Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Camiguin: Hopping from White Island to Mantigue

The Sunday started with gleeful exuberance and continued to exude a cheery mood well into the afternoon. The sky continued to be an intense blue, the clouds hung like fresh laundry on a clothesline, the birds sung rather noisily, albeit in a pleasant way, among the trees. It was impossible not to feel invigorated especially after a night of rain. The mood was not lost on us, emboldening us to try our luck and visit Mantigue Island off the eastern flank of Camiguin. We asked around – the staff at secret cove, the saleslady at the nearby sari-sari store, even our habal driver, Jun.Lady Luck smiled on us as Jun’s sister knows a friend who actually lives on this island, also known by such names as Magsaysay and Turtle Island. So after a quick lunch, we beat a hasty trail to San Roque, the town next to Benoni where the port for ferries from Balingoan is located. Here, we met Jeffrey Saturos, a friendly twenty-something lad who took us to this outlying island in around 10 minutes.

While waiting for word on accommodations, we stayed at a cabana on the beach, taking turns to look after our stuff while the other explores the island on foot. The island is not that big anyway, taking just around 15 minutes to circle (we would've wanted to venture to the forest but decided to just wait for the sunset on the beach) what surprised me was how different the island was from Jens Peters’ description.T here were houses there, mostly made from sawali and wood with a few made of concrete. 24 families actually still occupy the island, down from the original 40, after the local government requested them to leave the island.T he official reason was the island was a bird and turtle sanctuary.T he locals have a different version altogether but i leave the matter to the CamigueƱos.We checked out the only cottage available for visitors and found the papag floors, sawali walls and bamboo beds to our liking. Later on, we found it was already booked. The island’s residents, however, came to our rescue, as Jeffrey’s sister let us sleep in their house. Power is supplied by a generator but not all the houses get its share every night so after a gasera-lit dinner of sugba (grilled) fish and shellfish, we each found a spot on the sala (living room) to try and catch some sleep. There was a bit of merrymaking until around 9 when the island simmers down to a deep stillness. It was a cloudy night, with impending rain, so the darkness was pitch black save for an occasional stray firefly.

Towards midnight, the rains came along with the rumble of thunder that seem to emanate from deep within the earth. We actually wondered if we would be able to shoot the sunrise the next day so we slept rather fitfully.

When morning came, it was a replay of the previous day – bright and cheery. The island's friendly dogs were out to greet us at the break of dawn, accompanying us as we shoot the sunrise. There was the temptation to take a dip in the clear waters (Mantigue is popular among divers for its rich coral grounds) but after seeing so many sea urchins and dissuaded by the preciousness of fresh water for bathing afterwards, we instead lingered over breakfast before heading back to the main island. It was a back-to-basic experience, sleeping in spartan conditions but being on the receiving end of the residents' warm hospitality.Tourist info: FEES: The local government charges fees for entrance to (P10) and activities conducted on Mantigue (P20 for swimming, higher for snorkeling and scuba diving).TRIPS: For visitors interested in visiting the island, you can contract a bangkero from Benoni or San Roque. Banca ride is around p400-500/one way. trip takes only 10-15 minutes on calm days. it would be best to contract a bangkero who lives on the island; otherwise, arrange for a return trip at a scheduled time. Our bangkero was Jeffrey Saturos, mobile 0929.6770331 • SUPPLIES: There are sari-sari stores on the island but don’t expect refrigerated stuff as the island’s power is rationed. WATER: Mantigue has no fresh water supply so it is a precious commodity in these parts. Even laundry water has to be imported from the main island.ACCOMMODATION: There is only one cottage available for guests, with 2 beds but the room can accommodate up to 6 pax; P700/night.
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