Camiguin: Philippine’s Marine Sanctuary

Camiguin: Philippine’s Marine Sanctuary

By Apolinario Villalobos


Camiguin is the smallest island-province of the Philippines. Its minuteness should not be taken for granted, as the coralline island is cramming with nature’s treasures. The intriguing island can evoke imagined exaggerated stories, especially, as the highest pinnacle of Mt. Hibok-hibok dominates the view as the ferry taken from Balingoan (Cagayan de Oro) nears Benoni, the island’s port. The island province is composed of five municipalities…Mambajao, Mahinog, Guinsilban, Sagay, and Catarman.


Mambajao prides in the White Island Marine Sanctuary which is located two kilometers from Agoho, west of the town. The strip of white sand bar is shaped like a letter C. It is a popular picnic site of locals and visitors to the island. Around the sand bar are coral gardens that snorklers will surely enjoy. Other marine sanctuaries are Baylao Marine Sanctuary, Kabiling Tupsan Marine Sanctuary, and Magting Marine Sanctuary. Additionally, marine sports will also delight in the Jicduf Reef and the Old Volcano. The latter is composed of a series of peaks that rise 80 feet from the ocean floor.


At Mahinog, a pocket of forest offers birdwatchers endemic avian life. The green canopy is actually that of Mantique Island Marine Sanctuary where a fascinating scuba dive can be made. The minute forest island’s coral gardens are homes to big-eyed jacks and sea turtles. Aside from Mantique, the municipality of Mahinog also boasts of Burias Shoal, San Roque, Benoni and Binaliwan marine sanctuaries.


The southern municipality of Guinsilban on the other hand, offers Cabuan Marine Sanctuary and South Marine Sanctuary with more abundant and colorful coral fishes, while the Cantaan coral communities are dominated by giant clams. 


West of the island is Sagay where two protected marine sanctuaries, the Alangilan and Balite, are found, with their coral gardens profusely alive with colorful fishes. The most famous marine product of the municipality is squid, albeit, fishing for which is regulated.


Catarman is the site of the so-called “sunken cemetery”, following the eruption of the volcano in 1871. The other attractions of the town are the Pasil Reef Marine Sanctuary, Catibac Marine Sanctuary, Lawigan Marine Sanctuary, and Poblacion Marine Sanctuary.


The island province has a total of 31 Marine Protected Areas (MPA), virtually making the whole island a protected area, and a top dive site of the country.


Other must-visit on the island are: Katibawasan Falls, 5 kilometers southeast of Mambajao; Tuasan Falls, 6 kilometers northeast of Catarman;  Bura Soda Water Swimming Pool, located at Bura, Catarman; Esperanza Ardent Hot Spring, 6 kilometers southwest of Mambajao, fed by the warm spring water that escape from the vents of Mt. Hibok-Hibok; Sto. Niῆo Cold Spring, 4 kilometers, north of central Catarman;  Tangub Hot Spring, 12 kilometers west of Mambajao; Macao Cold Spring, located at Tupsan Pequeῆo; Tanguines Lagoon, located at Benoni, a man-made lagoon fed with warm water, where boating can be made.


The prominent feature of the island is Mt. Hibok-hibok with its 3,584 feet above sea level height and craggy slopes. From a distance the jagged tips of black corals look forbidding. The extinct volcano can be negotiated in about four to five hours. For a leisurely climb, it is suggested to spend a night at the Abo camping site in preparation for the trek up, early the following morning. Guides and porters can be arranged at Benoni, where some tour guides can be found soliciting clients. The best way however, is to make arrangements  with the lodging house or resort management where one is billeted.


The main produce of the island, aside from copra is lanzones which is one of the sweetest in the country. The islanders bring their produce to as far as Manila where it vies in popularity with those from Laguna, source of another sweet variety. The island is good for a three to four-day sojourn to fully enjoy the stay that should include snorkeling and diving, as well as, leisurely trek up Mt. Hibok-Hibok.


Historically, Camiguin was visited by Legaspi in 1565. The first settlement was Guinsilban, established in 1598. Many years later, a major Spanish settlement was established in Catarman known before as Katagman or Katagman, in 1679, growing by leaps to become what was known later as Barangay Bonbon. On May 1, 1871, Mt. Vulcan Daan erupted and destroyed the town, leaving only traces of the old Spanish church, convent and bell tower. Sagay was established as a town in 1848, while Mambajao became one, in 1855.  Mambajao was derived from the Visayan word “to have breakfast”. The town of Mambajao prospered in the 1900s due to its port which was among the busiest in northern Mindanao. Both Mahinog and Guinsilban used to be under the administration of Sagay. Later, the two got separated to become municipalites, with Mahinog in 1860 and Guinsilban in 1950.


