MAMBAJAO, Camiguin -- The province, dubbed as the “island born of fire” due to the number of volcanoes that helped shape the island in the past, is expected to have thousands of visitors just for this year’s Holy Week observance.
The island-province maintained its reputation as the most visited place in Northern Mindanao not just during the Lenten Season but in the entire year.
This province is among the top tourist destinations in the country with tourist arrivals consistently increasing every year, the Camiguin provincial tourism office said.
In 2016, Camiguin recorded about 30,000 devotees and tourists who flock to the island to join the annual “Panaad,” a tradition of devotees to circle around the province’s 70-kilometer circumferential road on foot during Lent, and to enjoy their summer holiday, said Flor Colmenas, provincial tourism information officer.
Thousands also visit the Walkway at the old volcano where the Stations of the Cross are situated.
For this year the number of summer visitors may double, especially now that the island’s airport has recently reopened with flights to and from Cebu daily, said Mambajao Mayor Jurdin Jesus Romualdo, who spoke in behalf of Camiguin Governor Maria Luisa dela Fuente-Romualdo.
Romualdo said Philippine Airlines is set to offer the Manila-Camiguin and Camiguin-Manila flights within the year, which would mean more people will be coming to the province on a regular basis.
Due to this sheer volume of local and foreign tourists who come to visit Camiguin, Romualdo said the local government has come up with the catchphrase “Camiguin means ‘come again’” to sum up the island’s charms.
Per latest data, the island has only 790 hotel and inn rooms, but Colmenas said they have so far managed the influx of people during the summer break.
Another option is the “homestay” program, where residents offer their homes to tourists.
“Visitors will swell at this time of year, but the number is still manageable,” she said.
In fact, she added, many tourists opt to set up tents along the island’s beaches to save on accommodation expenses.
What makes Camiguin unique from other islands in the country is it offers everything to vacationers, Colmenas said, with attractions ranging from springs, waterfalls, beaches, to numerous outdoor adventure activities.
Among the island’s must-visit tourist sites are the Sunken Cemetery, Soda Water Park, Ardent Hibok Hibok Hot Springs, Santo Niño Cold Springs, White Island, Mantigue Island, Katibawasan Falls, Tuasan Falls, Binangawan Falls, Walkway to the Old Volcano, and Old Church Ruins. These spots are spread throughout the province’s five municipalities.
One of the newest destinations is the Camiguin Nightscapes, a star-gazing spot located within the Mt. Timpoong-Hibok Hibok Natural Monument, a chain of mountains teeming with flora and fauna declared as a natural heritage site by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Centre for Biodiversity last year.
According to the Provincial Tourism Office, much of the island was formed through earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In the late 1871, the eruption of Mt. Vulcan submerged the old town of Catarman, pushing it below the sea, leaving behind ruins of a church and bell tower (known as the Old Church Ruins) and Sunken Cemetery, now marked with a huge cross. Tombstones full of incrusted coral can still be explored by snorkelers and scuba divers.
Camiguin is becoming quite known for its rich marine life and is considered one of the best diving spots in the world with more than 30 marine sanctuaries in the island.
The island has also a role in the country’s history as old documents revealed that two renowned Spanish explorers, Ferdinand Magellan and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, landed in Camiguin in the years 1521 and 1565.
Camiguin, which got its name from “Kamagong” tree, used to be part of Misamis Oriental until it became a separate province in 1966 and inaugurated in January 7, 1968.
Today, the Provincial Government has made moves to make Camiguin more tourist-friendly without losing its allure. One of the initiatives geared toward this is the policy of granting building permit if the structure that is to be built is no taller than the coconut trees that abound the island.