4 days in Camiguin

4 days in Camiguin

Half-Filipina, half-Aussie travel influencer Zowie Palliaer shows us how to navigate the Island Born of Fire, her style

Camiguin, nicknamed the Island Born of Fire, is one of the few places in the country where you can experience all that the Philippines offers without having to leave the municipality. It has challenging mountain trails, powdery white-sand beaches, colorful underwater scenes, delicious food, and amazing people—all within an island that’s smaller than Malta.

Camiguin-based model and travel influencer, Zowie Palliaer, tells us the best route to take to fully experience the adventure-packed island. Here’s her take on spending four days and three nights in this gem North of Mindanao.

Day 1: Explore nearby sights

Her favourite resort in Camiguin: Bintana sa Paraiso. Photo from Zowie Palliaer

Flying into Camiguin, you’ll get in around lunch time. First thing’s first, food! Straight across from the airport is La Dolce Vita, so grab a delicious wood fire pizza before the adventure starts. From there, check into Bintana sa Paraiso Naasag and then continue a few kilometres down the road to the Old Volcano. Transformed into the stations of the cross, it’s about 30 minutes of easy walk to the summit where you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the island.

Or you can swing by the Sunken Cemetery later in the day and get the same colors as this photo. Photo by Carson Moody

Next up, the Sunken Cemetery. Here, you can either take photos from the view deck, ride a boat to the Cross platform for a closer look, or the adventurous type can even snorkel among the marine life and coral that have now taken over the cemetery. Past the Sunken Cemetery lies the Old Spanish Church Ruins. Aside from the cross, this historical site is one of the last standing reminders of the destructive volcanic eruption in 1871, making it an integral part of Camiguin’s history.

Finish the day off at Ardent Hot Springs. These cascading springs are flowing with warm water from the active Mt. Hibok Hibok volcano, so it’s a perfect spot to settle in and relax during the early evening.

Day 2: Swimsuit day!

Zowie’s advice for White Island: GET. HERE. EARLY. Photo from Zowie Palliaer

The early bird catches the worm, or in this case, less brutal sun rays on White Island. Arguably the most visited destination in Camiguin, Zowie recommends heading out there early as the only shade on offer are beach umbrellas for hire. Swim, relax and enjoy the view looking back at Camiguin from this ever-changing sandbar.

Katibawasan Falls. It’s not that far from the White Island boat terminal. Photo by Andrew Del Rosario

Since you started early, there’s plenty of time left for adventure, so make your way to Katibawasan Falls. Found in the middle of dense jungle, the 250-foot waterfall is a sight to behold, and the pool surrounding it provides a refreshing place to swim and take photos.

We can confirm that it is, indeed, close to freezing cold water. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Last stop on the day’s agenda is Sto. Niño Cold Springs. Take a winding road up the mountain in Catarman and you’ll find yourself at the biggest natural spring on the island. The water here verges on freezing, so Zowie suggests jumping in without hesitation. There are picnic sheds around the edge of the pool for you to hang out in when you’re not swimming. Complete the chill time and have fish spa.

Day 3: Adventure time

Switch it up and head to Sagay and Guinsiliban on the other side of the island on day three. Put on your hiking shoes for a trek to the lesser known Binangawan Falls in Sagay. An intermediate climb, the jungle covered path leading to the falls is steep but rewarding once you reach the oasis at the bottom. You’re almost guaranteed to have the place to yourself, so it’s a perfect place to swim and explore this untouched area.

Head back on the road and keep making your way around the island to the Moro Watchtower in Guinsiliban. Located behind the elementary school, this centuries-old tower was used in the Spanish era to guard against Moro attacks from mainland Mindanao.

Travel a further 10 minutes to the Kibila Giant Clam Sanctuary in Cantaan, Guinsiliban. This small stretch of white sand is home to hundreds of giant clams just off shore, part of a breeding program. Snorkel among incredible coral formations, plentiful marine life and get up close and personal with the clams.

