go with your family and friends. It's a perfect picnic place for traveling groups.

Who to meet?

You will meet fellow tourists and locals who are mostly composed of young Camiguinlons.

Why is it a must-try?

Waterfalls are marvelous bodies of water. If you love nature, you will Katibawasan Falls.

Notes

Photographers will love this place because of the presence of a good amount of sunlight and rushing water. Make sure to bring your camera and practice your skills here.


Sunken Cemetery

What to experience?

camiguin sunken cemeteryThe Sunken Cemetery must be the most popular spot in Camiguin. History says that when Mt. Vulcan erupted during 1871 the cemetery sank below sea level. During 1982, a huge white cross was erected upon it to commemorate the place. Today, you can still see some of the tombs covered with corals and also the remnants of the 2 crosses placed on the tombs.

What to eat?

There are snacks being sold on the way to the Sunken Cemetery.

What to bring?

Just bring your cameras.

Where to shop?

There are shops on the way to the Sunken Cemetery where you can buy Batik scarves, ref magnets, shirts.

Where to sleep?

You cannot stay overnight in the Sunken Cemetery. (Even the thought of it scared me a bit - haha!)

When to go?

Go there right before sunset. The view is majestic.

How much?

No entrance fee.

How to go?

It is very ideal that you travel in a group (ideal number is 6) so that you can rent a van. However, jeepneys and motorelas are also available in Camiguin.

How long?

camiguin sunken cemetery stairs shot
You can stay at the Sunken Cemetery for 2 hours or until the sun sets. There are boats that can be rented to take you to the cross and around it to see the tombs covered with corals and the remnants of the 2 crosses found on the tombs.

Who to go with?

This spot is very ideal with family and friends.

Who to meet?

Be sure to meet the friendliest boatman-slash-tour-guide-slash-photographer-extraordinaire in the island. We weren't able to get his name but he was the coolest! He showed us around the whole place and took the most creative pictures of our group ever. He also professed that he had a cameo role in the Filipino horror movie "Ouija", a scene of which was shot in the Sunken Cemetery.

Why is it a must-try?

You cannot leave Camiguin without paying a quick visit to the Sunken Cemetery.

Notes

You really have to find that boatman who took our pictures in the Sunken Cemetery. Our experience was never the same without him.

Sto. Nino Cold Spring

What to experience?

If Camiguin has hot springs, it also has cold springs. Talk about having the best of both worlds, eh? I may not have personally enjoyed Sto. Nino Cold Spring that much (I don't like swimming in cold water) I am sure that this is the perfect place to go to when the sun is scorching hot.

What to eat?

There are food stalls located inside and outside the resort.

What to bring?

The usual swimwear, sunblock and camera.

Where to shop?

There are shops near the entrance of the resort where you can buy Batik scarves, ref magnets, shirts.

When to go?

Go here when the sun is at its hottest. This place shall be a piece of heaven.

How much?

Entrance fee is P20.

How to go?

It is very ideal that you travel in a group (ideal number is 6) so that you can rent a van. However, jeepneys and motorelas are also available in Camiguin.

How long?

You can stay at Sto. Nino Cold Spring for at least 2 hours. My elders would tell me not to soak myself in cold water for too long as the cold may enter my body and cause joint or muscle pains.

Who to go with?

This spot is very ideal for family and friends.

Who to meet?

You will meet a lot of friendly locals and tourists there.

Why is it a must-try?

If you want to have an idea how cold spring waters are, go to this place.

Notes

Some websites say that there are small "spa" fishes in Sto. Nino Cold Spring. Spa fishes became popular because they feed on dead skin cells found in the feet of men like us. If you soak your feet in the water and become still long enough, the "spa" fishes will get near your feet and give you an instant foot spa.

EAT

camiguin octopus tentaclesGuso Salad in Mantigue Island

Guso is a kind of seaweed called agar-agar that is made into a salad along with other ingredients such as garlic, ginger, lime, pepper, vinegar and etc.

Octopus tentacles in Mambajo Market 

These ready-to-eat tentacles are soaked in Tuba vinegar (made from coconut sap) and are sold at P15 to P35 per tentacle.

