Date of trip: July 18-20, 2016
Date of trip: July 18-20, 2016

Tawi-tawi is the southernmost province of the Philippines, and considered a gateway to the country’s neighbor, Malaysia. It is located near Sulu and Basilan, two of the provinces known for on-going conflicts between armed-rebel groups and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Because of this, a lot of people, especially those living in Luzon, are afraid to  visit Tawi-Tawi, unaware of the peaceful situation in the province.

In my case, I was nothing but excited to have an amazing opportunity to step my foot in this humble province. I looked forward to experience the local culture of the province, taste their local delicacies, and above all, as a mountain hiking-enthusiast, to climb Bud Bongao.

Bud Bongao (Bongao’s Peak) is located in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi. Standing around 300 meters above sea level, it is already considered the province’s highest peak. Since it is located in the provincial capital, and with its proximity to Sanga-sanga airport, it is one of the most visited ecotourism destinations in the province. Hence, it is hailed as the most well-known mountain of Tawi-tawi. The mountain is also of cultural significance to the locals, Muslims and Christians alike. A number of locals hike the mountain to visit the tampats (a small hut-like structure for praying) located near the peak.

As an ecotourism destination, the mountain offers a wide range of attractions to its visitors. The mountain has a thick vegetation cover that is packed with biodiversity. Along the trail, visitors could see a number of wild Philippine long-tailed macaques. When we went there, our local guides threw some food to these wild animals, which these animals eagerly caught and ate. On the peak, a wide area of grassland is what awaits the visitors, and a picturesque view of Celebes and Sulu Seas. During a good weather, one could have a view of Malaysia.

We spent less than two hours going to the peak because the mountain is not really high, and its trail is already established. After an hour or so, we decided to go down as the sun started to set. Our experience was brief, but amazing.

When we left, we took nothing but pictures, we left nothing but memories.

Other notes:

  • As of the moment, only Cebu Pacific flies to Tawi-Tawi, and as of this blog post, there is no direct flight going to this province. You need to fly first to Zamboanga City.
  • Book earlier so you could enjoy Cebu Pacific’s promo rate.
  • Electricity interruption is prevalent in the province.
  • The trail is already paved, and therefore, it is much easier to trek.
  • One of the most prevalent issues that was faced by people in Bongao, and maybe in other parts of the province, was the problem on solid waste management. During my trip to the province, I was really disappointed when I saw how bad their environmental situation was. It was like being in Divisoria. Bud Bongao was not an exception. Along the trail, you could see a lot of garbage left by visitors. Some of which were hanged on tree branches.
plastic bags hanged on trees along the trail of Bud Bongao
plastic bags hanged on trees along the trail of Bud Bongao
  • For accommodation, you may contact Sandbar Beach Lepa and Restaurant (+639206109477/+639359790413) or Rachel’s Place ( (68)268-1248)
  • For pasalubong (souvenirs), it is better to buy in barter market in Zamboanga City. The prices are way lower than in Tawi-Tawi. You can buy Malaysian chocolates, as well as different colorful malongs.
  • Always adhere to the garbage in, garbage out principle. Pls help protect our environment.

Acknowledgements:

I would like to give our sincerest gratitude to Ms. Chari and other faculty members of Mindanao Stae University Tawi-Tawi Campus for assisting and guiding us during our trek.

Travel Guide    
Route Mode of Transportation Estimated Travel Time
NAIA to Zamboanga City Airport Airplane 1.5 hours
Zamboanga City Airport to Tawi-Tawi Airport (Bongao) Airplane 1.5 hours
Tawi-Tawi Airport to Pasiagan (Jump Off point)* Tricycle 20 minutes
Jump-off point to peak Foot 2 hours
*near Sandbar Beach Lepa and Restaurant     

 

Estimated Budget (in Pesos)  
Transportation   
Airfare* 11,444.12
Tricycle (One way per person) 20
   
Food per meal per person 80
   
Accommodation (Average price per room per night) 1000
*based on the regular roundtrip airfare of Cebu Pacific  

 

Side trips and other activities:

  • Food trip within Bongao town proper
Tawi tawi
local delicacies in Tawi Tawi
Tawi tawi
more sweet local delicacies in the province
  • Relax and unwind in Panampangan Island, Sapa-Sapa
the white and and fine sand of Panampangan Island
the white and and fine sand of Panampangan Island
  • Buy cheap Malaysian products in Barter Market in Zamboanga City.
one of the many stalls in Barter Market
one of the many stalls in Barter Market

More photos during our Tawi-tawi trip:

Picture10
the jump-off point to Bud Bongao
Picture11
the first flight of steps up
Picture7
some portions that seem like a walk in a park
Picture8
one of the many wild long-tailed macaques along the trail
Picture14
almost near the peak
Picture18
a group of visitors, taking a photo of the wild long-tailed macaque
Picture16
on one of the peaks, grasslands
Picture25
a view of picturesque scenery, as per Google maps, it is part of Sulu Sea
Picture2
according to a local, this is called a tampat
Picture6
A Vinta near Panampangan Island
Picture4
a big commercial vessel
Picture19
local fishermen
Picture26
the long stretch of Panampangan Island
Date of trip: July 18-20, 2016
Date of trip: July 18-20, 2016

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