CAMGUIN: Closest thing to paradise

By Jaser A. Marasigan

CAMIGUIN ISLAND – Nature must have fallen in love with Camiguin so much that it possesses all of its wonders. I was at a loss for words to describe this lovely island which tourists endearly call “the island of your imagination.”The air is so pure, the mountain is so green, and the water is so clear... This cove of pristine white sand is indeed a place of tranquility. Although it is never intended to replace paradise, one could say that it may be the closest thing to it.

Camiguin is said to be the country’s most peaceful province. And in true Filipino fashion, the people are warm, friendly and religious.

Island born of fire
Camiguin is a pear-shaped volcanic island, thus it is also known as the “island born of fire.” It is about 300 sq. kilometers or approximately 29,000 hectares, lying in the Bohol Sea, some 54 kms. southeast of the famous Chocolate Hills and 90 kms. north of Cagayan de Oro City.
The great explorers Ferdinand Magellan and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi landed in Camiguin in 1521 and 1565, respectively. But it was not until 1598 when the Spanish settlement was established in what later came to be Guinsiliban (now one of the five municipalities).
The first major settlement during the Spanish era was Catarman in 1679. This settlement grew and prospered to what it is now known as Bonbon.
The Mount Vulcan Daan eruption in May 13, 1871 destroyed Cotta Bato, former capital of Camiguin. The devastating earthquake and volcanic eruption wiped out the illustrious town. What remains are ruins of adobe walls, belfry and convent that are testimonials to the devastating event. It is also famous for the name Ruins of Gui-ob Church or the Catarman Church Ruins. This settlement was transferred to Katadman presently known as Catarman.
Sagay was formally established as a town in 1848; Mambajao in 1855 and Mahinog in 1860.
Camiguin used to be a part of Misamis Oriental. It became a separate province in 1968. The province consists of five municipalities, namely: Mambajao, the capital town; Mahinog; Guinsiliban; Sagay; and Catarman.
The name “Camiguin” is derived from the word “kamagong,” a name of a tree in the ebony family.
Dialects spoken in Camiguin are Cebuano and Hiligaynon, but a few people in Sagay and Guinsiliban still speak the old Manobo tribe dialect, “Kinamiguing.”
Locals are mainly engaged in fishing, some are in farming. Coconut is the major production as far as sources of income is concerned. Other plantation are abaca, rice, mangoes, lansones and other fruit trees. Small cottage industries are now increasing in number.

Nature’s wonders
The Paras Beach Resort and Camiguin Island Resort are the nearest points to the gorgeous White Island (just a 10-minute banca ride), said to be the top tourist destination here.
The uninhabited small white sand bar showcases a view of the picturesque Mt. Hibok-Hibok and Old Vulcan, which also serves as its backdrops. The island is also a rest haven for fishermen and is ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
Mount Hibok-Hibok is the only active volcano among the seven others here. Its 1,250meter slope is a challenge even to professional climbers as a trek entails skillful maneuvers in loose rocks and boulders. It boasts of a crater lake and stream at the peak, and a view of Camiguin and Bohol can be seen on clear days.
Old Vulcan is 13 kilometers west of Mambajao with a steep drop of 7,800 meters. It is the newest landmark of “Panaad” (a pilgrim’s yearly trek around the island in observance of the Lenten Season). Stations of the Cross have been installed along the walkway where each stop commands a panoramic view of the sea. The last station is the sepulcher that is carved out of the volcanic rock.
The Old Vulcan Dive Site features unique underwater lava formation that rises from the depths of more than 80 feet from the bottom forming a series of pinnacles. The coral-covered molten rocks are surrounded by tropical fishes such as antias, clown fish damsels, and the like. Hug jacks and napoleon wrasses occasionally patrol these areas in search of food.
Sunken Cemetery Dive Site lies 20 feet underwater in front of Barrio Bonbon, Catarman. The sunken cemetery is what is left of the remains of the past volcano eruption. Coral-encrusted tombstone can be explored by snorkelers and scuba divers.
The Cross Marker and Sunken Cemetery is 16 kilometers from Catarman proper. A huge cross was installed in 1982 to mark the community cemetery which was sunk during the 1871 eruption. A procession is held in November to honor the sunken graves of their forefathers.
The most popular hot spa in the Island, the Ardent Hot Spring Resort, is a natural pool of about 40 degrees Celsius coming from Mt. Hibok-Hibok. Swimming in its hot water is the best treatment for any therapeutic ailment because it contains sulphur, a medical element that can cure illness. Cottages, picnic huts, and dormitory and cook-out facilities can also be rented.
Meanwhile, Department of Tourism (DoT) Secretary Richard Gordon recently visited the Macau Cold Spring in Mahinog which boasts of an aqua blue water. Gordon believes that the place has a potential to become a “mountain spa,” as well as develop it as a venue for weddings especially to Japanese.
The local government already declared it as a protected watershed area. It has also allotted R18 million for its 4-year development plan.

