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Dette Pascual: Camiguin - Hiboc-hiboc Volcano
Born of Fire
Camiguin Island, Philippines

Story by Dette Pascual
Photos: JR Pascual

"Camiguin fair isles,
Neath your cool mantle of green
Beats a heart of fire."

he haiku above was written in a burst of inspiration by my friend Evelyn Peplow in a visit to Camiguin Island, Philppines week-end of Oct. 8, 2010. This trip to the island had taken months of planning, coordinating schedules, organizing plane, ferry boat and hotel reservations. One would think that such a simple trip, just 1 hour away by plane from Manila would be routine. Instead it took months and tons of back-and-forth e-mails. It is a typical techno-age story.

location map and aerial view of Camiguin Island with white sandbar in the foreground, Philippines

It all started when back in June, Aida Elago D'Orazio, a Filipina, married to an Italian, and settled in Toronto, Canada, wanted to visit her father's roots. From this gleam of a wish, the Elago clan, scattered in many parts of the Philippines and the U.S. decided on a family reunion in Camiguin Island where their grandfather originally came from. How they finally pulled the whole thing off with great success, belongs to the family saga of the Elagos which will not be taken up here. But what bears telling is how three other friends of Aida including moi, jumped on the idea of inviting ourselves to that reunion in order to see the famous Hiboc-hiboc Volcano.

However --- easier said, than done. Chita Almario was in San Francisco, Evelyn Peplow was on a European tour, and Blanche Gallardo was visiting her children in Hongkong. Since I was already in my Dalipuga-by-the-sea residence in Mindanao (an island adjacent to Camiguin) , it was the most practical jump-off point for our vacation. Through e-mails we discussed dates of arrivals and departures, plane fares, who was meeting whom, etc. What's complicated about that? Not much , except that the ladies involved were in different parts of the world, and they had to cope with their own time-tables. Even Aida, who lives in Canada, was in Germany for the Oberamergau festival. As October neared, emails became frantic, with so many changes of dates. It was typical feminine logic (?) that Aida of Canada, took care of the Camiguin hotel reservations, while Chita in U.S. took care of the round trip plane schedules from Manila to Cagayan de Oro (airport nearest to Camiguin island) . Finally, Oct. 7, everyone arrived. I met my friends for an overnight stay in Dalipuga-by-the-sea, and the next day we were on our way.

“Island born of fire,” is the way they describe the Island. Located in the northern tip of Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines, Camiguin is known for its seven volcanoes. Legend has it that the island, all 29,187 hectares of it, was formed through eruptions of fire from these volcanoes. Surrounded by mountains, moisture laden clouds assure soft rains regularly. Rains and the soil enriched by volcano overflow is ideal for sweet lanzones, pride of the island. Lanzones is a tropical fruit that looks like large beige grapes, but with thicker skin. When squeezed, the soft skin opens into neatly arranged sections of translucent, juicy, jello-like fruit. Since October is the month of the lanzones festival, young girls in colorful sarongs met us at the hotel entrance with bunches of the fruit arranged in bamboo baskets. It was a refreshing way to quench our thirst after the 1 ½ hour ferry crossing from the Cagayan de Oro airport.

the lanzones fruit and photos of the writer and friends, Camiguin Island

the writer and friends at resort's front office with a map of Camiguin
First day, we were ready to visit “White Island,” a strip of sandbar, which we could see from the terrace where we had our breakfast. Right in the middle of the sea, flanked by a sandy lagoon on one side, and a coral reef barrier on the other, it is a popular place for snorkeling. It abounds with a large variety of vari-colored fishes. The island is sometimes shaped like a C or an I, depending on the ocean tide. But dark rain clouds were on the horizon, so we opted not to cross over to White Island.

