Feeling Camiguin

MANILA, Philippines — Camiguin has always been under the radar as a tourism destination compared to other popular islands like Boracay, Palawan and Bohol. That was until a low-budget tourism video called “Feel Camiguin” hit the social media and got over 3 million views. Now, Camiguin seems to be such a hot destination that a friend sent me the video link and gushed, “We should go there!”

Well, go there I did to attend the Lanzones Festival, not only to savor the sweetest lanzones but to see the destinations so beautifully filmed in the video.

October is always a good time to visit Camiguin. The Lanzones Festival, a pageantry of local culture built around the signature produce of the province, is held annually during the third week of October. The weather at that time is pleasant – cool with occasional showers and less humid.

It also helped that visitors could now fly to Mambajao, the capital of the island province, via Cebu. The airport is small but new and close to town. From there, we proceeded to the Camiguin Highlands Resort situated on the slope of the Campana hill with a fantastic view of the island and the sea. We stayed in Camiguin for three days and enjoyed a packed schedule attending festival events and going on short tours.

The Lanzones Festival features street dance competitions, parades, trade fairs, music concerts and beauty contests over a period of three days. The cultural presentations depict legends of the Manobo-Higaonon natives of the island about mountain spirits or diwatas and the origin of the lanzones fruit. The street dancing and performance competitions were quite engaging and highly anticipated and contested by the locals. As tourists, we could not help but feel the energy of the crowd as they avidly rooted for their respective contingents.

Our visits to the tourist destinations of Camiguin were equally fascinating due to the variety of its natural attractions. Located north of Mindanao, the island is relatively small with a land area of only 29,187 hectares, making it the smallest Philippine province after Batanes. Its circumferential road runs for only 64 kilometers and provides a fantastic view of the Bohol Sea. The size of Camiguin therefore makes travel to its tourist destinations quick and convenient, allowing visitors to see more spots in one day.

The first thing that a visitor notices about the island is that it is so green. The mountains and volcanoes are all carpeted by lush forests. Even the towns are verdant, with houses surrounded by trees and plants. And yes, almost all houses have lanzones trees in their yards. Camiguin is perhaps the island with the most number of volcanoes than any island on earth – seven volcanoes including Mt. Hibok-Hibok which is still active and Mt. Tres Marias with a picturesque row of three peaks.

So during the three days we stayed in Camiguin, we saw the following top attractions, all definitely “Instagramable,” and provided us a wonderful feel of Camiguin.

Katibawasan Falls is the tallest waterfalls in Camiguin measuring more than 70 meters in height. The water is freezing cold but locals and tourists don’t seem to mind and still enjoy swimming in the natural pool below the waterfalls.

Tuasan Falls is less majestic compared to Katibawasan but it’s quite picturesque and visitors could enjoy swimming or picnicking along the three natural pools below the falls.

Sunken Cemetery. Driving westward along the circumferential road towards Bonbon, one will see a huge white cross seemingly floating on the sea. It marks the spot of the cemetery which slipped into the sea during the 1871 eruption of Mt. Vulcan. The vantage point on the coast is a favorite selfie spot among tourists.

White Island. The island is really a sandbar which is largely submerged during high tide. At low tide it becomes one of the most visited spots in Camiguin where visitors could swim and picnic. It offers a panoramic view of Camiguin and Mt. Hibok-Hibok. We were fortunate to find vendors of uni, the roe of sea urchins, which we happily ate from the shell.

Mantigue Island is a beautiful egg-shaped island located west of Mahinog town. The island is only nine hectares in size surrounded by a gleaming white sand beach that has become a favorite picnic, swimming and snorkeling spot for locals and tourists alike.

Camiguin Zipline. Outside of trekking up the mountains and volcanoes of Camiguin, the latest addition to the island’s adventure attractions is the Camiguin Zipline which crosses the Taguines Lagoon, superman style. It’s not the longest zipline in the country but at 700 meters it’s the longest one I’ve taken.

Katunggan Mangrove Park is a small mangrove sanctuary in the town of Mahinog which showcases the black mangrove species. One will admire the forest and the local government’s efforts to preserve it through long boardwalks that meander through the park.

There’s so much more to see and enjoy in Camiguin but the most noteworthy for me is the gentleness and hospitality of the Camigueños. Through them, the beauty of Camiguin became a personal experience that I would want to feel – again and again. Photos by JVM Francisco


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