A six-hour tour around Camiguin

12:30:00 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

Camiguin waking up before 6am.
As mentioned in my post about how to commute to Camiguin and our stay in Enigmata Ecolodge, we had a pretty eventful vacation over the weekend. Our two-day, fifteen-hour itinerary was drastically cut to just over six hours. (*Note: The photos in here, aside from the watermarks, are not processed or edited, unless they came from my Instagram, which I will note.) This was our tour package:

First day:
Walkway to Old Vulcan via crucis
Sunken Cemetery
Guiob old Church ruins
Soda water pool
Sto. Nino cold spring
Katibawasan falls
Ardent hibok-hibok spring

2nd day:
White bar/island
Mantigue Island

We were able to go to Ardent on Friday night, but the rest of the itinerary was cut to a 6am to 1pm schedule of:
White bar
Walkway to Old Vulcan
Sunken Cemetery
Guiob old Church ruins
Katibawasan Falls
Mantigue Island

And this was further reduced to exclude the White bar because the coast guard only allowed the tourists to go to the white bar at 1PM, and at 1PM we had to be finishing our lunch already. Bummer. We didn't get a discount from Kuya Teddy, and we let it go, hoping that Kuya Robert will get an even bigger share.

So after almost 20 minutes of taking pictures at Enigmata, we were on our way to our supposed first destination. But before we got there, Kuya Robert stopped beside the road to take photos of us with the mountain as the background (refer to photo above). It was beautiful, but then my companions decided we should take photos with a slightly different background...and we ended up here:

My heart is ozzing black... Just kidding.
We don't know what Kuya Teddy was thinking as we took photos of ourselves sitting (or in my case, lying down) on the road but he gamely took photos of us. There were no other people on the road since it was still way too early. However, a multicab (the one and only!) saw us on the road taking photos and they slowly passed by us, while looking at us with questions on their faces. We ignored them, hehe.

Me taking a shot of ate Koku taking a shot of Chichi. Whew!
Then off we continued on with our journey. We reached the Walkway to the Old Vulcan first. I was so excited to go here, thinking I'd like to go all the way to the top, but apparently that would take us half a day. We couldn't finish the Via Crucis either because that would take us 2.5 hours. This is one of the things I'll really do to if I ever get the chance to revisit Camiguin. (My friends, let's go back to Camiguin!)

The Walkway is filled with life-sized depictions of the Stations of the Cross.

After just two stations, we had to continue on to the Sunken Cemetery. It was amazing to see it from the road. The waves were coming in a circle around it but it kept stopping around the cross. It was like the sunken cemetery became holy ground, respected even by the sea.

A glimpse of the Sunken Cemetery from the road.
The Cross is actually just to memorialize the cemetery that sank underwater when Mt. Vulcan erupted in the 1800s. The Cross was erected in the 1980s. You can take a boat to the cross itself or you can just take pictures from the viewing deck. We didn't go to the cross anymore, but even from the deck, it felt so mysterious.

The waves never broke past that circle. It was amazing.
There were two men there, I think they were boatmen, and Kuya Robert told them to take pictures of us because they know some "tricks". After maneuvering our hands, they came up with this:

After several more photos of this type, we decided to say goodbye and continue on with our journey to the Old Church Ruins.

I didn't enter this place because it felt too crowded inside.

The 7am sun peeking through the ruined walls to shine on us.

A majestic tree by the ruins. I just had to take a photo.

After the Guiob Church Ruins, we passed by the White sandbar again and were told that we could only go out at 1pm. We decided to forego it and continue on to the next stop on our list: Katibawasan Falls. A little trivia about the White sandbar, as told by our guide: The sandbar used to be much bigger until one day, a ship came and docked near there. After the third time that it docked there, they finally realized that it was siphoning off sand from the White sandbar, so it's smaller now. It was only after the third time of docking that the ship was banished from going there. If this is a true story, I hope the government of Camiguin did something to punish those who stole the sand instead of just banishing them.

Okay, let's shake off the bad vibes for now. I thought Katibawasan Falls was going to be warm and cozy...and it was. It was cozy, but definitely not warm. We were freezing our bums off, but once you get used to the cold and you keep moving, you won't get too chilly. The upside is that if you go out of the water, you won't get cold from the breeze.

Katibawasan Falls
While swimming, I could not help but imagine how nymphs must have felt when they first swam here, with just the mountain around you. It was utterly quiet and peaceful, and the water was so clean. If it wasn't for our hurried schedule, I would have liked to stay longer.

And the water is so clear. If you don't have eye problems, you will be able to see the bottom clearly. It's not deep, really. It's just about two to three feet. At the end, where the falls drops, the area is cordoned off. They say that it's too deep there and the current might suck you downwards.

I don't know why we're laughing here, but I like how happy we all looked!
The ground is slippery so my sister and I wore our Sandugo sandals while swimming. Chichi went barefoot, but she barely left the stairs anyway.

It was in Katibawasan Falls that we had our first taste of their scrumptious fried chicken. Kuya Robert told us to just order from one of the stalls outside Katibawasan and he'll bring our food to us while we swim. When he finally arrived with our food - there's no other word for it - we devoured it. And I mean we were like people who haven't eaten anything in days! (And we had a filling buffet the night before :p) We all had fried chicken, and it was just so delicious. We paid P45 each, p35 for the chicken and p10 for the rice. The p35 is enough for one small person, but it's just one wing. It's pretty pricey, but we didn't know it would be that small, and we just decided to have a big lunch.

After Katibawasan Falls, we were finally on our way to Mantigue Island. Mantigue is not as popular as the White sandbar of Camiguin. It's this small island near Benoni Port and the population there is so controlled. According to Kuya Robert, their electricity is through solar panels. Based on the few blogs I've read online (which made me decide to convince my companions to go to Mantigue), it is just utterly beautiful there, and it's a great spot for snorkeling. Me, I love to snorkel - it's a fantastic way to see the fish and corals without having to dive if you're not a good swimmer - so I was really looking forward to looking at the fish here. I recall that Kuya Teddy told us that he will foot the snorkel gear at P50/person. He really said that. But Kuya Robert did not get us snorkel gear, and I only noticed that when we got to Mantigue. I was quite disappointed, but I didn't want to be pissed off so I just shrugged it off.

