Thursday, May 14, 2009

Camiguin: Island Born of Fire

(pic courtesy of A. Cabamungan)
For years, I've been fascinated by Camiguin, the tiny pear-shaped island off the coast of Northern Mindanao, because of the many interesting stories I’ve heard from people who’ve seen its lush, virginal beauty. It was only recently, however, that I, along with some coworkers—Aris, Rosie, Miles and Heidy—finally got to step into its inviting shores.

Said to be the country’s second smallest province, the island is populated by about 81,000 people who occupy its 238 sq. km sprawl. Camiguin’s so small that you can practically go around it in less than a day’s time, thanks to a well-paved highway connecting its five towns—Catarman, Mahinog, Guinsiliban, Sagay and Mambajao, the capital town. 
Getting around the island is a breeze given the presence of Camiguin's version of the tricycle, the motorela (or rela for short), which is a portmanteau for motorcycle and caritela.  There are also several multicabs and motorcycles  for hire (locally known as habal-habal) that shuttle people to their destinations.

Formed through centuries of volcanic activity and tectonic movements, Camiguin, whose most prominent geological feature are its volcanoes, is often dubbed as the "island born of fire." Pocked by about seven peaks, it’s probably the only island in the country that has more volcanoes than towns! Of the seven, however, it’s only Hibok-Hibok, which last erupted in 1951, that remains active. When it blew its top that time, the volcano caused so much irreparable damage to life, land and livelihood.

Call it bizarre but seeing the island's volcanoes, especially Hibok-Hibok, fired up my desire to go there. I even entertained the thought of scaling the peak. But it's also the same geographical peculiarity which ignited a spark of fear in me during my brief stay in the island. For a while, it gave me the creeps imagining the horror that struck the islanders when that capricious mountain went berserk.

What if touchy Hibok-Hibok had thrown a fit while we were there? Not that I was praying for a violent outburst but it’s been more than half a century since the volcano last spewed out molten rocks and wrought havoc in Camiguin. So, an eruption seemed highly possible, I supposed.

Well, I guess we have to thank the Camiguingnons for the pleasurable week we had in the island. For it must have been their unwavering faith that's kept the sleeping dragon from unleashing its fury. As the cliché goes, faith can move mountains, perhaps even calm down that most hyperactive of Camiguin's volcanoes.

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