Pastel by Vjandep Bakeshoppe

The infamous buns with filling from Camiguin. This pasalubong is also popular in Cagayan De Oro but it originated from Camiguin. A box of 6 costs P70. A box of 12 costs P130.

Tuna Kilawin in Mantigue Island

Similar to Ceviche of South America, Kilawin or Kinilaw is made of meat (in this case, tuna) seasoned with garlic, ginger, lime, pepper, vinegar and etc. 

ESSENTIALS

Camera
Goggles/Snorkeling Devices
Lifebuoys/Salbabida
Sunblock
Swimwear

Please check out my blog post about toiletry bags

SHOP


camiguin caves dive resort mambajao
There are shops in every spot we visited. They sell different items such as Batik scarves, ref magnets and shirts. The most popular pasalubong from Camiguin is Pastel by Vjandep Bakeshoppe. This popular buns with fillings that is also popular in Cagayan de Oro actually originated from Camiguin. To know more about this infamous Pastel of Camiguin, please check out Vjandep Bakeshoppe's Facebook page.

SLEEP

Book at Caves Dive Resort! We stayed there for 4 days and 5 nights and it was an amazing experience! Caves Dive is located exactly beside the sea and we booked the rooms near it so that we can have the fresh sea breeze at night and the invigorating sunshine at dawn. Clean rooms, friendly staff and perfect location beside the sea. These are the reasons why Caves Dive Resort is a standout. To know more, please check out Caves Dive Resort's website.
camiguin lanzones vendor

SEASON

We went to Camiguin during the first week of July. For me, it was a perfect month to visit the island because it's neither too hot nor too rainy. And as a bonus, we were also able to see the first harvest of lanzones. Every October, Camiguinlons organize the Lanzones Festival to celebrate the bountiful harvest of lanzones in the island.

TRANSPORTATION

To see the details of our transportation from Manila to Camiguin and back, please check out our Camiguin Budget and Itinerary.

BUDGET

To see the details of our expenses, please check out our Camiguin Budget and Itinerary.

laguindingan airport cagayan de oro
BUDDIES

I went with my brothers in Christ from Victory Ortigas. I can say that nothing beats any experience that is shared with the people you can entrust your life with. When traveling to beautiful places like Camiguin, make sure that you travel with the people that you truly enjoy being with. If you are looking for a Victory Group, please don't hesitate to contact me viamarkjosephdelgado@ymail.com.

PEOPLE

camiguin vjandep bakeshop pastelThe people from Camiguin are called Camiguinlons. During my 5 days of stay in the island, I can say that they are among of the friendliest Filipinos I have ever met and I am not exaggerating. The staff of Caves Dive Resort are very patient. I can say this because we have requested too many things from them when we stayed there and they were able to assist us in everything. We have met and chatted with children and adults in the churches, jeepneys, marketplace, motorelas and even in the streets. We asked for directions, haggled for prices, requested for so and so and one thing is common among all of them- their warm smiles.

MUST-TRY

You must not leave Camiguin without ____________.

Eating Pastel by Vjandep Bakeshoppe

Eating Tuna Kilawin with rice in Mantigue Island

Soaking yourself in Ardent Hot Spring

NOTES

ferry to camiguin balingoan port benoni portI implore, you, my fellow travelers to refrain from haggling too much with the locals who are earning through tourism and trade. (Haggle, but not too much.) Instead, let us take our travels as opportunities to proactively help our fellow Filipinos. In fact, give them large tips if you can. But if you can't, think twice before haggling too much. If we don't haggle with big stores in the city, why should we haggle too much with people who are earning meager amounts compared to those big ones? I suggest that you allot for "tips" in your travel budget.

Hire vans for city tours. This remains to be the truth: We travel to relax. And normally, when we are new to a place, commuting can be very stressful and time-consuming. Thus, commuting must be our last option whenever we are going on tours, except of course when you have a local with you who can tell you otherwise.

Travel in groups. This makes individual payments cheaper and transactions faster. In Camiguin, the ideal number of persons in a group is 6. 6 people fits perfectly in a boat and a motorela.

Consider going to Camiguin for Lanzones Festival held every third week of October. It's a 4-day celebration. Of course, expect a lot of people and fully booked hotels in the island during that time.

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