24 hours in Camiguin

24 hours in Camiguin

Heading to this Mindanaoan island province and exploring it stat is now possible with SkyJet’s direct Manila to Camiguin flights.

Commanding Mt Hibok-Hibok at the backdrop of White Island sandbar in Camiguin is pure WOW. By Jj Alvarico

The buzz is true. If before you spend a whole day to get to Camiguin off Mindanao, blessed with white sandy beaches and marvelous diving, now it’s a mere over-an-hour’s flight—made possible with SkyJet Airlines’ launch of direct Manila to Camiguin flights on May 6, 2019.

Colleagues can now take a quick escape Camiguin. SkyJet’s flight time from Manila to the province island’s practically the same as when you drive down south to Tagaytay

And so we’ve surmised we’ve found for you your new Tagaytay, where you can escape the urban jungle on a Saturday, and be back the next day in time for you to get your @$s ready for work on Monday. Not that you cannot stay for three or so days.

Here’s a guide to enjoying the “Island Borne Off Fire” in 24 hours.

Day 1, 9:40am

Fly SkyJet Airlines from Manila to Camiguin. Take off from the Manila International Airport Terminal 4 at 9:40am. You’ll touch down at Camiguin Airport at about 11am. SkyJet flies directly from Manila to Camiguin five times daily except on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

12 noon

Grab lunch at the institution located right across the airport: La Dolce Vita, an authentic Italian restaurant, which has been around for over a decade. Its brick oven churns out delectable pizzas; and here you can have wonderful traditional carbonara. After lunch, linger for a cup of cappuccino.

2pm


Check-in at your hotel of choice. If you’re a group of friends or a small family with kids in tow looking for for-sharing villas or an apartment-style place for the night, you won’t go wrong with Paraiso Resort & Apartelle. It checks all the basics. Clean; with kitchen where you can shop and cook and dine in if you feel like staying in; has a waterpark for some night swimming; and features an open air restaurant-bar open until 11pm—handy to those who come looking for a night cap. Best of all, it’s centrally located—five minutes’ ride from the airport, and it’s jump off point to Camiguin’s many unique attractions.
Top tier option, fronting White Island: Paras Beach Resort.

3pm

Smother your skin with sunblock and get things rolling. First stop is White Island, a pristine permanently-exposed sandbar that’s as gorgeous in person as it is on anyone’s IG feed. It’s serpentine shape changes depending on the tide, but this is not why it’s amazing. Its claim to fame are its shallow waters that are so clear they glisten in the sunlight, and the picturesque Mt Hibok-Hibok as its backdrop. I say make this your first stop because once you wade into the water, you’d surely stay for a while.
Get there. A 10-minute habal-halab (local motorcycle) ride from the airport to Yumbing jetty where there are boats that will take you across to the sandbar in less than five minutes.

4pm


Eleven minutes’ ride and you’re at the view deck of the Old Volcano, officially, Mt. Vulcan. The massive land form’s nickname does not literally translate for it’s more like an offspring of Mt Hibok-Hibok, says our tour guide. There’s probably nothing significant in the stop—but I had my photo taken anyhow—until you actually hike up the steps of the walkway. As your heart pound, and your knees weaken, you get awestruck by white life-size figures depicting the Stations of the Cross.

After a few snaps, a short ride will lead you to the Old Spanish Church Ruins. What’s left of the church is nothing but walls enveloping the ground, and old trees creating a canopy. The Guiob Church was built in the 16th century and over a hundred years later a massive earthquake cueing Mt. Vulcan’s eruption shook the island and knocked the sanctuary down. It makes for a pleasant stop for Catholic devotees who can light a candle and say a prayer.

5pm

The Sunken Cemetery is another casualty of Mt. Vulcan’s eruption in the 1870s but it has ironically turned into a remarkable Camiguin landmark, luring travelers from all over the globe to catch sight of it. It’s best viewed at sunset—and while there’s that feeling of loneliness crossing over eeriness when you visit especially at this time of the day—it will be a shame to leave the island without having set foot at the place. Small boats can take you to the giant cross and hang out for a while at its deck. The more adventurous take the plunge to see the gravestones underwater up close.

5:30pm


Ardent Hot Springs’ warm waters are the perfect ender to a long day out in the sun what with its tiers of 35- and 40-degree Celcius waters. The four cascades filled with naturally heated waters are a balm to sore muscles, and a calming way to cap your active day.

Day 2, 8am

Breakfasts are simple a la carte meals at Paraiso Resort. A must are local fruits for they’re typically sweet, and if the ber months have commenced, never miss out on the lanzones, cluster of small yellow fruits with juicy translucent meat on the inside. The best kind of lanzones grows in Camiguin. In October, the streets of the main highway get filled with peddlers selling the tropical fruit.  

