By VIANCA GAMBOA

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White Island sandbar

Mindanao is not a familiar sight to me. I would spend hours of contemplation every time I set foot here. There’s something distinctive about it that I can’t quite put into words.

The first time I’ve ever been on a plane was during a trip to Singapore, so domestic flights feel just as odd—as if I am no longer in the Philippines, zoning out like I do most of the time, it’s like “Congratulations! You flew your way out of Manila and you’re now in another dimension, or a parallel universe. You flew, you landed, you have arrived.”

It’s sad to think, however, that flights covering our 7,641 islands cover only a few limited sites, like hotspots Kalibo (Boracay), Busuanga (Palawan), and Davao. There’s so much more to see, so much more to explore. There are still untapped parts of the Philippines that have scenic spots.

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Boarding the inaugural flight from Manila to Camiguin

Good thing Skyjet airlines has expanded its destinations, in line with the Department of Tourism’s efforts to increase local travel destinations and make them known worldwide.

As a catalyst for Philippine tourism, the premier boutique airline flies directly from Manila to sought-after domestic destinations such as Busuanga, Caticlan, Kalibo, San Vicente, Siargao, and Batanes.

Skyjet has been priming passengers with the launch of new direct domestic routes that do away with the hassle of connecting flights, hours of delay in between transfers, and even taking fivehour roll-on, roll-off (RORO) ferry ride to get to an island. Staying true to its tagline of finding “beauty beneath the surface,” it recently commenced operation for nonstop flights between Manila and Camiguin. With this, the island’s tourism sector is expected to boom.

“Camiguin is on the verge of becoming a well-known worldwide tourism destination and local government has been working very hard to set infrastructures,” said Skyjet CEO Patrick Tan in the inaugural flight of Manila to Camiguin. “The policies are in place and ready to go to the forefront of ministry and tourism.”

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Patrick Tan, Skyjet CEO

Skyjet flies five times weekly to the marine paradise, for less than 80 minutes per leg. Your 10- kilogram checked-in baggage on top of the five-kilogram carry-on is on them, making for a smooth-sailing, hassle-free sky experience.

THE ISLAND BORN OF FIRE

After one and a half hour full capacity flight from Manila to Camiguin (must be hard to believe you’re on board a direct flight especially if you’ve been trudging from transfers to transfers for a long time), we finally landed at the airport built mainly for small aircrafts. It has a color palette reminiscent of the #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines logo.

Known as “the island born of fire,” Camiguin grew out of multiple volcanic eruptions, paving the way for over 30 marine sanctuaries to arise, composed of beaches, hot and cold springs, soda water swimming pool, and historical ruins. This seemingly small blip in Northern Mindanao should never be overlooked. It’s an exciting and idyllic nature spot that ranked fifth as the most visited provincial destination in the Philippines for the number of activities you can do in the island.

Camiguin is an exciting and idyllic nature spot that ranked fifth as the most visited provincial destination in the Philippines.

Situated in a whole area of submerged old towns, Camiguin is perfect for diving and snorkeling. Among its major attractions is the eerie yet alluring Sunken Cemetery that lets divers discover a now coral-filled graveyard, which sunk in the 1850s after a volcanic eruption. A looming giant cross, built to float above the wreck as a way to commemorate the resting place, can be seen from the edge. For a dose of history, visit the Old Spanish Church Ruins, which looks like it’s something straight out of a ghost-town-themed movie. Its walls bedecked with dead clumps of grass and remnants of hundred years ago set a new and somewhat uncanny feeling by the seaside.

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Sunken Cemetery

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Ruins of an old Spanish church

The province is also home to the famous White Island sandbar in Mambajao, a deserted strip of beach with a vast coastline lapped by crystal clear water— like a small teardrop in the sea. It only takes a 10-minute motorboat ride from the northern dock before you can dip your toes in, from the name itself, its powder-fine white sand, giving Boracay shores a run for its money.

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The northern coast of Mambajao

Aside from the exhilarating Mt. Hibok-Hibok in the backdrop, what makes it such a sight to see is its ever-changing shape depending on the tide. It’s typically structured like a crescent moon, but when the tide is low, it bares a “tail” and the island takes the shape of a serpent on a clear blue swamp. It is a tranquil spot far-off from the bustling city, not one property fenced off close to its shoreline, so you can experience a slice of real, rustic life. It’s nothing but a vantage point in the middle of a broader seascape, perfect for a much-needed respite.

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