June 14, 2018 – The World Underneath the Surface

I woke up early because I wanted to take a peek at the sunrise. The amazing sunset I have witnessed the day before left me in so much awe that I was still stuck in dreamland. I was greeted by an amazing sight, a sign that I took again as an omen for a great day ahead. It is our first full day tour in the island and we are looking forward to a fun day.

Oh, the day is looking up already!

For island tours, it is recommended that travelers hire any form of conveyances for the day – habal-habal, local tricycle, or multicab. The habal-habal is suitable for solo travelers but the most convenient is the multicab. We chose to hire a multicab for our tour even though it was the most expensive. Thankfully, we met a couple from Negros staying at the same inn we’re staying at who were willing to split the cost of a multicab; a multicab can accommodate up to 10 individuals. After ironing out the details, we asked our inn’s caretaker to arrange the tour for us.

At around 8 AM, our multicab was already at our accommodation to pick us up. As it was still early, we were all full of verve. When everything was set, we set out for the day’s adventure. We navigated the island road that skirted the coastline. The sun’s rays strike a brilliant hue on the cerulean waters. This is what we call the island life! We stopped at a road corner to drink in the sight and take some pictures.

Our next stop was Mt. Vulcan, which, along with Mt. Hibok-hibok, are the only active volcanic vents in the island. Also referred to as the Old Volcano, its 1871 explosion caused the province’s old capital to sink underwater; the famous sunken cemetery is one of the remnants of this explosion. Presently, a walkway was built on the trail going up to the summit. Due to the country’s devotion, the walkway was converted into the Stations of the Cross. During Holy Week, the walkway is flooded with devotees. Our company, however, opted out of the at least one-hour hike.

They say the hike or pilgrimage takes about an hour.
Underneath that modern structure belies a rustic world.

The famous Sunken Cemetery, which was marked by a giant metal cross, was then our next stop. After being oriented at the tourism office and paying the necessary fees, we suited up in our snorkeling gears. The entrance fee is PHP 50.00 per person and for those who want to snorkel, mandatory guide fee is PHP 150.00 and snorkeling gear rental is PHP 100.00. Together with our guide, we swum across to the giant cross, pulling a long rope that connects the cross to the main island. The main cemetery was beyond the cross so our guide pulled us using a flotation device. It was unfortunate that the water was murky, obscuring the beauty of the corals we were swimming over.

The high and rough waves that day made me anxious. The possibility of sea snakes lurking under further heightened my anxiety; I watched a travel show and the foreign traveler had to back up twice because the guides saw sea snakes swimming around. I asked our guide not to pursue the sunken cemetery. Unlike us, our travel companions went all the way and they even stood on some of the tombstones. Seen from the mainland, it seems that the cemetery wasn’t that far from where we took a u-turn. Once the waters are calmer, I will surely come back, and with an underwater camera as well to document the beauty of the world underneath.

We resumed our adventures after we were all safely back. The Old Spanish Church Ruins, another remnant of the volcanic eruptions, was our next stop. Located in Barangay Bonbon in Catarman municipality, the Guiob Church was built during the 16th century. From the road, it looked like an old Spanish fortress covered by tall trees and green moss. Upon inspection, I’ve noted that the church’s thick columns and wall were made of a mixture of rocks, and seashells, a characteristic it shares with most Spanish era churches. One must pay a fee of PHP 10.00 to explore the church.

Remnants of a distant memory.
Spanish churches were built from seashells and corals.
What used to be the convent.
The bell tower that opens to a great view.

Needless to say, the Old Spanish Church Ruins is an idyllic spot. During our visit, a wedding pictorial was also taking place; I couldn’t blame them. Apart from the main church, there is a bell tower and a structure that used to be a convent. This part of the trip was filled with nostalgia. The ruins of the old Guiob Church was a beautiful reminder, rather a scar, of the island’s turbulent past. It also reminded me of our country’s Spanish heritage, its being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and of how nature takes back what was taken from it.