My first photo of Mantigue Island, facing Camiguin. That's Kuya Robert carrying my backpack from My Drawing Room
Since we were having the most eventful vacation ever, I was not surprised anymore when our little boat was suddenly battered by huge waves. The water was very calm when we left shore; in fact, we kept joking that we should just go back to CDO then while the water is still calm. But, as the boaters told us, that was the first time that the waves were huge on the way to Mantigue, as the water is usually so tranquil there. Oh, aren't we just the luckiest? :p

A little piece of this not so well known paradise. And yes, the sand is really white!
Since the waves were too huge, it wasn't a good time to snorkel or go around the island. It's a good thing we didn't get those snorkeling gear then! The sand looked so soft, I just had to take off my sandals and walk barefoot. It was a good decision because the sand was great to walk in on. It reminded me of when I was in Boracay 20 years ago at the age of 5, and I was running across the sand. It felt like that then - clean, powdery, and unspoiled. There are also a lot of corals on the beach of Mantigue, and also a few holes on the sand which Kuya Robert told me were made by crabs.

I love that our carefree moment has been captured on film :)
The fine quality of the sand didn't fully sink into my consciousness until the wind blew so hard, and my sister and I watched with rapt attention at the sand flying over the beach. It was the first time I've seen sand in a beach do that.

My sister and I had so much fun in the water, and we met some other yuppies from Manila as well. Meeting other people and discovering more information about the place I'm visiting is one of the things I love traveling :)

Tip #1: Make sure to wear sunscreen! We were in Mantigue by 10am but the sun was really harsh. I think we would have had major sunburn if we didn't slather on some protection before we went out to the island.

Tip #2: If you're coming from Camiguin and there are huge waves, keep your bags that cannot get wet on the left side of the boat, facing Mantigue Island. Coming from Mantigue, just cover your bags with leftover life vessels to keep them from getting wet.

After Mantigue, we went straight to J&A Fishpen for lunch. Kuya Robert also said that we can shower there. Since we already checked out of Enigmata when we left in the morning, we had all our things with us, and we didn't have anywhere else to go. We were in dire need of washing up. We had to pay P30/person. The shower stall is small, and the door is a little rotted, but it was sufficient. The staff at J&A might tell you to put your things in a chair outside the stall. Don't. Otherwise you might have to open the door butt-naked just to grab a towel. There is a hook inside the door where you can hang your bag. The water was warm and it was pleasant to take a bath.

After we all took our turn in the shower, we had a delicious lunch of shrimp and another round of their delicious chicken. Right after that, Chichi and I went to ride the zipline. The ride costs P400/person, but you will ride twice. You will zip over the water, too. It was a great way to see more of Camiguin overhead. It was pretty secure and I didn't feel scared that I'm going to fall down. The one thing I didn't like about the ride was that in the jeep that brought us to the tower where we will start our ride, they brought two metals that we will need. However, it kept rattling and just blasted our eardrums. My ears were ringing afterwards. You have to wear the helmet before you ride the jeep to the tower because the road up is not cemented and I kept banging my head on the ceiling of the jeep.

The zipline ride was over before I know it! Before I went to the tower, my sister asked me how she will know if it was me on the ride. I said, "I'm the one flapping her wings!" True to form, I did flap my arms like a bird on the way back to the restaurant (the first zip is towards the opposite side of the tower. The second zip is towards the restaurant, which is in the middle of the tower and the first stop). I was fearful at first, this was only my 2nd or 3rd time to go zipping, but after a few seconds in the air, I stopped being afraid and just tried to enjoy the sunshine, the wind on my face, and the view of the sea. It was such a novelty experience for me to go zipping over water!

Port of Benoni
Right before 2pm, we were able to go to Benoni port, which is about five minutes away from the zipline. As of this writing, there is no terminal fee in Benoni. It looks new and was clean and spacious inside. As soon as our jeep entered the terminal's compound, several porters jumped on our jeep, ready to grab our bags and earn some bucks. It was pretty disconcerting, to tell you the truth, and this coming from a Manila girl. We ignored them and bought the tickets ourselves. They said, "the tickets are P530!" but the tickets only cost us P510. So do be wary and just go straight to the ticketing booth.

I was so eager to get to our favorite seats (it was the same roro we rode from Friday night) that I walked right up to the entrance of the roro as the vehicles were being unloaded. I watched, fascinated, as they sprayed something on the wheels. I don't know how I must have looked like to the men in the pier, me with my kiddie-looking backpack and huge eyes, but it was one of my treasured memories of my trip to Camiguin. They were spraying something on the wheels, and I asked out loud, "Ano po yang snspray nila sa gulong? (What are they spraying on the wheels?)" One of the men turned to me and said, "Ah, disinfectant. Kayo rin, ginanyan nung pagdating niyo dito. (Ah, disinfectant. Even you were given that when you arrived here.)" I was taken aback and said, "Hindi ah! (No, I wasn't!)" and he said, "Diba may tinapakan kayo? Yun na un! (Didn't you step on something? That's it.)" So, when you reach Benoni and you have to go through this small passage where there is a wet mat on it, do step on it. Let's keep the place safe.

Again, the water was calm when the roro departed the port at 3pm...and true to form, of course, the waves started to get big. A lot of people got pretty seasick. Me, I just stared out into the water. To help my sister ease up, we started singing some of our favorite songs until we reached Balingoan. For some reason, on the right side of the ship, where the sun is, it looked like there were huge clouds, and like beyond the sea, everything was disappearing into nothingness. On the left side of the boat, there was barely any sunlight and looked so peaceful. And then at the end of the horizon, the ship will drop off to the edge of the earth (I blame the Pirates of the Carribean:At World's End for this dramatic illusionary :p)

And I think it was only fitting that we exit Camiguin with the same beautiful view as we entered it:

The view as we bid Camiguin farewell. Oh so beautiful.
And that's how we were able to tour Camiguin in six hours. We were always in a hurry, but the beauty of the place, coupled with our boatloads of humor and patience, and great company, helped us to relax and enjoy the time we had.

