Our 2022 Mindanao road trip brought us to this wonderful finale retreat in the intimate and quaint Island of Camiguin. A wonderful family vacation Island you’d want to visit if you want to feel a private tropical welcome away from the busy crowd, immerse with the locals at every town, and drive with the windows down displaced in time- soaking in every bit of the ocean paradise and mountain element, unhurried for any spontaneity of the moment’s adventure. Welcome to Camiguin. How we managed to squeeze in a three day trip that’s riddled with family engaged activity and a spirit of adventure from the moment we stepped on the Island, pampered in a wonderful luxury stay, to a curated one of a kind family adventure, comfort and bond.
A laid back, easy sunday morning travel and a road trip, unplanned with a youthful determination to wander, to let the moment’s clock re-route the journey.
We packed up early and loaded the SUV we’ve borrowed from dad just hours earlier on a fair cloudy sunday morning. A typical warm tropical morning in the Philippines. The roosters are out and about hammering their crow to exhaustion; until daylight settled in, making every mobile critter draw out of their shelter. The children are stunned this particular early morning wake up call. Joycee’s just heard about our anniversary escape. She herself is bewildered and surprised; even more hesitant, but all in for the adventure and journey. We are heading out to another adventure. A paradise of tranquil inclusion and private submission. What comes to mind is an Island dear to me. An island I have known ever since I was a young boy. Of family and fond memory; and a spontaneous trip back in our college days when Joycee and I were still dating. This time I was incredibly excited to finally bring the kids along. To this paradise. To the Island of Camiguin. Exquisite from its beauty formed from a mighty volcanic eruption and now a peaceful thriving island of inviting genuine hospitality and of people rich in culture.
We drove the whole island around the 39 mile of Camiguin’s circumferential road engulfed with winding views of vista points, steep shorelines of mountains and rocky hillside that peak through lush forrest vegetations, volcanic remnants littered with cold and hot springs, idled shoreline breaks; and focused mountain peaks- ridges all throughout the Island.
Hotel Nouveau Resort
Lounging in our open balcony facing the ocean, palm trees and green grass, mount Hibok-Hibok volcano in the backdrop. A facade of hospitable gestures and immaculate clean surrounding, trimmed lawn and hints of blossomed flowers. This was a wonderful welcome to an almost 2 hour drive from Butuan City to Balingoan port and taking the car across the ocean about an hour on a ferry ride.
photo on the right: congee with tofu and dried fish, sikwate (from roasted and ground cacao kernels), suka tuba (fermented coconut tree sap; vinegar).
Within the vicinity lay untouched and still infinity pool inviting a warm summer’s day swim; and so we did, draped ourselves with the tropical elements of afternoon glow, sand and silent volcanic remains crafted beautifully by natures design all around crashing shorelines. You will quickly notice time slowing down, the quite surrounding taking a hold of the hour; and minute by minute you soak in a luxurious intimate consent to an island set apart from many in the pristine island of Mindanao.
This island’s only five star Luxury hotel accommodation sparked a longing to step back in time and provide the self with meditation and capitulation to natures reward. The hotel serve a refreshing touch of the island’s hospitality, sublime island generous serving of picked fresh culinary background and wild fruits; and culture I admire the most.
This private accommodation is set apart from the many around the island itself. Its upscale features such as the extended olympic lap pool, meditation and yoga park, splash park for the kids, recreational area, gym and breathtaking ocean view that sparkle million diamond glitters during sunrise across still waters | Website: https://nouveauresort.com/
After a restful night we grabbed an early breakfast and headed out our way northwest to Katibawasan falls in Mambajao. It is an easy 23 minute drive from the hotel along the coastal road (Camiguin Circumferential road) about 2/3 of the way, and the rest of the drive up on the mountains. We prepared for swimwear and a light snacks for the kids. We got here at around 09:00 in the morning with just two other people and plenty of space and tables to picnic our baon (packed snacks or food). It has an easy walk from the parking space. From the main entrance you descend down concrete stairs to the waterfalls. It is the tallest waterfalls on the island at 250 feet tall. It has narrow stream that plunges down into a green pool of water below that creates a gentle relaxing mist below.
We stayed almost an hour here enjoying the scenic landscape of green and active critters chirping in the echoing forest welcoming us at almost 360 view mostly all to ourselves this time of the day.
A water buffalo, or Carabao paint a picture of diverse and resilient Filipino farmers that continue to plow the many rice fields. We met this gentle giant on our way to the waterfalls.
Jollibee was not a surprise choice as fried chicken and rice are the kids very favorite combination. jollibee sits in the open main highway in Mambajao. You cannot miss the friendly bee extending its arm for a delight snack and Filipino flavored crispy chicken crunch.
