Thursday, October 31, 2013

Island Tour

What will I do for a Kitty tankini without you, Ate?
The theme for our Camiguin trip was:  anything goes.  Quite unlike our last trip in HK where my beloved travel agent Lorie booked every single thing for us, this time we were prepared to live a little and go for adventure.  I booked the flight and resort, Ches read up on the land and boat transfers - and we were good to go.

I asked Sabine to arrange for our transpo from Benoni port to the resort, and along the way I chatted up the couple who picked us up, Ate Lita and Kuya Bobong.  They owned a multicab and also worked as tour guides, so we ended up arranging our tours with them as well.  We so lucked out on them.  They're so warm, accommodating, patient, humble - everything good in Pinoy locals.  The two boys have fond memories of singing along with mish-mashed lyrics to "Pusong Bato" as it blared on Kuya Bobong's car radio.   I have fond memories of the lanzones that Ate Lita got for me from her own backyard.  Hahaha.      

The first stop for our island tour was - get a load of this - The Walkway To The Old Volcano and Stations of The Cross.  We had learned our lesson from our Bicol trip, tho, when we climbed Kawa-Kawa Park with all 14 stations of the cross, so this time it was a no go.  We just stopped for a photo op and were done with it.  Hahaha.

Now our next stop was something we were all looking forward to.  The Sunken Cemetery is almost synonymous to Camiguin.  You can't possibly go to Camiguin without visiting it.  I don't even know any other place in the world that has a similar site (and I'm too lazy to Google it up).  The cemetery is, of course, sunken after it was buried underwater as a result of a volcanic eruption in 1871.   The cross is just a marker of where the area used to be.  You can actually still see faint outlines of the tombs underwater.  It's eerie yet beautiful at the same time.    

We took the boat to get to the cross.  What we didn't know was that our boatman Jeffrey was quite the talented photographer.  He was exactly like those photographers in the grounds of Cagsawa Ruins who make all these amazing camera tricks with the aid of nothing but their imagination.  He was even better, actually, bcoz after every picture he said stuff like 'Perfect!' or 'Beautiful!'  in correct English diction.  Winner.

We took endless jump shots against the clear blue sky.  Not very appropriate, I know, considering this was supposed to be a marker for a cemetery.  Hahaha.

And here come the camera tricks.

You're the man, Jeffrey!

I loved the Sunken Cemetery.  Our time there alone was already worth the nearly three-hour road trip and hour-long boat ride all the way from Laguindingan Airport.  (I just found out from Ches that the airport is actually in Misamis and not even in Cagayan de Oro, which is a chartered city.  Knowing [otherwise useless and completely boring] trivia like this = part of the perks of being married to Chestnuts.)  

The Old Church Ruins was nearby.  Like the cemetery, this 16th century church was damaged in the 1871 eruption.  It does not offer anything much other than the walls that remain standing, and the fact that it overlooks the sea.  At least it's clean and well-maintained, however little there is to maintain.

That is something to be said about Camiguin, actually - that it's clean, the tourist spots are well-kept, and the tourism industry as a whole is organized.  They had comprehensive brochures to promote the island, and these contain the going rates for tours, boat rides, transfers, etc.  That's good bcoz then you know you're not being ripped off.  It's not like in Boracay where all these people mob you to offer all sorts of adventures at grossly disparate amounts, so you never really know whether you're getting a good deal.  As a matter of principle, Ches and I don't haggle and tip generously when we travel locally.  There's something not right about nagging the manong banca driver to give another P200 discount off his asking price, when you know that amount will already buy his whole family a decent meal and is barely what you spend for your cup of coffee back in Manila.  (Come on, people!)  But like everyone else, we do not appreciate being taken advantage of.  It's great that Camiguin has a system that minimizes that.            

So anyways.  We were off to another unique feature that only Camiguin seems to offer:  a soda water pool. The water comes from one of Camiguin's many mountains, is clear and cold and supposedly clean enough to drink.  The boys jumped into the pool faster than I could say 'soda'.

