Tawi-Tawi: A Glimpse Of What's Out There

by - Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I was so blessed for having such an amazing bestfriends. One happened to be a son of one of the officials who have connections at Tawi-Tawi that makes this trip easy and unforgettable. I only ask for assistance to his mom but she gave me more than that. She gave me a home, a family even.

Tawi-Tawi has been marked by social media wrongly simply because they are part of Mindanao or should I say Mindanao in general. When you tell people you wanna visit Mindanao they will gave you this specific look of questioning with a big word “WHY?”, but why not? Right?

Arriving at Tawi-Tawi is so overwhelming. I admit, at first I feel so nervous because I don’t know what’s waiting for me out there. My 16 days stay at Mindanao makes me realize something and that this part of the country is the most beautiful of three main islands of the Philippines. The people are great and accommodating and really friendly. But Tawi-Tawi as the media always portray is scarier if you think of it. I am used to military men all over the places, they are everywhere in Mindanao, more check points on every points, guns loaded, Martial Law on the entire island, terrorists bombing on the sides, yes part of me is nervous but I am as always excited for new adventure.

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I was welcomed by two officials who happened to be a good friend of my mom’s best friend and they escorted me to their head official’s home where I’ll be staying. 99% of Tawi-Tawi’s population is Muslims so I expect more interaction with them on this trip. It is not my first time hanging out with them, I have few drinking moments with my Muslim friends back home. The road to the house where I will be staying is completely a tour and feast on my eyes. Tawi-Tawi is a small island surrounded by bodies of water so everything you see on the sides are the sea. So clean and so peaceful. So green and so blue. That feeling when you want to dive and play on the water and just chill all day.

The wife welcomed me with a big hug and big smile and escorted me to a hello kitty themed room where her daughter sleeps. Aahh, I love hello kitty and this trip is getting pretty perfect as the hours goes by. She prepared a sumptuous breakfast for me and the other officials as his husband arrives. Over breakfast they were chatting and making conversations about why I chose their place to visit and why it is just me alone. I think they were all fascinated with the idea and as much as excited as me. They were also planning on where to take me as my Tita entrusted me to them to take me to beautiful places and making it sure that I will have a good time during my entire stay.

Honestly, there is just three places I really wanted to visit at Tawi-Tawi, it tops all of the amazing spots they have for they really have plenty. Bud-Bungao, Turtle Island, and Sitangkai are the top three places on my list but I get to visit just the first one. The latter are located at the far most part of the island and I need to ride another boat to get there, not that its not possible but it is since I only have limited time. But good thing about not being able to visit all on your lists, it means there are more reasons to go back.

My first day stay at the island is jampacked. I met another Muslim family, the extended family of my bestfriend. One of the best and amazing family back there. They welcomed me as if I’m their own. I eat lunch with them and the conversations with them are nothing compare to anyone else. They are heart-warming and hospitable all the Filipino good traits you may think of.

After making me rest after another sumptuous lunch, the first family who adopted me fetch me and brings me to probably one of the amazing experience I had in my entire Mindanao trip. Bato-Bato town is one of the busiest town in the island during Fridays and Saturdays because believe it or not “barter” still exist in this place. People flock here to do barter. Others of course may still buy using money. I was in awe seeing and witnessing something I only read on books.

Meals with them has always been my favorite. We mostly talked while eating over anything. It was always under the starry night sky and I never felt so much home on island that is so foreign to me. But we have to cut every conversation because tomorrow we are climbing the highest peak of Tawi-Tawi! Excited much? Who wouldn’t?

I woke up so early the next day. Excited of course. We meet another group of friends from the BJMP and Bikers Club of the island. Together we climb Bud-Bungao. It was an easy trail given they made it a park already and built a staircase up to the summit. Before, as per the locals, it was so muddy climbing it and since most of the tourist visits it for a wonderful view the government decided to make it a park to make it easy for the tourist to visit it. At the summit are some covered tables and chairs so people can stay for a while and enjoy the view while having a meal or two. The fun part of climbing this peak is that all through out the trail there are numerous monkeys everywhere. You are allowed to feed them but only bananas. They are not harmful, unlike other spots in the country where monkeys are aggressive.

It was a fun hike with newly found friends. Afterwards, Tito Mike prepared a sumptuous lunch over this restaurant where I get to eat the best of the best of Tawi-Tawi. I was so full when I found out we are still going to another’s party where of course we are going to eat again. If only I knew I saved some room for sweets because that party serves a lot of delicacies of the island and they taste really good. I get to experience how food were served and mostly the culture of the Muslim, it was such a learning experience for me, experiencing first hand those that I only read about them.

The rest of the afternoon were spend mostly visiting different resorts at the island and tourist spots accessible from our place. It was nice experience because I get to see part of Tawi-Tawi culture.

My last night I stayed with my Tita’s family in the island. Again, another sumptuous meal for me. Tawi-Tawi has this occasional black out and it happens to occur on my last night but that doesn’t mean it was less enjoyable because all more reason to eat outside the house under the starry night sky and moon up above us.

It pains me to leave the place so quickly. One of the places I fell in love with. One of the places that I stayed for small time that I regret so much. I had two families who adopted me and I will be forever thankful for the learning experience I have with them. The hospitality and warm-welcome, the kind-heart and the biggest smiles they gave me, not just the two families who I get to live with but for all the people I get to know and hang out because of them. And of course to my Tita Cora, who made this trip such a wonderful experience.

I am encouraging everyone to visit Tawi-Tawi. They have the most welcoming and most wonderful sight. Of course, precaution is really important and I suggest contacting their tourism office so you can get an assistance.

My trip to Tawi-Tawi dated last October 6-8, 2017 is an official entry to my 81 Before 30 challenge.

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Thanks for the wonderful message!