TAWI TAWI: Island Hopping DIY

Featured image by Mr. Francis M. Velasco of @thekingfrancism https://biyahenichois.wordpress.com
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with Mon, Isko, Makoi and Dave

At the southern corner edge of the Philippines lies a mini archipelagic province, dotting the seas with captivating islands and pristine white beaches – Tawi Tawi. The profuse traditional media of armed strife cloaked this region with a stereotyped image that is unsafe to visit. Looking at the positive aspect, its effect leads to the preservation of the province’s natural beauty, away from the negatives effects of booming tourism.

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the Capitol Building in Bongao

It is the widespread reach of social media that brought the province to the limelight, into the peering eyes of the travel community. Little by little, tourists start pouring into the province, thank you to the direct flights from Zamboanga to Tawi Tawi, slashing the usual 18-hour ferry ride to less than hour.

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Rainbow over the Horizon in Panampangan

The town of Bongao, seems a usual urban town in Mindanao, dotted with business establishments and that occasional traffic in its main thoroughfares. This is where the center of trade and business are.

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Usual breakfast foods in Bongao Town Proper

The province is also famous because of Sitangkai, a farfetched municipality where boats rule to transportation section.

 

How to go to Tawi Tawi:

Fly: Take direct flights from Manila to Zamboanga by Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. Then from Zamboanga, take the direct flight to Tawi Tawi by Cebu Pacific.

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Alternatively, from Zamboanga, you can take the 18-hour ferry ride to Bongao.

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What are the amazing spots you can visit in the province?

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Here is our two-day itinerary for Tawi Tawi

Day 1:

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Simunul Island

This island is famed as the birthplace of Islam in the Philippines. The first mosque, with its original cornerstones, are still intact and on display within the premises of the new mosque structure. The mosque features a wide prayer area, with golden tiles at the front. It has a loft style second floor for more spaces. Aside from visiting this pivotal structure, try to splash on Simunul Island’s natural pools!

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Tubig Siotong in Simunul Island
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Large balete tree in Simunul Island
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Aerial photo by Raymun Sagum
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the Oldest Mosque in the Philippines
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The welcome arch
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Walking from the port to the Oldest Mosque
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One of the stores along the way. Some brands are unfamiliar

Panampangan Island

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Photo by @thekingfrancism (Follow him in Instagram for amazing drone shots)

Dubbed as having the longest sandbar in the Philippines, this farfetched island is the main attraction of Tawi Tawi. From Bongao, it would take about 2-3 hours of boat ride. The long travel will be compensated by its sheer and breathtaking beauty. Picturesque coconut trees filling the islands core and its two edges would stretch for about 3 kilometers during low tide. There are huts available for rent too. There is a volleyball court should you wish to brag those powerful spikes you have.

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Fine Sand in Panampangan Island

Sangay Siapo Island

The island that you will pass by between Simunul and Panampangan. It boasts one of the cool beaches in the area. We are not able to pass by, though, because of the rough sea conditions.

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Photo by Dave Tumindig
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Sangay Siapo Aerial Photo by Raymun Sagum
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Sangay Siapo Island taken from Simunul Island using 300mm Zoom lens

Day 2:

Boloboc Arch and Beach

Just a few meters from the road, you will find the amazing natural rock arch of Boloboc. Opposite to this picturesque rock formation is a seemingly secluded beach adored with more rock formations and clear waters. Best to visit upon arrival at Sanga Sanga Airport and is about 20-25minutes away.

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Boloboc Arch Photo by: Makoi Matutes

Bud Bongao Peak

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A sacred site for the locals, the trail features an established cemented steps with railings. Assault may take for more than an hour. Once at the peak, you will be rewarded with the panoramic view of the island province and its surrounding seas. Just beware of the monkeys at the trail. Safely keep your loose belongings as they might snatch it from you.

Please note that there is a prayer site at the top. Keep your voices at low volume and respect locals who are praying. There is a small store there that sells snacks and beverages.

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Bud Bongao during sunset
Monkey Portraits

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Ship Yard

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The bottom part of a huge wooden ship they call “Lantsa”

You will pass this by along the road leading to Bongao Proper. It is noticeable of the colossal ships during construction. Ask permission to the workers before taking photographs for your safety.

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Photo by Sir Ryan

Tawi Tawi Capitol Building

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The Capitol Building taken from the ship bound to Sitangkai

Situated atop a hill, this building features a common Muslim architecture and panoramic of the capital town of Tawi Tawi. Best to visit during sunset.

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panoramic view of Bongao Town
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The Capitol Building Facade during the blue hour

 

Video by @j0nsport of his Zamboanga-Sulu-Tawi Tawi experience in Youtube

How to commute within the town proper area?

