Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hibok-Hibok Volcano

At 1,330 meters, Hibok-Hibok is the most active of seven volcanoes on the island. Between 1948 and 1951. it smoked and rumbled continually.

There was a minor eruption in 1948 and again in 1949, when 79 individuals perished in landslides. Then in 1951, it erupted without warning, issuing steaming hot gases and absorbing huge amounts of oxygen from the air, so that people were asphyxiated. The death toll was over 2,000, many of whom were found as though asleep.

Lava covered nearly 10 square km behind Mambajao, devastating many villages. You can see these lava flows from the road between Mambajao and Yumbing. The island's population had been 69,000 in 1951, but over 30,000 left Camiguin following the eruption.

Camiguin is a volcanic island (229 square km) situated in the Mindanao Sea, about seven km from the mainland. The rugged, hilly terrain is dominated by seven volcanoes. The island has been devastated by eruptions, such as those of Vulcan Daan ("Old Camiguin Volcano": 838 meters) in 1871 and Hibok-Hibok (1,250 meters) in 1951.

Other volcanos include Mt. Timpoong (1,580 meters), Mt. Mambajao (1,420 meters), Mt. Tres Marias, and Guinsiliban Peak. The coastline alternates between black- or white-sand beaches and volcanic rock.

Camiguin is divided into five municipalities; its more than 64,000 inhabitants are mostly farmers and fishermen. Rich volcanic soil nurtures rice, coconuts, bananas, corn, and root crops. Lanzones grown on Hibok-Hibok's slopes are considered to be the sweetest in the Philippines.The island has good fishing grounds offshore. The people are of Visayan descent, hence Cebuano is the main language, though a few people in Sagay and Guinsiliban still speak the old native language.


Ancient legends link Camiguin with Surigao's Lake Mainit area. The original inhabitants were Manobos from Surigao. Kinamiguin, the island's old tongue, is similar to tribal languages of Surigao. It's believed that the Manobo retreated to the highlands of Mindanao when Visayan settlers arrived. The people were already trading with foreign merchants before Magellan and Legazpi landed here, in 1521 and 1565, respectively.

The Spanish founded a settlement at Guinsiliban in 1598, but Catarman (where Bonbon is now) was to be their major center on the island until its destruction in the 1871 eruption of Mt. Vulcan Daan, after which they moved the town center to its present site. Mambajao wasn't established until 1855, but it grew rapidly to become the busiest port in northern Mindanao by the beginning of this century, at a time when Cagayan cle Oro was only a minor settlement.

In 1901, local resistance to the Americans ended in a short, one-sided battle at Catarman. During WW 11, the Japanese burned much of downtown Mambajao in reprisal against guerrilla activity on the island.

Fiestas and Festivals

Easter is a big event on Camiguin, with a passion play and a Good Friday procession of antique, life-size santos in Mambajao. On June 24, Hibokhibokan is celebrated by the whole island with picnics on the beaches. In Mambajao, for example, there are water processions, games and races, and beauty contests. Events take place at several places, including Cabua-an and Agohay Beaches. Since this is the Feast of St. John the Baptist, visitors just might get "baptized" with wated!

At the end of October, the Lanzones Festival is centered in Mambajao. This exuberant fiesta features a parade with people in costume, games, exhibits, and entertainment. The costumes are particularily colorful as a number of local groups exhibit tribal costumes worn by the many cultural minorities of northern Mindanao. Dancers are judged by a team of local officials and prizes are presented. The whole town takes on a festive atmosphere and plenty of sweet, delicious lanzones are sold.

Getting There

Camiguin is reached with a ferry from Balingoan in northern Mindanao (two hours east of Cagayan cle Oro) to Benoni on Camiguin. Ferries leave eight times daily and take 90 minutes to make the crossing. Jeepneys continue to the provincial capital of Mambajao.

The fastest way to reach Cagayan cle Oro is with a fast ferry from either Cebu City or Dumaguete. Buses leave frequently from the Cagayan de Oro bus terminal for Balingoan. Also, direct ferries leave Cagayan de Oro several times weekly at 8:00 AM.