Instead, we went down the mountain roads, to the town of Mambajao. Glimpses of the blue sea below appeared where the roads curved through the mountainside. It was a pleasant surprise to see ancient houses, untouched since the 1930’s. (pre-World War II) and apparently, still in use. It seems, for the residents of the island, life has hardly changed. They still leave doors open, and according to police blotters, crime is minimal. A policeman said, one reason could be because the only access to the island is the ferries from Cagayan de Oro. Wrong-doers have only one escape route, guarded by a police station right on the dock. The island is so small that a car can circle the island in 1 ½ hours. And since the inhabitants have been living there most of their lives, strangers are easy to spot. Houses, serene, surrounded by bougainvillas, roses, and white orchids, attested to a life style that takes time to smell flowers.

posing in front of the Ardent Springs, Camiguin Island

We hit the usual tourist spots like Ardent Springs, whose waters are kept warm by hot springs that flow from Mt. Hiboc hiboc Volcano . From a height of 1,250 meters above sea level, Mt. Hiboc-Hiboc looked down on us benignly. It last erupted in 1951, spewing lava and rocks that killed 3,000 people. At its peak, the volcano has a crater-like lake with interesting flora and fauna. While we relaxed in an ambiance of shady trees, lacy ferns and mossy rocks, wispy clouds chased each other across a sunlit sky. Here though , the evidence of modern touches came in the form of available shiatsu massage and foot reflexology advertised on a billboard stuck to a tree. Thankfully, the tree was located near the front gate, and did not intrude on the rest of the view.

in front of the Katibawasan Falls, Camiguin

writer and friend at the entrance to the San Roque Church ruins, Gui-Ob, Camiguin

We visited the ruins of centuries-old San Roque church in Gui-Ob. Established by a Spanish settlement in 1697, the church cemetery sunk to the sea when Mt. Daan erupted in 1871. We were told that there were tombstones and statues of angels beneath the commemorative cross that rose from the sea. Little boys paddling bancas at the shore looked at us hoping that we would strip and dive to view the angels. I smiled, “no thanks,” and gestured we didn’t bring swimsuits. The boys, pointed to a store that sold painted sea shells, t-shirts, shorts and tiny stone angels. We were also pursued with the inevitiable baskets of sweet lanzones. No one had time to snorkel that morning, but my husband got souvenir t-shirts. Then we stood at the look-out point and said prayers for the souls of those who have gone ahead. I like to think that these souls, ancestors of the little boys, were looking out for them. Moved by the poignancy of it all, my friend Chita Almario wrote a haiku:

“Sunken graveyard ‘neath
the waves, wrought by nature’s wrath
Footprints of time gone by.”

a cross marks the sunken cemetery of San Roque Church, Camiguin

We moved on to Katibawasan Falls. If one expects the majestic roar of a Niagara Falls, then there is bound to be disappointment. Katibawasan is just a thin trickle falling from a rock . In fact, it seems presumptuous that they should call it a falls. But wait. Let its stillness soak in. You are in a depth of thick green forest that absorbs the sounds of a world, just a walking distance away. The pure air cools you down, Think of the ages it took for that trickle to erode its way, through hard rock. Think of its constancy. By this time, I was feeling lyrical myself.

“God’s love is flowing
He gentles the rough edges
Renewed, I touch peace.”

All the natural beauty of the island, notwithstanding , what stays in memory is the simplicity of the people we met. The woman who sold lanzones shared with me her dreams of a daughter who is taking up nursing in Cagayan de Oro. "Someday", she said, "she will work abroad. Then she can send me money, and we don't have to work so hard." In this island paradise, the realities of the world of OFW's (Overseas Filipino Workers) has crept in.

a boy at a wharf in Camiguin waving for boat passengers to throw coins

On the ferry ride back to Cagayan de Oro, Evelyn, (she, who started us to think in haikus), took notice of the little boys who clung to the sides of the boat. They were prepared to dive, if a passenger throws coins out to the sea. Waiting for the boat to leave the pier, Evie found them friendly, brimming with enthusiasm. I joined her and we taught them to sing a simple song ...
'I raise my thumb, tigidig, tigidig ...
I suppose it was our way of leaving a memory of us behind. Afterwards, we decided to give them what coins we had, without requiring them to leap to the sea. Other tourists arrived and tossed coins. One by one, the boys let go their perches and jumped to the sea, while cameras started snapping. Their heads emerged from the water, all smiles as they waved good bye. One little boy kept singing 'I raise my thumb, tigidig, tigidig ..." Over and over he went ..."tigidig, tigidig". So silly a song. But it made passengers on the ferry smile. And we could hear his singing above the engines of the boat, as we chugged away ... "Tigidig, tigidig." I rushed to the side and waved until the boys disappeared from view.

