Find us on Google+ Love Mindanao: January 2013

Gumasa,Sarangani | Life is a Beach

Traveling to the southernmost part of the Philippines will surprise you to find some of the most under rated places and some are not even heard before but possesses high potential for tourism. It was only by chance that I accidentally found myself in one of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines and the name of the place never crossed my head for the last 30 years of my existence. 

My original plan was to visit the Tuna capital of the Philippines, General Santos City, but after hearing some rumors from the locals on how relaxing to bathe in the cool beach of Gumasa, I decided to gamble my whole itinerary by visiting the unheard place.

Tawi Tawi's Common Local and Exotic Foods

After a tiring trip around the island of Bongao, it was time to please my growling tummy and give in to my wondering sensitive taste buds for some local food and exotic delicacies from Tawi Tawi.

My lunch was hosted by the staff of Tawi Tawi’s Vice Governor.  I was served  with five types of unfamiliar and exotic dishes but enough to gratify my longing to have a taste of a local Halal prepared food.

Syagul (Php 30.00)

A very spicy and tasty meat of stingray cooked with coconut milk then added with burned coconut grated meat that gave the sauce its olive like color. Since I am a seafood fanatic, I almost finished the whole thing! This is a must try on your visit.

Tungkalang Beach, Bongao, Tawi Tawi:Retreat under the Crimson Sky

I call it ' a leap of faith' in Tawi Tawi

One way to enjoy Tawi Tawi is to have a self reflection under its beautiful setting sun. Passing through the Sanga-Sanga Bridge that connects Bongao and Sanga-Sanga Islands, is one of the grandest location to spend your  late afternoon . With the Bud Bongao on the side of the crimson sky, the view is simply captivating.

The Sanga-Sanga Bridge is a favorite hangout among the local youth in the vicinity, executing their most daring acrobatic stunts over the bridge and fearlessly diving into the whirling waters that separate the two of the many islands of Tawi Tawi. 

Cast Your Vote Now for the Best Travel Blog in Travel Bloscars 2013 and Win A KindleFire

What an incredible opportunity to kick off 2013 by receiving a nomination as Best Newcomer Blog in The Bloscars 2013, The Skyscanner Travel Blog Awards.  

I have been blogging for six (6) months and I am simply awed by the feedback of the public and being recognized by some institutions or groups . The recent was top notching the Filipino Bloggers Worldwide (FBW) Top Travel Blog for 2012 held last December 2012.

Being nominated alone is already an overwhelming honor as there are hundreds or thousands of travel bloggers out there who are unique in their own writing and storytelling techniques.

I am appealing to my avid readers and followers to support me in this quest. 

Badjao Village and the Quest for the Southern ‘Tepo’

Shopping for souvenirs  isn't my favorite activity in my travels except when crafts were really out of ordinary worth hanging on my wall. For me, the priceless experience in a certain community is enough to suffice my longing to see different cultures and traditions. But everything changed when I set foot in the farthest Philippine province in the south, Tawi Tawi, where I had literally chased for a souvenir that is being crafted by women of  a certain  indigenous group, the Badjao.

Bud Bongao and My Unexpected Discoveries | Exploring Tawi-Tawi

Iconic Bud Bongao

I must confess, climbing mountain is already beyond my “thing” or maybe it came down with my progressing age. But seeing the grand icon of Tawi Tawi, the Bongao Peak or locally known as Bud Bongao, is a temptation to any visitors to climb this majestic landmark in the province of Tawi-Tawi. The regal view from a far is quite a scenery that would enchants anyone who would lay their eyes on the majestic mountain.

Maybe I am not the hardcore mountaineering type, but the moment I saw this famous landmark, I have sworn  that I shall never leave Tawi Tawi without eating dirt from this mountain.

To accomplish my mission, I rode a motorcycle down to the foot of the mountain, just fronting  Sandbar Lepa Resort in Simandagit. I chose to start trekking at 7:00am when the temperature was still cool.

Common skink that dwells in Bud Bongao
The fear of climbing alone never occurred to me as I felt very safe roaming around the vicinity. As I trek higher, I noticed that I was the sole hiker that day. 

I started with a short pace and got  amazed with the flora and fauna I encountered along the way. The semi agri-forested area is home to some unique avian and reptilian species that I have never seen in other places in the Philippines. Sad, I wasn’t equipped with proper high edge camera to capture some images of the raptors that crossed my path.