The port of entry is Benoni (often spelled Binone) wharf, about 17 km, 30 minutes by jeepney from Mambajao, the capital, or at Guinsiliban, where a daily ferry arrives from Cagayan de Oro. The ferry port between Benoni and Mindanao is at Balingoan (Misamis Oriental), which is on the main highway between Butuan and Cagayan de Oro.

The Guinsiliban ferry' terminus is in Cagayan cle Oro proper. BacheJor Express buses link these two cities every 30 minutes; Balingoan is 90 minutes from Cagayan and two hours from Butuan. The ferry sails Balingoan-Benoni daily; the 1 0-km crossing takes 75 minutes. There's a direct boat from Cagayan cle Oro to Benoni (takes five and a half hours) on Monday and Friday, returning Tuesday and Saturday; departures are scheduled for 2400, but delays are common.

The newer ferry link between Cagayan cle Oro and Guinsiliban departs from the city pier at 8:00 AM Tues.-Sun. arriving at Guinsiliban at 11:00 AM. Departures from the island leave Wednesday and Friday at 8:00 AM and at 3:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday.

This link between Guinsiliban and Cagayan de Oro is more convenient for travelers, but its less frequent than the ferry between Benoni and the mainland at Balingoan. From Cebu, Bisaya Shipping sails on Saturday to Benoni (takes 12 hours), then returns to Cebu via Medina and Butuan. Thus, to travel from Camiguin to Cebu, it's more convenient to go via Cagayan de Oro.

There's also a weekly ship from Jagna (Bohol). Adventurous travelers have been chartering bancas for the three-hour trip to Panglao Island and Tagbilaran, Bohol. Fishermen and boatmen will gladly make the trip for P700-1,000 one-way. If you can get a group together to cut costs, this makes an interesting and fast way to get to Bohol and the Visayas.

Getting Around

To circumnavigate the island, it's necessary to travel by a combination of bus, jeepney, and motorella (tricycle), since public vehicles don't make the complete circuit. Frequent transportation links the two largest towns, Mambajao and Catarman, with the ferry at Benoni and nearby Guinsiliban, for example, while few vehicles operate on the section between Yumbing and Catarman.

The traffic flow coincides with the ferry schedule. Thus, vehicles leave Mambajao early in the morning, taking passengers to the 6:00 AM ferry, then wait in Benoni for the ferry to arrive from Balingoan at 9:15 AM. And so on until the last ferry arrives at 5:15 PM.

Operating seven days a week jeepney's travel between Mambajao and Catarman by the back route (takes 40 minutes) starting around 4:00 AM, and service ending around 6:00 PM, after which traffic is sporadic. On Sundays transport is frequent all day on this stretch, as islanders travel to attend church, the market and the cockfight.

Motorellas can be hired for short distances, they're plentiful even outside Mambajao municipality. An alternative to Motorellas is for a group of travelers to share the cost of hiring a jeepney for sightseeing; the local term for this is pakyaw.

There's no commercial motorcycle rental on Camiguin, but some individuals in Mambajao will rent their machines. Ask around. Similarly, you may be able to rent a bicycle or easily hitchhike, although private transportation is fairly rare.


The provincial capital and trading center is a small, quiet town. Marnbajao makes a good base from which to explore the island as well as Catarman. There's a tourist office in the Capitol Building, and a PN13 where you can change traveler's checks. The NACIDA handicraft display center offers an array of locally made baskets, and Mambajao's lively market also sells handicrafts.

Mambajao cleverly derives its name from mamhaw (let's eat breakfast) and bajao (IeW over boiled rice).The town has some old Spanish-style homes and a colonial church, and comes to life in late October during the Lanzones Festival, which is held here. Motorellas ply the main road from downtown to about 9 km in either direction throughout the day; the regular fare is P6 per person.


