The southernmost jewel of the Philippines: Tawi-Tawi

From the charming islands and islets dotting the seas of Tawi-Tawi to the breathtaking peak of the province’s tallest mountain, from the flavorful traditional cuisines to the colorful lively music and dances of the tribe, from the busy piers of Bongao to the bustling barter trade of Panglima Sugala, from the stilt houses of Badjao to the peace loving town of Simunul – amazing things that are truly and uniquely Tawi-Tawi’s.

For many, when they hear about Tawi-Tawi, what come instantly to their minds are those negative impressions they hear about the Province. Some still fear. While others are wondering what’s in this Island province that some are lured to visit. The fact is there are people who despite the negative things they hear about these group of islands, they still find their way to face their fears, travel for miles and discover the many wonderful things about this southernmost jewel of the country. They are the brave, the adventurous, and the thrill seekers – people who love to explore the unexplored, to tell stories about places and people that are often neglected, people who love off-the-beaten-path journey.

So those who are brave, adventurous and thrill-seekers, they are the luckiest for they are favored to see and experience a different kind of destination where nature and culture are both at their best – the best of Tawi-Tawi.

Having said that, I considered myself as among the luckiest as I got the rare opportunity to experience the simple yet commendable lives of its people, savored the mouthwatering flavors of their tribe that reflect the richness of their culture, marveled at the many pristine natural wonders that have stuck in my head even until now.

PANGLIMA SUGALA

Panglima Sugala used to be the capital town of Tawi-Tawi long before it was changed to Bongao. It is endowed with wide and fertile agricultural land making it as the province’s food basket. Such paved the way for the town’s traditional way of barter system called Pagtabuh-tabuh where agricultural products are offered in exchange for marine products or seafood, and vice versa.

This bustling trade is popular not only in the town of Panglima Sugala but even in the other towns of Tawi-Tawi. Every Saturday, farmers and fisher folks would converge in the Batu-Batu’s public market for Pagtabuh-tabuh. Even merchants from nearby towns of Bongao and Sapa-Sapa would come to buy the local’s product sold at very low prices.

Local delicacies are also available at some sari-sari stores in Batu-Batu Market. If you’re lucky, you’ll find some stores selling bawlo, junay, putli mandih and other traditional delicacies of the Tawi-Tawi.
The province’s biggest mosque is also situated in the town. It is called Masjid Kapunan.

SAPA-SAPA
Beautiful islands and gorgeous islets abound in the waters of Sapa-Sapa. Most of these islands remain untouched, some are even uninhabited. Sea beds of the shallow waters are pure white sand. When hit by the sunlight, the waters turn blue to green. At one glance, it looks like a large magnificent swimming pool. Cruising onward, groups of islets that seem to sprout from the seas are sights to behold. If only I had the luxury of time, I would hop from one islet to the other just to relish these southern jewels of the country. The most famous island in entire town is the Panampangan Island. It is a small island surrounded entirely by fine white sands. Adjacent to the Island is a white sand bar. During low tide, this sand bar serves as a way to access the gorgeous islets nearby.

Adding to the gorgeousness of these islands are the stilts houses of the Badjao that have stood still and sturdy against the tides of Tawi-Tawi crystal clear waters. Since time immemorial, the seas of Tawi-Tawi have been the Badjao’s sacred home providing them everything they need. I wish one day, in one of my visits to Tawi-Tawi, I will have the chance to live in one of these stilt houses even for one day. I think it is beautiful.

There are other countless amazing destinations to discover in Tawi-Tawi. Sadly I only had a very little time. Three days are not enough to explore more of what this gorgeous group of island has to offer. Wandering around seeing these unblemished splendors is something that my heart rejoices even to this time of writing. In fact, I will run out of words to describe the things that I saw and experienced the whole time that I was here. I even told myself how lucky I am to be given this great opportunity to be in this place seeing and doing all these things that truly speak the beauty and culture of Tawi-Tawi. I wish everyone has the opportunity to see and experience Tawi-Tawi the way I do.

It is beyond beautiful. So fear not my friends. Come to this southernmost part of our country and be charmed by the splendor and beauty of this amazing Province.

***

tawitawi-21 My heartfelt gratitude to the awesome people who made my trip to Tawi-Tawi very remarkable.

Shouting out my thousand thanks to Secretary Ayesha Mangudadatu Dilangalen of Department of Tourism – ARMM for this invitation to experience the vibe and life of Tawi-Tawi. Same goes to her awesome DOT-ARMM team who works hard to promote ARMM as an amazing destination to explore. Also, to other Regional Secretaries of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao I met during this trip, thank you so much. You are all #ARMMazing.

Magsukolto the Provincial Government of Tawi-Tawi headed by Governor Rashidin Matba. Thank you for sharing to us your precious time and for letting us see and appreciate the beauty of Tawi-Tawi. Thank you for your warmth and hospitality. May your tribe increase.

Tawi-tawi is truly a jewel of the south waiting to be discovered.

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  • Yves Boquet

    Maybe it is charming, but as long as Abu Sayyaf and similar charming local creatures are roming the swamps searching for new victims, I will abstain. Sorry. I value having my head attached to the rest of my body.