Discovering some unique flora on the trail, I was reminded of my college mentor and friend Dr. Melanie Medicilo who is a genius studying some of the noted Aroids in the Philippines.

I was in  doubt identifying a beautiful ornamental Aroid that at first I thought would be Alocasia heterophylla or Alocasia boyceana. But I bet Dr. Medicilo would be very happy to take a look on my photos and identify it for me. I hope it's a new record. 

The whole Bud Bongao is "infested" of such beautiful endemic Aroid. Wow! If this plant is another unidentified species, as I suspect, this would add up to my list of scientific discoveries in Mindanao.

Some interesting flora in Bud Bongao: Cycad sp.,and Alocasia sp. (possibly new Philippine species)
Reaching the middle of the hill, I noticed that a lot of colorful plastics were tied on twigs, and I was thinking that it was just the traditional markings on the trail. But these markings have  different story as visitors purposely tie them on twigs with the belief that the plastics left in the mountain would also  confine the peoples’   negativism in their lives likes sickness and bad luck and would be left and lost  forever in the heart of the mountain.

Halfway through, there are human-made staircases to which according to a local was commissioned by a Chinese businessman. The story tells that the shipment of the Chinese trader was in the verge of sinking while sailing ward the Celebes Sea. The Chinese businessman prayed and promised that if his shipments arrived safely in Bongao, he will construct staircases in the mountain.

Long -tailed Macaque of Bud Bongao

The most revealing find in this climb was the existence of wild long-tailed macaque naturally inhabiting the forested part of Bud Bongao. It was nice to see these primates wandering and jumping from one tree to another. At first, I only saw a couple of monkeys walking along the concrete staircases. But I was surprised that their number grew as the elevation increases.

At Bongao Peak
After an hour of trekking, I finally reached the peak of Bongao. From where I was standing, the view was breath taking seeing the island of Sanga-Sanga and the coastal areas of Bongao. There was a good cellular phone signal at the peak since a cell site tower was erected at the top of Bud Bongao.

After a couple of hours resting and updating my status on my FB , I hurried tracing my trail back down of the mountain. I was fascinated to even saw some unexpected unidentified species of Cycad in the thick bushes near the peak.

It was almost noon, and more and more packs of monkeys appeared following me on my trail. There were individuals that were very observant  while sitting on trees and must be wondering on my presence in their territory. According to a local, the monkeys were accustomed to the bananas being thrown at them by the visitors of Bud Bongao.

I did not bring any bananas with me since it was not my intention to feed the wild monkeys as suggested by the locals I met downtown. The monkeys aggregated and I suspected that they must have sniffed the loaf of bread I had in my bag. I threw slices of bread at them that lead them snatching the pieces on air. I have never seen wild monkeys performing acrobatic stunts but what I had just witnessed was way better than in the circus.

On my descend down to the foot of Bud Bongao, I finally met some visitors (a group of family and some group of youngsters) who were about to start climbing towards the peak. They were awed that I was climbing alone and had finished it before noon. They were carrying some sodas and basket for some kind of family picnic tradition in the mountain.

I have never thought in my entire life that I would set foot solo in a place being feared by many. Climbing Bud Bongao have just proved that Tawi Tawi is just like any other peaceful places in the Philippines and sad to tell that this place was like character assassinated just because it is home to Filipino Muslims. Fearing this place is not so different from the  discrimination being thrown by most Filipinos to our Muslim brothers. A very unfair treatment and stereotyping and avoiding  the whole community and its people just because of its association to ARMM. 

Check my other article about Tawi Tawi here.

Thank you for reading and I hope you liked it!

Don't forget to leave your comments in the box below. Good luck to your adventure :D

Breakfast in Tawi Tawi | The Bongao Style

Pandesal w/durian jam, Panggih panggih, Wajit, Pali Kambing, Junai w/egg

Traveling to Tawi-Tawi is one of my craziest dream adventures that I shall treasure forever in my whole life. Reaching the farthest ancestral land in the southern part of the Philippines was a privilege jaunt and an eye-opener to discover another great culture embedded through their local delicacies.

10 Things to Do in Butuan City

Butuan City is said to be the gateway in Northern Mindanao towards the best and interesting places in Mindanao. But this urbanized city is more than just a gateway as this place has more subtle but intriguing destinations and activities to offer to its wandering visitors. Here are some of the things you can do in the historical city of Butuan:

2013 Water "Bodies" Calendar

We are welcoming this New Year with O-L-A-L-A personalized 2013 calendar. This is a compilation of my “daring” moments in various Philippine beaches.