Tawi-Tawi is located at the southernmost of the Philippines, it houses the oldest Mosque of the country as well as the longest sand bar.   It was known to be a very sensitive and dangerous place because of atrocious history.  I was invited to join the team of Wanderlaags and Adventours to visit and spend one-week vacation in Tawi-Tawi, I wasn’t ready nor hesitant as I want to go beyond the limits and explore the deepest part of the Philippines.  

 

The moment we’ve arrived at Sanga-Sanga Airport, I felt a bit nervous but full of excitement.  It was new to me that we have to register and list our names upon arrival.  The airport is small and there is only one airline and only have at least two flights in a day.  We have a contact there to host us and take care of us, thanks to Mr. Mel and Ms. Shiela, our parents for 6 days.  It was a package deal and it is very cheap for that amazing trip (see full expenses below).  

 

I was bothered when we were idled for almost 40 minutes then later I learned that the place where we are going to stay is in Pang Pang which happens to be located right behind the airport runway which means we have to wait until the Airplane took off so we can cross the runway, it was a weird setup but that is how it is.

 © Lei

We settled our things at Pangpang where Ms. Shiela welcome us in a very warm way. Sound of ocean waves, fresh air, golden light, I am not exaggerating but the view is just so hard to forget.  Who never loved the view of sunset by the way? It was right in front of us!  I had the chance to capture it in timelapse and it turns out amazing.  

Our dinner was a blast, BOODLE FIGHT! Seafood is dominating the table, it was really well prepared, they even formed the rice into TAWI-TAWI letters.  The best dish that all of us loved is SAANG, it was my first time and it is indeed, delicious. 

I brought my laptop with me hoping that I can still do some tasks for my online work whenever I have time. The only thing to bear in mind is that only one network has a signal there and that is Globe, sorry for Smart users but you will definitely disconnected when you reached Pangpang. I know, I should focus my time on vacation and set aside those works but 6 days off is difficult for me. I actually did finish some tasks when the lights were off and they were all sleeping. Trust me, I am that workaholic. But I make sure that I won’t miss any group games and plays. I can play hard still. 

LEPA FESTIVAL

It was an extra special for us because we witnessed the first LEPA Festival of Tawi-Tawi where boats are being designed with light decorations. Tribe music on the rhythm together with the dancing lights and fireworks, I was in awe. Passing through people taking photos and watching the row of artistic creations. It wasn’t perfect though. I was bothered by the voluminous piece of trash floating together with the reflection of bokeh lights right underneath the boats. I’m still positive to think that sooner, people will help each other to clean the bay. Tawi-Tawi has so many good things to give for its ecotourism and artistic rhythm. 

SIMUNUL ISLAND

Simunul Island is where the first and oldest mosque located. It is the place where Islam started. I have so many Muslim friends and I am never scared or think the way most people think. We are all equal no matter what religion we belong to. 

We went to Boheh Sallang to have our lunch. “Boheh” means water and “Sallang” means Salt. We spent some time to have fun in the lagoon, it has fresh water and is open to the public. It has no maintenance, at least not yet, and some junk food wrapper is visible. Again, I’m hoping that people there will be responsible for their trash, I mean not just in Tawi-Tawi but for the whole country. 

Light patterns dancing in the waves of blue and clear water. We’ve reached Sangay Siapo Island after 50 minutes (approximate) from Simunul Island. Sunset on the left side of the horizon while the shades of Mount Bongao are facing on the other side. 

We’ve spent some time playing card games and taking some photos. I set up my phone to capture the sunset but it wasn’t saved, I was a bit sad but moved on afterward, it happens by the way. 

SANGAY SIAPO ISLAND

The night is coming and I was extremely happy staring at the sky, watching the milky way above us. I can see it, it is very visible since there is only a little amount of light on the island. I grabbed my mirrorless camera and took a shot for the Milkyway. I did several tries until I’ve got one best shot. 

We placed some mats at the beach sand and had some talks and games. The peaceful night turned out to be horrible when a coral snake spotted crawling very near to us. We were all shouting and laughing at the same time because some of us run so fast while holding playing cards, jumping and diving to the sand, saving our ass and completely fall into panic mode.  Another snake spotted crawling at the seashore, the third one is coming, the fourth one is on the other side. We were looking at each other wondering if we can still sleep on the island. We decided to go back to the boat and spend the rest of our night there. It was actually a very good thing to happen.

There is no enough space for us to sleep at the boat and the other option is to sleep at the rooftop. Five of us witnessed it, the stars, the milky way, collecting wishes, I just loved that night! I never thought that I could sleep under the sky in the middle of the ocean, hearing nothing but the waves while looking at the glitters. I will never forget that night, one of the bests in my life. 

PANAMPANGAN ISLAND

Watching the sunrise while at the top of the boat, the shades of the clouds are extreme, a palette of pastel to bright colors. I was silent and staring at the beautiful nature. We headed to another Island,

 

Panampangan, which has the longest sand bar in the Philippines. We spent the whole day swimming and just feeling the vibe together with many starfish and unusual sea urchins. We owned the entire island for 4 hours and it feels so special. 

