Provincia de Tawi-Tawi

Note: This will not be another travel blog with hotel and food ratings or recommendations where to go since I was only able to visit the place on official business, meaning, I was there to work. I was just blessed to squeeze in, as in squeeze in, some side fun trips.

 

The first time my officemate Cariz asked me to join the trip in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi was also the last time. I said yes right away. Though I had bits of apprehension, my curiosity about the province pervaded.

On Sunday before our trip, I asked my Light Group (friends from the Feast Bay Area) for their prayer that we may be safe in Bongao. After all, I don’t know what lies in the most southern tip part of the country. Will there be armed men like what the media tries to portray at times of the places in Mindanao? Is there a comfortable place? Will it be safe?

My day in Bongao went so fast that I forgot my little apprehensions. The truth is, my only worry was taking a bath with the hotel’s water supply. It was as if the water was recently pumped straight from the soil. The water was grainy but it’s safe to take a bath with. I would recommend though bringing extra bottles of water for brushing teeth and washing face. Anyway, I am not sure if it’s the same with other hotels, maybe not.

Going back, my boss, officemates and I took the first flight to Tawi-Tawi from Zamboanga City. We arrived in the island’s small and simple airport at around 8 am. There was no conveyor for the luggage and so we had to wait for them in a huge cart and try not to grab a stranger’s luggage.

After a quick breakfast in the hotel (our friend and tour guide Ms. Lisa was in a hurry because she wanted us to have more time to tour around the place), we headed to our first destination – to the town’s electric cooperative. (By the way, I work at the National Power Corporation, the government agency mandated to power up the farthest islands in the country. The corporation operates 291 small power plants in 207 municipalities across 35 provinces in the Philippines. Yeah, I could recite facts like this with eyes closed. 🙂 )

In the bus on our way to the coop, my hands were itching because I wanted to take photos of the streets but I can’t open the painted window! Then I saw  Atty. Patrick parking a motorcycle when we arrived in the coop’s office, I have to catch a ride with him, I thought, for the sake of good photos.

The dialogue with the electric coop lasted for maybe two hours. While I take photos of the meeting, we were also eating more delicacies and hearing stories about the place from the employees there.

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Cariz eating Pitis. It’s like our typical kakanin but with coconut bits inside.
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Lyza being enlightened on what is it like in Sitangkay. hehe. 

After the dialogue was my boss’ visit and interaction with the personnel of Bongao Diesel Power Plant which is just a stone’s throw away from the coop.

For me, it’s really inspiring to meet the corporation’s employees in the islands. They do not have the convenience of the city/Manila but they still give 100% service to the people. Imagine, plant heads from the small islands of Tawi-Tawi had to travel for hours on boat just to meet us in Bongao. Sitangkay for instance is four hours away.

The next destination was the Power Barge located in Barangay Lamion. We rode motorcycles to capture photos of the streets going there. My boss meanwhile got busy talking with the employees of the barge. I took photos of the discussion, took notes of the statements for my story, downloaded photos in the laptop and tried to write the story in my mind to upload it on the corporation’s Facebook page within the day. This was my routine every event. Yes, it was like juggling colorful balls, except that I was not trying to be funny. hihi.

Lunch was next. But before that, Atty. Pat and I drove for an extra mile to take photos around. We stopped by in an area by the sea to just capture photos of the wood houses and DIY foot bridges. While one kid was shy to have his photo taken, a family did not only strike a pose but also welcomed us in their homes.

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The half-shy, half-willing -for-a-photo boy.
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This family welcomed us in.

We wouldn’t be returning soon for lunch if it wasn’t for the man behind me fetching us. hehe. 😊

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Behind me is the famous Bud Ponga/Bongao Peak.

We grabbed a quick bite so that everyone who waited for us can go back to the hotel to freshen up. The forum with the local government unit and some stakeholders starts at 2 pm.

After a swift rest in the hotel, we headed to the provincial capitol for the forum. But again, Atty. Pat and I went again for a visit in another street. We went to the street where big boats are being constructed.

The forum went for three hours. I did my juggling routine again to be free to roam around the place after. 😊

The motorcycle ride after the forum brought us to more faces of the place and the locals.

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Refueling for longer ride.
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Taken from the capitol grounds where one can view the Bongao town.
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Posing with the boat makers’ kids.
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Overtime work (it was already 5:30 pm)

For dinner, Governor Nurbert Sahali prepared a sumptuous buffet with the best pieces of seafood the town has. But more than the food, Tawi-Tawi’s culture was presented to us through songs and dances. It was a great night to top off our day.

Tawi-Tawi is just like any other province, there is a distinct place, a special delicacy and of course, its people. But unlike other provinces, Tawi-Tawi is a peaceful place where both Christians and Muslims live together, a warm place where everyone you see smiles and waves back at you (I kept smiling and waving at strangers while riding the motorcycle! haha), and a place of beautiful beaches and mountain.

Tawi-Tawi made me feel I was living in my early years again as a kid when life was simpler. I want to come back there again, this time for pure pleasure.

Tara, let’s come to Tawi-Tawi! 😊

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