I’ve been to Camiguin, Northen Mindanao before, together with my hiking buddies to day hike Mt. Hibok-Hibok. This trip however is with Joy and Rain and was planned as a convenient “tour” type photo-ops of the islands best spots, without digging deep into our pockets. Since I hated long drives ( being tied up the steering wheel rather than my camera is totally un-relaxing to me), I ditched the idea of bringing a car and convinced Joy to take public transport instead. A bit tiring of course but nevertheless cheap and quite revealing, I’m training Joy and Rain to travel between places, the old “backpacker” way- using public transport.
Tacurong City to Cagayan De Oro City via Carmen Road
Probably the nearest way to CDO from my place, this eight hour, butt-numbing bus ride cuts across the mountainous regions of Carmen in North Cotabato and the province of Bukidnon. Rural Transit buses ply this route, leaving Tacurong as early as 5:00 AM (aircon) to as late as 11:00 AM (last trip). A ride on an aircon bus costs Php 530.oo one way and has several stops along the way- terminals of Maramag, Valencia, Malaybalay and Manolo Fortich.
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Tips: Get ready for a long ride, bring ”snacks” or lunch if your not used to carenderia food and a lot of songs in your ipod. Taking photos would be difficult (but not impossible) since the bus is moving. Though I haven’t heard any camera totting passenger being robbed of his/her gears, it’s always prudent to be inconspicuous as possible (and courteous) whenever you take photos. The last thing you want when riding a bus in these roads is attention.
The bus ride takes you all the way to Cagayan de Oro‘s Agora Bus Terminal (East Bound) near the Market City. You can drop off the bus anywhere along the way inside CDO but I suggest you go all the way to the East Bound Agora Terminal since buses bound for Balingoan is also found in this area.
Cagayan de Oro City to Balingoan Ferry port
This ride will awe you with the scenic, laid back coastal towns of Misamis Oriental and takes around 90 minutes if you’re riding an aircon Bachelor bus (Php 80.00/pax) or 2 1/2 to 3 hours if your riding a non- aircon bus (Php 60.00) that have frequent stops along the way. If you can wait for an aircon bus, do so. The Php 20.00 difference between aircon and non aircon buses’ fare is not worth for the hour or so of delay because of the frequent bus stops. Things might even get more expensive if you won’t catch the last ferry trip for Benoni port!
The scenic coastal waters and areas by the road should have been a good spot for taking photos. Coming from a long bus travel however and catching up for the last boat trip (~4:30PM) from Balingoan Port for Benoni Port in Camiguin makes photo-ops in this coastal road slim. My recommendation? Bring your own car, drive early into this road so you will have ample time to stop and take photos.
Stuck at the Balingoan: Where to stay?
Did I say we didn’t catch the last ferry trip from Balingoan Port to Benoni Port, Camiguin? No thanks to that long, slow, non aircon bus ride from CDO to Balingoan, we’re stuck at Balingoan on our first day. Going back to CDO is not an option for us (I hate the idea of another 3 hour ride back and forth) so we looked for a temporary place to stay for the night and will just have to take the first ferry trip to Camiguin the next day.
The port is just walking distance from the bus terminal by the way. The tricycle driver we hired was kind enough to bring us to two traveller’s inn situated near the gates of Balingoan port itself. These inns (nameless) are old spacious wooden houses rehabilitated and transformed into traveller’s lodge. They only have fan rooms with shared baths and CR. Unluckily for us, there was brownout that night and water is scarce. I wanted to put my hammock and sleep in their balcony because of the cooler air there but we were told the rooms don’t have locks so we stayed inside for fear of being, you know.
Tips: If you’re not in a hurry and don’t have monstrous luggages, you can walk to Balingoan port from the bus terminal. Try to look for other inns around Balingoan if you’re looking for other amenities. If you brought a car with you and is not planning to bring it to Camiguin, there’s a private parking area near the gate that accepts paid parking for days. Taking photos here seems to be a normal sight for the locals. Balingoan port at dusk to night time is one dramatic place to shoot.
Balingoan Port on board a ferry boat to Benoni Port
The inn owner told us the first ferry boat for Benoni in Camiguin leaves Balingoan Port around 5:00AM, so by 4:00Am all of us were wide awake already. When we’re about the to leave the place at 4:30 AM and took our tickets, we were told by the ticketing official the boat leaves at 6:00AM. We had time for coffee and bread before boarding our ferry. On board the ferry, there’s nothing else much you can do but take snaphots of people around you and the nearby landmarks.
Sunrise shots are also possible, but are all too common. When you’re tired of shooting scenes and people, an ipod player can be a good buddy. The 45 minutes to one hour ferry ride is something not enough for one task to do, but long enough for bored people who couldn’t do anything else. Sleep. Make sure though you’re not sleeping on someone else’s baggage.