The time we had was actually very insufficient, but I'm glad we were able to make the most of the time we had. If you're wondering why didn't we just go switch our schedule and stay in CDO then go to Camiguin on Saturday and go back to CDO on Sunday, it's because we weren't sure if we could get back to CDO on Sunday enough to pursue our other plans. By the time we could have gone back to CDO that Friday, we would not have been able to pursue our other must-do activity - one that was specified by my sister that we should do. :)

Our tour was arranged by Kuya Teddy, but our driver was Kuya Robert. Kuya Robert is awesome! He took a lot of photos of us while we did our thing, and he would tell us how long we have that we could spend per tourist spot. Also, he made sure our things were safe, and he would even carry our things with us. Please keep in mind that your tour guide/driver's meals are not included in the package. I thought we were, and he was so shy to tell us that it wasn't included, so I just shrugged it off and said we'll take care of him. Do take care of your tour guide, and he'll return your generosity. :)

Kuya Teddy Pabualan - for complete tour packages with/out housing
Mobile: +63939 2440521 (Smart) or +63906 4912604 (Globe)

Kuya Robert - just for tour and multicab rental
Mobile: +63919 3286404 (Smart)

Unique lodging in Camiguin: Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge Art Camp

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[UPDATE: Enigmata Ecolodge is now closed due to a fire last October 22, 2015, which burned down the house. :( ]

Lodgings at Enigmata Ecolodge
The plan was to have a trip that costs less than P10k, so it took me quite a couple of days to find  budget lodgings that will cost us less than P1000/person and still be comfortable. I then stumbled on Enigmata Ecolodge, and with just one look at the rooms, I mustered all my persuasive skills to convince my sister and friend to stay there. Turns out I didn't have to do much persuading at all, they fell in love with the place as much as I did! (*Note: The photos in here, aside from the watermarks, are not processed or edited, unless they came from my Instagram, which I will note.)

I contacted them last June and we were able to book the Eagle's Nest Suite, the one at the top (refer to photo), for P1,050 ($25) for two adults, and P300 for each additional person.

I was expecting the place to be beautiful and full of art and I was not disappointed. It was really beautiful, especially for art-lovers like us. If you're fussy or not too fond of nature, then this place is not for you. The place is almost entirely made out of wood, and only the bedrooms have screens.

The Eagle's Nest Suite has a separate bedroom, a separate bathroom with shower, a kitchenette of sorts if you want to prepare your food (but no oven is provided), and your own sala, with a hammock on the side, and a dining area. The stairs leading up to our suite is a small spiral staircase, so if you're a bit up in your years and not as nimble or have trouble with your knees, the suite might not be for you (you might try the Shell Garden Suite though). The bedroom has two beds that will fit two medium-sized adults comfortably.

Stairs to second bed
To go to the second bed, you have to go up a small flight of stairs. The beds are covered overhead with indigenous tapestry, and you will be safe from insects with their kulambo. Frankly, the netting is not enough to cover the whole bed, but I didn't get bitten while sleeping so it was sufficient for pint-sized me.

There are two pillows per bed, but they are not fluffy, and the bedsheet smelled like it was made out of flour sacks, or maybe that's just what their laundry detergent smells like. I'm not dissuading you from staying there, though! I'm actually encouraging you as it is quite a novelty to sleep in an actual treehouse. Yes, the house is really entwined around the tree. I'm just cautioning those who might have sensitive skin.

Bed on the second floor where I slept.
Remember, this is a no-frills establishment. They will provide you with a small, thin towel, but you have to bring your own shampoo, conditioner, and soap. Also, they won't provide you with slippers. Basically, you just get a beautiful bed to sleep in, a restful night's sleep surrounded by nature, and truly clean air. And sometimes, those are the things you need anyway for a good night's sleep. Don't fret, you have your own clean bathroom. However, the switch for the light has to be pressed by your companion if you're using it at night because it will not stay on with just one press. It was pretty irritating but due to all our misfortunes on our way to Camiguin, we didn't really mind it as much.

Do keep in mind that you're sleeping on a tree so there might be ants, so do be careful. The bedrooms have screens to keep insects away, but the bathroom (yes, the bathroom), the sala, and dining area have huge open windows (refer to the photo above. But oh, it was heavenly to breathe in fresh air, the likes of which you will never experience living in Metro Manila!

Also, I felt like the suite sways a bit, or maybe that's an aftereffect of riding the roro through huge waves, wherein I certainly felt my stomach drop down to my feet several times.

Took this photo of my sis' bed in the morning.
We arrived in Camiguin on Friday night, seven hours later than the original plan, and...the whole island was bathed in darkness. Apparently, brownout ensued just right before we reached port. I know, I know, we were certainly having our very own Survivor Philippines: Camiguin edition! Our last meal was at the port seven hours prior, and since electricity was down, we didn't have anywhere to go to for food. And we could not go to any of the pools either, so all our tour stops were definitely postponed for Saturday.

But then when we were all resigned to just finding any place that's open for dinner with a backup generator, the lights turned on!!! Oh my God, we were overjoyed, and all the pains we had to get to Camiguin were wiped out with the appearance of those lights. We then rushed down with our money for dinner and change of clothes. From being lifeless, tired, hungry zombies, we were suddenly turned into uber-excited, albeit still starved, travelers.

The ate at the front desk of Enigmata was very helpful with our itinerary. She told us how to plan our trip and how long we should stay at each stop. Then she said that after dinner, we will still have time to go to the Ardent Hot Springs to soothe our tired bodies. And she was so right. It was just heavenly to be submerged in therapeutic hot water.

Ardent Hot Springs is the perfect place to visit before sleeping!
After that, our tour guide, Kuya Robert, acted as our personal driver/bodyguard. He just stayed by the tree where we left our things while we bathed, and he took pictures of us before we left. He also agreed to drive us around the main town to buy some needed supplies at the pharmacy, grocery, and bakeshop. Kuya Robert is just pure awesome.

We just stayed in Ardent for about 20 minutes, and we had to get back since the staff at Enigmata were just waiting for us to return before they slept. The three of us stayed in our dining area, listening to good music, enjoying the cold air, and the hammock. Can you say relaxed?

In the morning, you will wake up to the sounds of birds chirping around the trees. Surprisingly, we didn't need the mosquito/bug repellant at all. But there was a time when Chichi touched one of the t-shirts for sale at the lobby, and she was stung by something. Ate didn't help us out at all, we just poured Sterilium over her hand. Thank God she wasn't allergic to whatever that was because she didn't have her medicines with her!

