“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
Day 2 of our Mindanao road trip spelled Camiguin, the island born of fire. It is an island off the coast of Misamis Oriental, said to be home to about seven volcanoes.
At 6 am, we departed CdO for Balingoan, the port closest to Camiguin where hourly ferry departures are scheduled.
The road to Balingoan, though long, was smooth and scenic. I never expected that Misamis Oriental was that progressive. Giant factories were scattered along the highway, interspersed with commercial establishments, public parks and government buildings. Native houses and fruit stands dotted the wide road. Though progressive, the province never felt too dense – the air was clean and so was the environment.
Though we arrived fifteen minutes prior to 8 am, and while the boat was still docked, we weren’t allowed to board it anymore. I had no idea why. We had to take the next scheduled trip which was 10:30 am. We had little choice but to take it. The “hourly” departure wasn’t in place that day – two of the boats were said to be inspected by the Marina. My heart sank while we watched the ferry move little by little towards the horizon.
10:30 came and we still had no ferry. A few minutes later, a representative of the shipping company informed us that the ferry was ten minutes out – just a little patience was required of us. After the grace period, our ferry was still out of sight. Passengers of a different ferry began boarding theirs, and we were restless. My brother and I checked the sea again, and though we could see our ferry, we knew it wasn’t docking in the next couple of minutes.
By then, a lot of passengers already headed to the ticketing office to get their money back. I was one of them. Meanwhile, my brother got us tickets to the other ferry as I waited for my refund. Luckily, we were able to board the 11:00 ferry from the other company.
However, that didn’t mean that we’d be departing then. I am not familiar with maritime practices but I found it strange that incoming ferries were prioritized before departing ones, even if the dock is so small that a boat had to wedge between two ferries and the boats keep hitting each other! Manual labor was needed to place rubber at the points where the ships would hit each other. Why not let one ferry leave so as to make space for the incoming vessels? We watched this spectacle, along with kids jumping from the boat to get coins tossed by passengers, and found ourselves 30 minutes more delayed.
It was past 11:30 by the time we headed for Benoni port in Camiguin. Finally, we were on our way to paradise!
We were met by someone holding a placard where my name was written, and informed us to be back at the port by 4 pm, to assure ourselves of a ride back home, since shipping companies often cancel the last trip at 5 pm when there are only a few passengers. He undertook the task of reserving us seats for the ferry, from which he expects a tip (I didn’t want to torture myself in dealing with the ferry anymore). He then led us to Mang Boy, the driver I contacted to bring us around the province.
The island is small enough to be navigated just in day – in fact, that was what Mang Boy planned to do, until our terrible ferry experience. Since we only had a few hours left in our day tour, we just prioritized the places we wanted to see, and soon made our way on the scenic highway along the coast.
On our right was the sea, with waves crashing against the mighty land. I particularly loved the spot where we were going downhill, high enough to see an overlooking view on where the land and water meet. Trees sprawled across the land, and the soil looked so fertile. Cleanliness swept throughout the province – not a piece of trash could be seen anywhere.
Soon, we arrived in the town of Mambajao, the province’s capital. Here was the home of pastel, a bread with a custard filling. Beware: it’s really sweet, but its creamy goodness makes the extra calories all worth it. We quickly departed, hastily making our way to the Sunken Cemetery.
Camiguin is home to a number of volcanoes, and when one of them (now called the Old Volcano) erupted, it brought the town under the sea. A cross now stands in the middle of the water to serve as a new memorial to those who were buried there.
Next, we set off for the White Island. While we were falling so short of time, I badly wanted to see this place. White island is a sandbar in the middle of the sea. We had to take a seven-minute boat ride to reach it, but it proved to be one of the best decisions I made on this trip. Upon reaching the sand bar, you would see the clearest waters. You get off the boat and feel the powdery white sand against your feet. Then, you turn around and gaze at the panoramic view of Camiguin, seeing Mt. Hibok-Hibok and the Old Volcano at the same time.
We were able to spare a few minutes to talk with the life guard on duty that day. He informed us that we were lucky to see the sand bar at that point since it took on an E shape – usually, it’s just a C or an I. Lucky us, though we wished we had more time to spend here. The waters were calling me to take a dip, or to snorkel and see its reefs. The life guard also informed us that apparently, the ferry situation in Balingoan has been like that – few passengers meant canceling the ferry altogether. I couldn’t help but sigh at the thought of being robbed of the chance to spend quality sightseeing here. We thanked the life guard, and made our way back to the shore.
My father asked me if we could still make it to our next stop, and though we thought we couldn’t anymore, Mang Boy insisted that we do. Ardent Hot Spring was our final stop for the day. The hot springs truly didn’t disappoint. The water soothed my tired skin, and it was very relaxing to dip in the pool. It was unfortunate that we had very little time to relax here, but I was glad to have made it anyway. We left the landscaped gardens and headed back to the wharf.
Here’s a summary of expenses if you plan to spend a day in Camiguin:
Until next time…happy travels! 😀