Rather than indulging in typical, high-impact mass-tourism activities such as going to manicured beach resorts, buying expensive souvenirs, eating in 5-star restaurants, or staying in posh hotels, eco-tourists head out to pristine, delicate, and undisturbed natural areas. An eco-tourist does not simply aim to see the sights but also educate himself, observe the wonders and dynamics of Mother Nature, understand and respect a place’s cultural and historical heritage, and become a socially responsible traveler.
Eco-tourists are not just the ones who realize the personal, mental, spiritual, environmental, and social benefits of this travel trend. Indeed, the travel-and-tourism industry itself has become socially and environmentally responsible. In particular, many players of the hospitality industry have capitalized on the eco-tourism trend and have exercised their social and environmental awareness by operating eco-lodges.
Eco-lodges are accommodations that have very minimal impact on the surrounding environment. In fact, they are built in such a way that they complement or enhance Nature rather than destroying it. One such unique eco-lodge is Enigmata in Balbagon, Mambajao, Camiguin. And when we say unique, you can bet we really mean it! We’ll explain to you as we go through the blog post.
Sweetie booked us up for two nights in Enigmata Eco-Lodge for our stay in Camiguin. The road that leads to Enigmata is guarded by this skillfully made and detailed bronze statue. Dubbed the Enigman, this was sculpted by prolific artist and sculptor Kublai Millan. The Enigman is represented as the bearer of Filipino culture, heritage, tradition, and history.
A beautiful, carved wood panel bears warm words of welcome.
The façade of Enigmata appears to be like a rundown complex of huts. But don’t judge a book by its cover. According to Hostelworld.com, Enigmata was, in fact, one of the 2008 top 10 eco-lodges on Earth and cited as one of the eco and budget friendly hostels the past year by Simply Green Leading the Eco-lifestyle website.
Unique, comfortable, and brimming with colors and imagination, Enigmata , which means “open your eyes” is the brainchild of musician and artist Ben Achia. Today, it is the home and headquarters of the Enigmata Creative Circle, a group of young and creative Mindanao-based artists. The group is headed by Waway Linsahay Saway, a Talaandig visual artist and musician.
Giant sculpted tentacles rise out from Enigmata’s lawn. The moment we stepped in the property, we found all kinds of sculptures and artwork all over the place. Enigmata is a place not just for eco-tourists. It is a paradise, a learning center, and a sanctuary for the artistically-minded.
Virtually every inch of Enigmata is filled with fantastic and cleverly made artwork. For example, empty bottles donated by Goldie the Swiss chef are painted and installed on the walls as alternatives for more expensive stained glass. Wooden panels that make up the balustrade feature tribal designs, with each panel different from one another.
The front counter is chock-full of artworks. The massive array of products that originates from creativity doesn’t fail to immediately open the mind. Suddenly, we were filled with awe at the amazing artworks and began to ponder the artist’s mind.
Filled to the brim with more kinds of artworks, from paintings to sculptures, the reception area beckons the creative mind. While waiting for the staff to process our reservation, Sweetie and I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the different types of artwork.
Expertly weaved dream catchers adorn the counter. Some of them are actually for sale.
We were definitely mesmerized at these astounding wire art creations by Vernon Ian Constantino. There is a wire tricycle, a motorcycle, an iguana, and many others. Some of these are for sale and make unique home decors.
These may seem like ordinary paintings. However, we were able to talk to the artist who made them. He said that the medium he used was soil! He just mixed up different colors of soils, mixed them with water and glue, then painted the nudes and the mother-and-child paintings. Very cool and creative!
After completing the registration, we proceeded to our rooms. But before we did, we couldn’t resist taking a photo of this cleverly lit “cave” made of weaved foliage. For us, it looked like a gateway to another dimension.
This is Enigmata’s central hub where guests congregate before going to their rooms. See those curtains? Those are the “doors” to the rooms. The common bathrooms and toilets are also located here. Additionally, as you can see, all major furnishings are constructed in the traditional way.
By the way, Enigmata is a non-smoking eco-lodge, and if the management catches you smoking inside the premises, you’ll have to shell out a hefty fine.