Yep, we were way up high!
The sunlight didn't hit my face directly, but my first view upon waking up was sky lighting up slowly outside my window around 5am. It was a truly beautiful sight, and worth every P450 that I paid for.

Since we only had seven hours of Saturday to go to all the tourist spots in our itinerary, OceanJet having cancelled our 4PM flight and the ferry ride is scheduled to leave at 2PM, we woke up bright and early and left by 5:30am.

We bought food the night before at local bakeshops, but, staying true to our very eventful holiday, my sister discovered in the morning that birds/bats ate our food! We left the bread on the dining table, and I was thinking of putting it inside the bedroom as there might be birds/bats, but I was worried that the ants will go inside the bedroom to eat the bread and bite us. Thankfully, out of the four bags, the birds/bats only ate from two bags, and left the rest of the bread for the ants to feast on, and my companions and I had to share the remaining four pieces of (hopefully) untouched bread.

Our eaten bread. Gak!
Before we left, we explored Enigmata a bit more, aided by the early sunrise. We were sad that we weren't able to spend as much time around the whole place because there were awesome nooks in there! There are interesting statues outside the house, and some more hammocks outside. There is also a library, and they serve organic food. There is a common area where guests usually hang out with other guests or with artists when they visit. Across the road from Enigmata, we spotted turkeys and sheep. Yes, there is sheep in the country; some don't believe me when I say I used to run after sheep in Kiblawan, Davao, one memorable summer.

If you're wondering about the safety of your things while you're out, Kuya Robert told us that Camiguin is 100% crime-free by the locals. If there are any crimes, those are not done by the locals. That's because the whole of Camiguin can be traveled in two hours, and if they do commit a crime, where will they run to hide? Plus, they know almost everyone, so it's pretty hard to get away with it. In any event, the staff at Enigmata immediately lock up your door as soon as you leave.

Enigmata Treehouse Art Camp is just perfect for us weary city-girls looking for some peace and quiet. However, I found it very ironic that while Enigmata is the perfect place to be in touch with nature, they provide a pretty reliable and free WiFi service during your stay there. Oh, and yeah, unless you're willing to carry huge wheeled luggage up and down the stairs, you should think about just using backpacks. Not to mention it's hard to carry your luggage up and down the roro

Here are some more photos of Enigmata Treehouse Art Camp.

No filter. No flash. No joke. This is how the landing from the spiral staircase looked at night. I could not help but sing Coldplay's lyrics Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you... Enigmata was definitely calming at night.

One of my favorite photos from the bunch I took.
The door to the spiral staircase leading to the Eagle's Nest Suite. I love the intricate detailing on the door. The space is a bit cramped so, no, you cannot hold hands while going up the stairs.

This makes me think of Narnia's closet for some reason.
There is a wash area beside the sala. Notice the artwork at the bottom. We didn't really notice what it was depicting at that time until we were going through the photos in our computer. Also notice the tapestries along the ceiling. I love that the whole place just screams life and art!

Me with Chichi.
I was able to take a panoramic shot outside our bedroom. Here is the hammock, the dining area, and a view of the trees outside.

And if you get tired of just enjoying the gentle breeze, of listening to the quiet, or going around Camiguin, why don't you try a bit of chess?

Beyond the chess area is a common area filled with chairs and tables.

And because I was on a super tight budget (I only had P3500 with me in Camiguin!), I was only to buy my one and only souvenir throughout the whole trip, and it doesn't even have the words Camiguin or CDO on it:

My new dreamweaver (edited with an Instagram filter).
Enigmata is literally filled with Dreamweavers. There are some that are just for display, and some that can be bought. I bought one because it made me think of Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, nightmares, and good dreams. Plus, I think it's a cute and unique accessory in our bedroom (our bedroom is filled with glow-in-the dark stars, and we used to have Christmas lights along the wall until it stopped functioning).

The first time I tried to contact Enigmata was via e-mail them but it took them quite some time to respond. Also, they didn't reply to my subsequent emails, so Chichi just contacted them via their cellphone. They reply faster via that channel, so that's just how we continued to communicate with them.

If you're wondering about your mobile phone signal, Sun actually has a signal there! Since I got to CDO, my phone has an R symbol on my battery, which meant I was on Roaming. At first, I panicked but a friend of mine who used to work with Sun, said that it just means I'm latched on to the Smart network. Some of my messages were delayed, but phone calls were clear. I didn't use mobile internet, but Chichi was using her Globe phone and she had decent internet speed in other parts of the island, although she only had Edge while in Enigmata.

Despite the insects and the lack of toiletries (which was unexpected for us, we really thought there would be at least shampoo provided), my travel buddies and I were so enamored of the place. We kept raving about it, and definitely had huge smiles during our stay there. If we're going back to Camiguin, we will definitely stay there again.

I'm so glad we were able to stay in Enigmata before it closed down. I definitely have fond memories there, and I hope someday it will be reopened again.

Enigmata Treehouse Art Camp
Maubog, Balbagon, Mambajao,
Camiguin Island 9100 Philippines
E-mail: enigmatatreehouse@gmail.com
Landline: +6388 3870273 (if you live in the Philippines, just dial 088 instead of +6388)
Mobile: +63919 9999877 (Smart) or +63917 3264474 (Globe)
Enigmata Treehouse Art Camp website
Enigmata Treehouse Facebook page

A series of unfortunate events: How to commute to Camiguin - Survivor Philippines edition

12:30:00 PM 2 Comments A+ a-

Our first glimpse of Camiguin, while aboard the roro.
Hello there! So I went to Camiguin, and so much has happened, so this will be a series of posts about my trip. The first day was definitely the most epic, with a series of unfortunate events that eventually led to my self-improvement (really!). Sometimes, the best lessons come when you least expect it. And the results are usually worth it. We had a series of unfortunate events, but due to my months of planning ahead, we were able to get around every obstacle thrown at us. Also, it helped that I traveled with great friends and we just laughed throughout everything. (*Note: The photos in here, aside from the watermarks, are not processed or edited, unless they came from my Instagram, which I will note.)

We booked our flights last June, so we were able to get the air fare for cheap. We left on Friday, September 20, and by Thursday, September 19, everything was solid and planned out, from our itinerary, to our commute time, to the places we'll sleep in. We were ready, we had our budget down and our money in our wallets.

