You could tell if a destination is gaining ground in terms of tourism when their infrastructure starts improving. During my recent visit to Tawi-tawi, I was able to climb Bud Bongao again. I certainly noticed a new building, paved stairways and other pleasing developments. It was eight years ago when I last climbed Bud Bongao. A time when there still a heavy stigma hovering over the province. But now that stigma is slowly lifting. People are learning that Bongao, Tawi-tawi is relatively safe which resulted to a three-fold increase in tourism arrivals just this year, 2017. At the forefront of the province’s tourism project is the Bud Bongao Eco-Tourism Park. A 342-meter high sacred mountain with an imposing presence at the center of the island.
“Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.”
This was one of the first few images I shot with the Nikon D7100. I liked it so much because of the simplicity behind it hence the title “Beauty in Simplicity”. I found this dilapidated house while walking the road stretch of Pasiagan, Tawi-tawi coming from Sandbar Lepa Beach Hotel to Beach Side Inn where I was billeted that time. I had to stop and try to compose something given that the afternoon sky is starting to show it’s color. Simply one of my personal favorites.
“Oooh! I got my own water dispenser in the room. That’s something new and unexpected for a place like this.” That was my first reaction when I saw my room at Sandbar Lepa Beach Hotel and Restaurant. Back in 2008, when I first visited Tawi-tawi, there were no cottages in this Sandbar Lepa beach. Only the lepa-styled (a house boat by the native Sama people) restaurant stood there since year 2000. Almost six years after, they now have a hotel and a huge convention hall.
If you have ever seen Christian Bautista’s music video “Masusulan Tawi-tawi” and wondered where that picturesque beach was where most of the budding romance scenes from the video were shot? Look no further than in Pahut, Bongao in Tawi-tawi. This is the famous Dr Ibbo’s Beach now known as Almari Beach Resort. The landmark mangrove tree, the white beach, clear sea waters, peaceful garden and native cottages makes this a local favorite in Tawi-tawi.
It was a feast to the senses. The vibrant colors move in a captivating array of patterns in purple, gold and rich green. The choreography was so just entertaining and their Pangalay (a type of Muslim dance) was just hypnotic in its graceful body movement paired with the elegant gestures of their fingers. I just came back in Tawi-tawi after more than five years since my last visit and already, I’m bombarded by this showcase of Sama culture in this Agal-agal Festival. Agal-agal is the local Sinama term for seaweed, an abundant commodity of Tawi-tawi. I can say what a festive way to welcome my return to the southernmost province of the country.
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.