Check out our humble but very comfortable backpacker’s room. The accommodation is very rudimentary—just a bed and a small table. No cable TV, no air-conditioning, no hot water, no in-room phone, no high-tech gadgets. You get to experience the joys—and pains—of rustic living. You can hear the full blast of the rain, the calls of crickets, and other sounds of the night. You face an onslaught of mosquitoes and other bugs, with a flimsy mosquito net as your shield against these insects.
We have to say, staying and sleeping here was a great experience of a lifetime, going back in time when modern conveniences of life were not existent. As we settled in to sleep, we suddenly realized how far we have left behind the satisfaction, joy, and pleasure of appreciating simplicity. It’s really quite sad and shocking that modern society has become so dependent on technology, convenience, and “getting it the easy way” that we forget what Nature and Life have provided us.
On the morning of the second day, our guides texted to inform us that one of them had a flat tire, and they may be delayed in fetching us. So we decided to explore Enigmata more thoroughly. Before we went around the place, we found out that we were not the only ones sharing the eco-lodge although last night, it did appear as if we’re the only guests. We met with Sheila of Nature Explore Tours and her partner, a backpacker couple. They were also enjoying a Camiguin tour. Meeting with other adventurers is one of the best things that could happen in a backpacking trip.
First, we went around the exterior of Enigmata and found these detailed sculptures of a fusion between man and animal. This particular sculpture is titled Taong Tuko (lizard man). According to the artist, the lizard’s respect for the earth mirrors man’s deep love of his historical and cultural roots.
Then we went to Balay Kalipay (happy home), Enigmata’s cool and serene library and lounge.
Several children’s artworks adorn the entry to Balay Kalipay. It’s such a wonderful feeling knowing that there are children who are very much interested in art. In fact, the Enigmata Creative Circle believes that every child is an artist.
Balay Kalipay is designed as a place to chill out, relax, and chat with friends. Thus, there are comfortable native hammocks where guests can lie down to ease out stress.
Most artists are music-minded, so Enigmata provides them this traditional kulintang, an instrument usually associated with the Ifugao, which makes a very distinct sound that reminds the listener of far-off mountains and fog-laden valleys.
There are also percussion instruments such as these bongos, which are adorned with traditional and native materials.
Pot gongs hang around the library, each producing a distinct sonorous sound when struck. Such musical instruments awaken the Filipino’s incredible talent and passion for beautiful, meaningful, and distinct music.
Large pieces of cloth adorned with tribal designs add life to the ceiling.
We did say that Balay Kalipay is a library and café, didn’t we? Well, that was indeed a boon for us since Sweetie and I are voracious readers. Balay Kalipay has a collection of magazines, books, and other reading materials that touch on the subjects of adventure, culture, history, and art. Books are donated by various organizations such as the International School of Manila, Imagine Peace of South Korea; socially responsible individuals such as Dita Sandico-Ong and Mr. Antonio Aboitiz; Enigmata artists and musicians; and Enigmata guests.
Upon returning to Enigmata after our tour around Camiguin Island, we were pleasantly surprised that we were now the only guests in the lodge. That means, we have the place all to ourselves! We had a simple but sumptuous dinner at the artwork-filled Bahay Kalipay.
The real beauty of Enigmata glows during the night as the staff turn on soft and multi-colored lights. With the gentle illumination, the entire place seems otherworldly. Wood becomes warmer, brass shows off its shine, and the artworks seem to come to life.
After dinner, Sweetie and I played a couple of rounds of sungka, a traditional Filipino mancala game of Malay origin.
There is more to Enigmata than meets the eye. The homestay-styled accommodation is actually a treehouse, which is built around the trunk and branches of a huge, century-old, and still healthy acacia tree! Obviously, rooms that are located high up the acacia tree are more expensive than the ones on the base. Thus, when you book in Enigmata, you are actually staying in a tree house! How cool is that!
Since we were the only guests, Rosalie, the officer-in-charge of Enigmata allowed us to explore the upper rooms of the tree house. It may not look much from the outside, but inside, the place was practically a labyrinth. We climbed through stairs, opened doors, and crawled through trapdoors and hatches to get to the top.
To keep the tree healthy, the main structures and supports of the facility aren’t nailed on the branches. Instead, they are built around the tree’s branches.
