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Bongao, Tawi-Tawi

A JEWEL

sunny

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Traveling to Tawi-Tawi had been sent to the back burner for years due to news about kidnappings and unrest on that part of the Philippine Archipelago. But this plan resurrected when a friend registered for the 2nd Bongao Ultramarathon. I asked the help of a friend to book my accommodation as I had absolutely no idea of what kind of accommodation they had "out there". :)

The plan was simple:

1. fly to Bongao and go around town to see what's what;
2. support my friend's run;
3. climb Bud Bongao and feed the monkeys; and
4. step on the country's longest sandbar

:) check,check, check and check!!!

1. FLY TO BONGAO AND GO AROUND TOWN TO SEE WHAT'S WHAT AND SUPPORT OUR FRIEND'S RUN

My friends and I flew in from Zamboanga to Bongao's Sanga-Sanga airport on the early Cebu Pacific flight to be met by a colorful group of traditional dancers. We arrived in time for the opening of the Tourist Assistance Office located right outside the airport. The mayor himself was there and an Imam offered prayers before the ribbon cutting. What a nice way to start our Bongao Adventure. After a little bit of taking pictures and talking with our guide from Layag Tawi-Tawi Tour Services, we proceeded to our hotel, Rachel's Place Hotel & Restaurant, located right in the center of town.

We were kept busy trying to cram as much experience as we can during our short stay in Bongao. Having engaged the services of Layag Tours made our trip easy to manage and made the most of time we had available to us. I would suggest that if you only have limited time, to do the same thing as we did. Wadz Ali, our guide from Layag Tours was a fount of information and since he was a local, we had an easy time traversing the otherwise thorny landscape that was the community of the Bajau.

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2. CLIMB BUD BONGAO AND FEED THE MONKEYS

We left our hotel a quarter before 6:00 a.m. to climb Bud Bongao, Tawi-Tawi's prayer mountain and considered to be a must climb for all locals. It has a well-established path up and the 3,000+++ steps are a mix of concrete and stone. The vegetation is lush and at some points the trees form a canopy above the hikers' heads. We bought bananas from the public market the day before so we can have something for the monkeys.

It is said that you are not a true local if you haven't been to the peak of Bud Bongao. It is a tradition for residents to take the new addition to their families up to the peak of Bud Bongao. A lot of locals climb the Bud early in the morning to pray in the shrines located at the peak. They usually bring packed lunch and stay to relax among the trees and on the Rest Area overlooking Bongao town and the waters surrounding the island.

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3. STEP ON THE COUNTRY'S LONGEST SANDBAR

We had a grand time going around town and taking photographs of places that piqued our interest. Panampangan (purported to the the longest sandbar in the Philippines) was a revelation. I only wished we could have stayed longer to explore. Sadly there is no overnight accommodation available on the island.

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At the end of the 2 nights and three days Bongao Trip I accomplished everything I set out to do and learned a lot about Bongao and its people!!! I only wish I could spend more time there. I know that I barely scraped the surface of what Tawi-Tawi has to offer visitors. But this means that I have to make another plan to visit it again. :)

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HOW TO GET TO/FROM/AROUND BONGAO

There are no direct flights to Bongao from Manila right now. So from Manila you'll have take a plane to Zamboanga City then take another flight to Bongao. Upon arrival at the Bongao Airport, you can take a tricycle to the town center. Some hotels have airport service but you'll have to pay extra.

On Bongao, I found that riding a tricycle is good enough to get around the town. But if you plan to visit some more interesting places you can either rent a car or jeepney to take you around. Renting a vehicle there is kinda pricey due to the cost of fuel.

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FINAL WORDS:

Was the trip worth the effort? YES!!!
Would I do it again? YES!!!
Would I recommend it to friends? YES!!!

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Posted by neena329_cab 01:08 Archived in Philippines Tagged food hiking beach sand holiday bar tour climbing fruits traveling roadtrip tribal bongao tawi-tawi Comments (0)

MASUNGI GEORESERVE

Half a day Adventure

rain

KM 47, Baras, Rizal, discreet signage on the side of the highway

KM 47, Baras, Rizal, discreet signage on the side of the highway

My friends and I visited the Masungi Georeserve last week and it was a revelation! I never thought that there was such an adventure destination so near the city! We left Cubao at a little past 6:00 a.m. with the watery sun peeking out of a rather dark cloud and we arrived at KM 47, Baras, Rizal at 7:45 a.m. almost an hour earlier than our 8:40 a.m. slot. The day turned from overcast to drizzly as we started our tour but it was refreshing and kept us cooler as we went on the hike. The final half of the tour was done in a down pour. Not bad, really, but it kept us from using our DSLRs. Good thing I brought along my waterproof point and shoot.