Inexpensive pension houses are located in town and on the beaches a few kilometers west. Tia's Pension House adjacent to the town hall and RJ Pension House on Ned Street have singles for P80-220. Both rent bikes, motorcycles, and offers tips on sightseeing. Tia also manages some beachside cottages a few minutes outside town. Across from Tia's Cottages is Shoreline Cottages, P200-250.

There's also the run-down Camiguin Travel Lodge for P100 and plenty of locals who will offer a room for the night, particularily during the crowded Lanzones Festival. Southeast of town on Cabua-an Beach, there's Gue's Cottages for P150-200, and a km northwest of Mambajao you can stay in a tree house at Bolokbolok at the Tree House (P 150). There is a restaurant nearby, a tennis court, and motorbikes for rent at P400 a day. This is a great way to see the island.

More accommodations are situated in small barrids west of Mambajao. First stop is at Turtle's Nest Resort in Kuguita, three km west of town.


Tia's serves good and ample meals. The Camiguin Travel Lodge has a restaurant and serves good cheap meals as do many of the small restaurants along the main street. Have a simple meal at Ligaya Restaurant and Cold Spot near the market or the equally rustic Botica Milagrosa. Grilled fish is also inexpensive when bought at the market. Sinugba and kindaw are local specialties as are the sweet lanzones, made famous by the Lanzones Festival. For nightlife, there are two small discos, Bidlisiw and Anging's.


Katibawasan Falls

These 50-meter falls are surrounded by lush vegetation. It's refreshing to swim in the pool below the falls, but the water's cold, so its best to come here between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM when the sun's overhead. There's a resthouse where you can change and a cottage in which to overnight, but you must bring food; make a reservation at the tourist office in Marnbajao. To get there, take a motorella one-half km from Mambajao to the waiting shed at Pandan, walk to the end of the village, then follow the trail to the right for 2.5 km to the falls. Admission to the falls is P5.

Ardent Hot Spring

The best times to visit this small, natural stone swimming pool with 400 C water are in the early morning, on rainy days, and at night. A resthouse provides changing facilities, plus food and cold drinks. Take a motorella 3.5 km from Mambajao to Kuguita; the spring is 2.5 km from Kuguita church; walk 1.5 km inland till the road forks; bear right then take the first road left after the school, then the right fork again. Stay at the Ardent-Esperanza Mountain Resort with dorm beds for P50 and cottages for P200. Admission to the spring is P5.



Swiss-operated Turtle's Nest Resort, on the boundary between Kuguita and Baylao, four km from Mambajao, is a pleasant, secluded place to stay. Cottages cost P150 pp, or P250 pp with meals; good food is served in a beachside restaurant with sunset view. To get there, ask the motorella driver for Mahayahay Beach.

Follow the road from the highway to the beach. To the left is the sandy Mahayahay Beach, which has no coral, and to the right, Turtle's Nest Beach, where the resort is. There's coral 100-150 meters offshore from here, then a drop-off at about the 200-meter mark. Access can be tricky at low tide, however. The resort rents complete diving equipment for P400 per day, plus P50 for a second tank, P75 for a dive guide, and extra for a banca, if necessary. Trips could be arranged, for example, to Hikdop Reef, about four km northeast of Magting, which offers excellent coral and fishlife, or around to the drop-off beneath the lava flows of Old Camiguin Volcano.


White Island, Foto from R.Gardner, from the summit of Hibok-HibokHibok-Hibok seen from

This tiny, dazzlingly white sand bar, also called Medano, Island, is about two krn offshore from Agoho and Yumbing. It's a good place to sunbathe, with superb views of Hibok-Hibok and enjoyable snorkeling 150-200 meters off the island. There's no shade however, so take suntan lotion. Local fishermen often visit the island; you can buy fresh fish from them, especially in the morning.

Take a motorella or jeepney f rom Mambajao to Agoho (takes 15 minutes) or Yumbing, from where you can hire a banca; the boatman will stay with you for two or three hours, which will be enough for most people. It's also possible to be dropped off and picked up later at a prearranged time. One might also overnight here, especially during the full moon; bring a tent, sleeping bag, firewood, food anddrink. White Island is often seen on tourist posters and brochures when advertising Mindanao or the Philippines.