Then the first news came in: Oceanjet cancelled our trip from Macabalan Wharf to Benoni Port. Benoni is the fast craft that leaves from Macabalan, Misamis, to Benoni, Camiguin. The trip via Oceanjet takes about two hours. We really wanted that option since it's closer to Laguindingan Airport, and we wanted to get to Camiguin before lunchtime since our first day is jam-packed.

Early sunrise over Manila
How to go to Camiguin via Macabalan Wharf/Oceanjet:

1) Book your tickets for Oceanjet via Luzviminda Travel and Tours. According to sir Angelo of LTT, Oceanjet just lets passengers book through tour companies, and not directly anymore. They will contact you with the price, and how to pay. Tickets are non-refundable if you cancel, but they do become refundable if Oceanjet is the one who will cancel due to bad weather. A one-way ride is P990 plus a P20 terminal fee.

2) From Laguindingan Airport, take a taxi right outside the arrival area. If you don't have a map of Camiguin with you, pass by the Visitor's Information Area where the nice man behind the desk will give you a free map. You can also ask him for directions where to ride, and which vehicle will take you to where you want to go.

3) Present your Oceanjet e-ticket, and ride the ship, which is scheduled to depart Macabalan Wharf at 8am.

So, we had this planned out, but Oceanjet cancelled around 8pm, Thursday. I immediately scrambled to find the clearest instructions to get to Balingoan Port instead, where ferries are usually scheduled to leave every hour.

Based on my research, we have several options to get to Balingoan: Take a taxi, which would cost us thousands because taxis apparently don't like following the metered fare if you arrive from the airport; take a bus to the highway then another bus to CDO, then a jeep to Agora terminal, then a bus from Agora terminal to Balingoan; or a shuttle from the airport to CDO, then a jeep to Agora terminal, then a bus from Agora to Balingoan. If that sounds confusing to you, I was just as confused as you are. Since we have the earliest flight out of Manila, we were thinking we could catch the 10:15 ferry to Benoni, and get to Camiguin before noon. Our schedule will be a delayed, but at least just for an hour. Or so we thought. Really.

We got to NAIA 3 by 4am, for our 5:20am flight. Boarding time was schedule for 4:55am. Please note: You do not have to pay a terminal fee anymore, coming from Manila. This should already be incorporated in your plane fare. No tax as well, that just applies to international flights. We had breakfast and then we rushed to our assigned gate, where we found a lot of travelers waiting already. It was 4:50am. We boarded the plane before 5:20am. Our flight was delayed, and instead of arriving by 6:55am as scheduled, we arrived past 7am. By this time, I was already praying that we'll arrive in time to catch the 10:15 ferry, since the next ferry is scheduled to leave by noon, which is much too late for us already.

When we arrived at the airport, the guy behind the visitor information area said we can take the shuttle right outside the arrival doors and we can go down straight at Agora terminal. Yes!, I thought excitedly, we can make it on time!
Agora terminal - you can buy food and water. The CR is also clean!

How to go to Balingoan from Laguindingan Airport:

1) You can take the taxi, but we took the shuttle by Glorymer (0917 882-9384/0922 866-1591/ 0922 893-8684). They currently have a promo rate of P199, down from P249. You should pay the exact amount, cause they won't give you change if you pay P200. And when you're traveling on a tight budget, every peso counts, believe me.

2) Get off the shuttle when you arrive in Agora terminal and go straight for the buses with the sign Butuan (pronounced as Boot-wan). There will be a lot of people crowding you, selling you snacks, and porters trying to get you to ride a shuttle or other buses. Take the air con bus for a comfortable ride - we took the Bachelors Tours bus - the yellow one in the photo). It's only P148/person to go Balingoan. Tell the conductor to drop you off at Balingoan, otherwise you might end up in Butuan!

3) The bus will drop you off at a terminal, and you have to ride a motorela for P7/person. The driver will drop you off at the port, at the place that is currently selling tickets. There are several ferries from different ferry companies, but they are not open at all hours.

Unfortunately, the trip took longer than expected and we arrived at Balingoan Port by 10:30am. The ladies at the booth for M.V. Kalinaw said they don't have tickets to sell anymore, and...they're not sure if the captain will still push through with the 3pm ferry ride.

Things that were happening at that time:
1) Several trips the day before, Thursday, were cancelled due to bad weather, so the travelers ate up a lot of the seats for the Friday ferries.

2) There was a convention in Camiguin, and three schools were there.

3) Due to the storm in the country, there were huge winds that made crossing the sea to Camiguin quite dangerous and potentially unsafe.

The people at the port told us that we should have visited the week before, since they were actually scrambling for passengers! I guess you could say we picked the perfect time to visit Camiguin...

There was one last booth and trip that we could take - our last chance, you could say - to take the 1:45pm ferry by Super Shuttle Ferry 6. Since it was before 11am, I decided the three of us should just take turns standing in line for tickets and eat lunch. Based on all the blogs I've read, getting a ticket for the ferry is pretty straightforward. We were not expecting any trouble at all. There were only a few people in line, and no one was muttering around, complaining.

The booth was supposed to open at 1am, but the news came they will open at 12:30pm instead. I was second in line, but there were five rows. The people were rattling on the door of the booth to open up and sell us tickets already. I was smack in the middle, and everyone was speaking in Bisaya, and I could not understand anything! I kept asking people around me what was happening and why do the people keep holding on to their IDs. Then the manifesto was brought out (it's the list where you write down your name so in case something happens, they know you're on the boat and they can track you or maybe pay your family if you die(?) due to negligence) and there was a mad scramble by everyone to get their names on the list. I thought that if you get your name on there, you're assured of a ticket. I mean, everyone was just pushing and screaming and shoving. The porters wrote down several names, and I really thought I wouldn't get a chance anymore. And I was on the second row, for crying out loud!