Recalling the trip, I am reminded of an anecdote I read about an island in Polynesia. A man came to visit the island, and was surprised when the natives met him with tears. "Why?," he asked. "Because," they said, "We are already thinking that just when you have become our friend, you will leave us again." The man shook his head and said to himself, "What a strange custom, --- and how touching." Then the day came when the man had to leave. The natives who had now become his friends, were at the pier. This time, they were singing, and clapping their hands . Again the man said, "How strange. Are you happy that I am leaving?" One of the men on shore then told him, "We are happy because we are anticipating the day when you come back. So we see you off joyfully. No tears."

That's how we felt in leaving Camiguin Island. No tears. Such a happy thing ... tigidig, tigidig.

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Let Dette know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Feedback for"Dia delos Muertos"

It sure captures the essence of this well loved tradition, "Todos Los Santos"/"Dia de los Muertos" celebrated with the ambiance, flavor and hoopla making it more fun in the Philippines than elsewhere in the world.
--- Pacita Almario (South Bay, Paranaque, Philippines)

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This is a very interesting, informative and entertaining article, Dette. I think the Philippines is the only country that celebrates it this way. This is one tradition worth keeping especially for us who have loved ones interred in cemeteries there.
--- Aida D'Orazio (Toronto, Canada)

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Feedback for"Bleeding Hearts"

You threw everything on this one; juicy items/ chismis (gossip) about controversial politicians in the running, and role of tears to draw public sympathy/ attention and hopefully votes.... 'Only in the Philippines!"
--- Chita Almario, (written from Tokyo)

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Hmmmm. ... "ang ganda, nakakaiyak!" (Beautiful! It made me cry!") Well done, Dette. It's so Filipino. We wallow in sad stories and tales of misfortune, and the voyeur in us love the teleserya of real life, specially of celebs and people in the spot light."
--- Blanche Gallardo (Alabang, Metro Manila)

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"Oh, when will this attitude (culture) change?"
--- Lydia Castillo ( Cavite, Philippines)

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"Dette. what about tears of joy? Have we forgotten our values as responsible Filipinos? Count me in for the anti-dynasty faction. I hope that we have more on our side. Great article. Happy spring!"
--- Mel Odilao (Washington, D.C.)

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"Congrats on your interesting columns which never fail to arouse interest. That's a new angle on tears from politicians. To be sure, this makes a good story. Crocodile tears go well with a politician's strategy. Keep the columns going!"
--- Evelyn Peplow (Quezon City. Philippines)

You captured the flavour and the various nuances of the major fiesta in Iligan City, that of St. Michael. I like how you managed to adroitly weave in vignettes of your family life --- customs and practices to make the readers aware that once upon a time, life was beautiful. Your description of the early morning prayers and songs dedicated to the birthday celebrant of the day, reminds me of the Mananita of the Manila cursillo days in the 60's and 70's. In fact, I remember when I was in Iligan for the first time, to join your family in celebrating your Mom's 96th (?) birthday, we were roused from sleep by the strums of guitar which accompanied the mananita song of the group of farm hands/tenants greeting your Mom a rousing Happy birthday. Thanks for sharing lovely bits and pieces of your life.

--- Chita Almario, Alabang, Metro Manila, Philippines

I enjoyed your reminiscences of fiestas in your childhood and youth, and family traditions, particularly that of lavishing the birthday celebrant with the love and attention of the whole family for that one special day, starting with the mananita. The pictures added impact to your article. I always marvel at how cities and towns in the Philippines can come up with lavish costumes during their fiestas. Think of the money, time and effort spent in preparing these street dancing, parades, etc.

--- Evelyn Peplo, Quezon City, Philippines

For "Traditions, Traditions, Traditions!" -

One of my college choirs is singing a very rarely sung Anglican anthem for our Festival of Lessons and Carols is this December: Fanfare for Michaelmas Day--the account from Scripture of Michael defeating the dragon. What a coincidence.

The beauty of these traditions was that faith and living were indeed one. One informed the other. However, things became different when the church and the state became separated entities. I think that there is so much to be learned from both situations so that they need not be opposed to each other, but are truly two sides of the same coin, with the emphasis on "same coin" rather than "two sides."

--- Joel Navarro, Doctor of Music Arts in Conducting
Associate Professor
Calvin College Music Department
Grand Rapids, MI

Dear Joel,

How interesting that you are involved with a song about St. Michael. Thanks for sharing. You say it is an Anglican anthem. I wonder how it sounds? It interests me because part of the fiesta tradition here is the staging of the fight of the good angels vs. the bad... all done in song like an operetta. I think the songs have been handed down from Spanish times, althogh translated in Visaya [a Philippine dialect]. I am curious how the Anglican music and the Spanish would compare.