Beaches are rocky on this side of Mambajao. Three krn from town, and a few hundred meters inland from the road, are some open pits where old Chinese pottery was unearthed. Anito, five krn out, has a beach with coral to the left; it's reached by the first road after the Chinese cemetery. At Magting, seven krn out, there's a secluded beach, good coral to the left of the cottages, and cold springs in the sea to the right of them. Ancient skeletons, tools, weapons, and utensils were discovered in caves near here.

Three krn beyond Magting, alight from the jeepney at the sign for Macao Cold Spring in Tupsan. Snorkel over good coral then return to the highway and walk inland for one krn (take right fork in road) to wash the salt off in the small, natural stone pool of the spring.


This is, at 1,330 meters, the most active of seven volcanoes on the island. Between 1948 and 1951. it smoked and rumbled continually.
There was a minor eruption in 1948 and again in 1949, when 79 individuals perished in landslides. Then in 1951, it erupted without warning, issuing steaming hot gases and absorbing huge amounts of oxygen from the air, so that people were asphyxiated. The death toll was over 2,000, many of whom were found as though asleep.


Lava covered nearly 10 square km behind Mambajao, devastating many villages. You can see these lava flows from the road between Mambajao and Yumbing. The island's population had been 69,000 in 1951, but over 30,000 left Camiguin following the eruption.


Start early and allow a full day for the 64-km trip around Camiguin. On the open road, its better to hike until motorellas or jeepneys pass rather than wait. Leaving Mambajao, the choice is to go clockwise or counterclockwise. Clockwise, get an early jeepney that connects with the 6 AM ferry at Benoni, have breakfast, then take a jeepney that will depart for Catarman after the 9:15 AM ferry.

From here, be prepared to hike about 15 km to Naasag, from where regular motorellas go into Mambajao. Traveling counterclockwise, pass by nearby spots such as White Island, which can be visited as day trips, and take a motorella directly to Naasag, then begin walking toward Tangub Hot Springs. Start early, since while jeepneys operate all day on the Catarman Benoni-Mambajao stretch, they become less frequent by midafternoon.


Naasag, nine krn from Mambajao, is usually the end of the line for motorellas. If you continue walking along the road for five minutes, over a hill, look for a small bamboo stairway on the right; it leads down through Downer's Grove to a rocky beach. This is a good picnic spot, with nice coral and a 15-meter drop-off close to shore, a shady grove behind the beach, and a will at the back of the grove.

If you return to the road and walk for another 10 minutes, over the next hill, a path leads down a steep embankment to Fisherman's Landing, a secluded stony beach which also has good coral and a 15-meter drop-off just offshore.

Tangub Hot Springs

About three km, an hours walk, beyond Naasag, a cement road leads down to these hot springs, which are also called Ocean, Old, or Mainit Hot Springs. To get there by motorella, you must pay a special-trip price (about P50). Many volcanic hot springs flow into the sea directly here, and some emerge from rocks directly beside the sea.

There's a small pool to sit in, from which you can spring, so to speak, into the sea at a step. In fact, saltwater and freshwater become mixed at each tide. Thus, the water's cool at high tide, too hot at low tide, and agreeably warm at midtide. A delightf ul place! Just past these springs, the lava flows of Old Camiguin Volcano ('Vulcan Daan") plunge into the sea, and it's fun to snorkel from the springs along this shore.

Where the lava meets the sea, there are rocks on which to sunbathe, and a narrow shelf with excellent coral, followed by a sharp drop-off. Don't leave valuables unattended while snorkeling, however. An alternative is to snorkel from a banca, which could be hired for about P60 from Naasag or the first village on the other side of the lava flow.