The famous mountain in Tawi-Tawi, Mt Bongao. Did I mention that all of my peers with that trip are hikers? Yes, we all are. We got up early to hike to witness the sunrise, the trail is already developed, in fact, it is already cemented which is much harder to hike. We’ve reached the peak at approximately 45 minutes and we’ve encountered many monkeys which makes me happy because they are free. I mean there are no caves or any boundaries that strict them, they own the trees at the peak. We spent some time looking at the entire city and just feeling peace throughout the morning. 

BUD BONGAO

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After the hike, we went to the municipal of Panglima Sugala where barter (a term of exchanging goods) is still being practiced. But exchanging money is already there. Wallet out! We’ve dived into buying unusual dishes like a stingray, seafood that are new to me. I saw many people vlogging and wondering if I can do the same soon. That is the time I told myself that if I like taking photos that much, why I haven’t brought my camera with me. What keeps holding me back to pursue my desires. Time? No. We all have it, the only thing we should recalibrate is how we manage our priorities. That place is a great setting to take amazing photos to capture the actions of native people selling their products with someone who can’t understand their language. I missed that moment but what makes me positive is to think, “at least I saw it personally, I felt it, I saw it in my mind”, and so I can write about it. I may not capture it through good lenses but I absorbed it through my real experiences. All photos below were captured through mobile phone.

BARTER

We were back to our homestay, it was a tiring day from the peak of Bud Bongao and Panglima Sugala. I felt the energy of the ocean in the pangpang and suggested to go there and just witness the sunset once again. Silhouettes of my peers while the shades of horizon at the back makes me feel great. I feel so alive every time I witness sunsets. I am naturally emotional but I am crazy enough to bring happiness for some who knows me deeper.  It was our 4th night in Tawi-tawi and I already felt that we have been there for months. 

PANGPANG

Just 30 minutes from Pangpang, we visited one of the best spots in Tawi-Tawi and that is Boloboc Cave. Again, we owned the place for hours. What I like the most about our trip is that we feel like it was an exclusive trip because there are no other visitors exploring the place. Guys, Tawi-Tawi is a must-visit place. The Boloboc Cave is great for some drone and dome shots. Corals, blue starfish, school of fishes, rock formations, it is just amazing. 

BOLOBOC CAVE

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TOUR PACKAGE

P8,500

Direct contact in Pangpang, Bongao

Ms. Shiela

09066646138

Book a Flight from

Zamboangao

to TAWI-TAWI

HOW TO GET THERE

DAY 1

6:00 AM

Breakfast

8:00 AM

Departure to Simunul Island

10:00 AM

Simunul Tour

  • Shiek Karimul Makhdum Mosque

  • Boheh Sallang Lagoon | Lunch

  • Papa Bull's Park

  • Historical Royal Security Force

1:00 PM

Departure to Sangay Siapo Island

  • Catching Sunset

6:00 PM

Dinner

10:00 PM

LIGHTS OFF

DAY 2

6:00 AM

Breakfast

6:30 AM

Departure to Panampangan Island

  • Longest Sandbar Photo Opt

  • Lunch

2:00 PM

Departure to Bongao

  • Back to Homestay

6:00 PM

Dinner

10:00 PM

LIGHTS OFF

DAY 3

5:00 AM

Hike to Bud Bongao

8:30 AM

Breakfast at Kaddai Kahawahan

9:30 AM

Departure to Panglima Sugala

  • Barter

11:00 AM

Lapid-Lapid Bridge

11:30 AM

Back to Pangpang

  • Lunch

  • Pangpang Quick Deep

  • Catching Sunset

6:00 PM

Dinner

10:00 PM

LIGHTS OFF

ITINERARY

DAY 4

6:00 AM

Breakfast

8:30 AM

Departure to Boloboc

  • Cave

  • Rock Formation

  • Swimming

  • Lunch

1:00 PM

Departure to Capitol

5:00 PM

Back to Pangpang

6:00 PM

Dinner

10:00 PM

LIGHTS OFF

EXPENSES

That is almost it. I’ve been in so many places but Tawi-Tawi makes me feel driven again, with creativity, with plans, with realizations, with spirit. I feel so normal especially with that kind of group I have. The most important thing when you travel is the peer you have because they might make or break your vacation. I was lucky enough to have such crazy new friends who are all vulnerable and just genuinely happy throughout the trip.  

 

Because of this trip, I even want more and planning to complete project 81, a project to visit all the 81 provinces of the Philippines before I try other countries. I’m on it and as I’ve checked the places I’ve been to, I realized that Tawi-Tawi is my 29th province to visit. I’m on it and I will share my entire experience on this site.

 

Thank you for reading and I hope you’ve got something from this blog. If you want to visit Tawi-Tawi, contact Ms. Shiela, she is a very commendable host.

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