MANILA -- Next to the inviting beaches and an adventurous trek to its Mt. Hibok-Hibok, lanzones is the craze in Camiguin during the “ber” months of the year.

In its season, this pebble-like fruit hiding a sweet and tangy flesh inside is what you'll see everywhere in the small island -- as a welcome offering in hotels and establishments or as a decoration in some houses.

Annually, domestic and foreign tourists alike flock to the island dubbed born out of fire to join the Lanzones Festival celebrated in gratitude for a bountiful harvest.

While also abundant in some parts of the country, the fruit coming from Camiguin is said to be the sweetest due to the island's rich volcanic soils where the plants flourish.

Often, you'll see them sold by the markets, open basketball spaces near the capitol, or along the road freshly picked by island folks themselves.

But this year, Camiguin opened the fences of its lanzones farm to tourists who want a first-hand experience of picking the highly coveted fruit of the province.

In Mahinog, Camiguin sits the first lanzones farm tourism site brimming with over 800 trees that grow around 64,000 to 80,000 kilos of langsat annually.

An entrance fee of PHP200 or around USD3.82 is already a steal for a day-long unlimited pick-and-eat frenzy inside the 6.9-hectare plantation.

Since lanzones is a seasonal fruit, tourists who want a taste of it are advised to book for flights and hotels from September to November.

Still, the best time to visit is on the second half of October, where the extravagant Lanzones Festival is held yearly.

Streetdancers garb in diwata costume and Manobo-inspired clothings during the 39th Lanzones Festival in Mambajao town proper.  

Lanzones legend

You'll be captivated by the curious lanzones lore as told by townsfolk dancing to its narration -- the tale of Buahanan -- the regular theme of the province's lanzones dance parade.

Buahanan is the local name of lanzones in Camiguin.

According to the legend, two kids followed a big hornbill into the forest not knowing it was the Tagbusaw, an evil creature that preys on children.

The other child was abducted deep into the woods. Hearing this, the Manobo, or the earliest settlers of Camiguin, performed rituals for the child's release, but to no avail.

The creature was only angered further.

Left with no other recourse, the tribesmen, through their meriko (ritualist), sought the help of diwatas. The fairies gave the village folk a bunch of golden fruits, which was then called Buahanan, and instructed them to give it as offering to Tagbusaw.

Tagbusaw accepted the fruits and released the child, and since then the island dwellers grew and paid homage to Buahanan. A folk tale or not, Buahanan is a blessing for the people of Camiguin.

Mambajao Mayor Jurdin Jesus Romualdez said with Camiguin lanzones in demand in Mindanao and Cebu, the supply is sometimes too depleted to even reach Manila, more so abroad.

Island paradise for dive, food, scenery

Back to the inviting beaches and alluring trek to its mountains, Camiguin really redefines island living for tourists seeking tropical paradise -- bucolic yet offers some city-like comfort at the same time.

The same way hotels and inns are all over the island, you won't have a hard time finding good food that matches your moods and cravings here.

Scoops of dragon fruit-flavored ice cream at the Beehive Driftwood Cafe in Catarman.

Camiguin is a stockpot of restaurants that reverberates international to countryside cuisine.

There is the newly opened La Dolce Vita owned by Italian Alessandro Cucchi offering his homemade Italian pizza and pastas, and the Guerrera Rice Paddy Restaurant which is said to be a favorite among visitors including Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat for its "fine Asian street food."

On your way to Tuasan Falls or a few kilometers off the Sunken Cemetery and Old Church Ruins in Catarman, a rustic coffee shop in the middle of the woods will also welcome you with homely yet uncompromising ambience.

The Beehive Driftwood Cafe, owned by a Belgian expat, will surely prop your eyes fulfilled with aesthetically pleasing view inside and outside the cafe -- all these while filling your tummy with equally good in-between meals and homegrown coffee that ranges from exotic Turkish coffee to Macadamia roast.

But if you hanker a bit of a countryside taste, J & A Fishpen's floating restaurant is a trove of local dishes served in clay pots.   

A view from inside the J & A Fishpen's floating restaurant.

 It also offers Surol, a Camiguin local chicken dish flavored with coconut milk and ginger.   

To those adventurous and seeking exotic gastronomy, eating fresh sea urchin cooked in vinegar is the way to go. You won't be on a hunt for a restaurant here since ambulant sea urchin vendors akin to Balut sellers are often strolling in the naked Medan Island. 

Mantigue Island from afar. Inside the forest, an enchanting boardwalk awaits visitors.

Often called White Island, this uninhabited sandbar is also an ideal area to capture the whole view of Mt. Hibok-hibok and Old Vulcan in a single picture.   

Finally, a boat-ride to Mantigue Island is the perfect last-day trip to cap off your Camiguin tour. The island destination, fringed with vegetation, is one of the 19 recommended diving spots in the province for having an ideal "drop off" reef for certified divers. (PNA)