To be honest, I was most eager to see Sunken Cemetery. I mean, it’s perhaps the most photographed spot in Camiguin that it has become one of its foremost icons. Moreover, the fact that it’s a cemetery, combined with the superstitious stories and symbolisms we Filipinos fondly attach to olden places, shrouds it in mystery and wonder. On our trip to Camiguin with Cebu Pacific Air, we explored what lies within the famous landmark. Read more…
Based on written history, Sunken Cemetery came to be when continuous earthquakes in Camiguin opened up a fissure vent—one that later spewed massive volumes of lava into the sea. With the amount of pyroclastic material, the fissure vent became a towering stratovolcano at 2000 meters, and the volcano was henceforth known as Mount Vulcan.
The rise of Mount Vulcan sank thousands of lives—especially of those who were too stubborn to evacuate even when the telltale signs of an eruption persisted. Catarman, the capital during the Spanish regime, was put underwater, and submerged along with the pueblo (town) was Sunken Cemetery. After decades of inactivity, Mount Vulcan had sporadic eruptions from 1948 to 1953, sinking the cemetery twenty feet deeper. And to commemorate the souls of Camiguin’s ancestors, the iconic cross was erected on solidified lava in 1982.
After some modifications to our itinerary, we went to the jump-off point at around 5:00 PM to catch the remaining daylight for our snorkeling and witness the sunset subsequently. As we took a manually-paddled outrigger boat to get towards the cemetery, our boatmen had to be extra cautious to not hit the rocks and corals—the low tide was our major deterrent.
Beneath the water’s surface were symbols of Sunken Cemetery’s past: a number of tombstones, a statue of Virgin Mary, and a Cross. While I would later find out that the corpses have already been exhumed and interred somewhere else, I still had that eerie feeling, which grew as dusk set in. Our guide couldn’t have picked a better time to go!
Decades have passed again since Mount Vulcan erupted, thus allowing Mother Nature to bless the portion of the island with a plethora of fish and corals—it was very surprising (and inspiring) to see such wonder teeming with marine life.
But we were surprised further when our guide pointed to us a bed of giant clams (Tridacna gigas) that residents have gathered in the area to be conserved. Giant clams are the largest among existing bivalve mollusks, yet unfortunately, the IUCN considers them as threatened.
Darkness was creeping in, so our boatmen had to transport us back to the shore. The last treat we got was the dramatic sunset, which is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in my lifetime. For everything we’ve seen, Sunken Cemetery is my most favorite spot in Camiguin.
How to get there: The jump-off point to Sunken Cemetery is situated in Catarman, and it is easily accessible by habal-habal (single motorcyle) or a multicab. A full daytrip that includes other attractions can be arranged; there are jeepneys, air-conditioned vans, multicabs, and habal-habals with association-regulated rates for this purpose. At the shore, boatmen offer their outrigger boats at cheap rates. Snorkels, masks, fins, and mandatory lifejackets can be rented.
Underwater photos are used with kind permission from Ferdz Decena of Ironwulf En Route.
Cebu Pacific Air flies to Camiguin from Cebu on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for as low as 588 PHP. Through fares from Manila via Cebu are also available. Book the lowest fares at CebuPacificAir.com.