It was already midday and we’re already hungry from half-a-day’s worth of adventures. We then headed to Sto. Nino Cold Spring to unwind and to have our lunch. The cold spring resort is located higher up in the slopes of the mountain. After paying an entrance fee of PHP 50.00, we moved to our cottage. The cold spring features a large man-made swimming pool fed by natural spring water flowing down from the nearby mountain. While waiting for our lunch, we all took a dip into the cold pool, along with the locals who were enjoying a break from their quotidian routines, just like us. It had such a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere.

We then drove higher into the mountain and into the interior of the island. Our destination was Tuasan Falls, one of the many falls in the island but one of the newer tourist destinations; the roadworks were fairly recent. From the road, it was a short walk to the falls which allured us with its aesthetics. It was a secret gem with a 20-meter waterfall cascading down a vast pool surrounded by a thick verdure and flora. It was one of the best waterfalls I’ve seen in my round of the country. After taking the obligatory pictures, we headed to our next destination for the day.

A quick dip and rest. A time to refuel.
Tuasan Falls is a newly discovered gem tucked in the slopes of the mountains of Camiguin.
The Tres Marias on the background! One of my objectives when I return to Camiguin is to climb its mountains.

Our last stop for the day took us back to where we started – snorkeling! This time, we were taken to the Blue Lagoon, a tourist destination that is rarely seen in most Camiguin travel guides. It is located in a private resort so we had to pay an entrance fee of PHP 100.00; the guide fee and the snorkeling rental are paid separately but I forgot how much. As it wasn’t a busy day, there were no guides stationed there. Thanks to our driver, we managed to get in touch with an available guide. Once everything was set, we went down to the lagoon. One thing, however, made me a little apprehensive. There were four of us but we only had one guide who will pull us using strings and flotation devices. But I’ve already committed to this adventure. I just have to trust in him and the One above.

I am thankful I did! After letting my anxieties drift away with the waves, what I saw unraveling before me was a world that was beyond imagination. It was breathtaking! We were just skirting the rocky shoreline but we witnessed a world underneath the surface that is teeming with life, color, and diversity. I was in awe; it was a dreamlike world beyond pictures and imagination. As they say, to see is to believe. We even saw one of the sea’s most elusive creatures, the pawikan or sea turtle, showed! Oh yes, it is yet again a great omen.

It was just so unfortunate that I didn’t have any cameras that would have enabled me to capture the harmonious scene. I, however, managed to capture it in my mind and save it in a hard drive embedded in my brain. Once we were up in dry land, we can’t stop talking about the beauty we just witnessed. On the surface, it looked tame, calm, mundane but who’d have thought that this calm surface belies a world that is buzzing with activities. It was the highlight of a day filled with numerous wonderful sights. It was a memorable experience. It is one of the places I want to go back to. It was just wow!

The squad – the Igorots and the Negrenses.
Underneath is a world of wonder waiting to be discovered. Dive in!
That wide smile is enough to describe what we just witnessed.
It was like waking up from a dream, a fantasy. But it was all real.

On our way back to our accommodation, I requested that Joy and I be dropped off at the Sunken Cemetery again. I have one important objective: to capture the sunset. I saw amazing shots in social media and I wanted to capture the same. Perhaps my luck was running high that day for we witnessed a tantalizing display! The sunset on the background, with the giant cross on the foreground, created a majestic display with the qualities of a vivid painting.

The aesthetics of Camiguin is beyond astounding I am not sure where to begin, or for that matter, end! Our day was filled with so much beauty and memorable moments that it was difficult to put them in words. I didn’t feel tired at all even though some of the activities were physically taxing. My eyes and my mind were fed with beauty and wonder. I was enchanted by an island’s beguiling story.

One of my all time favorite travel pictures!
Simply enchanting!
The trip wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory jump shot!