Solitude at Kibila Beach (Guinsiliban, Camiguin)

Kibila Beach

On April 12, Holy Thursday, we checked out of Dayon sa Cabuaan Beach Resort and proceeded to Kibila Beach, in Sitio Kibila, Brgy. Cantaan, Guinsiliban where we were to stay two nights. This 750-m. long, coarse white sand beach, the only one in the mainland, has a well by the beach and a seabed that slopes gradually.

We all stayed at the DENR Training Center and Dive Camp, managed by the Cantaan Fishermen’s Assn., CBFM Scholarship Foundation, Inc. and the DENR.  It has a canteen, dining hall, cottage with bath and a seminar hall.  Our stay was spent sunbathing, snorkeling, dining al fresco, chatting (and playing Taboo) by a bonfire at night and sleeping in folding beds by the seashore.  We also visited a nearby Clam Culture Farm funded by a PhP120,000 grant from the Foundation for the Philippine Environment.  One of our evenings was capped by a marriage proposal (with the accompanying engagement ring hidden in a crab shell) coming from Jake to his girlfriend Tey.  How romantic!

We departed Camiguin on an early Black Saturday morning , April 14,  on board a very delayed and hopelessly overcrowded ferry back to Cagayan de Oro City for an overnight stay.  After last minute shopping for pasalubong at Cagayan de Oro’s Cogon Market (mostly Indonesian batik products) Jandy, Vi and I left the city for Manila on April 15, Easter Sunday, on the 11:35 AM Cebu Pacific flight, arriving at Manila by 1 PM.  The others followed suit on the 3:30 PM PAL flight (They almost missed it).

Surviving Mt. Hibok-Hibok (Mambajao, Camiguin)

Mt. Hibok-Hibok

We were now on our fourth day, April 11,  in Camiguin and we felt that our stay here would not be complete without climbing one of Camiguin’s 7 volcanoes (there are more volcanoes than towns in Camiguin).  The king of them all is the 1,250-m.  high Mt. Hibok-Hibok, the island’s only active volcano which, on December 5, 1951, erupted without warning, issuing steaming hot gases and killing 3,000 people who were asphyxiated when huge amounts of oxygen were absorbed in the air.  A glowing avalanche of lava devastated many villages and covered about 10 sq. kms..  More than 30,000 people left the island after the eruption.  

Now, almost half a century later, we were going to test our mettle by climbing this volcano.  Making the climb were  ladies Lulu Siguenza and Rosevie Sevilla and guys Carl Allen, Nubbin Beldia, Henry Chua, Jake San Diego, Randy Ypon, Jandy and I.  We woke up by 7 AM, had our usual Filipino breakfast, dressed up in casual shorts (the ladies wore pants), T-shirts, caps, sunglasses and rubber shoes and sandals, brought our cameras  and were picked up by our usual hired passenger jeepney driven by the ever reliable and friendly Camiguinons Charlie and Rico). We left at 8 AM and arrived, 20 mins. later, at Ardent Hot Spring Resort in Brgy. Esperanza, the take-off point for the climb. 

For provisions we each brought bottled water  (Jandy and I each brought a 1-liter bottle) and 2 loaves of sliced bread and chicken spread bought at the public market. At the resort, we hired the services of Camiguinon guides Hamilton and RV (for the fee of PhP350 each, they also carried our provisions). After about 10 mins. of stretching exercises, we  began out climb at 8:30 A.M..  Hamilton took point while RV took the rear.  We walked through a light forest and a hamlet of two houses and went past a coconut plantation before entering another light forest. The cheerful banter soon gave way to subdued silence as we  made our way up loose soil and  blackened volcanic rocks, grasping at trees and  oftentimes sharp, meter-high spear grass (cogon) for support.  Soon scratches appeared on our hands, arms and legs.  We were also consuming our water at an alarming rate, and I had Jandy to just wet his lips instead and I had to impose water discipline on Jandy, asking him to just wet his lips instead.  Our rest periods were frequent. Carl suggested 2-min. rest period after a 10-min. hike.  Nubbin, on the other hand, suggested the reverse, drawing laughter from all of us.  There’s nothing like a touch of laughter (the best medicine) to make us forget, albeit temporarily, our sore muscles and flagging spirits.

