Touch the untouched Mindanaoan dame, Camiguin

Touch the untouched Mindanaoan dame, Camiguin

The Island Borne of Fire’s blanket of adventures—some known; others not so—is for all sorts of enthusiasts. Dash curates.

Camiguin’s top attraction: White Island.

It’s not very easy to find a place in the Philippines that’s conveniently located that can satisfy those wanting to either dive into the waters off the coast, tear up roads and trails, or take to the skies onboard something they can barely control. But we’ve found one: Camiguin, off the coast of Northern Mindanao.

Camiguin, once only accessible either by a chartered flight to the island or multiple transfers, but now at only over an hour’s flight away—thanks to SkyJet Airlines’ launch of direct from Manila flights—is a unique province with more active volcanoes than towns. The tiny island they call the “Island Born of Firehas something that most places don’t offer: challenging mountain treks, colorful reefs, and an entirely different way to see it all from up high or ground level.

We’ve scoured the island as much as we could to give you a list of things you can do based on how gutsy you and whoever you’re traveling with are.

Hike up the Old Volcano Walkway

Difficulty: Easy

This “walkway” zigs and zags up the side of the Old Volcano, and is an exhausting hike even though you’re only walking up the side of a dormant volcano. You’ll need to wear something dri-fit or bring an extra shirt if you’re doing this early into your day around Camiguin. The highlight? The life-size statues depicting the Stations of The Cross.

The Walkway is about 17 minutes from the airport. Environmental fee: Php10 per person.

Snorkel Mantigue for giant clams, sea turtles and table corals

Difficulty: Easy

Dive…
… deep…
… and find Nemo alongside giant clams.

The reefs off the southern shore of Mantigue Island (formerly called Magsaysay) are perfect for anyone who wants to see underwater creatures in their element. You’ll see large table corals and several schools of fish, and if you’re lucky, a sea turtle. There are four giant clams that are at least half a meter wide somewhere within the snorkeling area that’s a quarter the size of the island.

Port to Mantigue Island is 25 minutes from the airport in Mahinog, followed by a 15-minute boat ride to the island.

Zip line over a lagoon

Difficulty: Easy

It’s also next to J&A Fishpen, where you can get a good lunch right after zipping through the air.

It may be another zipline, yes, but the Camiguin Zipline sprawled above the Taguines Lagoon in Mahinog is the only one of its kind on the island. It’s a 45-second ride from their 742-meter-high platform with views of the sea and Taguines Lagoon. You’ll then take a short (10-20 seconds) zipline back to the restaurant—the latter part of the ride will have you glide within five feet of the water’s surface.

Camiguin Zipline is at J&A Fishpen, about 30 minutes from the airport. Fee: Php350 per person.

Hike Binangawan Falls 2

Difficulty: Difficult

This is your reward after a treacherous 45-minute hike.

The trail to Binangawan Falls 2 will take you at least 45 minutes through the side of a mountain. Views will vary as you walk the two-kilometer trail—you’ll get a glimpse of the southern part of Camiguin and Mt. Balatukan in Misamis Oriental, and the tropical forest in Mt. Mambajao. You’ll come across birds endemic to the island if you’re lucky, but your true reward is Binangawan Falls 2, a short waterfalls hidden in the middle of the mountain.

Binangawan Falls is in the town of Sagay, about one hour’s ride from the airport. No entrance fees needed, but an accredited guide is necessary.

Trek hidden but tough Itum

Difficulty: Difficult

One of the recently-discovered trails, the Itum trail is the most difficult yet also the shortest route to the summit of Mt. Hibok Hibok. It’s a steep incline up one side of Mt. Hibok Hibok that’s practically hidden below dense foliage, and is not for the faint of heart. You’ll be challenged with lots of transitions from using two to four limbs both going up the mountain and down to the base camp.

Should you want to take on any of these trails (or any of Camiguin’s other mountains), you’ll have to coordinate with the DENR office in Mambajao and get an official guide.

Call the Camiguin DENR Protected Area Management Office at +6388 387 0040 or reach out to Yvonne at +63905 357 2591 before setting up a climb to Mt. Hibok Hibok and get a list of their accredited guides. Climbs are at Php200 per person, Php50 for students.

Easy dive at White Island

Difficulty: Easy

You can also have your friends set up camp while you’re out snorkeling.
White Island’s waters are so clear they glisten

Vladimir calls this one “relatively easy.” The waters surrounding this Camiguin icon are perfect for underwater photography with easy underwater terrain and a vibrant coral reef. Face the island of Camiguin and you’ll be able to find black corals and sea turtles within the small snorkeling area to your right, along with a view of Mt. Hibok Hibok. Visit after lunch if you want to avoid the crowds.

