That One Time At Tawi-Tawi

I will come back Tawi-Tawi!

It was our first time to travel to Tawi-Tawi! The land of seafood, sun, sand and beaches as far as the eye can see! The locals were friendly and we made new friends! We came at the best time to get a tan!

It was a 12 hour trip going there. From Iligan to Zamboanga by bus and then a plane ride from Zamboanga to Tawi-tawi. We were ever so patient and the overnight bus ride was the best way to get a long needed shut eye. A few comforts were supposed to be sacrificed during the trip but I suppose I’ll be making an entry on how to survive a long bus with the maximum comfort possible.

We arrived by dawn around 5AM or so just enough time travel time from the bus terminal to the airport. This was going to be an exciting day! We were warmly greeted by the members of JCI Lepa Tawi-Tawi, they were our gracious hosts who accompanied us from start to finish. First thing we searched for after they picked us up at the airport was…FOOD.

They introduced us to Tiyula Itum! In truth, I had been craving for this spicy beef dish for many months now. My ate was an expert at preparing this and it has been a long time since I got to eat this fine black soup. If you’re wondering why it’s black, that’s because of the grilled coconut they mix it with. The soup color in itself is actually yellow. What a hearty dish for breakfast!


We stayed at Almari Beach Resort for the first day. One detail that surprised me was their check-in time which was at 8AM and their check-out time is at 7AM. Quite early eh? we rested for a while and then went out for lunch. A seafood platter is the best way to be welcomed when you’re at Tawi-Tawi. It comprised of fried fish, shrimps, guso (seaweed), shells, squid, crabs and on the middle was the cucumber sambal appetizer. They also served us kinilaw (fish ceviche) and kamon or mantis shrimps!

They gave us an opportunity to walk around the city for a time. You might say they gave us a city tour. After that, we hopped on an open army truck and we proceeded to go to their city hall with an amazing view of the city. We also circled around their port just to see the view of their seas.

We then returned to the place we stayed after that for a couple of hours rest and to prepare for tonight’s activity which was JCI Lepa’s inauguration of new officers. Everyone looked striking in their own way and they were ever so friendly.


We awoke early the next day because our itinerary was to visit Panampangan Island. Not a lot of people go here so you could say you’d be having the whole beach to yourselves for a time being. I’m sure Tawi-Tawi has countless of beaches just like this without the hussle and bussle of tourists.

Before that, we had the opportunity to go to Simunul. This was a 45 minute boat ride from Bongao.

Did you know? Early Muslims in the Philippines are said to have arrived at Simunul. The Sheik Karimul Makhdum mosque which is the first ever mosque in the Philippines is located here. Too bad it was being restored that time so we were only able to catch a glimpse of it yet not in its full glory. There was a long standing wooden pillar there that was as old as the mosque itself. Who couldn’t resist touching that eh?

Panampangan Island

The beach was in pristine condition, with the waters so blue and inviting. You could see every little detail from sea urchin to stone! and the weather was fortunately sunny the whole time we were at the island. Don’t forget to bring your sunscreen because it really is hot out there! The tricky part though was getting to the island itself just when one was only a few meters away from the shore. Our boat had a hard time reaching the shore so we had to wade through the part of the beach that was laden with starfish and…..sea urchins!

To get here, one must have to rent out a boat. You have to haggle with the boat owner plus you’ll also have to cover for the fuel. This is recommended as a group outing since this place is quite isolated and the more, the merrier and cheaper also applies! Don’t forget to also bring food because there are no restaurants there and going to the beach can often make one quite hungry after travelling 2 hours just to get there.

There were also a couple of Badjaos during the time we were there. They offered us their catch of spider shells, fish and sea urchins! They told me that you could get as many as you want up to what you can fill yourself with for only 20php! I scarfed down all the uni I could that day.

Upon going home, strong winds and  slight drizzle of rain greeted us. I guess you could say this was nature’s way of welcoming us to the sea. Of all the things likely to happen. the boat then suddenly stopped midway and we were told that the fuel had run out! So we waited about an hour or two and during that time we went for a dip!


We took a flight back to Zamboanga on a rainy early morning the next day. Their congee at the terminal was surprisingly excellent! Do take note the next time you take a flight from Tawi-Tawi. We toured a rubber tree plantation, ate some curacha and strolled around the KCC Mall before taking the 12 hour bus ride.

Things to take note:

  • Please take note that most of the areas there don’t have secure internet connection. So you better take that leave off from that online job.
  • The phone signal is also scarce when you’re situated away from the city which I found out the hard way. We had a bit of trouble contacting our loved ones most of the time. Better anticipate that.
  • Respect their culture. Don’t try to stand out too much.
  • It is always a good idea to trust in the soldiers for added security measure when you’re traveling in groups.
  • Tawi-tawi is a Muslim province therefore alcohol will be scarce and there is no pork there.

A huge thanks to JCI Lepa Tawi-Tawi for accommodating us and a special thanks to Ms. Ina Lluch Gustilo for letting us tag along with her. Do subscribe to my youtube channel for more adventures coming from me!

2 replies
  1. theyangone
    theyangone says:

    Hello Flong! Sumabay lang po kami sa locals dun, sila ho yung nag organize na lahat. To answer your question, usually yung ginagawa nila is nagrerent out po sila ng boat around 2,500 ata. 🙂

  2. Flong The Chariot
    Flong The Chariot says:


    Thanks for sharing your Tawi-tawi adventure. May I ask, binayaran nyo ang buong bangka for your Panampangan and Simunul Island Tour? Or Sumabay lang kayo sa mga locals na pupunta dun?



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