The ruins of the old Gui-ob Church
After lunch we headed to the old Spanish Church ruins located in barangay Bonbon, Catarman. It is a remnant of the 1871 volcanic eruption that devastated the island- wiping out its entire capital. It has an entrance fee of 10 Philippine Peso.
lighting a candle outside the main church entrance | This place of worship was once the towns center of faith and solidarity amongst the people before that faithful and tragic day that wiped out almost the whole island of what was known before as Cota-Bato, or the present day Camiguin Island.
We met with a local girl to guide us through the ruins. It is optional to ask for a guide but a wonderful way to support the locals in their journey and their take on tourism. She articulated the very history behind the ruins and created a wonderful ambience for my kids. She was about the age of 10. She was full of enthusiasm and smiles that proceeded with pack full of information and story line narratives. Make sure to bring a generous tip for them. 200 Philippines Peso is an average tip for tourist visiting the ruins. A very small amount of 4 US dollars. This is an easy 20-30 min walk along spacious path that open up into the crashing waves below; and historical guide that draw you in to the moment in time.
Featured cover image was taken inside the Gui-ob church ruins that testify the people’s faith and how it stood the testimony of time nestled in a canopy of Kamago or ebony trees reclaiming its place in history. It is one of the most beautiful ruins you will find in the island | photo above; left: thriving green and moss cover the coral stone built walls of the church draped in volcanic remains, right: India standing at the entrance of what remained of the Gui-ob church
An 18 minutes drive from the old Spanish church brought us to our next destination to Tuasan Falls. The stop over at the old Spanish church gave us time to dry up before plunging into this cooler spring spring water. This was an easier route compared to the previous drive up the mountain to Katibawasan falls, but we also found a bit more people visiting this spot at high noon. There are not a lot of space to picnic here. You can hear the thundering waters as soon as you park your car nearby. There are a few lifeguards on duty to prevent anyone swimming close to the mouth of the waterfall that can bring debris from its raging waters.
a rope is clearly visible as pictured here to prevent anyone from swimming close to the mouth of the waterfalls.
Sto. Niño Cold spring
The Sto Niño Cold Spring in Catarman was our final destination on this one day road trip around Camiguin island. This was an 18 minute drive from Tuasan falls. Here we got to spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the cold spring waters. It also gave way for our hungry little kiddos to snack on authentic Filipino merienda like the bananacue, and a light desert of a native delicacy known as Kiping, or locally called Plato you don’t want to miss.
India and Joel enjoying their 4th Kiping treat from a local vendor just outside the cold spring.
Other local delicacies to try are the island’s famous pastel de Camiguin. A Filipino sweet bun filled with Yema (custard) filling that originated locally. Located in Mambajao, the Vjandep bakeshop of Camiguin is the place to buy the sweet buns boxed for pasalubong.
How to get to Camiguin Island
From Butuan City to Balingoan port, it takes about 2 and a half hour drive and another hour crossing the ocean via ferry boat to Benoni port from the capital town of Mambajao. From Cagayan De Oro City it takes about a two hour drive to get to the port. Secure yourself a QR code to save time before getting to the port as it is required before boarding the Ferry.
Two ports receiving daily voyages from Balingoan, Benoni and Guinsiliban port. Here are few helpful resources for Ferry rates and vessel schedules.
Balingoan to Ferry Camiguin schedule. Vessel schedule. Fare rates for passenger Vessels – Port of Balingoan to Benoni, Guinsiliban and Vice Versa. Fare rates for rolling cargo – Port of Balingoan to Benoni, Guinsiliban and Vice Versa.
I continue to surprise myself writing about wonderful travel opportunity that’s captivated me as I look back on our many travels with my family. Writing about the beautiful narrative of the place in time, in our own little space and family bond. What a wonderful memory to hold on to and a beacon of hope as I recollect on the journey, not only the many miles that’s tallied up, but also the milestone I get to experience as a father to two wonderful children and an incredible best travel agent I call wife.
Camiguin is definitely one to come back to. It is in its own a treasure box with your own intuition as a treasure map. The many adventures this small island share is gleaming with jewels of glitters and untapped surprises along the way. Before we left the old Gui-ob church, our tour guide Mai said in a soft and eager voice, “come again,” and as I glanced and gave a return smile, I remembered the old saying I was growing up as a boy; come again, or “Camiguin”, thats retained a wonderful memory and a seranade to come back and visit this beautiful island once more. Camiguin will never be a one trip. It will be a memory of a little boy growing up, his unforgetable romantic date on a scooter, his gift shared to his children and a lifelong of longing for one more of life’s small beginings. It will be a lifetime of unraveling fond gestures. Come again to Camiguin.
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