I finally had my chance, after several attempts, and got lines number 50, 51, 52. I thought, okay, so our names are there now, we finally have a seat. Finally! This was at 1PM. Then the people started shoving their money forward to the booth. It was utter madness. I was not able to stand up anymore, I was just moving from side to side because of the crush. And all that time, I didn't know what the deal was since we were on the list anyway. I just pushed my arm forward and body forward, since I really felt the guy behind me starting to become happy pressed against me, if you know what I mean. After about five minutes of the shouting and shoving, I got the best news ever (say it with sarcasm): the tickets are gone. WHAT?! Are you kidding me?! I wanted to scream. I was in line for two hours (I knew my two other companions might get crushed from the rush or they'll just get debilitating migraines), I was dizzy, and I felt like fainting, and we were all smelly since we were under the heat of the sun for three hours. It seems like they prioritized the porter, and they only sold a margin of the tickets.

At that moment, I wondered what would happen if the ship sinks, and my name's on the manifesto, and then they'll show the names on TV and my parents will see our names and they'll panic...but nevermind that. I ran to the first booth we went to when we arrived. The two ladies were screaming at the other travelers. I stood in front of them and said quietly, "ma'am, wala na po ba talagang ferry? (ma'am, are there really no more ferries?)" The quiet voice (probably coupled with my blouse whose button has come undone due to the shoving, my messy hair, and my huge eyes), worked like a charm. The ladies immediately quieted down and spoke to me gently, "ma'am, 2pm pa po malalaman eh, magttext pa po ang kapitan. Sasabihan na lang namin kayo. (ma'am, we will find out by 2pm, the captain will text us. We will just tell you.)" They let me stay right in front of their booth, so that I can instantly buy tickets if the 3:30pm ferry ride will push through. This was 1:30pm.

My companions and I were already making plans to just go to Bukidnon if we can't go to Camiguin, and just forgo our downpayments to our tour and lodging. Then 2pm rolled around, and yes, there were tickets! The people started screaming again and shoving and pushing, and I was about to get crushed, when the lady shouted at me to just go to the side and she'll give me my tickets. When I finally got my tickets, the porters around the booth actually congratulated me! Hahahaha definitely an epic moment.

How to go to Benoni port, Camiguin, via Balingoan port by ferry:

The sunset in Camiguin, while aboard the roro.
1) Once you arrive in Balingoan port, go to the open booth, write your name on the manifesto, and pay your ticket. A one-way ticket costs P170. Make sure you know which ferry you will ride on and the time of your ride, since there might be other ferries at the dock.

2) In one of the booths before you enter the gates, you have to pay P2.25. I'm not sure what that is for.

3) Enter the gates, and go to the Balingoan Port building, not to the seats outside the building. You have to pay P2.25 for the terminal fee.

4) Get your bags scanned with the x-ray machine, and enter the terminal. There are no air cons or fans, so make sure to bring a fan if you'll be waiting long. If you're really lucky, you don't have to wait long.

5) Get on the roro when passengers are finally allowed to board. Keep your ticket on hand, as there will be people who will check it.

6) Get off the roro when passengers are allowed to leave. Look for your guide if you already have a tour booked. We booked with Kuya Teddy Pabuluan (0939 244-0521/0906 491-2604). You can also hire a motorela (P1500) or jeep (P1700), with driver.

Our ferry was scheduled to leave by 3:30pm, but we left by 4:30pm. I was texting my mom, and she said to enjoy the sunset in Camiguin when we get there. I laughed because at that exact moment, I was already watching the sunset aboard the roro. I previously imagined myself catching the sunset in Camiguin...but not aboard the roro. Oh well, it was still such a beautiful, beautiful sight! We finally arrived in Camiguin before 7pm.

And right before we got there, brownout ensued throughout the whole island. Aren't we just lucky?

But that's a story for another day.

Don't forget to read more of our adventures in Camiguin over the next few days.


Tips for traveling around the Philippines:
  • Arm yourself with lots of patience, humor, water, wet wipes, tissue, and the best hand sterilizer you have - like Sterilium (call ma'am Cora at 824-1562 for Sterilium). Also, do put on mosquito repellant.

  • Don't forget your hat and fan. It can get awfully hot, and terminals are not always equipped with electric fans or air conditioning units.

  • If your roro has a third floor (the first floor is for the vehicles, the second and third floors are for passengers), get a seat on the third floor to avoid getting wet from the waves. A native of Camiguin whom I met along the way said the secret is to sit on the middle so you won't get dizzy. I easily get seasick but I didn't get seasick, and I was sitting near the railings. I finally figured out that the trick is to watch the rolling sea and waves. For some reason, it helped me not to get seasick. If you easily get seasick, then forearm yourself with anti-motion sickness meds.

  • If you do not speak the dialect, just say "I'm sorry, I only speak English" or "Hindi po ako nakakaintindi ng Bisaya/other dialect (I do not understand Bisaya/other dialect, depending where you are)." But then again, they'll probably read from your blank look that you don't understand what they're saying, and they'll talk to you in English or Tagalog.

  • Filipinos are usually capable of speaking English, and if you're in a famous tourist spot, chances are the people around you know how to speak English or Filipino. Talk to people until you find someone who can converse with you in a language you will understand. If your first language is not English/Filipino/one of the local dialects in the country, make sure you know how to speak English, at least, or get a translator.

  • Places in the Philippines are usually pronounced as spelled, or they will correct you if you pronounce it wrong, so don't be afraid to ask people how to get there. To be safe, ask the security guard or people at the ticketing booths or vendors.

  • Most places only accept the local currency - Philippine peso - so make sure you already have your foreign currency changed. And check first with your hotel/lodgings if they accept traveler's check. Also, make sure you have coins - pesos and centavos - and small bills if you're going to commute. You'll be the one on the losing end if the person you're paying has no change.

  • Don't be afraid to talk to the locals or ask them for directions! We Filipinos are usually friendly and helpful by nature. But also make sure to keep your wallets/passports/money in safe places. If you're going to the beach and you'll be commuting, keep your fancy jewelry at home.

Nothing crude about The Croods

12:30:00 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

I finally got to watch The Croods, and it's definitely a five-star movie for me! I wanted to watch it because of Emma Stone, but I really didn't know what the plot was all about. With my downtime, I decided to give it a try. No regrets. It even made me teary-eyed

I think the movie, with its timeframe of being during the prehistoric Pliocene era gave it a lot of leeway to introduce a lot of "modern" concepts such as shoes, skateboards, acting, emotions like sensitivity, and love, because we don't really know how "advanced" they were in those times. Despite the available information that we have at our disposal, there are still a lot of things we don't know, and I think Dreamworks played with that lack of knowledge to create something so vibrant and entertaining.

