if you must do one thing in Camiguin...

/ 22 March 2015 /

To put it bluntly: get off your butt. J

Sure, you may be looking forward to unwinding in this little piece of paradise. Or, as most tourists do, to hop in a van and go on a road trip around the island, stopping by the usual attractions like the Old Church ruins and the hot and cold and soda springs. Or, as most tourists also do, to beach-bum on White Island or its more ecological sister, Mantigue Island.

But would you really rather be just another tourist when you could see and do and experience so much more? As a born-and-raised Camiguingnon, I commonly get people asking for advice for their planned trip to the island. There are plenty of tips any islander could give you, but here’s my biggest one:

The known tourist spots are a must, of course, especially if it’s your first time visiting. But don’t fall asleep in the van! Open those dull tinted windows and don’t hesitate to get out LOTS of times. Camiguin has plenty of underrated sites and snippets of local culture just a bit off the road, and discovering these makes your trip a hundred times richer.

Take your time to walk around, commute a bit, talk to locals, and match the laidback-but-eager pace of the island. Just. Be. There.

Ready to soak it up? Here are my favorite non-conventional Camiguin spots to visit… and then some.

Mangrove parks

There are several mangrove reservations in Camiguin, and two of the most interesting are the Katunggan Mangrove Park in San Miguel, Mahinog and the Mangrove Walkway in Cantaan, Guinsiliban. Both are local efforts; they ask only a small donation from visitors, and sometimes none at all.

Katunggan Mangrove Park is just by the side of the highway (yes, mangroves grow along the roads in Camiguin!). It features a short wooden boardwalk that runs through a mini-plantation of mangroves, so you get up close and personal with the trees and the marine life just below. The cool shade, the clear air, and the sound of the sea make this site perfect for a quick escape.

Mangrove Walkway in Guinsiliban likewise has a boardwalk through mangroves, but this one isn’t quite a walk through the park: the footpath is 500 meters long, goes through the mangrove plantation, crosses two open areas of water, and climbs a hill. Oh, and it’s made of bamboo poles. On bamboo stilts.

It’s quite daunting at first. Would you trust a three-bamboo bridge to carry your weight across, say, an urchin-laden patch of sea? And if it does, will you manage not to slip?

But if super-clumsy me can make it, so can you! Also take a cue from our guide: she navigated the bridge like Adriana Lima navigates the catwalk, without breaking a sweat. Her tip? Land your foot between the bamboo poles, where you’re more secure from slipping.

And when you get the hang of it, the amazing little journey will be a great reward. Aside from being a mangrove reserve, the park is a protected home for corals, fishes, and – get this – giant clams! The locals themselves make sure that marine life is thriving there, and now you can see those remarkable creatures through the clear water – without having to dive or snorkel. Plus, seeing this side of the island, where green land and blue seas meet, is a unique experience.

Tuasan Falls

Camiguin has several waterfalls, some already developed for visitors and others remaining a well-kept secret. Tuasan Falls is currently somewhere in between.
Years back, the only way to access this small body of water in Mainit, Catarman is to get on a vehicle to climb uphill, then hike through the steep, forested mountain. But as of this writing, there are relatively new roads around the falls itself so practically any vehicle can go all the way there. The paved path still has some steep slopes, but it also provides a perfect view of the famous Tres Marias.

So far, the site is free of modern trappings – no park authority collecting fees, no sari-sari stores, no picnic benches. (I for one hope it stays that way.)

Approaching the falls, you get a sense of discovering something sacred, even if you’ve just stepped off of concrete. The cascade is canopied by trees that also keep the site shaded and the water cool. Just before the water rushes into a brook, there are small pools where you can take a refreshing dip. And all around you, just the sound of water and birdsong…

Lagoon and zipline

The Taguines Lagoon in Benoni, Mahinog is already quite known for its fish pen, where you can catch fresh seafood and have it cooked into the most scrumptious al fresco lunch. But even if you’re not there for the food, you can still enjoy the lovely view of the lagoon – from land or from air.

Traveling on the highway, you’ll identify this site easily because the road is flanked on both sides by water – on one side, the lagoon, and on the other, the sea. How can you resist stopping to breathe it in?

Now take your sightseeing one step further by doing it from way up the air! Camiguin Zipline whooshes you on cables above and across the lake, giving you this incredible feeling of flying. It might be scary at first, but don’t close your eyes! Take in the one-of-a-kind view (and check out that shadow of yourself just gliding across the water like you’re some kind of a superhero J).

Camiguin Zipline is divided into two rides, one 700 meters long and the other 350 meters long. The entire experience is at Php 400 per person. Just inquire at J&A Fishpen if you’re up for the challenge.

Local culture

Finally, and most importantly, do it like islanders do. Chill. Talk to people. Don’t be afraid of a little dirt here and a little sun there. And by the way, we don’t bring plastic forks to beach picnics – eat with your hands!

There are actually a lot of unassuming yet charming places in Camiguin that have become so ingrained in local culture that tourists never notice them. Like the local beaches – perfect for an early-morning (or sunset) swim and completely free:

Or this seaside swing in Benoni, Mahinog:

Or Viola’s Snack Bar, serving the best halo-halo + siopao combo:

Or the Spanish-era ancestral houses that have retained their colonial beauty in the midst of urbanization:

It’s local details like this that give Camiguin a distinct yet homey flavor, a warmth that you can never get in fancy hotel rooms or air-conditioned vehicles. The same thing is true for any other destination: you really have to get out and get on your feet if you want to experience the locale. Otherwise, you’ll just be another tourist passing through.

So don’t fall asleep in the car. Keep your eyes open and your disposition ready for another new experience. J


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