The island of Camiguin beckons to visitors who prefer unspoiled surrounding. For a packaged tour, that include Cagayan and Bukidnon, Camiguin is suggested as the last destination in the itinerary, so that the weary body can rewind in any chosen tranquil white beach of the island.






Love Beyond Fifty…for Roy and Lyn Alim


…for Roy and Lyn Alim

By Apolinario Villalobos


It is said in the Bible that

God first created Adam,

but for him not be lonely

He created Eve

from Adam’s rib,

and from them, hence,

the world was filled by man.


Adam was created out of love,

and so was Eve

as she was from Adam’s rib,

so that the two must never be separated.

This, God has decreed on earth:

By the sanctity of marriage –

and for better or worse

let not even death

make them part.


With man’s frailty

caught in the web of worldly temptation,

love could be so brittle

as to crumble

in the mere touch of sheer delusion.

Without patience,

though tempered with understanding,

for some to be together even for just a year

may seem like a life in hell.


Love beyond fifty

is a love tinted with golden devotion

that emanates from the hearts

of two people in love,

for they throb with desire

to fulfill the heavenly scheme

that they are meant for each other,


just as there could be no life

and the world is not what it is

without day and night,

so will their love  endure

from here till eternity

even as they have reached

the golden milestone of fifty…

Take it Easy with the “Impression”

Take it Easy with the “Impression”

By Apolinario Villalobos


It is not good to have an outright impression about another person, just because the latter is perceived to be different from the rest, in how he/she carries or garb himself/herself for respectability. Unfair judgment or unfair conclusion, tend to come out, because of this attitude.


For instance, a woman dressed to the nines, complete with jewelries can catch the fancy of tongue waggers, as a lady-by-night or “tour guide” for foreign tourists. A good-looking man who tries his best to dress well in order to exude a respectable image as his ploy to get a good-paying job is sometimes judged as a callboy or worst, a pickpocket.


Other people are perceived by others as bums, couch potatoes, whose time is devoted to brisk walking or jogging in the morning, gazing at the TV set and sitting it out the whole afternoon with peers, just because they quit their regular job – a very unfair impression. Those who have this unfair impression have no way of knowing what the people that they are judging, are doing.


There is always something to do beyond a certain point in life such as a job that has been left. Resourceful people, always find means to land another job after quitting one, even on short-term consultancy basis. If some people cannot imagine themselves doing this, they might as well, just keep quiet. It is bad to think that others are just “pakalat-kalat” around, just because they have no regular job, as this is tantamount to calling him a bum!









Bukidnon: Cool and Abundant

Bukidnon: Cool and Abundant

By Apolinario Villalobos


Bukidnon is situated on a plateau 2,898 feet above sea level. The province is best described with the word “abundant”. Situated on a heart-shaped plateau in North Central Mindanao, it is bounded on the north and northwest by Misamis Oriental, on the south by North Cotabato, on the east by Agusan del Sur and on the west by Lanao del Sur. Its 8,422.57 square kilometers is broken by seven deep and luxuriantly forested canyons and verdant valleys that sustain its agricultural and livestock industries. It is the source of vegetables, rice and meat not only for the people of Mindanao but also for Visayas and Luzon. Based on the geographical area, the province is the country’s fourth largest.


The vast pineapple plantation is operated by the Philippine Packing Corporation which carries the del Monte brand. Bukidnon was derived from the Visayan reference “of the mountains” referring to the mountain ranges to which the original settlers of Misamis retreated when Visayan immigrants occupied the lowlands before the Spaniards came.  From being part of Misamis province, the political jurisdiction was transferred to Agusan, and it was in 1917 that it finally got its own charter as a province.


The seven tribes distributed throughout the virtually last frontier of Philippine forested territory are  Umayamnon, Matigsalug, Manobo, Talaandig, Bukidnon, Higaonon, and Tigwahanon. The seven tribes come down from their mountain abodes during the Kaamulan festival held between  mid-February up to March 10 of every year. The festival’s name is derived from “amul” which means “gathering” or in the Visayan dialect, “pakigkita”. The festival had its initial celebration in 1974, to drum up tourist visitation of the province. During the festival the different ethnic rituals are staged to give lowlanders a picture of the tribes’ culture. It also showcases the colorful woven fabrics sewn into everyday apparel and festival costumes which is loudly accentuated by the female headdress that looks like a colorful feathered giant fan. The traditional headdress is called “panika”. Other produce from the farm and handicrafts are distributed in different festival booths and sold to visitors.