In the Iligan version, the opening song of Michael the archangel with his warrior angels is majestic with a regular marching cadence , while the entrance of Lucifer and the devils is lively. Their beat is merry, with the devils cavorting and singing. This would bring screams of frightened delight from the kids in the audience. If this were a broadway play, the devils with their red costumes, horns and tails, would be a "show-stopper". Thus, the way of the world , eh? But of course, the angels have their glorious victory in the finale. And the angels all handsome, with white wings that glittered, march down the street in a clash of cymbals and drums. I think the color and contrast of this ancient music would amuse you.

--- Dette

For "Few Mountains Left to Climb" (Manny Pacquiao) -

I saw the Pacquiao fight and without a doubt, Manny is the greatest fighter of this generation and one of the world's greatest sportsmen. Everyone will continue to ask if he can go out on top by fighting Mayweather before he retires.

--- Richard, Miami FL

For Camiguin Island, Philippines. -

I love the White Island on Camiguin Island. Reminds me of the time when I was at the Heymann Islands off the coast of Australia and the Great Barrier, I love those low tides. .I'm also interested in old pre-war style houses. I'm thinking of a place like that when I retire . I will get there sooner than you think.

--- Mel Odilao, Washington D.C.

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You made me feel nostalgic ....I was there with my daughter three years ago. It was unforgettable; I still fantasize about going back again, hopefully sooner than much later.

Congratulations , your articles on very appealing format. Thanks to whoever did the digital features of high-tech.

Keep it up for everybody's pleasure.

--- Rita Adkins, Maryland.

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Nakakaingit! (Wish I were there!) This is beautifully done. Photos, map, nicely situated in the article. Congratulations. The lay-outting is so professional.

--- Precious Javier, Los Angeles , CA.

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Thanks for sharing the beautiful scenery of Camiguin Island. I will put that on my list of places to see.

--- Anita Sodusta, Ventura County, CA.

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Thank you for this lovely account. Left my mouth watering for the lanzones and me pining for the chance to go there. Forwarded the article immediately to a couple who like us spend winter months in the Philippines. We had been discussing a trip to Camiguin when we go in January. But perhaps we should do that during lanzones season, October to November right?

Would you permit me to forward your article to a friend who might want to publish it in our local Philippine newspaper? I wish to entice Filipinos in U.S. to explore the rest of the Philippines, rather just stop in Manila.

--- Eduarda Macaranas, Washington, D.C.

Anytime of the year is a good time to visit. In fact, off-seasons, hotel accommodations may be cheaper. Aside from lanzones, Camiguin has other sweet fruits to offer like mangoes and tropical bananas that tastes so good when cooked in coconut milk and panocha. (brown sugar, freshly made from sugar cane juice.) They are available year round. Publishing to your local newspaper is a great idea.

--- Dette

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Sounds like Camiguin Island is a paradise to behold. But I was struck by the awesomeness of the narration; beautifully written and emotionally laden. Terrific impromtu haikus too. Thanks for sharing this.

--- Pete Recinto, Virginia

Thanks for joining our Elago bash. Dette, I do love your article for Traveling Boy. You captured the spirit of our togetherness in your article. How could we ever forget this blessing! Here’s my own haiku contribution to that adventure: “ White Island beckons/ Dazzling in the horizon/ Captivating hearts.”

May I use some historical tidbits on Camiguin which you cited in your article? I can use this for my own account of the Elago reunion.

Besos y abrazos,

--- Aida D'Orazio, Toronto, Canada

Of course, feel free to use the article. Since it is now the property of “Traveling Boy”, just be sure to acknowledge this. Thank you once more. The pleasure of joining your family reunion was ours.

--- Dette

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How beautiful and heartwarming is your column, Dette, like a poet voicing her sentiments. It is well written and researched. That part about the little boys was especially touching. Tigidig tigidig echoes in my mind and heart. Bless those boys. May their angels always keep them safe. May they love and serve the Lord.

Our Mindanao sojourn will remain in our memory for years to come. Thanks to you and Aida and Chita, everything came together.

--- Evelyn Peplow, Quezon City, Philippines

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Thanks for writing such a beautiful article. I felt envious for not being there with you, nostalgic for a place I have not been to , and wishing I could write haiku as easily as you all did .

