Zamboanga City & Tawi-Tawi Backpacking Tour (Part 3 of 4)
Climbing Tawi-Tawi’s Bud Bongao
Before anything else, answer these questions:
1. Have you been to Tawi-Tawi? Yes or No
2. Have you tried summiting a mountain? Yes or No
3. Have you seen a long-tailed macaque in their natural habitat? Yes or No
If you answered NO in any of the questions then this article is for you.
Trivia from Pinoy Mountaineer: Bud Bongao is the only mountain in the country where you can see a foreign country- Malaysian Borneo. That is if you are lucky and the sky is clear.
Bud Bongao, Bongao Peak or Mt. Bongao (Bud is their local term for mountain) is the highest peak in Tawi-Tawi, the southmost part of the Philippine archipelago. Standing at 314+ MASL (Meters Above Sea Level), it has become a special landmark in the province.
Actually, you see Bud Bongao when you arrive to Tawi-Tawi either by ferry of plane. Bud Bongao is not only a special landmark, it is also a sacred mountain where Muslims go and pray. Going up is not that hard but the steep assault coupled with slippery trail makes it a 5/10 hike for me. Add to the fact that its hard to visit Tawi-Tawi if you are alone.
This is not the first time I climbed this mountain as I was here together with Gael of The Pinay Solo Backpacker a year ago. Last year, we had three PNP escorts with us. Now, it was just me and my three tour participants- Lester, Anna and Doc Banggi (who is climbing her first ever mountain even after having a knee surgery late last year). I, carrying lots of water, was guiding them and pacing the hike. Anna is not new to mountains and is enjoying the trek with “OMG” after “OMG” side comments. Lester after taking off his shirt was followed by a female monkey (part probably because he was carrying some bananas) and Doc Banggi almost gave up half-way because she was afraid that something might happen to her already damaged knee. Even while we are already half-way, I kept on telling them that we were only 1/4 of the hike so as to condition them that the summit is still far.
Along the way, we saw some plastics (cellophane as how they call it) tied in some trees and bushes. There plastics represents prayers of those who would go up this mountain for supplication or a request for loved one for healing or blessing. We even saw a picture of a child, probably placed their by her parents as they requested something from Allah.
I should not forget the many small reptiles crawling along the trails which I really can’t identify. Here’s the photo maybe you would know the scientific name of this:
Close to the summit you would see tombs covered with white clothes and the largest Molave tree in the Philippines.
There was this unexplainable energy coming from mountain. It was like there were eyes looking at us even if we were just the ones on the trails. I don’t know why but I believe there are spirits in that mountain. No, I’m not talking about the tribes and tribes of long-tailed macaques which are replete in the area. Actually you have to bring bananas, lots of bananas, in order to pass through a certain area going to the summit. These troops of monkeys will not harm you they just want to have that “entrance fee” for you to be able to enjoy the view on the top.
Once you are already at the top, you can see Sanga-Sanga Airport and the runway. The nearby island municipalities and the silvery blue sea. Vegetation is present even as this mountain is very rocky. But is limited to grassland like that of Mt. Pulag’s peak.
We wanted to stay until sundown for that blue hour but I told them that we should tarry down as its hard to hike back with limited light. Add to the motivation the “unlimited curacha” were already waiting for us courtesy of my good friend, Bosing George Koh. And so those burned calories were balanced by the food we devoured during the post-hike dinner. Ohhh, do I have to tell you about the “unlimited lobster” the following night?
Now, a question to myself:
“Given another opportunity to hike Bud Bongao, would you do it?” DEFINITELY, YES!
Zamboanga City & Tawi-Tawi Series:
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Cebu Pacific flies 4x a week to Tawi-Tawi from Zamboanga City. For bookings and inquiries, go to www.cebupacificair.com or call (02)7020-888. The latest seat sales and promos can be found on Cebu Pacific Air’s official Twitter (@CebuPacificAir) and Facebook pages (/cebupacificair).