Enigmata offers massage service. If you avail of it, you will have a relaxing, stress-melting, snore-inducing massage up here. Just seeing the open-air massage terrace made us want to lie down and sleep on the extremely comfortable cushion.
An encompassing view greets guests at the upper rooms of Enigmata.
This is one of the upper rooms in Enigmata. Check out the traditional bamboo construction. The gleam and the creak of bamboo give the place a very serene and enlightening atmosphere.
Be sure not to move too much if you wish to sleep by the edge of the balcony. As you can see, there are no safety rails. If you move a lot when you sleep, better take the lower rooms. You don’t want to wake up with a loud and painful thud, do you?
At the very top of the tree house is a small open-air, belfry-like structure that allows guests to enjoy a beautiful view of the verdant forest and the lofty mountains of Camiguin. It’s also a place where one can reflect on love, peace, culture, and nature.
Indeed, we consider our stay in Engimata as a great adventure. It was our first time to stay in a true eco-lodge. It was our first time to stay in a hospitality establishment without modern conveniences. We daresay, it was our first taste of pure eco-tourism.
But Enigmata is more than just a tree house or home-stay type accommodation for backpackers, adventurers, and off-beat tourists. It is a haven for artists and musicians who wish to share their creations, learn more about art and music, and search for creative inspiration. It is a repository and gallery of the spectacular creations of local talents, whose imagination, skill, and creativity are beyond compare. It is a paradise for bookworms who are constantly looking for knowledge. It is a shining example of a perfect balance between nature and man-made creation. It is a sanctuary that helps one understand where he belongs in nature. It is a time capsule where one can rediscover his roots, appreciate our country’s history, and revere his country’s rich culture.
Truly, Enigmata is a place where you will indeed “open your eyes.”
Update (12/22/2016): We just learned a tragic news. Enigmata burned down last October 22, 2015. No one perished, but it was a great loss of a fine display of history, art, music, and culture.
1. You can get in touch with Enigmata by using these contact details:
- Landline: (6388) 387-0273
- Mobile Phone: 0919-9999877 or 0917-3264474
- E-mail: email@example.com
2. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any updated information about the latest Enigmata room rates. At the time of this publication, their website is down. What we can share to you is that we shelled out P300 per person per night in their Backpacker’s Room. Apparently, the rooms become more expensive as you go higher on the tree house. Here are the room types and a short description of each:
- Bartender’s Backpacker’s Room – beside the bar, can accommodate 4 pax with shared shower and toilet
- Backpacker’s Room – can accommodate 2 pax per room with shared shower and toilet
- Shell Garden Suite – can accommodate 4 pax with private shower and toilet
- Eagle Nest Suite – topmost level, can accommodate 4 pax with private shower and toilet
For updated rates, we strongly recommend getting in touch with Enigmata.
3. The staff can whip up a meal for you at affordable prices. However, most backpackers simply buy their meals elsewhere and bring it to the eco-lodge. The eco-lodge does not charge a corkage fee for food bought outside except for alcoholic drinks. If you wish to have your meals prepared in-house, we recommend informing Enigmata’s staff beforehand.
4. Remember that Enigmata is an eco-lodge, and it’s not your ordinary type of accommodation. If you’re simply looking for a place to stay with a vision of resting in an air-conditioned room and enjoying the convenience of watching a TV, taking a hot shower, or eating in an in-house café or restaurant, then you’re better off looking for another accommodation. Enigmata has rudimentary accommodations, specifically to let you experience being one with nature. In fact, even the most expensive rooms consist of a little more than a bed and a small table.
If you want to relish the experience of true eco-travel, then staying in Enigmata is for you.
5. There is no air-conditioning, but the rooms are breezy enough to be comfortable. In fact, late at night or early dawn, the air becomes really cool. If you feel stuffed and uncomfortable, you can ask the staff for an electric fan, which they can provide you for free.
6. Use the mosquito net that Enigmata provides you to protect yourself from bugs. The eco-lodge is open to air, and it doesn’t have screens or glass windows to protect guests from those bugs.
7. Enigmata does not provide any toiletries and towels. Thus, you need to bring your own.
8. Enigmata also hosts art workshops, cultural seminars, environmental talks, and other similar activities. Contact Enigmata for more details.