I already had a blueprint in mind of the sights, sounds, and tastes of Camiguin the time we boarded the fastcraft in Cagayan de Oro City. The ticketing and ride went hassle free this time, reminding me of years past when I had to stagger after a bus ride 84 kilometers east of the city, in a town called Balingoan in Misamis Oriental. Of course, I was younger then and frequent vacations in the island made me dare to overcome motion sickness. That old route is still in existence though, since for the vista lovers, land travel is always a choice plus anyone can get a nice seafood meal at the Balingoan Port eateries or rest at the pleasant perspective of islands emerging from the sea in between the eyes. What I did not expect however, was to experience the awesome Lanzones Festival this friend of mine kept bragging about. So, I write about it this time before we hit another itinerary and rendezvous with interesting people who knows how to really party-till-drop.
I count myself one among many who prejudice that Camiguin Island is nothing more than hot and colds springs, volcanoes, secret coves, waterfalls, white sand beaches, magnificent coral reefs, and the usual natural sceneries any writer could indulge for descriptions. Day trippers and vacationers from all walks of life pay for this year round. But this irrefutable wonders is also culminated by a celebration of bounty harvest or simply thanksgiving for the ever famous Lanzones, a tropical fruit with pale brown skin and sweetened translucent flesh that ripens just right during the third week of October. The best varieties are found in Camiguin Island although it extravagantly grows on the northern coast of Mindanao. I met a resident on one of the merrymaking held in a humble shack beside a clearly flowing stream obstructed by broad clusters of volcanic rocks, who recounted the Lanzones Festival as a local legend. Accordingly, there was once a childless couple who petitioned the Lanzones fairy to grant them a child. After their wish was granted, they plainly forgot to thank the fairy so their child got really sick for the ingratitude. To assuage the fairy’s anger, they held a ritual every year which is now becomes of the Lanzones Festival. But naturally that legend is an attempt of every Filipino’s love for lore and inventiveness as seen also of the industriously decorated homes during the festivities.
Before we came about the weekend there are series of amusing programs held in a Barangay level, then to the whole island as a tourism destination in Mindanao. The Barangay beautification depends on the creativity of how the halls of the smallest unit of Philippine governance are ornamented with leaves, fruits, and colors of Lanzones. The houses too are adorable, deserving numerous camera clicks and optimistic commentaries in blogs or personalized travel journals. Street poles and carriages are also artfully embellished, making Lanzones Festival more than a celebration but also a trip to the cultural tableau of northern Mindanao.
Indeed at the Agricultural-cottage industry exhibit, we’ve seen the foremost local products that give the purveyors a self-assurance to build up livelihood projects on livestock and crops that is rich in the region. I was looking for the processed goods like the Spanish Sardines: hot and spicy for me with tomato paste, really my personal choice for a quick hearty meal with a cupful of Chinese style fried rice in a ceramic platter. Locally fermented wines, Distilled Lambanog, and Spiced Vinegar—famous also in the region and makes for a good pasalubong. Dried and salted fish are salty appetizers good when paired with Cooked Banana (Sab-a or Cardava); it seems what makes an awesome Lanzones Festival is all that can be put to mouth and thought of when stomach is full.
We made it at the trade fair after the agri-cottage, this time locally made handicrafts are being showcased. Displays of accessories, bags, slippers, shoes and so on—all with homegrown designs are also suggested as “pasalubong shopping galore.” It took us only a short while there since a bakeshop nearby attracted me. We consumed a dozen of the famed Pastels, specially baked bread stuffed with yema. Then we sat in a resort’s seaside table on one of the quiet coves watching the immaculate sunset, seeing the pump boats until only tiny lights becomes of the once visible sea. But the awesome Lanzones Festival did not end there. Nor was it carried to a dream in that brief sleep followed by the mornings wake-up call of acoustic waves, pushing driftwoods tenderly to a considerable limit. We were informed of more cultural shows being held at this and that but decided to stay at peace once more in the cove and enjoy a cup of the locally produced sikwate.
We replaced our sneakers with Topsiders and belted our khakis, put on our collared shirts as we head off to join the proud locals who cheered and applauded the contenders for Mutya sa Buahanan. The pageantry was also a way for a day tripper like me to see the beauties that add up a sense of stylish taste to the Lanzones Festival.
The afternoon before we left, iridescent images are retained, though gradually appeased by deadlines back home: paraded winners of the pageant waving, with gladly worn grins modestly paired with regal hand waves, and street dances in sync with the percussion and other musical instrument. The people, all decorated with Lanzones, turned golden, until blue as the horizon was way back home. The smiles and sounds, like inviting me back for another awesome Lanzones festival experience years following.