See Camiguin’s sea walls that can rival Tubbataha

Difficulty: Difficult

Another gem that’s not too close to the mainland, Vladimir likens Jidgup shoal to the Tubbataha Reefs because of its 6-45-meter wall dives. It may not be as teeming with marine life as other dive sites, but the shoal is an excellent dive site for those who want to see eagle rays, schools of drummers, and green sea turtles.

To access any of these dive sites, book a dive with Scuba de Oro at +63917 312 7872 or [email protected]. You can also visit their dive shop at Bahay Bakasyunan, Balbagon, Mambajao, Camiguin. Rates for dives with Scuba de Oro start at Php4,200 per diver for a group of four or more.

Bike around the island

Difficulty: Easy

You can ride up to the PHILVOCS view deck.
… see the old Guiob Church ruins…

This one’s literal. Rent a bike from the resort you’re staying or somewhere in town and go either clockwise or counterclockwise—the island is a perfect round shape. You’ll be back to where you started in an hour, give or take 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how hard you push your two-wheeler. It’s the best way to see the island in all its glory, plus it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than taking public transportation.

… or take a photo of the picturesque sunset at Sunken Cemetery.

An even better—and dare we say, more scenic—option is to ride a mountain bike around the island. There’s a bike shop in downtown Mambajao that will let you borrow their mountain bikes for a small fee. It’s tougher on your legs (at least two and a half hours) to go around the island this way, but it’s less taxing to mother nature.

Rent a bike at Willy’s Bike Shop. Tel: +63 917 712 7477.

Who are our insiders?
For hikes and trails to Mt. Hibok Hibok: Yvonne May Abao-Retes

Yvonne is the community development officer for the DENR in Camiguin. As the point-person for climbs to Mt. Hibok Hibok and Timpoong, she knows these trails about as good as their official guides.

For dives sites in Camiguin: Vladimir Elazegui

Vladimir is a PADI IDC staff instructor and has been teaching scuba since 2007. He is based on Camiguin Island at the Scuba de Oro dive center in Bahay Bakasyunan Resort. Scuba de Oro is on its 11th year producing responsible and able scuba divers. Their utmost goal is to protect this God-given marine resource—the coral reefs—to sustain the life of their ocean.

The basics
Skyjet Airlines flies from Manila to Camiguin five times weekly. You can ride a multicab or a motorela to take you to your resort before renting a motorbike to get around the island. No need to negotiate about fares since they have it posted as you make your way outside the arrival area.

Experience all-in hassle-free tours of Camiguin by booking #DashHolidays
Tel: +63917 840 6853, +639917 627 6179
Solar Century Tower, 100 Tordesillas cor. HV Dela Costa Streets, Salcedo Village, Makati City

Words: Andrew Del Rosario, Photos: Daniel Soriano

Dare to skydive?

Dare to skydive?

If skydiving is on your bucket list, get started by reading this one-on-one talk with skydiving safety and training advisor Brad Vancina.

I started with a tandem skydive. As soon as my feet touched the ground I knew I was going to be a skydiver. That summer, I got my USPA (United States Parachute Association) license. I spent two years at the DZ I started at then was hired for a weekend camera position at Skydive Chicago.

Skydiving is a very physical sport. I take care of myself and have always maintained a good level of fitness. I ride my mountain bike a lot; I run on my treadmill a couple of days a week, and try and eat right. The gear we wear is heavy–24 kilos—plus the weight of our tandem passengers. We also deal with the heat, so drinking heaps of water and core strength are key to longevity in our trade.

If you’re getting into skydiving, don’t take chances. We belong to an organization called the United States Parachute Association where I am a safety and training advisor. We work and operate under a certain perimeter of rules. If you follow the rules and take the time and money to get certified at a USPA DZ, you will be a good and safe skydiver. If you can’t do that, don’t skydive.

To date, I have made over 22,400 jumps. I must have had around 4,500 jumps when I got my Tandem rating. It took me over 17,000 jumps to get my AFFI (freefall instructor) rating.

My dad inspired me to skydive. He wasn’t a skydiver but his love for aviation and flying became my inspiration. I was the kid in the family that marched to my own drum. Flying is nice but skydiving is just next level.

My most memorable jumps was when I was teaching and jumping with my children, and doing tandem jumps with my mom and dad.

We are a family run and operated skydive center that is current in the industry. Our methods are world recognized and our equipment is the best that money can buy. Here, you are training and jumping with professional and USPA-rated tandem and AFF instructors. As far as I know, we are the only professional skydiving center in the Philippines.

We only use the best skydiving gear. All of our tandem equipment are Micro Sigma, made by UPT (USA). We use 330-square-feet Icarus Tandem Canopies from New Zealand, Performance Designs Reserves (USA) and Vigil and Cypress AAD’s (Automatic Activation Devices). If you can’t afford what’s safe and modern both for gear and training, then you should probably take up a different sport.