Once your bags are packed and you’re ready to go, stop by Vjandep Bakeshop on Plaridel Street en route to the airport to buy Camiguin’s coveted pasalubong: Vjandep’s Pastel, a brand of locally made buns filled with yema (sweet soft custard). Any which way you eat it—as a snack or dessert—will make you forget you have a plane to catch. If you miss the stopover, the airport has a stall selling these goodies. Only the bakery though sells different flavored Pastels.

9am


Check-in at Camiguin Airport, in time for SkyJet’s 11am flight bound for Manila.

The basics

Book direct flights between Manila and Camiguin five times weekly with Skyjet Airlines (SkyJetAirlines.com).

Words & photos by Monica De Leon

4 days in wreck wonderland

4 days in wreck wonderland

Explore sunken ships—the ugly beautiful allure of Coron, Palawan.

Coron, Palawan, the wreck diving capital of the Philippines, is known for its 13 World War II Japanese shipwrecks all lying within depth enough for them to be explorable by underwater addicts—the divers— from the Teru Kaze at a minimum depth of 4m, to the Irako with a maximum depth of 42m.

These wrecks offer great views from the outside and excellent routes on the inside for experienced divers and those with the right certification levels. Most of Coron’s dive operators in town, including our own Reggae Dive Center, typically offers three daily dives.

If you only have a few days in town, try this itinerary.

Day 1

Swimming in Barracuda Lake.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Start your diving holiday with some shallower check out dive in Barracuda Lake, known for its thermoclines and temperatures reaching 39 degrees Celcius—a perfect warm-up for a stunning dive on the Morazan Maru, which offers great diving both for experienced and entry-level divers.

Morazan Maru was originally built in 1905 in England but was sunk in September 1944 along with the other wrecks. She has since turned into a home of an abundance of species like lionfish and giant trevallies—and sometimes even turtles.

The beginner-friendly (and eerie) Teru Kaze.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Cap off your day with a shallow dive at Teru Kaze located a stone’s throw away from the Morazan Maru, for some reef and wreck diving. This wreck is good for snorkeling as the shallowest part is only 4m below the surface. On most days, Teru Kaze will offer good views from below as well as from above the surface.

You’ll be back in Coron later in the afternoon with ample time to climb Mount Tapyas for a view of beautiful sunsets and of Coron Island. Enjoy a refreshing fruit shake or a cold beer at the newly opened Tapas Lounge before you continue further down the hill and out into town.

End your day by stopping at Coron’s many bars and restaurants. You can have the bistek and menudo at Lolo Nonoy’s or vegan pesto pasta and veggie sticks at Le Voyage. For something off-track, walk off the main street and venture into Coron’s side streets with its eateries and restaurants catering to all tastes.

Day 2

Experienced and certified divers can upgrade their depth limits with dives to the Akitsushima.

The Akatsushima.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

This wreck’s location between 23 and 35 meters under the sea makes it not suitable for entry level divers but it remains to be one of the most popular dives in the area as it’s the only wreck left with its guns mostly intact. The guns are dislodged from the gun turrets and are currently standing upright on the seabed next to the wreck, with three barrels raised toward to surface.

It’s a just-barely-doable for entry-level divers: the Okikawa Maru.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

After spending some time on the surface, have your second dive at the Okikawa Maru, an oil tanker that holds the distinction as Coron’s longest and widest shipwreck at 160 meters in length and a 20-meter span across the beam. Her shallower part lies above the depth limit for entry level divers.

This wreck is located in a passage that from time to time creates strong currents. Due to the relatively shallow depth and the current, the Okikawa Maru teems with marine life—groupers, snappers, crocodile fish, triggerfish, and more. Those with keen eyes will find this wreck good for macro diving.

Cap your day’s dive series at Lusong Gunboat, one of the last unidentified wrecks in Coron. The Gunboat took direct hits and had its wreckage spread over a wide area, though the hull is generally intact. As with the Teru Kaze, this gunboat was also sunk in very shallow water—so shallow in fact that this wreck pokes out of the water at low tide.

The Lusong Gunboat is perfect for all levels of divers—from those getting into scuba diving, experienced divers who want to chill a bit after some great dives, and macro enthusiasts.

End your day with a dip at Maquinit Hot Springs with its natural saltwater springs, or a full Italian meal at Altrove.

Day 3

This day will be your last diving day in Coron since divers are advised not to fly within 18 hours of going underwater. Finish off in style at the Irako, Coron’s deepest and darkest shipwreck.