View of White Island

As we went higher up the mountain, the panorama of clear blue sky above, Mt. Tres Marias below, and C-shaped White Island far out into the sea came into view.   An ideal photo opportunity.  We hiked for 2 hrs. and were relieved to enter a gently sloping  light forest.  The tip of volcano still loomed far, far ahead.  From here to the summit it would be a tough scramble on  a steeper, 40-45 degree section over loose rocks, boulders, scree, lava and rock faces.   It was now noon and we decided to have our lunch of bread and chicken spread. We had difficulty washing it down because of our alarmingly low water supply.  We realized how inadequate our provisions were.  Soon they were all gone.   It was also during this rest period that I began to feel pain in my legs.

At the peak of Mt. Hibok-Hibok

We decided to get going at 1 PM in order to make it to the peak by 2 PM.  We estimated a return trip of 3 to 4 hrs., and we didn’t want to be caught by nightfall.  Nobody had thought to bring flashlights.  I was bringing up the rear and, my legs bothered me all too frequently.   When I saw that I was slowing the group down, I told the others to go on ahead and leave me with Jandy.   However, Jandy wanted to join the others so I let him go after getting assurances from the rest that he would be watched and guided carefully.   Soon they disappeared up the trail. 

Nubbin exploring the crater’s rim

During the long wait, I fell into a fitful sleep and was only awakened when they were on their way down the volcano.  Jandy  was accompanied by Lulu, Vi and Henry. According to the group, Jandy was third up the summit, followed by Randy, Carl and Henry.  The women brought up the rear.  All perched precariously on the barely 5-ft. wide knife’s edge on the crater’s rim. After a 30-mins. rest and photo shoot, Jandy, Henry, RV and the women started their descent.  The other guys decided to stay and explore the crater’s rim. It was getting very late and we had to go down as fast as we could before sundown.  Our water supply was now exhausted and we would have to go down the mountain thirsty.

As  the soil  was loose, the descent was slippery all the way and we had to watch our step on loose rocks.  There was also the need to cling to something, but it was painful to just cling to the sharp cogon grass.  Vi made the mistake of grasping at prickly ground ferns.  No one in the group was exempt from bleeding cuts and scratches.   It was also hard on the joints as we sometimes have to slide down the very steep slopes. My knees soon began to ache.  We also had to combat our hunger and thirst.  Jandy wanted to stop and rest, but I had to goad him on as it was getting dark.   RV and V were soon out of sight as Henry, Lulu and Jandy and I  rested, and Carl, Randy and Jake, left behind earlier, soon caught up with us and passed us by.

Relief came in the form of RV bringing our bottles refilled with spring water from the hamlet we passed on our way up.   Our spirits were somehow revived.   It was still a long way off, but now we did not have to contend with thirst.  We reached the Ardent Hot Spring Resort at 6 PM, bedraggled, hungry, thirsty, scarred and weak. It had taken all of 6 hrs. to reach the top and another 3.5 hrs. to make it down.  For 30 mins., we lolled in the therapeutic, but scalding hot, mineral spring waters that gushes forth from the bowels of Mt. Hibok-Hibok into beautifully-designed natural stone swimming pools.  Water temperature reaches as much as 50 degrees and picnickers here boil fresh eggs on the shallow portions. Later, remembering our hunger, we hied off to the restaurant for a well-deserved dinner.  After dinner, we returned to the resort and were all in bed by 8 PM.