The forested canyons are suggested for birdwatching and botanical research. The forests are interspersed by rivers and streams that drop to waterfalls with some of their outflow finally finding their way to lakes . From the crest of Kilaman, Mangina and Atugan canyons, a panoramic view of the winding roads and ribbons of river and creeks can be had. The province is lately playing host to foreigners engaged in research works, trade, and spiritual missions around the province.


The province’s most prominent landmark is the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natual Park, the total land area of which is  31,297 hectares of virgin forests that include, Mt. Dulang-dulang, accessible from the towns of Kaatuan, Sumilao, Lantapan, Bol-ugan, La Fortuna, Intavas, Lupiagan and Impagsug-ong.  The hightest peak of Mt. Kitanglad is 9,511 feet above sea level, the fourth tallest among the mountains of the country. Other popular promontories worth the trek are the 646 meters Musuan Hill in Dologon, Maramag; Mt. Capistrano right in Malaybalay which can be scaled leisurely if only for its historical significance, being the evacuation area of the locals during the WWII; Mount Pulog in Manolo Fortich which offers a sweeping view of vast flower gardens; and the Pigsuguan Hills in barangay Siloo of Malitbog.


Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon’s gateway to the rest of the province, is frequently visited by Japanese tourists, being the site where a high ranking Japanese official was shot at the close of the WWII. A stone inscribed with Japanese characters marks the spot. The Del Monte Golf Club House prides in its splendid steak and other fusion cuisine which visitors coming from as far as Davao never miss, every time they wanted to spend a weekend retreat in Bukidnon.


For the religious, recommended is the Benedictine Monastery of the Transfiguration on a hill of barangay San Jose in Malaybalay City. The eye-catching monastery with its pyramid-like structure was designed by the National Artist, Leandro Locsin. The monastery is home to Bukidnon’s famous coffee brand, “Monk’s Blend”. Another monastery in Malaybalay is the Carmelite Sisters’ Monastery with its beautiful gardens.



Barangay Sonco in Lantapan town, home of the Talaandig community  is exerting much effort to preserve their culture, hence, still practice their ancient ways. In fact, a school in the community imposes the teaching of traditional weaving, music, dance, arts and literature. This is a “must see” live cultural site of the province.


Between Sumilao and Manolo Fortich are a series of hills called Palapao with an average height of 836 feet above sea level. According to the locals, the vicinity was used as a burial ground during the 19th century as evidenced by coffins and artifacts found in the caves and rock crevices. The discovered artifacts showed marks attributed to the Metal Age.


Accordingly, the latest addition to the thrill list of the province for the adventurous is the longest zipline of Asia, the Dual Cable Zipline at the Dahilayan Adventure Park of Manolo Fortich. The dual cable stretch 840 meters from both ends, and a drop of 100 meters. The adventurous is guaranteed a speed between 60 to 100 kilometers per hour.


Spelunkers will be thrilled to know that the province is pockmarked with challenging, most of which are not yet fully explored. At Sumilao are the Paiyak, Basag, Sumalsag, and Lagundang caves. At Valencia are the Salawaw, Kasanayan caves. Other caves are the Kabyaw and Sagongsong of Quezon, Kisilop  and Linking Caves of Kibawe, Minsulahog cave of Baungon, Bogsok cave of Libona, and Borantawan cave of Talakag.  Lately, adventurous spelunking groups are said to be continuously discovering more caves around the province that shall definitely enhance its quest to become a veritable adventure haven of Mindanao.


An interesting information for horticulture groups is about the Raffleasia and the Amorphophallus Paeoniifoluius plants that can be found in the town of Baungon. The Raffleasia caught the attention of the curious when it was discovered in Palawan several years ago, although, per record, Mt. Apo, between Cotabato and Davao, has its own, and discovered in 1881. Among the locals, the Raffleasia is called “kolon busaw”.    


At Sitio Lalawan, Barangay Dalwangan of Malaybalay city, there is a birdwatch “tower” on which, a patient birdwatcher may spend time to scout for endemic birds including the Philippine Eagle. This is the suggested last stop following an intensive itinerary for an exhilarating tour of Bukidnon.


From Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon is 104 kilometers. Manolo Fortich, the gateway to Bukidnon can be reached can be reached a one-hour travel over mountain paved highway, add another half-hour for an onward trip to Malaybalay, the capital of the province. Bukidnon can also be reached directly from Davao via Salawagan, Quezon covering a distance of 208 kilomers.


The new airport in Cagayan de Oro that accommodates flights from Manila and elsewhere is located at Laguindingan which is more spacious than its former location at Lumbia.