Sweet experiences and memories are what every traveler, jaded or newbie, seeks in every journey, regardless of the distance or character of the location. One under-the-radar hideaway which won’t disappoint is Camiguin, an island province north of mainland Mindanao, which is a proverbial paradise in a nutshell because of its natural wonders in a compact land.
Not only does it abound the sweet tropical fruit lanzones, but it is also the home of a warm and hospitable populace who will create sweet memories in your brief sojourn.
The idyllic island’s aerial gateway is the capital town of Mambajao which can be reached by air from Manila via Sunlight Air or from Cebu via Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific.
The more adventurous ones can fly to Cagayan de Oro, take a van or bus to Balingoan town and take the ferry boat to Benoni port in Mahinog town, or to fly to Bohol, board a bus for Jagna and board the ship bound for Balbagon port in Mambajao. These two alternatives may be more taxing, but will give you the unequaled thrill of an air, land and sea odyssey, the, and the prospect of staying in another exciting locale.
Last summer, Camiguin launched its new tourism branding dubbed “Isle Be There” which evokes its tropical, upbeat and exotic vibe. The provincial government has also put in place the Clean Camiguin QR code as part of its Smart Tourism digitalization program for a secure and organized travel for visitors.
Jetsetters can bask at the luxe Nouveau Resort in Mahinog, the best in Camiguin, and revel in its amenities, delectable cuisine, manicured landscapes, and sweet-smiling staff. Those who want to travel in style can cruise onboard the Nouveau Magic speedboat which can shuttle you from their private port at Kinoguitan direct to the resort’s jetty. The resort can also arrange all sorts of tourist services for a worry-free stay.
Just around the bend is Taguines Lagoon, a restaurant row with a soothing seaview and an array of watersports such as kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and pedal boating.
The town’s pride is Mantigue Island Nature Park, a marine sanctuary with a gleaming powdery coral sand, and rich marine biodiversity which has made it a haven for scuba diving in this part of Mindanao.
The provincial capital of Mambajao is the hub of recreation and dining outlets, which are a pleasant surprise despite its operational challenges. Among the notable ones are La Dolce Vita which serves arguably the best pizza and pasta in the province, Kape Isla which offers all-time favorites in a repurposed ancestral house, and Haruhay Eco-Beach Tavern which specialize in plant-based gourmet dishes.
A poster image and a must-go is the White Island Sandbar which boasts of its talcum sand, crystaline water and a view of the towering Mount Hibok-Hibok in the background.
After foray into the sun, sea and sand, rinse at the icy natural of Katibawasan Falls whose slim 100-meter drop is a mesmerizing sight. For a waterfalls overload, swing by Tuasan Falls in Sagay on the other side of the mountains.
Alternatively, you can also dip at the warm natural pools of the Ardent Hibok-Hibok Spring Resort for a rejuvenating hydromassage in the bosom of the mountain ranges.
Mambajao is also the lodging hub of Camiguin with quaint boutique resorts, most notably Paras Beach Resort, the native-themed Haruhay Eco-Beach Tavern, and the Bintana sa Paraiso for a mountain-top panorama of the island.
The adjoining municipality of Catarman laid-back is home to the Sunken Cemetery is punctuated by the iconic giant white cross, which was submerged by the 1871 Mt. Vulcan eruption, and whose remnants can be easily seen by snorkeling or freediving. Its deeper portion is also a unique dive site which takes you a surreal underwater necropolis which is now teeming with marine life.
Another must-see is the Old Church Ruins, site of the old town square, which was declared by the National Museum as a National Cultural Treasure a few years back.
Around the vicinity is the Stations of the Cross at the Vulcan Daan (old volcano) which can be ascended through a 1,000-step walkway which can provide a moderate cardio exercise. The 15 life-size tableaus depict the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and is the climax of the Good Friday Panaad sa Camiguin 64-km penitential pilgrimage on foot.
And the best time to visit is this week as the province kicks off the annual Lanzones Festival today and runs until October 28 with a bevy of activities to keep guests occupied and filled with sweet memories that will keep you coming back again and again.