Masungi got its name from the limestone krast formations that dot the landscape. These formations looked like crooked or uneven teeth -- sungki (in Tagalog) hence, Masungi! :) At least that's the story our "Park Ranger", Reynante told us.
The original of the Masungi logo

The original of the Masungi logo

We booked our reservations through the Masungi website: http://www.masungigeoreserve.com/. It is cheaper to visit during weekdays (P1,500.00/pax) than during weekends (P1,800.00/pax). The tour lasts 3-4 hours and the activity is a mix of hiking and climbing through the varied terrain of the reserve. The area's forest cover had been destroyed by illegal loggers and charcoal makers. It's fauna haunted almost to zero. Right now, the reserve is trying to restore the place (I don't know if they will succeed, but I hope they will). The plant life is interesting and varied, making for an interesting trip through the whole trail which is composed of eight (8) interesting stops.

1. Sapot - a giant spiderweb made of steel which serves as a deck for viewing the canopy and the limestone karst formations. It was a great start to the tour. The giant spider web kinda pumped you up for the next stage. A lot of photo ops could be generated just from this spot alone! Hahaha
Sapot

Sapot


Resting after the photo ops on Sapot

Resting after the photo ops on Sapot

2. Yungib ni Ruben - a small cave discovered by, drumroll please.... Ruben!!! A good place to take refuge during downpour. The cave itself is lit by tea candles and there is a pleasant smell of floral oil to dispel the dank.
Taking refuge inside Yungib ni Ruben

Taking refuge inside Yungib ni Ruben

3. Ditse - a swaying bridge of black and white that spans across the forest canopy to connect you to Patak. It was kind of motion sickness inducing :) but before you get dizzy from the height and swaying of the bridge you get to Patak and you can get some relief.
Crossing Ditse

Crossing Ditse

4. Patak - a little tree house shaped like a raindrop. A good place to take a rest and have some down time before forging on to the next destination. They discourage jumping inside the tree house because of the glass windows :)
Patak

Patak

5. Duyan - a rope bridge that sways and flexes (with the movements of the people crossing it) just like a giant macrame cradle. It is easy to navigate because they provided rope handholds at convenient intervals.
Taking a breather on Duyan

Taking a breather on Duyan

6. Tatay - tallest spire of blocks of limestone. Good vantage point to see the surrounding area and the rest of the trail. Tatay afforded us a good view of Nanay too. The climb from Patak to Tatay is interesting but not that difficult. The gradient is steeper but quite manageable.
The route to Tatay

The route to Tatay


View of Nanay from atop Tatay

View of Nanay from atop Tatay

7. Nanay - a lower spire topped with a giant rock that looks about to topple over with a single itty bitty push. There is a bridge connecting the five limestone columns that is a good spot for photo ops with the surrounding mountains as backdrop.
Standing on one of the bridges spanning Nanay

Standing on one of the bridges spanning Nanay

8. Bayawak - or monitor lizard. A giant macrame shaped like a giant monitor lizard climbing up the side of a limestone cliff. It is the final stage of the tour before the guests are welcomed to the rest area were they will be served a heavy snack of healthy sandwich, fruit and freshly prepared juice.
Last stage! Going down the back of Bayawak

Last stage! Going down the back of Bayawak


Done!!! Now posing for posterity. We conquered Masungi!!!

Done!!! Now posing for posterity. We conquered Masungi!!!

In between the main stops along the trail, there are interesting spots which the Park Ranger points out to the guests and there are flora that are worth checking out. This prolonged our time a bit and we ended up spending more time on the trail than we bargained for. The rain also made our time slower and most of my friends came out of the georeserve cold and wet (my rain jacket worked great and kept me dry the whole time). But having said that, the Masungi Georeserve tour is really worth doing specially if you want an active half-day and you are all beached out! :) I highly recommend it!
Collage of some flora and fauna in Masungi

Collage of some flora and fauna in Masungi

Posted by neena329_cab 23:05 Archived in Philippines Tagged and fauna nature hiking walk climbing flora spelunking masungi georeserve Comments (2)

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