The Croods is about the Croods family who are, by definition, cavemen. They live in caves and they hunt for food, which is very sparse. According to Guy, a thinking prehistoric man, cavemen have huge teeth and excessive hair. The Croods family is composed of Grug the father (played by Nicholas Cage), Ugga the mother (Catherine Keener), Thunk the son (Clarke Duke), Eep the daughter (Emma Stone), Sandy the baby (Randy Thom), Gran (Cloris Leachman), and Guy (Ryan Reynolds).

Eep is the "rebel" as she hates being in the dark and she loves being outside, especially when there is light. Grug, however, believes that they must live in fear, follow tradition, and just keep hiding when it's dark. They should only go out when there is light because of the very harsh conditions that they live in, and so they can survive. They used to have a lot of neighbors, but because Grug is very strong, the Croods survived.

One day, Eep wakes up and sees light, which she initially thought was the sun, shining inside their dark cave. She slips out of the cave to follow the "sun" and stumbles into Guy, who was carrying a torch. Not much is known about Guy, and why he is more civilized than the Croods family. He says he uses what he calls a "brain" to think of ideas to survive their environment. Guy's goal is to reach "Tomorrow," a place where he believes everything will be safe. He thinks this way because his parents told him before they died that things will be better tomorrow.

Grug was initially reluctant to follow Guy, but since their cave dissolves, they are forced to move forward to another place that they discovered, where there are trees and huge animals that were unknown to them. Grug finally agrees to go with Guy when they both see a mountain split into two and an elephant fall to its death. Along the way, the Croods family becomes slightly civilized as Guy teaches them to wear slippers, or to think for themselves. However, Grug started to feel less important to his family as they started to follow Guy's ideas more than his. In the end, Grug realizes that he has to accept that things are changing and that he has to be more fearful if he wants his family to survive.

For a moment, my eyes were threatening to cry a river - but father-daughter moments in films always tend to do me in. I love The Croods because of the fantastic plot, the good message about families, and the beautiful graphics. Of course I know I was watching an animated film, but it really captured my imagination and I kept thinking, "oh my gosh, what if this was real? What if this really happened?!" The Croods is kind of like Ice Age, only with humans and with a different era, but with the same end-of-the-world theme, and the characters trying to adapt to their ever-increasing environment despite their fear of change and the unknown.

The budding romance between Eep and Guy was not given a definite conclusion, but it was cute to see them slowly grow close. Eep was immediately enamored of Guy since he was the first non-family teenage boy that she met. Guy was not as quick to return her feelings, but he was an all-around nice guy. Emma Stone was just perfect for the story! I cannot imagine another voice that could play Eep. I'm not saying Emma Stone has a cavewoman voice, but rather that she voiced the part of a teenage rebel with a heart rather well. Ryan Reynolds was a surprise for me; I liked the voice of Guy but I never imagined Ryan was the man behind the cute Guy.

The Croods is fast-paced and vastly entertaining, and fit for kids but with a PG rating and all those young at heart. It will soon be out on BluRay and DVD via Amazon or you can buy it now via iTunes. There is also a game called The Croods as well available for iOS.

If you enjoyed The Croods as much as I did, Sean O'Connell from Cinema Blend (and other sources) say the sequel is already in the works over at Dreamworks. Woohoo! Can't wait for that one! But for now, I'm off to play The Croods on my iPod.

Singapore River Safari and Night Safari - finally!

12:30:00 PM 1 Comments A+ a-

Entrance to the River Safari. The floor is a mixture of wooden slats and cement tiles.
On my first visit to Singapore last year, I had all these places I wanted to go to. I don't really like re-visiting a country I've been to, since I want to visit a new country the next time. One of the places I really wanted to visit was Singapore's Night Safari, and this time I managed to persuade my sister and mom to take the trip.

We were so excited because it would only cost us S$39 for two trips. But when I got there, I had to pay $49/pax; I think the lady at the desk thought I was a local because she didn't ask for my passport. I realized it too late - only when I got back to our hotel, Grand Park City Hall.

How to go from River Safari/Night Safari via the red train line:
  1. If you are able to ride the red train line, get off at Ang Mio Kio. From Ang Mio Kio train stop, go down one floor below and exit the building facing the bus station. Cross the street to the bus station. Keep in mind the places where you can cross, of course. Enter the bus station via the stairs at the side of the building. You have to ride Bus 138, and the trip costs S$1.90 one way. If you don't have a bus/train pass and are paying by cash, best to make sure you have coins prior to boarding as they do not give out change. You can buy a bus pass at the station if you do not have coins or the exact amount.
  2. Enjoy the scenery. You will see the housing apartments, and several beautiful stand-alone houses along the way. There is also a lot of grass, and there is also a beautiful lake that looked so inviting, I wanted to swim in it. It actually looks untouched...or just very well preserved. It's a part of Singapore that I didn't think actually exists.
  3. There will be many stops along the way, but don't fret, you'll eventually see the banner/logo announcing the River Safari/Night Safari/Singapore Zoo.
  4. Once you get off the bus, go do the River Safari or Singapore Zoo first as the Night Safari does not upon until 7pm. We didn't go to the Singapore Zoo, but the River Safari closes by 6pm.
  5. Right after your River Safari/Singapore Zoo tour, grab a seat and some dinner, don't stay too close to the stage because things can get kind of hot...
The stage is burning!
...because there's a fire dance show prior to the opening of the show. If you missed out on the 6:45pm show, don't fret, there's also a show at 8pm and 9pm every day, and at 10pm for Friday, Saturday, and eve of Public Holidays.

The show was okay, but I've seen better from Boracay's fire dancers, which I super enjoyed.

So, let's backtrack to River Safari first. In truth, I only wanted to visit River Safari for a glimpse of real pandas, but there were also other creatures there that I enjoyed seeing. Sorry, I forgot to take note of the names of the animals!

By the way, if you're carrying a lot of stuff, like we did since we came from shopping around Orchard, there are lockers available at the River Safari for S$3 for your whole stay there. Unfortunately, you can only close it once. If you open it again, you have to pay another S$3 so make sure you have everything you need before you close it.


