I have traveled to other places before but my trip to Camiguin last weekend was special. It was my first real close-up encounter with Mindanao. Clueless about what to expect, I researched and planned to maximize the time and expense, both limited in my case.
Harbouring from my own experience, I have made a checklist for budget travellers who wish to maximize their visit to the island.
ENJOY THE BLACK-SAND BEACH just as much as its fairer counterpart. The beaches in mainland Camiguin are generally dark because of the island’s volcanic origin. While others may frown at it, I loved it because it felt so unpretentious and so rebellious to the white-sand beach supremacy. This white-sand beach-obsession has undervalued black-sand beaches in the country which, in my opinion, have an organic, non-conformist appeal.
SNORKEL AT THE SUNKEN CEMETERY. It has more than just the giant cross and historical value to offer. Concealed by the sea are 26 hectares of marine sanctuary, teeming with corals, fishes and other marine life forms of different colors, shapes and sizes.
SAY YES TO CHILD PHOTOGRAPHERS who are part-time candle vendors at the Old Church Ruins. They are familiar with the best angles of the ruins and the choicest spots to pose at. This is useful for those who are in a hurry. However, make sure your camera settings are correctly adjusted. Also, remember to check the photos before leaving to avoid taking home pictures of poor quality. And, of course, give the children their tip for the service.
BE READY TO GET HOT AND COLD during the island package tour. The itinerary usually includes icy cold springs and waterfalls, beaches and hot springs which will literally subject you to “extreme” temperatures. We chose to skip soda water pools and to only eat lunch at Sto. Niño Cold Spring to save more time but do not do the same in Katibawasan Falls. It is both strikingly beautiful and cold, it’s torturous!
COMMUTE around Camiguin. ‘Relas, short for motorelas or tricycles, and jeepneys will allow you to save bucks. Take an eastward ‘rela [Note: This is if you’re on the western side of Mambajao like Brgy. Agoho. Don’t be confused by the “West Bound” signage of the ‘rela. These orange “West Bound” ‘relas ply east/west of the western side of the town.] to downtown Mambajao then a jeepney ride to Benoni Port on your way to Mantigue Island. It costs P10 and P20 each ride, respectively. Both rides take 30-45 minutes. The more accessible ¬habal-habal is pricier. One offered us P150 for two people for the way which is twice more expensive.
SKIP THE RESTOS to save money for pasalubong. You will not miss much, anyway. Price range per dish in the restaurants we came across is Php 150-300. Carenderia dish, meanwhile, only costs Php 25-30 per serving. Out of our food budget savings, we were able to buy four and a half dozens of Pastel (yema-filled buns) for a sum of Php 635.Other Camiguin treats you should consider sampling are chicharong nukos (squid crackling) and kiping (large fried taro flour chips with muscovado syrup) for Php 20 and Php 5 per serving, respectively.While my visit to Camiguin was truly enjoyable and generally smooth, there are a few things I wish I had considered and had actually done if only I had the money and time (which I hope you would also have, haha!).
INVEST IN GOOD SNORKELLING GEARS. While a set may be pricey, it can be used in almost all island adventures. Take note, we have 7,107 islands to choose from in the Philippines alone! Rentals, on the other hand, cost Php 50 to 150 per set. Buying your own set is not only budget-friendly but also sanitary. Imagine all the mouths those snorkelling sets went through!
CLIMB MT. HIBOK-HIBOK if you have the time. The climb and descent take around seven hours according to our guide. Permits from the DENR also need to be secured beforehand. Camping for a night is also allowed. This means that an additional day has to be spent for the experience. This active volcano is responsible for the warm temperature of Ardent hot spring. Also, its thick forest cover is just inviting.
I hope this checklist helps. Enjoy Camiguin!by