The beauty of the Irako outweighs the risks for experienced divers.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Irako was a refrigerator ship in the Japanese Navy. She has tight compartments and storage rooms, and her starting depth of 30 meters means only the most experienced of divers dare to take her on. Currents can change in a heartbeat and visibility ranges from a few meters on a bad day to magnificent ideal months. Her upright position with masts still poised makes it easy to see why she has become part of many divers coming to Coron’s bucket lists.

The eerie compartments of the Kogyo Maru makes for one daring dive.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Another deep dive is on the cards for your last dive day: the Kogyo Maru, an auxiliary construction supply ship, which went down with her load. One can still see the toppled construction machines in her cargo holds, with belt tracks and hundreds upon hundreds of bags of cement. Like the Morazan Maru, this wreck is widely covered in corals and marine life, from schools of seabreams to circling big-eye trevallies, to huge numbers of scads and fusiliers.

Make a final dive in one of Coron’s reefs or one of the shallower wrecks to make this trip one for the books.

Head back town for some tasty ramen and a cold beverage at Buzz. You can also visit Tita Esh for a more low-key vibe and some filling pansit canton or a heart-warming bowl of mami.

Day 4

It’s island hopping day! Make sure not to leave Coron without taking a trip to Coron Island. Rent a private boat with a tour guide or book a tour through an operator.

Kayangan Lake, but not from the usual viewpoint. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Coron Island offers a lot of white sand beaches and clear waters, with lunch that’s served in one of the small huts they have set up for the same purpose on the beaches. Do not miss out on Kayangan Lake or Twin Lagoon; go snorkeling in Siete Pecados or Twin Peaks.

A stand-up (or in this case, sit-down) paddle boat is a good way of exploring Coron’s neighboring islands. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Rent a kayak or a standup paddleboard in town if you’re feeling edgy before leaving and explore the island as you paddle along. This is a great opportunity to experience the beauty of the island in a very eco-friendly way.

Relax and enjoy the evening with a good view and a cold gin and tonic from either the View Deck or Suites 4:13 before heading out for dinner and summoning a good night sleep.

Who is Lisbeth Jensen?
Lisbeth is an instructor at Reggae Dive Center in Coron for over four years now. She is passionate about the environment and has used her work to participate in conservation efforts in Busuanga.

The Basics
Get there. Skyjet Airlines flies from Manila to Coron three times daily. Flyskyjetair.com

Dive tours. Reggae Dive Center offers fun dives to Coron’s many shipwrecks as well as PADI dive courses.
Mobile: +63928 835 5657, +63906 316 1454
Reggaedivecenter.com

Head to Freediving Coron if you want to enjoy these same dive spots without the need for heavy scuba gear.
Mobile: + 63915 172 6809
Freediving-coron.com

Words: Lisbeth Jensen; Photos: Catalin Craciun & Daniel Soriano
Featured photo by Catalin Craciun

Dashing Spot: White Island, Camiguin

Dashing Spot: White Island, Camiguin

It’s white, it’s fine, and it’s oh so far away.

Arguably one of Camiguin’s most popular attractions, White Island boasts of fine white sand beaches as far as your eye can see. Photo by JJ Alvarico

If you think you’ve seen the whitest of sands a Philippine beach has to ofer, wait until you set foot on Medan Island, more popularly known as White Island in Camiguin.

White Island, a 10-minute motorbike ride from the northern coast of the island province, is postcard perfect— with blindingly white sand that strikes a stark contrast against crystal clear waters that reflect the blueness of the skies. It will be hard not to be taken aback by Mt. Hibok-Hibok’s commanding presence in its backdrop.

But the main charm of White Island is its changing shape, which depends on the tide. So sometimes you see a serpentine shape, other times, the crescent of a usual beach, and who knows what else at another time.

Magical, isn’t it? 

Get there

SkyJet Airlines launches its direct Manila to Camiguin flights on May 6, 2019. Tickets are now on sale. Flights are on daily except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Unique Holy Week holidays for 2019

Unique Holy Week holidays for 2019

Make your Holy Week vacation more interesting by actually engaging in Holy Week activities. *wink wink*

Going on a social media purge as your penitensya (penance) or beach bumming in places like Boracay or Palawan for the Semana Santa is well and good, but don’t you ever get tired of the same trend every single year? Why not go on a simple summer holiday where you can enjoy your vacation AND still experience something relevant to Holy Week festivities? We have rounded up ideas for your Semana Santa escape.

Barotac Viejo, Iloilo

Iloilo isn’t the first place that pops into people’s heads when it comes to answering the question “Where should I be this Holy Week?” It’s not as popular a destination especially that crowd favorite Boracay is merely on the northwest part of the island. But the sleep town of Barotac Viejo may just give you something new.