There are tricycles that you can charter to bring you around the main spots of Tawi Tawi. You can also ask referrals from Ate Sidang if you wish to feel more secure.

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Satti for breakfast

Where did we stay?

Ate Sidang, as her name is well-known among DIY travelers, she is the well-sought off homestay in Tawi Tawi. By word of mouth, she gained traction in the almost nonstop arrival of travelers. The year 2010 when Ate Sidang became one of the tourism forefronts in promoting the potential of Tawi Tawi. She was able to maintain her hospitality branding through the years of welcoming and caring for travelers in her very own home. Staying at her own house made my Tawi Tawi experience indeed authentic and awesome. Her house is just walking distance (less than 5 minutes walk) from the Sanga Sanga Airport Building. Unusual to the usual boarding we do, after we did web check-in, we only left her home once we heard the plane landed. Comment below if you wish to be referred to Ate Sidang.

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With Ate Sidang and her family, sons Ryan and Reech, husband Kuya Lads, and traveler-turned-friend Sheena of Iligan

Ate Sidang does not charge with a fixed amount. But we suggest you pay at least at the industry standard. We also paid for the home cooking she made for us from breakfast to dinner.

Where did we rent a boat?

Ate Sidang’s husband, Kuya Lads, has a boat that can fit about 10 passengers. Boat rental is quite expensive because of the expensive petrol it will consume on the whole day’s touring around the province. Other options are contacting Ate Idang thru mobile number 0997-250-6691

 

Tawi Tawi has so much still to offer to the tourists. Being an archipelagic province, sure there are beaches and island that are equally captivating and breathtaking. Visiting this province is highly recommended.

It is also in this province I met an IG friend, Kix! @jrr_tablate

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Cabalens in Tawi Tawi

 

My heartfelt thanks to Dave Tumindig who hosted our stay in Zamboanga.

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Thank you to my travel buddies! 

39 thoughts on “TAWI TAWI: Island Hopping DIY

      1. can i also have ate sidangs phone number. planning to be there in sept. wanting to do DIY zambasulta

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      2. Hi I will be in Tawi-Tawi Sept 27-30 for their kamaharlikaan. How can i pm you? I need a home to stay and a tour guide as well. Thank you so much. Anything you can refer?

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      3. hi tina, Kamarhadikaan details:

        Sept 23 – Opening Parade,
        Sept 24 – Lepa Festival and Budjang Tawi Tawi
        Sept 25 – Agal Agal Festival
        Sept 26 – Marathon
        Sept 27 – Grand Cultural Parade

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  1. Hi, I’m Jameson. A DIY solo travellee. I will be traveling to Tawi-Tawi from May 13-17, 2020. I’ve read your article about the place where you’ve stayed. That experience that you’ve had will help me to budget my travel allowance in Tawi-Tawi. Can you refer me to Ate Sidang? For how long did you stay in her house and house much did you pay?

    Thank you very much in advance! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jameson, thank you for reading this article. I have already referred you to Ate Sidang. I had stayed last year for 3 nights. This month, I will be staying for 4nights. My standard is Php400/night. That is exclusive of the meals she served us.

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  2. hellow. I’m Mariel. tagal ko ng gusto punta tawi-tawi.. when is the best time to visit tawi tawi.. and safe ba sya? magpa refer din ako sa iyo kay ate sidang pag ayos na aking sched. thanks a lot. enjoyed reading your blog.

    Like

  3. Hi there! I’ll be doing a DIY Solo travel in Tawi-Tawi on May 25-27. I’ll be flying from Zamboanga to get there. Can you refer me to Ate Sidang and do you have her updated number just in case? And also, how much is the boat rental for island hopping?

    Hopefully I can able to find people who can join me to cut the expenses with.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi,

    Two travellers and we’ll be in Tawi-Tawi on March 14 until March 17.. Hoping to be referred to Ate Sidang. 😊 Also, I hope we can join other travellers to cut expenses. It’s really expensive to rent a boat but we don’t want to miss exploring those gem islands. This Tawi-Tawi trip was plan last year after reading blogs likes yours and vlogs. We were solo inspired! Tawi-Tawi has a lot to offer other than the negative vibes media has brought in the past. Can’t wait to finally fulfill this dream.

    Thank you. This blog is really helpful. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi – great review.
    When the current crisis finishes, I will visit.
    Is the homestay near to Bongao city centre and the port?
    Are there public boats to Simunul?
    What about trekking?
    Grateful for a quick reply.
    Thank you
    Terry

    Like

  6. Is there any chance that you will plan a tawi tawi trip? Im a solo traveller and looking for a group to join with.

    Like

  7. Hi guys!

    Anyone planning on visiting Tawi Tawi on April 9 – 12? Perhaps we can all go together so we can save on island hopping.

    Butch

    Like

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