White Island (Mambajao, Camiguin)

Mt. Vulcan Daan

On our third day in Camiguin, April 10, Tuesday, we opted to do some island hopping and what better place to go than to White Island.  After lunch, we proceeded to Caves Beach & Dive Resort along Agoho Beach in Brgy. Agoho.  About 1,5 to 2 kms. offshore is the C-shaped, picture-perfect White Island, Camiguin’s pride. Also called Medano Island, it is a small, uninhabited and treeless sandbar with dazzling white, sugar-fine sand.The island’s shape differs depending on the tides and the constantly shifting currents. The island is also accessible from Brgy. Yumbing, at a boat station behind Paras Beach Resort.

Mt. Hibok-Hibok

We hired two pumpboats at PhP250 per boat to ferry our group and we reached the island after a 15-min. boat ride.  The island’s postcard-perfect view was marred by the sight of makeshift stalls and tents doing brisk business selling buko juice, soft drinks, beer and snacks to visitors at the southern end of the island.  It being the Holy Week, I could only sigh in disbelief at the sight.  However, they do provide temporary shelter and good shade from the hot afternoon sun.

Still, nothing can mar the backdrop of picturesque and majestic Mt. Hibok-Hibok and Mt. Vulcan Daan.  The ladies were off to their usual sunbathing while the guys went snorkeling and swimming 150-200 m. off the island.  Later, as the afternoon wore off into evening, we were rewarded by a beautiful sunset.  The island shrinks substantially during high tide, so visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon.  Not visiting the island would be like not visiting Camiguin at all.

Sunset at White Island

Sunken Cemetery (Catarman, Camiguin)

From Cotta Bato, we made a short drive to the Sunken Cemetery, site of the community cemetery which sank during the 1871 eruption.  After paying a PhP2 entrance fee, we proceeded down the hill to secluded, brown-sand Sabang Beach.  About 200 m. offshore is the huge concrete white cross which was built from 1997 to 1999 to replace another installed further offshore in 1982.  

Cross at Sunken Cemetery

Sunken Cemetery (6)

Connecting the cross with the shore is a nylon rope from which is tethered a boat for crossing.  We paid PhP10 each for the two-way trip.   According to the boatman, years ago, gravestones were still visible during low tide.  Now they can no longer be seen.  Every year, on May 1, a fluvial procession is held there.  The islanders row out to offer flowers and floating candles to the dead.

View from Sunken Cemetery

From our vantage poin at its terracet, we had a panoramic view of Mts. Vulcan Daan and Tres Marias. Scattered along Mt. Vulcan Daan’s northwestern slope is a winding trail with life-size, white-washed cement figures of the 14 Stations of the Cross depicting the passion death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Sunken Cemetery (12)

The last station is a sepulcher carved out of volcanic rock.  During Holy Week, a Panaad is held for religious retreat and penitence.  It features a 2-day, 64-km. trek around the island, from Brgy. Benoni to the Stations of the Cross.  The sun was just setting when we returned to shore and a well-deserved rest back at the resort.  

Sunken Cemetery (9)

Sunken Cemetery (4)

Sunken Cemetery: Brgy. Bonbon, Catarman, Camiguin

Old Guiob Church Ruins (Catarman, Camiguin)

From Sto. Nino Cold Spring, a 30-min. drive brought us to the ruins of the old Gui-ob Church (Cotta Batto) in Catarman.  This coral and stone-hewn church, Camiguin’s version of Albay’s Cagsawa Ruins, is located 16 kms. from Catarman and 20 kms. from Mambajao proper.  It was built in 1623 as the parish of San Roque  before it was half buried by lava flows during the May 1, 1871 eruption of the 838-m. high Vulcan Daan (locally called Tandang Bulkan) which destroyed the town. 

Old Gui-ob Church (Cotta Batto)
Old Gui-ob Church (1)
Old Gui-ob Church (11)
Old Gui-ob Church (7)

Within its thick, century-old adobe walls is a makeshift chapel.  A short distance away is the bell tower and a moss and vine-covered convento, reminiscent of the Spanish era.  Viewed in the late afternoon sun, all three made nice subjects for a photo shoot.

