Each resort has a particular characteristic that appeals to guests in general. Some resorts have it all, so to speak, from inhouse store outlets to numerous restaurants, like in Boracay Regency. Some resorts are huge. Some resorts are moderately-sized with sufficient cottages, like the Bahay Bakasyunan sa Camiguin, but still give you more value for your vacation money. In the subsequent story and the photos below, we’ll endeavor to tell you why.
Staying in Bahay Bakasyunan was not our idea. It was our decision, of course, but not our original idea because, in the first place, we didn’t know this soulful resort exists. We were asking around in preparation for our Camiguin, Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro trip and we asked a good friend, Arnold, for his top picks in Camiguin. He graciously sent a whole spread of places to go, things to see and where to stay. Bahay Bakasyunan was the only “place to stay” in the list. Either he hasn’t seen enough of Camiguin (which is near impossible because he’s from this beautiful island-province) or he totally adores Bahay Bakasyunan (which is more likely), so he made a single recommendation.
Subsequent conversations with those who also stayed at Bahay Bakasyunan yielded common elements. The place evokes a very relaxed atmosphere. The cottages’ cool architecture complements nature. The coconut trees, the grass and the general landscape is well-maintained. Service is good, considering the relative seclusion of this island province. The sound of the waves crashing against the seawall with rhythm lulls guests to sleep. And more. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s flesh out each one of these elements.
The seaport transfer taking us from the Benoni Port to Bahay Bakasyunan lasted less than 20 minutes. No problem with the leisurely travel on smooth roads. It was too leisurely, in fact, that we didn’t realize we arrived at the resort. No huge, fancy signboards screaming the location of Bahay Bakasyunan, just a small concrete road that wraps around an old bungalow.
The concrete bungalow looks just like many of the residential houses in the province. It is, in fact, a residence — not an unusual roadside sight, which made us believe, and could very well make any other guest believe, that Bahay Bakasyunan is somewhere else. The bungalow, we learned, is not part of Bahay Bakasyunan. It’s owner refused to sell the property and insisted on staying put right in front of the resort. So Bahay Bakasyunan built a road around the bungalow, creating a loop that leads to the resort’s reception area.
Had we not known this fact, we would have thought that the bungalow is a strategic part of Bahay Bakasyunan‘s design. Really, it adds to the provincial charm. There’s not much activity on the roads and the surrounding areas. It’s like going through the dirt roads into an hacienda, except that this one is concrete and the resort is beside the sea. It’s like coming home after decades, with the trees — lanzones, jackfruit, coconut and all sorts of plants — just having been planted when you left, but now all grown and behaved, neatly lined up and embracing you as you step down from the van.
The resort is fully booked, you very well know, but it feels like you and your companions have the resort to yourselves. It doesn’t matter that most of the guests are either sleeping or out there exploring the island’s hidden gems. In our case, at least, we felt like running around, laughing out loud (yeah, LOL, but not THAT loud) across the trimmed grass that carpets the entire place. We probably did. We didn’t care if a guest or two raised an eyebrow, probably thinking, “why on earth is this idiot shouting in this quiet sanctuary.” It felt like home. And when you get home, you exhale all the baggage you’ve borne from the city, and you do this as you cross the protective embrace of the entrance.
Cozy, cool cottages
As soon as you settle inside the cottages, you wouldn’t really mind if some other idiot does his or her own version of arrival ritual. The cottages are smartly “insulated” from the reception area. Looking back, it now makes perfect sense why the designers installed creative soundproofing at the reception area — coconut husks, cut in half, and placed side by side on the ceiling, creating a seamless patter that undulates like the soft, happy waves of the calm sea.
Even if the collection of cottages is a stone’s throw from the reception area, it looks and sounds distant from the reception. Guests have to pass the resort shop, the game room and the gym before hitting the first architecturally surprising cottage.
The cottages are obvious arranged and designed to fit into the existing rows of mature coconuts. These are nature-friendly cottages that use indigenous materials like bamboo for walls and floors, and nipa palm as roof. The high ceiling provides plenty of space that heightens the feeling of freedom.
Accommodation starts at P3,400 for the Premium Standard (twin/double) to P4,950 for the De Luxe (Cluster) rooms. Quite reasonable rates, really. And even if the P4,950 is obviously slightly higher than the standard rate of P3,400, we strongly suggest that higher rate, which will get you the beautiful detached cottages.