Day 4: Bittersweet last day in Camiguin

Here’s a piece of the action beneath the waves off of Mantigue Island. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Cap your Camiguin trip with some of my personal favorite destinations, starting with the gem of Mahinog—Mantigue Island. Accessible by a 10 minute pump boat ride, Mantigue is a marine sanctuary absolutely teeming with underwater life, and you might even spot a turtle or two. The island is shaded by a thick canopy of trees and is home to a small fishing community so be sure to walk around the island and meet the locals. There’splenty of picnic sheds and tables, and there’s a small restaurant where you can order grilled meat and seafood.

One of the many delicacies you can get at J&R Fishpen: local clams raised right at the fishpen. Photo by Daniel Soriano

J&R Fishpen at the lagoon is Zowie’s favorite place to enjoy freshly caught and cooked seafood as well as classic Filipino dishes. With a full belly, you’re ready to make the drive to Tuasan Falls about 45 minutes away in Catarman. Aside from the road leading in, this area has remained practically untouched making it the perfect place to swim and take photos of the beautiful surroundings.

Last but not least is the popular Bura Soda Swimming Pool, a natural spring with carbonated water located down the road from Tuasan Falls. If you’re game to give it a taste, there are taps where you can try this entirely natural, slightly fizzy water.

Get there. SkyJet Airlines flies to Camiguin four times weekly. Island transportation includes motorbikes, multicabs, and motorelas.

Words: Zowie Palliaer

Fishpen to table: J&A Fishpen Resort and Restaurant

Fishpen to table: J&A Fishpen Resort and Restaurant

It’s the seafood place in Camiguin, an institution that should be in your Camiguin itinerary.

As an island province, Camiguin will always bring in the freshest of catches from the sea. While most restaurants can serve you good seafood, there is a place in Camiguin that even locals from the other side of the island would flock to: J&A Fishpen Resort and Restaurant.

There’s the “traditional” seafood resto look.

It’s one of those places we like to call an institution, i.e. something that’s consistently been there since time immemorial. In the case of J&A, they’ve always been the go-to for the best-cooked seafood on the island. Of course, it helps that they’re sitting on the surface of the Taguines lagoon, with some of the island’s best clams ready for the taking.

And then, there’s this: a couple of over-water “cottages” with panoramic views of Taguines Lagoon.

The views you’ll get while you eat are both relaxing and amazing. You’ll feel like you’re on a big boat out in the middle of the sea. It also doesn’t feel bad to have access to the island’s first zip line to date.

Food

Their signature catch: fresh lapis or shellfish, cultured right in the lagoon. This one is adobo, but it can go in a sinigang or tinola.
It’s simple, yes, but fried malasugue (a local fish) tastes better because of how fresh it is.
Also, nothing says fresh quite like fresh kinilaw made with malasugue.

This is clearly where J&A Fishpen shines. Sitting on a lagoon that’s full of lapis (a clam cultured right in the lagoon) and being able to get the freshest catch from the sea, their seafood is on a different level. They’ve got live fish pens to get their fish as fresh as possible. Make sure you try out their “Catch a Fish, Will Cook It Free” promo.

Drink

If simple drinks don’t soothe your thirst, there’s always this: a palayok full of sinigang na malasugue.
They also make a mean sisig, which surprisingly goes well with fresh coconut juice or coconut shake.

Drinks at J&A are quite simple. They have a selection of fruit juices that are either fresh or those in cans, shakes, and beer. Fresh coconuts are the way to go, though, since it adds to the whole fresh-from-the-sea vibe.

The basics
Php800 (USD16) for two people
Taguines Lagoon, Benoni, Mahinog, Camiguin

SkyJet Airlines has direct flights from Manila to Camiguin 5 times weekly.

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

Dashing Spot: Mantigue Island

Dashing Spot: Mantigue Island

There’s more to Camiguin than its famous sandbar. Case in point: Mantigue Island.

