Giant Clam Sanctuary: Camiguin Island’s Hidden Pearl

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Giant Clam Sanctuary in Camiguin Island

HELLO STRANGERS!

I can still remember my first Yema Pastel back when I was a kid. Fresh from the oven, this soft sweet bread practically melts in your mouth. Summers in Cagayan de Oro were not complete without bringing home boxes of a dozen buns with different types of filling.

Vjandep Bakeshop famous for their Yema Pastel
Vjandep Bakeshop famous for their Yema Pastel

It was in the later years that I realized that this was not a product of CDO but from a pastry shop called Vjandep located in another nearby province of Northern Mindanao, a 3-hour travel from Agora Terminal in CDO to Benoni Port and also a place where my mother’s lineage can be traced, the popular island province of Camiguin.

Port of Benoni
Port of Benoni

On our way to Camiguin Island
On our way to Camiguin Island

Known as the island born of fire, imagine seven volcanoes cramped in the second smallest province in the Philippines. My dear strangers, I was not informed of this! I only knew of the famous Mt. Hibok-Hibok. Good thing these landforms that eject lava have remained dormant these past few years. Or maybe they were just waiting for me to reactivate? Knock on wood, God forbid!

Mt. Hibok-Hibok
Mt. Hibok-Hibok

Nicknamed as such since some points of interest formed in the island were caused by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the late 1800s, one of which is the birth of Mt. Vulcan (ironically called the Old Volcano) from a fissure of Mt. Hibok-Hibok’s northwest flank that continually ejected lava for four years. Other landmarks affected by ground movements was the Sunken Cemetery (an icon of Camiguin marked by a large cross in an open sea) and the Gui-ob Church Ruins (remains of an old church, a bell tower and a convent) which were part of the old town of Bonbon, Catarman. This event molded the Camiguingnons’ culture, tradition and their identity as a people.

Ardent Hot Spring
Ardent Hot Spring

Eat and drink at Katibawasan Falls
Eat and drink at Katibawasan Falls

For nature lovers, however, they see Camiguin as their personal theme park. Why not? It is filled with multiple natural attractions that are close to one another: waterfalls, hot and cold springs, white-sand beaches and hiking trails. You name it, they have it. You can never run out of things to do here. For me, the perfect combo would be an early morning dip at White Island then cool off at one of the waterfalls.

The magnificent Katibawasan Falls
The magnificent Katibawasan Falls

My favorite of which is Katibawasan Falls, which at 75 meters, is the tallest in the island. There is also a hiking trail from its basin to Mt. Timpoong if you still have energy. After taking a dip, we had a 10-peso kiping, a crispy snack made from cassava, glazed with latik (caramelized coco cream). You can then probably check out old ancestral homes and churches in the afternoon. Then before taking a good night’s rest, detoxify and have a 40 degrees Celsius bath at Ardent Spring heated by Mt. Hibok-Hibok.

Size comparison at Giant Clam Sanctuary
Size comparison at Giant Clam Sanctuary

Graveyard at Giant Clam Sanctuary
Graveyard at Giant Clam Sanctuary

Another hidden pearl that is not getting the attention it deserves is the Giant Clam Sanctuary tucked away in Guinsilban. Filled with various species of Taklobo, this place preserves and breeds these endangered clams and educates its visitors towards its protection and sustainability. This place has promise but needs the support of the local government especially in repairing the roads towards this promising tourist spot.

J&A Fishpen Restaurant and Zipline
J&A Fishpen Restaurant and Zipline

A perfect place to have a fresh seafood dining experience is at J&A Fish Pen and Restaurant wherein you can fish for your meal and have it cooked SUTUKIL-style or to your preference. This place is situated in Mahinog by the Tanguines Lagoon. Their food was good and reasonably priced too. You can also try their 1100-meter zipline while waiting for your meal to be cooked. What a unique appetizer that is!

Old Church Ruins
Old Church Ruins

Stairway to the skies in Mambajao
Stairway to the skies in Mambajao

View along the way to Sunken Cemetery
View along the way to Sunken Cemetery

Walkway to the Old Volcano
Walkway to the Old Volcano

Souvenirs and keychains
Souvenirs and keychains

Though there were a lot of tourist vans for hire for a day tour, for a fun Camiguin Island experience however, I recommend renting a motorbike or a private car perhaps so that you can tour the entire island at your own pace. One day is definitely not enough and there were still a lot of places we missed. There are also a lot of budget hotels in Mambajao area ranging from Php800 to Php2000 a night good for two. Lucky for us we were staying at a relative’s house. Another suggestion is to read ahead about the island’s rich history so that you can better appreciate its points of interest.

I’m definitely coming back for more next time, probably, during the epic and colorful Lanzones Festival! Who’s coming with me?

Together let’s FIND THE OTHERS at kingofsinulog.wordpress.com. Later strangers!

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