"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."

Friday, October 19, 2012

island hopping in the southern seas, island hopping in tawi-tawi

"There is no life that does not rise
melodic from scales of the marvelous."
-- Robert Duncan 

our island hopping adventure in tawi-tawi
this is part 5 of a series entitled breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier.

day 3. april 23, 2011. black saturday.
adventure 1: island hopping -- bongao, tango, panglima sugala, sangasiapu, laa, pababag, pasiagan
adventure 2: destination: bud bongao
adventure 3: destination: balobok rock shelter in brgy. lakit-lakit
adventure 4: destination: provincial capitol

day 3, adventure 1 | our starts and stops
island hopping adventure in tawi-tawi
image source: google maps
(i provided the blue labels)

our third day in tawi-tawi started in rachel's place hotel and restaurant, where we waited for kuya jan to arrive in bongao from the nearby university town of sanga-sanga.

from rachel's place, we reached ridjiki boulevard, the public market, the old chinese pier, tango island, panglima sugala, sangasiapu island, laa island, pababag island, and pasiagan.

kuya jan
a friend from tawi-tawi

kuya jan is a resident of tawi-tawi and a member of the math and science faculty force of MSU-TCTO (mindanao state university - tawi-tawi college of technology and oceanography) a.k.a. MSU-tawi-tawi. we know each other because, some years ago, we were classmates in some major physics subjects in MSU-iligan.

the welcome gate of MSU-TCTO a.k.a. MSU-tawi-tawi 
as seen from the highway in sanga-sanga

last year, when kuya jan learned from basil -- a common friend of ours who also teaches in MSU-TCTO -- that i was heading to tawi-tawi with a travel buddy, he helped us in finalizing our itinerary and enthusiastically agreed to accompany kat and me in going around the area.

rachel's place hotel and restaurant
ilmon street, brgy. lamion, bongao, tawi-tawi

rachel's place hotel and restaurant

prior reaching tawi-tawi, kat reserved a room for the two of us in rachel's place, an easy-to-spot gated compound along the street not far from the town center. this two-storey hotel with a neat garden and restaurant was a convenient choice for our accommodation.

meeting alvin and kuya ibra
a fine morning in ridjiki boulevard, the bongao public market, and the old chinese pier

rachel's place and the old chinese pier in one map
image source: google maps
(i provided the blue labels)

kuya jan fetched kat and me from rachel's place and the three of us rode on a tricycle that took us to nearby ridjiki boulevard and the bongao public market close to the old chinese pier. a short walk along the busy boulevard and into the bustling public market brought us to one of the food shops there where kuya jan introduced us to two other locals -- his relatives, alvin and kuya ibra. both alvin and kuya ibra were especially requested by kuya jan  to accompany us in our DIY (do-it-yourself) tawi-tawi island hopping adventure.

kuya jan and alvin

kuya ibra | the seafarer

kuya jan really made sure that we had what we needed to cover without glitch the starts and stops which we listed in our itinerary -- our small group had a liaison guy in the person of alvin and we also had an able head seafarer in the person of kuya ibra whose boat, dream lover, was docked at the pier and ready to take us from island to island.

ridjiki boulevard (top), grilled fish & chicken at the public market (bottom left),
and part of the old chinese pier (bottom right)

before we set out to see our island destinations, we secured key supplies from the public market -- food for us and fuel for the boat. we bought puso (rice in coconut leaf pouch a.k.a. hanging rice), grilled fish, and grilled chicken for our planned picnic-style lunch.

dream lover
a literal dreamboat for tawi-tawi's crystal clear waters 

then, it was time to meet our boat at the pier. we walked on wooden planks which extended the bongao public market to the sea. everyone there seemed to be moving about and it's quite a really busy area. we passed by various business stalls and we had to move with caution around makeshift display areas to avoid hitting and/or stepping on assorted items for trade along the wooden walkway.

 docked at the pier | dream lover, the cute boat

amidst the hustle bustle, dream lover with her tranquil vibe, stood out. her combo of ivory white exterior and mint green interior gave her an over-all cool and cute look.

 kat and i with kuya ibra and dream lover

as soon as everyone -- kuya ibra, kat and i, kuya jan and alvin -- got on board and us passengers were comfortably seated, kuya ibra manoeuvred dream lover from her docking space and made her motor roar to life. we pulled out from the pier and set out to the blue, blue sea.

dream lover was at home in tawi-tawi's waters and proved to be up to her task of taking us from one island destination to the next in good time!

dream lover in tawi-tawi | the boat that brought us to our island stops

our first stop after leaving the vicinity of the bongao public market and the old chinese pier was a private tropical paradise known as tango island.

destination: tango island
the private island

tango island | tawi-tawi

tango island is surrounded by turquoise seawater and is blessed with a pretty coastline. the water around the island is so clear and calm that, despite the depth, healthy coral reefs are visible from the surface.

glimpses of tango island's natural treasures |  tawi-tawi

there is no need to snorkel nor to scuba dive to behold the natural underwater garden around this small island.  the place has white sand and is an ideal island paradise for those who love the sea, sun, and sand.

even the birds love to spend time there!

effortless birdwatching :) in tawi-tawi's tango island

to be continued...

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


  1. Hi maam,

    Greetings! I just came from Tawi-Tawi yesterday and I left the place in awe. I am back in Manila now. I know Clint and Angie, your travel mates from AMCI, and i can't help but feel envious of the places your group visited around the province. In two days, my friend and I were only able to visit Sangay Siapo, Tango islands and climb Bud Bongao. I would love to come back and visit the rest.

    I am interested to know how much did you spend for your boat to do the island hopping. Since we had a brief stay and very limited resources then, we only had limited insights on the whole of Tawi-Tawi. I would appreciate if you could give us tips and inside info on how to save further in expenses when visiting Tawi-Tawi. Congrats and more power!


    1. hi abet,

      thanks for leaving a comment and congrats for reaching tawi-tawi. like you, i also left the place in awe.

      the island hopping on board the borrowed speedboat really cost a lot because the engines for the propellers emptied 3 full drums of fuel. good thing we had the number (~15) to split the cost. but with the speed and the distance covered and the islands that we reached, i believe that what we had to contribute individually was worth it for each of us.

      the island hopping on board dream lover cost us less than 1k php all in all. we paid for the fuel (less than 500 php) which we bought from the pier and the use of the boat was practically for free but we chose to express our gratitude since people went out of their way to show us around and accompanied us to the islands -- places we had no idea how to get to on our own. (in cebpac's smile mag issues, small boat rental for island hopping is 100php).

      thank God for friends who are from tawi-tawi -- this is really the not-so-secret secret on how to optimize your trip. :D experience a lot in less time. tap the know-how and the network of the people who are from the place.

      each of us -- my travel buddy and i, we spent around 5k(less actually) all in all (accommodation, island hopping, roadtrip, food, plus pasalubong & souvenir shirts) during our 3-day stay in tawi-tawi.

      hang around. i have 4 more articles to add to complete my tawi-tawi series.


  2. Thanks for the immediate response Maam!

    I appreciate you sharing the costs you and your travel buddy incurred on your Tawi-Tawi sojourn. One, i admit our finances weren't enough for the island hopping experience. Two, there really is strength in numbers. The more people to share the expenses with, the better chances of exploring more places at a lesser cost and time :) We've done it before in 2006 in Palawan (10-days island hopping from Coron to Amanpulo, Cuyo Island Group then to El Nido, and then to Puerto Princesa). Hoping we could do the same to Tawi-Tawi this time. A return trip is in order.

    Again, thank you and I look forward for your next series of adventures!




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