Old Gui-ob Church (4)
 Old Gui-ob Church (5)
Old Gui-ob Church (8)
Old Gui-ob Church (9)
Old Gui-ob Church (10)
Old Guiob Church Ruins: National Highway, Brgy. Bonbon, Catarman, Camiguin.

Sto. Nino Cold Spring (Catarman, Camiguin)

After our delightful lunch at Taguines Lagoon, we again boarded our hired jeepney and proceeded, along the west coast of the island, to Sto. Nino Cold Spring.  Also known as Kiyab Pool, it is located 4 kms. north and uphill of Catarman town proper.  From the main road, we made a turn into 2-km. long  dusty track.

Sto. Nino Cold Spring

The spring has 2 stone pools, the larger one measuring 25 m. by  40 m.  and its depth varies from one-half meter to 2 m.. The other is a kiddie pool.  The resort also has picnic huts, toilets, function hall and native stores for picnickers.  Being a holiday, the resort was packed with picnickers.  After paying an entrance fee, we swam its icy-cold, crystal-clear  spring water sprouting from its sandy bottom.  We shared the spring waters with some tiny fish.  After half an hour of swimming, we left the resort by 4 PM.  

Sto. Nino Cold Spring: Brgy. Mainit, Catarman, Camiguin.  Admission: PhP20/pax.

Taguines Lagoon (Mahinog, Camiguin)

We all left Katibawan Falls by 11 AM and proceeded on a 40-min. drive to Taguines Lagoon, near Benoni Port, for lunch.  This beautiful artificial lake has mantles of limpid water surrounded by craggy cliffs, huge boulders and gently rolling hills.  Truly, a relaxing break from a tiring tour around the island.

Taguines Lagoon

We stopped at J.A. Fishpen, a restaurant on stilts overlooking the lagoon.  Around it are fishpens where bangus (milkfish), mamsa (jack), lunab (surgeonfish), katambak (spadefish), danggit (seganid), maming (parrotfish), kitong and alimango (crabs) are bred.  Quite hungry, we feasted, kamayan-style, on fresh-caught and cooked alimango. kitong and bangus, plus fried chicken, pancit canton and halaan soup and washed it all down with buko and green mango shakes.


J.A. Fishpen: Brgy. Benoni, Mahinog, Camiguin.  Tel:  (088) 387-4008.

Katibawasan Falls (Mambajao, Camiguin)

After an early-morning breakfast at the resort’s restaurant, we left at 8:30 AM for our island tour.  The day before, we contracted our jeepney drivers, Rico and Charlie, to give us a tour around the island for PhP1,500. The 5 towns of Camiguin (Catarman, Guinsiliban, Mahinog, Mambajao and Sagay) are all connected by a 64-km. long, almost all concreted  circumferential coastal road which can be circumnavigated in a 3-hr. drive.  While Jandy and I stayed inside the jeepney, the others sat on the roof, always on the lookout for trees while enjoying the cool breeze.  

Frolicking at the base of the falls

Our first stop was the 76.2-m. (250-ft. ) high Katibawasan Falls. Located 5 kms. southeast of Mambajao, on the 1,420-m. high Mt. Mambajao, a dormant volcano, it is one of the highest waterfalls in the country.  After paying the PhP10 entrance fee, we descended a 67-step concrete stairway, passed a view deck, and beheld one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have so far seen in the country.  The slim waterfall cascades precipitously down  to a rock pool teeming with fresh water shrimps and is surrounded by a massive granite mountain wall swathed with ground orchids, wild ferns, trees and boulders.  Eden reincarnated!

