a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tawi-Tawi Series : Hiking Bud Bongao

After covering the activities of the 44th Kamahardikaan Tawi-Tawi in Languyan(see post here), we traveled back to Bongao for some sightseeing. I was especially excited to hike Bud Bongao, a mountain which has long been on my bucket list. :)

Bud (mountain) Bongao is a small peak in the provincial capital with the same name, just 342 meter high with a stairs trail from jump-off to its summit. Sacred to locals, it is frequented by people practicing Islam who pray in tampats (burial shrines) along the trail.
At the top of Bud Bongao with my fellow bloggers, Marky/Nomadic Experiences, Ferdz/Ironwulf, Potpot/Travel Trilogy, Olan/The Travel Teller/ & Celine/Celineism (Photo from Ferdz Decena)
When we got to the jump-off at past 8:00 AM, the sun was high up and the humidity was uncomfortable. I don't mind. I was just excited to finally set foot here. :) (Tip : Since you'll be passing some open trails, it's  ideal to hike early in the morning to avoid the heat. Trail opens at 6:00 AM.) 

The tasking concrete stairs trail is built in the middle of a forest, making it doable for those without hiking experience and even more manageable for those who come just to pray. I prefer natural trails but if it will benefit more people and get them closer to nature, then I'm all for it. 

Halfway through, we encountered lots of monkeys that gladly took the bananas visitors threw at them. I was initially freaked out at the sight of monkeys everywhere but when I saw a mother monkey carrying its baby, I was smitten, it's so cute! :) 

The hike up normally takes 1-2 hours depending on your pace.  As this is my first time here, I took my sweet time, taking in the scenery of a forest filled with tall trees, the sound of birds and monkeys. 

There are two viewing decks before the summit and on the peak itself. Both offer breathtaking views of Celebes sea. You'll also spot the airport runway in Sanga-Sanga and the islands of Simunul and Sibutu. 

I had a sunburn from island hopping the day before. Thankfully, the summit has a nice, covered sitting area, very ideal for those who want to take a long break and enjoy the view and fresh air. (Tip : There are no stores here so better bring your own water and snacks.  Before reaching the summit, we saw a vendor selling cold drinks but I'm not sure if he's here everyday)
our group at the summit of Bud Bongao (Photo from Al Dam of Tausug Traveler)
After our hike, still sweaty and all, we rushed back to town  for lunch at the affable mayor Jimuel Que's residence. Incidentally, it's his dad's death anniversary and their home is open for everyone needing a good meal. Hehe! I stuffed myself with fried chicken and despite the heat, I still drank native coffee after. Their coffee's really good! don't miss it when in Tawi-Tawi.  Aside from lunch, we also joined a quick media interview with him, DOT ARMM Secretary Ayesha Dilangalen, Bongao Tourism Officer Kinlene Sabaani, our last activity in the province.  You can read about it in this article by Ace Perez of Sun Star Davao | Bongao Lures Tourists.

How to get to Bud Bongao, Tawi-Tawi 
From Manila, take a plane to Zamboanga City. From Zamboanga city, you can either *fly to Bongao or ride a boat  via Aleson Shipping Lines
Aleson Shipping Lines schedule (Note : Schedules may change. Please contact them directly on the numbers provided below to confirm the schedule.)  
Zamboanga to Bongao - 6:00 PM, Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays
Bongao to Zamboanga - 6:00 PM every Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
Zamboanga Ticketing Office +63(62) 992-5507, 992-6410, 992-4585 

*Cebu Pacific flies from Zamboanga to Bongao every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

From Bongao town proper, take a tricycle to the jump-off. It'll take about 30-40 minutes up. Not sure about the fare since we took a private van going here. To give you an idea, the tricycle fare from the town proper to sunset boulevard in Sanga-Sanga, which is near Bud Bongao is 150 Pesos/tricycle.  You may have to pay a bit more.

Other info :
- The park is open from 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
- Smoking is not allowed
Entrance fees :
10 Pesos for locals
5 Pesos for 7 yrs old to 18 yrs old
20 Pesos for visitors from outside of Bongao
- the trail is straightforward and there is no need to hire a guide
- there's an ambulant vendor selling cold bottled drinks near the peak but I recommend bringing your own water to reduce plastic waste :)

Where to Stay in Bongao
We stayed at Rachel's place near the town proper. 
Rachel's Place Hotel & Restaurant
Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Contact Number : +63 (068)268-1248

Facebook Page : Rachel's Place Tawi-Tawi
Room Rates : 1, 200 Pesos for a matrimonial room to 3000 Pesos for a family room (as of September 2017)

To travel  to Tawi-Tawi safely, please get in touch with the following :
Provincial Tourism Office of Tawi-Tawi
Mr. Mobin Gampal (PTO Officer)
Contact number: +63 977 230 9061
Email Address: pto_tawitawi@yahoo.com
Facebook Page : PTO Tawi-Tawi (first contact)
Facebook Page : Department of Tourism - ARMM 

Travel Guides : 
Tawi-Tawi Travel Guide by Travel Up | Cebu Pacific Air City Guide, Tawi-Tawi

NOTE : This trip was made possible by Department of Tourism - ARMM. Last September, I traveled with fellow bloggers and members of the media from Mindanao to cover the 44th Kamahardikaan Tawi-Tawi, the province's founding anniversary. A DIY (Do It Yourself) trip to Tawi-Tawi is possible, just get in touch with the provincial tourism office of Tawi-Tawi on the contact details provided above. 

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