I'm scared of cold stuff, so I didn't go into the soda water pool, nor our next stop, which was Sto. Nino Cold Springs. I prefer my bath water scalding hot, thank you.  The boys had a grand time, tho - diving on the part of Yosh, and floating on the part of Boots.  It was great that the Halloween break was apparently not a peak season in Camiguin, and we had the tourist spots mostly to ourselves.  (The weather cooperated, too, bcoz we had perfect clear, blue skies thru-out our trip.  Week before it was raining, and day after our flight back both CDO and Camiguin were under Signal No. 1.  Thank you, Lord.)    

As usual, I pigged out while the boys were doing their stuff.  They have this delicacy called kiping, made of cassava and cooked like a crepe albeit crispy, and lathered generously with chocolate fudge.  Yummy.  We also had lunch in the cold springs bcoz they had paluto-type restos where you can order native chicken and fresh seafoods and have them cooked any way you liked.  We had grilled liempo, fish sinigang, and fried chicken.  So good.  It was the perfect lunch picnic on a hot, sunny day.       

Sto. Rosario Church was my special request to Ate Lita.  It was a bit out of the way but I badly wanted to see it bcoz it was old (built in 1882) and reputedly unique.  'Unique' was an understatement.

It had an unassuming facade like many other unremarkable churches of its era.

But inside it there were driftwoods hanging as chandeliers, an altar made of sawali and brick, bamboo used as posts, and many other wood and stone native elements that are quite simply yet perfectly designed.  The church deserves extra points for looking 100% Pinoy.  Wow.  This has got to be one of the most unique churches in the country, up there with the UP Chapel (bcoz it's perfectly circular) and the church in Binacayan, Cavite with its open altar.

The church also had a vast yard that offers a nice view of the belfry and what looked like a convent at the back.  I didn't go and check bcoz there were monkeys climbing all over the terrace, and I'm not exactly raring to add another monkey bite scar on my nape.

I'm starting a collection of pix of ten commandments
in various dialects/languages.

We also went to the Moro Watch Tower, which is all that remains of a settlement that goes as far back as 1598.  It's behind the Guinsiliban Elementary School, which I love bcoz it's literally old school. Hahaha.

The boys clearly do not enjoy the old churches/ruins part of the tour, but I patiently put up with their soda water pools and cold springs and stuff, so they know better than to complain when it's my turn.

But then pretty soon it was their turn again with the Katibawasan Falls, one of the more famous sites in the island.  What a name, huh?  It's like something made for slut types.  (Kati bawasan - get it?  Hahaha.)

The boys wanted to dive right in again but we didn't let them bcoz the water was too cold.  Deep, too.  The area where the water actually falls is a no-swim zone - too deep and the current too strong.  The whole area was very pretty, tho, and looked unspoiled for the most part. 

Our last stop was Ardent Hot Springs.  Again, what a name.  Ardent = more than hot (or at least that's what I think it means, again ever lazy to Google things up).  The water was not as hot as Panicuason in Naga, nor even Maquinit in Coron, but it was hot enough and it's exactly what you need after a full day touring the island.  The late afternoon sun streaming thru the trees and the white anthuriums lining the walks certainly add to the beauty of the place.  I think part of what makes it among the most popular spots is also the fact that it's right in Mambajao, nearer town than most of the other attractions.  

I love this shot from Ches.

For dinner we tried what is arguably the most famous resto in Camiguin, Luna.  (Is it weird that the most famous resto in a far-flung island in Mindanao serves Italian cuisine, or is it just me?)  Luna deserves all the acclaim, bcoz the stuff here is g-o-o-d.  We had pizza, two kinds of pasta, and fish - and they were all super. A lot cheaper, too, of course, than similar fare in Manila.  Its ambience could use some improvement, tho.  I read that it used to be in an ancestral house near the town.  I'm sure that was a lot better than its current venue that had a somewhat sad and abandoned air.         

Lack of ambience notwithstanding, Luna was a fitting end to a perfect tour of the island of Camiguin.