The little town is known for having a community that is takes their Holy Week seriously by mimicking the Passion of Christ. The townspeople themselves have been performing the Passion play, with “passion” Hiligaynon every Good Friday for almost half a century in their annual Taltal sa Barotac Viejoand it’s a delight to watch.

Places to see: Bucas Grande, Old Iloilo City, Miagao Church, River Esplanande, “Little Baguio” (Bucari)
Things to do: Party at Smallville, Walk along Iloilo River Esplanande, Island hopping at Concepcion

Bantayan Island, Cebu

Bantayan Island
This small island north of Cebu isn’t just a hit for its white sand beaches; it’s also a good place to be if you want to see lifesize replicas of religious images this Holy Week. Photo by Roderick Eime

It’s an island north of the Cebu mainland that’s become popular for its stretches of fine-sand beaches that is expected to see an influx of tourists this Holy Week. What people shouldn’t miss while in the island paradise is the annual Pasko sa Kasakit, a simple celebration of the stations of the cross, but with a twist where the images in the Station of the Cross are supersized and paraded around.

Places to see: Alice Beach, Camp Sawi, Kota Beach (all in Santa Fe), Malapascua Island, Virgin Island, Hilantagaan Island, Kota Park
Things to do: Biking, snorkel, freedive/scuba, beach bumming, tour the town of Bantayan for heritage houses

Siquijor

This island is starting to blow up more for the views you’ll get than what happens here during Semana Santa.

Siquijor, known across the country as a home to witchcraft and mysticism, but locals have since shed that image and now proudly celebrate their folk healing expertise with the annual Folk Healing Festival, taking place during the last few days of Holy Week. Get yourself treated by local healers or witness how they make various concoctions with the promise of curing almost anything you can think of—yes, including heartaches.

Places to see: Century-old balete tree, Salagdoong Beach, Paliton Beach, Kagusuan Beach (extremely hidden, possible that not even the locals know about it)
Things to do: Go around the island on a scooter, visit a ranch, hit the island’s peaks on a mountain bike, snorkeling, beach hopping

Marinduque

If there’s a Holy Week destination that’s never left off any list, it’s Marinduque. Known as the geographical heart of the Philippines, it’s basically an island that’s made itself known for a festival that celebrates a Roman soldier who became a believer in Jesus Christ: the Moriones Festival.

Moriones Festival
He’s not really angry, but he is the first thing you’ll see when you look up information on the Moriones Festival, the tale of a Roman soldier who became a believer in Jesus Christ. Photo by Richard Reynoso for travelingmorion.com.

Most of you will know what this festival centers on commemorating Roman soldier Longinus, who stabs Jesus on the side, witnesses His resurrection, tells the Romans about it, and (gruesomely) gets his head chopped off. This part is often depicted in their version of The Passion play, which talks about Christ’s last moments before He eventually passes on.

Places to see: Tres Reyes islands, Mt. Mataas, Boac, Palad Sandbar, Ungab Rock Formations, Bathala Python Cave
Things to do: Visita Iglesia, Beach hopping

Pampanga

It’s the piece de resistance of a list of Holy Week destinations, and something that’s also been a source of controversy as to whether or not it should be considered a tourist attraction. We’re talking, of course, about the Maleldo Festival in San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga.

struck
Yes. This is a very REAL crucifixion. In San Pedro Cutud. And it happens nearly every year. Photo by istolethetv on Flickr.

The Maleldo Festival is the full (and very real) re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion. Yes, it’s the whole 10 miles: the garb, the Crown of Thorns, crying depiction of Mary Magdalene, people marching on the streets whacking their backs with things that make them bleed, and someone actually getting nailed to a cross that they’ve been carrying for several miles.

Places to see: Mt. Pinatubo, Subic Bay, Sandbox at Porac, El Kabayo, Skyranch Pampanga, Nayong Pilipino
Things to do: go on a food trip, adventure activities, Visita Iglesia

Poblacion, Makati

Yes, you read that right. It’s an option for those who don’t want to go out of the city yet still want to witness something that only happens once a year. The citizens of Makati, particularly those who live in the restaurant-and-bar hub that is Poblacion, stage a parade commemorating Lent.

They hold a grand procession every Holy Wednesday (closed roads, of course) and put up booths with life-size depictions of The Passion of Christ. Another plus: some establishments stay open even during Holy Week!

Places to see: Sts. Peter and Paul Parish (one of the oldest churches in the country), Circuit Makati (but hold off on that after Holy Wednesday), art galleries in Poblacion
Things to do: staycation at one of the many hotels in the area, food trip, pub crawl

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