Lansones Festival
The recent 24th Lansones Festival held in Mambajao, Camiguin was a tableau of local culture and showcased the province’s brand of lansones which they claim is the sweetest.
The Festival featured a grand parade of the fruit and a street-dancing competition. Other highlights of the festival included the agri-cottage industry product exhibits, barangay beautification and indigenous sports competitions.
The different municipal mayors graced the occasion including Noordin Romualdo (Mambajao), Benedicto Castañares (Mahinog), Helenio Abecia (Guinsiliban), Eugenio Ong (Sagay), Quintilianito Babarin (Catarman) and Governor Pedro Romualdo with Sec. Gordon as guest of honor.
“The festival is Camiguin’s contribution to Mindanao as a cultural destination,” said Romualdo.
Romualdo bared that the local government has a tourism masterplan and tourism infrastructures in the province are slowly being placed. They already consulted architects and engineers on how to develop Camiguin as a premier tourist destination.
He admits that the province’s inaccessibility discourages tourists to come here and so there are plans of developing the airport to accommodate bigger aircraft and allow direct flights to Camiguin. “We want to give our fellow Filipinos a chance to know their country,” he said.
Romualdo was also happy to report that there’s a greater volume of lansones harvested this year. They are also looking at the possibility of pioneering the production of ‘lansones wine’, with its seedless lansones variety to be harvested three to four years from now.
Aside from lansones, Camiguin is also known for its “pastel,” a bread with “yema” filling. It is a favorite pasalubong among local and foreign tourists.
Camiguin is the highest among the provinces of Region 10 in domestic arrivals during the second quarter of the year mainly because of its Panaad Festival held every Lenten Season.
The quarter saw Camiguin led the favored destination for registering 86,959 or 48 percent share of the regional arrivals; Cagayan de Oro came in second with 62,507 or 35 percent. Following were Ozamiz (19,304) 11 percent and Bukidnon (12,086) 7 percent.
Increases in arrivals, hotel occupancy and number of events, delegates and corresponding levels were also experienced in Region 10 for the second quarter (April-June) 2003 compared to previous year.
Filipino tourists made a sharp increase of 38 percent with total arrivals of 176,442. Foreign tourists likewise went up by 15 percent with 4,424 compared to only 3,831 of the same quarter last year. Combined figures reached a total of 180,866 or 37 percent.
Cagayan de Oro however registered the highest number of foreign tourists (2,124), Ozamiz (835), Camiguin (804) and Bukidnon (661). The foreign market groups indicated that tourists from Hong Kong, Korea, Canada and Singapore grew by 372 percent; USA, 20 percent; while balikbayans rose by 189 percent. Visitors from Italy, Malaysia, Switzerland, Netherlands and United Kingdom were down by 58 percent.

23/11/2003

Bron : The Manila Bulletin Online

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