As the rising sun clears away the shadows of the previous night over the island of Camiguin, an imposing silhouette of a large cross stands guard over the location of the old capital of the island. Due to a fatal volcanic eruption of Mount Vulcan, the sea now hides the old capital, which was founded during the Spanish era.
According to local historians, Mount Vulcan had four historic eruptions. The first one was in 1827 but records of this eruption were nil. The second one was in 1862 when thick ashes from the crater flowed and overtook people who were fleeing towards the sea, resulting in 326 fatalities. The third one started in 1871. Previous experience had taught some of the Camiguin people of the dangerous whims of Mount Vulcan. Thus, when earthquakes were felt, they fled as far away as possible from the volcano, but some stayed behind. There were spasmodic eruptions and the people who fled decided to stay away until the time when the volcano finally subsided in 1875. But when they returned, they have lost their land and their friends.
The whole capital of Camiguin, with its cemetery, sunk under the sea. In the following years, the sunken land and the gravestones can still be seen when the tide is low. But in 1948 until 1953, Mount Vulcan erupted again, sinking the whole area deeper, to around twenty feet. In 1982, a large cross was built on the solidified lava to mark the site that became the graves of the ancestors of the Camiguin people. It has become a sunken cemetery. Now, it is one of the worldâ€™s most unique diving sites.
To reach Camiguin, a tourist can take a plane flight from Manila to Cagayan de Oro City. From Cagayan, one must take a cab to the bus terminal at Agora Market. At the bus terminal, one will take bus going to Balingoan, which is a mere 88 kilometers away. Once at the Balingoan, one must take the ferryboat bound for Camiguin. This boat ride will take about one hour.
If taking the bus does not appeal to you, take the ferryboat, M/V Yuhum, at the Cagayan de Oro Ferry Terminal. It is a leisurely three-hour ride. But once in Camiguin, you will find several standard hotels. Not the five-star variety but the rooms are clean and the staff is friendly. Or one may opt to stay in thatched huts along the beach. There will be no air-conditioning but the refreshing sea breeze and the welcoming waves are far more attractive.
To get to the sunken cemetery and other tourist attractions of the Camiguin Island, one can rent a $10-a-day scooter. At the sunken cemetery (in front of Barrio Bonbon), after putting on one diving equipment, one will find the gravestones that were already gilded with colorful corals.