From Tangub Hot Springs, you can walk along the road for another hour, across the lava flow, high above the sea, to this village, which was the site of the island's old capital. It's 16 km from Mambajao. The story goes that in 1871, an old man appeared and threatened the inhabitants with damnation if they didn't mend their sinful ways. He was ignored, of course, and the next day, May Day, the town was destroyed by Vulcan Daan's eruption.

The ruins of the 17th-century coral church, bell tower, and convento still remain. Part of the town, including the cemetery, was submerged.Gravestones were formerly visible at low tide off sandy, secluded Sabang Beach, 200 meters from the ruins, but they can no longer be seen.It's believed that both Vagellan and Legazpi landed here in search of fresh water. Snorkel to the right of the beach, where the shallows extend a long way out. There's a spectacular view of the volcano from here.


After Bonbon's destruction, the Spanish moved down the coast to Catarman, which is now the island's second-largest town. A small museum in the municipal hall displays antique artifacts. There is lodging here, The Coral Dive Resort is the main Resort Hotel in Catarman located at the sea side with a large coral reef just 20 meters off shore. There is also the Catarman Inn, located across from the elementary school on the sea side. Room rates at the Catarman Inn are 1,000 PHP per 24 hour stay. Also local families will accept boarders; ask around. Approaching Catarman from Bonbon, there are several small sandy inlets, some of which have fine coral. The coast is rocky from Catarman town round to Guinsiliban, often with good coral just 20 meters offshore.

Santo Nino Spring and Tuwasan Falls

Santo Niho Spring consists of a large stone pool with a two-meter deep sandy bottom, fed by hundreds of cold springs, in attractive surroundings. There are changing facilities and a small store. To get here, look for a sign saying Kiyab Pool, 500 meters north of Catarman. Walk inland, and after 3.5 km take the left fork to the nearby spring. Ask locals to point out the trail between here and Tuwasan Falls, so that you can make a circular hike.

These beautiful 25-meter falls have a natural pool at their base, but there are plans to build a mini-hydro-plant here. From the falls, follow the road through Mainit to where it meets the main road 2 km north of Catarman. For those doing this walk in reverse, there's a sign for the falls at this junction.


A 300-year-old watchtower, used as a lookout against Moro pirates, is located behind the elementary school. This little town is now the ferry terminus for a large boat from Cagayan de Oro. Boats depart for Cagayan de Oro at 8 AM Wednesday and Friday and at 5 PM on Saturday and Sunday. Cost is P500. There are no accommodations here as yet but plans to open a guesthouse are in progress.

Kibila Beach

This spot offers 750 meters of coarse white sand, quite good snorkeling, though the seabed slopes steeply, and a well by the beach. To get here, alight from the jeepney at the Cantaan waiting shed, from where it's a pleasant 3 km walk to the beach. The road forks in the center of Cantaan village; bear right.


This is Camiguin's main ferry port. Taguines Lagoon, an artificial lake, is two krn south of the wharf; take a motorella. You can stay here at the pleasant Travel Lodge (P 150); a restaurant/bar overlooking the lagoon serves fresh fish raised in its own pond. The bungalows are built on a network of bamboo bridges and stilts so that you can take a cottage over the pond and hear the fish swimming under your bed all night. A unique place and worth staying a night. Food is great and the family is friendly. The lodge is associated with Camiguin Travel Lodge in Mambajao, but is in much better condition.

Magsaysay Island

Situated 3 km offshore, this island, formerly Mantigue Island, is small enough to walk around in 20 minutes. It has shady trees, a white-sand beach, and about 20 resident families. The near side is shallow with little coral, but the far side has a drop-off that provides good diving, with lots of fish. These waters attract many local fishermen, so go to Hubangon and check if any of them are headed out here. If so, they'll drop you on the island for a small tip; if not, you must hire a banca.


Mahinog has rocky beaches with good coral offshore. You can stay here at the modern, Westem-style Mychelin Beach Resort (P150-200), with free coffee and electricity from 6PM to 9 PM. It's situated 3 km north of Benoni, facing Magsaysay Island.

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