--- Tina Aragon, Maryland

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This is probably one of my favorite pieces that you've written so far. You write so well...the whole "tigidig tigidig" thing interwoven throughout--very nice touch!

--- Pia Hugo, Los Angeles, CA

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Thank you for this poignant and lively travelogue. To write so regularly, have an active lifestyle, enjoy friends, and travel with such adventure is good modeling behavior for all of us in the middle years. We are a blessed humanity to know that God's green earth is always full of magnificent surprises. We are at wonder at every turn, and the people we meet on the road are virtual mirrors that reflect his image.

--- Joel Navarro, Grand Rapids, MI

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I'd like you to know that your captivating article on Camiguin for Traveling Boy is more than a travelogue as you portrayed the charm, the essence and the mystique of the island born of fire. I loved the way you ended it, on a poignant note: the refrain of tigidig by the little diver boys which left us misty-eyed as the ferry pulled away from the pier; this segued on to the tale from Polynesia about leave-takings. This is exactly how I felt when we said our good byes.

--- Chita Almario: Alabang, Metro Manila, Philippines

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I thoroughly enjoyed the vicarious pleasure of reading about your Camiguin adventures and the pictures, not to mention the haikus. You even gave us a historical perspective .

--- Blanche Gallardo, Alabang, Metro Manila

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Your words were so picturesque and your details included lots of local color. It made me want to visit Camiguin. love it,

--- Hannah Suderland, Monrovia, California

For The Cherry Blossoms of Washington D.C. -

Hi ...I was surfing the net looking for leads to Blanche Gallardo and found your interesting piece on the Cherry Blossoms of Wash. DC. It seems that the original idea for flowering trees in the capital came from Mrs. Taft herself... who reportedly missed the sight of the annual blossom display of similar trees when her husband was stationed in Manila as governor general. My scholarship is in Manila's urban history and the only possible strand of showy trees then would have been either the wonderful acacias (samanea saman) on what eventually became Taft Ave. or the fire trees (delonix regia) on P. Burgos leading from the old Plaza Lawton to Luneta and the Manila Hotel - this was the route that Mrs. Taft would have taken for late afternoon paseos at the Luneta.


--- Paulo Alcazaren , Manila, Philippines

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Your article was an appeal to my senses. How romantic! After I've read your article, I remember the beautiful cherry blossoms in the movies Memoirs of a Geisha and of course The Last Samurai.

--- Elsie, Iligan City, Philippines

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What a feast for the senses indeed! Wish you could do the same thing about autumn in Canada.

--- Aida, Toronto, ON

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Yep. Pollyanna you might be but I couldn't agree with you more about "How so much more harmonious this world could be if nations exchanged plants instead of bullets." I say amen to this!

--- Blanche Gallardo, Manila, Philippines

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Words give life to pictures. You do it so well! Thanks.

--- Tina, Hagerstown, MD

Dear Dette,

I enjoyed reading your articles, especially the philosophical musings.

--- Dading, Washington D.C.

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Dear Dette,

Your articles make me feel good about life. I enjoy reading them and look forward for more.

--- Arabella, Maryland

For Dolphins Ahoy! -

Dear Dette,

Thanks for your fascinating article about the dolphins. You raise a thought-provoking question about how they got to drift to that unusual part of the Pacific Ocean. Certainly raises serious questions about environmental factors that may be the cause. I just read last night some stats -- one claiming that human consumption and lifestyle impact the ecological environment resulting presently in the demise of other living forms about 1000 more times than the recorded average. That's a pretty astounding estimate !! In my RP [Republic of the Philippines] visit in 2000, I went to Mindoro and observed -- to one's dismay -- that non-biogradable items such as the common plastic containers and the like that we use and generally throw away anywhere, not to mention real toxic industrial and medical waste, end up in the shore of that beautiful seaside barrio of about 400 families, ruining not only the view but the life of several sea-based creatures, including whatever edible fish and seafood that the barrio thrives by. Obviously, the small population could not have consumed that vast amount of plastic, etc. It turned out, I was to learn, that the waste comes from tthe garbage dumps of urban parts as far as heavily populated Manila, as well as the garbage dumped by passenger vessels that ply the inter-island routes --- with, obviously, no regulatory disposal systems.

--- Rita, Virginia

Stay tuned.

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