My wife, Louise (an Ilongga and a surgical ICU nurse from Chicago), and I were already operating our own skydive center south of Chicago when we came to the Philippines. We saw there was nothing of the sort here and started to do the research into how we could make it work. After an email to Capt. Alvin Boyd Loreno, a commercial pilot and flight instructor from Mactan, I found a guy that was interested and understood the need to follow rules if there was going to be professional skydiving in the Philippines.

We all took a chance together and formed Skydive Greater Cebu. Boyd knew the ins and outs of airspace rules here with CAAP and plays an important role in government relations and our aircraft maintenance and safety. We started in Bantayan Island, Cebu in 2013 and it continues to be our flagship operation. That’s where we get our biggest numbers as well as all our USPA AFF certifications and licensing.

Because of how hard it was to travel here in the Philippines, we realized it would be good to open a location South of Cebu. Siquijor was a perfect choice.

My wife and I always had our eye on Palawan but it wasn’t until this year that we decided to do a trial run. We have been open in xx, Palawan but we are shutting down and reopening in November. I feel it will be our best location in two years.

Any USPA Skydive Center that follows the course to a T and has highly experienced instructors is good if you want to learn skydiving. If their instructor has less than 1,000 jumps, he/she has no business teaching someone how to skydive.

Skydiving is a progressive sport. It’s best to go to a progressive DZ to get a license and make your tandem skydive. Make sure their training methods are current and the equipment they use are made within the past six years.

Pick a DZ with instructors that have time to jump with you. Some instructors like to rush to the next student because that’s how they make their money. Pre and post-jump briefings are very important, and you can’t do those while running to the next student.

Skydiving is a pretty competitive industry so the costs are pretty fixed. Most tandem jumps with video are around USD400. AFF levels are usually around USD200 – 250 per level. Once licensed most DZ’s offer slots to altitude for USD25 – 45. If you see a real cheap skydiving center, you should be very concerned and ask a lot of questions.

Being a scuba diver, my wife and family often find ourselves in Malapascua Island, diving with our good friends at DiveLink Cebu. I am excited to open our skydiving center in xx, Palawan in <target date> because the diving and surfing there is awesome and not as crowded.

There are many good restaurants in Bantayan Island, Cebu. You can’t go wrong with most of the sugba-sugba (grilled seafood) places and I can never give a good lechon station a pass. A trip to Cebu is never complete without a bowl of spicy ramen from Hamakaze.

I grew up in the farmlands of Illinois. My dad always supported my love for motocross bikes and BMX vert riding. As I grew up, I raced XC and downhill mountain bikes, all while twisting throttles on motocross bikes.

I still ride mountain bikes a couple of days a week. I found a great group of Filipinos here on Bantayan Island. We ride Enduro Motocross and trail rides from Bogo to Cebu. My greatest passion of all is surfing. It’s the only thing that still scares me.

I like beaches. Where the beach is doesn’t really matter as long as there are nice wave coming in. I’m not too good at just relaxing. One of the best times of my life were the years I spent living in Australia. It was the perfect mix of jumping all day and running to the beach with my board every afternoon.

We are quite happy here in the Philippines. There are a few things that drive me crazy with the way things get done, but for the most part you can’t beat the heart and warmth of the Filipino.ho is Brad Vancina?

Who is Brad Vancina?
Brad is the man behind the only USPA-affiliated skydiving centers in the Philippines: Skydive Greater, which now has two branches—it’s original location in Bantayan Island, Cebu; and Siquijor. Visit Skydivecebu.com

Sweet delicious Pampanga, according Chef Jam

Sweet delicious Pampanga, according Chef Jam

Chef Jam Melchor takes us on a gastronomic journey around the province he’s from, Pampanga, hailed food capital about an hour’s drive north from Manila.

As a full-blooded Kapampangan and chef, there aren’t that many people who can better guide us through Pampanga than Jam Melchor. Pampanga is a big place, but it can be made smaller with the help of Chef Jam. Here are some of his picks.

Where he’d go to eat

“You won’t find the best chefs in Pampanga hanging out in restaurants; they’re found at homes.”

Kabigting’s is that much of a staple that, yes, it has made its way into the city.
  • Kabigting’s Halo-Halo and Cool Spot in Angeles City for halo-halo. Kabigting’s, in particular, uses carabao’s milk and pastillas to make their creamy and milky halo-halo, which he likes.
  • Aling Lucing’s and Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy for sisig. “If you want a sisig that’s moist and has more of a char-grilled texture, go to Aling Lucing’s. For the modern version, go to Mila’s.”

