Unveiling The Secret Charm of Tawi-Tawi

Every backpacker’s dream is to set foot in the most feared but amazing provinces of the Philippines – Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi or most commonly called ZamBaSulTa. Our 6-day backpacking to the said provinces was originally planned last June 2017 but due to Marawi Seige, we hold off the trip.

Bodex and I were singing the Eat Bulaga opening song “..Mula Batanes hanggang Jolo..” and asked ourselves why Jolo, Sulu? If you look at the map, Tawi-Tawi is at the far most end of the Philippines instead of Sulu. We then learned that it was once part of Sulu province until September 11, 1973, when the province of Tawi-Tawi was officially created.

Image002Touchdown, Tawi-Tawi! View of Bud Bongao 🙂

We only have a day to explore the province; I’m so thankful that I met sir Raja (though we haven’t met personally) and provided us a very accommodating tourism staff, Sir Wadz. I’m not being biased here but so far, of all the provinces that I’ve been to, this one’s my favorite! Hahah! Sobrang excited ko nung papunta palang kami dito dahil feeling ko ang dami namin madidiscover na kakaiba at hindi nga kami nagkamali.

When I saw Masjid Dimaukom in Maguindanao and Grand Mosque in Cotabato, naging fan na ako ng mga mosques. Despite the very expensive boat rental in Tawi-Tawi, we pushed through with the plan to visit the oldest mosque in the Philippines. Located at Simunul, Tawi-Tawi. That’s 1 hour boat ride from Bongao, the capital of Tawi-Tawi.

Image003Shiek Makdum Mosque, oldest mosque in the Philippines

It was established on 1380 by Sheik Makdum, an Arabian missionary. Wow! 638 years old na yung mosque! Ang nakaka-amazed pa nito, yung mga original pillars na ginamit sa pag build ng mosque, nandito pa din at naka-tayo pa din. Galing no? Sobrang tibay. We were so fortunate that the caretaker of the mosque allowed us to get inside.

Image001The 4 original pillars served as the foundation of old mosque.

Image001That’s the original structure of the mosque.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2342.First time makapasok sa loob ng mosque at sa oldest mosque pa ng Pilipinas! 😀

Few meters away sa mosque, makikita naman ang burial site ni Sheik Makdum. Sabi daw ng mga ancestors nila, si Shiek Makdum daw ay sobrang tangkad parang giant.

Image002Sobrang holy si Sheik Makdum even yung sand sa tomb nya, hindi nagbabago or nafla-flatten regardless of the weather. Believe it or not! 😀

Image001Nag-sidetrip kami sa Sangay Siapo Island para mag swimming sana but, unfortunately, low tide. hahah! Pero maganda pa din yung island. Lahat yata ng beach sa Mindanao ay FINE.WHITE.SAND. 😀

549027479We were approaching Bongao port when we witnessed a traditional wedding of Badjaos. Sayang lang hindi namin na-picturan. (Photo credits to Google and to its owner)

Around 2:00pm na kami nakabalik ng Bongao, Tawi-Tawi and agreed on a 30 minutes break. Hahah! So, we went back to our hotel, had a shower and lunch, then proceed with the tour.

Image001Tawi-Tawi Provincial Capitol

Image002White Mosque by the sea.

Image003Jump-off point going to the peak of Bud Bongao. 

Your visit to the southernmost part of the Philippines would not be complete without hiking the famous Bud Bongao. It is the sacred mountain of the locals of Tawi-Tawi. Meron kasing tampat site dito at yun ang pinupuntahan ng mga locals at ang paniniwala nila ay pag hindi sila naka-akyat dito, magkakaroon daw sila ng bad luck.

Hindi ako mahilig umakyat ng bundok but this one is an exception. Madali lang kasi yung trail. LOL! Usually, 1-2 hours yung pag-akyat dito depende kung wala kang exercise! Hahahah!

Image003It is also home to wild long tailed Macaque. They say that these monkeys are the guardians of Bud Bongao. 

Image0073,804 steps going to the peak.

Image001Tampat Site, ito yung pinupuntahan ng mga locals. 

Image005WOW.ANG.GANDA. View of Bongao town and Sanga-Sanga airport. GANDAAAA!! 😀

Image002Native delicacies of Tawi-Tawi for merienda! Top to bottom: Panyam, Bawlu, Panganan, Daral, Pasung)

Image001Panggih-Panggih (Ito daw yung parang pandesal nila) 🙂

Sir Wadz told us if we want to visit Sanga-Sanga Airport’s runway, syempre payag kami agad dahil dito ka lang sa Tawi-Tawi makakapasyal sa runway ng airport. 😀 Nag-spark yung mga mata ko at sa sobrang excitement, we made it back to the jump-off point in just 30 minutes! hahahah!

At the airport, we met a Philippine airforce military, sir Sherham and asked for permission if we could walk through the runway. With a smile on his face, he replied, “Sure, akong bahala sainyo”.

Image006Sanga-Sanga Airport’s runway.



■ Getting to Simunul, Tawi-Tawi: There’s a schedule of passenger boat from Bongao to Simunul at 10:00 in the morning and will back to Bongao the next day at 8:00am. If you have a tight schedule like ours,  you may charter a boat for Php3,000 with a side trip to Sangay Siapo.

■ If you had a chance to get inside Sheik Makdum Mosque, girls must wear long sleeve blouse or jacket. In my case, our guide lent me his sweater.

■ The best time to hike Bud Bongao is early in the morning. Don’t forget to bring some bananas for the monekys. Entrance fee is Php20.00 for visitors and Php10.00 for the locals (you’ll have to pay the entrance fee of your guide.)

■ When hiking Bud Bongao, girls are not allowed to wear short shorts.

■ Guide fee in Tawi-Tawi is Php1,000 per day.

■ “Magsukul” is a Tausug language meaning “Thank You”. READ: ZamBaSulTa : Travel Guide for complete itinerary and expenses.


I suggest gawin nyong atleast 3d2n ang stay sa Tawi-Tawi. Sobrang daming ma-eexplore and yung mga locals, sobrang bait. Miss ko na ang Tawi-Tawi, miss ko na ang magandang probinsya na taliwas sa inaakala ng mga tao.

Our ZamBaSulTa trip is one for the books. We felt no terror when we visited the said provinces, contrary to what others say. Thanks to our Christian and Muslim guides/new friends that we met in every province, who taught us their culture and traditions and for giving us a glimpse to the serene beaches and other unexploited tourist spots. Yet, there’s still so much more to discover. Hoping that their tourism will continue to grow further. 🙂

Magsukul, Tawi-Tawi!


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