My Iligan


Monday, February 2, 2009

island born of fire

(click for more pictures here)

Doug had to take the Saturday night boat in Cebu while I was on a bus already traveling from Davao to Cagayan de Oro. We're planing to spend Lent in Camiguin, the island known for its many festivals but we chose the Panaad, and it was held during the Holy Week. Panaad is a yearly gathering of pilgrims from allover the country in Camiguin for the Holy Week. The pilgrims usually start the Panaad by walking 64 kilometers around the island and trekking the Old Vulcan, as expression of penitence and spiritual enrichment. I arrived ahead of Doug and decided to spend the night with my relatives in the city, and meet him early morning at the pier.

We traveled 1.5 hours more to Balingoan, and took M/V Yuhum, the hourly scheduled ferry crossing the channels of Mindanao Sea, and later docked at the port in Guisiliban. It was lunchtime when we landed in Camiguin, and we decided to nourish ourselves at the nearby eatery. Doug and I ordered in Cebuano, since it is spoken freely inside the eatery, sutokil (a combo of fishes grilled, souped, and soaked in vinegar), kan-on (Valencia rice), and ginamos (salted fish) as side dish. There was an old couple at the next table talking ancient language that I assumed they're natives of the island. I asked them for Mambajao, the capital town, which they told us to be at the northern part. After we had our orders, and surprisingly in a snap, we hired a motor cab to Mambajao.

We're booked at the Paras Beach Resort, the most popular accommodation, just a short ride from the travel agency in Mambajao. The rooms are fully air-conditioned and with private shower and bath. We chose a room closest to the beach, to watch a breathtaking sunset, and not to be missed also the swimming pool at the middle of the resort. Our dinner wasn't a problem, the resort has an in-house resto that is open from 6am to 12mn.

If it wasn't for Lent that we went there, we could have avail of the fun tours they offer. Among the choices are the whole day island tour of volcanoes, and the white sandbar (a three minute boat ride from the Resort), and sightseeing the waterfalls, island hopping, and snorkeling in the Sunken Cemetery---this I've second thought, if given the chance. They also have water activities such as jet-ski, banana boat, para-sailing, and scuba diving.

Waking up to a fine April sky was perfect for Panaad, the first thing in our itinerary. We hired a motor cab, the common transport available in the island, to visit the old ruins of San Roque church, convent and belfry in Gui-ob. These are the remnants of the eruption of Old Vulcan Daan in 1871 that almost wiped out the entire town of Catarman. The thick century old walls that partly exposed the ruins are also remainders of the second Spanish settlement in 1697. When we came back from the ruins, we stopped at the beach besides the road to look at the towering cross in the sea that marked the Sunken Cemetery.

The next would be climbing the Old Vulcan Daan, it is the landmark of Panaad, the volcano with stiff drop-off of 7,080 meters above sea level. At the foot, we're told to buy 14 candles appointed for the stations above, and we've seen also novelty shops for buying souvenirs later. The Via Cruses is trekking the old volcano slope. The 14 Stations of the Cross have life-sized statues, depicting the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, that dotted the trail to the peak. At last, we crested the fourteenth station and found a sepulcher carved out of volcanic rocks, where they usually held mass for the Lenten season. The view was impressive. A thousand feet below lay Mambajao capital town of Camiguin, but that was about it. The ascent was Christ-like, as if the whole ordeal in Golgotha was happening to us. However, praying from sepulcher, we staggered down and bought our souvenir t-shirts and some Vjandep pastels, these are soft buns stuffed with sweet cream of different flavors.

The best way to resurrect the aching muscles would be a relaxing dip at the Ardent hot spring. It is a natural Jacuzzi at 400 Celsius. Here is very interesting information, the heated pool is collected water running down the vents of Hibok-Hibok volcano, and this you wouldn't mind. It has therapeutic effects on our aching muscles. The place has picnic huts and tables in the beautifully landscaped gardens, and there is also a resto that catered to our already famished stomachs.

The province is a pear shaped volcanic island in the northern tip of Mindanao. The island is said to be "born of fire." It has seven volcanoes unmatched in the world that eruptions have created wonders and historic ruins. Its pristine and rustic setting marked it as one of the top 25 tourist destinations in the country, and the seventh diving spot in the world.

I should say, it is a tiny island of lush forests as evidenced by its eternal hot and cold springs, the splendid Catarman ruins, and the idyllic life. It is a virtual paradise, a beauty entirely locked in eternal embrace of the sea, an unfazed by the pressures of today's hurried way of life. The experience we had in Camiguin was never enough that someday, Doug and I promised to go back there to re-discovery this island of fire.


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