"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."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

from many angles: tawi-tawi's bud bongao

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends,
but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers.
The mind can never break off from the journey.”
-- Pat Conroy

destination: bud bongao, the natural watchtower of the southern seas
this is part 6 of a series entitled breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier.

bud bongao location
and the starts & stops of our island hopping adventure in tawi-tawi

image source: google maps
(i provided the red and blue labels)

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

a closer look at the google map: bud bongao and pasiagan

bud bongao (or bongao peak) is a prominent natural landmark in the southernmost province of the philippines. at 314 meters above sea levelit dominates the municipality of bongao and nearby areas with its flat top (read: table-like) appearance. people at sea or from neighboring islands can tell where the island of bongao is just by locating bud bongao in the horizon.

charming flat top | the table-like mountain of the south
bud bongao as seen from the pier in tubig indangan, simunul island
during sunset

because of its height relative to the rest of the landscape, bud bongao is also considered as a natural watchtower of the southern seas. at the top, the islands of sanga-sanga, sibutu, and simunul can be seen. more than that, sitangkai and even malaysian borneo are visible on clear occasions.

bud bongao, the natural watchtower

for the locals, bud bongao is more than just a landmark and a natural watchtower where foreign land (borneo) can be seen. for them, bud bongao is a sacred place where they go for pilgrimage and offer prayers.

during our 3-day tour in tawi-tawi, i had the privilege of seeing bud bongao from many angles -- from the national road as we crossed the bridge connecting the islands of sanga-sanga and bongao, from the governor's residence, from the middle of the sea as we were heading to sitangkai, from tubig indangan in simunul, from sangasiapu island, from the shores of pasiagan, and up close during our trek. from those different vantages, i took snapshots and clearly understood why it is unthinkable for bud bongao to be not part of one's tawi-tawi itinerary.

bud bongao and the landscape it defines
on bongao island and nearby sanga-sanga island:

photographed from mid-sea

bud bongao is difficult to miss -- this natural landmark is "everywhere" so much so that to be already there in bongao and not take the chance to experience it simply makes the journey incomplete.

seeing bud bongao "everywhere"
from top-left clockwise: bud bongao from beyond sangasiapu island,
bud bongao as part of the land transportation franchise sticker,
bud bongao as a t-shirt print design, and bud bongao from pababag island-side

on the day we arrived in tawi-tawi, bud bongao's towering presence and vegetated rocky slopes already made an impression on us. even when we went to the governor's place for a courtesy call, the mountain remained visible in the distance like a dedicated guard standing proud.

bud bongao watches over the governor's compound like a sentinel

bud bongao defines a very photogenic landscape in tawi-tawi's bongao island. whether from near or far, it is such a charming sight to gaze at.

bud bongao as seen from simunul's sangasiapu island

bud bongao, a closer look

on the shores of brgy. pasiagan, the mountain can be seen as an enchanting backdrop to a shrine simply adorned with white cloth.

bud bongao as seen from pasiagan

we were told by kuya jan and alvin that the shrine is actually a tomb of a revered virgin 'princess' -- a daughter of a royal family -- who lived and died centuries ago. the tomb of a revered male elder, also a member of a royal family, is one of the two graves near the summit of bud bongao. my impression is that, and if i understood correctly what kuya jan shared, this is how it is for the local pilgrims: "first, visit the daughter at the foot of the mountain, then go to the top to pay respects to the elder."

appreciating the mountain from afar and, eventually, up close
our bud bongao trek started where our island hopping adventure ended -- in pasiagan. after a day and a half of looking at the mountain from afar, we were finally at the foot and eager to conquer the peak.

kuya jan, alvin, and kat
my bud bongao climbing buddies

it was early afternoon when we started our trek and pasiagan was sun-drenched. the heat was draining our physical energies but, once we began our ascent, the vegetation of bud bongao gave us enough cover. the forested nature of the mountain allowed us sufficient respite from the sun as we followed the trail.

a coastal view of pasiagan
as seen from a few meters up the slopes of bud bongao

along the way, my attention was won over by some of the exposed rock layers that make up bud bongao. the patterns are interesting clues to how bud bongao was formed by the gentle might of the forces of nature.

bud bongao's rocky layers
the other things that got my attention were some abandoned pairless slippers, detached soles, and broken footwear -- it was easy to see that quite a lot already used the trail and not everyone had an easy time going to the top and back.

we had only gone up about one-fourth of the way to the summit when kat and i decided to retreat. awwww. the climb was not technically demanding and we already conquered higher peaks in other places but, on the slopes of bud bongao and after having been exposed to the sun too much during our island hopping adventure, we found ourselves already too exhausted to complete the climb.

we did not push any further and gave up thoughts of rewarding ourselves with views of tawi-tawi from the peak. we agreed to shift our excitement to seeing the balobok rock shelter, which was the next destination we listed on our tawi-tawi itinerary.

the long-tailed macaques of bud bongao

although kat and i failed to reach the summit, the long-tailed macaques of bud bongao still rewarded the time and effort we spent in visiting their protected mountain sanctuary. they showed up long enough for us to have a good look at them and to take their pictures. hooray, they did not drive us away! :)

up next: destination: balobok rock shelter and thereabouts

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

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