Unloading goods at the port of Bongao in Tawi-tawi on a late afternoon. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA More photos
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 June) — Tarawee for Marawi. A simultaneous tarawee was offered in the cities of Iligan and Cotabato and in Bongao, Tawi-tawi province on Tuesday, June 20, World Refugee Day, in solidarity with Marawi City residents affected by the still raging armed conflict in the country’s lone Islamic City. The tarawee, […]
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 May) — Eleven nursing students from Mahardika Institute of Technology (MIT) of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi opted to assert proactively their right to wear hijab in the premises of the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) in Quezon City despite their dismay when informed by its Department Assistant Head Nurse, Glenda L. […]
A motorized boat passes by the row of houses along the old Chinese pier in Bongao, Tawitawi on July 15, 2016. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO
Just about few days ago, I (tadaaa!) celebrated my nth birthday! It came to me just now, that prolly one of the reasons of why I so desire to brand myself as the Sulu Gypsy is that, toot years ago..(fasten your seat belt).. I was pushed out from my mother’s womb in a hut above the water with planks of wood for a floor and a series of poor sheets in between. Ouch. And that, way before I could react to peek-a-boos, I was departed from my beloved birthplace, Bongao. I was barely a year old then when I innocently took my first travel. And so I gone from a stilt hut crawler to an all grown up city girl! One of the islands in Sulu Archipelago, southwestern tip of now Republic of the Philippines.; too small to even pin it as your next destination on your travel map. Yet this pretty little body of land is the famed back door to neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia. One would feel more like a Malaysian than a Filipino when one sets foot down there, I swear. Aside from the basic commodities swarming around bearing Malaysia brands like sugar, cooking oils, coffee, noodles etc, the people, the various dialects, traditions and customs, cuisine and the get-ups are way more Malay-ish. I am in no way demeaning Bongao’s original locals, the Sama cultural group, who have continuously thrived and are a vital contributor to the island’s rich culture, the comings and goings of various influences notwithstanding. A melting pot as they say, of diverse societies living harmoniously having resulted to Bongao’s fast progressing economy. And to that, allow me take you on a virtual tour of my mystic birthplace, Bongao. GET IN: There are two options that I know of. One is by plane with flights to/from Zamboanga City and Bongao four times a week via Cebu Pacific Air and Airphil Express. Or by boat, usually of those from Aleson Shipping Lines (updates coming soon, bear with me). Anyone who sails to Bongao instead of taking a plane takes a peek or, in my case, tirelessly savors the view of Bud Bongao as the ship approaches the pier. The feeling is always the same; it had passed my sight for nth times already but everytime, everytime, impatience challenges my swimming skill (or the lack of it). See the irony? Born in Bongao but doesn’t know how to swim. For if only my dabbing would move me, I definitely would jump into the water and swim my way home instead. This scenery in approaching the island would only mean that you have been naughtyfied to venture the islands nearby (which is what I’m ubeeeer dying to do, spelling PANAMPANGAN!). This is where smaller ships dock which cater to local passengers and traders alike coming in and out, to and from as far as Turtle Islands or Sabah, Malaysia? The famous mode of transportation in GETTING AROUND around Bongao is by tricycle with 10p per person within 5 kilometers radius. Don’t worry, most of the spotted accommodations are in the town proper or if not, they’re just within the parameter. Taking a trike from Sanga-sanga Airport though is a different story for you have to negotiate first with the driver before hopping in. Ignore those charges beyond P100. And now the MUST SEES! Oh I would best recommend to acclimatize your eyes to this sight. Position yourself anywhere parallel to this street and you would be surprised to see how locals spend a few seconds or so of sharing pleasantries to almost everyone they meet along the way. Bongao is too small, so everyone here is a star. Get yourself a bowl of pastil, junay and a hard boiled egg in one of those kadday and once you have forgotten your name already, you are then set to explore more. Can’t get jiggy enough? In Bongao there’s no need to rush. Almost all the places designed to pique your interest are merely walkable. You’ll just have to make sure that you have exemplary foot work as you’ll be practically dancing with pedestrians and vehicles alike. Used clothes, branded shoeseses, signature bags, oh my, almost everything and anything under the sun! It is as if I am transformed into a devotee of ukay-ukay that a visit to Bongao wouldn’t be complete if I wouldn’t plunge into those piles of stuff. If you’re not fond of it, or the smell of it, barter goods and cultural pieces can also be spotted here. And um, did I mention about the chance of bumping into a local selling cheap turtle eggs? Hush. Forget it. Anyways, one of the favorite past times of teenagers is to stroll the circuit of Bud Bongao. Stopping over at Sanga-Sanga bridge, get a dose of sunset, some dive, some swim, some drink while some collect sea urchin […]
And InshaAllah, may a lot more of these HEROIC ACTS be multiplied and continue to inspire more lives.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF UTC TAWI-TAWI