Making the most of our last morning in Tawi-Tawi, we decided to visit one of the more popular Bajau Villages in Bongao, but not having a Bongao breakfast at the Chinese Pier first after visiting Pagasinan. We told Kit and Sheva, that we’d like to see and possibly take home some native crafts from Tawi-tawi. It has been my practice when I go to different places to take but items unique or crafted from the place of origin.
The sun has already shone high as we wrapped our morning shoot at Sanga-sanga. We then decided to venture into one of the villages situated by the the river we were taking photos off. Veering right from the bridge into an inner road, we passed by a village slowly waking up. We passed by rows of stilt houses first then we entered a road where lines of ships on varying conditions were docked on shore. We are now at the ship building town of Pagasinan.
It was already late in the afternoon when we started our way back from Balobok Cave. Our 4×4 vehicle roared through the uneven terrain of Barangay Lakit-lakit. On our right the sun was also racing down far by the sea horizon. We passed by a nice stretch of beach they called Pasiagan. This is where Christian Bautista shot the music video of “Tawi-tawi Beach”. When we reached Sanga-sanga, we stopped by a small quaint village by the sea.
Another day started when we found ourselves on the top of Bongao Capitol enjoying the breath taking views. After, we sampled local delicacies at one of their coffeeshops at the town center for breakfast. Fast forward, we checked out Hotel Juanita and made another attempt as Simunul but Kit wasn’t really comfortable of letting us go along with strangers so we just accepted an invite to witness a Muslim pre-wedding ceremony of Pamutong. After which we were told, the tourism people would take us to one important site not only in Tawi-tawi but in the whole South East Asia, the Balobok Rock Shelter.
We were supposed to go to Simunul Island that afternoon, but around noon we were still making our way down Bud Bongao. We didn’t expect that the muddy and sticky trail would slow us down. They already texted us that our host for Simunul was already waiting at the Chinese Pier. After having lunch and checking out Beachside Inn, we sped through town and headed for the old pier where we met Kit. But we didn’t manage to catch our host.
“Di ka pa nakakapunta ng Tawi-Tawi pag di mo pa na-akyat ang Bud Bongao (You haven’t been to Tawi-Tawi if you haven’t climbed Bud Bongao)” said our Muslim guide Ben as we started our climb one morning in Bongao, Tawi-tawi. Bud Bongao dominates the whole landscape of the Tawi-tawi island. The Muslim people there considers the mountain as sacred and guards the well being of the island and the people that resides within. At least once, in every Muslim’s life living on the island, they would climb the mountain and pray at the peak.
Tourism is not really the main draw in Bongao, Tawi-tawi so there aren’t that many accommodations to choose from. There are however three notable hotels there which caters to businessmen, visitors and the occasional travelers in Tawi-Tawi. We were able to stay at some of them and we can say that don’t expect any 3-5 star types here. Most of the rooms are basic and spartan. (Updated December 2014) Almost 5 years since my first visit, there are already additional options for stay in Bongao. Some though have remained the same.