"a caterpillar doesn't just grow into a butterfly. a caterpillar must undergo metamorphosis, and a cocoon is where a caterpillar risks it all: enters total chaos, undergoes total rebuilding, and is born to a new way of living. only in taking the risk of entering that inert cocoon can the caterpillar go from dormancy to potency, from ugliness to beauty."

Sunday, July 08, 2012

destination: sitangkai, the southernmost municipality of the philippines

"having reached and personally experienced batanes and tawi-tawi,
the northernmost and southernmost provinces of the philippines, respectively, i personally think that
eat bulaga's "mula aparri hanggang jolo" is quite unfair for these two provinces.
but, in a way, maybe
patas lang...
in batanes, they're hearing more taiwanese;
in tawi-tawi, they're hearing more malay."

-- thoughts i shared with my friends on june 6, 2011 via my facebook account

finally, tawi-tawi!
this is part 2 of a series entitled breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier.

this time, tawi-tawi!
image source: google maps
(i provided the labels and rectangular markers in blue and red)

day 2. april 22, 2011. holy friday.
route: zamboanga city to tawi-tawi, then bongao to sitangkai

an early morning special flight arranged by air philippines took kat and me (and our fellow passengers from the previous day’s cancelled flight) from zamboanga city to tawi-tawi.

from zamboanga to tawi-tawi, the southwestern tip of the country
image source: google maps
(i provided the elliptical markers in red)

it was a good sunny day and my window seat allowed me to see a great deal of the coastline and the tropical wonder beneath us as the pilot ably steered the plane towards sanga-sanga (pronounced as “sang-ga sang-ga”) airport for landing.

anticipating touchdown | flying over sanga-sanga

sanga-sanga airport, a minor domestic airport located in bongao’s sanga-sanga island, was our gateway to the province of tawi-tawi. bongao (pronounced as “bong-gao”), by the way, is the economic capital of tawi-tawi.

the terminal building of sanga-sanga airport

just outside the airport, we met the rest of our travel mates for that day – members of the AMCI mountaineering club, inc. and the local guides. we were ushered to a waiting van where maida, a good friend from TOSP and member of AMCI, quickly introduced us to the team. tessa and clint, also of AMCI and whom we already made friends with in zamboanga city the previous day, assisted her in doing the brief introductions. no time was wasted. as soon as we boarded the van, we hied off to the tawi-tawi governor’s place for a courtesy call.

first stop from the airport: house of the governor of tawi-tawi
our group and governor sadikul sahali (in blue)

we were let into the governor’s house and we had a meet-and-greet with gov. sadikul sahali himself. he allowed our group to use his family’s big speedboat for our trip to the distant islands of sitangkai, sibutu, and simunul. it was up to our group to shoulder the fuel cost, three full barrels all in all.   

destination: sitangkai
the venice of the south and the southernmost settlement of the philippines

sitangkai on the map
image source: google maps

to get to sitangkai from bongao, we traveled at an estimated speed of 150kph with the dual-engined speedboat defining an aqua blue highway in the calm southern seas and covering the great distance between sitangkai and bongao in just one hour. the trip usually takes 4 hours -- waiting time excluded -- via regular boats, which travel the route from bongao’s old chinese pier to sitangkai.

the skies were clear and the sun was high up when we arrived in sitangkai. the first thing that impressed me was not the array of stilt houses but the very clear seawater!

hello, sitangkai | that building over there is the sitangkai public market
i couldn't stop myself from taking this picture as our boat floated over underwater seaweeds

among the places in the country that i have been to, the municipality of sitangkai stands out as it is a settlement on significantly more water than land – a real deal waterworld. yup, sitangkai is a municipality and, as part of the province of tawi-tawi, it is one of the 113 municipalities under the political jurisdiction of the  autonomous region in muslim mindanao (ARMM).

presenting... the venice of the south, the waterworld of sitangkai
look at the map and check where the south of the philippines and the north of borneo meet :D
that place is this -- sitangkai!
(photo by kat)

the highway in sitangkai is a marine waterway and, except for some causeways and footbridges, all the other roads are also marine waterways which is why, instead of cars, boats are the primary transportation there. it is for this reason that sitangkai is famously referred to as the philippines’ own venice -- the venice of the south.

kat in venice | sitangkai, the venice of the philippines

a glimpse of sitangkai's main highway -- a marine waterway

the boats of sitangkai

sitangkai. it's a waterworld!

the highway also serves as the floating market area. along both of its sides are business establishments on stilt houses connected by footbridges and causeways.

since we arrived in sitangkai during low tide and close to a prayer hour, there were not a lot of boats found in the floating market. nevertheless, on the causeways and footbridges, there were still ongoing business and trading involving “boats to agar-agar (seaweed), and everything in between,” as kat put it.

business as usual on the causeway | sitangkai, tawi-tawi

in sitangkai and in the south: kurikung, tempel, and tiririt are types of boats

just some of the many goods being traded in sitangkai

it is interesting to note that a lot of the packaged products and dry goods we found in the establishments were from malaysia and indonesia. in fact, the bottled water that kat bought was from malaysia. this is something quite understandable – sitangkai, after all, is closer to the island of borneo (northern borneo being a malaysian territory while southern borneo is an indonesian territory) than to the philippine mainland.

in the background: the main highway of sitangkai

aside from being the venice of the south, sitangkai is also the seaweed capital of the philippines. the waterworld houses very vast seaweed farms and accounts for the country's biggest seaweed production in one contained area.

our tour of the place was rewarding. until now, i get overwhelmed every time i look back and get reminded that i set foot there in sitangkai -- the southwesternmost island border of the philippines -- where fishing and seaweed farming are the main livelihood and where boats are the stars of the highway!

the people who were with me in sitangkai: AMCI team + kat + local guides

our stay in sitangkai wasn’t very long as it was just a quick day tour. it got extended a wee bit though and we were allowed a bonus adventure -- well, sort of. 

remember, i mentioned low tide earlier? here’s what happened: on our way out of sitangkai, the water level had already gone too low and the bottom of the loaded speedboat was at risk of hitting the seabed. there were 20 of us including the guides and that meant some of us had to go down and help with pushing the speedboat to better depths… which we did.

actually, they did. kat was one of the few who opted to stay put inside the boat. i went down and took pictures of them pushing the speedboat to deeper waters. :D

glimpses of our extra adventure just before we left sitangkai

then, when everything was already deemed good, those of us who were in the water climbed back to the speedboat. the two engines roared to life. in no time, we were almost flying over water again and off we went to our next destination -- the island of sibutu.

breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier | the series

1 comment:

  1. Ang gondo ng waterworld, pati yung clear waters.. nakuha sa photo.. nice!


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