Tall and slim Katibawasan Falls

We were soon down to our swimming attire but hesitated upon finding out that the waters were icy-cold.  What the heck!  Lest I change my mind, I quickly jumped in, shivering for some time until my body temperature adjusted to the coldness.   Jandy and the others soon followed suit.  The rock pool was shallow except at the area were the falls hit the water.  We stationed ourselves at the boulders underneath the falls, feeling the cascading waters massage our backs.  Nature’s hydromassage.  Near the falls is a resthouse for changing and a cottage for overnight stays.

Katibawasan Fall: Brgy. Soro-Soro, Mambajao, Camiguin.

Dayon sa Cabuaan Beach Resort (Mambajao, Camiguin)

Our room at Dayon sa Cabuaan Beach Resort

Upon landing, we ask around and were able to hire a jeepney, pakyaw-style, to check on available accommodations at Mambajao.    We just about checked all the resorts and hotels and most were either fully booked or simply inadequate for our tastes and needs.  In the end, we all decided on Dayon sa Cabuaan Beach Resort along Cabuaan Beach.

Dayon sa Cabuaan Beach Resort (4)

Our group occupied 4 (Jandy and I occupied one) of  the resort’s 8 airconditioned cottages with bath and cable TV.  The resort also has five 5-pax airconditioned rooms with bath, a restaurant.

Dayon sa Cabuaan Beach Resort (5)

The resort was one of only two places (the other was Mt. Hibok-Hibok) where I could get a SMART signal for my mobile phone.  Camiguin was definitely GLOBE country.  Since it was already late in the afternoon, we decided to rest and explore the island the next day.

Dayon sa Cabuaan Beach Resort (6)

Dayon sa Cabua-an Beach Resort: Cabua-an Beach, Mambajao, Camiguin. Tel: (088) 387-2103.

Camiguin or Bust

The island province of Camiguin

I was still deciding on where to go with my son Jandy this Holy Week when my 2 companions from a previous climb up Mt. Makulot – Ms. Lourdes “Lulu” Siguenza, a Warner Bros. advertising executive, and free-lance artist Ms. Rosevie Sevilla – invited me to join them, with some other companions, on a week-long trip to the Northern Mindanao island province of Camiguin, an invitation I simply can’t refuse.  This would be my second trip to Mindanao, the first being in Zamboanga City way back in 1976.  I promptly secured plane tickets for me and Jandy.  

On board the ferry MV Royal Princess

We left Manila on April 8, Palm Sunday, on the 5:15 AM Cebu Pacific flight.  Joining us was Mr. Henry Chua, a Pizza Hut advertising executive and Lulu’s boyfriend.  Upon arrival at Cagayan de Oro City’s Lumbia Airport (Misamis Oriental), we waited an hour for our 8 other companions arriving on the incoming Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight.  On that flight were advertising executives Mr. Carl Allen and Begonia “Goni” Gonzalez of McCann Ericksson, Mr. Jake San Diego of Ace Saatchi, Ms. Tey Abonador of Harrison Communications, Ms. Rose Pantoja and Mr. Nubbin Beldia of Aviacom, Ms. Karen Rosel of Publicis-AMA and Mr. Randy Ypon, a balikbayan from Canada.  Carl and Randy brought along their own diving equipment minus the oxygen tanks which they intend to rent on the island.

Shuttling by jeepney

From the airport, we were picked up by a hired (for PhP2,000) Nissan Urvan to take our party on a 83-km. (1-hr.) trip to the Misamis Oriental ferry port town of Balingoan, the gateway to Camiguin.  Upon arrival, we all boarded the 11 AM ferry MV Royal Princess. Fare was PhP20 per pax  for the 45-min. crossing to Brgy. Benoni in Mahinog.   The boat was filled to the brim with passengers out on holiday, many crowding on the unshaded deck.  The trip was smooth all the way until we reached sight of Benoni. Or so we thought …. We heard a loud crash and were tossed about as the ship hit the pier head-on just when we were docking.  As if it were not enough, the crash was followed by a scraping sound as the ship sideswiped the dock ala Titanic.  What an exciting way to start a vacation!