One of the highlights of visiting the island of Camiguin apart from the sceneries that fill the eyes is the food that fills the tummy. This island, which lies northeast of Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, boasts of the sweetest buahan (lansones) and creamy pastel (soft buns with milky or fruity fillings). Boarding off the ferry at the town of Benoni also puts one within walking distance of the Tanguines Lagoon, a sort of causeway that connects a travel lodge-cum-floating restaurant to the sea – the J&A Fishpen/Travel Lodge.
It’s virtually impossible to miss this establishment. Ask any of the locals to recommend a place to have good food and a relaxing time and they’ll most likely point you to this place. And they have very good reasons to do so.
The floating restaurant
Lagal[og] said: Last time I was here, there was a bigger floating hut with papag (bamboo slat benches) right at the middle. Now, there are fewer huts (maybe due to the storms or the weathering effects of the elements) with monobloc chairs. The monobloc chairs are less conducive to napping but anyway, I still like eating and hanging out here. Even in the heat of the noon sun, the place is very breezy. Seeing the sea beyond the lagoon has a relaxing effect, as if lulling me to sleep. This is the place to let go of your table manners, so to speak. I put up my legs while I eat and forego serving spoons altogether and nobody would mind.
Ironwulf said: The restaurant is not really floating but standing on stilts with connecting wooden footbridges above a lagoon. It has a very scenic backdrop of the sea which I really enjoyed gazing at while we wait for our orders to come in. Fish pens with a number of fishes tell how fresh the sea food here comes in. But what struck me was their very organic Christmas tree and parols made from clam and crab shells. Just goes to show that this place is about going back to the basics.
Lagal[og] said: The food here is served kamotan (eating by bare hand) style which seats well with me. The Alimango (Steamed Crabs) are really fat, the pincers are loaded with fleshy portions. The Sugbang Baboy (Grilled Pork) is very good. They go so well with vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and chili. This is downright comfort food for me.
Ironwulf said: Food is simply finger-licking good! The huge chili crab is as red as the sauce it’s showered with. It’s easy to crack the crab shell with the wooden hammer provided to get into the thick crab meat. Pincer meat looks like a popsicle — that’s how rich the meat is. Sugbang Baboy is you’re good ole comfort food grilled just right. The Hipon (Steamed Shrimps) are also large you’ll surely zip through its shell to enjoy the juicy flavors hidden.
Lagal[og] said: We had Halaan (Clam Soup) before and it was served in palayok (native earthen pot). It was very good, the soup was very flavorful and stockpiled with clams and fresh vegetables. Since they catch the shellfish and fish they serve here, one doesn’t have to worry about freshness issues.
The service and prices
Lagal[og] said: Seafood is never cheap, even out here as Camiguin imports most of its food from Cagayan de Oro or as far as Cebu. The crabs are sold on a per 100 grams basis so be prepared to shell out quite a tidy sum if you order this. Service is very quick but the waiters are very friendly and never harassing. My tip is to come in very early so one can have a floating hut to yourself and linger over a meal. It’s an ideal place to eat kamayan-style, share chit-chats, maybe even nap a bit while waiting out the hot afternoon.
Ironwulf said: Price is not cheap, but seeing your food taken fresh from the seawater and cooked really well, served on a backdrop of an amazing view of the lagoon and the sea, I say it’s all worth every centavo spent. You can’t buy this dining experience in the city no matter how expensive they are.
Benoni, Camiguin Island, Mindanao • Tel. No. 3874008