Places to go in Pampanga

If you’re on tour in Pampanga and Chef Jam is leading the pack, these are the places you’ll visit:

A beautiful shot of the Holy Rosary Parish Church, or Pisambang Maragul (Big Church) to locals. Photo by Carmelo Bayarcal
  • Churches. Pampanga has a lot of beautiful and historic churches, so make sure not to miss them.
  • Abe’s Farm for lunch or dinner. Their flavors have been consistent for years.
  • Sisig places like Aling Lucing’s and Mila’s.
  • Gill’s Buko Sherbet & Ice Cream in Angeles City.
  • Atching Lilian Borromeo in Mexico, Pampanga for San Nicholas cookies.
  • Susie’s Cuisine for their tibok-tibok (carabao milk pudding with glutinous rice).

Pasalubong (treats to take back home) from Pampanga

It’s not really a trip to Pampanga without bringing back some grub. Open up some space in your bag and make sure you take at least one of each of these home with you:

It’ll be hard to leave Pampanga without buying a box of this. Or longganisa. Or tocino.
  • Tocino del cielo. It’s a rare and labor-intensive dessert that looks very similar to leche flan. It’s made a whole lot sweeter by taking out the milk and only sticking to butter and simple syrup.
  • Marzipan. A chewy ball of sweetness that’s made from cashew nuts, milk, and eggs.
  • Tocino. There are a lot of recipes using all kinds of meat like pork or even carabao.
  • Longganisa. A trip to Pampanga won’t be complete without taking home a bunch of these local sausages.
  • Buro. A local way of pickling things like mangoes. It’s an acquired taste to love the buro. It goes really well with anything grilled or fried.

Recipe alert! Anting-anting ni Malvar by Kalel Demetrio

Recipe alert! Anting-anting ni Malvar by Kalel Demetrio

Celebrated liquid chef (mixologist) Kalel Demetrio teaches us how to make one of his Batangas-themed concoctions. Read and learn it too.

Dry ice optional. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Anting-anting ni Malvar (Malvar’s amulet) is a drink that represents Batangas with ingredients coming from all over the province. It’s an easy citrusy drink with a tinge of spiciness in it, and we love it.

The ingredients

  • 60 ml dalandan (sour orange) juice
  • 15ml Sampinit lambanog liqueur
  • 45ml Sirena dry gin
  • 5g fresh turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon of Agimat ng badboy (jigsaw pepper honey)
  • A sprig of burnt rosemary
  • 1 drop of herbed saline
  • 20ml rosemary syrup

The procedure

  1. Muddle the fresh turmeric in a tin shaker until the juices are released.
  2. Put in the rest of the ingredients in the shaker and stir.
  3. Add ice, shake, and strain into a glass.

Enjoy!

How to make Camiguin’s famous Pastel pastry

How to make Camiguin’s famous Pastel pastry

We unearthed the secret to making the country-famous pastry—heavenly soft buns with irresistible custard filling only found in the “Island Borne of Fire.”

If there’s one thing you cannot leave Camiguin without, it’s pastel, a local bun filled with melt-in-your-mouth yema (custard) filling, and there’s only one name that’s synonymous with this treat: Vjandep.

Here’s how they make the treat that no one, not even a machine from the Department of Science and Technology, can replicate.

The ingredients (sorry; the measurements cannot be disclosed)

  • Flour
  • eggs
  • milk
  • sugar
  • butter
  • shortening
  • yeast

Fillings may vary, but here’s the list for the original yema filling:

  • Milk
  • egg
  • butter

The process

Mix all the ingredients by hand in a bowl until they come together into a consistency akin to toy slime. Pastel dough isn’t as hard as regular bread dough so stop working it once you reach that consistency.

This is one part of the process that not even machines can replicate.

Break off pieces big enough to fit the palm of your hand and place a spoonful of yema. Wrap the yema within the dough before placing it into a short cylindrical mold. Set the dough aside and let it rise until it doubles in size.

Pastel always tastes the best when you get them (almost) fresh from the oven.

Once the dough has risen, place the mold in a 180-degree heated oven for 10 minutes. Take them out; let them cool for at least two minutes (hot yema is no joke), and chow down!

The basics
Buy pastel for Php165 (USD3.30) a dozen. Vjandep is at 57 Plaridel Street, Mambajao, Camiguin—very close to the airport.

Get there
SkyJet Airlines flies daily to Camiguin except on Wednesday and Thursdays.

Experience all-in hassle-free tours of Camiguin by booking #DashHolidays.
Tel: +63917 840 6853, +639917 627 6179
Solar Century Tower, 100 Tordesillas cor. HV Dela Costa Streets, Salcedo Village, Makati City

Photos: Daniel Soriano

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