It’s worth it. There’s no other way to look at the cottages but a labor of love. Maintaining it appears to be far from easy, as can be seen from the nipa roof and the bamboo floor. Nipa, we all know, needs to be replaced regularly and easily gets flipped by strong wind, the reason why some resorts wrap the nipa roof with nets. The same with bamboo floors, which gets loose after a few months, with the nails sticking out. No nets at the Bahay Bakasyunan. The bamboo floors are well-maintained.
Not all swimming pools are crated equal. Some pools are perched on top of skyscrapers, with a magnificent view of the city. Some infinity pools overlook the clear waters of white-sand beach. Some pools are huge and can comfortably hold the entire village. Pools are impressive based on different standards each traveler feels important. For us, the swimming pool of Bahay Bakasyunan looks deeply serene, the mere act of disturbing it by dipping one’s toe, creating ripples, is like an unforgivable affront against the entire universe.
We’re kidding, sort of. Half-kidding, because we’re half-serious on that. The swimming pool of Bahay Bakasyunan, with a small kiddie pool at the side, is not really big and it’s not really deep. It has beautiful curves just like the yin-yang logo, not the straight edges of a conventional pool. Of course, just like any pool, it’s perfect for taking a dip, but who needs a swimming pool when in Camiguin? Hot and cold springs abound. The cold water of Katibawasan Falls is perfect for swimming — for a few seconds, at least, after which you’ll step out shivering. Swim in Mantigue Island (Magsaysay Island) or, best of all, the White Island.
The best time to visit the swimming pool of Bahay Bakasyunan? In the morning, before the sun rises, when the soft light bounces off from the undisturbed pool water, framed by the sea waves at the background. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.
Seafood is not inexpensive in the city. FRESH seafood, on the other hand, is very expensive and not easy to find in the city. Not a problem in the small island-province of Camiguin. Calamares, kinilaw (raw fish meat in vinegar), shrimps, tuna steak, tinolang isda (yes, Janice, tinola in the Visayas is fish, not chicken) and more — all fresh from the sea, served fast at the Oceanside Bar and Grill.
Looking for directions to Bahay Bakasyunan, or any point in Camiguin for that matter, is not hardly a problem. As one of the Philippines’ smallest provinces, both in land area and population, and with a warm and very hospitable population, Camiguin is more convenient to explore. With a relatively small province to explore, it’s possible to explore the entire island in a single day, but it takes at least two days to fully soak all the usual tourist destinations — the White Island, the Magsaysay Island (Mantigue Island), the Katibawasan Falls, and the Sunken Cemetery.
Getting to Camiguin is also not a problem, as the island-province is accessible by land, sea and air. There are ships that travel overnight from Cebu and other surrounding provinces, and less-than-an-hour plane trips from Cebu. It’s conveniently accessible by land, through a one hour and a half RORO (roll-on, roll-off vessels) trip that regular connects the Balingoan port to Benoni port in Camiguin. [Refer to our post on the Itinerary for Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon and Camiguin]
Once you arrive on the island, simply ask how to get to Bahay Bakasyunan. The usual modes of transportation are jeepneys and tricycles, with air-conditioned vans as a little more expensive, but more convenient, options. Better still, pre-book at Bahay Bakasyunan and include airport/seaport transfers for convenience.
Location and contact
Bahay Bakasyunan is located in barnagay Balbagon, around 10 minutes from the heart of Mambajao, the capital of Camiguin. Telephone Nos. (088) 387-0131; 387-1057. Mobile No. (0917) 721-2798. These information, plus other resort details like amenities and accommodations, can be accessed through its website, www.bahaybakasyunan.com.
So, you see, every place has its unique beauty. In terms of sheer expanse or in-house activities, Bahay Bakasyunan is far behind from, say, Crimson or Imperial Palace in Mactan. On the other side of the fence, because sometimes it’s not the size that matters, those places don’t have a unbelievably gorgeous white sandbar or a pristine waterfalls. Bahay Bakasyunan has those attractions, and more, just a few minutes away. Bahay Bakasyunan sa Camiguin stands on equal footing with any other resort when it comes to architecture, rustic beauty and soulful serenity.