Red panda!
Red-bellied piranha
And the reason why I insisted that we go to the River Safari...

So cute!
Meet Kia Kia. There are two panda bears in the River Safari, and Kia Kia is the more outgoing of the two. Jia Jia, the other panda bear, was hidden in their room - something she usually does when she is stressed out by the size of the crowd. It was so sad to see her eating like she was stress-eating. Prior to entering the panda place, we were warned to keep quiet and not make unnecessary noises and to turn our mobiles phone into silent mode. Jia Jia hides so frequently that the management has installed a CTV camera so people will still be able to see her.

After the panda place, which is in the middle of the River Safari, there are also other interesting animals like some monkeys and other birds. The usual price of the River Safari is S$35, but since the boat is not operational yet, it costs S$25. Honestly, I think it's better to wait for the boat ride because walking around and seeing the fish is vastly different from riding in the sea and seeing them swim around you.

You are allowed to bring food and eat in designated places. Equip yourselves with a lot of water as you will be very thirsty. I bought this lovely-looking chocolate cake from Awfully Chocolate in Ion Orchard prior to going here. The seller only quoted me the price of the 100-gram cake, and I forgot that they also add GST, so in total I paid a whopping S$9+, when the quoted price was about S$7+.

I'm just glad that the cake was tasty and not too sweet, the kind that will make your throat itch. It was also very soft and had chocolate cream in between layers. I was too busy eating before I remembered to take a photo. Sadly, the cake kept rolling around the box due to poor handling - by me - so it doesn't look as appetizing anymore as it did on the store display.

After eating, we went to the Night Safari, which is just beside River Safari. There was a bearcat, and we were allowed to take pictures with it...for free! I like bearcats because they are a combination of two animals I like: bears and cats. I didn't dare touch it though because I'm not sure of their temperament.

This is blurry because I moved when it kept moving closer to my phone, licking its lips like that.
Upon entering the Night Safari, you can watch the Creatures of the Night Show, which lasts 20 minutes. It is a daily show in their amphitheater, from 7:30pm, 8:30pm, and 9:30pm, and 10:30pm on Friday, Saturday, and even of Public Holidays. Seats are on a first-come first-served basis so if the place is full, you won't be allowed to enter anymore.

You can take a tram ride or walk the trails. We opted for both. We met a Filipina employee who suggested we watch the Creatures of the Night Show (we weren't able to catch any of the shows, they were always full!) and then do the lion trail first then the tiger trail to watch their feeding sessions. Lion feeding session: 8pm and 9pm; Tiger feeding session: 8:30pm and 9:30pm. Each trail takes about 20 minutes and you will be able to walk from one session to another with time to spare.

We got lost on the way to the tiger session. We passed through an ally where there was no lighting, and I had to use my phone's flashlight app to light the way. We reached the Wallaby cage...which I wasn't sure we were supposed to enter because we were the only ones there and there was barely any lighting. The wallabies didn't pay any attention to us, though, they were too busy eating. It was too dark to take pictures and I didn't want to use my flash, of course.

We just kept on walking on the quest for the tiger lookout to watch him eat, and we chanced upon this cave with these hanging from the ceiling. I am not exactly sure what this is.

So beautiful up close!
Then we saw a sort of waterfall with stepping stones. My sister and I could not resist crossing the stones, despite our holding a camera and the possibility of slipping. Oh, what the heck, we are always both up for an adventure when we're together (such as walking along the Skyway and passing by the toll booths on foot and running in the parking lot thru a pouring rain and shopping our hearts out afterward because I didn't want the night to end yet).

I wasn't able to take a lot of pictures because it was dark. I only use my S3's camera to take photos. But one of the interesting creatures I saw in the Night Safari was this:

It's a glow in the dark scorpion! We walked through that place pretty quickly because we were feeling chilled, surrounded by live scorpions.

We were able to arrive right on time for the lion feeding, but the lookout is too far for a near-sighted gal like me. Plus, the tram suddenly arrived and totally blocked my view! Being a near-sighted, 5-footer really has its downsides sometimes.

We rushed to the tiger trail and we managed to snag front-most spots. The upside to this for us small women is that we were able to see the tiger up close. The downside is that a lot of people kept pushing, jockeying to get to the front and there's barely any air for breathing.

Don't fret, there's a glass separating you from the tiger. He was fed three times while we watched. He was so thin :( It was so sad to see his bones protruding from his skin like that. He also didn't roar or whatever to drive us off. He kept slinking and hiding as he waited for his food while we all watched him stare at us.

But being this close to the tiger was worth it.
The tiger actually brushed against the glass right in front of me. My H&M shopping bag was pressed against the glass, and he must have thought it was food and blood. My mom suddenly jerked backward in surprise when the tiger stopped in front of us, and he moved away before I was able to take a decent photo (with no flash).

We took the tram ride twice, with my sister and I exchanging positions for each trip. It only took about 20 minutes for each ride, and it felt too short. Some of the animals, like the oryx, lechwe, and Malayan tapir were just beside the road of the tram. They didn't attack us, but just watched us or ignored us. The Malayan tapirs are funny, because they kept crossing the road, unmindful of the tram. I suppose that's why the tram just drove slowly because the animals might be crossing the road.

After that, it was already 10:30pm and we had to catch the bus and train back to Ang Mio Kio and back to our hotel. Since we were noobs in the Singapore bus department, we really had to take the train. (We later found out that there's a bus from Ang Mio Kio to the street near our hotel *face palm*).

How to go back from Night Safari:
1) You can take the SaEx to various points around Singapore for $5 for one way. This is also an alternative way to get here if you don't want to take the train and bus.

If you opt for the bus and train, just go back to the where the bus driver dropped you off and fall in line. The fare is S$1.90 again, and get off Ang Mio Kio bus stop. If you don't want to take the train anymore, then find out the bus stops near your hotel. If not, cross the road to the train station and take the train to your hotel.

For the price we paid, S$49, I felt it was too steep because I only really wanted to see the pandas in the River Safari, and we didn't get to stay long there. However, the night safari was worth it for me because I saw all these awesome animals up close. I felt sad though that they had such limited space to roam around, when they must have been free to roam around the world, or at least vast spaces, when they were in the wild. But that's a debate for another day.

Have you been to the River Safari or Night Safari? What was your favorite animal?