Mantigue Island's white sand beach with a view of the mountains of Camiguin
It’s a marine sanctuary with a white sand beach. What more can you ask for? Photo by Daniel Soriano

When people hear Camiguin, the image that first pops out is usually that of White Island. The popular sandbar has always been one of its major tourist draws, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one.

In fact, there’s this four-hectare island off the coast of Mahinog that gives you the same white sand beach experience coupled with more things to do: Mantigue Island.

Mantigue has a bit more cover than White Island—thanks to the small beach huts on the southern part of the island. There’s coverage in the form of mangroves along its shores as well as vegetation in the middle part of the island, where you can find a restaurant, which doubles as the island’s tourism office. The waters surrounding Mantigue has been declared a marine sanctuary, making it perfect for snorkeling or diving. There’s also a small fishing community on the northern part of the island.

How to get there

SkyJet Airlines offers direct flights to Camiguin five times weekly. We suggest renting a motorbike (Php500 or about USD10 per day) and driving to get to Brgy. San Roque in Mahinog, which should take around 30 minutes. In San Roque, board a motorboat (Php600/boat, maximum of six people) to the island, where you can stay for four hours maximum. If you stay longer will set you back Php75 per hour per boat.

Things to do

There are a couple of things you can do in Mantigue Island, even if you’re only limited to for-hour stays.

Mantigue Island fees as of May 2019.
  • Stand-up paddle board
  • Diving
  • Glass boat rides
  • Kayaking
  • Beach bumming for the Gram
  • Talk to the island locals, and (maybe) buy fish from them (fresh or sundried)

Camiguin’s best kept secret: Peninsular Kape Art

Camiguin’s best kept secret: Peninsular Kape Art

Camiguin has a gem of a restaurant at its helm serving delicious Spanish cuisine.

Good food at island destinations usually means a visit to someone’s home or a quick trip to the public market, where small eateries usually reside. Visiting Camiguin will almost tempt you to do this—until you actually explore the area around where most of their resorts reside.

Tucked away among the homestays, apartelles, and resorts of the closest beach to White Island is Peninsular Kape Art, a quaint restaurant that not only serves great coffee but also acts as a place where most foreigners, especially Spaniards, flock in.

It feels like home. It’s all wood, and has that vibe of a Spanish villa.

The all-wood interiors give off a vibe unlike any you’ve seen in Camiguin, apart from the ultra-high-end Bahay Bakasyunan. You’ve got a near-perfect view of White Island with tables set-up so you can enjoy your meal alongside the sounds and smells of the sea.

Food

Their Seafood Paella is to die for, and is as close to authentic as you can get in Camiguin.
The Gambas ajillo is simple enough: shrimp, garlic, and olive oil. Do it right and it will be a good start to your night.
This is Laura, the woman behind all that is good at Peninsular Kape Art.

The lady in the kitchen, Laura, is a Spaniard, and she whips up some of the best grub on the island. Make sure you get the Arroz Negra or the Seafood Paella. It’ll blow your socks off. Can’t decide on your tapas? Go for their sampler plate!

Drinks

These imported cold cuts go well with beer… or a red sangria. Or both.
Make sure you ask for at least ONE of these after your meal (from left to right): brownie with ice cream, frozen cheese cake, mango float. They’re all so good!

Another thing that sets this place apart from other restaurants in the area is their extensive drinks menu. They serve a mean pitcher of sangria made with fruits that are in season. Don’t forget to ask for craft beers from Cebruery if you’re in the more for more booze.

The basics
Php800 (USD16) per person
Rocky Village, Yumbing, Mambajao, Camiguin
Tel: +63977 855 2050
Facebook.com/PeninsularKapeArt

SkyJet Airlines offers direct flights to Camiguin 5 times weekly.

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 De Rosario Photos: Daniel Soriano

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