Camiguin Island: Return to Paraiso
Seven years after the Island Born of Fire first awed me, I went back to Camiguin and I realized that not much has changed. I was relieved. Camiguin is still a paradise as it was, wearing its old allure that captured my heart and guarantees to capture others. It’s been so long since I first felt her warm welcome, and since then, I was so anxious to renew my attachment to her… even for a weekend.
For the past years since my first visit, my connections to the island were limited to its equally enchanting underwater world. Camiguin had been always almost another experience, but I was always into diving. Not this time though, with Team Lakwatsero (Trabz, Kenneth, Denise, Mark, Sara, Alvin, Del, Zane and Kathie), Camiguin was for real.
It took us six hours from Cagayan de Oro airport to reach Camiguin including all the transfer, break and waiting time. We followed the still popular route of going there – bus ride from Agora Market to Balingoan and boat ride from Balingoan to Benoni. The multicab of Paguia’s Cottages fetched us from the airport and brought us to our home in the island, it was near sundown and our day in Camiguin was just about to start.
Before sunset, we made it to the island’s famous landmark, a sandbar off the coast of Barangay Yumbing. It is a stretch of white sand that submerges substantially during high tide with Mt. Hibok Hibok on the background, a picture perfect scene. We were greeted by a man selling live sea urchins for P10 each, Kenneth and Trabz gave it a try, I declined. After a tiring day of travel from Manila, the sand, sea and waves of the white sand were great relief.
We left after the sun set, just enough to round up our day. Our dinner was at Luna Ristorante, the famous diner in the town with Italian Menu. I had a Luna Pizza shared with Trabz and a glass of Iced Tea, and paid P140 for my share.
We woke up early the next morning for a day tour of the island. Everybody was excited but I felt the opposite, it was my day of return to Manila. Breakfast was at a nearby eatery. Corned beef, sunny side up and steamed rice that cost us P45 each.
The multicab first brought us to Via Cruces or the walkway to the Old Volcano, with plight of stairs and rocky uphill trail that ends up on what used to be the crater of the old volcano with the 14 stations of the cross depicting the passions of Christ along the way. It was my first to finally reach the end. The trace of the crater and signs of any volcanic activities in the past were already erased by time but the breathtaking view of the northwestern side of Camiguin was a sight to behold and worth the effort.
Next stop was the Cross Marker of Sunken Cemetery. For P20 per person, we got to cross the water and reach the cross. Another first because the closest that tourists can see the cross marker seven years ago was at Gui-ob Church Ruins. Now, small paddle boats bridge the Cross Marker and the island, a very short ride that let us also see the underwater tombs that are now covered with corals. This part of the island started to sink when Mount Vulcan erupted in 1871.
It was almost noon and I had to catch the 12PM ferry from Benoni to Balingoan for my 5PM flight from Cagayan de Oro to Manila. I managed a short stop at the Gui-ob Chuch Ruins before the team dropped me at Barangay Sto. Niño where I chartered a habal-habal to Benoni Port.
The fastcraft’s travel time was just an hour but it was the longest one hour of my life as I imagined the team who most probably were enjoying Katibawasan Falls or perhaps dipping in the cold water of Sto. Niño Spring, and the activities lined up for them on the following days. I really envy them but then I found another reason to come back.
It was short but sweet memories of Camiguin: the beautiful white sandbar with the stunning Mt. Hibok-Hibok as backdrop; the great foods of Luna Ristorante; the trek at Old Volcano; the old church ruins with its tragic story; and the unique charm of sunken cemetery. How I wish I stayed longer to experience more.
How to Get to Camiguin
There are no direct flights to Camiguin, to get here catch a flight to Cagayan de Oro or Butuan.
Via Cagayan de Oro
From Lumbia Airport of Cagayan de Oro, ride a van (~P200.00) or a cab (~P200.00) to Agora Market where you can catch a bus (~P140.00) or a van (~P200.00) to Balingoan for a two hour ride. Get off in Balingoan Terminal and walk to the port. From there, ride a ferry (~P150.00) to Benoni Port, Camiguin. Ferries from Balingoan Port to Benoni, Camiguin leave almost every hour from 5Am to 5PM, travel time is two hours.
Alternatively, you can ride a fast craft from Cagayan de Oro’s Macabalan Port straight to Camiguin. Paras Sea Cat departs Cagayan de Oro everyday (except Thursday) to Camiguin at 0830H. Regular fare is at P550 for View Deck (non-aircon) and Main Deck (aircon); P750 for Business Class.
From Butuan airport, catch a motorella or taxi to take you to the bus terminal and hop to any Cagayan bound bus. The bus will make a stop at Balingoan Terminal. From the bus terminal, walk to the port and ride a ferry to Camiguin.