"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, December 30, 2012

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

"Tropical the island breeze, all of nature wild and free,
this is where i long to be -- la isla bonita!"
-- part of the lyrics of Madonna's La Isla Bonita

our island hopping adventure in tawi-tawi
this is the continuation of the fifth part 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)

after visiting tango island and experiencing our fair share of that private island's underwater and above water visual delights, we set out to see more of the southeastern side of mainland tawi-tawi and reached batu-batu in the municipality of panglima sugala.

destination: batu-batu, panglima sugala
a place with fertile lands and deep natural harbor

the foremost impression i had as we approached the main cove of panglima sugala was "picturesque! very picturesque!" the place was very visually appealing. the greens of the forested areas stood out against the equally striking blueness of the glassy surface of the calm sea and the summer sky. the images of the stilt houses lined along one side of the cove beautifully reflected on the water. there was no doubt in my mind that my eyes were beholding another piece of paradise in the southern seas. 

panglima sugala | "picturesque! very picturesque!"

panglima sugala | mesmerizing reflections on the glassy surface of the calm sea

panglima sugala was, for quite sometime, called as balimbing -- the star fruit. according to kuya jan and alvin, the place was renamed after a valiant and respected person, panglima sugala. the term "panglima" refers to a rank or honor while "sugala" refers to the very identity or name of the person. the name of the place is similar to "general santos."

panglima sugala | a flag like this means that somebody or a family 
with royal lineage dwells in the place

we included panglima sigula in our island hopping itinerary because we knew it was accessible by boat. before we made the trip to tawi-tawi, i learned from the local tourism officer that people who can't go all the way to sitangkai due to boat schedule and budget constraints can instead go to panglima sugala.

batu-batu | panglima sugala

batu-batu, panglima sugala | amazing!

the area -- in particular, the pretty cove which we entered -- is referred to as batu-batu. it is rich in natural resources and also serves as a local commercial hub where barter trade is still practised.

destination: sangasiapu island
my "la isla bonita" of the south

from panglima sugala, our literal dreamboat of the day -- dream lover -- brought us to sangasiapu island. i do not know how long or short it took us to reach sangasiapu. the steady sound of dream lover's motor, the calm sea, and soothing blueness of tawi-tawi waters against the beautiful sky made me unmindful of time despite my excitement to finally experience sangasiapu.

island hopping in tawi-tawi
a glimpse of the beautiful disturbance that dream lover made

i was really looking forward to setting foot on the island. we passed by it the previous day on our way back to bongao from simunul island and it commanded attention as it glowed with sunset colors. therefore, i already knew sangasiapu to be a pretty small island in the middle of nowhere but the sea.

the island in the middle of nowhere but the sea

the island is awesome! even from afar, it is undeniably tropical and very, very delightful to see. the body of water around it is tranquil and very clear. while nothing beats actually being there, the pictures i took of the place can do the rest of the talking.

sangasiapu island |  my la isla bonita of the south

sangasiapu island | interacting with the residents of the island

there's a small community of about 2-5 families living simply in sangasiapu island and we had the privilege of interacting with them. we bought dried and salted lapu-lapu, which they sold to us for 85 pesos per kilo.

sangasiapu island | dried and salted lapu-lapu

what's not to love about sangasiapu island? nothing.

tropical trees, white sand, off-shore corals -- beauty, bounty, and tranquility in one! sangasiapu instantly became my own la isla bonita. i soooooo love the place!

experiencing sangasiapu island

the kids of sangasiapu island and their own slice of paradise

our next stop that morning was about 8 kilometers away from sangasiapu and it's called laa (or la) island.

destination: laa island
that pretty island with a chinese name

laa island used to have a notorious reputation for being a "pirate sanctuary where bandits take refuge." the location of the island is strategic and, although it is officially part of the municipality of simunul, it has its own beguiling character and looks isolated.

the silhouette of laa island as seen from the shores of sangasiapu island

like sangasiapu, laa island beckons the attention of seafarers from afar. it is a pretty small island but has a bigger area than sangasiapu and it also has a larger community of inhabitants as can be gauged from the number of dwellings.

laa island

laa island, with its large expanse of white sand and sand bars, is alluring. the sea gently laps the shore and numerous coconut trees sway in the tropical breeze. like in sangasiapu, the sights in the area represent tropical beauty and tranquility.

laa island | wish you were here! 

in laa island, we got to see the remains of a japanese bomb shelter. during world war 2, the concrete structure was meant for storing treasures which included silk and other expensive goods but nowadays the damaged shelter is just filled with coconut husks.

laa island | world war 2 japanese bomb shelter

laa island | ice candy treat and a group photo with the local leader (in gibo green)

the local head was around. we got to talk to him under the shade provided by the towering coconut trees while we enjoyed eating fat ice candy tubes, which alvin brought from a store within the island. we stayed until after we finished eating lunch -- grilled fish, grilled chicken, and puso (hanging rice), which we brought all the way from bongao. we ate picnic-style on the white sand.

destinations: pababag and pasiagan
going back and reaching the mainland again

from laa island, we headed back towards the mainland and went to the coast of pababag, an island adjacent to bongao. this is another very tropical destination with white sand beach, many coconut trees, and healthy mangroves growing near the naturally beaten-to-shape sea rocks.

pababag island

pababag island | white sand beaches, you want? tawi-tawi has lots of them!

after allowing our eyes to feast upon the beauty of pababag island, it was time to go back to the mainland for our next adventure, the bud bongao trek. dream lover stayed close to the shore as we approached pasiagan and we were able to appreciate the terrestrial and residential features of bongao, tawi-tawi from the sea.

enjoying pasiagan | tawi-tawi

pasiagan | tawi-tawi

up next: from many angles: tawi-tawi's bud bongao

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


  1. Grabe jud imong travel-travel, Val! Nakaka-inggit! Salamat for sharing your experiences! Nice pa jud the fact nga all around the Philippines jud bitaw. Ganahan kay ko! :)

    Here's to a more prosperous, more meaningful and better 2013! More travel and more success for you! Cheers! :)

    1. hi diane! thanks.

      my target (as of april 2012) was to post 5 travel stories every month for 2012 but i missed my target. haha. backlog kaayo. i'm still writing about 2011 travels and 2013 is already about to step in.

      better 2013 for us! write more!! :)

      let's keep our blogs alive!!!

  2. OMG! ang gandaaa! another reason to revisit Tawi-Tawi. May I know how much did you pay for the island hopping? and where didyou charter the boat? Last time I was there, I only toured Bongao, so I'm really hoping to see more. Many thanks!

    1. hi,

      we had two days of island hopping:
      (1) one using a borrowed speedboat and we were with a big group; and
      (2) another one using a small boat

      for the island hopping that i talked about in this article and on board dream lover (the small boat), it 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 it took us from the old chinese pier in bongao to tango island, panglima sugala, sangasiapu island, laa island, pababag, and pasiagan. the use of the boat was practically for free (a friend of mine from tawi-tawi took care of the arrangements) 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).

      the other island hopping that we did in tawi-tawi was on board a borrowed speedboat and it took us from bongao to the municipalities of sitangkai, sibutu, and simunul in one day. this one 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. i believe that what we had to contribute individually was worth it for each of us considering the speed and the distance covered and the islands that we reached all in a day.

      if you don't know anyone from tawi-tawi, just keep in touch with their tourism office so they can assist you. when we planned this trip, eventhough i already have a friend in the area, i also communicated with their tourism office. back then, i talked to ms. salvacion pescadera -- you can add her on facebook ;-) it pays to have local support. we were able to see and experience a lot in our 3-day stay (could have been 4 :D).



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...